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Gino Watkins: Encyclopedia Arctica 15: Biographies
Stefansson, Vilhjalmur, 1879-1962

Gino Watkins

EA-Biography
(J. M. Scott)

GINO WATKINS

Gino (Henry George) Watkins (1907-1932), outstanding British figure
and inspiration of the youthful between-wars school of explorers, had led
four northern expeditions by the age of 25 years. H. G. Watkins (always
called Gino, pronounced to rhyme with Reno) was the son of Lt. Colonel
Henry George and Mrs. (Monsell) Watkins. He was born in London, and was
educated at Lansing College and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he studied
engineering but never completed either his examinations or the nine terms
necessary to obtain a Bachelor of Arts degree. A fair, lightly built,
delicate child, Gino showed little aptitude for or interest in athletics
of any sort, except shooting.
At the age of sixteen he was introduced to mountaineering at Chamonix.
Subsequent school holidays were spent in the Lake District, and a long season
in Switzerland which included some forty climbs qualified him for Alpine Club
membership. With equal enthusiasm and thoroughness he took up skiing during
his second year at Cambridge.
During his first university year Watkins had become interested in arctic
exploration by hearing Raymond Priestley's lectures. Priestley had introduced
him to J. M. Wordie, and Wordie had promised him a place in an expedition to
East Greenland then planned for the summer of 1927. Watkins set to work
studying arctic literature and developing himself physically during the

EA-Biog. Scott: Gino Watkins

eighteen months' interval. (His skiing and serious mountaineering and fly–
ing with the University Squadron belong to this period.) But when the time
came Wordie found it necessary to postpone his project. Watkins, however, was
determined to visit the Arctic, and, although only nineteen, decided to organize
and lead his own expedition.
Expedition to Edge Island
He chose for his destination Edge Island, part of the Spitsbergen group.
This island, 2,500 square miles in the area, had been scientifically examined
only by the Russo-Swedish Arc of Meridian Expedition of 1899-1901, whose work
had been confined to the coast. There would have been little time, even for
an experienced traveler prepare such an expedition. But during the following
weeks, in addition to his University studies, (he had an examination to pass)
and without losing his undergraduate reputation as a light-hearted dilettante,
Watkins proved to a few intimated his extraordinarily mature grasp, directness
of kind and powers of concentration. His plans were approved by the Royal
Geographical Society, which made a grant of £ 100; the Worts Fund of Cambridge
University granted £ 150; food and equipment were bought; the Heimen was
chartered, and the following party was enrolled: Major H. T. Morshead, D.S.O.
(surveyor); N. C. Falcon (geologist); Dr. Hugh M. Woodman (medical doctor);
A. G. Lowndes (biologist); R.v.d.R. Woolley (physicist); V. S. Forbes (assis–
tant surveyor); C. T. Dalgety (ornithologist); A. G. Michelmore (land biolo–
gist and botanist).
The Heimen , a two-masted motor-driven sealing vessel of 72 tons (Captain
Lars Jacobsen) sailed north from Tromsö on July 23, and on July 31, 1927
anchored in Deevie Bay, a large indentation in the southwestern part of Edge
Island, at the spot marked Keilhau Bay on the Admiralty Chart (in fact the

EA-Biog. Scott: Gino Watkins

coast is scarcely indented at this point). The surveyors at once went to
Whales Point to pick up the triangulation points left by the Russians. A
party led by Watkins set out with a man-drawn sledge to cross the icecap
eastward, surveying by plane table. Continual bad weather caused this plan
to be severely modified and results were scant.
Twelve hours after his return to the ship, Watkins, accompanied by Forbes
and Falcon, set out again, this time carrying packs. They succeeded in
making a compass traverse across the island northward from Deevie Bay to
Cape Lee and Cape Heuglin, where the ship picked them up, on August 23, after
an anxious delay due to its having gone aground. Rations during the land
party's march had consisted of 1/2 lb. Bovril pemmican, 1 lb. plasmon biscuits,
and 1/2 lb. chocolate per day.
The surveying program had seriously suffered from the weather. During
four weeks spent on Edge Island there were only five fine days. The main
icecap, it was found, is roughly horse w s hoe-shaped, with its extremities
running out into the two arms of Deevie Bay. On the west and north coasts
none of the glaciers from the icecap reach the sea, but on the east and south
coasts several glaciers reach it. Most glaciers are retreating. The icecap
consists of large, rounded snow domes, the greatest height recorded being
2,000 feet. The whole island has been subjected to gradual uplift, which
is probably still continuing. This has resulted in the formation of curious
canyons near Keilhau Bay. The magnetic, biological, botanical, geological,
glaciological, and ornithological results obtained by various specialists
working chiefly from the ship on the southern and western coasts of the
island are published in the Geographical Journal, Vol.72, n.2, August 1928.
Considering the brief period available and the natural difficulties
encountered, these results are remarkably good. But, for the layman at least,

