SCOTT of the ANTARCTIC - 1868 to 1912
CUntil the end of the 19th century, only sealers and whalers had set foot on the desolate southern land we call Antarctica. Until as late as 1820, no one had even seen its mainland. In the 1890s however, explorers of various countries began to compete for being the first to reach both the North and the South Poles. In 1901–04 Captain Robert Falcon Scott (1868–1912) was the first person to explore Antarctica extensively by land.
Robert Falcon Scott - Antarctic Explorer
What is Antarctica?
Antarctica is an enormous continent. Britain could fit into it more than 50 times. More than 99% of it is covered by ice. In places, this ice is more than three miles thick. Antarctica is completely surrounded by the vast Southern Ocean, half of which freezes in winter. It is high, windy and extremely cold. There is no indigenous human population and no life forms at all except around the coast.
How did the Antarctic get its name?
More than 2000 years ago, Greek writers described a large mass of land in the south of the world. Even though they had never seen it, they believed it must exist so that it could 'balance' the land they knew about in the northern half of the world. They named this imagined land 'Anti-Arkitos', meaning the 'opposite of the Arctic'.
Did explorers before Captain Scott try to reach the Antarctic?
Yes. For instance, one aim of Captain Cook on his second Pacific voyage of 1772–74, was to find the great southern continent. He sailed all round Antarctica but ice and fog prevented him from getting far enough south to see it. Cook decided that people would probably never travel further south than latitude 71 degrees, the position he reached. This was still more than 1000 miles from the Pole.
SCOTT OF THE ANTARCTIC
Robert Falcon Scott was born at Outlands on June 6, 1868, to John and Hannah Scott. Robert's father, John Edward Scott, was the youngest of eight children. Of John's four older brothers, one died young, two went into the Indian army and one became a naval surgeon. However, poor health kept John from the family service tradition. Instead, John inherited a small brewery in Plymouth which his father and uncle had bought for £4782 out of prize money received during the Napoleonic wars. The family home was also inherited from his father, Robert. This was a house called Outlands near Stoke Damerel, just outside Devonport. The property, a small country estate, was complete with a nice home, a stream at the bottom of the garden, three large greenhouses, dogs, a peacock on the lawn and a small staff of maids and gardeners. In 1861 John Scott married Hannah Cuming, daughter of William Bennett Cuming of Plymouth, a Lloyd's surveyor, Commissioner of Pilotage, Commissioner for the Catwater Improvement, and a member of the Chamber of
Suffice it to say, this family was a highly respected, very conservative and rather well-to-do Plymouth family. The sons of such Devon families took to the sea as birds to the air and one of Hannah's brothers, Harry Cuming, became a Vice-Admiral. Thus, there was a significant naval tradition on both sides of Robert Falcon Scott's parentage. "Con", as his parents called him, was born into a large family; he had two older sisters, Ettie and Rose, a younger brother, Archie, and a younger sister, Katherine.
Throughout Con's childhood, daydreaming was a habit he worked hard to overcome as everyone, including himself, considered it a flaw. Other weaknesses, equally shameful in this era, were his uneasiness with the sight of blood and of suffering in animals. Although he tried hard to conceal it, he never really overcame these perceived problems.
As a boy, he was "shy and diffident, small and weakly for his age, lethargic, backward, and above all, dreamy" as one of his biographers wrote. On the other hand, he had a happy childhood as the first five children were born within a nine year period providing plenty of playmates. Although subject to occasional fits of temper, Con's father, John, was considered an easygoing father with plenty of patience.
Con's mother, Hannah, was loved and worshipped by all the Scott children; to Con she was always "the dear Mother". Not much is known about Hannah but one thing is certain: she had strong religious principles and never questioned the teachings of the Church of England. "My own dearest Mother," wrote Con on his departure from New Zealand on his last journey in 1910, "I quite understand and anticipated your anxiety concerning our spiritual welfare. I read the Church service every Sunday on our voyage to Melbourne and I propose to do the same with equal regularity throughout the voyage. You need not have any anxiety on this point".
Robert F. Scott joined his first seagoing ship in August, 1883, at the age of thirteen. The ship, HMS BOADICEA, was the flagship of the Cape Squadron, and in her he served as midshipman for two years. This was the first time that young Con had earned money, about £30 a year. Midshipmen were still students with naval instructors as their teachers. Training was intense for these young men as Admiral Sir William Jameson wrote that midshipmen were "up aloft in all sorts of weather and away for long hours in boats under oars and sail. In spite of rigid barriers, young officers learnt the lower deck point of view in a way which is often difficult to achieve in these more democratic days". The young men worked in the rigging 120 feet above deck. They slept in hammocks, bathrooms were unknown, instructors were strong and intense in their verbal attacks, and punishment included beatings and extra drill. As a result, survival created a man, from a boy, with complete suppression of a young boy's natural feelings of fright, homesickness and lack of self-confidence.
The 2012 geographic South Pole marker depicts British Captain Robert Scott and his men at the South Pole on one side and Norwegian Roald Amundsen at the South Pole on the reverse side.
He had to learn to bear pain without flinching, to obey orders directly, and disregard any immature tendencies. This treatment could be quite traumatic for a young boy coming from a comfortable home. Con Scott was considered an excellent example of a student as he learned the lessons thoroughly while climbing up the lower branches of the navy. After a brief tour with the HMS LIBERTY , he served a year on HMS MONARCH, whose captain rated Con a "promising young officer". At the end of 1886 he joined HMS ROVER and was rated by her captain as an "intelligent and capable young officer of temperate habits". Con was 18 when the Royal Navy's Training Squadron, to which the HMS ROVER belonged, was cruising in the Caribbean. The midshipmen of the four participating ships raced their cutters across the bay at St. Kitts in the West Indies. The race was narrowly won by Con and a few days later young Con was invited aboard the HMS ACTIVE to dine with the Commodore, Albert Markham. Present at the dinner was Albert's cousin and guest, a middle-aged geographer named Clements Markham. Clements was thoroughly impressed by Con's intelligence, enthusiasm and charm and later wrote "My final conclusion was that Scott was the destined man to command the Antarctic expedition". Destiny had arrived for young Scott.
After nine months on the HMS ROVER , Scott went on to spend the winter of 1887-8 at the Royal Naval College at Greenwich and in March 1888 he was awarded first-class certificates in pilotage, torpedoes and gunnery, coming in with the highest marks in his class in his year of seamanship. He was commissioned as a sub-lieutenant and at the end of 1888, he was instructed to join the cruiser HMS AMPHION stationed near Vancouver, Canada. He had to make his own way across North America with the last stage of his trip being a long journey in a tramp steamer from San Francisco to Esquimault, BC.
After Scott's tour of service in the Pacific, he joined HMS CAROLINE briefly in the Mediterranean. The summer of 1891 was spent on leave with his family at Outlands. This was undoubtedly the most carefree time of Con's life as his lieutenant's salary of £182 10s a year provided him with independence allowing him to pay his own expenses. He played golf with his brothers and played tennis with his sisters. It was a happy time for the twenty-two year-old.
In September 1891 Con reported to the torpedo training ship HMS VERNON. He graduated with first-class certificates in all subjects and was appointed to HMS VULCAN in the Mediterranean. By the end of 1894, at the age of twenty-five, Con received tragic news from his mother: the family was virtually bankrupt. John Scott had sold the brewery on Hoegate Street a few years before and was now enjoying his life of retirement while working in his greenhouses. Hannah had assumed that interest income from the sale of the brewery would allow them a comfortable life and one can imagine her shock when John revealed the necessity to give up Outlands as he had drawn on the capital and, although never confirmed, likely made a poor investment which resulted in the loss of their remaining capital. In questionable health and 63 years old, John Scott had to look for a job.
John actually did find a job, as a manager of a small brewery. Outlands was let go and the family, except for Con's sister Rose, moved to Holcombe House, near Shepton Mallet, which they rented for £30 a year. Rose had landed a job at Nottingham Hospital and it wasn't long before the three remaining sisters began searching for their own careers. The oldest sister, 32-year-old Ettie, went on to become an actress. Attractive and single, she joined a touring company whose leading lady was Irene Vanbrugh. The two younger sisters, Grace (Monsie) and Kate (or Kitty) chose the more conventional trade of dressmaking.
The financial disaster of 1894 was bad enough, but three years later, in October 1897, John Scott died of heart disease at the age of 66, leaving his family without any support or life insurance. Hannah had to leave Holcombe House and the family became, briefly, penniless and homeless. Monsie and Kate had moved to a room over a shop in Chelsea so it was not long before Hannah moved in with them. The financial burden of Hannah fell upon her two sons who were struggling themselves on very meager Service pay. At the time, Archie was in West Africa. After the financial collapse of his family, he had himself moved from the Royal Artillery to the post of ADC and private secretary to the Governor of Lagos, Sir Gilbert Carter. The pay was better and living expenses were less. A year later he transferred to the Hausa Force which was engaged in bringing law and order to warring tribes of the interior of the Oil Rivers Protectorate. After his father's death, Archie contributed £200 a year to his mother's welfare. This was nearly as much as Con's entire salary but Con still managed to send £70 a year to his mother.
This period was extremely difficult for Con. He had very little money left to cover his personal expenses and enjoying a mild weekend of shore leave was out of the question. He had to pinch every penny as even an occasional glass of wine, game of golf, and so forth were normally too expensive. To take a young woman to dinner would have been impossible. He was cut off from his friends as he never had the funds to share in the same enjoyments as his comrades. Poverty, and real poverty it was, could only have forced Con to withdraw unto himself. Years later he wrote to his future wife "Do you remember I warned you that secretiveness was strongly developed in me? Don't forget that at forty the reserve of a lifetime is not easily broken. It has been built up to protect the most sensitive spots". The "sensitive spots" were his lack of self-confidence, his sense of inferiority, of frustration and isolation, born from his inability to share life's experience with his peers due to his lack of money. But, self-pity was not among his faults. There are no complaints in any recorded document written by Con.
His devotion to family remained constant throughout his life. Once he learned of the financial crisis in 1894, he applied for a transfer to HMS DEFIANCE, stationed at Devonport, so that he could help with the sale of Outlands and assist his mother and sisters in moving to Somerset. When they were settled, he applied for another seagoing job and was appointed torpedo lieutenant in HMS EMPRESS OF INDIA, a battleship in the Channel Squadron. This appointment lasted less than one year but while in the Mediterranean, he once again encountered Clements Markham and his cousin.
In the summer of 1897, Scott was appointed torpedo lieutenant to the flagship of the Channel Squadron, HMS MAJESTIC. From this ship came a number of future expedition members on Scott's first trip to the Antarctic aboard DISCOVERY: Lieutenant Michael Barne, Engineer-Lieutenant Reginald Skelton, Warrant Officer J. H. Dellbridge, and two petty officers, Edgar Evans and David Allan. It was at this time, while serving aboard the HMS MAJESTIC, that his father died. His oldest sister, Ettie, had married a promising politician, William Ellison-Macartney, only a few months before John's death. Con felt good about this as certainly Ettie would be in a much more stable and secure environment than if she had remained at Outlands with a looming financial crisis. Ettie's husband helped Monsie and Kate study the fashion industry in Paris by advancing them a loan. In addition, he contributed a small sum towards his mother-in-law's support. Meanwhile, Rose took a bold step that same year by taking a nursing job in the Gold Coast, then known as the White Man's Grave.
In the autumn of 1898 Archie came home on leave and Con took him for a cruise off the Irish coast in the HMS MAJESTIC. Con was extremely proud of his brother and said Archie was "absolutely full of life and enjoyment and at the same time so keen on his job. He deserves to be a success. Commissioner, Consul and Governor is the future for him I feel". A little over a month later Archie went to Hythe to play golf, contracted typhoid fever and died within a week. Hannah was devastated and felt fully responsible for his death. Hannah felt that Archie served in West Africa solely to earn extra money which he could send home to his financially strapped mother and sisters. It was there, in West Africa, that Hannah felt Archie's health deteriorated. Con wrote to her, "Don't blame yourself for what happened, dear. Whatever we have cause to bless ourselves for, comes from you. He died like the true-hearted gentleman he was, but to you we owe the first lessons and example that made us gentlemen. This thing is most terrible to us all but is no penalty for any act of yours". Now the whole financial burden of the family fell on Con, other than what little his brother-in-law could afford to give. His brother-in-law was not a rich man and soon they had children. The first of three, Phoebe, was born in 1898.
Rose, still a nurse in the Gold Coast, worked hard to save her own money and in 1899 she married Captain Eric Campbell of the Royal Irish Fusiliers, one of her brother Archie's fellow officers in the Hausa Force.
While serving on the HMS MAJESTIC, the third meeting between Con and Clements Markham took place. While home on leave in June, 1899, "chancing one day to be walking down the Buckingham Palace Road, I espied Sir Clements Markham and accompanied him to his house. That afternoon I learned for the first time that there was such a thing as a prospective Antarctic Expedition; two days later I wrote applying to command it". Scott wrote, in The Voyage of the Discovery, that "I may as well confess that I had no predeliction for polar exploration". His sister Ettie confirmed that "he had no urge towards snow, ice, or that kind of adventure" but had grown restless with the navy and "wanted freedom to develop more widely" as he had "developed great concentration, and all the years of dreaming were working up to a point". After sending his application, Con returned to duty aboard HMS MAJESTIC for the best part of a year.
Sir Clements Markham
In 1894 Markham had invited the Royal Society to join with the Royal Geographic Society, of which he was President, to finance the Antarctic project of his dreams. In hindsight, Markham felt this was a mistake as he was essentially snubbed by the Royal Society as their members felt the RGS was beneath them. Markham was then put off by the First Lord of the Admiralty and worse, by the Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury, who "regretted that he was unable, under existing circumstances, to hold out any hope of HMG embarking upon an expedition of this magnitude". Markham fought on by lobbying his friends, addressing meetings and writing papers, all in vain. He became very concerned as he felt other nations would rush in ahead of them and claim the riches certainly awaiting the first continental explorers.
Markham was furious. In 1895, a wealthy British publisher, George Newnes, put up the money for Carsten Borchgrevink's 1898 SOUTHERN CROSS EXPEDITION. Here was a penniless Norwegian schoolmaster in Australia securing good British money while Markham, with all his influence, was left with empty hands. Finally, in 1897, the Council of the Royal Geographic Society pledged £5000. Markham "kept on writing letters to rich people" and suddenly Mr. Llewellyn Longstaff, a paint manufacturer living in Wimbledon, pledged £25,000. This generous gift caught the attention of the Prince of Wales, who had "declined to connect himself with the expedition until public feeling was manifest", and soon others followed. In July, 1899, the Government announced a grant of £45,000, provided that private sources matched it with an equal amount. At that time Markham had raised £42,000 in pledges so, with a little arm-twisting, he persuaded the RGS to contribute the additional £3,000.
A joint committee of the Royal Society and the Royal Geographic Society was formed to plan the expedition, acquire a ship, and assemble the personnel. This is when the fireworks started. From the very beginning, the two societies disagreed over the aim of the expedition. The RS saw it as an opportunity for extensive scientific research; Markham and the RGS declared it an opportunity for research and advancement in scientific knowledge concerning magnetism, meteorology, biology and geology. Actually, the real aim to Markham was twofold: geographical discovery and opportunities for young naval officers to win distinction in times of peace. The RS felt the expedition leader should be a scientist while Markham felt he "must be a naval officer; he must be in the regular line and not in the surveying branch, and he must be young. These are essentials".
Markham was soon in for a serious struggle as the scientists joined forces with the "hydrographic clique" to offer their own choice for leadership. They didn't have a problem with a naval officer commanding the ship, but they expected him to simply ferry the scientists to the ice, drop them off for their year of work, and come back the following year to pick them up and bring them home. Their choice to fill the position of Director of the Scientific Staff was John Walter Gregory, an eminent geologist. Although his scientific ability was unchallenged, Markham felt he was unsuitable as commander of such an expedition. Actually, he was well qualified as he had not only been on safari in East Africa's Rift Valley when it was wild, unmapped and dangerous, he had scaled Alpine peaks and explored Spitzbergen within the Arctic circle.
