Apsley Cherry-Garrard

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File:Apsley Cherry-Garrard.jpg
Apsley Cherry-Garrard during the Terra Nova Expedition.

Apsley George Benet Cherry-Garrard (2 January 1886 – 18 May 1959) was an English explorer of Antarctica. He was a member of the Terra Nova Expedition and is acclaimed for his historical account of this expedition, The Worst Journey in the World. Born in Lansdowne Road,[upper-alpha 1] Bedford, as Apsley George Benet Cherry, the son and eldest child of Major General Apsley Cherry (later Cherry-Garrard) of Denford Park in Berkshire (later of Lamer Park in Hertfordshire where he became High Sheriff) and his wife, Evelyn Edith (née Sharpin), daughter of Henry Wilson Sharpin of Bedford.[1] He was educated at Winchester College and Christ Church, Oxford where he read Classics and Modern History. While at Oxford he rowed in the 1908 Christ Church crew which won the Grand Challenge Cup at the Henley Royal Regatta.

His surname was changed from Cherry to Cherry-Garrard by the terms of his great-aunt's will, through which his father inherited the enormous Lamer Park estate near Wheathampstead in Hertfordshire. Apsley inherited the estate on his father's death in 1907.

Cherry-Garrard had always been enamoured by the stories of his father's achievements in India and China where he had fought with merit for the British Defence Forces, and felt that he must live up to his father's example. In September 1907, Dr Edward Adrian 'Bill' Wilson met with Captain Scott at Reginald Smith's home in Cortachy, to discuss another Antarctic expedition; Smith's young cousin Apsley Cherry-Garrard happened to visit and decided to volunteer.[2]


File:Apsley Cherry-Garrard plaque.jpg
Plaque at the birthplace of Cherry-Garrard in Bedford
File:Family Cherry-Garrard.jpg
The Cherry-Garrard family of Lamer Park in 1896; Apsley junior is on the right

At the age of 24, 'Cherry' was one of the youngest members[3] of Robert Falcon Scott's Terra Nova expedition (1910–13). This was Scott's second and last expedition to Antarctica. Cherry's application to join the expedition was initially rejected as Scott was looking for scientists, but he made a second application along with a promise of £1,000 (2009 approximation £50,000) 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-Garrard as assistant zoologist.[4] The expedition arrived in the Antarctic on 4 January 1911.

Depot journey

During the remainder of the southern summer, from January to March 1911, Cherry-Garrard helped lay depots of fuel and food on the intended route of the party which would attempt to reach the South Pole.

Winter journey

File:Apsley Cherry-Garrard & typewriter.jpg
Cherry-Garrard in front of his typewriter in the Terra Nova hut at Cape Evans, 30 August 1911

With 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-Garrard suffered from high degree myopia,[5] seeing little without the spectacles that he could not wear while sledging.[6] In almost total darkness, and with temperatures ranging from −40 °F (−40 °C) to −77.5 °F (−60.8 °C), they man-hauled their sledge 60 miles (97 km) from Scott's base at Cape Evans to the far side of Ross Island. The party had two sledges, but the poor surface of the ice due to the extremely low temperatures meant that they could not drag both sledges as intended during parts of the outward journey. They were thus forced to `relay,' moving one sledge a certain distance before returning for the other. This highly inefficient means of travelling (walking three miles for every one advanced) meant that at times they could only travel a couple of miles each day.

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, by great fortune they found their tent lodged nearby in rocks. Cherry-Garrard suffered such cold that he shattered most of his teeth due to chattering in the frigid temperatures. Having successfully collected three eggs and desperately exhausted they began their return journey. Only progressing a mile and a half some days, they eventually arrived back at Cape Evans on 1 August 1911. Cherry-Garrard later referred to this as the 'worst journey in the world' at the suggestion of his neighbour George Bernard Shaw, and gave this title to his book recounting the fate of the 1910–13 expedition.

