Piece of history returning to Antarctic

Antarctic Heritage Trust executive director Nigel Watson is pictured with one of Dr Edward Atkinson's skis. Photo by Antarctic Heritage Trust.
Antarctic Heritage Trust executive director Nigel Watson is pictured with one of Dr Edward Atkinson's skis. Photo by Antarctic Heritage Trust.
Almost exactly 100 years after Dr Edward Atkinson secretly rowed ashore at Oamaru to pass on the bombshell news of Captain Robert Falcon Scott's death in the Antarctic, skis used by Dr Atkinson have been returned to New Zealand.

On the night of February 10, 1913, the SS Terra Nova had moored off Oamaru Harbour during darkness.

Dr Atkinson, the ship's doctor, who had assumed command of the polar expedition after Captain Scott's death the previous year, came ashore and wired to the outside world the news of the death of Scott and the polar party.

The expedition's contract with the British-based Central News Agency, which had provided it with much-needed funds, required absolute secrecy, to avoid a rival news agency getting the news out first.

The return of Dr Atkinson's skis to New Zealand's Antarctic Heritage Trust had been a ''welcome surprise'', trust executive director Nigel Watson said this month. The wooden skis, etched with Dr Atkinson's initials, had been retrieved from a pile of abandoned equipment at Scott's Cape Evans hut in 1948 by a navy helicopter pilot, Lieutenant Lloyd Tracy, aboard USS Edisto, part of US Operation Windmill.

His son, Dick Tracy, of Washington State, said it was with ''great joy'' that the skis were at last being returned to Cape Evans, where his father had recovered them.

The trust plans to return the skis to Scott's Hut late this year, after any necessary conservation work on them had been undertaken.

Mr Watson was ''absolutely delighted'' the skis had been returned.

They provided a ''most poignant link'' to the Scott expedition.

'' It seems like fate that these have been returned to Christchurch, exactly 100 years to the day after Atkinson himself returned here from the Antarctic with details of the loss of the polar party.''

john.gibb@odt.co.nz

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