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A Photographer’s Century Old Notebook Uncovered In The Antarctic

By Michelle Bird on October 24th 2014


George Murray Levick

In 1911, Captain Scott and others, set out on the Terra Nova expedition– a fatal event that took the life of Scott and two other men. Now, more than a century later after the tragedy, the photographer’s notebook has washed out of the melting snow from the hut they used as their base in the Antarctic. The notebook was left behind when George Murray Levick– official photographer, zoologist and surgeon– alongside a few others from the expedition returned home safely, after Scott and two members had died in the tent on the Ross Ice Shelf in March of 1912.

Levick’s notebook titled Wellcome Photographic Exposure Record and Diary 1910,  contains photographs he captured during the expedition, as well as pencil notes of dates, subjects and exposure details– information documented before the crew met face-to-face with a horrendous winter.

George Murray Levick notebook Captain Scott

Levick and the rest of the team spent months studying one of the largest penguin colonies of the world, when a terrible winter emerged, and they were trapped in Antarctica with no escape. An early pack of ice made it impossible for the ship to get to them. In the winter of 1912, the men survived in a tight ice cave they dug on Inexpressible Island, using blubber for food and fuel; the team escaped after walking 200 miles back to Hut Point.


Group at Cape Adare, May 1911. Campbell, Levick, Abbott, Browning, Dickason

Researchers thought the hut and all of the contents inside, including food, supplies, clothing, would remain intact and well-preserved forever. With heavy climate changes in the area, snow has melted around the building during the annual thaw, exposing various objects. Levick’s notebook hasn’t been the only thing to surface; the Antarctic Heritage Trust also discovered many photo negatives.


Northern Party’s hut at Cape Adare

So what happened to Levick? Firstly, he was given leave from his service in the Royal Navy to join Scott’s expedition. Upon returning home, he ended-up serving in the First World War, survived the Gallipoli campaign, founded the British Schools Exploring Society in 1932, and at 64 returned to the Navy as a trainer specializing in fitness and survival techniques during WWII. He passed away in 1956.

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Levick’s notebook definitely provided a missing link of the official expedition record. You can take a look at the video below, and check out the steps researchers at the Antarctic Heritage Trust have taken to preserve the 100-year old notebook.

Images: Courtesy of the Scott Polar Research Institute

[via] The Guardian

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Michelle Bird is a Southern California based freelance photographer and writer, with a strong focus on music, editorial and portrait photography. She is the founder and creative force behind the music+culture online blog Black Vinyl Magazine, and can often be found in the photo-pit shooting the latest concerts in town. She has a strong passion for art, exploring, vintage finds and most of all animals. Connect with her through Email,
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Q&A Discussions

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  1. Basit Zargar


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  2. Jason Boa

    Awesome I have seen an exhibition of this photographers work in the Antarctic and it is phenomenal , to produce such sharp and timeless images in such conditions is incredible

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  4. David Hall

    It’s always so inspiring to find hidden treasures from the past.

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  5. Ian Moss


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  6. Peter Nord

    Wonder how long it took them to walk out 200 miles. Years ago I met a fellow who took part in an ill-fated 1957 International Geophysical Year expedition during which they lost their food. He said seal blubber was the most terrible tasting stuff.

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  7. Tyler Friesen

    This is remarkable

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