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    Martin Lindsay

    Encyclopedia Arctica 15: Biographies

    001      |      Vol_XV-0470                                                                                                                  

    (J. M. Scott)


            Martin Lindsay, D.S.O., M.P. (1905- ) made an unsupported sledge

    journey of over 1,000 miles across the Greenland Ice Cap in 1934. Martin

    Lindsay was born in London on August 22, 1905, the only son of Lt. Col. A. B.

    Lindsay and Gladys (Hutton) Lindsay. He was educated at Wellington College

    and the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, thereafter gaining a commission in

    the Royal Scots Fusiliers. In 1929 he made a journey across Central Africa

    from west to east. He was a member of the 1930-31 British Air Route Expedi–

    tion to Greenland, during which he was a member of the party which established

    the Central Ice Cap Weather Station and, with Quintin Riley, formed its first

    garrison. With Scott and Riley he made the first (and unsuccessful) attempt

    to relieve this station in February and March 1931. Then, with Scott and

    Stephenson, he made the 450-mile crossing of the ice cap from the east coast

    base near Angmagssalik to Ivigtut on the west coast. It was during this journey,

    a rapid and successful summer trip, that Lindsay conceived the idea of his own

    much longer journey which was to take place three years later.

            To explain the purpose of this journey, the British Trans-Greenland Ex–

    pedition of 1934, it is necessary to revert to the 350-mile-long stretch of

    the East Greenland Coast north of Angmagssalik, which includes Kangerdlugssuak

    Fjord. As described under Gino Watkins, Courtauld, and others [?]

    [?] this mountainous strip of coast line was first surveyed from the sea

    by Amdrup in 1901. In 1931 the B. A. A. R. E. by boat and airplane improved

    002      |      Vol_XV-0471                                                                                                                  
    EA-Biography. Scott: Martin Lindsay

    this survey and Watkins located from the air a very high range of mountains

    inland and northward from Kangerdlugssuak. Further surveys of this part of

    the area had been made by the Danes (see Courtauld). But the inland or icecap

    side of this 350-mile strip was known by actual exploration only at its south–

    ern limit near Angmagssalik. There in 1912 de Quervain had seen a high mountain

    which he had named Mount Forel. And Stephenson's party of the B. A. A. R. E.

    had later surveyed this. But the rest was unknown, and Lindsay's intention

    was to travel and to map it.

            His plan was a bold one. He would not approach the area from the east

    coast, which, though naturally much the shorter route, was defended first by

    the heavy ice current and then by 50-100 miles of very rough and mountainous

    hinterland. Instrad he would approach from the west coast, right across the

    icecap. This would add at least 450 miles to the hourney, but would also add

    another useful contour to the map of the icecap. Thus Lindsay's course would

    form two sides of a triangle, due eastward across the icecap, and then roughly

    southward along its edge as far as Mount Forel. (The line of de Quervain's

    crossing would, incidentally, complete the triangle.)

            In addition to the 350 miles which were to be surveyed on the second leg,

    there would be a final 200 miles to be covered before the party could reach

    the sea in Kangerdlua Fjord, Watkin's old base near Angmagssalik. Thus the

    total distance would be 1,000 miles at least. Considerations of expense and

    time prevented both the taking of a supporting party and the laying out of

    depots on the icecap the summer before. Thus the stores which Lindsay's party

    loaded onto their sledges at the start of their icecap journey would have to

    supply all their wants — food, fuel, and covering — until they stepped off

    the ice at the head of Kangerdlua Fjord.

    003      |      Vol_XV-0472                                                                                                                  
    EA-Biography. Scott: Martin Lindsay

            This plan has been dealt with in some detail because it caused a good

    deal of discussion at the time. The Royal Geographical Society felt that,

    although they approved of the object, the method proposed was too risky to be

    given their official support. Lindsay, however, obtained the patronage of the

    Prince of Wales and the support of the Admiralty, War Office, and Air Ministry

    who lent personnel and instruments.

            The other members of his party were only two in number, Andrew Croft,

    who acted as photographer, and Lieutenant A. S. T. Godfrey, R. E., who was in

    charge of navigation and survey. Croft, it must be mentioned, made an extremely

    valuable, in fact essential, contribution to the success of the expedition. He

    went to Jakobshavn in West Greenland in the autumn of 1933 and before Lindsay

    and Godfrey arrived next summer he had chosen the place of ascent to the icecap,

    put a depot of nearly 2 tons of dog food at the edge of the ice, selected the

    best 43 dogs he could find, and himself became an expert driver.

            In spite of Croft's energetic preparations, the expedition suffered a

    severe setback at the very start, owing to events quite beyond their control.

