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The British Imperial Antarctic Expedition 1920–1922: Paradise Harbour, Antarctic Peninsula

  • David L. Harrowfield (a1)
Abstract

On 12 January 1921 the British Imperial Antarctic Expedition 1920–1922 led by 27 year old Cambridge graduate John Lachlan Cope, arrived at Paradise Harbour situated west of Andvord Bay on the Danco Coast, Graham Land. The four-man party was landed by Norwegian whalers, on a small island with a promontory they named ‘Water-boat Point’ now Waterboat Point (64°49’S, 62°52’E), because of an abandoned water-boat there. Fortunately ready accommodation was available in the boat and to this were attached cases of provisions to form an improvised hut with an extension added before winter. Cope and Wilkins his deputy leader stayed just six weeks and after helping to build the hut, in effect abandoned the other two members of the expedition, Bagshawe and Lester. The two men voluntarily remained and in the belief that they would be paid, vigorously pursued a varied scientific programme. Although lacking essential items including certain scientific instruments, they were comparatively well off until relieved by Norwegian whalers in January 1922. The expedition that lasted one year and a day and was supported logistically by Norwegian whalers, became the smallest British expedition to overwinter in Antarctica and was the only expedition at that time. Bagshawe and Lester produced an impressive record of observations in meteorology, biology, oceanography, glaciology, botany and geology. In 1951 when Chile established Presidente González Videla Station, remains of the water-boat and hut were present, but today little evidence remains of the site destroyed by natural processes, human intervention and buried by guano. With exception of a few papers and chapters in books, Two men in the Antarctic (Bagshawe 1939) remains the definitive work on this generally forgotten expedition. For this paper primary resources have focused on original manuscripts. Although much material including financial records if indeed they existed, has been lost, surviving documents provide insights into the expedition. Reasons for the eventual loss of Bagshawe and Lester's field station are discussed.

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The letters CO refer to Colonial Office; RGS to Royal Geographical Society, London, UK; SPRI to Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge, UK; BANZARE to British, Australian, New Zealand Antarctic Research Expedition; BIAE to British Imperial Antarctic Expedition; NAE to National Antarctic Expedition; BAE to British Antarctic Expedition; ITAE to Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition; AAE to Australasian Antarctic Expedition; RIM to Royal Indian Marine.
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