The joint committee began searching for an expedition leader the same month that Markham invited Scott to apply for that same position. Gregory was appointed Scientific Director in February 1900, four months before Scott was named the expedition's naval commander. Markham then sent a request to the First Lord of the Admiralty for the release of two young officers, one to lead and the other to be second in command:
Markham offered three names: Commander John de Robeck, aged thirty-eight, Robert F. Scott, aged thirty-two and Charles Royds, aged twenty-four. Although Robeck's request was denied, Scott and Royds were approved for release on April 5, 1900. The joint committee met on April 18, 1900, and Markham informed the committee that the Admiralty had released Scott and Royds. Sir William Wharton, of the joint committee, was extremely angry at Markham for going over the committee's head and assuming authority for naming leadership. Meanwhile, the remaining committee members were furious and now Scott's appointment was questionable. At the next meeting, on May 4, another committee was appointed to settle the issue, six on Markham's side and six on the side of the "hydrographic clique" who would "strive to secure a job for the survey department with obstinate perversity". As luck would have it, at the next committee meeting on May 24, two of the "hydrographic clique" representatives stayed away which placed the majority with Markham. The fight was over as Scott's appointment was confirmed. The next day the committee unanimously approved Scott as the expedition leader.
In December 1900 Professor Gregory arrived in Great Britain from Australia to organize his side of the expedition. When he arrived in London he was shocked to learn of his position on the team since he expected the Antarctic command had been placed under his direction. He expected to lead the expedition on the ice while Scott wintered over in Melbourne. According to Markham, instead of going to work on his scientific program, Gregory set about conspiring with the hydrographers to have Scott's leadership role overturned. Try as he might, Gregory was unsuccessful in his bid to capture the command. In May, 1901, Gregory was sent a telegram with a choice to either serve under Scott's command, or resign. Gregory resigned in disgust. Dr. George Murray, head of the botanical department of the British Museum, was appointed in his place on the condition that he go only as far as Melbourne to give scientific advise and training to the other scientists and then return to his duties at the museum. Gregory went on to occupy the Chair of Geology at Glasgow University for twenty-five years. At the age of sixty-eight, while crossing a river in Peru, he drowned.
South Pole expedition Jan 18 1912 L to R: Edward Wilson,
Edgar Evans, Scott, Lawrence Oates, Henry Bowers
The DISCOVERY Expedition - 1901-04
After his meeting with Markham in June 1899, Scott went back to sea and resumed his duties aboard the HMS MAJESTIC. On June 9, 1900 Scott received his letter of appointment and two days later wrote a formal letter of acceptance to the committee. A follow-up letter arrived on the desk of the two Presidents shortly thereafter in which Scott wrote:
Scott went on leave for a few weeks and then started work by taking a course in magnetism at Deptford. Living with his two sisters and mother over the shop in Chelsea, Scott started his day by jogging across Hyde Park for exercise. He plunged himself into the planning of the expedition. Extraordinary details had to be worked out and even Hugh Robert Mill, distinguished librarian of the Royal Geographic Society (1892-1900), thought that Scott "if anyone, could bring order out of the chaos which had overtaken the plans and preparations".
October 1900 Scott and the Markhams went to Christiania
(Oslo) to consult Nansen. His vessel, the FRAM,
had just returned intact with her crew after drifting
right across the Arctic from the Siberian sea to emerge,
after thirty-five months, north of Spitzbergen, which
proved the Arctic region to be an ocean rather than a
continent. The FRAM was designed like a
saucer so that she would be lifted above the ice floes
rather than crushed by them. It was a revolutionary design
but to reach the Antarctic a ship would have to cross
terrible seas and force her way through hundreds of miles
of ice pack, so they thought a whaling vessel would be
more suitable. (Ironically, Amundsen later borrowed the FRAM
from Nansen and sailed her to Antarctica and right into
the Ross Sea.) Scott and Nansen quickly became fast
friends. Of Nansen, Scott wrote to his mother, "He is
a great man, absolutely straightforward and wholly
practical, so our business flies along apace. I wish to
goodness it would go as well in England". Later,
Nansen wrote of Scott, "I see him before me, his
tight, wiry figure, his intelligent, handsome face, that
earnest, fixed look, and those expressive lips so
seriously determined and yet ready to smile--the features
of a kindly, generous character, with a fine admixture of
earnestness and humour". Nansen told him to get dogs
so he did as Nansen and bought them in Russia. It was
suggested that he buy Greenland dogs which were bigger and
better, but they were hard to get as the many Arctic
expeditions of the previous fifty years had taken a toll
on the supply of these dogs. Twenty dogs and three bitches
were selected in Archangel and sent to the London zoo
where they were kept until they could be shipped to New
On May 29, 1900 Albert Armitage was appointed to serve as second-in-command and navigator. Armitage, aged thirty-six, came from the Merchant Navy where he had been an officer in the P and O fleet. His prior experience came from his participation, as navigator, with the Jackson-Harmsworth Arctic expedition in 1894. The expedition's primary goal was to determine if Franz Josef Land was part of a continent which might extend all the way to the North Pole. Armitage, and seven others, landed at Franz Josef Land and proceeded to spend three years in a hut within the 80°N circle, shooting polar bears and doing scientific research. Franz Josef land was simply a series of scattered islands that had been incorrectly mapped by their discoverer, Julius Payer.
One day Armitage was searching the area with his field glasses when he spotted someone approaching on skis. The man was covered in oil and grease and black from head to foot. It was Nansen! Nansen and one companion had left the FRAM and her crew to make a dash for the North Pole. Unfortunately, they too soon discovered the impossibility of such a trek. They wintered in a tiny hut, living on bear meat in a latitude of 86°13'N, the farthest-north record that stood until Peary reached the Pole in 1909. Nansen and his companion had been dragging sledges and two kayaks, having eaten all the dogs by then, across seven hundred miles of ice, hoping to reach Spitzbergen where whaling vessels occasionally called. Finding Armitage saved their lives as a trip across the open seas to Spitzbergen in kayaks would have resulted in certain death. They returned to civilization in July 1896 in the Windward.
The doctor on the Jackson-Harmsworth expedition had been Reginald Koettlitz, a six foot tall man with drooping mustaches of German heritage. At the age of thirty-nine, Koettlitz received his appointment in 1900. Markham described him as "a very honest food fellow, but exceedingly short of commonsense". However, Koettlitz was in agreement with other notable doctors that scurvy, the plague of all polar expeditions, was caused by a poison resulting from putrefaction of preserved food. The remedy was absolutely pure food.
The assistant surgeon was a young man recently qualified at St. George's Hospital. He had a wonderful talent for drawing and painting in water colors, was a deeply religious man and had a passion for birds. His name was Edward Adrian Wilson, son of a Cheltenham doctor.
A courageous young man, Wilson spent too many chilly nights bird-watching, too many long nights with his studies to make up for time spent in art galleries, too much starving himself so he could give money to beggars or to buy books, and probably too much smoking. He ruined his health and contracted pulmonary tuberculosis. After spending two years in Norway and a Swiss sanitarium, he shook the disease but as soon as he began his duties as junior house surgeon he contracted blood poisoning which resulted in a painful abscess in his armpit. When Scott met him in 1900, his arm was still in a sling. Scott appointed him on the spot but he still had to pass an Admiralty Medical Board. He failed the first time and the second exam, only weeks before sailing, reported "Mr. E. A. Wilson unfit on account of disease in the right lung". Scott told Markham he must have him and Wilson told Scott "I quite realize it will be kill or cure, and have made up my mind that it will be cure". Dr. Wilson's contributions to the expedition were enormous and his incredible gallery of original artwork left for our enjoyment is highly prized and very valuable.
Discovery, by E. A. Wilson
The three naval officers appointed, at about the same time as Scott, were Charles Royds as first lieutenant, Michael Barne as second naval lieutenant and Reginald Skelton as chief engineer. Royd's charge was to deal with the men and internal economy of the ship. He was serving on HMS CRESCENT, which was the flagship on the North America station, at the time of his appointment. Michael Barne had been educated at Stubbington School in preparation for the navy and later served with Scott on HMS MAJESTIC. Reginald Skelton also served with Scott on the HMS MAJESTIC. A Norfolk man, he had joined the navy as an engineer-student in 1887, served in various ships on various stations until Scott finally met him when he was appointed senior engineer on the HMS MAJESTIC.
There were still three scientific positions to be filled and the first of those, as naturalist, was offered to a Scot, W. S. Bruce. Unfortunately he was busy organizing his own Scottish expedition (the SCOTIA in 1902) and he declined. The position was then offered to Thomas Vere Hodgson, aged thirty-seven, director of the marine biological laboratories in Plymouth. ("Young to have a polished bald head, sometimes needing a skull cap, but otherwise apparently strong and healthy" as Markham wrote).
The geologist, Hartley Ferrar, aged twenty-two, had just graduated from Cambridge with an honor's degree. Born in Ireland and raised primarily in South Africa, Markham felt he was capable but "very young, very unfledged, and rather lazy; however, he most likely could be "made into a man in this ship" by "the young lieutenants".
The physicist was Louis Bernacchi, aged twenty-five. His appointment was so late in coming that he had to join the ship in New Zealand. He had spent a very adventurous childhood on a mountainous island that was uninhabited except for his family and their dependents. His father was a silk merchant from Lombardy and had bought the island from the Tasmanian Government for £20,000. Louis studied physics and astronomy at the Melbourne Observatory and was the only member of the expedition to have prior experience in the Antarctic. He had just spent two years with Borchgrevink's SOUTHERN CROSS expedition and had wintered over in the hut at Cape Adare. Markham declared him "Always grown up--never a boy".
Ernest Shackleton was an unusual choice. He was a Merchant Navy officer, like Armitage, but no one had invited him to join. Shackleton went to sea at the age of sixteen as an apprentice in a sailing vessel and his captain considered him "the most pigheaded, obstinate boy I ever came across". He worked his way up the ladder and was soon the third officer in a Union Castle liner. He became engaged to become married and told his future father-in-law "my fortune is all to make but I intend to make it quickly". He was ambitious but had no special interest in the polar regions or scientific research, for that matter. He applied to join the expedition and was promptly turned down. In Shackleton's case, it was a simple "who-you-know" matter--Llewellyn Longstaff, who had been the first to pledge financial backing to the expedition, had a son who was a passenger to Cape Town on the liner in which Shackleton served.
The two men became friends and Shackleton persuaded young Longstaff to set him up for an interview with Armitage. The second-in-command was impressed and recommended him to Scott who, in February 1901, appointed him third lieutenant in charge of holds, stores, provisions and deep sea water analysis. Armitage wrote "His brother officers considered him a very good fellow, always quoting poetry and full of erratic ideas". Shackleton was forced to leave the expedition in 1903 and was replaced by George F. A. Mulock, who remained with the expedition until conclusion. Mulock was only twenty-one but had received excellent instruction as a surveyor in HMS TRITON, and his services provided were invaluable.
This concluded the complement of primary officers and scientists. The navy also released three warrant officers and six petty officers, including Edgar Evans and David Allan from the HMS MAJESTIC.
to R: Lt. Armitage, Lt. Mulock, Lt. Shackleton, Dr.
Wilson, Lt. Skelton, Capt. Scott,
The DISCOVERY was built at Dundee. She was the sixth of her name and the first to be specifically designed and built for scientific work. She had to be a wooden ship to withstand the pressure of the ice since steel would simply buckle. She had to be a sailing ship but with auxiliary engines. The ship was to be exceptionally strong, built from a variety of timbers: English oak for the frames, eleven inches thick; Riga fir for the lining, eleven inches; Honduras mahogany, pitch pine or oak for the four-inch-thick lining, all sheathed with two layers of planking--twenty-six inches of solid wood in all. Her bow was incredibly strong; some of the bolts running through the wood were eight and a half feet long.
The vessel was 172 feet long and 34 feet wide, of 485 tons register and a displacement of 1620 tons. She had to have room to store fuel, oil, 350 tons of coal, fresh water, dog food, medical supplies, scientific instruments, axes and saws, a sectional wooden hut, a piano and a library. Invitations for bids were offered but only two were received. On December 14, 1899 a contract with the Dundee Ship Building Company was signed. The keel was laid on March 16, 1900 and the final cost, including engines, was £49,277. On March 21, 1901 Lady Markham, with a pair of golden scissors, cut the tape and the DISCOVERY was launched.
Food for the 47 men was stored aboard: 150 tons of roast pheasant, 500 of roast turkey, whole roast partridges, jugged hare, duck and green peas, rump steak, wild cherry sauce, celery seed, black currant vinegar, candied orange peel, Stilton and Double Gloucester cheese, 27 gallons of brandy, 27 gallons of whiskey, 60 cases of port, 36 cases of sherry, 28 cases of champagne, lime juice, 1800 pounds of tobacco, pemmican, raisins, chocolate and onion powder. While being loaded, many visitors came to see her. Among them were two former colleagues of Sir James Clark Ross: Sir Erasmus Ommaney (now aged eighty-seven) who had sailed with Ross to the Arctic in 1835, and the famous botanist Sir Joseph Hooker, naturalist in James Clark Ross's EREBUS and TERROR expedition.
It was upon Hooker's advice that Scott found £1300 to purchase a balloon for the voyage. With much fanfare and a Godspeed service on board, the DISCOVERY weighed anchor on July 31, 1901, paused at Spithead to correct her compasses and proceeded to Cowes to receive the royal blessing. The new King and Queen, still uncrowned, came aboard. The Queen's Pekinese fell overboard and one of the sailors had to rescue it. The next day, August 6, the DISCOVERY passed Needles on her way to the unknown. As Markham noted, "Truly, they form the vanguard of England's chivalry. No finer set of men ever left these shores, nor were men ever led by a finer Captain".
Discovery launched March 21, 1901
The DISCOVERY was so heavy in the seas that she could not make more than seven knots. This became an immediate concern as New Zealand was 14,000 miles away. Her first stop was at Madeira Island where they took on more coal and sent back considerable mail. After leaving Madeira, the men were shocked to find that the DISCOVERY was leaking water into the hold and, as a result, had ruined a significant amount of food. What could be dried was saved and the rest was thrown overboard. The ship arrived in Cape Town on October 3, 1901 where nearly everyone proceeded to get drunk. Owing to the slowness of the voyage, Scott decided to cut the Melbourne leg of the journey and sail directly to Lyttleton, New Zealand. As a result of this decision, Dr. Murray was left in Cape Town so that he could return to his post at the British Museum.
The DISCOVERY arrived at Lyttleton at the end of November where the leak at last received attention. Meanwhile, the hospitality extended to the crew was generous, at the very least. Royds wrote that there was "Not a single sober man on board. The men are rushed at as soon as they get ashore and all good Service feeling is lost and I have awful times. Better men never stepped a plank whilst they are at sea, but in harbor they are nothing but brute beasts, and I am ashamed of them, and told them so, and penitent indeed they are, but only until they are drunk again". Scott wrote that the drunken men "disgust me, but I'm going to have it out with them somehow. There are only a few black sheep but they lend colour to the flock". A few were discharged and replaced. The men were nearly all bachelors and the young sailors soon were welcomed right into New Zealand homes. Skelton lived with the Meares family and eventually married the youngest daughter, Sybil, while Ferrar went on to meet his future wife in Christchurch.
While in New Zealand, Scott was to receive some good news from Markham. The men had determined that a relief ship would be needed to resupply the DISCOVERY the following year and, of course, check on their condition. In May 1901 Mr. Llewellyn Longstaff contributed £5000 which Markham used to purchase the MORGENEN. In September she sailed from Norway to England where she was refitted and renamed the MORNING. Lieutenant William Colbeck, RNR, was appointed her commander. Colbeck had Antarctic experience as he had been the magnetic observer on Borchgrevink's SOUTHER CROSS EXPEDITION.
On December 21 the DISCOVERY was escorted by HMS RINGAROOMA and HMS LIZARD out of the harbor as cheering crowds stood on the shore waving farewell.
Soon after crossing the Antarctic Circle they entered the ice pack. Just before midnight on January 8, 1902, Royds sighted land off the port bow. They headed for Cape Adare, where Borchgrevink's party had wintered, and soon landed on the beach. From Cape Adare they sailed nearly due south along the shore of Victoria Land and eventually landed at Cape Crozier on the northeastern tip of Ross Island where Royds and Wilson climbed to 1350 feet and viewed the Great Ice Barrier stretching as far as the eye could see. From Cape Crozier they steamed along the eastern edge of the Barrier and on January 30, after emerging from a whiteout in a snowstorm, the eastern extremity of the Barrier was reached where patches of rock were determined to rise 2000 feet above them. Scott named the new discovery King Edward VII Land. Scott turned about and retraced their route back to McMurdo Sound where they intended to set up winter quarters. Along the way they stopped long enough for Scott and Shackleton to take a trip aloft in the balloon. The balloon developed a leak and was never used again.