EA-Biog. Scott: Gino Watkins

the most striking aspect of the expedition is that it was organized and
led by an undergraduate who had not yet reached his twentieth birthday.
After pondering various projects, Watkins decided to sail for Labrador
the next summer and make exploratory surveys in the southern half of the
peninsula. The sudden death of his mother in the spring almost caused him
to give up these plans but he was persuaded to go through with them.
Labrador Expedition
On June 26, 1928, he sailed from Liverpool with J. M. Scott and L.A.D.
Leslie. Scott was the same age as Watkins, and Leslie a few years older.
The Royal Geographical Society, which had made him the Cuthbert Peek Grant
for his work in Edge Island, also backed this expedition with £ 300 and the
loan of instruments. Owing to the dispute between Canada and Newfoundland
about the actual position of the southern boundary, Labrador was then in
the news, comparatively little being known about this potentially rich,
well-watered, thickly forested and undeveloped country. Even compass tra–
verse surveys of the interior would be of value.
Traveling to St. John's and thence by coastal steamer and motorboat,
the party, on July 20, reached Northwest River, near the head of Lake
Melville, a tidal lake. (The settlement at Northwest River, one of the largest
in this region, is described separately. Goose Bay, as the head of Lake
Melville is called, is the site of the important air field established during
World War II and maintained thereafter.) Five days later the first survey
journey began. The intention was to travel by canoe to the headwaters of
the Hamilton River, which empties into Goose Bay, there to explore the
complicated system of lakes and short-cut rivers, which include "Unknown"
River and Valley River, and about which the information was then confused
and incomplete.

EA-Biog. Scott: Gino Watkins

The first attempt was a failure. After a fortnight of paddling,
towing, and portaging up a flooded river, Robert Michelin, the trapper who
accompanied the party, backed his foote with an axe while splitting fire–
wood. Since it was impossible to leave him alone and unsatisfactory to
divide the small party, Watkins decided to return at once to the base and
postpone the Unknown River journey until the winter. He realized that it
would be impossible to carry on sledges the same quantity of provisions
that could be taken in a canoe, and the journey, of course, would be of
the same length - about 500 miles - so haste and hardship were bound to
result. But in the circumstances he had no choice. After the return to
Northwest River settlement the season was too advanced for another attempt
at ascending the Hamilton by water.
By August 20 August Michelin's foot was sufficiently recovered for him
to travel by canoe. With him and a second trapper, Douglas Best, the party
set off up the Kenamu, a river which promised to be much shorter than the
Hamilton and which flows into Lake Melville from the south. The intention
was to explore the river to its head and thence follow a different unmapped–
country route back to the base.
This was done. The Kenamu was a sluggish stream for the first thirty
miles, but among the Mealy Mountains it was an almost continuous series of
rapids until the plateau lakes were reached. These, a series of lakes connected
by short stretches of rivers so that on a map they look like a string of
sau s ges, were later found to be typical of the Labrador marshes.
So great is the amount of water contained in those plateau marshes,
where lakes and meandering streams abound in a maze-like profusion, that it
would probably always be difficult to recognize the actual source of a
Labrador river. (Where, for example is the exact "source" of water which drips
from a sponge?) When the [: k] K enamu, in its recognizable stretches between

