A taxidermy Adélie penguin collected by scientists during the Terra Nova or British Antarctic Expedition (1910-1913) goes under the hammer at Sworders
next month. The 47cm stuffed and mounted bird, an important relic of the so-called Heroic Age of polar exploration, comes for sale from the family of the original recipient with an estimate of £2000-3000.
Robert Falcon Scotts doomed expedition, that arrived in Antarctica on January 4, 1911, hoped to be the first to reach the South Pole but it also had scientific objectives. The study of penguins, believed at the time to represent the evolutionary missing link between birds and reptiles, was a key part of the expedition.
This Adélie specimen, possibly mounted by the London taxidermy firm Rowland Ward, was given to the vendor's great-grandmother Lady Porter and her husband, Surgeon Vice-Admiral Sir James Porter (1851-1935) by Terra Novas doctor and parasitologist Edward Leicester Atkinson (1881-1928).
In a letter dated December 22, 1913 that forms part of the lot, Atkinson, writes: Dear Lady Porter, I had hoped to have ready by Xmas an Adelie penguin as an Xmas present for Sir James and yourself. They have taken so long over them at the stores that they will not be ready, but if you will accept it I will send it as soon as I can.
As the man in charge of base camp at Cape Evans, Atkinson has become a controversial figure in the Terra Nova story - criticised for failing to restock supplies along Scott's return route. It was Atkinson who led the search of the Great Ice Barrier where, on November 12, 1912, the bodies of Scott, Henry Birdie Bowers and Edward Wilson were found together with Scotts letter and diary, with its last entry dated March 29.
Also included in the March 10-11 sale are four watercolour sketches by Apsley George Benet Cherry-Garrard (1886-1959) - the youngest member of the Terra Nova expedition and author of its most acclaimed account, The Worst Journey in the World (1922). One 18 x 25cm sketch depicts three Adelie penguins with another showing a stretch of Antarctic coastline and the Transantarctic mountain range.
As assistant zoologist, Cherry-Garrard had accompanied Wilson and Bowers on a harrowing 120-mile, 19-day trek in the near darkness of the Antarctic winter to the emperor penguin breeding colonies at Cape Crozier. The trio were able to collect five eggs of which three made it back to the Natural History Museum for study.
One of the four watercolours (that come for sale from a family whose forebears were later employed by Cherry-Garrard) is initialled AGG and dated 1922, suggesting they were painted around the time of the publication of The Worst Journey in the World. They will be sold together with a purple velvet tailcoat and a pair of satin breeches, purportedly worn by Cherry-Garrard to a royal event in London c.1920, and a copy of the order of service for a memorial which took place at St Helen's Church, Wheathampsted, Hertfordshire in 1962. The estimate is £1500-2500.