Transition

With the coming of the austral summer and break-up of the sea ice, physical contact with the outside world resumed and preparations for the following year began.

A bit of sun, small chunks of ice in Bay, but summer is here and the sea ice has gone. (Photographer: E. Mackenzie (I.M. Lamb). Archives ref: AD6/19/1/A102) click photo to enlarge

The following January, Marr’s plans were revealed to Deception and Port Lockroy over the radio. A fresh attempt would be made to establish a base at Hope Bay.  This would serve as the expedition’s focal point for sledging and field work in 1945. An advanced southerly base along the east coast of Graham Land, at Stonington was also to be established. The former was to be under the command of Taylor, the latter Marr. Only a minimal compliment of men were to remain at Lockroy and Deception. An unmanned hut was also to be built by the crew of the HMS William Scoresby at Sandefjord Bay.

In late January/early February 1945 two ships, the Scoresby and SS Fitzroy, sailed between Port Stanley, Deception Island and Port Lockroy, redistributing men and stores. A third ship, the SS Eagle, captained by Robert C. Sheppard, waited at Deception to proceed to Hope Bay and then Stonington.

Capt Sheppard, officers and crew of SS Eagle, Deception Island, Feb 1945. (Photographer: E. Mackenzie (I.M. Lamb). Archives ref: AD6/19/1/B159) click photo to enlarge

The Scoresby sailed to Deception and Port Lockroy in early December 1944 a welcome sight to the wintering personnel who had been living in relative isolation since April. Scoresby brought with it the long-awaited mail from home, as well as an Army dentist and John Bound of the Falkland Islands Post Office. The following day, the 8th December, it returned to Port Stanley with expedition commander James Marr on board. Following his premature return to base from the Wiencke Island survey trip two months earlier, he was finally heading back to the Falklands to discuss the plans for the second year of Operation Tabarin with Governor Sir Allan Wolsey Cardinall.

With many expedition members gathered together at Deception Island, on the 7th February Marr announced shocking news – he was to return home. Lamb recounts the event:

Lt. Cdr. James Marr at work mending webbing, Bransfield House, Port Lockroy, 18th June 1944. Photographer: I M Lamb. Archive ref: AD6/19/1/A7
Marr at work mending webbing, Bransfield House, Jun 1944. (Photographer: E. Mackenzie (I.M. Lamb). Archives ref: AD6/19/1/A7)

“Taylor and Flett went into one of the ruined buildings with Marr and the Colonial Secretary, Mr. Bradley. I worked for about an hour preparing the specimens collected yesterday, then Farrington, Flett and Matheson brought up to the house the rest of our personal gear which had been landed from the FITZROY. We used for this wooden cradles like stretchers, made by Matheson. In the house, Taylor called all the Base A personnel together, and outlined to us the results of his conference with Marr and Bradley. It transpires that Marr, for health reasons, has decided to relinquish his leadership of the expedition and return home. He had, as a matter of fact, mentioned some months ago that he felt unequal to the continuation of the task set him, and that worries connected with the establishment of the bases had inflicted a great strain on him, as he is no longer a young man and has been engaged in work of an arduous nature in inhospitable climates ever since the outbreak of the war. He now hands over command to Taylor, whom, with the rest of the previous personnel of Base A, is entrusted the establishment of Base D at Hope Bay, which is regarded as the main center of the expedition. The new party, plus Matheson, under the leadership of James, will attempt to establish the smaller southerly base E if ice conditions permit.”

Source: Ivan M. Lamb. (Archives ref: AD6/1A/1944/B)

This came as a complete surprise to Taylor:

“On the night of the 8th of February, Marr repacked his luggage, and turned over to me all the official files, documents and letters concerning the expedition. Naturally, in the hurry of the transfer there was no time to digest any of it, and indeed as I write now more than a month later, I still have not had time to read them over or to sort them out; it has only been possible to scan them briefly. Marr left on the Scoresby next morning at 0800 hours, and I was able to turn my thoughts solely to the work ahead of us.”

Source: Andrew Taylor. (Archives ref: AD6/1D/1945/A)

Many years later, his fellow expedition members Eric Back, Gwion Davies and Andrew Taylor reflected on Marr’s leadership and contribution to Tabarin:

Marr, Nov 1944. (Photographer: E. Mackenzie (I.M. Lamb). Archives ref: AD6/19/1/A55)

 

Interior of hut by gaslight, Marr at left, Aug 1944. (Photographer: Unknown. Archives ref: AD6/19/1/A12/7)

 

Following this news, it was decided that it would be foolhardy to establish two further bases without Marr’s experience or sufficient personnel. Plans for Stonington were scrapped for the coming season, and focus instead turned towards the long-overdue establishment of Hope Bay. On the 11th February the Eagle, carrying Taylor and the winterers for the new base, sailed through Neptune’s Bellows and away from Deception Island.

Eagle at Deception Island, Alan Reece in foreground, Feb 1945. (Photographer: J. Farrington. Archives ref: AD6/19/1/A220/3)