Penguins and Primus: An Account of the Northern Expedition June 1910 – February 1913: Dickason, Harry
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Penguins and Primus: An Account of the Northern Expedition June 1910 – February 1913

Author(s): Dickason, Harry

Copyright: 2012, Australia
Specifications: 1st thus, 8vo, pp.191, photo frontis, 8 color & 32 bw photos, 4 pencil sketches, 2 maps, uncut, dec eps, dec tri-fold cloth
Condition: issued w/o dj, cloth new

Londoner Harry Dickason (1885 – 1943) was a petty officer in the Royal Navy when he joined Robert Scott’s British Antarctic Expedition (1910-13) as an Able Seaman. During the course of the expedition he served with the Northern Party, a group led by Lieutenant Victor Campbell with five others (Petty Officers George Abbott & Frank Browning, Seaman Harry Dickason, Surgeon George Murray Levick, & Geologist Raymond Priestley). Originally intended to be an Eastern Party, exploring King Edward VII Land, they were diverted by Roald Amundsen's presence in the Bay of Whales, and the difficulty of finding a landing place, to Carsten Borchgrevink's old base at Cape Adare.

With the assistance of the Terra Nova they left base camp at Cape Evans in January 1911 and established a winter hut at Cape Adare and were able to make several exploratory survey journeys, conduct meteorological studies, and Levick’s penguin study before their first year was out. They were then moved in January 1912 by the Terra Nova to Evans Coves, in Terra Nova Bay, with eight weeks of supplies for exploratory sledging and to survey Mount Melbourne. Upon returning to meet the Terra Nova in February to be reunited back with the main party at Cape Evans the ship was not to be seen, having been unable to reach them through the heavy pack ice. What ensued was a grueling seven-month winter on starvation rations of penguin and seal meat in a snow cave. Come spring they made a 40-day, 230-mile, sledge journey back to Cape Evans with every man barely surviving their incredible ordeal. Four of the men kept journals during this time which have now been published – Priestley’s ‘Antarctic Adventure: Scott's Northern Party’ (1915), Campbell’s ‘The Wicked Mate’ (1988), Levick’s ‘A Gun for a Fountain Pen’ (2012), and Dickason’s journal is described here.

Dickason’s collection of four journals describes the first half of the outward journey from West India Dock, London to just beyond South Trinidad, the voyage from Lyttelton, New Zealand to Cape Evans, the disembarkation of the main expedition, the separate establishment of the Northern Party at Cape Adare, the winter at the hut, and the spring and summer sledging around Cape Adare, as well as the explorations at Evans Coves, though without any description of the ice cave winter or the subsequent season at Cape Evans. Dickason's account is in straightforward seaman's style, keeping a record of work done, weather conditions, observations and distances, the rigours of expedition work varied with the simple pleasures of a game of bezique, a Sunday walk, singing and gramophone concerts or the joys of chasing penguins.

Dickason’s Antarctic records, comprising autograph manuscript journals, notes, photographs and sketches were purchased at auction by Australian billionaire Kerry Stokes for $93,260 in 2007. This is one of three books published from Antarctic journals which were purchased by Stokes at auction and is an important addition to the Northern Party literature. See also Murray Levick ‘A Gun for a Fountain Pen’ (#26859) and Edward Wilson & Henry Bowers ‘A Tale for Our Generation’ (#26087).

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