After arriving at their winter quarters, the ship was secured by ice-anchors to an ice-foot and a 36-foot square hut was built. Two smaller huts were put up to house the magnetic instruments and the dogs were moved into their kennels.
On February 16, 1902, the sun slipped below the horizon for the first time. It was too late in the season for any long-distance sledge trips so Scott planned a few short practice trips to test the equipment and men. As it turned out, Armitage and Bernacchi were the only men with a little dog-driving experience. It was hilarious to watch them but many hard lessons were learned.
The first trip was a three-day affair to White Island by Wilson, Shackleton and Ferrar. A hard lesson was learned on this first sledge trip as the three nearly became the first casualties of the expedition. Distances in the Antarctic are very deceptive and when plans were made, the three felt the island could easily be reached in a day and a half of sledging. The men had decided to haul the sledge themselves. It was two days before they reached the island whereupon a blizzard set in and frostbite struck their faces and feet. They were so exhausted from the trip that they could hardly pitch their tent and cook their meal. The trip taught them how little they actually knew about the Antarctic.
The next trip was taken by four officers and eight men with four sledges (Leader Royds, Quartley, Vince, Weller, Wild, Barne, Skelton, Evans, Heald, Plumley, Koettlitz and Hare). On the morning of March 4 the men started out for the penguin rookery at Cape Crozier where they were to leave a canister containing directions on how to find the expedition's winter quarters. Scott was to lead the party but had to decline as he had injured his knee in a skiing accident. The dogs did hardly anything but fight, frostbite attacked, the snow was so soft that they sank in well above their ankles and progress was so slow that on the second day they only made five miles. The rations got mixed up in the bag so that a mush of sugar, cheese, butter, soup tablets and chocolate had to be cooked together.
Most of the dogs went lame and the men were exhausted so on the fourth day Royds decided to push ahead with Koettlitz and Skelton and send the rest, under leadership of Barnes, back to the ship. Royds and his men had a terrible struggle and after five days of hard going, they still hadn't found the rookery. Royd's decided to give up the search and return to the ship as temperatures reached -42°F. Royds, Koettlitz and Skelton reached the hut in four days but the other men had not been so lucky. Barnes and the returning party, eight members in all, had arrived to within four miles of the ship at a hill called Castle Rock. When they reached the summit, a blizzard came up and reduced visibility to nearly nil. They pitched their tents and since they couldn't get their cookers to work, frostbite began to set in. An experienced crew would have remained, no matter how uncomfortable, but the novice crew decided to head out into the storm. They soon found themselves on a steep slippery slope where Evans stepped on a patch of bare ice and tumbled out of sight. Barne sat down and slid after him with Quartley following close behind. All three men miraculously came to a halt when a patch of soft snow stopped them at the edge of a precipice with the sea pounding below.
Terra Nova - Antarctic Exploration Vessel
A howling dog flashed past and disappeared over the edge. Frank Wild took charge of leading the remaining five who were left at the head of the slope. He led them off in the direction of the ship but suddenly came upon a cliff with the dark sea below; another step and he would have gone right over the edge. Unfortunately, Vince could get no grip on the slippery ice and, like the dog, he vanished over the edge and into the sea. Wild, Weller, Heald and Plumley were able to fight their way back to the ship. Of the original twelve, only four had returned. A search party was quickly organized and led by Wild who came upon Barne, Evans and Quartley wandering about in a daze at Castle Rock. That evening Royds brought in his party and so it seemed only two men were lost, Vince and Clarence Hare. Hare had last been seen heading back to the abandoned sledges to get his ski boots. Two days later a figure came walking down the hill towards the ship. Incredibly, it was Hare and without even a trace of frostbite. It seems he had fallen down and simply gone to sleep. The snow covered and preserved him as he slept for thirty-six hours!
One more sledging trip was undertaken before winter set in. On Easter Monday, Scott started off with Armitage, Wilson, Ferrar and eight men with three sledges and nine dogs. The objective was to lay depots towards the south for use of the sledging parties in the spring. The dogs refused to work and the temperature dropped to -47°F. When they became exhausted, the men crawled into their sleeping bags. As Wilson put it, "Once in, one can do literally nothing but lie as one falls in the tent. Reindeer skin hairs get in your mouth and nose and you can't lift a hand to get them out". At night the men would sweat which would produce a puddle beneath them and since nothing could be dried, by morning "you put on frozen mitts and frozen boots, stuffed with frozen grass and rime. There's a fascination about it all, but it can't be considered comfort". Two more days of this and Scott decided enough was enough. They packed up their gear and headed back to the ship with everyone learning from this experience. On April 23, 1901 the sun sank below the horizon and would not reappear for more than four months.
A winter routine was established with each man having his own special task. Royds was in charge of the seamen and petty officers, who were employed on routine activities such as "watering ship" every few days by hacking out blocks of ice and taking them on board to be melted in the boiler. Exercise was a problem as blizzards and extreme cold kept everybody inside for days on end. Birthdays were celebrated by special dinners and a religious service was held each Sunday. The South Polar Times appeared, edited by Shackleton, and all were invited to contribute; the first copy was formally presented to Captain Scott. Some men played cards and chess while others read and carried out scientific studies.
Summer sledging began on September 2 when Scott and eight others set out to lay a depot. They were back in three days as the conditions were impossible for both men and dogs. A typical sledging camp can be best described from descriptions written in the diaries of the men who fought the extremes. The first step was to set up a small tent just large enough for three men to lie down in. Snow was piled up around the outside of the tent in order to hold it down in case of a blizzard. The sledge would be unloaded and the cooker set up inside the tent. One had to be careful when grabbing metal as sometimes your skin would stick right to it. Changing from the day outfit into night gear was a laborious task, indeed. First you removed your finneskoes, making sure you left them in the shape of your feet since they froze as hard as bricks in a few minutes and would be impossible to put on in the morning until one could find a way to thaw them out. Then you had to unlace your leggings, which had to be done with bare hands. Needless to say, a pause was necessary periodically to stuff your hands back in your pants to keep them from frostbite.
Three pairs of socks were pulled on which had been kept next to the body all day in order to keep them warm. Then came a long pair of fur boots reaching above the knee, then fur trousers and finally a loose fur blouse. Day-socks were often tucked inside the pant leggings in order to keep them warm for the next morning. Then came supper which consisted of a hoosh made of pemmican, cheese, oatmeal, pea-flour and bacon. At bedtime it was often discussed whether each man should sleep in his own bag or if three should try it together. When it's -40°F, it's certainly much easier to keep warm with three in a bag. Unfortunately, one could not move without disturbing the others, not to mention the fit of experiencing a leg cramp, which they often did. Condensation of breath was another problem. After a few days the inside of the tent became covered with a layer of ice and every time the wind shook it, a shower of ice fell on the men sleeping beneath.
Also, their breath froze in their beards and around the necks of their fur coats which produced a collar as stiff as a board. Shivering fits could last for hours. Next morning, the whole process would be repeated in reverse. Then, Bernacchi wrote twenty-five years later, came a ceremony that no one ever talks about. Bathrooms were ruled out since they took too long to dig and besides, they would just fill up with snow. So, "feeling like a ham in a sack", each man took his turn loosening his clothes, going out into the snow, facing the wind and "watchfully awaiting a temporary lull. It's a ghastly business". No matter how quick you were, your clothes would fill with snow and for the next few hours you would walk around with a wet, cold bottom. Some of the men suffered from dysentery so one can easily imagine how much misery these men had to sustain when blizzards raged for days on end.
On September 17, 1902 Scott went on a preliminary reconnaissance with Barne and Shackleton. On the second night a blizzard came up and nearly took their tent away as they had neglected to pile enough snow around the outside. Before they made it back to the ship all had suffered from frostbite.
Many sledging trips took place over the spring and early summer. On November 2 Scott, Wilson and Shackleton set forth on their southern journey together with a large supporting party under Barne. This was to be the centerpiece of the expedition. Soon after leaving, they were slowed by sticky snow and deep sastrugi. A two-day blizzard kept them in their tent and on the third day Shackleton started to cough. Beyond Minna Bluff, they were into the unknown and "already appeared to be lost on the great open plain". At the 79th parallel, photographs were taken and half of Barne's supporting party turned back. The rest pushed on until November 15 at which time the balance of Barne's party took for home. From the next day, things began to go wrong. The major problem came with the dogs. Instead of bringing dog biscuit to feed them, dried stockfish was brought. The stockfish had become tainted as the DISCOVERY sailed through the tropics and now the dogs wouldn't eat it. From November 16 onwards Scott's diary makes sad reading, with the dogs daily losing heart and condition, and the men's hopes of making a heroic journey slowly fading away.
There was nothing they could do but to press on as far south as they could and when the dogs could do no more hauling, they simply would do the hauling themselves. They would have been better off just killing the dogs and depoting the meat as they sledged south but they went on hoping somehow the dogs would revive. On November 25, the party became the first to cross the 80th parallel, beyond which all maps were blank. "It has always been our ambition to get inside that white space and now we are there so the space can no longer be a blank; this compensates for a lot of trouble". Hunger now became a problem with the men as rations were significantly reduced in order to preserve what little food they had left. "We cannot stop, we cannot go back, and there is no alternative but to harden our hearts and drive", Scott wrote. "Certainly dog driving is the most terrible work one has to face in this sort of business". On December 5 Scott wrote, "The events of the day's march are now becoming so dreary and dispiriting that one longs to forget them when we camp; it is an effort even to record them in a diary. Our utmost efforts could not produce more than three miles for the whole march". Five days later the first dog died.
The other dogs pounced on the fallen animal and ate the corpse. They decided to try and save the best nine dogs by feeding them the flesh of the others. Wilson volunteered for the job of butchering as Scott considered the job "a moral cowardice of which I am heartily ashamed". The victim was led away, with tail wagging, as the others howled in anticipation of the meal to come. Scott wrote, "We can only keep them on the move by constant shouting; this devolves on me. Stripes and Brownie doing absolutely nothing and vomiting. Poor old Grannie pulled till she could pull no longer and lay down in the snow; they put her on a sledge and she soon died. The dogs take away all idea of enjoying the marches".
More problems appeared as Dr. Wilson noticed that Shackleton's gums were swollen, the first sign of scurvy. Portions of seal meat were increased but "hunger is gripping us very tightly". On December 20 Wilson lay awake all night from sheer hunger. On December 26 snow-blindness was bothering Wilson's eyes so badly that he finally told Scott. The next day he hauled his sledge blindfolded as Scott described to him the mountains that were coming into view. Within sight was a huge peak which was larger than any mountain they had seen thus far. They estimated its height at 13,000 feet and named it Mt. Markham. Scott decided to turn for home on December 31, having reached 82°17'S. They had traveled 300 miles farther south than anyone before them and were only 480 statute miles from the Pole.
A dog a day was dropping dead or being slaughtered. Bismark was killed on January 4, Boss dropped behind and was never seen again, and when Kid died, they gave up trying to drive the rest and instead set them free to follow behind. When they were down to one day's ration, Scott pulled out his telescope and spotted the depot left on the outward march. Meanwhile, Shackleton's scurvy symptoms had reappeared; his throat was congested, his breath short, his gums were red and swollen and he started to spit blood. Now there were only two men to pull the sledges as Shackleton could only walk beside them in order to avoid too much exertion.
On January 18, 1903, Shackleton completely gave out which forced them to camp for a number of days. Finally, on January 28 they reached Depot A, only sixty miles from the ship. "At length and at last we have reached the land of plenty". With Shackleton aboard one of the sledges, the team set off the next day and sledged fifteen miles. On February 2, White Island came into view and Scott wrote,"We are as near spent as three persons can be". On February 3, Skelton and Bernacchi came out and greeted them. Soon they were back on the ship with handshakes and congratulations coming from all. They had been gone for ninety-three days and had covered 960 statute miles.
L to R: Shackleton, Scott, Wilson
The MORNING, commanded by William Colbeck, had left Lyttleton on December 6, 1902. On January 24, 1903 she made fast with ice-anchors to the flow off Hut Point. A party from the MORNING delivered bags of mail; Royds alone had sixty-two letters and a cake. But all the talk was whether the eight or nine miles of ice that penned in the DISCOVERY would break up and be carried out to sea in time for her to return with the MORNING to Lyttleton. Colbeck could not risk leaving any later than the end of February and by February 10 it appeared the DISCOVERY would not break free as new ice was forming.
On February 22 they tried blowing holes in the ice with explosives to crack the floes but this didn't work. By the 25th Scott accepted the fact that the MORNING would have to leave without them or risk being trapped itself. Fourteen tons of stores were offloaded onto the ice along with twenty tons of coal. The crew of the MORNING sledged them half way at which point they met the DISCOVERY crew who finished the sledge back to Hut Point.
The MORNING had one other primary purpose to fulfill: to remove any members of the expedition who wished to return to civilization. Eight men applied to return with the MORNING but Scott struggled with how to handle Shackleton. In his diary, Scott wrote that "On board he would have remained a source of anxiety, and would never have been able to do hard out-door work".
Dr. Koettlitz then put his opinion in writing: "Mr. Shackleton's breakdown during the southern sledge journey was undoubtedly, in Dr. Wilson's opinion, due in great part to scurvy taint. I certainly agree with him; he has now practically recovered from it, but referring to your memo: as to the duties of an executive officer, I cannot say that he would be fit to undergo hardships and exposure in this climate". Shackleton went home. There is much controversy over this decision as rumors were in circulation that Scott had other reasons for sending Shackleton home. Armitage disagreed with Scott's decision and bitterness towards Scott grew through the years that followed. Before the departure of the MORNING, Scott went so far as to suggest that Armitage go home to be with his wife and a child that he had never seen. Armitage was offended and insulted and later wrote, "I had been told that Sir Clements Markham intended to make the expedition a great Royal Navy one only, but all went well with me for the first year, when Scott thought that he had enough experience to go on his own--he had not --then he endeavoured to rid himself of all the Merchant Service element. When he, in a most kindly manner, suggested that I should return in the MORNING, I absolutely refused. But he never forgave me, as not only did I destroy the RN idea, but he feared that I would obtain kudos which he desired". It was in fact Armitage who never forgave Scott.
Once it was realized that the MORNING would sail alone, all the men got busy writing letters. On March 1, 1903 there was a farewell party on the MORNING which went on for half the night. The next morning the MORNING set sail. Shackleton shed tears as he watched his friends and shipmates drop out of sight. In his place, Sub-Lieutenant George Mulock, aged twenty-one, transferred to the DISCOVERY.
The winter of 1903 set in earlier and was much colder than the year before. Sledging plans were made for the following season while resentment grew between Scott and Armitage. Royds wanted to go back to Cape Crozier to look for more penguin eggs while Armitage wanted to go south across the Barrier, more or less in Scott's footsteps. Royds wrote, "In my opinion, his sole wish is to beat the Captain's record. This the Captain wouldn't allow, though not for that reason by any means". This put Scott in an awkward position. If he refused, Armitage would charge that Scott wanted to keep the "farthest south" record to himself and not "let a subordinate have a go". This raised the question with Scott: are they there to do scientific and discovery work or are they there to compete for a dash to the South Pole? Scott clearly felt that it was the first-named objective. Scott could find no purpose in allowing Armitage to make a dash to the south as he felt, without dogs, Armitage would be fortunate to get as far as he had and would only risk death for himself and his party. It simply made no sense to Scott. Wilson wrote, "The Captain worked out the possibilities on paper and showed them to me, and I agreed with him in thinking it was far better to apply all our sledging energies to new work, rather than covering old ground with the chance of doing so little at the end of it. The upshot of it all is that Armitage is off the sledging list for this year altogether, though whether this is due to himself or anyone else I cannot say". Armitage's resentment only deepened.
On August 21, 1903 the rim of the sun appeared for the first time over the horizon. The sledging plans were pinned to the notice board with instructions for everyone to return and be back on board DISCOVERY by December 15 so that all hands could work together to free the ship, if possible before the return of the MORNING. There were to be two major ventures, each with a supporting party to lay depots and then return. Scott was to go west up the Ferrar glacier as far as he could get; Barne was to explore an inlet south of McMurdo Strait. The first to leave the ship, on September 7, were Royds, Wilson and four men, bound for Cape Crozier. The journey was rather uneventful as eggs and two live chicks were collected. On the trip back to the ship the temperature fell to -61°F which resulted in significant frostbite among the men. They arrived back at the ship without any further hardship. On September 9 Scott set out with Skelton and four others to lay a depot in preparation for the ascent of the western mountains. Meanwhile, Barne's party was out on the Barrier laying a depot southeast of White Island where the mercury in their thermometer dropped to -67.7°F and then broke. Scott's team left for their main journey on October 12. With four sledges, hauling 200 pounds per man, they reached New Harbor and dragged their loads up Ferrar glacier to a basin at about 4500 feet.
