Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Training for the South Pole in 1956 on Tasman Glacier

This is a brilliant historical movie on Ed Hillary and his Trans Antarctic Expedition training the huskies on the Tasman Glacier and testing equiment under extreme conditions in 1956.

When the dogs were required by the Antarctic Treaty, to leave Antarctica, I wrote an article on the Scott Base huskies.This is the article.


Sunday, 26 February 2017

Balraj Bahri Malhotra - the bookman

Exactly one month after he died, I went down teary-eyed to my grandmother who told me that this pain I was feeling would reoccur every month. Of this, she was certain. “First it is days, that turn into weeks, that become months and soon, it be years that he would have left us. This will happen because time doesn’t wait or stop.” And so it has been one year, one year to the day today that my grandfather passed away. 
It happened because of loss of breathe - water, mucus and other fluids filled his lungs, preventing him from breathing. Preventing breathe from coming in or going out. Exactly one year ago at this time in the afternoon, I was sitting with him talking about a session of the Rajya Sabha. I remember we were laughing and then in a grave voice, he told me, “There is a box for you at home. A box full of my old books in Urdu, English and Hindi. Find it and keep it.” I brushed off the comment by telling him that when he came home, he could give it to me himself. There was no need to mete out his possessions just yet.
 Later that evening, the team of doctors and their assistants were to suction out the fluids from his lungs, providing him relief and allowing him to breathe again. But let me say something that I have never said before, something that I have absolutely feared saying out loud till today. But there is no longer anything to hide or deny, because this is fact- my grandfather, months before he actually died, had lost the will to live.
He went along his day-to-day, going to the bookshop, tending to customers as per usual, playing cards with my grandmother to pass the time, eating and even indulging in the occasional glass of whiskey, but the zeal for life has dissolved completely. What remained was a very thick, hardened shell of a man, holding on until he absolutely had to. Three weeks before he died, when it was he and I in the car, coming back from Bahrisons in Saket, he proclaimed out loud- not to me, but to the air around us, in general- that he had lived his fill of life. He had lived all the years he had to live and he wondered whose years he was living now, kya pata ab kiska hissa jee rahe hain.
So it was on the evening of February 26, 2016 that Balraj Bahri, aged 87, founder of Bahrisons Booksellers, and a refugee who had come from Malakwal in 1947 as the patriarch of his family- his father having been taken off the train and kept in Mandi Bahauddin for a few months to initiate Muslim employees into the processes of running the local bank – died in his hospital bed. If I think back to that moment, I am still able to clearly put together a chronology of events. The extraction of the fluid was to happen and we were asked- my grandmother and me- to step out of the room. My aunt remained inside. The process began and within moments, his vitals fell. I know this not because of the beeping of machines inside the room, but because my aunt called out to him in a voice that was laden with alarm, beginning loudly and becoming progressively smaller.
“Papa!” she said, “Papa! Papa? Papa…?!”
Then for a moment, there was only quiet except for the faint buzzing of hospital machinery, and in a small voice, my grandmother, whose palms I held tightly within my own, said, “Woh toh gaye, he has gone.” There were no tears in her eyes then, but a calmness that was unusual for the situation. She knew it was over, the worst had happened, and though she remained calm until we walked up to the room, when she entered, she became a different person. Crossing the threshold from the hallway into the hospital room caused her heart to break, for lying there, lifeless, was the love of her life.
In a voice that was not her own and in a pitch I wasn’t aware that any voice could reach, she howled, “You promised you would never leave, you promised. Take me with you, take me with you.” They had been together for 60 long years, from the refugee life at Kingsway Camp to the life of comfort today, they had been together. They had endured penury, set up the bookshop, had three children, and eight grandchildren. But this was an abrupt and unexpected rupture in their togetherness. She held onto the hospital bed and she wept, kissing his face, his hands and his feet. But he did not reciprocate, he could not, and for the first time after a long life of only giving, Balraj Bahri took. He took in his wife’s love, her tears, her sadness, her heartbreak, her pain and her helplessness. He absorbed it into himself completely, not moving even at inch. 
I sat there on the small bench next to the wall, tears flowing down my face. My aunt stood next to his bed, her eyes red and puffy. I am ashamed to admit this now, but when my grandmother was crying, my first instinct was to record that voice, and I did. I feel sick as I admit this for in my phone, still lies an unheard recording labeled ‘February 26’ that I just can’t get myself to hear or delete, just as I couldn’t help myself from recording it that evening.
That pain could be manifested in such a visceral, audible way was a notion I had never experienced. How did that pain feel, how did a voice seem to envelope the room with such a heartbreaking and dense sadness? Like an arrow, my grandmother’s howl struck not just my heart, but shook my entire body. My shame disables me from listening to that recording ever, but the feeling of living through the sound never leaves me.
The process after that was as it is with any death, clinical and concise. The formalities were taken care, the bills were paid, the body was taken home, the rest of the family was notified and the last rites began.
That night, as I lay in bed, I thought back to how he had died. Before I knew it, I was crying and within moments, I became breathless. Because I was choking on my own tears, I found it difficult to breath and then suddenly, a thought hit me. That night, while I was crying, my breathing became heavy, my nose blocked, my whining nasal. I gasped to catch my breath in a way that my grandfather never could at the end of his life. He died due to loss of oxygen, and here I was breathing. How was that fair? All I wanted that night was to feel lighter, to feel transient, to unpack this heaviness clinging onto me, this viscous feeling of breathlessness, discard it and feel light again.
That I should continue living when a man as great and foresighted as my grandfather should die is beyond me. And again, I know I am being unfair when I say this, I know we all meet the end of our lives at some point or the other, regardless of age, but this is how I feel. I am angry at him for having left us, left me. I am angry for the way he left. I am angry at the sadness he caused my grandmother, the ‘he’ shaped void he left behind in their room, his closet, the armchair, the dining table and in her heart. I am angry because it took her weeks to stop taking out two cups with the flask of chai every morning. I am angry because I cannot alleviate her pain. I am angry because I cannot throw away his things- the old magnifying glass, the push pins, the maroon ink pen, the writing pads, the hisaab journals- I cannot. I am angry because death is never easy. I am angry because I am hurt, because my family is hurt.
Anne Carson once wrote these words that have become the epitome of the feeling pressing against the inside of my body.
“Why does tragedy exist?” she asks, “Because you are full of rage.”I am, I repeat as I read her out loud.
“Why are you full of rage? Because you are full of grief.”I take a sharp breath in, close my eyes and let her words resound in my head. I am.
And so, slowly and gradually, as the year has passed, it has dawned on me that my anger is not anger in a vindictive or violent way, it is actually simply a mask for sadness. I am angry because I am sad.
I think sometimes that I should listen to my grandmother when she talks of the healing quality of time. For if she can believe it, then so can I, I suppose. Time envelopes everything within it. And though it does not alleviate the pain, it does make it easier to bear the loss, she claims. Time and writing, writing has helped me in a way I could never imagine. Writing about this pain has made me excavate it, so that it has no longer remained intangible, but has become a very physical and tactile entity. One year of sifting through its sedimentary layers has made me a reader of sadness. My anger is no longer manifested through tears, but mostly through silence. My sadness is swallowed and explored quietly, my pain has fueled my work. And this is not a uniquely singular experience, for so many people before me have felt such loss and so many people after me will feel it again, and I will too, many many more times in the future. But this is now and this is me, and I can only speak for me.
So I wonder now, as someone living thinking about the dead, how long can I hold onto these memories? How long can I carry this pain with me? How long until I stop remembering what that howl sounded like, what those puffy eyes looked like? When is it that I will begin to forget this feeling, this sadness, this density, this acute sense of remembrance, this need to hold on. And if and when I do forget, then what will remain, what will grow in its place, what will fill the ‘he’ shaped void?

