Light and Warmth

Cheerful thoughts from a New York Times editorial-page essay "When August Was Cold and Dark" (8 Aug 2011):

A century ago this month, three wind-battered, frozen men quietly stepped into a hut on Cape Evans in the shadow of Antarctica's Mount Erebus. They were Edward Wilson, Henry Bowers and Apsley Cherry-Garrard. Their sledge contained a precious cargo: three emperor penguin eggs, the first ever collected. To obtain them, these men — part of Robert Scott's polar expedition — had walked 60 miles to Cape Crozier and back again, dragging a heavy sledge over impossible terrain in the Antarctic winter's nearly complete darkness, howling winds and temperatures as low as 77 below zero.

It was, as Cherry-Garrard later wrote, "the worst journey in the world," a phrase he took as the title for his 1922 narrative of the Scott expedition, one of the greatest books ever written about exploration. Its author was the least likely member of that crew. Cherry-Garrard was nearly blind without his glasses, which he was unable to wear while sledging. He had little scientific training and had never been to the Antarctic. We have his book only because he was not chosen by Scott for the final push to the South Pole, which killed all its members, including Wilson and Bowers.

"And then we heard the Emperors," Cherry-Garrard writes of the climax of their winter journey, "trumpeting with their metallic voices." The contrast between those birds — thoroughly at home on the sea ice — and the men of the Crozier expedition could hardly be greater. They "were already beginning to think of death as a friend." But this month, let us imagine the relief that Wilson, Bowers and Cherry-Garrard must have felt a century ago as they wrestled out of their sledge harnesses and stepped into the light and the warmth of a small wooden hut.

Yes, and let's always remember to be thankful for light, and warmth, and friendship, and health, and food, and safety, and countless other blessings that we have!

(cf Unicorn - Thankful, Thirty Things (2013-10-01), Mantra - It's All Good (2015-01-09), Mantra - Fine and One and Blessed (2016-09-23), Mantra - So Fortunate (2018-04-25), New Superpower (2018-10-27), Mantra - Be Meta, Be Open, Be Love (2018-11-11), ...) - ^z - 2018-11-29