On the Nimrod Expedition (1907-1909), Shackleton, Wild, Adams and Marshall had reached a new Furthest South record at latitude 82°17′S, on January 9th 1909, before electing to abandon their quest, 97 miles from the South Pole.
Shackleton had astutely surmised that he and his team were capable of reaching the Pole, but would not have the provisions to survive the return trip. As it transpired Shackleton and Wild were extremely fortunate to make it back to Hut Point, on February 28th 1911, the day before their ship Nimrod was due to leave Antarctica. The departure was delayed, and rescue was raised for Marshall who had collapsed, around 38 miles from the hut, and Adams who had remained behind to care for him.
Despite falling short of actually reaching the South Pole, Shackleton received much acclaim and recognition for his brave effort, and he had pioneered the route from the Barrier to the Polar Plateau, via the Beardmore Glacier.
This seemed to be the catalyst for Scott’s decision to return to Antarctica with his Terra Nova Expedition (1910-1913), and he opted to follow in Shackleton’s footsteps, treading the same route, southwards, towards the Pole, and indeed by using ponies as a means of hauling supplies, just as the Irishman had.
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. On November 1st, Scott and the pony party would follow in their tracks, and the two groups were scheduled to meet beyond One Ton depot, at latitude 80° 30′ S.
Meanwhile Roald Amundsen in his desperation to beat his rival Scott, to the accolade, had set off on from his base Framheim on September 8th, but the desperate, freezing conditions forced him into an inglorious retreat. The temperature had plummeted to -56º C.
Amundsen had decided to pioneer his own route south, from his base in the Bay of Whales, and he would reach the Plateau by being the fist to scale the Axel Heiberg Glacier. Crucially, in terms of the ‘race’ Amundsen had elected to use dog teams instead of ponies, for hauling the sledge loads, and he did so with utter proficiency.
Roald Amundsen’s South Pole Route Map.
Map showing Amundsen’s route to the pole, Oct–Dec 1911. The depots marked at 80, 81 and 82° were laid in the first season, Feb–March 1911. Shackleton’s 1908–09 (Nimrod) route, as followed by Scott, is to the right.
“Gordon Home’s Map of Amundsen’s South Pole Expedition” by Gordon Home (1878–1969) – Amundsen, Roald (1911). “The History of the South Pole”. The South Pole, An Account of the Norwegian Antarctic Expedition in the “Fram,” 1910–1912 1. London, United Kingdom: John Murray. Opposite p. 32. Retrieved 2011-11-01.. Licensed under PD-US via Wikipedia.
Robert Falcon Scott’s South Pole Route Map.
Map of route taken to the South Pole showing supply stops and significant events. Scott was found frozen to death with Wilson and Bowers, south of the One Ton Supply depot, in the spot marked “Tent” on the map.
“Terra Nova Expedition route” by Cherry-Garrard, Apsley, 1886-1959 – Cherry-Garrard, Apsley: The Worst Journey in the World: Antarctic 1910 – 1913, Vol. II, p. 542. Constable & Co, Ltd., London, Bombay, Sydney. First published 1922. (Gutenberg E-book 14363.). Licensed under PD-US via Wikipedia.
The Race – South Pole Route Map.
Map showing the polar journeys of the Scott’s Terra Nova expedition (green) and Amundsen’s expedition (red) to reach the South Pole.