In the summer of 2006 the naming of the new Men's 1st VIII shell 'The Cardinal Wolsey' meant that a new name had to be found for the previous 'The Cardinal Wolsey' another Men's VIII. It was decided that the former Cardinal should be renamed in honour of one of Christ Church's most remarkable alumni - Cherry - Apsley Cherry-Garrard.
And I tell you, if you have the desire for knowledge and the power to give it physical expression, go out and explore. If you are a brave man you will do nothing: if you are fearful you may do much, for none but cowards have need to prove their bravery. Some will tell you that you are mad, and nearly all will say, 'what is the use?' For we are a nation of shopkeepers, and no shopkeeper will look at research which does not promise him a financial return within a year. And so you will sledge nearly alone, but those with whom you sledge will not be shopkeepers: that is worth a good deal. If you march your Winter Journeys you will have your reward, so long as all you want is a penguin's egg
Born in Bedford, as Apsley George Benet Cherry, the son of Maj-Gen. Apsley Cherry (later Cherry-Garrard) of Lamer Park (Hertfordshire) and Denford House (Berkshire), High Sheriff of Hertfordshire, and his wife, Evelyn Edith, daughter of Henry Wilson Sharpin of Bedford. He was educated at Winchester College before coming up to The House to study Classics, matriculating in October of 1904.
Whilst at Christ Church Cherry took up rowing, and in his first year rowed in the bow seat of the 3rd Torpid. By the winter of 1906 Cherry had made his way into the 2nd VIII before being finally selected for the 1st Torpid in 1907. The following year Cherry finally made the breakthrough into the 1st VIII for Summer Eights and then went on, a month later, to row in the Christ Church crew that won the Grand Challenge Cup at The Henley Royal, beating Eton College by 1 1/2 lengths in the final.
At the age of 24, "Cherry" was one of the youngest members of Robert Falcon Scott's Terra Nova expedition (1910–1913). This was Scott's second and last expedition to Antarctica . Cherry-Garrard was initially rejected, but made a second application along with a promise of £1,000 towards the cost of the expedition. Rejected a second time, he made the donation regardless. Struck by this gesture, and at the same time persuaded by Dr Edward "Bill" Wilson, Scott agreed to take Cherry as assistant biologist.
With Dr Edward "Bill" Wilson and Lieutenant Henry "Birdie" Bowers, Cherry-Garrard made a trip to Cape Crozier in July 1911 during the austral winter in order to secure an unhatched Emperor penguin egg. Cherry suffered from high degree myopia seeing little without spectacles that he could not wear while sledging. In almost total darkness, and with temperatures ranging from -40°C to -70°C, they man hauled their sledge 60 miles from Scott's base at Cape Evans to the far side of Ross Island. Frozen and exhausted, they reached their goal only to be pinned down by a blizzard. Their tent was ripped away and carried off by the wind, leaving the men in their sleeping bags under a thickening drift of snow, singing hymns above the sounds of the storm. When the winds subsided however, they found their tent lodged nearby in rocks and having collected the eggs hauled their samples back to Cape Evans, sometimes only managing a mile and a half a day. Cherry-Garrard later referred to this as the 'worst journey in the world', and gave this title to his book recounting the fate of the 1910-1912 expedition.
Cherry-Garrard was afterwards responsible for helping lay depots of fuel and food on the intended route of the party which would attempt to reach the South Pole, and accompanied the team that would make the attempt on the South Pole to the top of the Beardmore Glacier, turning back on December 22, 1911. On his return, Cherry took over navigation on a number of occasions using the sight of his partner until his partner became snow-blind. Without a sighted companion, Cherry managed to overcome his extreme myopia using techniques such his sense of the sun's direction, in clear weather, and the direction of the wind. In February 1912 Cherry-Garrard was responsible for leading a team making one last supply run out to the 'One Ton Depot'. He waited there seven days hoping to meet the South Pole team on their return journey, although the mission was to resupply the dump and not to provide an escort for the polar party 'home' who weren't expected to reach this point for another week or two. Cherry-Garrard finally turned back on March 10, 1912 in order to preserve his dog team which were short of food, and out of concern for the health of one of his team members. Nineteen days later, Scott, Wilson and Bowers died 11 miles south of the One Ton Depot in a blizzard.
By April 1912, with the Antarctic winter approaching, it was apparent to Cherry-Garrard and the remaining expedition members that the South Pole team had died. Atkinson took command, and Cherry-Garrard suffering from strain was appointed record keeper. Scientific work continued through the winter and it was not until October 1912 that a team led by Atkinson and including Cherry-Garrard was able to head south to ascertain the fate of the South Pole team. On 12 November, the bodies of Scott, Wilson and Bowers were found in their tent, along with their diaries and records, and rock samples they had hauled back from the mountains of the interior. Cherry-Garrard was deeply affected, particularly by the death of Wilson and Bowers, with whom he had made the journey to Cape Crozier.
Cherry-Garrard suffered depression all his life, and revisited the question of what might have been done differently to save the South Pole team many times - most notably in his 1922 book The Worst Journey in the World. The book remains a classic, having been acclaimed as the greatest true adventure story ever written.
The three intact penguin eggs that Wilson, Bowers and Cherry-Garrard brought back form Cape Crozier are now in the collection of the Natural History Museum, London.
Cherry: A Life of Apsley Cherry-Garrard by Sara Wheeler is published by Random House
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