EA-Biog. Scott: Gino Watkins

lakes, became narrow enough to jump across (and much too shallow to canoe
[: ] along) the party made a portage northeastward, using whatever swamp
lakes they found in their path, until they found themselves on a stream
with a recognizable current flowing in the general direction of Lake Melville.
This, they hoped, might very likely be the Traverspine River, which would
lead them back to the base, for after a month of wet and arduous travel their
soluble foodstuffs had been reduced by frequent immersions almost as much as
by appetite.
The reader, if he has had an opportunity of examining the recent air
photographs of this district or the map drawn from them, may wonder why the
party was ever in doubt which way to go. He would realize in a moment if
he could be transported to the Labrador backwoods. It is all lakes and forests
of black spruce trees. The country is flat and it is generally impossible
to see more than a hundred yards in any direction — except by climbing a tree,
and then one is rewarded only by a view of an infinite number of similar trees
and a weary waste of shapeless smudges of water. Rarely is there any helpful
landmark. The only way to survey such a country effectively is by air photo–
graphs with ground control. This expedition made a compass traverse controlled
by theodolite observations of sun and stars, but they could not afford the air
survey which wartime values have since made practicable.
The descent river, all rapids until five miles before its end, proved
to be the Traverspine, and a running survey was made of this also. Then
followed the transitional autumn season when Leslie went home and Watkins
and Scott made a plane-table survey of Grand Lake, the forty-mile-long expanse
of water to the north of Northwest River settlement. They also collected dogs
and prepared for sledge as opposed to canoe travel.

EA-Biog. Scott: Gino Watkins

Watkin's next plan, as soon as winter conditions prevailed, was to
travel northeastward to Hopedale, on the Atlantic coast of Labrador. The
route lay up Grand Lake and thence by Indian portage routes to Seal Lake,
which Wallace had reached in the summer of 1905. From Seal Lake onward
any major features such as lakes or rivers were generally shown on the maps,
if they were shown at all, by dotted lines, until the coast was approached.
There was, in fact, plenty of useful work to be done.
The journey, as is usual on such Occasions, proved a great deal harder
than was expected. And the small party, Watkins, Scott, and Michelin, haul–
ing their three sledges in team with one or two dogs which were attached
to each, finally reached Hopedale and its Moravian Mission, if not in a
state of starvation, at least in one of keen appreciation of the virtue
of Christmas feasting.
The return journey, made at the end of December 1928 and in January 1929,
proved harder, owing to bad weather, than the outward trip. At one stage the
party might have been in serious straits but for the stockings full of good
things which Watkins's romanticism had caused to be hung up in a "Christmas
tree" during the outward journey.
After a week at Northwest River, spent chiefly in preparation, the same
party left with toboggan sledges and seven dogs for the headwaters of the
Hamilton, some 250 miles away. The questions which interested them have
since been fully answered by air survey but it may be useful to make a very
brief statement of the problem as it then existed. The main course of Hamilton
River was sufficiently well mapped. But at its headwaters, in the area of
Grand Falls, it was known to flow in the form of an inverted U, Lake Ossokman–
uan forming half of the left-hand arm of the , Grand Falls being near the
apex. On the right-hand arm the water apparently turned southward through

EA-Biog. Scott: Gino Watkins

Bowdoin Canyon and formed the Hamilton proper. Former explorers, J. G. Thomas
in 1921 and Varick Frissell in 1925, had found two rivers, the Valley and the
Unknown, flowing into the right-hand arm of the , and each had seen a water–
fall divided by a central rock. But these surveys had been incomplete and it
was not known if at least one of these rivers did not cut right across from the
left-hand arm of the , turning the figure into an A and thus [: ] robbing
Grand Falls of some of its water. Nor was it certain whether Thomas and Frissell
had seen the same waterfall or two very similar waterfalls on Unknown River.
Watkins was able to prove that Unknown River does flow out of Lake Ossok–
manuan and short-circuits, Grand Falls. Furthermore, Unknown River itself
divides into two branches for a stretch of some 15 miles. There is a waterfall
on each of these branches and a third where the branches reunite. With Grand
Falls, where there is a drop of some 300 feet, it is clear that this area is
well supplies with water power.
This information was obtained at the expense of four out of the seven
dogs, dead from hunger and exhaustion, and considerable lardship to the men.
The journey could scarcely in any case have been made without discomfort,
but groping through the deep snow and thick woods in the Unknown River area
was slow work. And just at this period when food was at its shortest (for
a dump for the return journey had been left on the Hamilton), a very cold
spell of weather was experienced, with temperatures below –40°F. A con–
tributory cause may well have been that the dogs on this journey were fed
in the local stype on boiled cornmeal instead of pemmican which they had
been given on the Hopedale trip. An interesting point is that the three
animals which survived were those with the habit of eating slowly.
The party returned to Northwest River settlement on April 1. Watkins
had hoped to leave the country by sledging over the height of land southward

