Lot 200 (Fine Interiors (including Books and Maps) - Two Day Sale, 10th March 2020)
An important penguin specimen from the 'Terra Nova' Expedition 1910-1913: an Adélie penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae),
stuffed and mounted, possibly by Rowland Ward, on a wood plinth,
Given by Edward Leicester Atkinson to the vendor's great-grandmother, Lady Porter, and her husband, Surgeon Vice-Admiral Sir James Porter (1851-1935). In a letter sold with the penguin, Atkinson, writes on 22 December 1913:
'Dear Lady Porter, I had hoped to have ready by Xmas an Adelie penguin as an Xmas present for Sir James and yourself. They have taken so long over them at the stores that they will not be ready, but if you will accept it I will send it as soon as I can. They only occur within the Antarctic circle. Will you kindly tell Sir James that in all probability I am going to China and please thank him very much for what he has done. I must wish you both a very happy Xmas and New Year and many of them. Yours very sincerely, E. L. Atkinson'
Atkinson was part of the fateful 'Terra Nova' or British Antarctic Expedition 1910-1913, when Captain Scott and his party died on the return from the South Pole, after being beaten in the race to become the first to reach the Pole by Roald Amundsen's team, who managed the feat five weeks earlier. None of the five returned and Scott, Bowers and Wilson died together in their tent on the Great Ice Barrier around 29 March 1912.
Controversy surrounds Atkinson's decisions leading up to the attempted relief and replenishment of stores for Scott's return. Atkinson was a doctor and parasitologist on the expedition and, while Scott and his team was heading for the pole, he was in charge of the camp at Cape Evans. The first flawed decision that may have led to a different outcome was the replenishment of the dog's stores along Scott's return route, which Atkinson, after Cecil Meares, the lead dog handler had resigned, unloaded supplies from the Terra Nova rather than restocking as ordered to by Scott. On subsequent journeys to find Scott's team, it was acknowledged that they had perished, and it was not until 12 November that Atkinson led another team which found the tent with the bodies of Scott, Bowers and Wilson. Scott's diary was found documenting the unfolding disaster.
After the expedition, Atkinson went to China and discovered the cause of schistosomiasis, returning at the start of the First World War, in which he served with distinction, winning a DSO and the Albert Medal after rescuing fellow sailors during an explosion on HMS Glatton in Dover harbour on 16 September 1918.
After the war he served in various naval posts and became the youngest Surgeon Captain, retiring in 1928 on health grounds. He died in 1928, and a letter accompanies the lot from his widow to Lady Porter, dated 7 March 1929:
'Dear Lady Porter, I trust you will forgive my seeming neglect in not replying to your kind letter sooner, but the shock of my husband's death left me so stunned that I am only now feeling fit to attend to correspondence. How can I thank you for your kind sympathy and your kindly reference to my husband's abilities. To me, even more outstanding than his gallantry was his kindly disposition and his consideration for others. So shortly since did life seem full of happiness and now the desolation of it all. It has been of great comfort to have the sympathy of friends. My husband had caught a chill when at Port Said and was only really ill for about twenty-four hours. Again, let me thank Sir James and you for your sympathy and kind thoughts. Believe me, yours very sincerely, Mary F. Atkinson'
Sold for £10,500
Some areas of wear, particularly to neck. Paint splatters to back of base and tail, which could be considered 'naturalistic'.
General wear commensurate with age.
Please see additional images.
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The auction details are as follows:
Auction: Fine Interiors (including Books and Maps) - Two Day Sale, 10th March 2020
6 March 2020, 9am - 5pm
8 March 2020, 10am - 1pm
9 March 2020, 9am - 5pm
10 March 2020, from 9am
11 March 2020, from 9am
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