Sunday, October 6, 2013

Radio with pictures

If you happen to be listening to Radio New Zealand Arts on Sunday today, you may hear me wittering on about the crew of the Endurance, and the hi-jinks they got up to in order to pass the time while their ship was stuck in Antarctic ice.  Here is a photograph of their midwinter celebrations - midwinter is of course the most important night of the Antarctic social calendar, and the crew celebrated in high Edwardian style with cross-dressing, blackface and banjos.

Photograph by Frank Hurley, from Endurance by Alfred Lansing.

It was the full Vaudeville routine, which was pretty much the funniest form of entertainment that had been invented by that stage (since then we have developed funnier things like videos of animals falling off things; we have come a long way) - Alfred Lansing tells us 'Shackleton, who was chairman, introduced the participants, Orde-Lees was dressed as a Methodist minister, the 'Rev. Bubbling-Love,' and he exhorted his listeners against the wages of sin.  James, as 'Herr Professor von Shopenbaum,' delivered a lengthy lecture on the 'Calorie'...McIlroy dressed up as a Spanish girls and a very wicked looking one at that, with very low evening dress...Marston sang, Hudson was a half-caste girl, Greenstreet was a red-nosed drunk, and Rickinson was a London streetwalker.'*  Gosh!

One hundred years later it's easy to poke fun at people for poking fun at the mentally ill, people from other countries or races, sex workers and so on, but at the time this was really quite progressive.  A few years earlier the crew of the Beligica had become similarly trapped in Antarctic ice all winter, and lacking such team spirit and so forth they sank into paranoia and depression.  Shackleton, though, knew the value of entertainment as a method of maintaining morale and sanity. After the Endurance was crushed and her crew embarked on their trek across the ice, hauling the boats on sledges, Sir Ernest ordered that personal possessions be limited to two pounds per man, and he set the example himself by throwing a handful of gold sovereigns down on the ice and tearing out the good bits (about ice) from the bible that Queen Alexandra had given him and tossing the rest into an open lead.  However, he ordered Hussey (pictured above in blackface) to bring along his banjo - despite the fact it weighed seventeen pounds - because of it's value as an 'invaluable mental tonic' for the men.  When a banjo is the answer, you know you're in trouble.

*LansingAlfred 1959. Endurance: The Greatest Adventure Story Ever Told, London:  Hodder&Stoughton 

Explorers Club: Antarctica Album Launch Tour Oct/Nov 2013

Thurs Oct 17: NELSON: Nelson Arts Festival - The Playhouse Cafe and Theatre Restaurant Mapua Show at 8 pm

Fri Oct 18: TAKAKA: Nelson Arts Festival - The Mussell Inn, with Bat Country, show at 8:30 pm
Tickets from Mussel Inn, 03 525 9241 or

Sat Oct 19: HOKITIKA: Hokitika Museum, 7pm
Tickets from Hokitika Museum 03 755 6898

Sun Oct 20: OKARITO -Donovans Store, with Bat Country, 7:30pm
Tickets at the door

Mon Oct 21: WANAKA: Cinema Paradiso with Bat Country, 8:30pm
Tickets 03 443 1505,

Tues Oct 22: MILFORD SOUND Throwdown in the Sound at Blue Duck Cafe And Bar,  with Bat Country
Free if you're in Milford Sound

Thurs Oct 24: OAMARU: The Oamaru Opera Housewith THE EASTERN and Barry Saunders

Fri Oct 25: DUNEDIN, Platos with The Eastern and Barry Saunders

Sat Oct 26: CHRISTCHURCH: 241Chambers Gallery,  7pm, with Jed & Hera - Tickets from or at the door 

Thurs Oct 31: AUCKLAND: Voyager New Zealand Maritime Museum with Great North, 7pm
Tickets 09 373 0800

Fri Nov 8: WELLINGTON: Museum of Wellington City & Sea with Veronika Meduna, 7pm
Tickets 04 4728 904

Sat Nov 9: WHANGANUI Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare O Rehua Whanganui, doors as 6:45 show at 7pm
Tickets 06 349 0506

Fri Nov 15: OAMARU: Oamaru Victorian Heritage Celebrations at Oamaru Opera House Festival Explorers Club

Fri Nov 22: NAPIER: MTG Hawke's Bay, 7pm

Sat Nov 23: ROTORUA: The Rogue Stage

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