EA-Biog. Scott: Gino Watkins

southward to the St. Lawrence. But the spring thaw had already started
and the rapid rivers were no longer possible roads. So, after collecting
fresh dogs, he and Scott sledged down Lake Melville to the Atlantic coast,
thence southward to Battle Harbour and southwestward to Forteau. They
were ferried across the Strait of Belle Isle and reached England via Fort
Aux Basques, Quebec, and New York.
A remarkable aspect of Watkin's character was that, in spit of his
capacity for enjoying idleness or frivolity when there was no work to be
done, he was fiercely apposed to wasting a day - a certainly would not
waste a season - which might be spent in exploration. While sledging out of
Labrador he had already roughed out and discussed with Scott the plans for
his next enterprise. His interest was in the Great Circle air route between
Canada and Europe, via Greenland. After the experience gained in Edge Island
and Labrador he felt capable of making a base in East Greenland and exploring
that least-known part of the Great Circle route.
British Arctic Air Route Expedition
Returned to England, as soon as the results of the Labrador expedition
had been wo rked out, Watkins published his plans for the following year.
He estimated that about £ 12,000 would be required, a far larger sum than his
previous expedition had cost. This was largely because he intended to take
two airplanes, Labrador having impressed on him that air survey was essential.
Also, since a lot of icecap travel would be included in the program, rations,
clothing, and equipment would have to be of the very best.
Watkins soon proved that, in spite of his youth (he was now twenty-one
years old), he was quite capable of gaining the confidence of financiers as
well as of scientists. A Committee was formed consisting of Stephen Courtauld

EA-Biog. Scott: Gino Watkins

(Chairman); A Courtauld (Treasurer); Captain R. Rayner (Secretary); J. M.
Wordie; A. Holt; Gino Watkins. The Prince of Wales consented to become
President of the Committee. With such a backing Watkins's plans became
practicable, and in due course the following party was enrolled to form
the British Arctic Air Route Expedition, 1930-31: Gino Watkins, leader;
J. M. Scott; Augustine Courtauld; A Stephenson, chief surveyor; Captin P.
Lemon, radio; L. R. Wager, geologist; Flight Lt. N. H. D'Aeth, pilot;
Quintin Riley, meteorologist; Lt. Martin Lindsay; J. R. Rymill; F.S. Chapman;
W. E. Hampton, second pilot; Surg. Lt. E. W. Bingham doctor; Flight Lt.
H. I. Cozens, photographer and assistant pilot.
It was a typical party for Watkins to choose. Nearly all were under
twenty-five years of age and only Courtauld and Scott had former northern
experience. But all were keen, fit, mutually likeable and ready to do
anything, unhindered by preconceived ideas. No official grading relative
to seniority was ever made, nor is the above list an attempt at one.
The equipment included two D.H.60 X Moth aircraft, adaptable for either
skis or floats. The sledging tents were of the double-covering, four-pole
pyramid type. The sledging ration was remarkable, Watkins having subordinated
most other considerations to that of obtaining 6,000 calories per day in two
and q quarter pounds of food. It was as follows:
Bovril Pemmican 8 ozs.
Maypole Margarine 8 "
Plasmon Wholemeal biscuits 4 "
Pea flour 2 "
Plasmon powder (protein) 2 "
Plasmon Oats 3 "
Lump sugar 4 "
Cocoa and milk powder 1 "
Chocolate 3 "
Malted milk 0.5 "
35.5 ozs.

