I started exploring the forests around my neighbourhood in Dunedin, New Zealand when I was five or six. When we got our annual snowfall I learned to sled down the hill on a portable signboard advertising bread, that I would borrow, or steal temporarily, from the grocery store at the top of the hill. By my early teens, exploring the hills of Otago consumed my spare time.
By my late teens I had climbed many of New Zealand’s highest mountains and was wanting to explore other parts of a world I understood little about.
I was 19 years of age I left joined a New Zealand mountaining expedition to the high Andes of Peru and we explored and scaled 13 unclimbed summits in these unmapped mountains.
I have been an explorer from a young age but what attracted me more than any part of the world, was the Antarctic. The post-war New Zealand baby-boomers were brought up on a diet of the Empire's greatest feats of exploration which was mainly Scott and Shackleton. Little was said about Amunsden the cheeky Norwegian that stole the prized South Pole that was rightfully thought of as part of the British Empire.
Jeff Blumrnfeld and myself in front of the renaissance-style marble fire place in the Clark room on the 2nd floor. Photo: Ablai McKerrow
Our 1986 unsupported dog sled expedition to the North Pole followed much of his route. Photo: Ablai McKerrow
Having lived in Antarctica for 13 months and had the privilege of staying in Scott's two huts and Shackelton's one at Cape Royd's, it was a privilege to hear Edward Larson's lecture at the Explorers Club on Monday night on the subject of:
Re-Inventing Scott: Science in the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration.
In summary Andrew Larson spoke on this theme.
Over the 100 years since his death on his return for the South Pole, Robert F. Scott's image has shifted from tragic hero to Victorian bungler. Without excusing Scott's mistakes, this lecture seeks to restore some balance to his image by looking at the role of science in his polar expeditions.
Scott may have been trying to do too much on his expeditions, at least as compared to the single minded quest for the pole that propelled Amundsen's expedition, but they nevertheless left a lasting legacy in Antaractic research and discovery.
I found that Edward gave Amunsden full credit for his achievement of being first at the South Pole, and giving an honest assessment of Scott and Shackleton, two very different men. I bought a copy of Edward Larson's recnt book AN EMPIRE OF ICE which is about Scott, Shackleton and the heroic age of Antarctic science. He kindly wrote an inscription in it.
So what is the Explorers club all about?
The Explorers Club is an international multidisciplinary professional society dedicated to the advancement of field research and the ideal that it is vital to preserve the instinct to explore. Since its inception in 1904, the Club has served as a meeting point and unifying force for explorers and scientists worldwide. Our headquarters is located at 46 East 70th Street in New York City.
Founded in New York City in 1904, The Explorers Club promotes the scientific exploration of land, sea, air, and space by supporting research and education in the physical, natural and biological sciences. The Club's members have been responsible for an illustrious series of famous firsts: First to the North Pole, first to the South Pole, first to the summit of Mount Everest, first to the deepest point in the ocean, first to the surface of the moon—all accomplished by our members.
I am so grateful to the invitation from Jeff Blumenfeld to visit the Explorers Club in New York on Monday night and hear the stimulating lecture on Scott by Andrew Larson, and to inspect the whole building that the club's treasures and memorabilia are housed.
I thought of how fortunate I have been in having opportunities of driving teams of dogs in the Antarctic and Arctic, a far cry from sledding down a snow-clad hill on a bread board at ten.
We shall not cease from from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.