Today was a big day for the voyage. For today, the instigator of the whole Wild project (if a reburial can be called that) spoke on her quest. And seven years work was very clearly a quest or an obsession. Angie Butler has revealed all but the very last steps of her search in her book “The Quest for Frank Wild” – and today we heard those last steps. At the end of the talk she was asked if she felt Frank Wild’s presence at any time and she said “no, not directly. But there were certainly times when I felt I should proceed in a certain direction and that direction turned up a new lead.”
The most shocking revelation from Angie’s talk was how two newspaper reports skewed every subsequent report on Frank Wild’s life. The first was when his farm had failed and he was working behind the bar in a South African pub. A reporter found him and the news that went around the word was that one of the great polar explorers was now working in a bar for four pounds a week. The intimation of destitution was clear.
Even worse, a detailed later newspaper report of his funeral was that, effectively no one came. Or just his wife and very few others. Angie’s research has turned up a more accurate report that there was a very substantial funeral procession that stopped traffic in Johannesburg.
It’s not only admirable that Angie has taken the time to learn the truth but it’s gratifying to discover that one of the polar greats was recognised as that up till his death. Indeed, the early reports and subsequent investigations always refer to Frank with his title as Commander Wild. To learn he died with dignity, respect and surrounded by the love of his wife of seven years is heart warming and puts the polar world back in alignment.