The runners on the sledges became damaged to the point that the whole team had to turn around and travel eighty-seven miles back to the ship for repairs. Five days later they started out again and this time they succeeded in struggling to the top of the mountains where they were caught in a blizzard that nearly buried them alive. It was the most miserable week of his life, Scott wrote. They spent twenty-two out of every twenty-four hours in their sleeping bags for a whole week. They only climbed out long enough to get the cooker going and eat a hot meal. On November 14 they reached the summit at 8900 feet where they found themselves on a flat plain. For the next two weeks they sledged due west. A constant icy wind produced raw and bleeding lips. Lashly wrote, "The wind seems to be very troublesome here". On December 1 the team turned back. Scott wrote, "I don't know where we are but I know we must be a long way to the west. As long as I live, I never want to revisit the summit of Victoria Land". He was disappointed to find it an endless plateau nearly 9000 feet above sea level.
It was now a familiar story: hunger, exhaustion, deep sastrugi, fog, snowdrift, frostbite and snow-blindness. Food ran short and oil was nearly gone. On December 14 Scott faced the fact that they were lost. They had reached the edge of the plateau and were beginning to descend when Lashly slipped and started to slide on his back down the slope. In the process, he took the legs out from under the others and down they went, sledge and all, and when they came to a halt, they were stunned to find themselves at the head of the glacier, in familiar territory, only five or six miles from their depot. Miraculously, there were no broken bones. In Lashly's words, "all of a sudden the Captain and Evans disappeared down a crevasse and carried away one of the sledge runners, leaving me on top. It was now my duty to try and get them up again". Scott and Evans were left dangling with blue walls of ice on either side and nothingness below. Remarkably, Scott was able to swing his feet around and grip the wall with his crampons. Using the last of his strength, Scott was able to climb out to safety while Lashly pulled Evans up, whose only comment was "Well, I'm blowed". That night they reached the depot and eight days later, on Christmas Eve, they reached the ship. In fifty-nine days they had hauled their sledge 725 miles.
Only four men were at the ship to greet them when they arrived as the others were out on the ice, ten miles away, sawing and blasting at the ice in the hope of breaking it up to a point where the DISCOVERY could be freed. Scott was pleased that all the sledging trips had returned safely. On the western mountains Ferrar had discovered a fossil leaf. Wilson was pleased with the results of his "penguin" expedition.
By the end of December, "twenty miles of ice hangs heavy on me". Scott had to start preparations for a third winter at Hut Point. On January 5, 1904 a ship came into view. It was the MORNING and a few minutes later, Wilson exclaimed, "Why, there's another". Wilson wrote, "We were dumbfounded". Wilson and Scott set off for the two ships and were subsequently greeted at the edge of the ice by four men speaking "such perfect Dundee that we could hardly understand a word they said". They were from the second ship, the TERRA NOVA . Soon Wilson and Scott were aboard the MORNING receiving their mail and questioning their old friend William Colbeck as to why two relief ships were at anchor in McMurdo Sound.
TERRA NOVA and MORNING reach the DISCOVERY
the news of Scott's expedition but clearly a second relief expedition would be necessary. Unfortunately, there was little money left so together with Sir William Huggins, Markham appealed to the Government for a grant of £12,000. Markham knew all along that a second relief expedition would be necessary but this was a fact he had concealed from the Government when the original plans were laid. The Government felt misled and promptly took the matter out of the hands of the Societies. If left up to Markham and his group, the Government felt they would find an excuse to leave them on the ice for yet another year. The Government would take no chances as the goal would be to get the men home, safe and sound, even if it meant abandoning the DISCOVERY. On June 20, 1903 the Government agreed to pay for the relief expedition provided the MORNING was handed over "absolutely and at once", free of charge, to the Admiralty. Reluctantly, both societies agreed and the MORNING now had new owners. Sir William Wharton, the hydrographer, was appointed by the Admiralty as chairman to the newly formed Antarctic Relief Committee.When the MORNING returned from the Antarctic in 1903, Markham was delighted with
Now the Government took an odd position. Wharton wrote, "It cannot be considered as certain that the MORNING could get through single-handed, and a second vessel, if a suitable one could be found, would be a great additional safeguard". This decision by the Admiralty came on June 22, 1903 which gave them little more than four months to locate, refit and get her to Lyttleton by mid November. Wharton investigated resources all over Europe in an attempt to find a worthy whaling vessel that could accomplish the goal and it was from St. John's, Newfoundland that the suggestion came to purchase the TERRA NOVA. She was considerably larger than the MORNING at 744 tons and 187 feet in length, and she came at a hefty price. She was purchased on July 6 for £20,000, some £17,200 more than Markham paid for the MORNING and well above her appraised value.
Try as they might, by the time she was ready to sail it was simply too late in the season for the TERRA NOVA to reach New Zealand on her own and still leave enough time to make McMurdo Sound. So, Wharton instructed her to be towed by naval vessels as far as the Persian Gulf from where she would continue on under her own sail and steam. HMS MINERVA towed her from Portsmouth to Gibraltar, HMS VINDICTIVE took her on to Aden and from there HMS FOX towed her to an area 120 miles off the east coast of Socotra where she was left on her own for the final leg. The TERRA NOVA abandoned plans to meet the MORNING in Lyttleton as it was closer to sail directly to Hobart, Tasmania and meet up with her there. The two ships met in Hobart on October 31 and together they departed for McMurdo Sound.
Scott and his fellow officers were not only dismayed, but insulted, by the arrival of the TERRA NOVA along with the MORNING. They had no idea of the problems encountered by Markham in England but one thing they knew for certain: one ship was all that was needed and to send two implied they were in deep trouble and unable to handle things on their own. Scott wrote, "It was not a little trying to be offered relief to an extent which seemed to suggest that we have been reduced to the direst need. No healthy man likes to be thought an invalid". Scott was very concerned that his career would be jeopardized. After all, if found an incompetent commander by his superiors, he might as well forget any promotion upon their return. Ironically, the Government seemed concerned that the expedition might be having too good a time. To them it made no sense to have their officers and men remain indefinitely in the Antarctic on full pay, all the while feasting on seals and provisions sent at great expense in an annual relief ship.
In July 1903 the Government "could not consent to the officers and men of the Royal Navy being employed in any further expedition in the ice, even if sufficient private funds were raised for such a purpose, and that Commander Scott will receive directions to this effect". These directions were given to Colbeck, commander of the TERRA NOVA. To make matters even worse, instructions were given to Colbeck to have the DISCOVERY abandoned if she could not be freed from the ice. Scott was furious. In normal conditions "a sailor would go through much rather than abandon his ship but the ties which bound us to the DISCOVERY were very far beyond the ordinary", Scott wrote. She was dearly loved by her crew; she had been their home for two and a half years. She was considered the finest ship ever built for such a task and to abandon her would be like a broken marriage; it may not have been their fault but the men would have returned "as castaways with the sense of failure dominating the results of our labours".
Twenty miles of ice separated the ship from open water in mid January. Captain Mackay of the TERRA NOVA felt the departure date should not extend beyond February 25, 1904 and Colbeck agreed. Blasting and sawing proved useless so nothing was left but to pray for southeasterly gales. Aboard the DISCOVERY Scott read the Admiralty's instructions to his crew and "There was a stony silence. I have not heard a laugh in the ship since I returned".
The crew began the difficult task of transferring all the scientific collections and equipment to the MORNING and TERRA NOVA. For the next five weeks the ice slowly began to break up. An all-out attack on the ice was put into gear. Explosives, saws and everything imaginable was used in an attempt to free the ship. On January 27 Scott wrote, "I fear, I much fear, things are going badly for us". Royds wrote, "It is perfectly sickening. Why doesn't it break up? What the devil is holding it? The prospects are as cheerless as they could be and I could simply scream at our absolute helplessness". The thermometer fell to -14°F. By February 3 Royds wrote, "things look hopeless...everything is at a standstill". On February 12, Royds wrote, "As I write, the TERRA NOVA is now only about two miles away and the ice continues to break away. The ice was simply rushing out in huge lumps and floes, every blast sending more out, and cracking well behind". Now they worked harder than ever to free the ship as destiny was in the balance.
St. Valentine's Day saw the break they needed as Scott and others raced up to Hut Point and noted that "The ice was breaking-up right across the strait, and with a rapidity which we had not thought possible. I have never witnessed a more impressive sight; the sun was low behind us, the surface of the ice-sheet in front was intensely white, and in contrast the distant sea and its forking leads looked almost black. The wind had fallen to a calm, and not a sound disturbed the stillness about us. Yet in the midst of this peaceful scene was an awful unseen urgency rending that great ice-sheet as though it had been naught but the thinnest paper...now without a word, without an effort on our part, it was all melting now, and we knew that in an hour or two not a vestige of it would be left, and that the open sea would be lapping on the black rocks of Hut Point".
Sir Ernest Shackleton - Antarctic Explorer
The relief ships butted their way, side by side, to the DISCOVERY. The men cheered as the TERRA NOVA broke through the last sheet of ice at 10:30 p.m. and freed the DISCOVERY. A few days were hurriedly spent preparing the ships for departure. In memory to George Vince, a final emotional ceremony was held on the ice and a wooden cross was erected to mark his grave.
Despite a difficult departure to open water, the three ships finally were under way, leaving McMurdo Sound on February 19, 1904. Scott decided to take the DISCOVERY round Cape Adare and explore to the west along the northern coast of Victoria Land. The MORNING was to head straight for the Auckland Islands where the three ships would rendezvous and sail together to Lyttleton. After two years in the ice, the DISCOVERY was far from seaworthy; water poured into the holds, the pumps wouldn't work, gales came up and subsequently everyone got seasick since they'd been landlocked for so long. The rudder was in such poor shape that it was ready to fall off; they had a spare but it was only half as big. The farther west they went, the thicker the ice became. Becoming short of coal, the ship turned north to find open water so they could use the sails. By this time she had lost touch with the TERRA NOVA. She was pushed so far north that she missed land altogether and instead rediscovered the Balleny Islands. On March 14 they reached the Auckland Islands with only 10 tons of coal left aboard. Neither of the other ships were there so while they waited, some of the crew cleaned and painted the ship while others went ashore and shot anything that looked edible, including wild cattle and pigs. The New Zealand Government maintained a depot of emergency supplies for the use of shipwrecked sailors (called by sealers Sarah's Bosom). The other vessels showed up a few days later and after three days sailing, on Good Friday, April 1, 1904, they reached Lyttleton Harbor.
There was a wonderful welcoming party and guests and reporters swarmed the ships. Unfortunately, a remark made by Scott in a crowd was overheard by a reporter who took the comment totally out of context and falsely reported the incident. The men of the DISCOVERY were in total agreement concerning the absurdity of sending the TERRA NOVA to rescue them. The story published by a Reuter's reporter made headlines in England: Commander Scott emphatically protests against the dispatch by the Admiralty of the TERRA NOVA, which he declares to have been a wasteful expense of money. He says that had the proper position of the DISCOVERY been made known, it would have been obvious that she was perfectly safe, and no assistance beyond that which the MORNING could render was requisite. Scott felt his goose was cooked when it came to a promotion. Even Royds commented, "Although it was the truth, he never said it".
Back home, matters weren't much better. Together with his brother-in-law, Scott was still supporting his mother. His two sisters were having a difficult time in the dressmaking industry as his mother wrote, "it is really a bad season, and no money going". Scott felt if he was not promoted, a certain life of poverty would return. Scott wrote to his mother from New Zealand, "If they wait till we get home, then two or three persons will inevitably leap over my head. The question is whether they will pass me over in June. It is such a close thing that it must make a great deal of difference".
Meanwhile, the ship was in need of repairs and yet money was so tight that Scott only paid the regular crewmembers while the officers were left to fend for themselves. Everyone wrote home from Lyttleton. Royds and Wilson wrote to Scott's mother, Hannah, telling her how proud they were of her son's efforts. Wilson wrote, "Without a doubt he has been the making of the Expedition and not one of us will but feel more and more grateful to him for the way he has acted throughout. Notwithstanding that it is a difficult thing, at least I imagine it is, for the Captain to make intimate friends with anyone, I feel as though we were real friends, and I need hardly say I am proud of it".
The DISCOVERY was placed in dry dock for two months to complete repairs. Meanwhile, Scott was wined and dined by dignitaries all over the island. Scott wrote his mother, "We have had a very good time here but it is high time we were off, as all our young men are getting engaged. Skelton is actually caught. I believe the young lady is very nice". The young lady was Sybil. Others were caught as well: Teddy Evans of the MORNING and Ferrar among the officers, Blissett and Weller among the men.
Incredibly, Royds and Scott were taken to court and fined £5 for shooting cattle on Enderby Island, in the Auckland Islands, while waiting for the other ships to rendezvous. Although running wild, they had no idea the cattle were private property.
As for the scientists work, the collections went to the British Museum of Natural History and their statistical material to the Royal Society. Upon arrival in England, all the scientists went their separate ways. Wilson worked on his huge collection at the Natural History Museum. He never went back to medical practice. The Service men had no problems with future employment; they simply slipped back into their regular jobs without any loss of seniority. Royd's figured it would take ten years before a promotion and he was quite accurate as he did not reach rank of Captain until 1914. Skelton made a brilliant career for himself in the Royal Navy. But it was Scott who pondered his fate as the Discovery sailed from Lyttleton on June 8, 1904. On September 10, over three years after leaving, the Discovery reached Spithead.
Sir Clements Markham and his wife were aboard the ship when she steamed into Portsmouth Harbor where "All the men of war, and a line of boats sent from Whale Island, gave hearty cheers". It was here that Scott learned of his appointment as post-Captain which was to take effect the following day. In his welcoming speech at the East India Docks on September 16, Markham declared, "Never has any polar expedition returned with so great a harvest of scientific results". Truly, this had been the most revealing of all Antarctic exploration as meticulous records were kept on the scientific work. But Scott could not accept full credit as he proclaimed that "An Antarctic expedition is not a one-man show, not a two-man show, nor a ten-man show. It means the co-operation of all...There has been nothing but a common desire to work for the common good".
Scott now moved his mother and two sisters to a house they found at 56 Oakley Street, off the Chelsea Embankment. This was to be Scott's home for four years and it still stands today marked by a blue commemorative plaque.
Initially, Scott received royal thanks but his only honor was the appointment to Commander of the Victorian Order, a step up from the Membership which he already had. Even the press hounded the Government as they felt he should have at least received an Order of the Bath, if not a knighthood.
An exhibition at the Bruton Galleries opened on November 4, 1904, which drew an estimated 10,000 visitors. Inside were a collection of Wilson's drawings, Skelton's photographs, a model of the DISCOVERY, sledging equipment and rations. On November 7 Scott gave his first big lecture to 7,000 invited members and guests of the two Societies at Albert Hall. Now the praise was raining down on Scott. He was awarded the Patron's Gold Medal of the RGS, was made a member of the French Legion of Honour and the Russian Geographical Society, and received medals from the Geographical Societies of Philadelphia, Denmark and Sweden. What pleased him most was an honorary degree of Doctor of Science from Cambridge University. When he left London he headed for Edinburgh for more lectures and the Royal Geographical Society's Livingstone Medal.
Shackleton had arranged this and now the two were on excellent terms. Scott wrote his mother, "Everyone is very pleased with Shackleton. He is showing great energy and business capacity". Scott traveled with Shackleton to Glasgow and Dundee for more speaking engagements. Meanwhile, Markham pleaded with the Government to retain the DISCOVERY for future polar work but his remarks fell on deaf ears. She was sold to the highest bidder, the Hudson's Bay Company, for £10,000, about one-fourth her original cost.
