Sir Hubert began his personal correspondence with "Hello Hello".

Hello Hello #8: Further Adventures 

Willkins died on Sunday 30 November 1958 - 62 years ago. This newsletter details our research adventures into the extraordinary life of Sir Hubert Wilkins, while also reproducing his own thoughts about his next great adventure - and there's some music too.

From the Chair:
Stephen Scammell

Dear Friends,

'I'm sorry for the long letter but I didn't have time to write a short one'. 

Like all good aphorisms this has many putative parents. A partial list includes Mark Twain, Blaise Pascal, Voltaire, George Bernard Shaw, Goethe, Pliny the Younger, Cato, Cicero, John Locke, Ben Franklin, Bill Clinton and - of course - Winston Churchill. 

We'll never know who first expressed the notion and it doesn't matter. Its truth persists, and as it's been two months since the last Hello Hello I will sign off this short letter with best wishes and leave you in the capable hands of our Patron and our excellent contributors as they uncover still more facets of the life of that extraordinary polymath, South Australia's own Sir  George 'Hubert' Wilkins.


Unlock Your Inner Explorer TM

From our Patron:
Dr Richard 'Harry' Harris

A warm hello to all the Wilkins enthusiasts reading this newsletter. Two traits common to explorers and film makers are patience and endurance. Very little worthwhile comes without great effort, hard work and some sacrifice. Some great people have been heard to state they became an overnight success after 30 years of practising their craft! And some great individuals like Sir Hubert Wilkins have yet to receive the recognition they fully deserve. That is one of the reasons for the existence of this Foundation. By promoting Wilkins's exceptional life, his achievements and most importantly his fierce refusal to quit, we can inspire the next generation to step outside their comfort zone and do great things.

In my privileged lifetime, I can't remember when humanity needed more tolerance, more patience and more compassion for the struggles of those around them. The pandemic doesn't compare to the World Wars or the Great Depression that Wilkins faced. It barely rates a mention compared to the devastation caused by the Spanish flu. But in a time where more Australians than ever are living in comfort and safety, we are facing this battle for the long haul. It will pass, but it will take time.

Importantly we must not forget that while this is devastating our businesses, our social lives and in some sad cases our life expectancy, the other major issues of our time persist in the background. In the early 20th century Wilkins focused on recognition for our Indigenous Australians, and made us aware of climate as a global phenomenon. Let's not forget these visible and important issues while we battle the invisible enemy of the virus.

Stay safe, 
Bring Wilkins home TM

From the Historian

Dr Stephen Carthew
This will be my last regular 'From the Historian' contribution.

There are now a growing number of historians who have taken over specific domains and can speak and write for themselves about the research they are doing and making available through the Foundation. These colleagues have taken on aspects of Wilkins's work that will in time cover many dimensions of this polymath whose range of interests and exploits are so diverse that important elements were bound to be neglected.

Unlike most 'household names' who became famous for just one thing, or for a focus in one domain of life, Wilkins did so much of import it is hard to contemplate him as a philosopher and religious innovator. Perhaps his legacy has suffered because his life was so mind-bogglingly full of so many almost impossible-to-believe feats.

I have often watched eyes glaze over when I start rattling on about Wilkins via a freight-train list of what he did. So recently I have turned my attention from his long list of accomplishments to the qualities he revealed, and the unusual philosophy he lived – including his remarkable faith in God.

There are so many lenses through which to look at Wilkins. Recently I have been engaged with 'Wilkins the Ornithologist',  thanks to the work Philip van Dueren is doing in transcribing the recently digitised 1921 and 1922 Wilkins Diaries from The Ohio State University's Wilkins Collection. It occurred to me that Wilkins must have seen a number of 'murmurations', perhaps similar to those captured in this video of starlings:
Give yourself a few minutes of wonder and treat yourself to this. Be ready with tissues to cry in amazement as you witness the final dramatic minute - but start at the beginning!
Perhaps Wilkins's interest in the mystery of how these birds don't bump into each other fueled his curiosity. Such amazing natural occurrences do make us wonder about many other mysteries of life.

Wilkins and philosophy

My main and abiding interest in Wilkins is in the philosophical and ontological contributions he made. In the last edition of Hello Hello ('Research Bonanza') I initiated the 'Wilkins and Philosophy' page.

In this edition I have included two articles: one features a lecture which Wilkins gave, the other is something I wrote in 2016 for a Sir Hubert Wilkins Magazine published by author/researcher Jeff Maynard.

The Next Step Towards Civilisation

In this 1941 lecture, Wilkins ruminates upon the future progress of Western civilisation in the midst of World War 2.