From the Hiatus project
tales of familiar spaces by
Aanchal Malhotra

Monday, 13 February 2017

Moments...in polar exploration

 ...let the Reckless come

             The centenary of Roald Amundsen’s party reaching the South Geographic Pole.

Ernest Shackleton (left), Robert Peary and Roald Amundsen meet in Philadelphia, USA, 1913. Ed Webster collection/

On 14 December 1911 Roald Amundsen, Olav Bjaaland, Helmer Hanssen, Sverre Hassel and Oscar Wisting and their remaining 16 huskies crossed the final stretch of what they called King Haakon VII’s Plateau to reach Polheim, ‘Home of the Pole’, the South Geographic Pole. Amundsen’s team was the first to set foot at this hallowed juncture of longitudes, fully 35 days ahead of a British expedition led by Robert Scott. The Norwegians sledged southwards from their winter base, Framheim, at near sea level on the Ross Sea barrier. They drove huskies across the Ross Ice Shelf, (making use of depots laid the previous autumn) before gaining height up the Axel Heiberg Glacier that carves through the Queen Maud Range. Once through this crevassed section of the Transantarctic Mountains Amundsen pushed on southwards across King Haakon VII Plateau to cross a high point of 3376 metres (now called Titan Dome). Though hindered at times by sastrugi, (ridges of wind-compacted snow) they generally made good time across a firm surface, gradually descending to the South Pole itself at 2835 metres. Amundsen’s men spent several days camped at the Pole, resting and skiing out in four directions, taking sun shots to make sure they were at precisely 90〫South. Leaving a tent behind with a note for Scott to deliver to the Norwegian king in case they failed to get back, they set off home, reaching Framheim with 11 dogs on 25 January 1912 - a return journey of 1600 n.m. (nautical miles) in 99 days, one day short of their original estimate. Wednesday, 12 October 2011 < previous next > Hedgehog House Roald Amundsen - polar explorer Norwegian flag, Longyearbyen, Svalbard Photo: Colin Monteath Cover of Roald Amundsen’s original Norwegian edition Sydpolen - The South Pole. Hedgehog House archive

 “ Stumbling wide at the limits of the compass 
Fur and canvas in the wilderness of pain 
You can lose your mind in the panic of snow blindness
Icy winds strike you deaf and numb - at the midnight sun. 
 None but cowards seek badges of courage
Only fools seek the trappings of fame 
There’s no conquest, just an endless striving
There’s no glory, just a restless flame.
No man’s land, white desert, ice mountains 
Beyond the pole, let the reckless come 
Bathed in light, an infinity of silence 
Cleanse the soul, leave the senses stunned - at the midnight sun.” 

