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11-Boomerang Glacier climb

In Campbell’s words the morning of 20 January, 1912 was "a lovely morning."[i] Although clear and fine, the previous days' winds had blown much snow about, altering the landscape, placing deep crusted snow in some places while in others exposing ice surfaces.  Many crevasses, ice falls, and boulders were obscured by snow.  Priestley mentions, the recent snowstorm had blanketed the surface of the glacier with a couple of feet of soft, feathery snow, which successfully hid the ice-falls from our view."   Today, they would face and overcome these conditions. Everyone  was looking forward to a day in the field unimpeded by their sledges and anticipating being able to walk and climb freely not hindered by the constant drag of the sledges.  

Making camp at the mouth of the Boomerang Glacier on the evening of the 19 January 1912.
Note the deep snow from the previous few days snow storm. (Freezeframe, SPRI,p48-14-115)


While the cooks  made the breakfast hoosh, the others organised their camp for the day’s absence, and prepared for exploring the Boomerang Glacier area. This breakfast along with some  chocolate, biscuits, and dried fruit was to sustain the climbers until their return to camp later that evening.

The previous night the Northern Party agreed to split into two teams, to explore the glacier, and to look for a suitable sledge route to the slopes of Mount Melbourne and onto Wood Bay. Campbell with Levick, and Dickason would climb the Mountains to the right while Priestley with Abbott, and Browning would climb the heights to the left[ii]. However, Priestley tells us in his diaries that he tried to follow the glacier all the way up, but as we are to see, he eventually climbed the heights to the right.

Each party started their climb, equipped with ice axes, alpine ropes, windproof clothing, primitive snow goggles, spike boots or steigeisens. In addition, each team had a camera, an aneroid barometer, field notebooks, old food bags for storing rock samples, and carried light rations of chocolate, biscuits, and dried fruit. This was the normal equipment  used on reconnaissance work in a new country in summer, where the mild weather makes it possible to leave one’s sledges for a day at a time.[iii] Although they had snow goggles, they were not often used, because  by today’s standards,  they were primitive, uncomfortable, and restricted one's vision.

Now ready, they departed camp about 8.30 a.m., headed over to the northern lateral moraine and started up the right-hand side of the glacier.  The diaries kept at the time show some differences. Priestley writes that after breakfast, he, Abbott, and Browning “left camp at 8.30 am and crossed over the new glacier to its northern moraine[iv] and that Campbell left a half-hour after them. While Campbell in his diary writes that both parties left the camp together and headed up the moraine until his party found a suitable place to start their climb. Another slight difference is that Priestley writes the reason to head up the moraine was to have an easy route past the ice falls[v] while Campbell indicates it was to allow Priestley to collect rocks.[vi]  Although these differences may be interesting, both parties did leave camp about 8.30 a.m. and once on the moraine, they started up the glacier. Not missing the opportunity to study and collect both Campbell and Levick mention finding garnets.  Soon, the two parties separated. Campbell’s group left the moraine at the first place it was possible to start their climb of the bottom right-hand heights, while Priestley headed up the moraine.

I shall first follow Priestley’s journey following the Boomerang Glacier before coming back to Campbell’s climb.

[i] The Wicked Mate.  The Antarctic Diary of Victor Campbell., ed. by H.G.R. King (Archival Facsimiles Ltd, 2001), p. 115.

[ii] Levick, ‘Levick, Diary.’, sec. 20 Jan. 1912, SPRI.

[iii] Raymond Edward Priestley, Antarctic Adventure; Scott’s Northern Party (General Books LLC, 1913), p. 203.

[iv] Raymond Edward Priestley, p. 203.

[v] Raymond Edward Priestley, p. 204.

[vi] King, p. 116.

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