Twenty-eight men were landed in 1911 at the foot of Mt. Erebus to spend the winter in the Anarctic, preparing for their assault on the south Pole in the spring. During that winter, three men broke away from the main party on a quixotic quest all their own. Dr. Edward Wilson–“Dr. Bill” or “Uncle Bill”–had an idea that the evolution of birds could be better understood by the study of emperor penguin embryos in the egg.
Breeding season for these birds is in the heart of the Antarctic winter, in their rookery at Cape Crozier at the far end of Ross Island, some sixty-eight miles away. Dr. Wilson enlisted the help of two enthusiastic cohorts: Lt. Robert “Birdie” Bowers and young Appsley Cherry-Garrard.
Nobody had ever contemplated, much less set out on, on overland journey in the dead of the Antarctic winter. They had no idea how gruelling it would be.