Courtould Augustine

(26.08.1904 - 03.03.1959)

 

A British polar explorer, a member of several expeditions to Greenland, including the expedition of Gino Watkins (1930-1931), during which he spent five months alone (six weeks in snow captivity) at an improvised weather station on the Greenland ice sheet and was rescued by participants main party at the very last moment.

Born in Bocking, Essex, in the family of an industrialist and art collector - the founder of the eponymous Institute of Art Samuel Curto and his wife Edith Ann (nee Lister). He received his primary education at Charterhouse, and later at Trinity College (Cambridge) a degree in engineering and geography. Since childhood, fond of sailing.

In 1926, Kurto took part in the expedition of James Wordie to Eastern Greenland (area of the Franz Josef fjord), in which he served as assistant surveyor. The following year, together with Francis Rodd and his brother Peter, he made a nine-month trip to West Africa, during which he engaged in anthropological and geographical research, and in 1929 he again went to East Greenland and became a member of the party that made the first ascent to the peak Petermann (2 943 m).

In the years 1930 - 1931 Curto took part in the British expedition Gino Watkins (eng. British Arctic Air Route Expedition), one of the main tasks of which was to study weather conditions during the winter period on the Greenland ice sheet to enable the organization of transatlantic flights from England to the USA and Canada via the shortest route (via The Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland, Baffin Land and Hudson Bay). To this end, a weather station was set up on the glacial cap of the island 180 miles from the east coast at an altitude of 2500 meters (67° 05'N, 41° 48' W), which was a small double-layer tent with snow in the snow, near which measuring instruments were installed. It was assumed that the station will work in shifts of two people for six weeks.The first pair worked from August 30 to October 2, the second from October to December 3. The third party, which included Kurto, because of the extremely difficult weather conditions, spent much more time on the way to the weather station than planned, and outdid the food and fuel destined for the station. Because of this, only one person could stay on it until the beginning of spring (and that was subject to strict economy). Curto volunteered to spend the winter and spent at the weather station alone for five months, of which the last six weeks were in a snow captivity — a blizzard broke out on March 22 and killed Kurt in his shelter. Only on May 5, 1931, the Watkins rescue party managed to locate the site of the former weather station through the tip of the British flag and vent pipe barely protruding above the snow surface and rescue Augustine from prison. By this time he was completely out of fuel and food.

 

Augustine Kurto mountain with the first ascent route

 

After a safe return to the expedition base, Kurto, together with Watkins, made a 600-mile journey on two open motoboots along the east coast of Greenland from Ammassalik to Juliana (Julianahaab) on its western shore.

Even during the expedition of 1930-1931. during the aerial exploration of Watkins, a mountain range was discovered, which later received his name, and in which it was open, at that time, presumably the highest peak of the island, Gunbjörn. In 1935, Kurto went to eastern Greenland for the last time, in order to carry out a more detailed exploration of the Watkins Ridge, its geology, and also archaeological research together with the British geologist Lawrence Wager. As part of this expedition, we managed to make the first ascent of Gunbjörn, the height of which was determined to be 3,718 meters (source: 3,694 meters). L. Vager, his brother G. Vager, and the Dane Ebbe Munch took part in the ascent.

During World War II, Kurto served in the Royal Naval Reserve. He was Honorary Secretary of the Council of the Royal Geographical Society, was a member of the British Alpine Club and the management committee of the Scott Polar Research Institute. He served as a magistrate and served on the Essex County Council. In 1956, Kurto founded the Augustine Courtauld Trust, a charitable foundation that provides financial support to budding researchers.

He died from multiple sclerosis.

Mountain peak Watkins Ridge in East Greenland. On May 28, 2011, by mutual consent of the parties, a joint British-Russian team of climbers was named, climbing the previously unconquered summit (~ 3150 m), actually the last remaining unconquered in the vicinity of Fjeld Gannbjörn on the Watkins mountain range in Greenland.

 

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