EA-Biog. Scott: Gino Watkins

There were also small quantities of cod-liver oil, dried yeast powder,
concentrated lemon juice, and essential salts. The most striking feature
of this ration was the relatively small quantity of biscuits and large
quantity of margarine. During a week's trial in London it was found to
be literally nauseating. But it fully proved its value for sledgers on
the icecap, for it keep Courtauld in good health for six months. And it not
only was good but also tasted good under those conditions.
On July 6, 1930, the veteran polar ship Quest sailed from St. Catherine's
dock with the British Arctic Ail Route Expedition on board. She called at
the Faroe Islands to pick up Scott, who was waiting there with 49 huskies
which he had bought in West Greenland. with this additional cargo she sailed
on to Reykjavik, Iceland, and thence to East Greenland. A suitable site for
a base was found in a fjord south of Angmagssalik, a Norwegian trapper's
hut, brought out in sections, was erected, and [: ] scientific work
immediately began.
During the next thirteen months seven main journeys were made by the
expedition, in addition to those directly connected with the Ice Cap Weather
Station. All journeys started from the base camp, Lat. 65° 38′ 50′ N., Long.
38° 38′ 25′ W.
The first journey was a topographical and geological survey of the
coast as far north as Kangerdlugssuak Fjord, the Quest, an outboart motorboat,
and one of the airplanes working in conjunction. All members of the expedi–
tion with the exception of Lemon, who remained at the base, and Scott, Rymill,
Riley, Lindsay, Bingham, who were establishing the Ice Cap Weather Station,
took part in this journey. The topographical survey was by plane table supple–
mented by air photographs. The highest range of mountains in Greenland,
named the Watkins Mountains after Watkin's death, was discovered. The

EA-Biog. Scott: Gino Watkins

party was away from the base between August 11 and September 14.
Second Journey . Watkins and Scott made the second journey by dog sledge.
They accompanied the first relief party to Ice Cap Weather Station, which
had been set up on what appeared to be highest level of that part of the
inland ice, 8,200 feet, about 130 miles inland W.N.W. of the base. On
October 5 they turned south intending to sledge down the crest of the ice–
cap to the highest point of Nansen's crossing about 200 miles away. This
journey was a failure and might have developed into something more serious
but for the extraordinary behavior of the dogs. During the first part of
the journey the weather was remarkably good for that late season of the
year. Yet the dogs, two good teams of seven animals each, refused to respond
to any form of encouragement known to the drivers. Ten miles was a good day's
journey. So, instead of sledging at least two hundred miles southward before
turning for home, Watkins was forced to turn after covering 95 miles from the
Ice Cap Station.
Immediately the weather broke. Hundred-mile-an-hour gales blowing from
the northwest — almost at right angles to the direction of travel — lashed
the tent and made sledging impossible except during brief intervals. Most
fortunately, the worse the conditions became, the more the dogs recovered
their spirit, and the party reached the base on November 11 with one day's
food in hand. From the experience of this journey, and others too, it appears
that September is the last month during which icecap travel is dependable.
The third journey, an October attempt to reach Kangerdlugssuak by the icecap,
failed for the same stormy [: ] reason. This, with the exception of the Ice Cap
Station journey to be described later, finished long distance travel for the
season.