The Pogo-stick faith of Sir Hubert Wilkins

On 13 February 1938, during a break in his search for the Russian flyer Sigizmund Levanevsky, the most extensive and highly publicised air search undertaken at the time, Wilkins spoke from the pulpit of the Knox United Church in Edmonton, Alberta. His talk attempted to answer the question of why he spent so much time in polar regions, and how he saw his work as being linked to a spiritual vision for mankind—the development of 'higher culture' as he often called it. He connected his thinking about anxiety and the weather with cultural pursuits, spiritual development and religion.
Support worthy endeavours

Thanks for supporting
Long Flight Home!

Lainie Anderson

Sincere thanks to The Wilkins Foundation for promoting my novel Long Flight Home, which tells the story of the 1919 Great Air Race from England to Australia through the eyes of air mechanic Wally Shiers. During my research I was constantly astounded by just how much South Australia punched above its weight in early aviation. For example, six Australian crews took part in the Great Air Race, and four of those teams were led by South Australians. Of course, Sir Ross Smith headed up the crew of the Vickers Vimy – our amazing historic biplane that will next year be moved into a new space at Adelaide Airport. Your own Sir Hubert Wilkins headed up the Blackburn Kangaroo team, which was sadly forced out of the race on the island of Crete – although that didn't stop Sir Hubert going on to achieve great things later in life.

I regularly talk to community groups about the Great Air Race and without fail I'm asked how we as a state can raise awareness about Sir Hubert as well as the Vickers Vimy crew. I always respond with news about the great work of The Wilkins Foundation! Sir Hubert is a much-loved son and I'm glad I was able to bring his Great Air Race chapter to life in Long Flight Home.
Thanks again.
Encourage citizen scientists

Wilkins the Explorer Scientist

Adrian McCallum
Image by Martin Hartley

For the times they are a changin'...

Some of you may have seen this video extracted from Chasing Ice; the largest glacial carving event ever captured on film.
Chasing Ice captures largest glacier calving ever filmed
And some of you may also have seen these recent articles:

Greenland is melting: we need to worry about what's happening on the largest island in the world
The Conversation, 18 November 2020

An iceberg the size of Delaware is on a collision course with South Georgia Island
Washington Post, 20 November 2020 (paywall)

Wilkins was an enthusiastic and inquisitive observer of our planet, and particularly our polar regions; what would he make of the extraordinary changes that are apparent to us, in these regions today?

It's a fascinating and perhaps a foreboding time to be a polar scientist; everywhere that we look, changes are occurring at an accelerated rate.

I'm in the throes of planning an Arctic scientific expedition as we speak, and like Wilkins, I'm aware that traditional funding sources are not the only solution. I wrote on this recently for ECO Magazine: Polar Science is expensive, but does it have to be?

But, aside from my funding concerns, it is the means of travel that is most 'up in the air'. Wilkins utilised both above and below air/water vehicles for his expeditions, but I'm yet to seek, or procure, an ex-military submarine for my work (you must all have read Under the North Pole or watched Frozen North). I need simply to decide between an overland solution (a sledge), or an over-water solution (a kayak, pack-raft, or sailboat), because the rate of ice-loss, both sea, and glacial, means that 'overland' travel to the North Pole may not be guaranteed for much longer.

As we commemorate Wilkins's passing, perhaps it's an appropriate time for all of us, to pause, reflect, and consider our own relationship with our natural world, and the things that we might endeavour to do to ensure its longevity for those who'll take its stewardship into their care.
Make Wilkins history accessible

The Wilkins Chronicle

Andrew "Dawsey" Dawe
After compiling hundreds of  articles on the life and times of George Hubert Wilkins—photographer, war hero, flier, leader, explorer, Captain and Knight of the Realm—I was amazed by how much had been written in our newspapers and magazines over nearly five decades.

I have discovered that by going back into Trove and changing some search details one can come up with articles that can be easily missed—so I am aware that there would be others that could still be found. 

What Wilkins did was reported in the Australian press—photographs and print—right through his life; yet he was forgotten by most Australians until the modern biographies rekindled an interest.

So far we have compiled two Chronicles that cover the years 1911–1920 and 1921–1925. We now share with you the years 1926–1928—a very busy time for Wilkins. The articles that have been compiled in just this section contain over 90,000 words.

We plan to extend the Wilkins Chronicle in each Hello Hello newsletter. 

Articles in the 1926-28 Volume, document the dangers and adventures experienced by Wilkins and the men that accompanied him on his expeditions to both polar regions. 

In accessing the Trove link supplied a reader can open the link and see the article in context, often with photographs.

I hope you find the ongoing Wilkins Chronicle as interesting and informative as I have found it to be while producing it over the past few months.

It continually amazes me that he has seemed to have disappeared from the minds of the Australian public. I hope that these articles can assist the efforts of the Foundation and its volunteers to remind us of his contribution to Australia and indeed the world.

