Terra Nova

Captain Scott’s Discovery (previous post) wasn’t available for his second, fatal, Antarctic expedition in 1910, forcing him to find the best ship he could afford from a very short list of suitable vessels. He chose the Terra Nova. The expedition’s Second-in-Command, Lieutenant Edward “Teddy” Evans, recalled that – She was the largest and strongest of the old Scotch whalers, had proved herself in the Antarctic pack-ice and acquitted herself magnificently in the Northern ice-fields in whaling and sealing voyages extending over a period of twenty years.

Commander_Evans_5126121136_99388b2868_o-2I shall never forget the day I first visited the Terra Nova in the West India Docks : she looked so small and out of place surrounded by great liners and cargo-carrying ships, but I loved her from the day I saw her, because she was my first command. Poor little ship, she looked so dirty and uncared for and yet her name will be remembered for ever in the story of the sea, which one can hardly say in the case of the stately liners which dwarfed her in the docks.

I often blushed when admirals came down to see our ship, she was so very dirty. To begin with, her hold contained large blubber tanks, the stench of whale oil and seal blubber being overpowering, and the remarks of those who insisted on going all over the ship need not be here set down.

Months of hard work delivered Terra Nova – cleaned, disinfected and refitted – ready to depart from London on 1st June 1910.

terra-nova-in-port569f017e3ef093.14040569-785x

Photo, Canterbury Museum.

What a change from the smudgy little lamp-black craft of last November – so much for paint and polish. All the same it was the Terra Nova’s Indian summer. A close search by the technically expert would have revealed scars of age in the little lady, furrows worn in her sides by grinding ice flows, patches in the sails, strengthening pieces in the cross-trees and sad-looking deadeyes and lanyards which plainly told of a bygone age. But the merchant seamen who watched from the dock side were kind and said nothing.

Terra Nova progressed down the Channel coast to the Welsh port of Cardiff where the crew were “endowed with all good things” and welcomed…..with enthusiasm. Free docking, free coal, defects made good for nothing, an office and staff placed at our disposal, in fact everything was done with an open-hearted generosity.

Overloaded with supplies and coal – the little ship settled deeply in the water and the seams, which had up till now been well above the water-line, leaked in a way that augured a gloomy future for the crew in the nature of pumping. With steam up this did not mean anything much, but under sail alone, unless we could locate the leaky seams, it meant half an hour to an hour’s pumping every watch. We found a very leaky spot in the fore peak, which was mostly made good by cementing.

On 15th June we left the United Kingdom after a rattling good time in Cardiff. Many shore boats and small craft accompanied us down the Bristol Channel as far as Breaksea Light Vessel. We hoisted the Cardiff flag at the fore and the Welsh flag at the mizen – some wag pointed to the flag and asked why we had not a leek* under it, and I felt bound to reply that we had a leak in the fore peak! It was a wonderful send-off and we cheered ourselves hoarse.

Captain Scott remained behind to squeeze out more subscriptions and to complete arrangements with the Central News [agency]…. He also had finally to settle magazine and cinematograph contracts which were to help pay for the Expedition…
[Scott would join the ship later at Cape Town]…. we in the ship were much better off with no cares now beyond the handling of our toy ship and her safe conduct to Lyttelton [New Zealand].

In spite of her deeply-laden condition the Terra Nova breasted each wave in splendid form, lifting her toy bowsprit proudly in the air till she reminded me, with her deck cargo, of a little mother with her child upon her back.
‘South With Scott’, Edward R. G. R. Evans, 1921. (Abridged)

*The Welsh national emblem.

Next post – final preparations in New Zealand.

 

Tintern Abbey

From ‘Coming Down the Wye’ by Robert Gibbings. 1942.

It was evening when I stepped ashore by the old Anchor Inn at Tintern, the evening of the harvest moon. On that night, in less prosaic times, lovers came from far and near to whisper promises to each other while, from the west end of the abbey, they watched the full moon fill the great empty circle in the head of the eastern window.

