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Century-Old Notebook Details Doomed Antarctic Expedition

Oct 27, 2014 11:14 AM EDT
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Discovered frozen in ice, a photographer's century-old notebook detailed Captain Robert Falcon Scott's doomed expedition to Antarctica, officials at the Antarctic Heritage Trust in New Zealand announced last week.

Recovered from the British explorer's base in Cape Evans, the book belonged to a photographer, zoologist and surgeon named George Murray Levick, who was a member of Scott's team during his Terra Nova expedition in 1910-1913, which ended tragically.

Lucky for researchers, summer snow melt around the Cape Evans base caused variations in run off patterns, exposing the notebook for the first time in more than 100 years.

"It's an exciting find," Nigel Watson, executive director of the Antarctic Heritage Trust, said in a statement. "The notebook is a missing part of the official expedition record. After spending seven years conserving Scott's last expedition building and collection, we are delighted to still be finding new artifacts."

The notebook, identified as "Wellcome Photographic Exposure Record and Dairy 1910," contains Levick's pencil notes detailing the dates, subjects and exposure details for the photographs he took during 1911 while at Cape Adare before a harsh winter and dwindling supplies killed Scott and four members of his crew, not including Levick.

The notebook's binding had been dissolved by a century's worth of ice and water damage, allowing the pages to be separated and digitized before being sewn back together and the cover rebuilt. It has since been returned to Antarctica, where it takes its place among the approximately 11,000 artifacts at Cape Evans.


[Credit: Antarctic Heritage Trust]

Levick, best known for his observations of Cape Adare's Adélie penguins, according to Live Science, was one of six men in Scott's Northern Party, who survived the brutal winter of 1912 in an ice cave when their ship couldn't reach them. Scott and others had gone on to lead a team to be the first to reach the South Pole, but discovered that their 10-week trek was all for nothing since Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen had beat them to it.

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