Physicist of Byrd Expedition 1930
Year’s work in the Antarctic
Who but he undaunted could explore
A world of waves, a sea without a shore,
Trackless and vast and wild as that revealed
When round the ark the birds of tempest wheeled!
Such is the spirit that has led the young Welshman, Mr. Frank T. Davies, physicist of Commander Byrd’s expedition, down to the frozen snows and icy blizzards of the South Antarctic – down “to the gull’s way, and the whale’s way, where the wind’s like a whetted knife.”
Mr. Davies who is only 25 years of age, and the youngest of all the members of the expedition, is the eldest son of the Mr. Richard Davies, headmaster of the Pentrebach Schools, Merthyr Tydfil and of Mrs. Davies, now of North Parade, Aberystwyth.
He received his early education at the Penydarren Boys’ School and Mr. Frank. T. Davies, the Merthyr Intermediate School. He then proceeded to Aberystwyth University College, and in three years’ time graduated with honours in physics. He anticipated continuing his studies at that college, but surely “there is a tide in the affairs of men.”
Before the termination of that particular session a commissioner representing the Canadian Government paid a hurried visit to the college and tried to persuade the students to proceed to Canada to work during their vacation period on the prairies for the harvesting season. Three responded, and Mr. Davies was one of the three. Restricted pursuit now disappeared and in a month’s time he found himself engaged in pastoral work on the ranches out in the province of Saskatchewan.
A Lucky Accident
Before many weeks had passed, unfortunately (though ultimately it was good fortune and the turning point in his career), he met with an accident which necessitated his immediate removal to a village hospital 40 miles from Saskatoon.
During this period of convalescence he discovered that the matron of the hospital was from Wales. She immediately became interested in him, and through her kind and timely intervention he was offered a post as an instructor in the meteorological section of the Saskatoon Agricultural College. He accepted it and at the same moment abandon the idea of ever returning to Aberystwyth University College.
In twelve months’ time we find him travelling eastward for McGill University, Montreal, having gained in an open competition a three years’ scholarship tenable at that university. The following year he obtained his M.Sc. and afterwards settled down as a demonstrator, at the same time carrying in with research work.
Eighteen months ago Commander Byrd, of the United States Navy, was arranging for an expedition to the Antarctic, and he wanted a physicist. He communicated with the various universities and Mr. Davies was appointed. Twelve months last October he sailed southward from New York on board the expeditionary ship.
The vessel passed through the Panama Canal, touched the Fiji Islands and Dunedin, New Zealand, and within three months of leaving New York she was anchored and made fast to the Ross Barrier in latitude 78.43 S.
Accounts from that time to time have appeared in the London press of the work and the experiences of the members of this expedition, but rather detailed account of Mr. Davies’s work was sent by radio to the “Montreal Gazette” for November 18.
The contents of a letter received by his mother a week ago from Dr Shaw, of McGill University, will be hailed with delight by all Welsh people throughout the world, and in a special manner by the teachers and fellow-scholars of his school and university days in the old country.
Dr. Shaw’s Letter
Dr. Shaw’s writes: “This article (referring to the article in the ‘Montreal Gazette,’ cutting from which was enclosed) came by radio from Frank, and is, in the opinion of all readers here, a very able review and account of some of the work they are doing. It is difficult to write such an article for the general reader in the daily press without being on the one hand too technical or on the other hand too superficial.”
“He has obviously reached the stage now where he may be considered as launched on his scientific career. No longer will it be appropriate to treat him with complimentary approval, given as it were patronisingly to the coming student or the coming young man – he is now one of the world fraternity of scientific men, a colleague in physics, an associate, a coming authority in his own line.”
The City of New York will now return to the Barrier, and in two or three months-time the expedition will leave again for civilisation. It is to be boned that Mr. Davies’s native town of Merthyr, and even Wales, will wait and watch for his return, and mark it with that honour and approbation which this young and gallant Welshman so richly deserves.