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2017

Charles Reginald Ford and the Discovery Expedition

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

In 1902, a British expedition travelled south of the Antarctic Circle with the joint goals of scientific study and geographical discovery. The purpose built ship 'Discovery' was to spend several years in the Antarctic after becoming iced in during the first winter.

C. R. Ford (ca. 1903) Men and dogs pull a sledge of supplies through snow and ice

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Charles Reginald Ford assisted Commander Robert Falcon Scott as ship’s steward. Referring to Ford in his 1905 book "The Voyage of the Discovery", Scott writes -  

He soon mastered every detail of our stores, and kept his books with such accuracy that I could rely implicitly on his statements.”

Careful management of stores was vital to survival on the barren ice.

C. R. Ford (ca. 1903) Young Penguins

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Ford and others took photographs of the journey and local wildlife including a series taken through a telescope.

C. R. Ford (ca. 1903) The observer

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The team survived for two years in the region with several rescue ships bringing more supplies to the icebound 'Discovery'. Ernst Shackleton was third officer under Scott.

C. R. Ford (ca. 1903) - Seal in a hole in the ice

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Shackleton produced a newspaper for the crew called the "South Polar Times". Unfortunately he was forced to return early after he was stricken with scurvy. On a positive note Edward Wilson, surgeon and zoologist, discovered that fresh seal meat could counteract scurvy.

C. R. Ford (ca. 1903) Penguins on Ross shelf with Discovery in distance

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C. R. Ford (ca. 1903) Penguin mother and child

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The stranded team made good use of their time making several overland discoveries such as the McMurdo snow free valleys and the polar plateau. The party also found a large Emperor Penguin colony on Cape Crozier where the Great Ice Barrier (now called the Ross Ice Shelf) meets Ross Island.

The Discovery expedition was a trailblazer for later exploration into the polar region. The lessons learned and hardships endured would have been invaluable to Scott in planning his later Terra Nova expedition.

Scott and Ford gave lectures after their 1904 return. Ford later moved to New Zealand and gave regular lectures. In 1962 he presented a lecture to the Auckland Museum Institute and donated his glass slides to the museum.

  • Post by: Shaun Higgins

    Shaun is Curator, Pictorial at Auckland Museum, responsible for research and development of photography and artwork collections.