On This Day – October 24th 1911.
The Terra Nova Expedition.Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s assault on the South Pole was finally set in motion on October 24th 1911, when the “Motor Party’ rolled out of Cape Evans with two motorised sledges, which carried vast quantities of supplies, including fuel, food and vital equipment.
Scott’s order, issued to Lt. Edward Evans was that the motors should proceed to Corner Camp, then onward beyond One Ton Depot, hauling the cargo to latitude 80° 30′ S, where they would wait for the rest of the party to catch up with them at that point.
The entire Southern Party consisted of a total of 16 men. Lieutenant Evans, William (Bill) Lashly, Bernard Day and F.J. Hooper comprised the Motor Party, which took the first tentative trundles towards the South Pole, on that October 24th.
Scott and nine of the other men selected, followed in the wake of the motor tracks on November 1st 1911, with each man tasked with navigating a pony and sledge through the icy, inhospitable landscape. The complement of 16 would be completed by Meares and Demetri, who would follow them, with 23 dogs pulling two sledge loads of supplies.
For a brief while the Southern Party gained a 17th member, when Demetri took the expedition’s photographer Herbert Ponting, to the Barrier’s edge, to enable him to capture cinematograph film of the group as they ventured south with the ponies.
Unbeknownst to Scott, Roald Amundsen’s team had been to, and passed their own supply cache at 81º S on the very same day, having begun their outward quest on October 19th. Amundsen had every confidence in his planning, his dog teams and his ability to beat Scott to the accolade of being first to stand at the South Pole. He was perplexed by Scott’s insistence on using ponies to haul supplies, instead of more efficient dog teams. Amundsen had set off with over 50 dogs, the weakest of which would be fed to the other beasts, to sustain them along the route. Continue Reading →
Photographs from The Terra Nova Expedition.
October 8th 1911.
Four photographs from Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s, Terra Nova Expedition to Antarctica, captured on the 8th of October 1911, as preparations were under way for the Southern Journey, which would commence less than a month later.
The first of the images was taken by Herbert Ponting and shows Scott observing a crack in the snow field at the Ross Dependency.
The next two images featuring the expedition photographer Ponting, were taken by Scott himself. Scott was being tutored in the art and techniques of photography, by Ponting, to enable him to capture a visual account of the journey to the South Pole, as Ponting would not travel with the southern party, because he was considered too old, for the arduous journey.
The final image was again taken by Scott and shows the same fissure in the snow field he is seen observing in the first picture. What the image clearly illustrates is that Ponting still had a bit of tutoring to do with his protege.
Robert Falcon Scott.
October 7th 1911.
Photograph by Herbert Ponting.
On October 7th 1911, Herbert Ponting, the official photographer on the Terra Nova Expedition, captured this famous image of Robert Falcon Scott updating his journal, in the comfort of the Winterquarters Hut, at Cape Evans Antarctica. The hut which was constructed shortly after the expedition arrived in the Ross Dependency in 1911, is more commonly known as Scotts Hut. Continue Reading →
The Winter Journey Begins
The Terra Nova Expedition
The Terra Nova Expedition (1910-1913) to Antarctica had more objectives than that of reaching the geographical South Pole. Also on the itinerary was the continuation of scientific work that Robert Falcon Scott had pioneered on his Discovery Expedition (1901-1904), and the Terra Nova could boast a scientific staff of 12 men, who were led by the zoologist Edward Wilson.
And it was Wilson who had conceived the idea of the Winter Journey, to obtain Emperor Penguin eggs in an early embryo stage, in furtherance of his previous studies on the matter. The only location to find such eggs was at the rookery at Cape Crozier, which lay about 60 miles from Hut Point, but the optimal time to acquire them at the desired embryonic stage coincided with the fearsome Antarctic Winter.
Antarctica really only has two season – Summer and Winter, and for most of the winter months the continent is shrouded in a perpetual darkness, and temperatures touching -90º C have been recorded. Whilst Scott had reservations about the undertaking of such a perilous effort, it seems he did not want to disappoint Wilson and eventually dispensed permission for the journey to be undertaken. Wilson would take just one other member of the scientific team with him, the 25 year old Apsley Cherry-Garrard, and Scott assigned the indomitable Henry “Birdie” Bowers to lead them.
The Race To The South Pole.
The Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration is probably best remembered and recounted for its gruesome tragedies and not its glorious triumphs. The public outpouring of grief that followed the news of the deaths of Scott and his Polar Party, eclipsed the acclaim that Roald Amundsen had earned by not just becoming the first human to reach the South Pole, but to also survive and complete the effort, with an efficiency that has forever rendered the forlorn efforts of his rival, to be the subject of intense scrutiny. Scott and his four companions had also gallantly attained the Pole, but did so around 34 days after Amundsen, and all five men would die in wretched circumstances on their return journey.
