Paths are made by walking - the beginnings of a plan for a biography of Hartley Travers Ferrar (2012)
AuthorsFerrar, Sueshow all
Over the last couple of years I have spent quite some time at the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge (SPRI) familiarizing myself with material on Captain Scott’s National Antarctic Expedition (NAE) of 1901-4. I started with documents directly to do with my grandfather, Hartley Travers Ferrar (HT), the expedition Geologist, and moved on to other material as I felt drawn to it. My aim was to wander through the archive, as it were, and let my impressions settle before making decisions about what, if anything, I wanted to do with it all. Of course the idea of a biography was always there but I didn’t know if familiarity would turn me away or bring me closer. I wanted to do the PCAS course to help with clarification. This essay is the culmination of the process so far. Hartley Ferrar was the youngest of the ‘Officers’ and as such came in for a fair amount of ‘joshing’. His cabin was a small one amid-ships, a placing which underlined his position as a nonnaval scientist, yet not part of the ‘men’ either; neither fish nor fowl. The cartoon of him as Our Junior Scientist shows an awkward, unhappy youth. He had perpetual headaches on Discovery which stayed with him the rest of his life.1 This was Ferrar’s first job after graduating and I shall return later to the circumstances of the appointment (see page 7). He had been a champion sportsman at school, winning cups galore and becoming Head Boy. At Cambridge he had been an oarsman; the top of the tree. He was rowing at Henley when the news came through that he would be going to Antarctica. Within a month of this peak experience he found himself the unfledged new boy, an Irishman on what was effectively a Royal Navy ship, an unproven, un-published, newly-graduated scientist packed off to the ends of the earth with nearly fifty chaps who, even though one or two of the ‘men’ were younger than him, had vastly more experience of the rough-and-tumble world of working life on a ship.