Apsley George Benet Cherry-Garrard (2 January 1886 – 18 May 1959) was an English explorer of Antarctica. He was a survivor of the Terra Nova Expedition and is acclaimed for his historical account of this expedition, The Worst Journey in the World.
Born in Bedford, as Apsley George Benet Cherry, the son of Major General Apsley Cherry (later Cherry-Garrard) of Lamer Park (Hertfordshire) and Denford Park (Berkshire), High Sheriff of Hertfordshire, and his wife, Evelyn Edith, daughter of Henry Wilson Sharpin of Bedford. He was educated at Winchester College and Christ Church, Oxford. His surname was changed from Cherry to Cherry-Garrard by the terms of an aunt's will, through which his father inherited enormous estates near Wheathampstead in Hertfordshire.
Cherry-Garrard had always been enamoured by the stories of his father's achievements, and felt that he must live up to his father's example. In September 1907, Dr Edward Adrian 'Bill' Wilson met with Captain Scott at Reginald Smith's home in Cortachy, to discuss another Antarctic expedition. Smith's young cousin Apsley Cherry-Garrard happened to visit, and decided to volunteer.
At the age of 24, 'Cherry' was one of the youngest members of Robert Falcon Scott's Terra Nova expedition (1910–13). This was Scott's second and last expedition to Antarctica. Cherry was initially rejected, but made a second application along with a promise of £1,000 (2009 approximation £50,000) towards the cost of the expedition. Rejected a second time, he made the donation regardless. Struck by this gesture, and at the same time persuaded by Dr Edward 'Bill' Wilson, Scott agreed to take Cherry as assistant biologist.
With Wilson and Lieutenant Henry 'Birdie' Bowers, Cherry made a trip to Cape Crozier in July 1911 during the austral winter in order to secure an unhatched Emperor penguin egg. Cherry suffered from high degree myopia, seeing little without spectacles that he could not wear while sledging. In almost total darkness, and with temperatures ranging from −40 °F (−40.0 °C) to −77.5 °F (−61 °C), they man-hauled their sledge 60 miles (97 km) from Scott's base at Cape Evans to the far side of Ross Island. Frozen and exhausted, they reached their goal only to be pinned down by a blizzard. Their tent was ripped away and carried off by the wind, leaving the men in their sleeping bags under a thickening drift of snow, singing hymns above the sounds of the storm. When the winds subsided however, by great fortune they found their tent lodged nearby in rocks. Cherry-Garrard suffered such cold that he shattered most of his teeth due to chattering in the frigid temperatures. Having successfully collected three eggs and desperately exhausted they eventually arrived back at Cape Evans, sometimes only managing a mile and a half a day. Cherry later referred to this as the 'worst journey in the world' at the suggestion of his neighbour George Bernard Shaw, and gave this title to his book recounting the fate of the 1910-13 expedition.
Cherry was afterwards responsible for helping lay depots of fuel and food on the intended route of the party which would attempt to reach the South Pole, and accompanied the team that would make the attempt on the South Pole to the top of the Beardmore Glacier. Cherry was in the first group of those four who returned on 22 December 1911. On his return, Cherry took over navigation on a number of occasions using the sight of his partner until his partner became snow-blind. Without a sighted companion, Cherry managed to overcome his extreme myopia by navigating using the faint gleam of the sun. On 26 February 1912, Cherry and dog handler Dimitri Gerov made one last supply run out to the 'One Ton Depot'. They waited there seven days hoping to meet the South Pole team on their return journey, although the mission was to resupply the dump and not to provide an escort for the polar party 'home' who weren't expected to reach this point for another week or two. Cherry finally turned back on 10 March 1912 in order to preserve his dog team which were short of food, and out of concern for the health of Gerov. Nineteen days later, Scott, Wilson and Bowers died 11 miles (18 km) south of the One Ton Depot in a blizzard.
By April 1912, with the Antarctic winter approaching, it was apparent to Cherry and the remaining expedition members that the South Pole team had died. Atkinson took command, and Cherry suffering from strain was appointed record keeper and continued zoological work. The scientific work continued through the winter and it was not until October 1912 that a team led by Atkinson and including Cherry was able to head south to ascertain the fate of the South Pole team. On 12 November, the bodies of Scott, Wilson and Bowers were found in their tent, along with their diaries and records, and rock samples they had hauled back from the mountains of the interior. Cherry was deeply affected, particularly by the death of Wilson and Bowers, with whom he had made the journey to Cape Crozier.
Cherry developed clinical depression as well as irritable bowel syndrome shortly after returning from Antarctica. Although his psychological condition was never cured, the explorer was able to self-treat himself to some extent by writing down his experiences, although he spent many years bed-ridden due to his afflictions. He many times revisited the question of what might have been done differently to save the South Pole team - most notably in his 1922 book The Worst Journey in the World. The book remains a classic, having been acclaimed as the greatest true adventure story ever written. It was published as Penguin Books' 100th publication.
The three intact penguin eggs that Wilson, Bowers and Cherry brought back from Cape Crozier are now in the collection of the Natural History Museum, London.
The igloo on Cape Crozier was discovered by the Fuchs-Hillary Trans-Antarctic expedition of 1957-58. Only eighteen inches to two feet of the stone walls remained standing. Relics were removed and placed in museums in New Zealand.
The BBC Four drama-documentary The Worst Journey in the World shows the site of the igloo created by Cherry and his two companions near the penguin breeding ground revealing the presence of original equipment left by the expedition.
In 1922, encouraged by his friend and neighbour G. Bernard Shaw, Cherry-Garrard wrote The Worst Journey in the World. Over 80 years later this book is still in print and is often cited as a classic of travel literature. Cherry also published an obituary of the expedition photographer Herbert Ponting and an introduction to Edward Wilson of the Antarctic: Naturalist and Friend, a book by George Seaver on "Bill" Wilson.
Cherry-Garrard also contributed an essay in remembrance of T. E. Lawrence in the first edition of a volume edited by Lawrence's brother A.W. Lawrence T. E. Lawrence, by His Friends. (Subsequent abridged editions omit his article.) Cherry hypothesises in this essay that Lawrence undertook extraordinary acts out of a sense of inferiority and cowardice and a need to prove himself. He suggests, too, that Lawrence's writings - as well as Cherry's own - were therapeutic and helped in dealing with the nervous shock of the events they recount.
Cherry-Garrard's life is detailed in Sara Wheeler's biography Cherry.