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Explorer’s diaries

What was a typical day in Antarctica like on Scott’s expedition to the South Pole in 1912? Read this diary extract from Frank Debenham, an Australian on the British Antarctic Expedition 1910 to 1913 to find out!

28 May 1911

“A typical day starts at 8 for breakfast at 8.30 – tho’ some are always late…

For breakfast we have porridge, tea and coffee, bread and butter and some dish such as fried seal and bacon or scrambled ‘Tru-egg’. The porridge is excellent but as all 25 of us like it there is never quite enough.

Afterwards I start work immediately, which consists of cutting sections, learning German, using the microscope, writing the diary or reading books. When fine I go for a walk, but walks in the dark are most uninteresting. The others fill in their mornings in various ways. Sunny Jim and Charles are always busy with their meteorological gadgets, setting them up, repairing or taking them down. The ponies are regularly exercised when the weather permits.

Cherry puts in the day typing copy for the South Polar Times or building a stone-hut in which to flense sealskins. Bill is always sketching or painting and Teddy Evans has plenty of work with chart making and working up the summer’s surveying data. Ponting is regulalrly engaged in taking prints form negatives he made in the summer, or in taking flashlights.

Lunch is at 1.30 and consists of bread (or biscuit) and butter with potted meat, jam and cheese on alternate days, also tea and cocoa. Dinner is at 6.30 and is always a 3 course meal – soup, meat and pudding. After each of the meals a good many sit at the table smoking and talking for a long time. The table breaks up into 2 or 3 groups each with its own subject and there is a general buzz of conversation.”

Frank Debenham
Frank Debenham
The Terra Nova
The Terra Nova


  • Write a diary extract as if you were an explorer of the past.
  • Compare what it’s like for Scientists working in the Antarctic today.