EA-Biog. Scott: Gino Watkins

But Watkins, whose "bible" in such matters was Stefansson's The Friendly
Arctic,
did not encourage idleness during the winter. Local surveying,
geological and meteorological work was done. Also there was some flying —
except when both aircraft were incapacitated by storms. And a major pre–
occupation was hunting to provide fresh meat for the men and essential food
for the growing complement of dogs. Watkins studied the Eskimo methods of
seal hunting, both at this time and when open water came, with critical care.
He had a number of future exploratory plans in mind, the success of which
would depend upon his hunting skill.
A word may usefully be said here about the social life at the base.
There was a complete absence of formal discipline and routine, but a lively
spirit of rivalry in endeavor and emulation of the leader's achievements.
Watkins never depended on any artificial symbols of authority. He was "Gino"
to everyone. Leading a primitive existence, he maintained his authority only
by demonstrating his superiority in appreciation of scientific values, hunting,
enruance, travel, luck, and everything else which affected the party's life
and success.
Icecap Journeys. In the early spring the "shooting party" atmosphere
at the base was disturbed by the first failure to relieve the one-man garrison
at the Ice Cap Station. The story of that weather observation post may now
conveniently be told. The purpose was to obtain a regular series of meteo–
rological observations from the highest part of the icecap which would make
a parallel to those obtained on the coast. Scott's party had built the
Station at the end of August. It consisted of a beehive-shaped tent, nine
feet in height with double canvas [: ] walls and a tunnel as means of entrance.
It was first occupied by Lindsay and Riley. They were relieved by Bingham
and D'Aeth, who traveled in with Watkins, at the beginning of Journey No. 2,

EA-Biog. Scott: Gino Watkins

already described. It was intended that they in their turn would be relieved
by a third couple after six to eight weeks. But it happened that the November
relief under Chapman suffered appalling weather, and the party were conse–
quently so much delayed that they ate up en route a large proportion of the
food intended for the wintering party at the Station. This forced a decision
as to whether to abandon the Station or garrison it with one man. Augustine
Courtauld volunteered to remain alone rather than interrupt the important
series of observations. On December 6 he was left at the Station with enough
food to last him, by careful rationing, until the beginning of May. During
the winter two or three flights were made to drop extra supplies, but the
Station could not be located, for reasons which will later be apparent.
And then both aircraft were knocked out by storms.
On March 8, after two false starts, Scott, Riley, and Lindsay managed
to get beyond the rough coastal area and started a relief journey. They
suffered extremely severe weather — high winds accompanied by low tempera–
tures — and when at last they reached the area of the Station they were held
up by a six-day blizzard which so corrugated the surface of the icecap that
visibility was difficult even during the brief clear spells which succeeded
the storm. Finally, faced by the probability of losing all their dogs (they
had already killed two for food) they ran for the base, which they reached
after spending forty days on the icecap.
The date was then April 17. There was still time for a second party to
reach Courtauld by the beginning of May, a fact which had influenced Scott's
decision to return when he did. But his failure to see any sign of the
Station — even allowing for drifting snow which had reduced visibility and
probably made sun observations inaccurate — caused many people a good deal
of alarm.

EA-Biog. Scott: Gino Watkins

Watkins, however, refused to be worried. With complete calm, yet
unresting energy, he made his preparations and set off with Rymill and
Chapman, leaving instructions that any outside rescue attempts were to be
firmly discouraged. His now proverbial luck — perhaps the most valuable
quality that any leader can possess — stood him in good stead, and the
weather radically improved. But as a serious contribution to Courtauld's
safety (besides his own remarkable self-sufficiency) one must also remember
the excellend of the ration and the strength and suitability of the tent
and other equipment which Watkins had designed. "Luck" generally depends
upon a practical foundation.
On May 5 Watkins reached the position of the Ice Cap Station. The tent
was entirely buried, with the two-inch-wide ventilating tube only just pro–
jecting. Courtauld, however, was in excellent health and spirits after his
lonely five months' vigil and the party returned to the base to start prepa–
rations for the final journeys. (Courtauld's experiences are described
elsewhere.)
Fourth Journey . Stephenson, Wager, and Bingham left the base by sledge
for Mount Forel, in the Watkins Mountains, on May 6 and returned on May 26,
having surveyed this mountainous area and climbed within 700 feet of the summit.
(Mount Forel, the second highest peak in Greenland rises to 11,023 feet.)
Fifth Journey. On July 1, Scott, Stephenson and Lindsay left the base
by dog sledge for Ivigtut on the southern part of the west coast of Greenland,
448 miles away. They arrived on July 29 after a fast and comfortable journey
southwestward across the icecap, during which they had kept up a sledging
average of nearly seventeen miles a day. Traveling was done at night, some–
times using sails on the sledges. Apart from a mist of snow crystals which
formed almost every night, the weather was good. The highest altitude of the

