A&E » Arts

An amazing adventure gone wrong

Cartoonist Raesideā€™s Return to Antarctica revisits the Scott Expedition of 1911



Though breathtakingly beautiful, Antarctica isn't the most hospitable place on earth and certainly not where most would choose to vacation. But Adrian Raeside, a well-known cartoonist and author, had other reasons to head south last winter: he was doing research for his next book.

Originally from New Zealand, Raeside grew up in the UK and then moved to Canada at a young age. He made the move to Whistler about 10 years ago.

Raeside is no stranger to the publishing business, authoring 12 other books including There Goes the Neighbourhood: An Irreverent History of Canada, The Demented Decade, Five Twisted Years and a series of children's books. But Return to Antarctica was a definite departure for him, and a project that he didn't walk into intentionally.

You see, Raeside is the grandson of Canadian-born Sir Charles Wright, who was a member of the scientific staff on Robert Scott's infamous 1911 race for the South Pole. Two of his uncles were also part of the Scott Expedition, so as you can imagine, Raeside grew up hearing first-hand accounts of the unsuccessful journey that ultimately resulted in the deaths of five men.

But he always noticed that the childhood stories he heard from his relatives were far different from the glossy tales found in the pages of his school textbooks.

"This was a real stretch because I wanted to get the facts right and I didn't actually intend on doing a book, but years after my grandfather died, going through these boxes of materials that he kept, and that was archives and his memoirs and diaries, I realized that there was so much which wasn't quite the popular story, which was carefully spun by the British government."

The photos of hearty and healthy adventurers within the pages of the textbooks didn't quite match the pictures of disheveled and malnourished men that returned from the expedition almost three years later.

After inheriting his grandfather's journals in 2005, Raeside became fascinated with the story and decided to write a book on the subject.

"In his writings, he's fairly candid about certain members of the expedition," Raeside said with a grin.

By carefully combing through his grandfather's diaries, Raeside uncovered a few planning flaws that he believes ultimately led to their failure.

"It was grim - three years in sub-zero conditions and wearing substandard clothing with substandard food. It takes its toll."

The subzero conditions posed serious problems for the crew.

"In spring sledging and in winter, beards were kept as short as possible. The moisture from breath froze the hair to the inside of their helmets. Those with beards would have to hold their head over the stove to melt the ice around their face in order to thaw the flannel helmet before removing it; if this wasn't done, it literally tore the hair from the face."

Add a comment