Gedney: Laurence J. Cornford

Letter to Edward Lyle of Brown University:

Dear Edward,

Having now had time to examine the full archive of the Starkweather-Moore Expedition, I can say that I think it would make a fine web site. There is an abundance of material including diaries, reports, manifests, photographs, drawings, logs and the surviving gramophone recordings, all of which would make an excellent immersive account of early polar expedition. Indeed, there is considerably more material than from the Miskatonic’s disastrous expedition of only a few years earlier, and upon which the Starkweather-Moore Expedition was to build.

I would advise that the connections with the 1931 Miskatonic trip and the sensation caused by Professor William Dyer’s press briefings at the time be downplayed. The opinion of the time was that Dyer suffered a mental collapse upon his return from Antarctica, and these unfortunate events only mar the beginning of the expedition. They can probably be dealt with quickly, despite the interest of conspiracy theorists and cranks looking for lost pre-human cities in Professor Dyer’s statements. I think we should not seek to encourage such people with the site. After all, the clinching proof that Dyer was unwell lies in his claim that there was a mountain range taller than the Himalayas on Antarctica—if so where is it! Starkweather and Moore report nothing of the kind. Nor did the Second Byrd Expedition later the same year. How can the world’s biggest mountain range vanish in the space of three years? Unless an enormous piece of the physics puzzle is missing, then the only rational answer is that Dyer’s account was fiction.

If the conspiracy theorists could see the whole archive, they would certainly make much of the subjective impressions of the explorers. Indeed, although nowhere near as eventful as the 1931 expedition, there are still a number of odd events recounted in diaries, such as the account of the frozen bodies of many hundreds of penguins, apparently crushed or bitten, covering an icy inland plain. Or the sound of aeroplanes heard at night, although none of the team’s planes were flying at the time. Of course, the Starkweather-Moore Expedition was not the only one in the region at the time, but even so, these reports are curious.

Perhaps most curious is what was reported to have happened at Base 2. Base 2 was a storage dump and refueling point for ferrying supplies further inland, and as such it had only a three-man crew (using the old lighthouse keeper principle that if one person was fatally injured, the remaining men would still be able to support each other until help came). Probably the last thing any of them expected was for some stranger to come walking out of the ice and into their camp. Yet that is exactly what happened on the morning of December 28 1933.

They hadn’t been keeping any sort of a lookout, as they were not expecting anyone to arrive from the expedition. They saw him on the edge of the camp shuffling with awkward movements towards the main building, his clothing heavily rimed with frost. Quickly they ran to help him inside. The first thought was the man was in a bad way, heavily frostbitten, and they set about the process of warming him up. He seemed to recover quickly and showed no signs of long-term harm. He is described in journals as having the physique of a none too successful pugilist. They estimated that he was just over six feet tall, and thick-set, with rough-hewn features, although his ears were not the “cauliflower ear” of many boxers. Nor did they see signs of scarring to indicate fighting, accident, frostbite, or any major adverse effect from his long exposure to cold.

He spoke like a man unused to speaking. They were most shocked when he gave his name: Gedney. He claimed to be a survivor of the Miskatonic Expedition.

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