Tuesday, October 23, 2012
One of the most successful exhibitions ever held at Fairlynch Museum, ‘Survival!’, depicting Budleigh’s intrepid Antarctic pioneer Dr George Murray Levick and the famed ‘Northern Party’, ended with a party in their honour.
Dozens of people, including one of the museum’s founders Priscilla Hull, crammed into the exhibition space to learn about Dr Levick (1876–1956), the founder of the British Schools Exploring Society.
East Devon adventurer Dave Pearce was on hand to give his insight; with Bruce Parry he took part in a BBC production re-enacting the Scott/Amundsen expeditions using 1912-era equipment and food, entitled Blizzard: Race to the Pole.
Dr Levick served on Captain Scott’s last expedition as a medical doctor and was a member of what became known as the Northern Party.
As the naval surgeon and zoologist on Scott’s expedition, Surgeon Commander Murray Levick found himself second-in-command of the six-man Northern Party.
The group was marooned on pack ice on what they called Inexpressible Island from February to September 1912.
In freezing hurricane conditions they were forced to abandon their tents and take shelter in a cramped ice cave that they constructed.
There they spent the seven months of an Antarctic winter in pitch darkness before being able to make their 230-mile 37-day trek back to base.
Levick later wrote a groundbreaking study of Adelie penguins, and observed the birds’ disturbing sexual practices. He served in World War I, pioneered medical treatments for the disabled, and gave lessons in survival techniques to commandos in World War II.
Mr Pearce loaned the museum the equipment used in the programme and he said of the 1912 explorers: “They really knew what they were doing. They researched thoroughly by talking to the Inuits of Canada about how to keep warm and how to survive.
“The clothes really kept you warm, and in fact the danger was that you could get too hot and start to perspire. We may have used 1912 equipment but we had support. They were on their own.”
Michael Downes of Fairlynch said: “It’s believed that ‘Survival!’ is the first exhibition concerned primarily with the achievements of the Northern Party. [Their] survival owed much to Levick’s care and medical knowledge. On one occasion the men were nearly asphyxiated when they were overcome by fumes from the stove in their ice cave. It was Levick who saved them in the nick of time.”