Band of Edwardian Brothers
I was convinced that the Eric Marshall book that I have been writing for the past four years, would be plain sailing. It would take some research of the British Antarctic expedition of 1907 to 1909 commonly known as the Nimrod expedition, the bid by four men of the British Empire’s most wanted goal – the South Pole. It was known as the Southern March.
The party led by Shackleton, consisted of Frank Wild, Jameson Boyd Adams and Marshall who was both the surgeon and cartographer on the expedition.
With an unpublished copy of Marshall’s diary and covering the ‘Southern March’ together with Wild’s diary, I could adequately contribute to the endless accounts of the Heroic Age. Furthermore, I had a hook. Marshall vehemently disliked Shackleton who by most other people’s accounts was the sublime leader, the beguiler, the devoted and devotional. But in Marshall’s view he was ‘a rogue and mountebank, with a very suspect heart’ relenting that he had ‘spectacular qualities and likeable when normal’ but that ‘it is impossible to assess his merits and draw a true picture.’
As the party sledge hauled, slithered and scrambled to 88.23 S 163 E degrees – 97 geographic miles from the Pole and then limped and dragged themselves over 700 statute miles back to base, they came close to meeting the same fate as Captain Robert Scott and his men. Were it not for the momentous decision of Shackleton to turn back when they did, they too would be entombed in the great ice fields of Antarctica.
As Shackleton said, they lost the Pole due to a lack of 50 lbs of food.
However, to be able to claim to be within 100 miles of the Pole had at least offered some compensation and the Southern March stands as an extraordinary feat of human endurance, the suffering only made bearable by the intervention of Providence and the aid of cocaine.
To be arranging a voyage with Monkton School old boys, the school Eric Marshall attended with his three brothers is of special significance.
The youngest of the four boys, Edward Hillis followed Eric’s example and chose medicine. During the 1WW he was called up asa field surgeon in Greece with the Red Cross. In 1925 he took the post as surgeon on two expeditions to Antarctica on Discovery 11 returning again in 1929 for which he was awarded the polar medal in 1941. His final expedition was to the Ross Sea as biologist in the Norwegian whaling factory ship C.A.Larsen on which he studied whaling methods. Described as a guide, philosopher and friend to all on board he was a different character to his brother.
We will celebrate these two very special Edwardians, Eric Stewart and Edward Hillis Marshall, with a trip to Antarctica, the Ultimate Whale Adventure, with an opportunity to immerse ourselves amongst the whales as they swarm the feeding grounds.
Note: Featured photo from left to right: Wild, Shackleton, Marshall & Adams