Tintern Abbey 1-3

The building was glowing in the evening light, warm as the rose-tinted walls of Petra. After sunset a shimmering veil of mist filled the valley, through which the church appeared tenuous and unsubstantial.

I wandered among the idle pillars and arches while the evening lost its light. Dew began to fall. Owls called from wood to wood ‘Oo, ooloo oo. Oo, ooloo oo.” It grew darker. A pig grunted; a calf bellowed. Still darker. A woman and a man palavered on the road. Dark cars rushed past in the darkness. ‘Oo, ooloo ooloo oo.’

Then over the high, wooded, eastern hill came the moon, golden in the deep indigo sky. Steadily it grew from a shallow crescent to a fuller arc, then to a half circle, to three-quarters, to the full sphere of light. I was alone, and had no wish for whispers from any one. From the southern meadow I watched the shadows creep into the aisles, and the transepts emerge from dark shapes of their own creating.

Tintern Abbey 4-3

As the mist cleared away the church stood revealed in the moonlight, so calm, so still, yet no calmer than the bones of those who lie beneath its turf; priests, deacons, laymen, all who, in their own way, have swelled the universal song of praise. Some of us worship life because we fear death, some of us worship death because we fear life. There is room for us all. Jackdaws now praise God where once the white-robed monks sang hymns.

After the grand orchestra of the hills through which the Wye finds its course Tintern may seem but the reed-song of a boy, yet no chord of praise was ever better tuned. The ruin is so perfect now that it is difficult to believe it could ever have been nobler. I, for one, could not wish one more stone upon another.

Follow these links for more information about Tintern Abbey in Wales, the Anchor Inn and the river Wye.

Now You Has Jazz*

Friday Flashback says Happy Birthday.

Welsh jazz fans are gearing up for their annual treat next weekend (9th – 11th) when the Brecon Jazz Festival celebrates its 35th anniversary. I was lucky enough to be there for the first one.

Brecon jazz festival 1

A band called Adamant, from Cardiff, leading the first parade down High Street.

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It was a modest programme compared to this year’s offering but everybody had so much fun they decided to do it again.  And again……

*’Now You Has Jazz’ is a classic performed by Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong and his “ensemble” in the 1956 movie ‘High Society’. Watch.

A Greate Poole

Two impressions of Llangorse lake in Wales. Text from 1942, images from 1984.

…..during the one short break in an otherwise continuous downpour I visited Llangorse Lake, a stretch of water some five miles in circumference.

Llangorse lake in Wales.

This lake is also known as Savadden, and in a Harleian MS. of about 1695 we read that: ‘In the greate Poole call’d Llyn Savathan once stood a faire citie which was swallowed up by an Earthquake and resigned her stone walles into this deep and broad water, being stored most richly with fish in such abundance as is uncredible…. and indeed the fishermen of this place have often times taken up goodes of severall sortes from the very harte of the Poole but whether these might be goodes that ware cast away is unknowne but we have never heard of any such mischance in oure times.’ The story is probably derived from the remains of ancient lake dwellings which have been identified on an island on the north side of the lake. This island, wholly artificial, was connected with the shore by a causeway of stones and piles, with probably a drawbridge. On it have been discovered the bones of red deer, wild boar, and cattle.

Llangorse lake, Wales, summer 1984.

It is told, to-day, that when the lake is rough the buried church bells can be heard ringing under the water. When I asked a man who had his dwelling by the lake if he had ever heard the bells he replied ‘bunkum.’ When I asked him if it was true that the waters of the river Llynfi, which enter the lake, do not mix with the lake water, but flow through unstained, he replied ‘bunkum.’ When I asked him if the lake was not celebrated for its miracles he replied ‘bunkum,’ and with that amount of information I reached home before the next downpour.
‘Coming Down the Wye’, Robert Gibbings, J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd. 1942.

Llangorse lake, Wales, summer 1984.

We’ll stay in Wales (where it doesn’t rain all the time) for this week’s Friday Flashback.