On This Day – February 4th In Antarctic History

February 4th 1902

Discovery Expedition

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 thought the flights to be “perfect madness”.

A balloon being deflated near the Discovery after an attempted ascent during Scott’s
expedition to the Antarctic. (Photo by Ernest Shackleton/Getty Images)

February 4th 1911

Terra Nova Expedition – Corner Camp Established

Tom Crean was among the 12 man depot-laying team who were tasked with putting in place a series of supply depots, stretching from Safety Camp at the edge of the barrier, down to a point at 80º S. The depots would be accessed by Scott and his Polar Party when they set off for the Pole the following Spring. The group of 12 would also be accompanied by 8 ponies and two dog teams.
The mission had begun on January 27th, and progress was slower than anticipated, largely due to the ponies lack of performance, as they struggled on the ice.
On the 4th of February, Corner Camp was established 40 miles from Hut Point, but at this stage the parties progress was further delayed by a blizzard, which held them up for three days.
Shortly afterwards Scott sent three of the weaker ponies back, but two would die en route. Scott became increasingly concerned that the rest of the ponies would die, should they not turn back immediately, and at 79º 29′ S, he decided to lay One Ton Depot. Oates had argued that they should have continued and established the depot where originally intended at 80º, and use the ponies for meat, as they collapsed.
Scott however overruled him and One Ton Depot was laid more than 30 miles North of its planned position. It was a decision that would have fatal consequences on the return march from the Pole, and as it transpired, only two of the eight ponies who had started the trip would survive.

Siberian ponies - Terra Nova Expedition
Some of the Terra Nova Expedition’s Siberian ponies resting near some supplies.

February 4th 1912

Terra Nova Expedition – Return From The Pole

After reaching the South Pole, but losing out to Roald Amundsen in the race to be first, Scottt and his team began their return trip on January 19th. Initially the team  made steady progress but slowly the effects of the cold and scurvy set in. Having crossed the Plateau and reached the upper Beardmore depot , they then had a five day march which their rations barely sufficed.

In accordance with the scientific objectives of their expedition they stopped to collect  around 35 pounds of geological specimens, which they now had to haul on their sledge.

They barely made it to the next depot and at this stage Edgar Evans’ condition was rapidly declining. On the 4th of February he had the added misfortune of falling into a crevasse along with Scott. It is thought that Evans suffered a serious concussion by badly hitting his head. Scott subsequently described him in his journal as being ‘broken down in the brain’. By February 17th Evans struggled desperately to keep up with the other four men, but he was simply beyond that at this point. After falling behind the team, they retraced their steps to retrieve him, but found him to be almost delirious, on his hands and knees in the snow. He was hauled back to the tent on the sledge but sadly Edgar Evans died shortly afterwards.

Edgar Evans - Terra Nova Expedition

Edgar Evans – Terra Nova Expedition

Sunday, February 4 (1912)

“Just before lunch unexpectedly fell into crevasses, Evans and I together – a second fall for Evans…”

“The temperature is 20º lower than when we were here before; the party is not improving in condition, especially Evans, who is becoming rather dull and incapable.”

Extracts from the Journals of Robert Falcon Scott.

3 Replies to “On This Day – February 4th In Antarctic History”

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