In Antarctica, much of life and history is swept away or covered completely by ice and snow. Even in the face of unending change, the surface appears timeless and constant, even though it sets the stage for some of the most tragic stories south of the equator.
Early last week, after more than a century since it was written and lost in the course of a tragic expedition to the South Pole, the preserved journal of explorer George Murray Levick was recovered from an ice casing near Cape Evans, Antarctica. The works of a true photographer and biologist, the diary is documented meticulously, including photographs and entries that explain not only what the researchers saw, but even details their difficult battles with the harsh Antarctica. Though, while the notebook reveals details of Levick's early days with the team, the true story behind the revelation lies in the tragic ending for the researchers, years after the notebook was lost.
Part of the famous Terra Nova Expedition, led by British explorer Robert Scott in 1910-1913, Levick was a zoologist, surgeon and photographer tasked with documenting the trip to Antarctica's South Pole. Though, when the six member team broke into two separate groups to cover more land, Levick along with his fellow team members never made it to the pole as intended. Part of the Northern Group, who sought out to conduct observational studies along the coast of Antarctica's ice ridge, Levick and his group were famously known for enduring Antarctica's harsh winter, when extreme freezing temperatures often mean death for anyone unfortunate enough to be caught out in the cold.
Marooned on Inexpressible Island, when Terra Nova's ship could not reach the team due to frozen waterways, Levick's team survived a grueling winter by taking shelter in an ice cave and resorting to base means of survival. Eating sparsely, the team was able to survive on the meat of penguins and other species.
Though forced to survive a hellish situation of man versus the elements, Levick was amongst the lucky of Scott's Terra Nova Expedition. The Southern Party that followed Scott to the South Pole faced a far worse fate. After an arduous trek through blizzarding snow, taking them nearly three months to complete, Scott's team reached the South Pole on Jan. 17, 1912 only to find they were second to the finish line. Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen had beaten them to the punch. And on their return voyage back to base camp, Scott and his fellow researchers died during an unbearably cold blizzard after their supplies dwindled to near nothing.
The notebook, which was found by the AHT during this past summer's melt, sustained minimal damage considering the harsh terrain it was trapped in for over a century, however, ice and water damage did dissolve the bindings of the journal which was barely held together by ice when it was discovered. Prior to repairing and resewing the binding to its original state, the pages were separated and digitized, and are being digitally repaired by archivists. The resewn journal will make its way back home to Cape Evans, where the AHT displays over 11,000 artifacts from Scott's earlier missions.
"It's an exciting find! The notebook is a missing part of the official expedition record" Antarctic Heritage Trust (AHT) Executive Director, Nigel Watson says. "After spending seven years conserving Scott's last expedition, building and collecting [works from the mission], we are delighted to still be finding new artifacts [to add to the collection]."