Polar exploration book expected to fetch £20,000 at auction

5:09pm Sunday 19th February 2012

By Richard Barton

A rare first edition copy of the most famous book about polar exploration written by a wealthy Wheathampstead explorer and signed and presented to Scott of the Antarctic's widow, is set to fetch between £15,000 and £20,000 at an auction.

Apsley Cherry-Garrard, who inherited Lamer House at Gustard Wood above Wheathampstead, accompanied Scott of the Antarctic on his final ill-fated expedition to the Antarctic in 1910-1912.

Mr Cherry-Garrard, whose similarly-named father, Major General Apsley Cherry-Garrard was High Sheriff of Hertfordshire in 1901, was the expedition's assistant zoologist. He also edited the expedition's periodical, the South Polar Times.

In the 1948 film, Scott of the Antarctic, starring John Mills and James Roberston Justice, Cherry-Garrard was played by actor Barry Letts.

Scott led a party of five(not including Cherry-Garrard, who remained behind at the base camp) to the South Pole, which they reached on January 17,1912,only to discover that the Norwegian Roald Amundsen had got there first (in December 11).

Scott and his men died on the gruelling return journey. Their bodies were found eight months later by a search party, including Cherry-Garrard.

To mark the centenary of Scott's death, on or around March 29,1912, the copy of Apsley Cherry-Garrard's book, The Worst Journey In The World, is to be auctioned at Bonhams in London on March 30,when it is expected to sell for between £15,000 and £20,000.

The book was published in 1922 and was a gift from Cherry-Garrard to Scott of the Antarctic's widow, Kathleen, who remarried that year. It is signed: "Inscribed to Mrs Hilton Young, with very grateful thanks from Cherry."

Auctioneers Bonhams say: "It is particularly valuable because it contains her hand-written and often forthright comments on Cherry-Garrard's account of the Scott expedition.

"Kathleen Scott was highly protective of her husband's reputation and of his leadership of the expedition which ended, not only in failure to become the first men to reach the South Pole, but in the death of Scott and four of his immediate companions: Wilson,Evans,Oates and Bowers."

One statement in the book proved from Kathleen Scott an emphatic pencilled margin note: "Rots!" Bonhams say: "Cherry-Garrard's book is widely regarded as one of the greatest of all adventure stories but it is also admired as a lasting testament to man's capacity for sacrifice and ability to endure great hardship.”

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography said: "In 1947,income tax demands and ill health obliged him(Cherry-Garrard) to sell Lamer (at Wheathampstead) which was demolished and he moved into a London flat."

Cherry-Garrard was 73 when he died at the Berkeley Hotel, Piccadilly, London, on May 18, 1959.In his will he left nearly half a million pounds,or £481,158 six shillings and eightpence to be precise.

He is buried in the north west corner of St Helen's churchyard at Wheathampstead and there is a commemorative bronze statue of him inside the church.

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