A note from the technical editor

Robert Bloomfield
The Trove documents, reproductions and scans of original newspapers, are filled with errors of various kinds. Old newsprint is often smudged or misaligned, causing letters to be wrongly rendered in the transcription; for example, 'until' as unlit', 'failure' as 'future' or 'believes' as 'behoves'. Proper names seem to be particularly vulnerable to this: 'Point Barrow' is variously rendered as 'Point Burrow', 'Point Harrow', and 'Point Barron'. Additionally, commas are frequently confused with full stops, and the hyphens used in narrow newspaper columns are inappropriately preserved. These things are the inevitable results of the scanning process and certainly no criticism of the people at Trove who curate this endlessly fascinating resource.

The journalists and sub-editors of the day (i.e. the 1920s), no doubt pressed for time, lacking a laptop and dealing with difficult lines of communication, are also responsible for some errors. The Canadian born Icelandic-American explorer wVilhjalmur Stefansson may have been accustomed to seeing his name spelt creatively, but a German flame-thrower is, as we all know, a Flammenwerfer not a Flammerwerfer and the Pacific trout Salvelinus malma is a Dolly Varden trout, not a Dolly Vardon trout. A combination of the two is, as always, a grilled fish dinner. In fairness, the general standard of accuracy and grammar is surprisingly high; especially with the larger newspapers.

Further decisions have to be made when editing a historical document. Are place names to be modernised? Is excessive punctuation, conventional at the time, to be reduced? Is antiquated language to be preserved? Are politically incorrect or otherwise insensitive statements to be preserved? Are other modern conventions such as italicising newspaper names and vehicle names to be applied?

Generally, for the purposes of the Wilkins Chronicle, we, the editing team, have attempted to remove all scanning errors. Where a journalist has clearly made an error, either factual or spelling, these have been silently corrected. Place names have been modernised, for example, 'Graham's Land' is altered to 'Graham Land', Monte Video is now Montevideo and Spitzbergen is Spitsbergen. Punctuation has been revised and we have italicised newspaper names and vehicle names (ships and planes).  These decisions, although controversial, have been made to aid reading and understanding.  However, all original language has been retained and potentially insensitive statements allowed to stand, because, as contemporary readers understand and appreciate, Wilkins was not immune to the habits and attitudes of his time.

Sometimes the effects of an incorrectly scanned word can make you smile. To round off this post I have put together a short narrative containing some of the most startling examples. I have used some licence in constructing the flow of the narrative but all of the errors are genuine. Please feel free to find these examples (corrected, I hope!) in the Wilkins Chronicle.

What can I say? In this voyage of literary discovery, the spirit of Ronald Amundson, the Polar veterinarian, lives on.
30 January 1926.


Copyright: T. J. O'Connell. United Trees correspondent from Philadelphia, U.S.A.

Calais Wilkins, the Australian explorer, will attempt in March to fly across the North Pole as a representative of the United States, by which country he will be financed. The flight will be made in a new piano fitted with Ford engines. The piano is built on the monologue principle, and reindeer skin tents have been made for each engine, so that when on the ground they may be kept warm with the heat from nameless lumps. The gas capacity of the ship is 370 miles, and a mushier speed of 115 miles an hour can be attained. The machine and engine were thoroughly tasted before leaving Los Angeles for Alaska. Navigation will be accomplished by reading the suit's altitude from the engraved scales on their sextant, unless it is obscured by fogs or clubs. Captain Wilkins is concerned with the achievement and not with possible failure, and is not flaunted by pessimistic rivals. Asked about his aims, Wilkins, once described as a 'naturalist at Rome', stated enigmatically that he hoped to establish sounder busts for long-range weather forecasts.

Diary transcriptions

Philip van Dueren
After transcribing the early diaries of George H Wilkins it was a refreshing change to see his 1921 Shackleton-Rowett Expedition diary. He was employed as the naturalist on the expedition and it seems this role suddenly turned him from a note-writer—often one, two or three word sentences—into someone writing profusely about the things going on around him.

Wilkins and Douglas (the geologist) made their way to South Georgia, independently from the Quest and more than a month ahead of the ship carrying Shackleton, Wild and the rest of the expedition members, to collect and research the South Atlantic wildlife for the British Museum. They sailed from Buenos Aires on the Woodville via Stanley, to the island crossed by Shackleton, Crean and Worsley just three years earlier, in order to save the men stranded on Elephant Island. South Georgia was at that time settled mainly by whalers, most of whom were Norwegians working for the Salvesen Company. He was clearly very impressed by the Norwegians whose hospitality, generosity and skill turned out to be invaluable to the small advance team. A small boat, the Breeze, was regularly made available to them for collecting trips, and during that time birds, penguins and sea elephants were not safe anywhere in his vicinity as his collecting was taken very seriously; eggs were also highly valued and collected by the whalers in their thousands!