Australian band Red Gum song Midnight Sun The British, meanwhile, had set out from Cape Evans, Ross Island, on 1 November 1911. In various combinations, they employed dogs, tractors, and Manchurian ponies as well as a support party of men to cross the Ross Ice Shelf on a route pioneered by Scott in 1902. Scott’s Pole party then ascended the highly crevassed and wind-polished ice of the Beardmore Glacier (discovered and traversed by Ernest Shackleton’s British Nimrod expedition in 1908) before finally reaching the South Pole on 17 January 1912. Utterly dejected at finding Amundsen’s tent and fully aware of what the loss of priority at the Pole meant for themselves and the British Empire, they set off homeward facing grim prospects. Injury, gradual starvation and a deep penetrating cold were constant companions. All five perished on the Ross Ice Shelf during February and March 1912, the final trio including Scott himself dying in their tent 11 n.m short of a depot. By then, Amundsen was in the warmth of Australia giving lectures. Over the past 100 years there has been a near-constant analysis of what is often called the ‘race to the Pole’, comparing Scott’s seemingly flawed planning with the clinical efficiency displayed by Amundsen. Whatever one’s views on the merits of relying primarily on ponies instead of huskies to travel across what can be nightmarishly soft snow on the Ross Ice Shelf, it is indisputable that dogs can be fed to dogs to keep going (Amundsen’s plan) while all the food for ponies must be carried on sledges. (In 1910 the efficiency of the tractor engine left much to be desired - although now vehicles powered by internal combustion engines make most polar journeys). Amundsen’s use of huskies and his method of travel with them proved masterful. As a great many Norwegians spend their entire youth perfecting the most refined aspects of skiing, Amundsen’s carefully selected team was able to glide almost effortlessly beside the dogs. Skiing for hour after hour was a vital skill on a journey (skis 244 cm long - extra length to help spread weight when crossing small crevasses), as it took the body weight of five men off the sledges. (Scott’s men didnt ride their sledges either but they coudn’t glide on skis as they had to constantly pull the full weight of the sledges from the front.)

 Captain Scott’s 1910-12 Cape Evans base, windcloud over Mt Erebus behind , Ross Island. Photo: Colin Monteath / Hedgehoghouse.com 

 In addition to the energy-saving nature of skiing, Amundsen’s success hinged on his reliance on wearing loose-fitting, windproof fur clothing. Heat generated by the work of skiing is retained inside fur garments and crucially, given the constant brutal cold of the Polar Plateau, excess sweating can be kept to a minimum. (Amundsen did make the mistake of depoting his crampons which could have been a costly error given the large areas of hard bare ice in Antarctica). Conversely, the British were more traditionally clad in woolens and gabardine windproofs. Outfitted this way, Scott’s party was weakened on the return leg by various factors including less and less calorific intake, in part a result of inadequate rations. There was also a lack of fuel due to leaking fuel cans which added enormous stress to the process of melting snow for hydration and cooking what food they had. Amazingly, when death stared them in the face, they failed to lighten the sledges by depoting their rock samples. This all added up to being beaten by the cold. It was prophetic that during the previous winter at Cape Evans, Scott’s right hand man, surgeon and artist Edward Wilson, painted a scene depicting the polar party - five men hauling a sledge, each wearing skis. This painting was done months before Scott made the last-minute decision to increase his party from four to five, in spite of the planned food and fuel being calculated to support four. Somehow, circumstance dictated that, for a party of five, they only took four pairs of skis. Antarctica does not forgive mistakes like that. Scott’s men achieved much in Antarctica including superb exploratory forays into the Transantarctic Mountains, ground-breaking scientific observation around Ross Island and, later, a treasure-trove of quality scientific and geographic literature with comprehensive maps. But when it came to the actual Pole journey itself, some of Scott’s thinking has to be considered muddled. Despite two winters in Antarctica and hard lessons learned on the 1901 Discovery Expedition Scott remained a ambitious Royal Navy officer without a significant aptitude or affinity for dealing with polar terrain. One of Scott’s men, Apsley Cherry-Garrard, who later wrote the time-honoured classic The Worst Journey in the World, described the Pole party as ‘They were an Epic’. Manhauling sledges in the polar regions can be surprisingly efficient but it can also be brutally hard work, especially with heavy sledges, poor snow conditions or battling into strong winds.

To read more, go to Colin Monteath's website and to view his wonderful photographs.


