About Augustine Courtauld
1904 – 1959
Augustine Courtauld (“August”, as he was always called) was a very unusual man. An idealist who followed his star all his life: explorer, sailor, navigator, climber, countryman, his life was full of adventure.
On the title page of his autobiographical memoir Man the Ropes (1957) he quoted Masefield’s words:
The power of man is as his hopes. In darkest night, the cocks are crowing. With the sea roaring and the wind blowing; Adventure. Man the ropes.
Many of his adventures were in the Arctic where he was an outstanding explorer, taking part in four expeditions to Greenland in the 1920s and ’30s. The most notable of these was Gino Watkins’ British Arctic Air Route Expedition, 1930-31.
With the expansion of air travel the possibility opened up of an air route to North America, the quickest route being via Iceland and Greenland. But no one knew what the weather was like over the Greenland ice cap, particularly in winter. This expedition went to find out. A station to observe and record the weather was established at an altitude of over 8,000 ft up on the ice cap, some 140 miles inland from the coast. Jimmy Scott (another member of the expedition) wrote in his Foreword to Man the Ropes that August.
“had travelled in from the coast with a party which was to stock the weather station adequately for two men to stay there. Atrocious weather had so slowed down the journey that most of the food intended for the station was eaten on the way there. It looked as if the place would have to be closed down and the series of observations broken.
‘I worked out,’ Courtauld writes, ‘that I could last out alone for five months. As I had frostbite in my toes, I had no wish to make the journey back. So I decided to stay on my own and keep the station going.’