“It is a golden rule to avoid anything but wool as far as possible. All furs are far too impervious, and, instead of allowing the free evaporation of moisture from the body, collect and absorb it all, and become heavy and wet when frozen.”
But experience proved this to be incorrect. The tightly fitting layers of woollens worn by the explorers became damp during periods of heavy physical exertion. Once wet the wool acted as conductor rather than insulator taking heat away from the body. Men soon became cold and clammy and cases of frostbite were common. In extreme temperatures clothing would freeze greatly impeding movement.
Two main companies dominated the Antarctic clothing market during the early 20th century. They were Jaegar and Wolsey. Shackleton chose Jaegar clothing and blankets for his 1907 and 1914 expeditions whereas Scott chose Wolsey to supply his 1911 expedition. The Wolsey company, a then market leader in the manufacture of unshrinkable wool, supplied Scott's party with essential under and outer garments.The Norwegian-British-Swedish Expedition of 1949 -1952, was one of the last to rely heavily on natural fibres. Like their heroic predecessors the intrepid explorers once again opted for Wolsey underwear, the same type as worn by Scott and Shackleton. Lightweight hand-knitted Shetland wool jumpers and/or heavyweight Norwegian sweaters were also a feature of their apparel.
|Wolsey brand wool thermal top © AHT/ Sarah|