EA-Biog. Scott: Gino Watkins

icecap recorded was 9,200 feet.
Sixth Journey. Rymill and Hampton sledged from the base northwestward across
the icecap to Holsteinsborg, on the west coast of Greenland. They left on
August 12, each carrying a kayak on his sledge. The first part of the journey
was rapid, but as the western edge of the icecap was approached they were
seriously delayed by rough ice, slush and numerous thaw channels. Among the
rivers and deep fjords of the coastal sretch, where they used their kayaks,
they were delayed by ice. They finally reached Holsteinsborg on October 20.
Seventh Journey . On August 15, Watkins, Courtauld, and Lemon left the
base for an open-boat journey round the southern tip of Greenland to Manor–
talik, six hundred miles away. Their equipment consisted of two outboard
motoboats with 4 h.p. Johnson seahorse engines, three kayaks, emergency
sledges, and hunting instruments. Their arrival was announced in a message
from Julianehaab the next settlement up the coast, on October 9.
The journey started well and the surveying program, which was to map
the coast as far south as Umivik, was completed by September 1, the men
working daily from dawn till dusk. Thereafter trouble of all sorts dogged
them, principally bad weather and eingine trouble. Puisortok, a glacier
feared by the Eskimos from its havit of calving under water, hold them up
for many days. The final near disaster was of a semicomical nature. By
radio it had been arranged with the Danish authorities on the west coast
to leave a dump of "patrol" (gasoline) at Augpilagtok. This was done —
except that the fuel left was paraffin, (Danish petrolium , American kerosens).
The party managed, however, to complete the journey successfully. One aspect
of this venture was that only a little oatmeal and sugar was carried. Watkins
kept the party in food by hunting from his kayak.

EA-Biog. Scott: Gino Watkins

Thus the B.A.A.R.E. finished with a sort of explosion which carried
half its members across Greenland on three pioneer journeys. These parties
found their way back to England individually.
Many months elapsed before the members of the original expedition
were able to piece together the entire story and exchange accounts of their
adventures which, in the case of Watkins and Courtauld and of Rymill and
Hampton, were epic. D'Aeth, Bingham, Cozens, Riley, Wager and Chapman returned
to England via Copenhagen in comparative comfort on the Gertrude Rask, which
sailed from Angmagssalik on August 9, reaching Copenhagen early in September.
Scott, Stephenson, and Lindsay left Greenland later, sailing from Ivigtut
aboard a cargo vessel at the end of August. Watkins and Courtauld had com–
pleted their journey and were waiting with some anxiety for Rymill and
Hampton at Sukkertoppen, where they received the news by radio that the latter
had safely arrived at Holsteinsborg and immediately set out to rejoin them.
But that was in October; and the four men — Lemon had dropped out at
Julianehaab to go directly home to his military duties — did not reach
England until the end of November 1931, for they sailed on the Hans Egede ,
the last boat of the year. Once they had arrived in Copenhagen (November 12)
a series of important official receptions of course delayed the return of
the arctic heros to their native land.
Watkins, as usual, had been looking well ahead and the next project
seriously discussed in England was a crossing by dog sledge of the Antarctic
Continent from the Weddell Sea to the Ross Sea. But before he could give
much time and attention to this project he had, of course, to wind up the
last expedition, arrange for the preparation and publication of the results,
and give his lecture to the Royal Geographical Society.

