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The Apsley Cherry-Garrard Letters

The Apsley Cherry-Garrard Letters

8 January - 17 May 2014

Apsley Cherry Garrard by Herbert Ponting (SPRI P2005/5/814)Letters, written by Apsley Cherry-Garrard to his mother during the British Antarctic Expedition, 1910-13, will be on display at the Polar Museum until May 2014. The Museum has been lent this exclusive collection by The Richard C Dehmel Trust.

The letters cover the entire expedition south towards the Antarctic, stopping at Madeira, South Trinidad, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Momentous occasions are recorded including Cherry-Garrard breaking his left wrist and the time when Herbert Ponting, the expedition photographer, was almost eaten by killer whales.

The display of letters will be changed over the coming months according to the year in which they were written, so that members of the public can see the progression of the journey and read Cherry-Garrard's first hand experiences. Selected letters from 1910 are on display until 8 February 2014, beginning with two telegrams sent on the Terra Nova's departure from Cardiff in June of that year. From 10 February – 29 March 2014 letters which include sketches of the Ross Ice Shelf in 1911 will be exhibited and 31 March – 17 May 2014 will see 1912–13 represented, including Cherry's account of finding the bodies of the Polar Party. The final poignant letter was written from New Zealand, where Cherry was able to post his earlier correspondence, though he noted, "many I am afraid are ancient history in the light of recent events".

At the age of 24, Cherry-Garrard was one of the youngest members of Robert Falcon Scott's Terra Nova expedition. Privately funded, Cherry-Garrard was the assistant zoologist and part of Captain Scott's support team, on the recommendation of Dr Edward Wilson. The winter journey of 1911, made with Wilson and Lieutenant Henry Bowers to Cape Crozier to collect penguin eggs, resulted in the historical account 'The Worst Journey in the World', published in 1922.

In March 1912, accompanied by Russian dog-driver, Dmitriy Gerov, Cherry reached One Ton Depot carrying supplies for the returning Polar Party. Unable to stay longer than six days due to a lack of dog food and concern for Gerov's deteriorating health, Cherry-Garrard had no means of knowing that Scott's party was just 60 miles further south. He regretted the decision to return to base for the rest of his life. When Scott failed to reach Cape Evans, it was clear that he and all those with him had died. Cherry-Garrard was a member of the search party, which later found and buried the bodies of Scott, Wilson and Bowers in November 1912.

Archivist Naomi Boneham installing the lettersArchivist Naomi Boneham working with the Cherry-Garrad letters

Archivist Naomi Boneham working on the installation of the letters for display. For research access, please email:

archives*at*spri.cam.ac.uk