Scott continued to travel around the country giving lectures and making preparations to publish a book about the expedition. Scott wrote, "Of all things I dread having to write a narrative and am wholly doubtful of my capacity; in any event if I have to do it, it will take me a long time. I have not...the pen of a ready writer". By the start of 1905 the book was nearly completed. On October 12, 1905, in an edition of 3000 copies, the Voyage of the Discovery was published. An incredible piece of work, the two-volume edition was profusely illustrated with Wilson's drawings and Skelton's photographs. Scott needlessly worried about his abilities for writing as nearly all the critics praised it. The Times Literary Supplement called it "a masterly work". His former crewmembers each received a free copy and they all loved it. Scott insisted on sending Wilson a check for £100 as a fee for reproducing his drawings; Wilson refused but Scott made him take it anyway. (Today, a single drawing can fetch $10,000 or more.) The book sold reasonably well; the first edition sold out immediately so 1500 more copies were printed the following month. But then the sales fell dramatically; when the book went out of print in 1919, total sales amounted to 5,272 copies. (Try to find one!) Scott was a little concerned with Armitage's newly published book, Two Years in the Antarctic which also came out in the autumn of 1905, but he wrote nothing derogatory about his former leader.
Scott was single and thirty-seven years old when, in April 1906, he announced at an RGS meeting that "I am sorry to say that my lines are cast in such places that in all probability I shall not return to those regions". But there was a great deal of emotion as in the same speech he touched on "those fields of snow sparkling in the sun, the pack-ice and bergs and blue sea, and those mountains, those glorious southern mountains, rearing their heads in desolate grandeur. The movements of the pack, those small mysterious movements with the hush sound that comes across the water, and I hear also the swish of the sledge...I cannot explain to you, they will always drag my thought back to those good times when these things were before me". Bernacchi wrote years later, "Those were golden days and their memories are fraught with joy". Michael Barne, with frostbitten fingers, was already trying to raise money to finance his own expedition. Later in April, Scott was saying that "in all probability" he would return to the Antarctic as London society expected him to make a dash for the Pole. In September, Scottish playwright J. M. Barrie wrote to Scott, "I chuckle with joy to hear all the old hankerings are coming back to you. I feel you have to go out again, and I too keep an eye open for the man with the dollars". By early 1907 , Scott had made up his mind to lead a second expedition to the Antarctic.
Antarctica, the South Pole
THE TERRA NOVA EXPEDITION 1910-13
On January 28, 1907 Scott wrote to the secretary of the Royal Geographic Society, Mr. Scott Keltie, requesting financial assistance (£30,000) for a second expedition to Antarctica. He was already in touch with Barne, Mulock and Skelton of the DISCOVERY EXPEDITION. Unfortunately, Ernest Shackleton announced on February 12 that he was pressing forward with his own plans to lead an expedition to the South Pole. He had already raised £30,000 and was soliciting the RGS for help as well. Now the RGS felt caught in the middle which led to a huge rift between Scott and Shackleton that was never to be closed. A Clydebank shipbuilder, William Beardmore, had agreed to guarantee funding for Shackleton with the money to be repaid on Shackleton's return by writing a book, lecturing and selling articles. Shackleton tried to persuade Mulock to join him but Mulock declined because he had already committed to Scott. This caught Shackleton by surprise as he had no idea that Scott was planning on a return expedition. Dr. Wilson was also approached by Shackleton but likewise declined as he was in the middle of an exhaustive project concerning his bird research in Antarctica; it just wouldn't be appropriate to abandon his studies at this time.
The day after Wilson received the request from Shackleton, a letter showed up from Scott in which he was curious if Shackleton had mentioned his own desire to return to McMurdo Sound. This was the first Wilson had heard of Scotts' plans. Scott was clearly upset for essentially one basic reason: the view that an explorer may have an exclusive right to his own territory was an unspoken given. As the Frenchman Jean Charcot said, "There can be no doubt that the best way to the Pole is by way of the Great Ice Barrier, but this we regard as belonging to the English explorers, and I do not propose to trespass on other people's grounds". Shackleton had announced that he intended to make his winter quarters at McMurdo Sound, an announcement that should have been respectfully cleared through Scott first. The courtesy was never extended to his former commander.
Nevertheless, Scott made an effort to not let his personal feelings stand in his way as he wrote Scott Keltie on March 1 and told him, "..it is our duty to work together as Englishmen, I mean you, I and Shackleton and all concerned. The first thing is to defeat the foreigners. Whether Shackleton goes or I go or we both go, we must let Arctowski clearly understand that the Ross Sea area is England's and we will not appreciate designs on it". On the other hand, Dr. Wilson wrote Shackleton, "I think that if you go to McMurdo Sound, and even reach the Pole, the gilt will be off the gingerbread, because of the insinuation which will almost certainly appear in the minds of a good many, that you forestalled Scott who had a prior claim on the use of that base".
Shackleton and Scott met in London on May 17, 1907 where Shackleton put in writing to leave "McMurdo Sound base to you, and land either at the place known as the Barrier Inlet or at King Edward VII Land, whichever is the most suitable. If I land at either of those places I will not work to the westward of the 170 meridian W and shall not make any sledge journey going West...I think this outlines my plan, which I shall rigidly adhere to, and I hope this letter meets you on the points that you desire". Scott replied, "Your letter is a very clear statement of the arrangement to which we came. If as you say you will rigidly adhere to it, I do not think our plans will clash". Shackleton bought a small, dilapidated sealer, the NIMROD, and attracted two former mates from the DISCOVERY expedition to join him, Frank Wild and Ernest Joyce. The NIMROD sailed from the East India docks on July 30, 1907, taking a motor car, the first to be landed in Antarctica.
Scott went back to sea as Captain of HMS ALBERMARLE, a battleship with a complement of over 700 men. His appointment ended on August 25, 1907 and Scott went on half-pay until his next appointment, on January 1, 1908, to HMS Essex. It was between appointments that Scott met, for the second time, a twenty-eight-year-old sculptor, Kathleen Bruce. The two were invited to tea at Mabel Beardsley's where Kathleen was struck by Scott's "rare smile". Scott was hooked and for the next ten days he either visited with her or wrote love notes: "Uncontrollable footsteps carried me along the embankment to find no light--yet I knew you were there dear heart--I saw the open window and, in fancy, a sweetly tangled head of hair upon the pillow within--dear head--it seems so long till Friday--give me all the time you can". By the end of November the two were engaged to be married.
Although Con felt he owed his mother his allegiance, Hannah wrote that "You must never let me be a hindrance to your making a home and a life of your own. You have carried the burden of the family since 1894. It is time now for you to think of yourself and your future. God bless and keep you".
Meanwhile, Shackleton and the crew of the NIMROD could not penetrate the ice pack to reach King Edward VII Land so they had to turn back and land the explorer's party at McMurdo Sound. This broke his promise to Scott and as the NIMROD steamed westwards, Shackleton wrote to his wife, "I have been through a sort of hell since the 23rd (January 1908) and I cannot even now realise that I am on the way back to McMurdo Sound and that all idea of wintering on the Barrier at King Edward VII Land is at an end--that I have had to break my word to Scott and go back to the old base, and that all my plans and ideas have now to be changed--changed by the overwhelming forces of Nature...I never knew what it was to make such a decision as the one I was forced to make last night". Scott felt that this was Shackleton's intention from the very beginning and thus felt further betrayed.
Con and Kathleen's courtship continued into 1908. Although he never mentioned any attempt at the Pole, Kathleen wrote Con in July 1908 asking him to "Write and tell me that you shall go to the Pole. Oh dear me what's the use of having energy and enterprise if a little thing like that can't be done. It's got to be done, so hurry up and don't leave a stone unturned--and love me more and more, because I need it". Finally, on September 2, 1908, Con and Kathleen were married in the Chapel Royal at Hampton Court.
A sailor's wife in those days was one to be pitied as husbands were generally at sea for perhaps ninety percent of their married life. The wife was left to maintain the home and care for the children while the husband was away at sea, presumably having a gay old time with his fellow sailors and a wife in every port. This was a popular theory but in this case, the opposite were true. Kathleen was living it up in London with all her friends while making a name for herself as a sculptor. Meanwhile, Con was living a lonely life as captain aboard the HMS BULWARK. But Kathleen had her moments too, as she wrote Con in November 1908, telling him she was as "desperately, deeply, violently and wholly in love" as he was and was missing him terribly. "There's something so terribly real about you. I used to mend your trouser placquette hole and there's something grotesquely real about that. I never used to know anything about loneliness. Sir have you robbed me of my self-sufficiency?" Early in 1909 good news finally arrived. Kathleen wrote, "My love my dear love my very dear love throw up your cap and shout and sing triumphantly for it seems we are in a fair way to achieve my aim". Kathleen was pregnant. Also, an opportunity arose for Con to spend nine months living at home with his wife as an ordinary human. A position as Naval Assistant to Admiral Sir Francis Bridgeman was offered and accepted at the end of March 1909.
Also in March 1909 the news came that Shackleton had not reached the Pole. Despite all the hardships, Shackleton, Adams, Marshall and Wild had crossed the Barrier, struggled up the glacier which Shackleton named after his patron, Mr. Beardmore, and planted the flag at 88°23'S, some 97 miles from the Pole. Meanwhile, Professor Edgeworth David, Scott's surgeon A. F. Mackay and Douglas Mawson pushed on beyond the point reached by Scott on his western journey in 1903 and planted a flag on the South Magnetic Pole.
On July 1, 1909, Scott wrote Shackleton, "If as I understand it does not cut across any plans of your own, I propose to organise the expedition to the Ross Sea which as you know I have had so long in preparation so as to start next year. I am sure you will wish me success; but of course I should be glad to have your assurance that I am not disconcerting any plans of your own". Shackleton replied that his plans "will not interfere with any plans of mine". On September 13, 1909, Scott announced his plans: "The main object of the expedition is to reach the South Pole and secure for the British Empire the honour of that achievement". That very same day a son, Peter, was born to Kathleen and Con. James Berrie, a personal friend and the Scots playwright who wrote "Peter Pan", and Clements Markham were chosen as the godfathers.
On April 6, 1909, Robert Edwin Peary, a fifty-six-year-old commander on leave from the US Navy, together with Matthew Henson, his Negro servant and companion, reached the North Pole on their sixth attempt. The North was won so all thoughts of polar exploration now turned towards the South. Several nations now commenced with preparations for the trek: Peary announced in New York his plans to form an Antarctic expedition with the goal of the Pole attained by embarking from a region within the Weddell Sea; Germany's Lieutenant Wilhelm Filchner announced similar plans as the Americans but with the added goal of being the first to march right across the Pole in a trans-Antarctic expedition ending in McMurdo Sound; Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Charcot was exploring regions in Graham Land; the Japanese, led by Lieutenant Nobu Shirase, planned an expedition to the very region which Scott hoped to explore in King Edward VII Land.
Scott went to work to raise the needed £40,000 for the expedition. Unfortunately, donations were slow in coming. Sir Edgar Speyer, the City financier, became Honorary Treasurer of the British Antarctic Expedition's fund and donated £1,000. Touring the countryside giving lectures to unenthusiastic audiences, Scott spent many cold nights in cheap hotel rooms. "Between £20 and £30 from Wolverhampton...£40 today...nothing from Wales...this place won't do, I'm wasting my time to some extent...I don't think there is a great deal of money in the neighbourhood...things have been so-so here...I spoke not well but the room was beastly and attendance small...another very poor day yesterday, nearly everyone out", Scott wrote. But, £2,000 came from Manchester, £1,387 from Cardiff and £750 from Bristol.
In November 1909 Shackleton got the knighthood Scott had missed and his book, The Heart of the Antarctic, was published.
In January 1910 the Government announced a grant of £20,000 and now the expedition could buy a ship. Scott wanted the DISCOVERY but the Hudson's Bay Company refused to sell her. After considering several others, Scott purchased the TERRA NOVA for a down payment of £5,000 with a promise of an additional £7,500 when the funds could be raised.
Experiments with motor sledges were now under way. Michael Barne, still dealing with frostbitten hands from the DISCOVERY EXPEDITION, had designed a new sledge. (Barne declined the opportunity to join Scott and was married before the departure of the TERRA NOVA). Early in March 1910, Scott went to Norway with Kathleen, Reginald Skelton, two mechanics and a "motor expert", Bernard Day, to test the experimental sledges. While in Christiania, Nansen introduced an expert skier, Tryggve Gran, to them. Gran was planning his own assault on the Pole but dropped his plans and joined Scott. Lieutenant Teddy Evans, who had talked his way into his appointment in the MORNING, had started to raise funds for yet another expedition to the Pole. When he heard of Scott's plans, he agreed to abandon his personal desires and join forces with Scott provided he was offered the position of second-in-command. Although Skelton was deeply hurt, Scott could not refuse the offer as the funds raised by Evans would be a real windfall. Evans was given the charge of getting the ship prepared for the South. Upon her return from the DISCOVERY expedition, the TERRA NOVA had been used for whaling and sealing and was now in a filthy, stinking condition.
Money may have been slow in coming but volunteers were coming in from all over the world. More than 8,000 men volunteered to join the expedition. Five members of the DISCOVERY crew were accepted: Petty Officers Thomas Williamson, Edgar Evans and Thomas Crean, also Chief Stoker William Lashly and William Heald. The scientists were carefully picked and from the onset, Edward Wilson was Scott's first choice. Three geologists were chosen: two Australians, Frank Debenham and T. Griffith Taylor, plus Raymond Priestley who had been with Shackleton's NIMROD EXPEDITION. Canadian Charles Wright was selected as the physicist while George Simpson came from the Indian meteorological service. The one physicist who didn't go was the young lecturer from the University of Adelaide, Douglas Mawson, who was making his own plans, like many others, to explore an unmapped stretch of coast and country west of Victoria Land. In a letter to Griffith Taylor on February 15, 1910, Mawson wrote, "I am almost getting up an expedition of my own...Scott will not do certain work that ought to be done...I quite agree that to do much would be to detract from his chances of the Pole and because of that I am not pressing the matter any further. Certainly I think he is missing the main possibilities of scientific work in the Antarctic by travelling over Shackleton's old route. However he must beat the Yankees...". The biologists were Edward Nelson and D. G. Lillie.
While Wilson was selecting the scientists, Scott and Evans worked on forming the rest of the crew. From the Admiralty came naval lieutenants: Harry Pennell, navigator and magnetic observer, Henry Rennick in charge of the hydrographical surveys and deep-sea soundings and Victor Campbell. Two Lieutenant-Surgeons, G. Murray Levick and Edward Atkinson, were appointed along with twenty-six petty officers and seamen. Various other volunteers were taken for a number of reasons. Herbert Ponting was a skilled, experienced photographer whose pictures taken during the Russo-Japanese War and been published in leading magazines in Great Britain and the United States. Apsley Cherry-Garrard, aged twenty-four and a relative of Reginald Smith's, contributed £1,000 to be appointed assistant biologist. Captain L. E. G. Oates of the 6th Inniskilling Dragoons, who walked with a slight limp due to a wound received in the Boer War, also contributed a similar amount and was put in charge of the ponies as this was his area of expertise. Like Oates, Henry Bowers, of the Royal Indian Marine, came from India to join the expedition.
Bowers, a WORCESTER cadet, was a short, stocky man with red hair and a large nose which quickly earned him the nickname Birdie. Another former cadet from the WORCESTER, Wilfrid Bruce, joined the expedition. This was Kathleen's thirty-six-year-old brother. Bruce was instructed to travel to Vladivostok and meet up with Cecil Meares who had just selected twenty Siberian-bred ponies and thirty-four sledge-dogs for the expedition. The animals were escorted to Lyttleton via Japan and Australia. Losing only one pony and one dog on the long journey, the animals were inoculated ten times and put ashore on Quail Island.
Perhaps Scott still retained fresh memories of the disastrous results with the dogs during his southern journey on the DISCOVERY EXPEDITION, but whatever the reasons, his transportation choices undoubtedly led to the expedition's final results. The motor sledges were obviously experimental, since none had ever been used before, while the ponies would prove an even weaker link in the disastrous chain of events. It is true that Shackleton took nineteen ponies with him on his NIMROD EXPEDITION, but only four survived to set out on the journey towards the Pole. Of these, one had to be shot at the second depot; another gave up at the third; and by the time they reached the foot of the Beardmore Glacier only one was left. Soon afterwards, this pony fell into a crevasse, leaving Wild, who had been leading him, suspended by one elbow over the dark chasm. Scott planned to use the sledges to motor across the Barrier as far as possible, establishing depots along the way. The ponies would then take over and haul the sledges to the foot of the glacier. Scott felt that the animals would not be able to make it up the glacier but would be a good source of fresh meat upon their return from the Pole.