Sunday, 12 February 2017

The life and climbs of Edgar Williams

I first became interested in Edgar Williams when I was part of the Pictures Online digitisation project in 2011. My role was creating descriptive records from viewing the images taken by both Edgar Williams and his father, William Williams. The negative registers, inventories of the individual negatives, had scant information with only some general entries. Because so little information was readily available on Edgar Williams, the other people in the photographs, or their climbing expeditions, I decided to do some research to discover more about Edgar’s life.

Studio portrait of photographer William Williams holding small child on his knee [Owen Williams?] ca 1895 Ref: 1/2-140243-G

Edgar Williams with Owen playing in snow at the Williams' home, Kew, Dunedin. William Williams Ref: 1/4-055557-G

Edgar Williams

Edgar was born in 1891 in Dunedin to William and Lydia Williams, and in 1893 saw the arrival of his brother Owen. William, an amateur photographer, took numerous photographs of the boys growing up at the family home in Royal Terrace, Kew, Dunedin, including the family outings, their holidays and travels across New Zealand.
In 1993 the Turnbull Library held an exhibition of William's black and white photographs of Lydia, covering 1884-1906. This coincided with the centenary of the 1893 suffrage petition, which Lydia had signed. The information accompanying this exhibition contained some early family history and this was a useful resource.
Lydia Williams, with her two sons, Edgar Richard and Owen Williams, 5 March 1900.  Reference No. 1/4-054948-GLydia Williams, with her two sons, Edgar Richard and Owen Williams, 5 March 1900. Ref: 1/4-054948-G

Edgar developed a love of the outdoors from an early age – camping, tramping, and mountaineering – as well as an interest in photography. Edgar’s father William was reputably the first Pākehā explorer to canoe up Lake Manapouri, Te Anau, and the Clinton River. He took Edgar and Owen on frequent excursions into the bush from their holiday home at Pounawea in the Catlins.
On long trips into the bush William took his photography equipment, which was no mean feat in the early 1900s. He regularly carried his camera, gelatin dry glass plates, a dark tent, and chemicals. A portable dark room (tent) was used for putting the glass plates into a dark slide which went into the camera. The glass plate, once exposed, could last a few days before needing to be developed and fixed.
Stereographic image of Edgar Williams, aged 14 years, standing beside a small hut in the bush at Pounawea on the Catlins River. Williams built the hut and there are a number of dead rabbits hanging from it. Photographed January 1906 by William Williams. Ref: 1/2-140370-GStereographic image of Edgar Williams, aged 14 years, standing beside a small hut in the bush at Pounawea on the Catlins River. Williams built the hut and there are a number of dead rabbits hanging from it. Photographed January 1906 by William Williams. Ref: 1/2-140370-G
I explored the family history resources available in the reading room, including electoral rolls and the biographies index, which gave me obituaries and newspaper articles, as well as probates at Archives New Zealand for further biographical information.
Although I was unable to confidently identify members of the extended Williams family in the photographs, I was able to identify Edgar’s wife, Alice. Using Papers Past, the New Zealand Alpine Journal and the Canterbury Mountaineer proved invaluable for information on Edgar’s climbing career.


By the time Edgar was 18 the family had moved to Christchurch. His climbing record begins in his early 20s, when according to a friend “he was a gentleman of leisure with a passion for mountain climbing.” He was free to go climbing whenever companions were available and he often went solo, climbing Mt Taranaki (previously Egmont) on Christmas Day 1914 and Mt Ruapehu New Year’s Day 1915.
During these years he accomplished some significant mountaineering climbs, including a second ascent with Jack Murrell in 1913 on Mt Balloon (from Jervois Saddle) and a 2nd ascent on Mitre Peak in 1914.
[Jack Murrell] sitting on a mountain, with Mitre Peak behind during Edgar Williams and Jack Murrell's climbing expedition in the Southern Alps, Fiordland National Park. Williams, Edgar. 1914 Ref: 1/4-094489-G[Jack Murrell] sitting on a mountain, with Mitre Peak behind during Edgar Williams and Jack Murrell's climbing expedition in the Southern Alps, Fiordland National Park. Williams, Edgar. 1914 Ref: 1/4-094489-G
As reported in the Otago Daily Times (2 May 1914) Edgar and Jack Murrell reached the summit of Mitre Peak on the second day of climbing. During their overnight campsite at 2,000ft Jack talks about the kakapo “coming out of their holes with catlike noises” and “squawked and bumped round in the scrub”. He made a prediction (given the absence of kiwi in the area) that the kiwi would “be extinct long before the kakapo”.
At 4 a.m. we were astir, and at 5 a.m. were ready to start. There was a heavy fog, but that is often a forerunner of a fine day in the Sounds, so we set off with only a few pounds in our rucsacs, and made our way through the wet scrub and grass until we reached the bush level (3000 ft). By this time the sun had struggled through the fog, and Milford Sound could be seen below: calm as a pond and of a wonderful blue colour. Away to the north-east towered Tutoko (9042 ft), with his beautiful snowcap, and immediately north of us Pembroke Peak and Glacier seemed within a stone's throw, so clear was the atmosphere. After making good use of our cameras we turned our faces to Mitre Peak, and worked our way on to the almost level rock-ridge which leads to the main face of the peak. All the way to the main face was plain sailing; but there our work began, and we soon had plenty to occupy ourselves with in climbing an almost perpendicular rock face, with very few hand or foot holds; but what there was were good, so we soon worked our way up to the next spur, where we were amply rewarded with magnificent views to the north-east and south. From this point to the summit it is all good rock climbing, with an occasional difficult corner and some bad slabby rocks (which we avoided by working round to the left and making use of a "chimney" which gave us some interesting work and views into space). We reached the summit, and found J. R. Dennistoun's cairn and handkerchief, to which we added a small glass pot containing two coins and a bronze token, and then built the cairn up to a height of about 4ft. We rolled some huge rocks (which were just on the balance) down into the sea, an almost clear drop of 5560 ft, and the splash was almost as good as the Wairoa Geyser in eruption.