Polar journey

On 1 November 1911, Cherry-Garrard set off to accompany the team that would make the attempt on the South Pole, along with three supporting parties of men, dogs and horses. At the foot of the Beardmore Glacier, the horses were shot and their flesh cached for food, while the dog teams turned back for base. At the top of the Beardmore Glacier, on 22 December 1911, Cherry-Garrard was in the second supporting party to be sent home, arriving back at base on 26 January 1912.[7]

Dog journey to One Ton Depot

Scott had left orders for the dog-driver Meares and the surgeon Atkinson to take the dog teams south in early February 1912 to meet Scott's party on 1 March at latitude 82 or 82.30 degrees, and to assist his return journey.[8] As Meares was not available for work, and Atkinson had to attend to a medical emergency, and the meteorologists were busy, the fateful choice fell on Cherry-Garrard. Thus, belatedly, on 26 February 1912 Cherry-Garrard and dog handler Dimitri Gerov set off southwards and soon reached 'One Ton Depot' (latitude 80) on 3 March, and deposited additional food. They waited there seven days hoping to meet the South Pole team. Cherry-Garrard and Dimitri then turned back on 10 March. Scott's party was at that time only 60 miles (97 km), i.e. 3 dog marches south of One Ton Depot.[9] Scott and his companions eventually reached a point 11 miles (18 km) south of One Ton Depot, where they froze to death. Cherry-Garrard later wrote that "the primary object of this journey with the dog team[s] was to hurry Scott and his companions home" but they "were never meant to be a relief journey".[10] He justified his decision to wait for a week and then turn back, stating that the poor weather, with daytime temperatures as low as −37 °F (−38 °C), made further southward travel impossible,[11] and the lack of dog food meant he would have had to kill dogs for food, against Atkinson's orders.[12] They returned to base on 16 March empty-handed, immediately causing anxiety about Scott's fate.[13]

Two days later, Cherry-Garrard fainted and became an invalid for the following days. Atkinson set forth to fetch Scott, but on 30 March was forced to turn back in the face of low temperatures, and concluded that Scott's party had perished.

The search journey

Cherry-Garrard was eventually appointed record keeper and continued zoological work.[14] The 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 geological specimens they had hauled back from the mountains of the interior. Cherry-Garrard was deeply affected, particularly by the deaths of Wilson and Bowers, with whom he had made the journey to Cape Crozier.

Later life

Back in England, during the First World War Cherry-Garrard was commissioned in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve[15] and commanded a squadron of armoured cars in Flanders. Invalided out in 1916, he suffered from clinical depression as well as ulcerative colitis which had developed shortly after returning from Antarctica.[16] His lifespan preceded the description and diagnosis of what is now called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Although his psychological condition was never cured, the explorer was able to treat himself to some extent by writing down his experiences, although he spent many years bed-ridden due to his afflictions. He required repeated dental treatment because of the damage done to his teeth by the extreme cold (as related by Sara Wheeler in Cherry: A Life of Apsley Cherry-Garrard, 2001). He many times revisited the question of what possible alternative choices and actions might have saved the South Pole team — most notably in his 1922 book The Worst Journey in the World.

In 1939, Cherry-Garrard married Angela Turner (1916–2005). He chose not to have children for fear of passing down mental health problems.[citation needed] After the Second World War, ill health and taxes forced him to sell his family estate and move to a flat in London, where he died in Piccadilly on 18 May 1959. He is buried in the north-west corner of the churchyard of St Helen's Church, Wheathampstead.


In 1922, encouraged by his friend and neighbour G. Bernard Shaw, Cherry-Garrard wrote The Worst Journey in the World. Over 80 years later this book is still in print and is often cited as a classic of travel literature, having been acclaimed as the greatest true adventure story ever written.[17] It was published as Penguin Books' 100th publication. More recently however, Roland Huntford has dismissed the Worst Journey as "an immature but persuasive, highly charged apologia".[18]

Cherry-Garrard also published an obituary of the expedition photographer Herbert Ponting[19] and an introduction to Edward Wilson of the Antarctic: Naturalist and Friend, a book by George Seaver on "Bill" Wilson.

Cherry-Garrard also contributed an essay in remembrance of T. E. Lawrence in the first edition of a volume edited by Lawrence's brother A.W. Lawrence T. E. Lawrence, by His Friends. (Subsequent abridged editions omit his article.) Cherry-Garrard hypothesises in this essay that Lawrence undertook extraordinary acts out of a sense of inferiority and cowardice and a need to prove himself. He suggests, too, that Lawrence's writings—as well as Cherry's own—were therapeutic and helped in dealing with the nervous shock of the events they recount.