Amundsen would later convey the details of his successful quest in his book The South Pole, but it was the contents of Scott’s expedition journal that had captured the publics imagination. In defeat, failure and death, Scott’s memory and acclaim was better served than those of the victorious Amundsen.
Amundsen first Antarctic venture was as first mate to Adrien de Gerlache, aboard the RV Belgica, on the Belgian Antarctic Expedition (1897–99), where he was among the first group ever to winter on the continent. In 1903 Amundsen led an expedition that would become the first to traverse the long sought after and fabled Northwest Passage, finally proving its existance, in the wake of countless failed and tragic crusades to do so.
The expedition spent two winters on the ice of northern Canada, where they acquired invaluable skills in Arctic survival from Inuit tribes, most notably the wearing of animal skins and the use of sled dogs.*
After this success Amundsen made plans to take an expedition to the North Pole, and borrowed the ship Fram, from Fridtjof Nansen. But in 1909, both Robert Peary and Frederick Cook made separate claims to have reached the North Pole, neither of which have ever been fully vindicated, but Amundsen, deeming the Pole conquered, set his sights on a new target – the South Pole.
He did so in the utmost of secrecy, and even Nansen knew nothing of his intentions when Amundsen set sail from Oslo on June 3rd 1910. It was only when the Fram arrived at Madeira, that Amundsen told his crew of their destination, and he sent a telegram to Scott, informing him that the Fram was proceeding south. The race had begun.
Scott & Polar Team at 87º S, on 31st December 1911
Terra Nova Expedition
Tom Crean spent New Years Eve 1911 on Antarctica’s Polar Plateau, as a member of Scott’s Polar team, on a quest to reach the South Pole. At this point in time there were eight men still trudging towards the Pole, but three days later on January 3rd 1912, Scott would announce that his Polar Party would consist of five men, namely himself, Wilson, Bowers, Edgar Evans and Oates. The last support team would return to base, and it was comprised of Tom Crean, Lt. Edward Evans and Bill Lashly. They were within 150 mile of the South Pole when both parties went their separate routes on January 4th.
Below is a photograph which was taken by Bowers on the 31st of December 1911, on the Polar Plateau, at 87º S.
For more on the Terra Nova Expedition see our page, Terra Nova
Death on the ice.
The Terra Nova Expedition is probably better remembered for it’s tragic failures than for it’s heroic triumphs. The deaths of Scott, Wilson, Oates, Bowers and Edgar Evans on their return from the South Pole, sent shockwaves around the world, that reverberate to this very day.
They had arrived at the pole, on January 17th, 1912, to find that the Norwegian, Roald Amundsen had preceded them there over a month beforehand. It was a cruel blow, but the worst was yet to come for the polar party. Their return journey became a desperate battle for survival. One that they were destined to lose.
Misfortune and mishap would contribute to their deaths, but it was cold and hunger that ultimately killed them. Having crossed the polar plateau, and descended the Beardmore Glacier, the party had expected that the most grueling stages of their journey were behind them. Edgar Evans had died on February 17th 1912, near the foot of the Beardmore. As they progressed across the Barrier, the temperature plummeted beyond anything they could have expected. Their advancement was slowed by Oates’s frostbite, and upon reaching their depots, they discovered an alarming shortage of fuel.
Oates walked to his death on March 17th, no longer able to withstand the agonies he was enduring. It was his 32nd birthday. The temperature continued to fall and the air was deathly still. With no wind at their backs, their sledge sail was of little or no benefit to them. Not only that, but the frozen surface had become almost impossible to haul their sledge over. Gradually they weakened, and sequentially they starved and froze to death. Scott’s last diary entry was on March 29th, twelve days after the disappearance of Lawrence Oates. In that time Scott, Wilson and Bowers had only managed to cover a further 20 miles. They died in helpless limbo, 11 miles from One Ton Depot.
After the long Antarctic winter, a search party left Cape Evans on October 29th, in an attempt to uncover the fate of their comrades, whom they knew were dead. On November 12th the men found the tent containing the bodies of the Scott, Wilson and Bowers. Scott’s diaries would outline the prologue to their fate, and tell the tragic tale of the demise of Evans and Oates. Efforts to locate the body of Lawrence Oates, only yielded his discarded sleeping bag, and the party returned to base on November 25th.
From – ‘Tom Crean, the Solo March and the Albert Mrdal for Lifesaving.’
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