Philip Temple’s 1965 account of an out­rageously bold exped­i­tion was pub­lished without fan­fare, without many good pho­to­graphs, and without even the bene­fit of a copy-edit­or; it van­ished without trace. The Sea and The Snow came to our atten­tion a few years ago as we pre­pared the books of H W Tilman for their new Col­lec­ted Edi­tion (he skippered the voy­age described in Philip’s book), and we learned that a large col­lec­tion of high qual­ity pho­tos from the exped­i­tion by its lead­er War­wick Dea­cock never, for some reas­on, made it into the ori­gin­al edi­tion. Taken on his Rol­leiflex 6 x 6 cm format cam­era, they lent them­selves per­fectly to full-page repro­duc­tion in the square format of our new edi­tion of the book, on the basis if you have them flaunt them. From the per­spect­ive of his eighties, here are Philip’s thoughts on the Heard Island Exped­i­tion of 1964–5:

More than half a cen­tury on, it is easy to for­get that no-one had done it before. There had been exped­i­tions to Ant­arc­tica and the sub-Ant­arc­tic islands, but these had all com­prised sub­stan­tial bod­ies of men on ships of a sens­ible size fit­ted out for ice and the South­ern Ocean. They may have had sails, but they were mostly powered by steam or dies­el engines. Even when sail was the only option, back in James Cook’s day, his Res­ol­u­tion was 111 feet long and car­ried a com­ple­ment of 112 men.

To most people in 1964, there­fore, it seemed a pre­pos­ter­ous pro­pos­al that ten men should under­take a sail­ing voy­age of 10,000 miles across the South­ern Ocean in a sixty-three-foot schoon­er to land on a har­bour­less, ice-covered island and make the first ascent of a 9000-ft vol­cano. Men in small ships had sailed to remote places before, alone or with small crews, but none with so much ambi­tion.


But that was the point. As the exped­i­tion sci­ent­ist, Gra­hame Budd, put it, its lead­er War­wick Dea­cock wished to demon­strate that, ‘If one will only dare, one can actu­ally do the most unlikely things that may come into one’s head. For the hes­it­ant, the dif­fid­ent, and the many ama­teurs over­awed by the experts of this world, this demon­stra­tion can’t be made too often’. Warwick’s vis­ion cap­tured the ima­gin­a­tion of Sydney, from where the exped­i­tion began, and his energy drew enough sup­port from its com­munity, in fin­ance and kind, to make it pos­sible. That the exped­i­tion then suc­ceeded in all its aims, explor­at­ory and sci­entif­ic, was a trib­ute not only to Warwick’s lead­er­ship but also to the skills and ded­ic­a­tion of his chosen crew, under the sail­ing dir­ec­tion of that peer­less explorer and skip­per, H. W. ‘Bill’ Tilman.


It was a priv­ilege to take part in the South Indi­an Ocean Exped­i­tion to Heard Island dur­ing that south­ern sum­mer of 1964–65. It was one of the most import­ant and mem­or­able exper­i­ences of my young life. As, I think, it was for all of us, it helped shape who I was and went on to become. Ed Hil­lary wrote that what we under­took was indic­at­ive of our ‘cour­age and ima­gin­a­tion’. If that was true, the example offered by such adven­tur­ous enter­prises can­not be made too often, for the value it renders to its par­ti­cipants and for the encour­age­ment it gives to oth­ers to also try the ‘most unlikely things’.