Cook reflections on early Antarctic exploration 

Toward the South Pole: Antarctic Voyages of Exploration From the Earliest Times to the Departure of the Belgica

This is the title of the unpublished manuscript Bette Hutchinson, Dr. Cook’s granddaughter recently donated to the Ohio State University’s Byrd Polar Research Center Archival Program. According to Dr. Cook’s handwritten notes that accompany the documents, the manuscript was a ten-year project, finally completed on the Belgica in 1898. Dr. Cook states further, “(this is) valuable because material here given has been largely ignored by later history. Compare with Hayes and other Antarcticans. Here discoveries are cited in words of the explorer. This should be set into a book.”

The manuscript includes a title page, introduction and table of contents, and includes both typewritten and handwritten drafts. The table of contents indicates that the item is in 4 parts. Part I, “ The Finding and the Losing of the Terra Australis Incognito, “ consists of 9 voyages from Dirck Gherritz in 1599 to Captain James Cook, 1772-1775. Part II is “The Sealer’s Search, “ and begins with the first voyage of Edmund Fanning in 1792, voyage 10 as labeled by Dr. Cook and ends with voyage 26, the John Balleny voyage of 1839.

Part III, “ The Great International Efforts, “ begins with the voyage 30. Part IV is entitled. “The renewal of Antarctic Exploration” and begins with voyage 30, E.E.G. Moore’s expeditions of 1845, and concludes with voyage 36, the Borchgrevink expedition of 1899-1900. Unfortunately, the manuscript is incomplete. Although listed in the table of contents, the manuscripts is missing Part I, voyage 2: Part II voyage 24; Part III voyage 28; and all of Part IV.

Overall, the manuscript is in remarkably good condition considering its age. However, there are approximately 75 typewritten pages that appear to have been damaged by water and subsequent mold growth. Some of the pages were adhered to each other. Treatment by OSU Libraries conservation department involved separating the pages from each other and interleaving with acid-free separator sheets. Portions of some pages have been eaten away, although it is clear from the text that these pages are part of Voyage 27, the Charles Wilkes Expedition of 1838-1840.

Examination of the holdings for the Frederick A. Cook Society records housed in the OSU Archives reveals that the Frederick A. Cook Collection housed in the Library of Congress seems to contain a photocopy of this manuscript. In fact, a photocopy of the manuscript is extant within the Ohio State University Collection (See Box 10, folders 3-6) Unfortunately, the copy does not include the missing voyages, so the whereabouts of those particular chapters remains a mystery.

Further, a search of national catalogs does not indicate that Cook’s manuscript was ever published. Most of the early published materials about Antarctic exploration seem to be individual accounts of expeditions, rather than a compilation of expeditions. Extensive bibliographic searching by Lynn Lay of the Goldthwait Polar Library at the Byrd Polar Research Center indicates that perhaps the most similar volume is the work by H. R. Mill, entitled The Siege of the South Pole, published in 1905 by the Frederick A. Stokes Company.

The manuscript will be housed in the climate controlled stacks of the Ohio State University Archives Book Depository Building, and will be made available to interested researchers. For more information about the Frederick A. Cook Society Collection or any of the other polar collections housed in the OSU Archives, please visit our website or call 614-688-8173. 

Laura Kissel
Curator, Cook Collection

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