In retrospect, it is felt that Scott would have had an easy go of it to the Pole had he adequately trained men and dogs to make the assault. Nevertheless, Scott wrote, "In my mind no journey ever made with dogs can approach the height of that fine conception which is realised when a party of men go forth to face hardships, dangers, and difficulties with their own unaided efforts, and by days and weeks of hard physical labour succeed in solving some problem of the great unknown. Surely in this case the conquest is more nobly and splendidly won". On June 1, 1910, the TERRA NOVA was towed away from the South-West India Docks as cheering crowds stood by. Ponting, who was standing beside Scott, wondered what their homecoming would be like and Scott answered, "I don't care much for this sort of thing (as the crowds cheered and steamers whistled). All I want is to finish the work we began in the DISCOVERY. Then I'll get back to my job in the navy".
Kathleen and Con aboard TERRA NOVA
Scott did not sail with the TERRA NOVA as he remained behind in an attempt to raise additional funding. Scott, with his wife, left the ship at Greenhithe where he was presented two flags by Queen Alexandra, now the Queen Mother: one to be planted at the farthest south attained while the second to be hoisted at the same spot and then brought back. Scott stayed another six weeks before leaving for South Africa to join the ship. Kathleen made the difficult decision of leaving young Peter behind and sailing on with Con as far as Sydney. They sailed in HMS SAXON on July 16, 1910, and were seen off by Wilhelm Filchner and Ernest Shackleton. Also aboard were Edward Wilson's wife, Ory, and Teddy Evans wife, Hilda. They reached Cape Town on August 2, 13 days before the TERRA NOVA. Like the DISCOVERY, the TERRA NOVA was a leaker. The leak wasn't too bad but, nevertheless, everyone took a turn at the hand pumps commencing at 6:00 a.m. and resuming every four hours around the clock.
When the ship reached the tropics, the heat was incredible. After leaving Madeira, the winds became so light that the engines were required. The men sweated and toiled as they fed enormous amounts of coal into the three furnaces. On July 25 the TERRA NOVA anchored off uninhabited South Trinidad Island, some 700 miles east of Brazil. (The DISCOVERY had also visited the island in 1901, when a new petrel, named after Wilson, Estrelata wilsoni, was found). Wilson and Cherry-Garrard, armed with guns, went after the birds; Lillie looked for plants and rocks; Nelson and Simpson searched for fish in pools.
Five new species of spiders were collected and a new moth. After leaving the island, the ship went "booming along" before strong westerlies. They arrived in Simon's Bay, Cape Town on August 15, 1910. The crew was soon reunited with Scott and for the next few days each member was left to himself to do as he pleased.
Although not happy about it, Wilson was instructed to take an ocean liner to Melbourne as Scott took over command of the TERRA NOVA. Mrs. Scott, Mrs. Evans, Wilson and his wife all sailed together aboard RMS CORINTHIC and upon arrival in Melbourne, Wilson consulted with Professor Edgeworth David and selected a third geologist. Meanwhile, Scott was enjoying himself aboard the TERRA NOVA . The object of taking command at Cape Town was to acquaint himself with the crew and select the members of the two shore parties; one party would remain at the expedition's base of operations, in or near McMurdo Sound, carrying out scientific research while the second party made the final assault on the Pole. A splinter group of six men, called the Eastern Party, was to be dispatched in unexplored King Edward VII Land, four hundred miles to the east. This group would be led by Victor Campbell. The naval lieutenants, Pennell and Rennick, would remain in charge of the ship. Scott wrote to his mother, "My companions are delightful".
After six weeks at sea, the TERRA NOVA reached Melbourne on October 12, 1910. Wilson loaded the wives and a bag of mail in a motor launch and set out to find the ship in pitch darkness. Kathleen wrote in her dairy, as they approached the ship "I heard my good man's voice and was sure there was no danger, so insisted, getting more and more unpopular...We at last got close to the beautiful TERRA NOVA with our beautiful husbands on board. They came and looked down into our faces with lanterns".
In Scott's mail was a telegram sent from Madeira on September 9, 1910...a telegram from Amundsen saying "Beg leave inform you proceeding Antarctic. Amundsen". Scott was clearly troubled by this announcement. Scott and much of the public resented the fact that Amundsen's intentions appeared secretive in nature. He had raised money for the publicly proclaimed intention of going to the Arctic, managed to borrow the FRAM from Nansen without payment and then turned about face for the South Pole. When the news arrived that Peary and Hansen had reached the North Pole, Amundsen felt left with little choice: "It was therefore with a clear conscience that I decided to postpone my original plan for a year or two and try to solve the last great problem...the South Pole". Amundsen was heavily in debt and knew if there was any chance to repay his debtors, a spectacular triumph would be needed. The Norwegians left Christiania on August 9, 1910, with ninety-seven Greenland dogs, a hut in sections and provisions for two years.
When they arrived in Madeira, only two members of the crew, his brother Leon and the ship's commander, Lieutenant Nilsen, knew of his intentions; the rest of the crew assumed they would be on their way to Buenos Aires and then northwards to the Arctic. At Madeira he informed the crew of his real plans and all consented to go for the South. Amundsen chose to sail directly for the Ross Sea, a non-stop voyage, so the telegram for Scott was left with instructions for it not to be sent until after the FRAM had sailed. Once Amundsen left Madeira, he vanished into the unknown. Clements Markham put his spin on the situation when he stated that "She (the FRAM) has no more sailing qualities than a haystack. In any case, Scott will be on the ground and settled long before Amundsen turns up, if he ever does". On October 15, 1910, Markham reported to the RGS secretary that Amundsen had "quietly got a wintering hut made on board and 100 dogs and a supply of tents and sledges. His secret design must have been nearly a year old. They believe his mention of Punta Aranas and Buenos Aires is merely a blind, and that he is going to McMurdo Sound to try to cut out Scott...If I were Scott I would not let them land, but he is always too good-natured".
Scott, still chasing money, went on to New Zealand, via Sydney, by way of ocean liner. Meanwhile, Teddy Evans resumed command of the ship as they left the harbor under full sail in full view of the Admiral's 13,000 ton flagship and the rest of the squadron. The Scotts arrived in New Zealand on October 27 and were greeted by Clements Markham's sister, Lady Bowen, and her husband, Sir Charles. They stayed in Lyttleton with the expedition's agent, Joseph J. Kinsey. Kathleen wrote, "There we were for a happy fortnight working and climbing with bare toes and my hair down and the sun and my Con and all the Expedition going well. It was good and by night we slept in the garden and the gods be blest".
The TERRA NOVA arrived and was promptly put into dry dock in order to fix her leak. The ship had her stores rearranged and repacked with everything getting banded: red for the Main Party and green for the Eastern one. The scientific instruments were checked and the hut was erected on land by the men who would have the job of setting it up at winter quarters. The three motor sledges, still in their crates, were lashed to the deck. Oates argued for forty-five tons of food for the ponies. (The ponies and dogs were waiting with Bruce and Meares on Quail Island in Lyttleton Bay). Stalls were built for nineteen ponies while the thirty-nine dogs were chained to bolts and stanchions on the ice-house and the main hatch, between the motor sledges. Scott managed to get 430 tons of coal into the holds and 30 more tons stacked in sacks on the upper deck. Oates managed to get an extra two tons of fodder on board without Scott's knowledge. In the ice-house were three tons of ice, 162 carcasses of mutton, three of beef, and cases of sweetbreads and kidneys. Scientific instruments were everywhere: sledges, an acetylene plant, the wooden huts, clothing, five ton of dog food and hundreds of other items had to be squeezed in...there was hardly room for the men. And, of course, there were other minor details.
It seems Petty Officer Evans got drunk again, as in Cardiff, and disgraced the ship; and then the day before the final departure from Port Chalmers, the other Evans came to Scott with details of trouble between the wives. Tempers had flared on the departure of their husbands and Oates reported that "Mrs. Scott and Mrs. Evans had a magnificent battle, they tell me it was a draw after 15 rounds. Mrs. Wilson flung herself into the fight after the 10th round and there was more blood and hair flying about the hotel than you see in a Chicago slaughter-house in a month, the husbands got a bit of the backwash and there is a certain amount of coolness which I hope they won't bring into the hut with them, however it won't hurt me even if they do". Once at sea, all was well and later Kathleen stated, "If ever Con has another expedition, the wives must be chosen more carefully than the men---better still, have none".
On November 26 the TERRA NOVA sailed for Dunedin and Port Chalmers. The Scotts did not sail with her but came back in the harbor tug and spent their last two days together walking over hills to Sumner. The next day, in the afternoon, it was time to say farewell. There were massive cheering crowds on the shore as a tug took off the three wives. Wilson wrote of his wife, Ory, "There on the bridge I saw her disappear out of sight waving happily, a goodbye that will be with me till the day I see her again in this world or the next---I think it will be in this world and some time in 1912". Kathleen wrote, "I didn't say goodbye to my man because I didn't want anyone to see him sad. On the bridge of the tug Mrs. Evans looked ghastly white and said she wanted to have hysterics but instead we took photos of the departing ship. Mrs. Wilson was plucky and good...I mustered them all for tea in the stern and we all chatted gaily except Mrs. Wilson who sat looking somewhat sphinx-like". The ship sailed at 4:30 p.m. on November 29, 1910. For most of the men it would be a year and a half before they would see any green living thing; five others would never return.
Other than a little seasickness, the first few days at sea went quite well. However, on December 2 they were hit by a huge storm that dislodged the deck cargo creating dangerous conditions topside. The seas crashed over the decks, tossing the dogs from one side to the other, as water poured into the engine room and cabins below. The ponies suffered the most and when all was said and done, one dog had been lost overboard while two ponies had been killed. Meanwhile, the seawater mixed with coal dust thereby creating a sludge that choked the bilge pumps. Water quickly rose to the furnaces and, for the first time, the men were in fear of losing their ship. The men finally resorted to using buckets to bale the water out by hand. By morning the seas had begun to settle down. By 10:00 p.m. that evening Williams and Davies had succeeded in cutting a hole through the engine room bulkhead which allowed Teddy Evans a big enough hole to crawl through so he could reach the pumps. Standing up to his neck in water, Teddy was able to clear the valves and "To the joy of all a good stream of water came from the pump for the first time".
Afterwards, Raymond Priestly wrote that the ship at her worst would have given Dante a good idea for another Circle of Hell "though he would have been at a loss to account for such a cheerful and ribald lot of Souls". Bowers wrote, "Under its worst conditions this earth is a good place to live in". Wilson wrote, "I must say I enjoyed it all from the beginning to end". I think this was because he was one of the few who did not suffer from seasickness! About ten tons of coal were lost, sixty-five gallons of petrol and a case of biologists' spirits.
On December 8 the first berg was spotted and on the following day, in latitude 65°8'S, the TERRA NOVA entered the pack. For the next three weeks the ship had to be shoved and bashed through a massive amount of ice, consuming a great deal of precious coal in the process. On December 30 Scott wrote, "We are out of the pack at length and at last one breathes again". On New Year's Day, 1911, Mount Erebus came into view. They attempted to land at Cape Crozier, where they had planned on setting up winter quarters, but the seas were too rough. So, McMurdo Sound was their next option. Rounding the northwest tip of Ross Island, they proceeded down the coast past Cape Royds, Inaccessible Island, and Cape Barne. When they arrived at the Skuary, soon renamed Cape Evans, Scott, Evans and Wilson made the decision to set up winter quarters. About a mile and a half of ice lay between shore and open sea. On January 4 the TERRA NOVA anchored to the ice and the unloading began. The ponies were especially happy to finally be on firm ground as they rolled and kicked in the snow.
The first two motor sledges were unloaded and immediately put to work hauling stores to the new camp. As the third, and largest, sledge was unloaded and hauled by twenty men towards the shore, it decided to break through the ice and sink in sixty fathoms of seawater. Scott blamed himself for the tragedy as he was in a hurry to get the ship unloaded so she could embark with Campbell and his crew for King Edward VII Land.
The hut went up rapidly: it measured fifty feet by twenty-five and was nine feet to the eaves. It was insulated with quilted seaweed, lined with matchboard, lit by acetylene gas, provided with a stove and cooking range and divided into two by a partition made of crates (including the wine) to separate the men's from the officers' quarters. Within two weeks the hut was built and occupied.
Before starting on the depot-laying journey across the Barrier and towards the Pole, Scott and Meares traveled the fifteen miles south to revisit Hut Point. Scott was furious to find a window had been left open. Snow had drifted in and frozen into a solid block of ice. Scott knew that no one was to blame other than Shackleton since he was the last to use the hut when he had based at Cape Evans three years earlier. Scott wrote, "It is difficult to conceive the absolutely selfish frame of mind than can perpetrate a deed like this...finding that such a simple duty had been neglected by one's immediate predecessors disgusted me horribly".
On January 24 the depot-laying party got away, with all the dogs and eight ponies, across the Glacier Tongue and on to the Barrier. Two days later, Scott and a team of dogs went back to the ship across the ice to say good-bye to Lieutenant Pennell and his crew. Scott figured that by the time they returned from the depot-laying, the TERRA NOVA would have already deposited Campbell and his five companions--Raymond Priestly, surgeon Levick, Browning, Dickason and Abbott--somewhere in King Edward VII Land, and would be on her return voyage to New Zealand. Also on board were Griffith Taylor, Frank Debenham, Charles Wright and Edgar Evans who were to do scientific work in the mountains of Victoria Land.
Standing: Debenham and Wright - Sitting: Taylor and Priestley
Two days later the depot-laying party was on the Barrier, establishing a camp far enough from its edge to be out of any danger of the ice breaking free. They called this Safety Camp and it was from here that they made their final plans for the push to the Pole. The first doubts about the ponies came as they sank into the soft snow and floundered. One of them actually went lame and although a complete set of snow-shoes for the ponies had been unloaded from the ship, all but one set were left back at Cape Evans. The lone set of snow-shoes were attached to "Weary Willie" with astounding results so Meares and Wilson headed back to base camp for the others. When they arrived at the Glacier Tongue, they found that all the sea ice had broken away leaving no path to reach the camp at Cape Evans.
Meares and Wilson returned to Safety Camp "shoeless" and on February 2 the party set forth with five weeks' provisions, leaving behind two very disappointed men: Atkinson with a sore heel and Crean to look after him. They marched in an easterly direction until they arrived at Corner Camp. At Corner Camp their first blizzard arrived which kept them confined for three days. From Corner Camp they marched due south for ten nights to make their final depot. The ponies were becoming visibly weak, three in particular. At Camp 11 Scott decided to send them back with their escorts and push on with the remaining five. For the next couple of days conditions worsened with heavy snow and soon "Weary Willy", led by Gran, was overtaken by Meares and Wilson with the dogs. The wolf in the dogs broke loose as they pounced on the poor pony.
The men were able to get them off but not before the pony had been badly bitten. Next day the ponies were able to proceed but at Camp 15, on February 17, Scott decided to turn back before reaching, as he had hoped, the 80th parallel. At 79°28½'S, 142 miles from Hut Point, they built a cairn and deposited more than one ton of stores; this was One Ton Depot. By this time Oates' nose had become frostbitten as well as Bowers' ears and, besides, Scott wanted to get back to Cape Evans to learn of any news left by Pennell concerning Campbell's party at King Edward VII Land. On the fourth day of the return trip, twelve miles from Safety Camp, Wilson saw Meares' and Scott's dogs disappear one after the other "exactly like rats running down a hole--only I saw no hole. They simply went into the white surface and disappeared". The sledge hung precariously at the edge of the crevasse while eight dogs were left dangling in the abyss, howling and struggling.
Two of the dogs had slipped their harness and fell forty feet to a ledge where they curled up and went to sleep. Wilson and Cherry-Garrard came to the rescue and hauled the eight dogs out with great difficulty. There still remained the issue of the two dogs left on the ledge, some sixty-five feet below. Wilson protested but Scott insisted on being lowered into the chasm to retrieve the dogs. As soon as the dogs were hauled out, they engaged in a fight with Wilson's team. Scott was left dangling in the abyss as the others rushed off to separate the dogs. Finally, Scott was hauled in and the next day they reached Safety Camp where they found Teddy Evans, Ford and Keohane waiting for them. The three reported to Scott that only one of the three ponies had survived the return trip as the others had died from exhaustion. They also had no news on Campbell, so after a meal and a few hours of sleep they went on to Hut Point pulling the sledges themselves.
