Things to do with Advent/Christmas Pt 17:Christmas 1875



We always talk of Santa Claus and his elves at the North Pole when it comes to Christmas (even though on the weeks leading up to Christmas he can be seen in shopping stores up and down the Western World and, according to some, he is buried in Turkey ;)).
But some people do actually spend Christmas in the snowy wastelands of the Arctic (admittedly few, given that the weather at this time of year is even more foul thn usual, and that there is twenty-four seven darkness), and given that there is always an element of Dickensianism at Christmas, I thought I would mention what was one of the Northernmost celebrations of Christmas of the Victorian era.
It was in 1875, and the British were making another attempt on the North Pole (In fact their last official attempt, and it was derailed by scurvy after some of the men reached 83 degrees North). Led by Admiral, Sir George Nares, they wintered at Floberg, at the Northernmost part of Greenland (82.24 degrees North) and, true naval fashion, decided to be as organised as possible in their preperations and social life, so as to see out the long dark days and nights.
During Christmas, a skating rink was formed, firework displays were made, boxing matches (although that had to be below decks after it was discovered that the men couldn't see each other, because of the mist caused by heavy breathing at such low temperatures), 'semi-educational entertainments', the relaunch of the Royal Arctic Theatre, as well as igloos, connected by ice tunnels, made for astronomical observations and the ship's surgeon would go for very long walks, just to enjoy the moonlight cleam of an Arctic night.
Sounds like fun, if it wasn't for the cold and the fact that, given the degree of incompetence in British exploration at the time (although hindsight is a wonderful luxury), it looks like fun to the point of envy.
And, given this might by my last blog posting before Christmas Day, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all!

;)

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