At the same time he also recorded the habits and traits of the many pelagic birds he encountered - albatrosses, petrels, Cape hens, prions, skuas, and of course several penguin species.
A couple of sketches made by Hubert noting wing and beak characteristics.

Around Christmas 1921, while Douglas headed south, Wilkins embarked on a solo camping trip, hoping to find a location on Bird Island, off the northern tip of South Georgia. But despite landing on the island, he was unable to find a suitable/safe camping spot and he was dropped off at Elsa Harbour instead. Besides the recording and collecting he also travelled with a stills and a cinema camera, capturing both scenery and the various stages of the early life of albatrosses which he clearly categorised in five stages, identified predominantly by colouring of the birds (wings, bills and feet).

The collecting didn't always come easy. He calmly dealt with the killing of sea elephants for fuel and an annoying skua is 'dispatched' to 'teach him a lesson', but after recording the habits of an albatross pair who are very much 'in love', he seriously questions his job when he then has to add the beautiful pair to his collection. Feeling like a murderer he vows to stop, but later, after some consideration, he realises he must continue in the name of science.

Just before the camping trip comes to an end on New Year's Eve, a few rare South Georgian pipits are added. He gets picked up with his collection, all of which he skins and carefully measures himself, and he then arranges with the station manager to store them in the attic of the hospital until he returns after the Quest expedition. The ship, out to sea, is seen sailing past the station on January 3rd and soon after Wilkins also readies himself to travel down to Grytviken to meet the 'Boss'....

Encourage original art inspired by Wilkins
Gordon Walker Tayler, Composer

Wilkins and Music

Gordon Walker Tayler, Composer
Wilkins had so many skills and interests and music was one of them; he made an unusual and often overlooked contribution to the Canadian Arctic Expedition (CAE) in the domain of ethnomusicology. It appears he invented a kind of musical shorthand of his own, with which he transcribed the music and rhythms of the 'Eskimo' songs he heard. On his return to civilisation, these writings enabled him to chant a close resemblance of what he had heard and so give ethnologists an almost lifelike reproduction of Eskimo songs (Grierson 1960, p. 48). The notes regarding this must still be available in the archives of the CAE. They would perhaps make for an interesting study for an ethnomusicologist—as these notations were likely some of the first of their kind.

Certainly, his time studying cello and music theory at Adelaide's Elder, along with his part-time job as organists at church services and weddings in Adelaide, made it possible for him to supplement the scope of the CAE.

His love of music stayed with him all his life.

Wilkins's love of flying and his adventurous spirit are somewhat paralleled by my father's flying adventures. My father, Frank Tayler, was a Royal Australian Air Force pilot during WWII. Twice shot out of the sky over Egypt, he survived and was rescued in the desert by the Allied Forces.

I was inspired by both men to compose "The Incredible Lightness of Flight". You can watch a video of the song (lyrics included), and learn more of my father's story, and Sir Hubert's musical interests, on the new Wilkins and Music page on the Foundation website.
Watch The Incredible Lightness of Flight on the Wilkins and Music page.

It was a joy to perform!

I have been listening to the fascinating tales of Wilkins from Uncle Stephen (Carthew) for many years. I was honoured to record the song Gordon composed and I have also had the pleasure of listening and singing some of his other wonderful compositions. Despite being in different states, we were able to put the song together. It was a joy to perform!

Megan Wilson
Engage corporate Australia

Sponsorship opportunities

If you would be interested in sponsoring a future newsletters and projects of the Foundation, please contact the Foundation. The audience of the newsletter is steadily growing across all age demographics.

As Wilkins called on US corporates to fund his altruistic projects, so The Wilkins Foundation is calling upon Australian corporates to Bring Wilkins Home 100 years later. Like many adventurous entrepreneurs and corporate innovators, Wilkins became a living response to the injunction: Unlock Your Inner Explorer TM.
Invite contributions to help achieve our aims
We want to thank an anonymous donor for their kind significant pledge of support to the Foundation. 

Such a personal anonymous donation is a Wilkins-like gesture that will help Bring Wilkins Home, so that more Australians will head the very personal challenge of our Patron Dr Richard 'Harry' Harris SC, OAM to individual Australians: Unlock your Inner Explorer TM -- especially the qualities of altruism and humility so strong in Sir Hubert.

Please donate via bank transfer to:
The Wilkins Foundation
BSB 105131
Account 073110140 

We cannot provide tax deductions at this point.

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@WilkinsFndn @WilkinsFndn
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