Scott’s Southern Journey.
On This Day – November 1st 1911.
A collection of photographs taken on November 1st 1911, as Captain Robert Falcon Scott embarked upon his quest to be first to reach the South Pole. Prior to his departure, Scott had been tutored in the techniques of photography by the expedition’s photographer Herbert Ponting, as Ponting himself would not be part of the group that would venture southwards.
This enabled Scott to keep a visual record of the journey, and all of the images below, were captured on the very first day of the outward journey, and show the establishment of the first pony camp, along the route.
On This Day – November 1st 1911 – The Push For The Pole
The Terra Nova Expedition
On November 1st 1911, Captain Robert Falcon Scott departed the base camp hut at Cape Evans, for the last time. The Pony Party consisted of Scott and nine other men, each tasked with leading a pony along the route. It was the second phase of the disjointed exodus south, the men and ponies following in the wake of the Motor Party, which had forged ahead on October 24th. Cecil Meares and Demitri Gerov would complete the number of the sixteen man team, by following Scott’s group with a dog team.
Those remaining behind at Cape Evans, gave the departing group a cheering send off, and watched on, as they gradually disappeared south into the vast Antarctic whiteness, some never to return. Even by the time they had vanished from the view of those at the hut, the problems facing Scott’s group were patently evident, as each man battled with the particular temperament of the ponies they were handling.
Some of the beasts galloped uncontrollably while others had to be coaxed and almost dragged forward. Tom Crean led one of the calmer ponies named Bones, as did Cherry Garrard, who guided Michael, a pony Taylor had noted as “a steady goer”.
Many of Scott’s men had deep rooted misgivings about their Captain’s decision to use ponies to haul supplies across the ice, and none more so than the chief pony handler, Lawrence Oates. Nicknamed ‘The Soldier’ by his Terra Nova fellows, the popular Oates was an English cavalry officer, who had served with honour in the Boer War. He had applied to join the expedition, having become somewhat disillusioned with life in the army, and Scott had taken him on board, mainly because of his vast knowledge and experience with horses.
“Bones ambled off gently with Crean and I led Snippers in his wake.”
Robert Scott Diary – 1st November 1911
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 →
The Last Place On Earth
A Central Television Production, 1985
The story itself is long over a century old, and this television production has notched three decades since its first airing. This is the story of Scott’s Terra Nova Expedition, which was well under way, and southward bound, before Roald Amundsen announced his intention to beat them to the prize, and Scott suddenly found himself a contender, as well as an expedition leader. But most of all it is the tale of two groups of brave men who had ventured into the realm of the unknown, to claim the last place unknown to man – the South Pole.
The Last Place on Earth is a 1985 Central Television seven part serial, written by Trevor Griffiths based on the book Scott and Amundsen by Roland Huntford. The book is an exploration of the expeditions of Captain Robert F. Scott (played by Martin Shaw) and his Norwegian rival in polar exploration, Roald Amundsen (played by Sverre Anker Ousdal) in their attempts to reach the South Pole.
The series ran for seven episodes and starred a wide range of UK and Norwegian character actors as well as featuring some famous names, such as Max von Sydow, Richard Wilson, Sylvester McCoy, Brian Dennehy, and Pat Roach. It also featured performances early in their careers by Bill Nighy and Hugh Grant.
Subsequently Huntford’s book was republished under the same name. The book put forth the point of view that Amundsen’s success in reaching the South Pole was abetted by much superior planning, whereas errors by Scott (notably including the reliance on man-hauling instead of sled dogs) ultimately resulted in the death of him and his companions.
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 →
Discovery Arrives at Plymouth.
British National Antarctic Expedition, 1901–04.
Generally known as the Discovery Expedition, The British National Antarctic Expedition, 1901–04, was Britain’s first official foray into Antarctic climes since the 1839-1843 voyage of James Clark Ross, with HMS Erebus and HMS Terror.
On 4 February 1902, Robert Falcon Scott’s Discovery Expedition, landed on the Barrier and unloaded an observation balloon, which Scott had brought along for the purpose of achieving aerial surveys. Scott himself was first to climb aboard the balloon and it rapidly ascended to a height of 180 m, but thankfully the balloon was firmly tethered. Ernest Shackleton piloted the second ascent, and as with Scott, the only thing observable even at that height, was the seemingly endless expanse of icy whiteness that constituted the Barrier. The expeditions junior doctor and zoologist, Edward Wilson privately noted that he thought the flights to be “perfect madness”.
The Discovery Expedition succeeded in its quest to undertake scientific studies in Antarctica, in fields as diverse as biology, zoology, geology, meteorology and magnetism. On the Western Journey, Antarctica’s only snow free valleys were discovered, in the western mountains of Victoria Land, and became known as The Dry Valleys.
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 Death Of The Polar Party
Terra Nova Expedition
On the 29th of March 1912, in a blizzard battered tent on Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf, Robert Falcon Scott’s trembling frozen hand scribed his final words – “Every day we have been ready to start for our depot 11 miles away, but outside the door of the tent it remains a scene of whirling drift. I do not think we can hope for any better things now. We shall stick it out to the end, but we are getting weaker, of course, and the end cannot be far. It seems a pity but I do not think I can write more. R. Scott. Last entry. For God’s sake look after our people.”*
Scott, Bowers and Wilson had been trapped in their tent for nine days, unable to strike for One Ton Depot, which as Scott had stated lay a mere 11 miles away. It must surely have haunted Scott, to know that his decision not to establish the depot where initially intended, in February of 1911, would now definitively decide the mens fate.
Had he done so, the starving, scurvy stricken men would have reached the potentially life saving cache, approximately twenty miles south of where they currently lay dying. Ironically Lawrence Oates, who had protested in vain to Scott, during that depot laying excursion, that they should forge ahead and lay the supplies at the predetermined point, walked to his death in the vicinity of the intended depot on March 17th 1912.
Prior to Oates’ tragic demise the Polar Party had lost Edgar Evans on February 17th, through a combination of scurvy and a serious concussion he had suffered when falling into a crevasse on February 4th. The three remaining men made scant progress after the disappearance of Oates, perhaps covering a further 20 agonising miles, before the adverse weather trapped them in their tent, and slowly wrought their doom.
Burroughs Wellcome Co medicine chests
British Antarctic Expedition – Terra Nova
Sir Henry Solomon Wellcome and Silas Burroughs formed the Burroughs Wellcome & Company, pharmaceutical company in 1880. They specialised in producing Tabloid medicines, and their medicine chests were quite practical, for those, like Robert Falcon Scott and his team, who intended reaching the South Pole. The medicine chests were durable, lightweight and compact, which was of crucial importance considering that all the mens supplies were hauled on sledges.