Apsley Cherry

Apsley Cherry books and biography


Apsley Cherry-Garrard


Apsley George Benet Cherry-Garrard (January 2, 1886 – May 18, 1959) was an English explorer of Antarctica.


Early life

Born at Bedford, the son of an army officer, he was educated at Winchester College and Christ Church College, Oxford. His surname was lengthened from Cherry to Cherry-Garrard by the terms of an aunt's will, through which his father inherited enormous estates near Wheathampstead in Hertfordshire.


At the age of 24, "Cherry" was one of the youngest members of Sir 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. In almost total darkness, and with temperatures ranging from -40°C to -70°C, they manhauled 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 them men to lie shivering in their sleeping bags under a thickening drift of snow, singing hymns and waiting for the end. 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. 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 expeditioners 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 United Kingdom National Museum of Natural History.


In 1922, encouraged by his friend and neighbour G. Bernard Shaw, he 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. The only other major publication bearing his name is a 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 hypothesizes 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-Garrard's own -- were therapeutic and helped in dealing with the nervous shock of the events they recount.

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


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


  • The Worst Journey in the World (1922)
  • T. E. Lawrence, by His Friends (1937)

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