Otago Daily Times (2 May 1914)
Between 1914-1918 Edgar and Jack Murrell achieved a number of 1st ascents near Milford Sound including,

Their second attempt of Mt Elliot in 1917 was successfully achieved when they took the only likely route which involved an almost perpendicular gully filled with ice, a rock chimney with unstable rocks and finally a difficult “tummy wriggle” to arrive at the 6,000 ft summit. Mt Elliot Milford Sound. Feb 1917 Ref: 1/4-120564-F

View from the summit ridge of Mount Elliot, Southland, at the head of the Jervois Glacier, showing peak of Mount Balloon at centre, and the Clinton River valley filled with fog. Date: 21 Feb 1917 Ref: 1/4-120571-FView from the summit ridge of Mount Elliot, Southland, at the head of the Jervois Glacier, showing peak of Mount Balloon at centre, and the Clinton River valley filled with fog. Date: 21 Feb 1917 Ref: 1/4-120571-F
In December 1917 Edgar, accompanied by Will Kennedy and Tom Fletcher, went on a five week expedition in the Godley Glacier region. The journey to the mountains was an eventful trip in itself. Edgar’s four cylinder Talbot car carried camping and climbing equipment, a camera, 16 gallons of petrol in suitcases and even a person perched on all the luggage.
They travelled by car over rough roads and water courses, then crossed rivers and farmland with horses carrying their gear and five weeks’ worth of supplies to a base camp near the Godley glacier. The area fascinated Edgar with its extensive glacier system that supplied Lake Tekapo.
Edgar’s Talbot motorcar had a crank handle, carbide lamps and brakes that didn’t work in the wet. Edgar Williams, W A Kennedy and T A Fletcher, Godley Trip 1917-1918 Ref: 1/4-120755-FEdgar’s Talbot motorcar had a crank handle, carbide lamps and brakes that didn’t work in the wet. Edgar Williams, W A Kennedy and T A Fletcher, Godley Trip 1917-1918 Ref: 1/4-120755-F
Battling bad weather, an alpine storm with high winds, an unsuccessful climb of the Maud Glacier, they all eventually climbed an unnamed peak off a divide between the Maud and Grey glaciers. It was Tom Fletcher’s first ascent so he had the honour of naming the peak Mt Gordon (after his wife). Edgar and Will Kennedy continued on to make a 1st ascent on Mt Sibbald (9161ft) the second highest peak in the district.
As Fletcher had sore feet he stayed behind and instead prepared a “4 course hot dinner” for their return “having found an old cracked camp oven in the tussock”. This was a welcome sight after their 7,000 feet up and down Mt Sibbald that day.
During this period Edgar covered all the major peaks in both the South Island and North Island. While following in his father’s footsteps as an amateur photographer, he also had other interests such as cars and trains.