    The Gertrud Rask , in which Lindsay and Godfrey traveled from Copenhagen, was

    three weeks late and did not reach Jakobshavn until May 21st. As a result, the

    spring thaw had started in earnest before the journey could begin. Croft's de–

    pot had been made in latitude 60° 45′ N. at the edge of the icecap and 2,000

    feet above sea level. There was no more than 1,000 pounds of other stores to

    convey to it. But this journey lasted until June 3rd. The ice in the fjords

    had become unsafe and the coastal hills were almost bare of snow. Even after

    reaching the depot, the party's troubles were far from over. A warm föhn wind

    and heavy rain washed all the snow off the lower icecap slopes and created mor–

    asses which were often waist-deep. Five dogs were lost down crevasses. Not

    004      |      Vol_XV-0473                                                                                                                  
    EA-Biography. Scott: Martin Lindsay

    until June 18th did the sledges run on frozen snow.

            Then the luck changed and the party covered 115 miles in five nights,

    traveling on hard spring snow. But at over 9,000 feet altitude they found

    themselves in soft snow winter conditions. They changed over to day travel

    and their speed decreased, a reduction which was still further accentuated by

    the increasing boredom of the dogs. Only when it became possible to carry the

    three loads on two sledges and to leave one man free to go in front did the

    interest of the leading team increase. All in all, however, the 470-mile

    crossing was done in very good time, with a daily traveling avergage of over

    18 miles. On July 21st the first survey station was set up in latitude 70°

    05′ N., in sight of the east coast mountains.

            The party were now at the northern end of the 350-mile stretch which they

    had come to map. Although, with lightened loads, they did not expect this to be

    particularly arduous physically, it was in fact to prove so. On the whole the

    weather was bad and the snow soft. Also there was the occasional strain of look–

    ing ahead for crevasses. Even on lying-up days there were observations to be

    made every few hours. But, above all, both men and dogs were tired and stale.

    The dogs could no longer be inspired by the sight of a man skiing ahead of them.

    This 350 miles was a hard stretch of the journey.

            Several curious phenomena were noticed in this part of the icecap. There

    was a series of depressions as much as 500 or 1,000 feet deep, presumably caused

    by the shape of the ground underneath. Here and there, particularly at the head

    of the Kangerdlugssuak basin, there were crevasses large enough to swallow a

    battleship. And in one perfectly flat stretch of ice there was a great rift of

    uknown depth, 20 to 30 feet broad and several miles long.

            On August 26th the men were able to take sights of Mount Forel. Thus their

    005      |      Vol_XV-0474                                                                                                                  
    EA-Biography. Scott: Martin Lindsay

    map could link up with that made by the B. A. A. R. E. In spite of bad weather

    and increasing weariness, they had completed their survey and could now run for

    their depot in Kangerdlua Fjord, 200 miles away.

            This last stretch of the journey was handicapped by exceptiona;ly bad

    weather for that season, gales, föhn winds, and mist following close upon each

    other. But with the descent to Watkins's old base the 1,200 miles was accomplish–

    ed in 103 days, with two and a half days' man food and one day's dog food in

    hand. It was a very fine achievement for all concerned, including of course

    the magnificent west coast dogs. From Kangerdlua the party went on to Angmags–

    salik, where, after waiting a week, they were able to force their way in small

    boats through the pack ice to the trawler Jacinth which landed them three weeks

    later in Aberdeen.

            Martin Lindsay has not visited the Arctic since. During the war he served

    in Norway in 1940 and in northwest Europe in 1944-45, winning the D.S.O. and

    being promoted to the rank of Lt. Colonel. Since the war he has been Conserva–

    tive Member of Parliament for Solihull, Birmingham. His awards include the

    Roquette Gold Medal of the French Geographical Society, the medal of the Royal

    Belgian Geographical Society, the Andr e é Plaque of the Swedish Society for Geo–

    graphy and Anthropology, and the Murchison Grant of the Royal Geographical Society.

    006      |      Vol_XV-0475                                                                                                                  
    EA-Biography. Scott: Martin Lindsay

            Publications by Martin Lindsav:

            Books :

    Those Greenland Days . Blackwood, London, 1932. An account of the

    British Arctic Air Route Expedition. The Epic of Captain Scott . Peter Davies, London, 1933. Sledge . Cassell, 1935. An account of the British Trans-Greenland

    Expedition. "So Few Got Through." Collins 1946. War Experiences. "Three Got Through." The Falcon Press 1946. Arctic Reminiscences. "The House of Commons." Britain in Pictures 1947. "Shall We Reform the Lords?" The Falcon Press 1948.

            Magazine Articles :

    "The British Trans-Greenland Expedition 1934." Geographical Journal ,

    Vol. 85 N. 5, May 1935. Continued and concluded in Vol. 86 N. 3 –

    Sept. 1935.


    J. M. Scott

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