When they reached the hut, they found it to be empty. A note was pinned to the wall which said, "Mail for Captain Scott is in bag inside south door" but there was no bag and no mail. So, back they went to Safety Camp where they found Atkinson and Crean with the mail. "Every incident of the day pales before the startling contents of the mail bag", Scott wrote. In the bag was a letter from Victor Campbell. The TERRA NOVA had sailed along the Barrier as far as King Edward VII Land but found it impossible to go ashore. They turned back and on February 3 sailed into the Bay of Whales only to find a ship, anchored to the ice, which they recognized as the FRAM. Campbell, Levick and Pennell had breakfast in the FRAM and Amundsen, with two companions, had lunch in the TERRA NOVA. Amundsen offered to give Scott some dogs and Pennell offered to take the FRAM'S mail to New Zealand. Amundsen reported that his attempt for the Pole would not take place until the following Antarctic summer.
As it turns out, the Bay of Whales was the proper place for a starting point on an attempt for the Pole. Scott was afraid that too much was at risk to set up base camp at this location: it was afloat and large chunks of it broke off each year going out to sea. However, Amundsen knew that the bay, charted by Ross in 1841, was still in the same position when Borchgrevink landed there in 1900 and when Shackleton sailed by in 1908 and named it the Bay of Whales. Besides, the Bay was sixty miles closer to the Pole than McMurdo Sound. Raymond Priestly was impressed when Amundsen drove his dogs up next to the TERRA NOVA for lunch. When he arrived next to the ship, he gave a whistle and the whole team stopped as one dog. He turned the sledge upside down and left the dogs in their tracks, to remain there, without fighting, until he had finished his lunch.
Dogs, plenty of dogs, well-trained dogs was impressive. As much attention was given the dogs as the men on the FRAM: a false deck had been built above the real one to protect the dogs in stormy seas, an awning had been erected to protect them from the sun, and their diet was a carefully balanced mixture of dried fish, pemmican and lard. When he read the news, Scott wrote, "There is no doubt that Amundsen's plan is a very serious menace to ours". Although Scott took the news in good stride, many of the others were very angry and wanted to march right into the Bay of Whales and have it out, once and for all, with Amundsen. Cherry-Garrard wrote, "We had just paid the first installment of making a path to the Pole; and we felt, however unreasonably, that we had earned the first right of way".
Scott now had to get everyone back to Hut Point. On the last day of February the move began with Meares and Wilson leading off with the dog teams. Wilson went round by Cape Armitage and arrived safely at Hut Point. The others followed with the ponies and had to follow the sea-ice route. They had barely started when "Weary Willie" collapsed and died.
While Scott, Oates and Gran stayed by Weary Willie's deathbed, Bowers, Crean and Cherry-Garrard went on ahead with the four surviving ponies and the loaded sledges. They dropped down off the Barrier onto sea-ice and started to probe their way round Cape Armitage. When the ponies could go no farther, they camped and turned in but were aroused two hours later by a strange noise. When they stepped outside, it was discovered that the ice had broke up and their camp was now adrift on a floe. One of the ponies had disappeared and survival seemed unlikely. The only hope was to take the three remaining ponies and four sledges and "hop" from floe to floe as they made their way back to the Barrier. Six hours passed before they made it to the edge of the Barrier. Using sledges as ladders, Scott and the others were able to climb on to the Barrier but the ponies drifted away on their floe as killer whales stood by. Scott replied, "Of course we shall have a run for our money next season, but so far as the Pole is concerned I have little hope".
Next morning, Bowers spotted the ponies' floe resting against a spur jutting out from the Barrier. Bowers and Oates were able to make their way out across the floes and reach the ponies. Unfortunately, one pony immediately fell in so Oates had to kill him with his pick-axe. Meanwhile, the other two ponies were brought to the brink of safety. Both were hauled out but one could not get to his feet. The pony would slip and fall back into the water with each attempt and when the killer whales showed up, Bowers shouted, "I can't leave him alive to be eaten by those whales". Bowers grabbed the axe and killed him. When all was said and done, only one pony had survived. They had started their depot-laying journey with eight ponies; they bot back to Hut Point with two.
Now they waited at Hut Point for the sea-ice to freeze over again so they could continue on to Cape Evans. On March 15 they were joined by the geologists, Griffith Taylor, Frank Debenham and Charles Wright along with Petty Officer Edgar Evans who had been exploring the western mountains in Victoria Land. On April 11 Scott and half the party were able to get away for Cape Evans, with the rest to follow. When they reached the base they found the hut in good shape but one of the ponies and another dog had died. That left ten ponies out of the original nineteen. On April 23 the sun vanished beneath the horizon for the last time until August. Scott wrote that the sledging season had come to an end. That is, except for one trip led by Wilson to Cape Crozier in search of birds. The adventure is best told in a book written by Cherry-Garrard, The Worst Journey in the World.
A great deal of scientific work was accomplished during the winter at Cape Evans. Scott's diary is full of scientific data. He was constantly thinking and observing as he went on solitary walks, recording all things seen. He had a passion for science and was sensitive to nature and beauty alike. His spiritual growth was boundless..."There is infinite suggestion in this phenomenon (the aurora)--mysterious--no reality. It is the language of mystic signs and of portents--the inspiration of the gods--wholly spiritual--divine signalling". Needless to say, hours and hours of preparation were put into the plans for the push to the Pole. Always his thoughts came back to transport. During the winter three more dogs died.
Six men missing from the hut at Cape Evans were Victor Cambell and his five companions who, having failed to get ashore on King Edward VII Land, had been taken by the TERRA NOVA to Cape Adare, where they established their base near Borchgrevink's old camp. The "Eastern Party" had thus become the "Northern Party". It had been arranged that the TERRA NOVA would pick up Campbell's party from Cape Adare on her return from New Zealand in early 1912. Geology, with twenty-five-year-old Raymond Priestley in charge, was to be the main pre-occupation, and surgeon Murray Levick was to study birds and marine life. So, the winter at Cape Evans passed. Scott celebrated his forty-third birthday with his companions. Scott wrote, "They are boys, all of them, but such excellent good-natured ones; there has been no sign of sharpness or anger, no jarring note, in all these wordy contests; all end with a laugh". A DISCOVERY EXPEDITION custom Scott revived was the issue of the South Polar Times.
The sun returned on Victor Campbell's thirty-sixth birthday, August 23. Scott fixed the date of departure for the Pole as November 1, 1911, at the latest. They couldn't start earlier because the ponies would not survive the cold so, to fill in the time, Scott, Bowers, Simpson and Edgar Evans left on September 15 on "a remarkably pleasant and instructive little spring journey" to the western mountains. It was probably on this trip that Scott picked his companions for the push to the Pole. Wilson was a given; Edgar "Taff" Evans, too--the sterling sledger, strong as an ox; Bowers, the only man Scott could rely on to grasp details and remember them--"The greatest source of pleasure to me is to realise that I have such men as Bowers and P.O. Evans for the Southern journey".
At the end of October, 1911, Scott called his men together to give them some bad news. The expedition was under heavy financial strain and had literally ran out of funding. Those men capable of forgoing their salary for the coming year were asked to do so. Some had already decided to return with the TERRA NOVA when she called in the summer: Griffith Taylor was expected back at his university, Ponting and Day's work was finished while Clissold and Forde were in poor health. Most of the others volunteered to stay another winter even if they received no pay. Before the departure of the Southern Party, Scott, like all the others, wrote to his family and friends. He acknowledged in his letter to Kathleen, "I don't know what to think of Amundsen's chances. If he gets to the Pole it must be before we do, as he is bound to travel fast with dogs, and pretty certain to start early.
On this account I decided at a very early date to act exactly as I should have done had he not existed. Any attempt to race must have wrecked my plan, besides which it doesn't appear the sort of thing one is out for...You can rely on my not saying or doing anything foolish, only I'm afraid you must be prepared for finding our venture much belittled. After all, it is the work that counts, not the applause that follows". Scott wrote on the last page of the diary that he left behind, "The future is in the lap of the gods. I can think of nothing left undone to deserve success". On November 1, 1911, the time came for the start of his last journey.
The first to leave Cape Evans were Day, Lashly, Teddy Evans and Hooper with the motor sledges while the others with ponies and dogs followed behind. One machine gave out just beyond Safety Camp while the other had to be abandoned a mile beyond Corner Camp. On November 1, ten men, each with a pony and sledge, left Cape Evans in detachments: Scott, Wilson, Bowers, Oates, Atkinson, Cherry-Garrard, Wright, Edgar Evans, Crean and Keohane. Meares and Dimitri followed with the dogs. Everyone else remained at Cape Evans to carry out further exploration and research in Victoria Land. Scott assumed the TERRA NOVA would return in January bringing Victor Campbell and his Northern Party back to Cape Evans whereby Campbell would take command.
The distance from Hut Point to the Pole and back was 1766 statute miles. Every step of the way had to be marched on foot, with or without skis. They traveled by night for the benefit of the ponies. Temperatures never rose above zero Farenheit. Fighting constant snowfalls, the team reached One Ton Camp on the fifteenth day. There was a constant worry that the ponies would give out and upon reaching Camp 20, on November 24, the first pony was killed. Four camps later, on December 1, the second pony was shot.
Depots were made at regular intervals of roughly seventy miles, each containing food and fuel for a week for the returning parties. Scott wrote on December 3, "Our luck in weather is preposterous...the conditions simply horrible". On December 5 they awoke to a blizzard. The temperature normally rose just before and during a blizzard but in this case the temperature rose exceptionally high resulting in melting snow making everything wet.
Scott wrote, "One cannot see the next tent, let alone the land. What on earth does such weather mean at this time of the year? It is more than our share of ill-fortune, but the luck may turn yet". The wet, warm blizzard kept them confined to their tents for the next four days. (This event quite likely led to their deaths. If they had not lost these four days they would have reached One Ton Depot ahead of the blizzard that kept them pinned at their last camp.) On the third day of the blizzard Scott wrote, "Resignation to misfortune is the only attitude, but not one easy to adopt...It is very evil to lie here in a wet sleeping-bag and think of the pity of it, whilst things go steadily from bad to worse".
On the fifth day the blizzard let up enough for the men to break camp. They had to beat the ponies as they floundered up to their bellies and, Wilson wrote, "constantly collapsed and lay down and sank down, and eventually we could only get them on five or six yards at a time--they were clean done". They struggled for eleven hours after which time the party camped. Five ponies were shot, skinned and made into a depot. Wilson wrote, "Thank God the horses are now all done for and we begin the heavier work ourselves". Two days later found them on the foot of the Beardmore Glacier. After setting up the Lower Glacier depot, Meares and Dimitri started back with the dogs and mail. Day and Hooper had already turned back so a party of twelve, divided into groups, set out to man-haul the sledges up the glacier towards the summit 10,000 feet above. (Amundsen was already there). The glacier is over 100 miles long and in some places 40 miles wide.
The struggle began with each man pulling over 200 pounds through the soft snow which they sank into nearly up to their knees. Some suffered from snow-blindness as others stumbled into crevasses, sledges and all. On December 13, the day before Amundsen reached the Pole, in nine hours the party had advanced less than four miles. Scott wrote, "I had pinned my faith on getting better conditions as we rose, but it looks as though matters are getting worse instead of better". Bowers wrote that he had "never pulled so hard, or so nearly crushed my inside into my backbone by the everlasting jerking with all my strength on the canvas band round my unfortunate tummy".
The situation gradually improved as they scaled the glacier and on December 20 Scott named the first returning party: Atkinson, Wright, Cherry-Garrard and Keohane. Scott had dreaded this moment as all had pulled to the limit of their strength, but now four good men had to be deprived of their just reward: the Pole. The next day the men established Upper Glacier depot at 7,000 feet. After completion, the first supporting party left for home and reached Hut Point thirty-five days later on January 26, 1912. The two remaining groups went on with two sledges and twelve weeks' supply of oil and fuel, pulling 190 pounds per man. In Scott's group were Oates, Wilson and Taff Evans while Bowers had Teddy Evans, Lashly and Crean. They went on climbing for another sixteen days to reach their highest altitude at 10,570 feet. On Christmas day, with a strong wind in their faces, they advanced seventeen-and-a-half miles.
The Christmas meal consisted of pony hoosh, ground biscuit, a chocolate hoosh made from cocoa, sugar, biscuit and raisins thickened with arrowroot, two-and-a-half square inches each of plum-duff, a pannikin of cocoa, four caramels each and four pieces of crystallized ginger. From here they made remarkable marches of fourteen to seventeen miles a day. On January 3 Scott chose four men to continue with him to the Pole and instructed the other three to return. Bowers was brought into his tent and Teddy Evans, Lashly and Crean would become the second returning support party. Teddy Evans was very bitter about Scott's decision but the rest of the crew knew it was a proper choice; aboard ship he was of great help but on land he was a failure. Wilson wrote, "I never thought for a moment he would be in the final party". Bowers wrote, "Poor Teddy--I am sure it was for his wife's sake he wanted to go. He gave me a little silk flag she had given him to fly on the Pole". Lashly and Crean were both in tears as the three men turned back at 87°32'S, at an altitude of 10,280 feet and 169 miles from the Pole.
There was no sign of the Norwegians as Scott and the others followed Shackleton's route. On January 6 they crossed the line of latitude where Shackleton turned back and were farther south, as they believed, than any man had been before. For the next few days the going was difficult. On January 9 they stayed in their bags all day as a blizzard roared outside. On January 10 they resumed their march, made a depot of one weeks' provisions and reckoned they were only ninety-seven miles from the Pole. On this day came the first hint that everyone was growing tired. Scott wrote, "I never had such pulling; all the time the sledge rasps and creaks. We have covered six miles, but at fearful cost to ourselves...Another hard grind in the afternoon and five miles added. About seventy-four miles from the Pole--can we keep this up for seven days? It takes it out of us like anything. None of us ever had such hard work before...Our chance still holds good if we can put the work in, but it's a terribly trying time". A day later "It is an effort to keep up the double figures, but if we can do another four marches we ought to get through. It is going to be a close thing". Two days later, despite higher temperatures Scott wrote, "It is most unaccountable why we should suddenly feel the cold in this manner".
On January 13 they crossed the 89th parallel. Next day they started to descend and made their final depot of four days' food. Scott wrote, "We ought to do it now". This was the last cheerful entry in Scott's diary. The next day, January 16, they made a good march and figured they would reach the Pole the following day. In the afternoon, Bowers spotted something ahead which looked like a cairn. Half and hour later they realized the black speck to be a flag tied to part of a sledge. Nearby was the remains of a camp along with tracks made by sledges and dogs...many dogs. Scott wrote, "This told us the whole story. The Norwegians have forestalled us and are first at the Pole." Scott felt he had let his loyal companions down and had utterly failed them. Scott wrote, "Many thoughts come and much discussion have we had...All the day dreams must go; it will be a wearisome return".
On January 17, a force five gale struck them along with temperatures falling to fifty-four degrees of frost. Oates, Evans and Bowers all suffered from severe frostbite as they made an early lunch-camp. Scott wrote, "Great God! This is an awful place and terrible enough for us to have laboured to it without the reward of priority. Well, it is something to have got here, and the wind may be our friend tomorrow". Wilson wrote that it was "a tiring day" and despite Amundsen having "beaten us in so far as he has made a race of it...We have done what we came for all the same and as our programme was made out".
The next morning they found the Norwegian's camp about two miles away. Inside the tent was a sheet of paper with five names on it: Roald Amundsen, Olav Olavson Bjaaland, Hilmer Hanssen, Sverre H. Hassel and Oscar Wisting. The date of the note was December 14, 1911. They had taken twenty-one days less than Scott's party to reach the Pole.
They had arrived at the Pole with their dogs via a glacier they had named the Axel Heiberg. On the day Scott and his companions arrived at the Pole, Amundsen and his men were only one week out from their winter quarters in the Bay of Whales. The five men reached the FRAM in the Bay of Whales on January 25, 1912. In the Norwegian tent Amundsen left a note for Scott and a letter to be delivered to King Haakon. Bowers took photographs, and then they marched seven miles south-south-east to a spot which put them within half a mile of the Pole, altitude 9,500 feet. Here they built a cairn, planted "our poor slighted Union Jacks" and the rest of the flags, photographed themselves and headed for home. Scott wrote, "Well we have turned our back now on the goal of our ambition with sore feelings and must face 800 miles of solid dragging--and goodbye to the daydreams!"
