February 4th 1902
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”.
Crean and Scott’s Last Farewell
Terra Nova Expedition
January 4th 1912
On January 4th, 1912, Tom Crean would bid a final farewell to Captain Robert Falcon Scott, on the Polar Plateau, approximately 150 miles from the South Pole. Crean had served with Scott on the Discovery Expedition 1901 – 1904, and afterwards at Scott’s request, Crean joined him as a member of the crew of the Victorious in 1906. The two men would serve together from this point, right up until Scott’s untimely demise on his return from the South Pole, and they had formed a strong mutual respect for each other.
Above: Camp on the polar march taken during the last, tragic voyage to Antarctica by Captain Robert Falcon Scott and his crew, among them Lieutenant Henry Robertson (Birdie) Bowers who took this photograph, circa December 1911. Bowers and Scott were both tutored by Herbert Ponting, the renowned photographer who was the camera artist to the expedition, which enabled them to take their own memorable pictures before perishing on their return from the South Pole on or after 29th March 1912. (Photo by Popperfoto/Getty Images)
On the 3rd of January Scott had announced that his Polar Party would consist of 5 men, namely Scott, Wilson, Bowers, Taff Evans and Oates, while Tom Crean, Bill Lashly and Lieutenant Teddy Evans were to return to base, as the last supporting team. Crean was sorely disappointed, not to have been among the number of the Polar Party, and privately he had surely thought he would have been selected. When one takes into consideration, the amount of time he had served under Scott, coupled with his vast experience on the ice, he probably should have been. Crean had also been spared the rigours of man hauling the sledges, on the 400 mile Barrier section of the outward journey, as he had been tasked with leading one of the ponies. He did not fall into harness until the ascent of the Beardmore Glacier, and as a result would have had more reserves of strength than some in the Polar Party, who had hauled for the duration.
Scott referred to the returning party in his diary on January 3rd, 1912 – “They are disappointed but take it well.” But it appears Scott did have a lingering sense of guilt, regarding his decision not to elect Crean. On hearing Crean clearing his throat, Scott by way of a justifiable excuse, opined, “that’s a bad cold you have Crean.” While Crean was not a man to hold a grudge, or indeed question the orders of his Captain, he knew Scott was dishonestly trying to validate his decision.
“I understand a half-sung song, sir,” was his curt response.
It (among many other facets of the journey) has long since been argued that Scott made a grave error, by not selecting Crean, and denying the Polar Party the benefits of his indomitable spirit, character, strength and stamina. Many hold the opinion that, had the Irish Giant been among the polar party, things may not have taken such a tragic turn. The truth is we will never know.
The Terra Nova Expedition 1910-1913
A wonderful collection of photographs of Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s Terra Nova Expedition, from the lens of Herbert Ponting.
Terra Nova Expedition
Tom Crean was one of the members of Scott’s depot-laying team that were tasked with establishing a supply route along the Barrier, that would be used by Scott and his Polar party, when they embarked upon their South Pole journey.
The aim was to lay supplies at strategic points along the ice shelf, from Safety Camp, at its edge, all the way to 80º S, where the largest cache – One Ton Depot would be located.
The Terra Nova Expedition 1910 – 1913
The Terra Nova expedition was both Captain Scott’s and Tom Crean’s second journey to Antarctica, as both men had been part of the Discovery Expedition 1901 – 1904.
The aims of the British Antarctic Expedition ( official name of the Terra Nova expedition ) was chiefly to reach the South Pole, but also there was the important objectives of scientific research – meteorological, geological, geographical and zoological.
While many of the scientific aspects of the excursion were successful, and indeed Scott and his team did reach the Pole on January 17th 1912, the expedition ultimately ended in tragedy with the deaths of all five men of the Polar Party, on their return journey.
Despite the fact that this expedition took place over 100 years ago, the photographs of Herbert Ponting affords us an excellent visual backdrop to the fascinating stories of endeavour, bravery and tragedy, that unfolded on the harsh frozen continent of Antarctica.
Continue Reading →
A Relic From The Terra Nova Expedition
Discovery of George Murray Levick’s Notebook
The Summer melt of 2013 at Scott’s Hut, at Cape Evans, Antarctica, yielded a long lost artefact from the Terra Nova Expedition. A member of the Antarctic Heritage Trust ( New Zealand ) discovered the notebook, which was owned by George Murray Levick, and had lain undiscovered, in the ice, for more than 100 years.
George Murray Levick had joined the Terra Nova (1910-1913) as the expeditions surgeon and zoologist, and he also took many photographs during his time in Antarctica. His notebook was a “Wellcome Photographic Exposure Record and Dairy 1910”, and he had recorded details of these photographs, within, such as exposure times, subject matter and dates taken.
Many of the images were taken, when Levick was part of a six man team, known as the Northern Party, who had ventured northwards along the coast, conducting scientific observations.
Tom Crean – On The Polar Plateau
Scott decides his Polar Party
Ten years to the day, after first crossing the Antarctic Circle, aboard the Discovery with Captain Robert Falcon Scott, Tom Crean was deep in Antarctic territory, on the Polar Plateau, around 150 miles from the South Pole. He was again in the company of Scott, this time on the Terra Nova Expedition. Two of the supporting teams, for the assault on the Pole, had returned to base at various stages along the trek, and now two, four-man teams remained.
Scott had always intended that his Polar Party that would make the trek on final stage of the journey, would consist of 4 men, himself among this number. None of the men knew whether or not they would be selected for the honour of standing with their Captain at the Pole, for it was a decision Scott had not announced prior to their departure.
Then on January 3rd 1912 Scott made his announcement, deciding that he would in fact be taking four men with him to the Pole, which now lay 150 miles away, and sending the last supporting party home. Continue Reading →
Footage from the Terra Nova Expedition
90º South 1933
Herbert Ponting was the official cameraman on Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s British Antarctic Expedition, 1910- 1913, capturing for posterity some fascinating footage of Scott’s legendary and ultimately tragic campaign. He originally released the material as a silent documentary called The Great White Silence, in 1924, but with the coming of sound to film making, he decided to narrate the footage himself and released this version, named 90º South in 1933.
Tom Crean Discovery – Video Embedding Policy