Summer 2001

The Worst Journey in the World

A chronology

Frances Richard

January 1773
James Cook crosses into the Antarctic Circle at 67° 15’ S., the first explorer to do so.

Various expeditions under Bellingshausen, Weddell, Biscoe, Balleny, and Wilkes map portions of the Antarctic coastline, determining that rock is present beneath the ice, and that the landmass is large enough to be classified as a continent.

James Clark Ross pushes his ships, the Erebus and the Terror (after which two Antarctic volcanic peaks are named) through the pack-ice to 78° 11' S.

The Challenger Expedition spends three weeks within the Antarctic Circle, collecting marine specimens and disproving current theories that the cold, dark Antarctic seas cannot support life.

Henryk Johan Bull makes the first known landing on the Antarctic mainland.

The Borchgrevink party spends the first human winter in Antarctica.

Robert Falcon Scott’s Discovery Expedition lands at McMurdo Sound.

On 30 December, at the furthest southern extreme of their journey, Scott’s party travels to 82° 17', 520 miles from the actual pole.

Ernest Shackleton, a member of Scott’s team, returns to Antarctica with his own Endurance Expedition. One party under Shackleton reaches the magnetic pole (the extreme of magnetic south); a second party heads for the geographic pole (the meeting point of lines of longitude). Food shortages force this group to turn back 97 miles from the pole, close enough to prove that it lies on land rather than beneath a frozen sea.

Twenty-three-year-old Apsley Cherry-Garrard travels in Australia; hears of Scott’s 2nd Expedition aboard the Terra Nova and asks to be allowed to join. The expedition’s zoologist, Dr. E. A. Wilson, a family friend of the Cherry-Garrards, persuades Scott to accept him as the team’s youngest member.

April 1910
Robert E. Peary and Matthew Henson arrive at the North Pole with the help of Eskimo guides.

June 1910
Roald Amundsen—who had planned to explore the North Pole but changed his mind after Peary got there first—sails secretly from Norway aboard Arctic pioneer Fridtjof Nansen’s famous polar ice-ship the Fram. Scott, provisioning in Melbourne, Australia, on his way to the Antarctic, receives a telegram sent from the island of Madeira: AM GOING SOUTH. AMUNDSEN. The race is on for the South Pole.

January 1911
Scott’s Terra Nova Main Party, twenty-four men chosen from eight thousand volunteers, lands at McMurdo Sound.

June 1911
Cherry, Wilson, and Bowers depart on the five-week “Winter Journey” to collect Emperor penguin eggs for embryology research.

December 1911
Amundsen and four companions plant a Norwegian flag at the South Pole.

January 1912
Scott and four companions reach the pole, only to find that Amundsen has been there first.

April 1912
Scott, Wilson, and Bowers die of starvation in their tent, 11 miles from the food cache at One Ton Depot. The other two members of the Polar Party—Seaman Edgar Evans and Captain Lawrence “Titus” Oates—have died already: Evans of injuries sustained in a fall, and Oates, whose frostbite had turned gangrenous, of exposure, having willingly walked away from the tent in a blizzard in order to improve his companions’ chances of survival. His parting words—“I am going outside; I may be some time”—become legendary in the literature of gentlemanly adventure.

November 1912
The bodies of the polar party are found by the search party. Their diaries, scientific notes and samples, and exposed film are recovered. Cherry-Garrard inscribes a passage from Tennyson’s “Ulysses” on the cross marking their graves.

Survivors of the Terra Nova Expedition return to England. Cherry-Garrard delivers three Emperor penguin eggs to the Natural History Museum.

Cherry-Garrard assumes command of a Navy armored car brigade in World War I.

Lieut. Comdr. Cherry-Garrard is invalided out of the Navy and begins to write his book.

The Worst Journey in the World is published by Constable, Ltd.

June 1928
Roald Amundsen disappears in the Arctic.

May 1959
Cherry-Garrard dies peacefully at home in England.

June 2001
The Worst Journey in the World has now been printed in many editions. An internet search under “the worst journey in the world” yields 34,800 putative entries.

Sources [link defunct—Eds.] [link defunct—Eds.]
The National Geographic Atlas of the World (Revised 6th Edition, 1992)
Apsley Cherry-Garrard, The Worst Journey in the World (New York: Carroll & Graf, Inc., 1989)

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