In Silent Simplicity
The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard
Apsley Cherry-Garrard (1886-1959) was a member of Robert F. Scott’s ill fated Terra Nova Expedition (1910-1913), the polar explorer’s second expedition to Antarctica. Cherry-Garrard was the youngest member of the group and had no specific scientific training. He was eventually brought on by a grateful Scott after making a sizable donation to the effort. In addition to helping lay supplies along Scott’s route to the Pole, Cherry-Garrard served as an assistant zoologist. It is in this role that Cherry-Garrard made the worst journey in the world.
In July 1911, Cherry-Garrard, Bill Wilson, and Birdie Bowers walked sixty miles from Cape Evans to Cape Crozier in temperatures ranging from -40 to -77 degrees Fahrenheit and almost complete darkness. The only thing to keep them from freezing to death was the hauling of two sleds of supplies. The point of it all? To obtain the unhatched eggs of the famed Emperor penguin. Having gained Cape Crozier, the trio was caught in a terrible blizzard and, at one point, lost their tent. With only sleeping bags and snow drifts to protect them, the men sang in the windy dark to stave off Death. Cherry-Garrard and his companions made it back to Cape Evans a month or so later. Wilson and Bowers eventually joined Scott on his journey to the Pole. None survived.
Cherry-Garrard’s experience, though traumatic and painful, also yielded insights. The quote below helps us see what can come of desperation and privation; it is the joy of stripping life down to its essentials. When we are mindful of death, we consider how best to live. When we suffer cold, hunger, exhaustion, or any other test of will, we recognize what truly matters and are thankful for it.
“Those Hut Point days, would prove some of the happiest of my life. Just enough to eat and keep warm, no more – no frills or trimmings: there is many a worse and more elaborate life…the luxuries of civilisation satisfy only those wants which they themselves create.”