Reliance gear change

Initially training as a fitter, then a motor engineer, Edgar worked at the Addington railway workshops and started a small engineering business, a repair shop in Addington, Christchurch.
Nui Robins, who knew Edgar at this time, said the business “was a model shop in every way but Edgar was such a perfectionist that he could never recover his costs.” However with his mechanical mind and Kiwi ingenuity he started inventing car gear boxes. One in particular was called the “reliance gear change”. After much persuasion from his friends he eventually patented this design which was considered revolutionary. It was successfully taken up by car manufacturers and was still being used well into the 1980s.
Car parts [gearbox invented by Edgar Williams?]. Ref: 1/4-056054-GCar parts [gearbox invented by Edgar Williams?]. Ref: 1/4-056054-G
Miniature engines [made by Edgar William Williams?] powered by electricity. Ref: 1/2-140931-GMiniature engines [made by Edgar William Williams?] powered by electricity. Ref: 1/2-140931-G
Edgar married Alice Williams (nee Hazlehurst) in 1925 and he moved to the West Coast where he taught engineering at Westport Technical High School in 1930s. There are photographs of Edgar and Alice accompanying school groups on various trips, tramping in the hills around Westport, Haast Pass and Wanaka in the South Island. Edgar and Alice Williams with a group of school children on a mountain, West Coast Region. Ref: 1/4-055909-FEdgar married Alice Williams (nee Hazlehurst) in 1925 and he moved to the West Coast where he taught engineering at Westport Technical High School in 1930s. There are photographs of Edgar and Alice accompanying school groups on various trips, tramping in the hills around Westport, Haast Pass and Wanaka in the South Island. Edgar and Alice Williams with a group of school children on a mountain, West Coast Region. Ref: 1/4-055909-F
Another prolific climbing period for Edgar was from 1927 through to 1936. While Edgar owned a car he found cycling to the mountains more reliable. He completed another round of first ascents on mountains near the Godley Glacier, in the Sibbald Range overlooking the Rangitata Valley, Canterbury and the Lady of the Snows, near the Milford Track.
Godley Glacier, Southern Alps. Williams, Edgar Richard Ref: 1/4-120772-FGodley Glacier, Southern Alps. Williams, Edgar Richard. Ref: 1/4-120772-F
His climbing career continued in spite of his age. In 1955 aged 62 he accomplished more first ascents, including Terror and Lawrenny Peaks in Milford Sound. His favourites were the Tutoko valley and Mitre Peak areas, making his third ascent on Mitre Peak in his 70s, the only climber to have achieved this at that time.
Mt Torlesse was always one of his favourite mountains, and he again climbed it aged 85, although "he lamented the solo climb took him 13 hours when it usually took only 6”. He unsuccessfully attempted it again on his 91st birthday, camping out overnight but abandoned the climb because of snow. When he died in 1983 he held the longest climbing record in New Zealand. (Press, 1 November 1983)
I have included a summary of his first ascents as it’s not possible to do justice to his remarkable climbing achievements in the limited space of this blog.
First ascents:
  • 1914 Mt Wilmur (with Jack Murrell)
  • 1917 Mt Elliott, 6260ft (Jack Murrell)
  • Jan 1918 Mt Gordon (Fletcher, Kennedy)
  • Jan 1918 Mt Sibbald, 9180ft (Kennedy)
  • Jan 1918 Panorama Peak, (Fletcher, Kennedy)
  • Jan 1928 Maude Peak, (CAV Stewart)
  • Jan 1930 Mt Daniel (J K Martin)
  • Dec 1931 Mt Commander (A J Scott, R H Booth)
  • Jan 1932 Mt Forbes (solo)
  • Jan 1932 A J (Scott, R H Booth)
  • Jan 1932 Mt Coates (Scott, R H Booth)
  • Jan 1932 Mt Kennedy (Scott, R H Booth)
  • Jan 1934 Mt Ward (S A Grave, E A Hogg)
  • Jan 1934 Lady of the Snows ( J K Martin)
  • Dec 1953 Mt Lion (A Deans, R Taylor)
  • Dec 1954 Lawrenny Peak and Mt Terror (Austin Deans, Marty Bassett, Ray Copp)

Edgar Williams with a push bike outside house with front brick entrance, [Christchurch, circa 1950s]. Ref: 1/4-095568-F


By the 1950s Edgar had retired from teaching and having sold his car, went on some long distance cycling trips across New Zealand. He covered 1,400km on a round trip from Christchurch to the Haast Pass, via the Lindis Pass especially for the opening of the Haast Pass road in 1966. He cycled the North Island in 1968, from Hastings to Cape Reinga then south through Kawhia to New Plymouth, to Wellington then back to Hastings covering well over 3,000 km. Almost always he carried dozens of slides, a projector, screen and camera on his trips and gave talks to schools on route. (Taranaki Herald 1 Aug 1968)
In his later years he was famous for his slideshow evenings, always done to a meticulous pattern. Glass lantern slides were shown first, a gelatin silver positive image on a glass plate that was projected onto a screen with a slide projector. These were followed by the ‘modern’ 35mm images, accompanied by his lively commentary and equally famous baking.

Stereographic photographs

Many of his photographs are from stereoscopic glass and film negatives taken with a camera that had two lenses. Stereoscopy was a common photographic technique of the time for creating the effect of a three dimensional image. The two images placed side by side and mounted on a card (stereograph) were viewed with a stereoscope. Images from the left and right eye combine in the brain to give the perception of depth.

Detail from: Lydia Williams sitting on a verandah holding a stereoscope and stereographic cards, [190?]. Ref: 1/2-141216-G

Edgar Williams’ collection

The Edgar Richard Williams collection came to the Library as a bequest when Edgar died in 1983. Although the photographs include both William and Edgar’s photographs, provenance is one collection under the name E.R. Williams.
We also hold selected prints from the negatives of William Williams (1859-1948) on shipping and railway topics that were made by Edgar between May 1950 and August 1951. A further donation arrived from Mr John Wilson, Christchurch, in 1998 of mountaineering photographs and John Williams, son of Owen Williams, also donated material in 2013.
In some respects it is hard to separate the collections as it’s not always known who took the actual photographs. The collection includes single negatives, film and glass stereoscopic negatives, prints, lantern slides, panorama prints, and photographic equipment.
Over 9,000 black & white original negatives were digitised as part of the Pictures Online digitisation project and are now viewable on the National Library website: PA-Group-00076.
William’s photographs have an emphasis on Wellington (1880s), Napier (late 1880s-1890s), Dunedin & Catlins (1890s-1900s), railways, shipping, and a trip William and Lydia made to Europe during the 1920s.
Edgar’s photographs cover his mountaineering expeditions, engine inventions, trips in his car from 1920s to 1930s, school tramping trips (1930s – 1940s), and Stewart Island (1940s). We hold only a few photographs from 1950s and almost nothing from 1960s onwards.
While Edgar made several cycling tours and continued to climb right through to the 1980s, this period is absent from his collection.

