‘For most men, as Epicurus has remarked, rest is stagnation and activity madness. Mad or not, the activity that I have been pursuing for the last twenty years takes the form of voyages to remote, mountainous regions.’
H.W. ‘Bill’ Tilman’s fourteenth book describes three more of those voyages, ‘the first comparatively humdrum, the second totally disastrous, and the third exceedingly troublesome’.
The first voyage describes Tilman’s 1971 attempt to reach East Greenland’s remote and ice-bound Scoresby Sound. The largest fjord system in the world was named after the father of Whitby whaling captain, William Scoresby, who first charted the coastline in 1822. Scoresby’s two-volume Account of the Arctic Regions provided much of the historical inspiration for Tilman’s northern voyages and fuelled his fascination with Scoresby Sound and the unclimbed mountains at its head.
Tilman’s first attempt to reach the fjord had already cost him his first boat, Mischief, in 1968. The following year, a ‘polite mutiny’ aboard Sea Breeze had forced him to turn back within sight of the entrance, so with a good crew aboard in 1971, it was particularly frustrating for Tilman to find the fjord blocked once more, this time by impenetrable sea ice at the entrance.
Refusing to give up, Tilman’s obsession with Scoresby Sound continued in 1972 when a series of unfortunate events led to the loss of Sea Breeze, crushed between a rock and an ice floe.
Safely back home in Wales, the inevitable search for a new boat began. ‘One cannot buy a biggish boat as if buying a piece of soap. The act is almost as irrevocable as marriage and should be given as much thought.’ The 1902 pilot cutter Baroque, was acquired and after not inconsiderable expense, proved equal to the challenge. Tilman’s first troublesome voyage aboard her to West Greenland in 1973 completes this collection.
About the Author
Harold William Bill Tilman (1898 1977) was among the greatest adventurers of his time, a pioneering mountaineer and sailor who held exploration above all else. Tilman joined the army at seventeen and was twice awarded the Military Cross for bravery during WWI. After the war Tilman left for Africa, establishing himself as a coffee grower. He met Eric Shipton and began their famed mountaineering partnership, traversing Mount Kenya and climbing Kilimanjaro. Turning to the Himalaya, Tilman went on two Mount Everest expeditions, reaching 27,000 feet without oxygen in 1938. In 1936 he made the first ascent of Nanda Devi the highest mountain climbed until 1950. He was the first European to climb in the remote Assam Himalaya, he delved into Afghanistan's Wakhan Corridor and he explored extensively in Nepal, all the while developing a mountaineering style characterised by its simplicity and emphasis on exploration. It was perhaps logical then that Tilman would eventually buy the pilot cutter Mischief, not with the intention of retiring from travelling, but to access remote mountains. For twenty-two years Tilman sailed Mischief and her successors to Patagonia, where he crossed the vast ice cap, and to Baffin Island to make the first ascent of Mount Raleigh. He made trips to Greenland, Spitsbergen and the South Shetlands, before disappearing in the South Atlantic Ocean in 1977.
Trevor Robertson has spent the vast majority of his life at sea. Much of his sailing, almost 200,000 miles, has been to places like Antarctica, Greenland, Patagonia, and Labrador including two winters spent, aboard his self-built gaff-rigged cutter Iron Bark, in Arctic and Antarctic anchorages.
Alex Ramsay is a professional photographer and former Baroque crewmember and cook. Once he overcame ‘his strange reluctance or shyness in the matter of duffs’, his presence aboard was remembered by Tilman as ‘a quite fortuitous prize’.