Mischief Goes South

Every herring should hang by its own tail

Author: H.W. Tilman Skip Novak Janet Verasanso

Series title: H.W. Tilman: The Collected Edition

Paperback publication date: 01 Sep 2016

Paperback ISBN: 9781909461321

Mischief goes South is H.W. Tilman's account of a voyage dogged by crew trouble. The two unsuccessful voyages regaled follow Tilman to the Antarctic Peninsula, the remote Crozet Islands and beyond.

‘No sea voyage can be dull for a man who has an eye for the ever-changing sea and sky, the waves, the wind and the way of a ship upon the water.’ So observes H.W. ‘Bill’ Tilman in this account of two lengthy voyages in which dull intervals were few and far between. In 1966, after a succession of eventful and successful voyages in the high latitudes of the Arctic, Tilman and his pilot cutter Mischief head south again, this time with the Antarctic Peninsula, Smith Island and the unclimbed Mount Foster in their sights. Mischief goes South is an account of a voyage marred by tragedy and dogged by crew trouble from the start. Tilman gives ample insight into the difficulties associated with his selection of shipmates and his supervision of a crew, as he wryly notes, ‘to have four misfits in a crew of five is too many’. The second part of this volume contains the author’s account of a gruelling voyage south, an account left unwritten for ten years for lack of time and energy. Originally intended as an expedition to the remote Crozet Islands in the southern Indian Ocean, this 1957 voyage evolved into a circumnavigation of Africa, the unplanned consequence of a momentary lapse in attention by an inexperienced helmsman. The two voyages described in Mischief goes South covered 43,000 miles over twenty-five months spent at sea and, while neither was deemed successful, published together they give a fine insight into Tilman’s character.

Harold William ‘Bill’ Tilman (1898–1977) was among the greatest adventurers of his time, a pioneering mountaineer and sailor who held exploration above all else. Tilman joined the army at seventeen and was twice awarded the Military Cross for bravery during WWI. After the war Tilman left for Africa, establishing himself as a coffee grower. He met Eric Shipton and began their famed mountaineering partnership, traversing Mount Kenya and climbing Kilimanjaro. Turning to the Himalaya, Tilman went on two Mount Everest expeditions, reaching 27,000 feet without oxygen in 1938. In 1936 he made the first ascent of Nanda Devi – the highest mountain climbed until 1950. He was the first European to climb in the remote Assam Himalaya, he delved into Afghanistan’s Wakhan Corridor and he explored extensively in Nepal, all the while developing a mountaineering style characterised by its simplicity and emphasis on exploration. It was perhaps logical then that Tilman would eventually buy the pilot cutter Mischief – not with the intention of retiring from travelling, but to access remote mountains. For twenty-two years Tilman sailedMischief and her successors to Patagonia, where he crossed the vast ice cap, and to Baffin Island to make the first ascent of Mount Raleigh. He made trips to Greenland, Spitsbergen and the South Shetlands, before disappearing in the South Atlantic Ocean in 1977.

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