Thanks to National Library of NZ for permission to reproduce this wonderful article.

The life and climbs of Edgar Williams


Sunday, 5 February 2017

Eyewitness Voices: North Pole Expedition Team on Climate Change Impacts ...

I rediscovered this interview in 2011 when the eight of us from our successful 1986 North Pole Expedition where each of us spoke about the impact of climate change in the world's we individually work in, or have worked in.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Who was Kurt Hahn?

Kurt Hahn: The man who taught Philip to think

Kurt HahnImage copyrightGetty Images

The Duke of Edinburgh is celebrating the 30th anniversary of a Cambridge University institute based on the ideas of his educational mentor, Kurt Hahn. But who was he?
"There is more in you than you think" was the motto Kurt Hahn used during his long and active life.
A German Jew who opposed and fled the Nazis and mentored the Duke of Edinburgh, his influence on education is all around, even if his name is not.
Hahn was instrumental in setting up the Duke of Edinburgh's Award scheme, which has introduced millions of 14 to 24-year-olds to outdoor adventure and community service.
He established Gordounstoun, the Scottish private school that has educated several members of the Royal Family, and inspired the creation of dozens more schools around the world. He co-founded the Outward Bound Trust, whose courses more than one million people have taken.
On Wednesday, the duke attended a reception in London commemorating 30 years of the Kurt Hahn Trust, which provides scholarships for German students to come to Cambridge University and vice-versa.
In a speech, Hahn once said freedom and discipline were "not enemies". He advocated "experiential" learning - putting young people in situations to challenge them mentally and physically. Hahn said he wanted to prevent the erosion of children's "inherent spirituality".

Gordonstoun boys on an obstacle courseImage copyrightGetty Images
Image captionGordonstoun boys on an obstacle course

"If you throw a glance at the boys of any public or secondary school you find them up to the age of 13 full of curiosity, courteous, animated by high and good spirits," he said. "Then they reach the awkward age. They often lose their freshness and their charm, sometimes forever. I belong to a secret society called the Anti-lout Society."
He diagnosed six societal ills:
  • lack of physical fitness
  • decline of initiative and enterprise
  • decline of imagination
  • decline of craftsmanship
  • decline of self-discipline
  • decline of compassion
To combat these he developed a programme for developing "moral independence", physical wellbeing and the ability to tell right from wrong.
Born in 1886, Hahn suffered severe sunstroke in 1904, and had to have the occipital bone at the back of his skull removed. Throughout his life he avoided sunlight and wore a wide-brimmed hat while outdoors, creating an air of eccentricity.
Hahn co-founded the Schule Schloss (Castle School) for boys in Salem, in the German state of Baden-Wurttemberg, in 1920. Pupils had to go for a run before breakfast, drank milk at mealtimes, did 45 minutes of athletics during their mid-morning break and, after lunch, lay flat on their backs for 45 minutes while a teacher or older pupil read aloud to them. They also helped with the upkeep of the school. On Saturdays, the boys formed "guilds" of explorers, farmers and artists, which Hahn said gave their eyes a "gleam".

A group of boys from Gordonstoun School helping to clear the moat during restoration work at Michelham Priory near Hailsham, Sussex, 11th April 1967.Image copyrightGetty Images
Image caption1967: Gordonstoun boys clear a moat as part of volunteer work

Philip, who had been exiled from Greece following a revolution when he was an infant, arrived at Schloss in the autumn term of 1933. It was a bad time for Hahn. In August 1932, five months before he became chancellor of Germany, Hitler had condoned the murder of a communist by Nazi stormtroopers.
Appalled, Hahn had written a letter to Salem's old boys, telling them to disregard Hitler or break off relations with the school. "Germany is at stake, her Christian civilisation, her reputation, her military honour," he wrote.
In March 1933, Hahn was one of many people arbitrarily arrested following the burning of the Reichstag. He was allowed to leave Germany in July only after the intervention of UK Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald.
The next year, he founded Gordonstoun school, taking over a stately home in Morayshire, an area where he had spent time while a student at Oxford before World War One. He ran it along similar lines to the Schule Schloss.
One of his first pupils was Philip, who had moved to the UK from Germany. At Gordonstoun, the boys rose at 06:30 for a cold shower and a run, the timetable for the day much like that in Germany. At 21:15 there was a quarter of an hour of silence to enable the pupil to "glean the harvest from his manifold experiences" before lights out.
"After a very difficult childhood, Gordonstoun gave Prince Philip a much needed sense of stability, says Philip Eade, author of The Young Prince Philip. "Hahn's spartan educational philosophy made an impression on the young prince that has remained with him throughout his life and has doubtless helped him in all sorts of ways as the longest-serving consort in British history."