Material legacy from the winter journey

The three Emperor Penguin eggs collected at Cape Crozier in July 1911

The igloo on Cape Crozier was discovered by the Fuchs-Hillary Trans-Antarctic expedition of 1957–58. Only eighteen inches to two feet of the stone walls remained standing. Relics were removed and placed in museums in New Zealand.[20]

The BBC Four drama-documentary The Worst Journey in the World shows the site of the igloo created by Cherry-Garrard and his two companions near the penguin breeding ground revealing the presence of original equipment left by the expedition.

The three intact penguin eggs that Wilson, Bowers and Cherry-Garrard brought back from Cape Crozier are now in the collection of the Natural History Museum, London.

In the media

Cherry-Garrard's life is detailed in Sara Wheeler's biography Cherry.

In the film Scott of the Antarctic, Cherry-Garrard was played by Barry Letts. In the Central TV production The Last Place on Earth, Cherry-Garrard was played by Hugh Grant. In the BBC Four production The Worst Journey in the World, Cherry-Garrard was played by Mark Gatiss.

See also



  1. A blue plaque in memory of Apsley Cherry-Garrard's birth was unveiled in Lansdowne Road, at the address of his birth, on Wednesday, 17 November 2010.


  1. Ford 2011.
  2. Apsley Cherry-Garrard, The Worst Journey in the World, Carroll & Graf, 1922, p. lvii
  3. Cherry-Garrard 1922, p. lvii.
  4. Cherry-Garrard 1922, p. lviii–lix.
  5. Cherry-Garrard 1922, p. 270.
  6. Smith, p. 166.
  7. Cherry-Garrard 1922, p. 394.
  8. Evans ERGR 1949 South with Scott London, Collins, p187-188
  9. Scott's diary 11 March 1912 "We have 7 days' food an should be about 55 miles from One Ton Camp tonight."
  10. Cherry-Garrard 1922, p. 425.
  11. Cherry-Garrard 1922, p. 433.
  12. Cherry-Garrard 1922, p. 434.
  13. Cherry-Garrard's diary, 17 March 1912 We feel anxious now, but I do not think there is need for alarm; Cherry-Garrard's diary, 18 and 19 March 1912 We are very anxious, though the Pole Party could not be in yet, cited from Worst Journey, p438
  14. Cherry-Garrard 1922, p. 453.
  15. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 28977. p. 9400. 17 November 1914. Retrieved 28 April 2015.
  16. Cherry-Garrard 2003 Pimlico Introduction by Sara Wheeler p. ix.
  17. National Geographic, 100 Greatest.
  18. R. Huntford (2010) Race for the South Pole. The Expedition Diaries of Scott and Amundsen, p307
  19. Cherry-Garrard 1935, p. 391.
  20. Cherry-Garrard 1970, p. 21.


  • Cherry-Garrard, Apsley (1922). The Worst Journey in the World. Carroll & Graf.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Cherry-Garrard, Apsley (1970) [1922]. The Worst Journey in the World. London: Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-009501-2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> First published in 1922 by Chatto and Windus, London.
  • Cherry-Garrard, Apsley (Apr 1935). "Obituary: Mr. H. G. Ponting". The Geographical Journal. 85 (4): 391.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Smith, Michael (2000). An Unsung Hero: Tom Crean, Antarctic Survivor. London: Headline Book Publishing. ISBN 1-903464-09-9.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Wheeler, Sara (2001). Cherry: a Life of Apsey Cherry-Garrard. London: Jonathan Cape. ISBN 0-224-05004-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Ford, David Nash (2011). "Apsley Cherry-Garrard (1886–1959)". Royal Berkshire History. Nash Ford Publishing. Retrieved 21 March 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Brandt, Anthony (1996). "Extreme Classics: The 100 Greatest Adventure Books of All Time". NationalGeographic.com. National Geographic Society. Retrieved 21 October 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • T. E. Lawrence, by His Friends (1937)

External links