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Tuesday, 9 April, 2002, 10:25 GMT 11:25 UK
Shackleton prose thawed out
Dr E A Wilson (left), H R Bowers, Robert Scott, Taff Evans and L E G Oates on the doomed 1912 expedition
Robert Scott (centre, standing) led the expedition
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By Christine McGourty
BBC Science correspondent

An ode to a penguin and a poem about a fur sleeping bag are among poetry and prose being re-published on the centenary of Captain Scott's Discovery expedition to Antarctica.

The South Polar Times was first edited by the explorer Ernest Shackleton, and shows a lighter side to the expeditions of Antarctic explorers.

Then creature of amphibean taste I crave,
Forgiveness if to you I may seem erring,
But hear me 'ere you dive beneath the wave,
I'm blowed if I will call you 'good red herring'

Ode to a Penguin
The first edition was produced in 1902, when the ship Discovery was stuck in the ice.

The new edition, produced by J & SL Bonham of London has a retail price of 600.

When the explorers returned to Britain, only a few hundred copies of the three-volume set were printed.

One will be up for auction at Christie's in May with an estimated price of 10,000-15,000, though it could sell for far more.

Captain Scott led the expedition - his first to Antarctica - and Shackleton was among his men.

The South Polar Times was produced to relieve the boredom of the cold, dark winter nights and raise the spirits of the men on board.

So as well as essays on seals, whales and penguins, there were comic poems, puzzles, stories and cartoons.
Scott's comments in the preface to the published edition, written in 1907, seem to indicate that the journal achieved its goal.

"I can see again a row of heads bent over a fresh monthly number to scan the latest efforts of our artists, and I can hear the hearty laughter at the sallies of our humorists and the general chaff when some sly allusion found its way home," he wrote.


The new edition's highlights include An Ode to a Penguin and a poem called The Sleeping Bag, which takes a light-hearted look at the relative merits of sleeping with the reindeer fur on the outside or the inside.

It also includes illustrations by the expedition doctor and naturalist Dr Edward Wilson.

Bob Headland of the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge says the new edition is "a beautiful reproduction of the real thing".

"It represents the unofficial side of the National Antarctic Expedition," he said. "There are all sorts of goodies in it."

John Bonham said: "It is just full of life in Antarctica at the time. It's a compilation of everything they did in their free time - the articles they wrote, the games they played. It seemed very appropriate in the centenary to reproduce it."

See also:

14 Jan 02 | TV and Radio
Shackleton repays Channel 4
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