EA-Biog. Scott: Gino Watkins

The work of the B.A.A.R.E. was applauded. Watkins was honored by the
geographical societies of England, Scotland, Denmark; he was received by
the King, the Prince of Wales, and the King of Denmark; and the whole
expedition was awarded the Polar Medal with Arctic Clasp, an honor which
had not been given for half a century. As a further claim upon his time,
watkins was giving public lectures all over the country to pay off the degt
of the B.A.A.R.E., and was as well flying with the R.A.F. Reserve.
When he was able to turn his attention to his Antarctic plans he
found considerable interest and encouragement in official quarters —
but very little money. England had gone off the gold standard, the economic
depression was paralyzing all enterprise. Watkins proposed to dut down his
party from eight to four men and employed considerable ingenuity to reduce
his estime to £ 13,000. The Discovery Committee in May offered between £ 3,000
and £ 4,000 toward this sum. But the finding of the balance would remain
Watkins's responsibility, and give he would have no time for money hunting
if he was to organize and launch an expedition within the next few months.
Immediately following this Committee meeting, Watkins took a quick
decision. If he persisted in attempts to launch an Antarctic expedition,
it was very probable that he would have to postpone it for a year and so
miss a season of exploration. On the other hand, there was still just time
enough to prepare a small expedition to East Greenland, there to continue
work upon the arctic air route. By depending on hunting he could save the
expense of buying food and thus run the whole expedition for about £ 1,000.
It was a certainty. He chose it. The Antarctic must wait.
British Arctic Air Route - American Airways Expedition
His party would consist of Rymill - who was destine to prove himself upon
this expedition - Riley, and Chapman. They would live in a beehive tent in

EA-Biog. Scott: Gino Watkins

Lake Fjord, the Y-shaped bay in latitude 66° 17′ N. from which he and
D'Aeth had done most of their survey flying during the summer of 1930.
It was a convenient seaplane base because there was a freshwater lake
above the head of the fjord. The cost would be covered by the Royal
Geographical Society, Pan American Airways Company, and a publishing house.
He had a little more than a month to make all the preparations. During
this period he became engaged to Margaret Graham. Exactly eleven days
later, the original plans had to be revised, for on August 20, Gino Watkins
was drowned.
Watkins met his death while hunting in his kayak in the northern part
of the fjord, which is headed by a glacier. Expert in the handling of a kayak,
Watkins had nevertheless previously had some narrow escapes while fishing,
hunting, or harpooning [: ] from the light and easily capsized boat so much
used in those waters. In fact, only a few days before the fatal accident,
while harpooning seals on an ice floe, he had come close to death. Upon
that occasion a piece of the glacier broke off, fell into the water, and
the resultant wave crashed him against a cliff and capsized his kayak to which
he had tied himself with a piece of towline. It is thought that something
similar may have happened on the 20th. All that is known is that on that
day he did not return. And when Rymill and Chapman set out by motorboat
to explore the site, pieces of glacier were breaking off and it was only
after much searching that they saw indications of their missing comrad e :
Watkins's kayak floating upside down, and, 200 yards from the face of the
glacier, the dead man;s sodden belt and trousers on a small ice floe. It
is supposed that, having capsized, Watkins had tried to disengage himself
from the kayak and his encumbering clothes to swim to shore through the
ice waters. His body was never recovered.

EA-Biog. Scott: Gino Watkins

Gino Watkins is remembered not only for the achievements of his
expeditions but for his quality as a leader and the inspiration with which
he inspired his followers. His youth, age, and manner, his unconventional
methods, and his wonderful capacity for endurance, both mental and physical,
made him not only an inspiring commander but a real friend of all who worked
with him.
He showed that useful scientific work can be done in the Arctic (when
the necessary instruments are lent) for very little cost. He followed
Stefansson's principle of living off the country and proved that a European
can quickly and easily become at least as good a kayak hunter as the Eskimo.
He brought the spirit of sport to exploration, thereby increasing rather
than otherwise the hard work that was done. He demonstrated [: ] anew that
the best leader of a scientific party is not necessarily himself a specialist,
in fact, that a man of general interests may better coordinate the work of
specialists, keep them contented, and get the most out of them.
BIBLIOGRAPHY

J. M. Scott. Gino Watkins, Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1935.

----. The Land That God Gave Cain, Chatto and Windus, London, 1935.

E. S. Champman & Others. Northern Lights , Chatto and Windus, London, 1934.

Martin Lindsay. Those Greenland Days, Blackwood, London and Edinburgh, 1938.

Royal Geographical Society Journal - Vol. 72, n.2 Aug. 1928.

" " " " " 75, n.2 Feb. 1930.

" " " " " 79, n.5 May 1932

" " " " " 79, n.6 June 1932.

" " " " " 80, n.1 July 1932.

" " " " " 83, n.5 May 1934.

J. M. Scott
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