Image of Yakut tribesman riding across Siberia during the winter of 2004 courtesy of Mikael Strandberg (Expedition Siberia) and the Long Riders' Guild (click to enlarge).
Basket of equine snow shoes circa late 1970s, courtesy of the Long Riders' Guild (click to enlarge).
ExWeb Long Riders' Guild Special, part 2 final: Riding in brutal climates not unusal; trained mules found Scott's body

Posted: Jul 19, 2007 10:23 pm EDT
( In yesterday's entry, the Long Riders' Guild reported how alarmed they were by what they had uncovered while researching three Antarctica book classics for a new edition. These guys are adventure horsemen, and looking at Scott's South Pole expedition from this new angle, they discovered serious equestrian mistakes. <cutoff>

But what bothered them most, was the lack of knowledge surrounding these events. Turned out, one of London's leading equestrian editors was astonished to learn that horses were used in Antarctica, while pedestrian Antarctic historians poked fun at the snow-shoes that Scott and his men left behind at Base Camp - and which could have saved the men - according to the long-riders.

Riding horses on snow shoes in brutal climates is not unusual. Yet as The Guild quite correctly notes, "riding with the cavalry in South Africa, playing polo in India, hunting in Ireland and racing thoroughbreds in England," little prepared Oates (in charge of the ponies) for Polar equestrian exploration.

<b>Atkinson typed up an equestrian report</b>

The Long Riders' Guild Academic Foundation's equestrian study of the ponies used in Antarctica is the first undertaken by horsemen. An example of their findings can be seen in the top image, shot by long rider Mikael Strandberg, which shows a Yakut tribesman riding across Siberia during the winter of 2004. It was these horses, which can be seen readily traveling in minus sixty degree weather, which Scott took to Antarctica.

"Even though our initial findings were exciting and precedent-setting, even more astonishing equestrian facts have been revealed in the last month," The Guild reports.

"For example, while the historians at the Scott Polar Research Institute had no inkling of the importance of the equine snow-shoes, they were able to supply The Guild with a photocopy of a typed report drawn up by Lieutenant Edward Atkinson, Scott's second-in-command. After the death of his commander and the discovery of the deceased explorers' bodies, Atkinson typed up an equestrian report, the significance of which seems to have eluded Antarctic exploration experts."

<b>Trained Himalayan mules (on snow-shoes) found Scott's body</b>

The Guild continue their report:

"Before Scott's ship, the <i>Terra Nova</i>, left to return to New Zealand, Scott wrote to Douglas Haig in India, asking for specially trained Himalayan mules which he planned to use in the second year. The ship returned with seven trained mules acclimatized to Himalayan winter conditions. Accompanying them was Lieut. Pullers, an Indian Army vet."

"According to Atkinson's report, entitled 'Notes on the ponies and mules used during the Terra Nova expedition,' the mules made the 400 mile trip, found Scott's body and returned to base camp in such excellent condition that they could easily have made the same journey again. This was not only due to the fact that Pullers had equestrian travel experience in harsh winter climates, but more importantly had equipped his mules to travel across Antarctic's rugged terrain using equine snow-shoes!"

<b>Lucky for Amundsen, "nothing Johnny Foreigner had to teach the British"</b>

"Finally, the proper understanding and use of equine snow-shoes begs the question: had Shackleton had snow-shoes on his 1907 expedition, would he have made the extra 90-odd miles to the South Pole? If so, there would have been no 'race to the Pole' between Scott and Amundsen in 1912! So either way, the use of equine snow-shoes might well have prevented the death of Scott and his four men."

"Yet when asked why the British did not eagerly adapt the historically confirmed equine snow shoes, one of the world's leading Antarctic historians replied, 'There was nothing Johnny Foreigner had to teach the British'!"

<b>Reviving historians from equestrian exploration amnesia</b>

"What we uncovered was alarming, yet the lack of knowledge surrounding these events amounted to the most incredible act of equestrian exploration amnesia in history!" CuChullaine O'Reilly, one of the Founding Members of The Long Riders' Guild told ExWeb.

But now this has turned into such a big story that The Long Riders' Guild has commissioned equestrian investigative journalist, Tom Moates, to immediately begin work on a book entitled 'Deadly Journey: Solving Antarctica's Equestrian Mystery.'

"Because of your leading role in documenting exploration history and events, Mikael (Strandberg - Ed note) has stressed the need to contact Explorers Web and share these findings with you and your readers," CuChullaine O'Reilly ended his email, adding:

"I think you will agree that the hitherto neglected story of the South Pole Ponies is capable of generating a great deal of debate. This was demonstrated last month when the prestigious British Horse Society published a story based on The Guild's research results. That article, penned by America's leading equestrian investigative reporter, Tom Moates, was immediately picked up by the mainstream media, resulting in an article in London's Telegraph the very next day."

(Ed note: Find the first part of this story in the links section below the images.)

<i>At one thousand pages, and still growing, The Long Riders' Guild website is the repository of the largest collection of equestrian travel information in history. This open-source, academic website serves as a commercial-free Guild Hall, library, equipment room and meeting place for the world's mounted explorers.

The Guild maintains its own publishing house, offering the world's greatest equestrian travel books. The Long Riders' Literary Collection houses more than one hundred titles in seven languages, all of which are published via the most environmentally friendly methods available. The Guild also operates the Classic Travel Books project, which has now published nearly one hundred travel titles in the last year including the works of living authors such as Christopher Ondaatje, Ranulph Fiennes and Robin Hanbury-Tenison, as well as classic authors such as George Borrow, Isabella Bird and Robert Cunninghame Graham.

They just completed, with the assistance of Edmund Hillary, Alexandra Shackleton and Falcon Scott, new editions of three of the most important Antarctic exploration books of all time. The royalties from these books will be donated to the New Zealand based Antarctic Heritage Trust's efforts to preserve the Scott and Shackleton Antarctic huts.</i>

#Polar #feature