tealin: (terranova)
[personal profile] tealin
To my surprise, this blog missed out on the Silas love on Canada Day ... so here's making up lost time. Longtime followers may remember him as the snarky bespectacled guy in a nightcap, who I drew a lot when Worst Journey was my escapism at Disney; now that I'm doing all this For Real I needed to sit down and work out a proper design for him.

Charles Seymour 'Silas' Wright was the physicist and glaciologist on the Terra Nova Expedition – and Canadian! As such, naturally, he was constantly being ribbed for being 'American'; even his nickname 'Silas' comes from a joke of Birdie's:

Silas struck me one day on the ship as a typical Yankee name and in a happy moment I called him Mr Silas P. Wright of the Philadelphia Educational Seminary. Since then he has never been called anything but Cousin Silas or Silas.

(from a letter home, quoted in Silas: The Antarctic Diaries and Memoir of Charles S. Wright p. 28)

Silas is a great one to hang out with – he had opinions, and didn't care who knew it, so peppered among his analyses of snow crystals and cosmic rays, one finds nuggets of snark and special details you don't get from anyone else:

24 October 1910 - "Have been busy the last few days writing up a paper. It will, I hope, not be worth anyone's while to do anything similar again."

19 November 1911 - "Dumping together for dogs' benefit."

28 November 1911 - "Chinaman [the elderly pony he led on the Southern Journey] died tonight of senile decay complicated by the presence of a bullet in the brain. ... Would eat some of him only Atch refuses."

12 December 1911 - "Teddy a quitter."

19 December 1911 - "Teddy, the damn hypocrite, as soon as he sees the Owner's [Scott's] sledge stopped and they watching us come up puts his head down and digs in for all he is worth."

20 December 1911 - "Scott a fool. Teddy goes on. ... Teddy slack trace [in hauling the sledge] 7/8th of today." (His most famous quote about Teddy was his statement that he should have pushed him down a crevasse when he had the chance – I just read Cherry quoting it in his journal today, but can't find it in Silas' published diaries so the hunt for provenance continues.)

Like Cherry, Silas wore glasses, but unlike Cherry he wasn't bashful about them at all. Silas was the one who found the Polar Party's snowed-up tent the summer after the Polar journey: he spotted something curious just off the trail and ski'd over to have a look, then came back and told Atch 'It is the tent.' Depending on the account, either six inches of canvas was visible at the peak or none at all, and it was a quarter mile away when he spotted it, so those glasses evidently worked.

Silas' father had him pulled from school athletics because he thought his gangling long legs looked ridiculous on the field. (This story comes from the regrettably unreliable memoir written by his grandson, but childhood information was apparently drawn from an unpublished memoir written by Wright himself; I can only hope this is true, because it informs his design a good deal.)

In May 1911 they attempted a game of hockey, but the improvised ball shattered in the cold temperatures. Truly a Canadian tragedy. (Yes, his diary says 'ball' not 'puck'. They didn't have skates, so I guess it was field hockey ... on ice?)

Gran, 2 May 1912: "After cutting my own hair, I then attended to Nelson, Cherry, and Wright. It was my first attempt with the scissors, and I must admit that Wright's head looks rather strange."

Some things referenced in the next page:

At one point, Silas was so engrossed in the novel The Rosary that Deb had to tap him with a geological hammer to get his attention

In the festivities welcoming the return of the sun in 1912, a somersault by Gran knocked Nelson out of the dance, at which Silas laughed so hard he collapsed and had to be put to bed where he laughed himself to sleep.

Also a moment of Silas being right about something and others just not getting it, which seemed to happen a lot.

There are so many more anecdotes – like about how Silas was notorious for his prolific and varied swearing, and how he almost invented the Geiger counter, and the time they were sledging across new ice that was still so rubbery the sledge made a bow-wake, and getting carbon monoxide poisoning the second winter, and how he was almost the one to go to One Ton instead of Cherry, and – and – and –

But I've gone on quite long enough already, so those will have to wait for another day.
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