As with most people, I like surprises. And when that surprise is of my own making it is even more satisfying. Many years ago I put away a magazine for safekeeping. It contained an article very dear to what I am doing these days in writing a book of my Antarctic adventures 42 years ago.
A couple of weeks ago I found I needed more room to store my collection of National Geographic magazines. This meant a major revision of my bookshelves. Tucked there at one end was the “carefully stored” Canadian Magazine of September 7, 1974.
This copy was an insert in the Edmonton Journal. The reason I kept it was because of the five page spread on Canadian Sir Charles Wright, known to his friends as Silas in his days as a member of the famous Scott Antarctic Expedition of 1910.
Back in the 70s I held the notion that I would one day write a book of my adventures for the family. The Wright story would provide good background. Besides, I wanted to go visit him and talk about my adventures up and down that awesome valley of his name. The story would help. I did make contact with his family at the time but it was not till 1976 that I was able to travel out to Vancouver Island. As a young immigrant family we just did not have the funds for such an adventure. Sadly by the time we could travel on the grocery money Sir Charles had died.
My personal interest in the story of this man from the heroic age of Antarctic exploration was because much of my work in 1968-69 related to New Zealand’s activity in the Wright Dry Valley. Wright himself was a member of Scott’s Western Party charged with mapping and naming certain landmarks in the area. The huge Taylor and Wright valleys cover roughly the same area as Great Salt Lake at 4500 sq kms and are are probably the driest deserts on earth. Silas Wright would have been one of the first people to ever venture into the area.
Silas and his fellow sledgers hauled everything on their backs. I had the advantage of motor transport and helicopters. We also had the advantage of radio contact with Scott Base.
Silas’ grandson Adrian Raeside has written a fascinating book Return to Antarctica, published last year. He wrote the book based on Sir Charles diaries as well as those of his great uncles Griffith Taylor and Sir Raymond Priestley, also members of the same expedition. The book added fresh depth to my knowledge of early exploration in this most fascinating part of our planet.
And yes, it was Sir Charles Wright, Silas then, who discovered the bodies of Scott, Bowers and Wilson in their lonely grave on the Barrier Ice.
(more to come)