Prince Philip as a pupil at GordonstounImage copyrightGetty Images
Image captionPrince Philip at Gordonstoun

There was great emphasis at Gordonstoun on learning seamanship, as it encouraged teamwork. Later, mountain and sea rescue were encouraged, activities Hahn thought would instil active compassion for others.
Several 1930s opinion-formers were impressed by Hahn's ideas and force of personality, including the Archbishop of York and the novelist John Buchan. But WB Curry, the headmaster of Dartington Hall school, Devon, was concerned his ideas were "incompatible with a really liberal civilisation" and "the product of the tortured German soul". "I also insist that his psychology has far more roots in his own emotional nature than in the nature of other human beings," he said.
Some later pupils complained that the regime at Gordonstoun was overly harsh, with bullying rife. Prince Charles, who attended in the 1960s, reportedly called it "Colditz with kilts", while the writer William Boyd likened being there to "penal servitude".
"It's clearly not suitable for everyone, as Prince Charles's miserable time at Gordonstoun showed," says Eade.

1962: Prince Charles arrives for his first term at GordonstounImage copyrightGetty Images
Image caption1962: Prince Charles arrives for his first term at Gordonstoun, an experience he described as "Colditz with kilts"

But Daniel Emery, a pupil from 1985 to 1989, enjoyed his time there. "There's more to life than pure academic achievement," he says. "It's important, of course, but Gordonstoun gave you a zest for life."
After founding Gordonstoun, Hahn set about spreading its philosophy beyond public schools. In 1937 he started the Moray Badge scheme, allowing children living nearby to get physical training, take part in expeditions and complete a project before earning the award. He wanted to extend this nationwide into a County Badge scheme, but the resources were lacking.
In 1941, Hahn started the Outward Bound School in Aberdovey in Wales, along the same lines, the wider-reaching Outward Bound Trust starting in 1946.

Sailing at the Outward Bound school at AberdoveyImage copyrightAlamy
Image caption1947: Sailing practice at the Outward Bound school in Aberdovey

And in 1956 the Duke of Edinburgh's Awards scheme began. Participants can gain bronze, silver and gold awards, in return for volunteering for community service, learning physical activities and skills and going on an expedition, such as a mountain trek or a sailing trip. Almost 2.5 million awards had been achieved by March last year.
"The duke has a a very clear view, which has come from Hahn," says the award scheme's chief executive, Peter Westgarth. "He's always seen the awards as a sort of self-help scheme for growing up."
Duke of Edinburgh's Awards are offered in more than 140 countries and territories. "The duke is driven by the idea that people should be compassionate and engaging young people in direct with people they wouldn't otherwise come into contact with." says Westgarth. "It was Hahn who encouraged him to set up the awards."
Another aspect of Hahn's thought was internationalism. "Nothing but goodwill between nations and classes can save this generation from wars and revolutions," he said in a speech in 1936. "And education can help to build this bedrock of goodwill as a foundation of the society to be."
Hahn died in 1974 and, in 1986, the Duke of Edinburgh co-founded the Kurt Hahn Trust. "He was an incredibly energetic man," says Nicola Padfield, Master of Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge. "He was really committed. A lot of the thinking behind the trust was to get people from different countries talking. It's a fantastic message and it's still appropriate today."
In 2007, the US book Leadership the Outward Bound Way described its philosophy, handed down by Hahn, as "a unique blend of two traditions: the Greco-Roman way of tenacity, physical challenge, courage, and perseverance, and the Judeo-Christian way of compassion, self-sacrifice, love, and tolerance".
Hahn, unlike other educational innovators of the early 20th Century, such as Italy's Maria Montessori and Austrian Rudolf Steiner, claimed no originality in his ideas, arguing he had picked useful elements of the works of figures such as Plato and the 19th-Century British headmaster Thomas Arnold.
Since the 1960s, the Round Square organisation, with 150 member schools around the world, has promoted Hahn's experiential philosophy. And the enthusiasm of his best-known pupil has not dimmed, more than seven decades after he left Gordonstoun.
"You were meant to suffer," Prince Philip joked as he handed out gold Duke of Edinburgh's Awards at a ceremony in 2013. "It's good for the soul."

The Duke of Edinburgh's award

Duke of Edinburgh award participants trek through the New Forest

  • The Duke of Edinburgh's Award programmes take between one to four years to complete, and they must be completed by the participant's 25th birthday
  • Participants select and set objectives in each of the following areas - volunteering, physical activity, developing practical and social skills and taking part in an expedition; gold-level participants must also do an additional fifth residential section, involving staying away from home doing a shared activity
  • Each level - bronze, silver and gold - demands more time and commitment from participants - bronze, 3-6 months; silver, 6-9 months; gold, 12-18 months
  • Participants are required to show regular activity and commitment to the award for the duration of their DofE programme, which is usually at least one hour per week