The Antarctic is very much the flavour of the month here. To mark the 100th anniversary of Scott reaching the South Pole, a new exhibition opened on 20th Jan at the Museum. The Museum holds over 40,000 items relating to Scott's Terra Nova Expedition of 1910 so I thought I would show you details of one of the treasures that remains hidden from view. A wonderful book of bound documents tells the story of Edward Heron Allen and Arthur Earland's study of the Terra Nova material; how the collection was acquired, studied and the significance of the discoveries that they made.
The start of the letter from Edward W. Nelson to Arthur Earland prior to the expedition.
In my microfossil Christmas card post I mentioned that Heron-Allen and Earland had worked on material from Scott's Terra Nova Expedition of 1910. Although they had not been on the trip, a letter from crew member and biologist Edward W Nelson (1883-1923) clearly shows that Earland had been in contact before the trip to encourage Nelson to look out for foraminifera. The exhibition at the Museum has a picture of Nelson along with all of the other crew members and outlines some of the scientific research that went on as part of the expedition as well as the expedition to the South Pole.
Part of the Heron-Allen Type Slide Collection from the Terra Nova Expedition material.
The Terra Nova was the ship that carried Scott and his party to the Antarctic and lent its name to the expedition. Samples were collected from the ocean bottom as it travelled from Britain via the Atlantic Ocean to the Antarctic. While in the Antarctic, ocean bottom samples were dredged too, many of which contained the remains of foraminifera. Even while Scott was on his way to and from the South Pole, the Terra Nova was collecting scientific material from Antarctic region.
Heron-Allen's signed personal annotated copy of the 1922 publication with Arthur Earland and part of one of the letters from Sydney Harmer bound next to it.
The Keeper of Zoology at the Museum at the time was Dr Sydney Harmer who had worked with Terra Nova expedition member D. G. Lilley to publish a list of the samples and sampling details. The first set of letters are from Harmer inviting Heron-Allen and Earland to work on the material. They clearly state that the authors will not be paid and that the final work will be edited by Harmer himself. Neither of them were ever officially employed by the museum but had an honorary status and were provided room to work at the Museum.
Portraits of Heron-Allen and Earland now hanging in the Museum micropalaeontology library, The Heron-Allen Library.
Harmer wrote, 'In a group like the foraminifera I imagine that you would have no difficulty in putting on one side enough duplicates to compensate you in some measure for the trouble of working out the collection.' A later letter states 'I am delighted to have placed it in the hands of an enthusiast to whom no trouble seems too great.' A number of years later, Heron-Allen donated his entire foraminiferal collection to the Museum so all of the original samples, the described material and Heron-Allen's slides are now in our care.
This type of information about the acquisition of the collection is very important as it clearly states the agreement between the scientists about how and where the material should be deposited. Heron-Allen was certainly the curator's friend because of the meticulous way he documented and kept relevant archival correspondence and other materials associated with his collections.
Part of one of the illustrations of foraminifera hand drawn by Mary H Brooks.
The receipt for payment for the artwork sent by Mary H. Brooks. It was paid for by Heron-Allen himself.
Heron-Allen's copy of the paper is also annotated in red ink with references to slides in the Museum collections. Heron-Allen constructed a series of 'type slides' for all of the samples that he worked on. For the Terra Nova Expedition these were slides showing good examples of each of the foraminiferal species encountered at each collecting station of the expedition. As a result this library volume is an extremely useful reference to researchers looking at Terra Nova collections and is a great example of the value of the library items that accompany the collections here at the Museum.
Details of some of the 'type slides' from the collection. The material in these slides was being collected by the crew of the Terra Nova from Antarctic waters at the time that Scott was attempting to return from the South Pole.
Some annotations in red made by Heron-Allen that links the published text directly to the 'type slides' illustrated above.
650 species of foraminifera are described in the publication with 46 new to science. Many forms previously described from the Arctic were also recognised in the Antarctic and the previous theory of bipolarity that foraminifera evolved independently in the Arctic and Antarctic was discounted. Many isomorphs (species made of silica where previously found examples were calcareous) were also discovered. A letter in French from the famous foraminiferologist Schlumberger discusses this issue and is also bound into the volume.
It would appear from the correspondence bound into the book after the annotated copy of the paper that the authors had a great many problems in the editorial stage of their publication. There are many letters between Heron-Allen and Harmer discussing issues about the publication proofs. In one letter, Harmer requests that Heron-Allen cuts down the size of the manuscript by reducing the size of the appendices. The volume ends with a poem written by Heron-Allen that starts:
Goodbye old friend our task is over
we bid farewell to the 'Terra Nova'
Henceforth will life be somewhat calmer
For me - 'Eugenie' and Sydney Harmer
The 100th anniversary of the tragic demise of Captain Scott quite rightly makes the headlines. However, it should not be forgotten that the Terra Nova Expedition was responsible for many new scientific discoveries. This amazing volume of hidden treasures is testament to Heron-Allen's meticulous record keeping but also to some of the discoveries that are not normally associated with the Terra Nova Expedition. The new exhibition at the Museum strikes a good balance between telling the story of Captain Scott and highlighting the scientific breakthroughs that resulted from the expedition.