Diaries of Norwegian Polar Explorer Tryggve Gran at Christie's
London—On 12 December, as part of Classic Week, Christie’s auction of Books and Manuscripts will offer two extraordinary sledging journals of the Norwegian polar explorer Tryggve Gran, who accompanied Robert Falcon Scott on the Terra Nova Expedition of 1910 - 1913. The journals have passed by direct descent from Tryggve Gran; their appearance at auction represents a remarkable opportunity to acquire an authentic piece of Polar history, offering an insight into the trials and tribulations of the British Antarctic Expedition here. Featuring two separate journals, one in English and one in Norwegian (estimate: £120,000 - £180,000, illustrated above), these accounts offer additional material, covering his astonishingly prescient dream on the night of 14 December 1911 of Amundsen’s triumph, as well as the search for Scott’s polar party and tragic discovery of the tent.
The young Norwegian Tryggve Gran was recruited by Scott as a skiing expert for the Terra Nova Expedition on the recommendation of the explorer and humanitarian Fridtjof Nansen. He would go on to play a valuable role in the second geological expedition (November 1911-February 1912), which collected data in the Granite Harbour region.
A particularly emotional entry in his diary takes place on 12 November 1912, when Gran discovered the tent with the frozen bodies of Scott, Wilson and Bowers: ‘It has happened - we have found what we sought - horrible, ugly fate - Only 11 miles from One Ton Depot - The Owner, Wilson & Birdie. All gastsly [sic]. I will never forget it so long I live - a horrible nightmare could not have shown more horror than this “Campo Santo”. In a tent - snowcovered til up above the door we found the three boddies [sic]. The Owner in the middle, half out of his bagg [sic]. Birdie on his right and Uncle Bill on left laying headway to the door. The frost had made the skin yellow & transparent & I’ve never seen anything worse in my life. The Owner seems to have struggled hard in the moment of death, while the two others seem to have gone off in a kind of sleep’.
The English journal also includes Gran’s reading of Scott’s last diary entries and the fruitless search for Oates: ‘The Owner writes in his diary: There is no more hope and so God look after our people...’ (12 November 1912)
Gran retrieved their personal effects and records, and used his own pair of skis to fashion a cross, raised above the snow cairn built to cover the bodies of the ill-fated polar party, before returning to camp on Scott’s skis, reasoning that at least his expedition leader’s skis would finish their journey. In December 1912, before leaving Antarctica, Gran he made an ascent of Mount Erebus with Raymond Priestley and Frederick Hooper, and was lucky to escape with his life after an unexpected eruption set off an avalanche of the surrounding pumice stone. Gran went on to receive the Polar Medal for his endeavours in Antarctica.