Cherry-Garrard, Apsley (George Benet) 1886–1959

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Cherry-Garrard, Apsley (George Benet) 1886–1959

PERSONAL: Born January 2, 1886, in Bedford, England; died May 18, 1959, in London England; son of Apsley (an officer in the British military) and Evelyn Edith (Sharpin) Cherry-Garrard; married Angela Turner, 1939. Education: Christ Church, Oxford, degree in modern history (third class), 1908.

CAREER: Explorer and writer. Military service: Served in World War I, 1914–16.

WRITINGS:

(Editor, with others) The South Polar Times, three volumes, Smith, Elder & Co. (London, England), 1907–14.

The Worst Journey in the World: Antarctic, 1910–1913 (memoir), two volumes, Constable and Co. (London, England), 1922, [New York, NY] 1923, published in one volume, Dial Press (New York, NY), 1930, with a foreword by George Seaver and maps redrawn by E. J. Hatch, after the author's original designs, Chatto & Windus (London, England), 1965, 4th edition published as The Worst Journey in the World, introduction by Paul Theroux, Lyons Press (Guilford, CT), 2004.

SIDELIGHTS: Apsley Cherry-Garrard's memoir, The Worst Journey in the World: Antarctic, 1910–1913, called "a masterpiece" by Beryl Bainbridge in the Times Literary Supplement, continued to be reprinted nearly a century after its initial 1922 publication. Cherry-Garrard was born into a wealthy British family, guaranteeing that he would never have to seek employment. In 1908 he met explorer Edward Wilson, and the nearsighted young man joined Robert Scott's expedition in 1910, as Scott made his second bid for the South Pole. Cherry-Garrard paid 1,000 pounds and received no salary in order to take part in the adventure. If his eyesight had been better, he might have been assigned to the main group; his first mission, however, was to accompany Wilson and Birdie Bowers on a 1911 expedition to Cape Crozier in the Antarctic to collect the eggs of emperor penguins.

Sally Cragin wrote in the Boston Globe that at its start, the book "is concerned with the journey: leaks in the boat, the thrashing ocean, frozen sails flapping against icy masts (the Terra Nova was that very modern vessel, equipped with furnace and sails). Oxford-educated Cherry-Garrard had never been on an expedition before, but his observational skills are keen. Nothing escapes his notice, especially the infinite variety on what may seem like a limited palette: sea, ice, sky."

Caroline Alexander noted in the New York Times Book Review that during this "five-week 'ordeal'—one gropes for a word that can do justice to the experience—the three men endured temperatures in excess of minus seventy-five degrees Fahrenheit. Their clothes froze to armor, and Cherry's teeth shattered with the cold. It was as if three men in mere terrestrial garb had been tossed into howling outer space." Cherry-Garrard writes that "polar exploration is at once the cleanest and most isolated way of having a bad time which has been devised." The following year, he made a grisly discovery: Scott, Wilson, and Bowers, frozen in their tent. This experience left him with guilt that carried through his entire life, even though the deaths were not his fault. Alexander called The Worst Journey in the World "one of the undisputed classics of exploration literature."

In Cherry: A Life of Apsley Cherry-Garrard, Sara Wheeler observes the consequences of the tragedy on the man, noting that Cherry-Garrard returned to his estate, and in the midst of pastoral surroundings suffered a mental breakdown. He briefly served in World War I, but colitis prevented him from doing more. It was ten years before he was able to sit down and write about the tragedy, which he did with the help of his neighbor, noted playwright George Bernard Shaw, and Shaw's wife, Charlotte. Cherry-Garrard finally found love himself at the age of fifty-three.

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Cherry-Garrard, Apsley, The Worst Journey in the World, Lyons Press (Guilford, CT), 2004.

Wheeler, Sara, Cherry: A Life of Apsley Cherry-Garrard, Jonathan Cape (London, England), 2001, Random House (New York, NY), 2002.

PERIODICALS

Boston Globe, October 6, 2002, Sally Cragin, review of The Worst Journey in the World: Antarctic, 1910–1913, p. M5.

Guardian (Manchester, England), November 10, 2001, Jonathan Glancey, reviews of The Worse Journey in the World, p. 9.

Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 1989, review of The Worst Journey in the World, p. 986.

New York Times Book Review, May 5, 2002, Caroline Alexander, "The Best Fellows in the World," p. 10.

O, November, 2002, Kenneth Branagh, review of The Worst Journey in the World, p. 183.

Times Literary Supplement, July 29, 1994, Beryl Bainbridge, review of The Worst Journey in the World, p. 5.