At the Pole, L to R: Wilson, Evans, Scott, Oates and Bowers
The return trip started out fairly well but the temperatures were obviously becoming colder. Scott wrote, "There is no doubt that Evans is a good deal run down". On January 23 they had to camp early because of frostbite to Evans' nose. Oates' feet were always cold and when a blizzard held them up seven miles short of the next food depot, Scott wrote, "I don't like the look of it. Is the weather breaking up? If so God help us, with the tremendous summit journey and scant food". Despite the delays and difficult travel, the marches were good. They were becoming very tired as evidenced by the many injuries due to falls: Wilson strained a leg tendon and had to limp painfully beside the sledge for several days; Scott fell and bruised his shoulder and Evans hand lost two fingernails. On February 7 they reached the head of the Beardmore Glacier and the next day they started their decent.
On February 11, in difficult conditions, they took a wrong turn and ended up in the worse "ice mess" they had ever been in. For the next two days they stumbled around in a maze of ridges, growing more weak and despondent. They knew the next depot could not be far away but they simply couldn't find it. Down to their last meal, the men accidentally came upon the depot which was shrouded in fog. Scott wrote, "The relief was inexpressible. There is no getting away from the fact that we are not pulling strong". At this point it was determined to reduce rations since they weren't making the distances between depots in a timely manner. This only weakened them further as Evans began losing heart and was "nearly broken down in brain, we think". On February 16 Evans collapsed and camp had to be made. Next day he felt better and said he could go on. He would march for a while and then stop to adjust his boots while the others went on. When he failed to catch up, the others would go back only to find him kneeling in the snow with a wild look in his eyes.
His companions sledged him to the next camp and soon after midnight he died. After a few hours rest, they were on their way again. At the foot of the glacier they reached the pony meat and enjoyed their first full meal since leaving the plateau. "New life seems to come with greater food almost immediately". From here the travelling became difficult as the snow became very soft. "Pray God we get better travelling as we are not so fit as we were and the season advances apace". They left the foot of the glacier on February 19. On the 27th, Wilson's diary stopped. Bowers had given up on his on January 25.
They arrived at the Southern Barrier depot six days later. Here they discovered a shortage of oil, presumably due to evaporation from the poorly sealed one-gallon tins. Another seventy miles brought them to the Middle Barrier depot where they once again discovered a short supply of oil. By this time Oates could no longer conceal his pain: his toes were black and gangrene was setting in. Temperatures were down to -40°F and the surface was so bad that even a strong wind in the sail would not move the sledge. Scott wrote, "God help us, we can't keep up this pulling, that is certain. Among ourselves we are unendingly cheerful, but what each man feels in his heart I can only guess".
On March 7 Scott mentions the dogs for the first time: "We hope against hope that the dogs have been to Mt. Hooper (the next depot), then we might pull through. If there is a shortage of oil again we can have little hope...I should like to keep the track to the end". On the same day, the dogs, driven by Cherry-Garrard and Dimitri, were waiting at One Ton Depot, some seventy-two miles from Mt. Hooper. On March 9 Scott and his men reached Mt. Hooper. "Cold comfort. Shortage on our allowance all round...The dogs which would have been our salvation have evidently failed". An unusual north-west wind kept them in camp the next day as it was simply too cold to face. With half-cooked food, all of them getting frostbitten, all knowing they were doomed, they discussed the situation. Months before, at Cape Evans, they had discussed what to do if one of them became so injured as to not be able to continue on. Wilson carried lethal doses of morphine and opium in his medicine chest so one could eliminate himself if the situation called for it. At this point Scott ordered Wilson to hand over the drugs so Wilson handed each man thirty opium tablets. They were never used as suicide was against the code.
Things got worse as the north wind continued to blow in their faces. Wilson was now becoming weak so Scott and Bowers had to make camp by themselves. The temperature fell to -43°F. On March 16 or 17 (they lost track of the days) Oates said he couldn't go on and wanted to be left in his bag. The others refused and he struggled on. There was a blizzard blowing in the morning when Oates said "I am just going outside and may be some time" and he stumbled out of the tent. Scott wrote, "We knew that poor Oates was walking to his death, but though we tried to dissuade him, we knew it was the act of a brave man and an English gentleman". Oates was never to be seen again. On March 20 they awoke to a raging blizzard. Scott's right foot became a problem and he knew "these are the steps of my downfall". Amputation was a certainty "but will the trouble spread? That is the serious question".
They were only eleven miles from One Ton Depot but the blizzard stopped them from continuing on. They were out of oil and had only two days' rations. "Have decided it shall be natural--we shall march for the depot and die in our tracks", wrote Scott. They did not march again and on March 29 Scott made his last entry: "It seems a pity, but I do not think that I can write more. R. Scott. For God's sake look after our people". On another page he scribbled, "Send this diary to my widow". Remarkably, Scott was able to find the strength, despite being half starved and three quarters frozen, to write twelve complete, legible letters. He wrote to Kathleen and Hannah, to his brother-in-law, to his naval comrades Sir Francis Bridgeman and Sir George Egerton, to the Reginald Smiths and to Sir James Barrie. To Barrie he wrote, "I may not have proved a great explorer but we have done the greatest march ever made and come very near to great success". He wrote to Oates' and Bowers' mothers and to Wilson's wife. Wilson wrote to his parents, "looking forward to the day when we shall all meet together in the hereafter. I have had a very happy life and I look forward to a very happy life hereafter when we shall all be together again. God knows I have no fear of meeting Him--for He will be merciful to all of us. My poor Ory may or may not have long to wait".
Letters were written to J. J. Kinsey in New Zealand and Sir Edgar Speyer expressing regrets for leaving the expedition in such a state of affairs, "But we have been to the Pole and we shall die like gentlemen". In Scott's letter to Kathleen, he wrote of hopes for his son, "I had looked forward to helping you to bring him up, but it is a satisfaction to know that he will be safe with you...Make the boy interested in natural history if you can. It is better than games. They encourage it in some schools. I know you will keep him in the open air. Try to make him believe in a God, it is comforting...and guard him against indolence. Make him a strenuous man. I had to force myself into being strenuous, as you know--had always an inclination to be idle". As for Kathleen, "I want you to take the whole thing very sensibly, as I am sure you will...You know I cherish no sentimental rubbish about remarriage.
When the right man comes to help you in life you ought to be your happy self again--I wasn't a very good husband but I hope I shall be a good memory...The inevitable must be faced, you urged me to be the leader of this party, and I know you felt it would be dangerous. I have taken my place throughout, haven't I?...What lots and lots I could tell you of this journey. How much better it has been than lounging about in too great comfort at home. What tales you would have had for the boy, but oh, what a price to pay.
Dear, you will be good to the old Mother. I haven't had time to write to Sir Clements. Tell him I thought much of him, and never regretted his putting me in charge of the DISCOVERY". Finally, there was a Message to the Public. He explained how the expedition's disaster was not due to poor planning, but by bad weather and bad luck. It was no one's fault:
"but for my own sake I do not regret this journey, which has shown that Englishmen can endure hardships, help one another, and meet death with as great a fortitude as ever in the past. We took risks, we knew we took them; things have come out against us, and therefore we have no cause for complaint, but bow to the will of providence, determined still to do our best to the last...Had we lived, I should have had a tale to tell of the hardihood, endurance, and courage of my companions which would have stirred the heart of every Englishman. These rough notes and our dead bodies must tell the tale, but surely, surely, a great rich country like ours will see that those who are dependent on us are properly provided for".
Even at the very end Scott still felt comfortable with his decisions and felt a need to defend that position when he wrote, "Every detail of our food supplies, clothing and depots...worked out to perfection...We have missed getting through by a narrow margin which was justifiably within the risk of such a journey". Death, to Scott, was not a failure since they had reached their goal---the Pole. He hoped he had set an example of courage and loyalty to all those left behind when he wrote to Sir Francis Bridgeman, "After all we are setting a good example to our countrymen, if not by getting into a tight place, by facing it like men when we were there".
The blizzard raged on for another ten days before Scott's last entry on March 29, 1912. It was not until November 12 that Surgeon Atkinson, leader of the search party, found their tent all but buried in snow. When "Silas" Wright pulled the flap aside, they saw the three men in their sleeping bags. On the left was Wilson, his hands crossed on his chest; on the right, Bowers, wrapped in his bag. It appeared that both had died peacefully in their sleep. But Scott was lying half out of his bag with one arm stretched towards Wilson. Tryggve Gran said, "It was a horrid sight. It was clear he had had a very hard last minutes. His skin was yellow, frostbites all over". Gran envied them. "They died having done something great--how hard must not death be having done nothing". Petty Officer Williamson said, "His face was very pinched and his hands, I should say, had been terribly frostbitten...Never again in my life do I want to behold the sight we have just seen". At the age of forty-three, Scott had been the last to die.
Atkinson took charge of the diaries and letters and read aloud the account of Oates' death and the Message to the Public. He then read the Burial Service and a chapter from Corinthians after which all the men gathered and sang Scott's favorite hymn, "Onward Christian Soldiers". The tent was then collapsed over the bodies and a snow cairn was built over all. Placed on top was a pair of crossed skis. Here they would lie until one day, drifting with the Barrier, they would find their final resting place in the sea. Atkinson led the search party back along the path believed taken by Scott in hopes of finding Oates. They found his sleeping bag but nothing more. Near the spot where they assumed he had fallen, the men erected a cross with the following inscription: "Hereabouts died a very gallant gentleman, Captain L. E. G. Oates of the Inniskilling Dragoons. In March 1912, returning from the Pole, he walked willingly to his death in a blizzard to try to save his comrades, beset by hardship".
Scott, Simpson and Bowers leaving camp September 1911
Expedition at the South Pole, January 18, 1912 L to R: Edward Wilson, Edgar Evans, Scott, Lawrence Oates, Henry Bowers
The expedition was expected back in New Zealand early in April 1913. In January, Kathleen set out to meet him by way of the United States. After a few days of camping with cowboys in New Mexico, she set out from San Francisco aboard RMS AORANGI. On February 19, between Tahiti and Raratonga, she was called to the captain's cabin. With shaking hands, he showed her a message received by wireless: "Captain Scott and six others perished in a blizzard after reaching the South Pole January 18th". She went into mental shock as she went about her business the rest of the day: playing cards, taking a Spanish lesson and discussing American politics. Her brother Wilfrid met her in Wellington along with Ory Wilson, Atkinson and Teddy Evans who had taken the TERRA NOVA down to McMurdo Sound to embark Scott's party and the rest of the expedition. Atkinson handed Kathleen her husband's diary and last letter.
It was now Kathleen's turn to be courageous in the face of tremendous debt still owed from the expedition. Ironically, with the death of the leader came funding that retired the £30,000 debt. Before long, £75,509 had come in which paid all outstanding debt and allowed grants to all dependants. There was still £12,000 remaining and this was handed over to Cambridge University which used the gift towards the foundation of the Scott Polar Research Institute. Officially constituted in 1926, Frank Debenham became the first director. The honor that would have been bestowed upon Scott was awarded to his wife, Kathleen; she became Lady Scott. Kathleen continued to carve statues of many leaders of her day: kings, prime ministers, writers and adventurers, including Nansen, who wanted her to marry him. She rejected the proposal but kept him as a friend. Kathleen went on to marry Edward Hilton Young, a politician who later became Lord Kennet of the Dene. She died of leukemia in 1947.
Other than Kathleen and the family, no one grieved more than Sir Clements Markham. He was now eighty-three and plagued by gout. The electric light bulb was widely used but Markam still preferred to read by candlelight. One night, while reading in bed, the bedclothes caught fire. The butler rushed in and extinguished the flames but the shock was too great and the old man died, unconscious, in January 1916.
AFTER HIS DEATH - THE LEGEND
News of Amundsen's success reached Europe before Scott's fate was known. When the tragic story was published, the "tale of hardihood, endurance and courage" did indeed stir the hearts of Englishmen. The powerful and eloquent diary became a bestseller, and Scott was rapidly elevated to legendary status, becoming the Royal Navy's greatest hero since Horatio Nelson, and Britain's first great hero of the twentieth century. Captain Oates, who had sacrificed himself, ranked second only to Scott in heroic status.
The example of Scott, Oates and the others facing death with a stiff upper lip after their superhuman efforts were overwhelmed by the forces of nature, was uncritically celebrated in books and films; and a statue of Scott by his widow, Kathleen, a sculptor, was erected in London, at Waterloo Place.
Kathleen was granted the rank (but not the style) of a widow of a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath, but (despite popular belief) this did not amount to Scott being posthumously knighted, and she was not entitled to be called Lady Scott.
Scott's brother-in-law, the Reverend Lloyd Harvey Bruce, was the rector of the tiny Warwickshire village of Binton, and he commissioned a large stained glass memorial window, showing scenes from Scott's expedition, which still exists today. A large and recently refurbished memorial to Scott can be found in Plymouth, England overlooking the harbour. It is engraved with words from Scott's journal. Other notable memorials can be found in Christchurch and Port Chalmers, New Zealand, the Terra Nova's last two ports of call before sailing for Antarctica. Scott's very name was extended to encompass the continent where he died, and even today he is still referred to as "Scott of the Antarctic". When a permanent research base was established at the Pole, it was named Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.
The dramatic end of the Polar journey compensated the British nation for losing the prestige of discovering the South Pole to a Norwegian. A nation which celebrates its heroic failures as much as its triumphs, Britain gained a tragic legend which was cherished even more highly than the simple geographic achievement alone would have been, and it was undiminished by the far greater tragedy of World War One which soon followed.
The legend and its central hero went more or less unchallenged for sixty years, until revisionist historians began to deconstruct it. In particular, a ruthless comparative biography ("Scott and Amundsen/The Last Place on Earth", 1979) by Roland Huntford, set out to destroy the legend and to criticise Scott's motivation, leadership, judgement and competence. Coming at a time when the values Scott exemplified were no longer so widely respected (doing things the hard way; keeping a stiff upper lip to the end; flag-planting colonial style exploration; naming discovered territory after the King; uncomplicated patriotism and "muscular Christianity"), the revisionist view gained ground and began to replace the original legend as the most widely accepted view, prompting modern Polar explorer Ranulph Fiennes to write a defence of Scott's reputation ("Captain Scott", 2003).
Huntford was by no means the first to compare Scott's and Amundsen's expeditions. Apsley Cherry-Garrard's "The Worst Journey in the World", published in 1922 (and widely viewed as one of the greatest travel books ever written), made the direct comparison and gave Amundsen due credit for getting the major decisions right - taking a small team, his mastery of dog driving, and the skiing expertise of his men, for example - and for bringing his party home safely. However, Cherry-Garrard remained loyal to Scott in all personal respects. The revisionists are distinguished by the level of personal criticism of Scott's character, while ignoring the benefits of hindsight and Scott's bad luck.
Revisionists have argued that Scott was over-promoted when he was given command of the Discovery expedition, as he was a relatively junior torpedo officer with no Arctic experience. As evidence of this, they point out that he got the Discovery frozen into ice so firmly that it was nearly lost. But it is the style of land travel which attracts the sternest attacks.
Scott's insistence on first using Siberian ponies and then man-hauling his goods to the Pole, instead of making full use of sled dogs is the single most obvious difference between the two expeditions. Scott did use dogs, but only as far as the Beardmore Glacier, whereas Amundsen, a more experienced dog-driver, took them all the way to the Pole. Perhaps this unwillingness to take dogs further was because of Scott's admitted abhorrence of killing dogs and then feeding them to others. Fiennes' biography suggests that Scott simply used the method which worked best for him, as man-haul had in the Discovery expedition. However, Scott's own diary makes it clear that he believed the heavy manual labour of sledge-hauling was morally superior to the use of dogs, and this prejudices him towards the more inefficient method. His mind was not closed to alternatives, though; he made the first serious attempt to use motorised tractors, correctly recognising that this would be the future of ice travel.
Critics have also pointed out the English did not learn from the indigenous peoples of the Arctic - the undoubted experts at cold climate survival - as Amundsen had done. That criticism would be more precisely levelled at the Royal Navy rather than Scott himself who never visited the Arctic. He took his advice from his forerunners and superiors in the Navy who had not learnt as much as others such as Amundsen in Norway and Robert Peary in the United States from the native Inuit. But, looking at photos of Scott's team in their canvas outer clothing, you can almost feel the cold.
The fact that Scott nearly reached safety suggests that any single factor could have made all the difference; perhaps they would have survived had they been equipped with Inuit-style fur clothing, or had a better diet, or learned better ski technique, or traveled lighter. It is worth noting that Ernest Shackleton, travelling the identical route with virtually identical equipment and transportation, had to turn back short of the pole in order to survive. Scott gambled that he could succeed where Shackleton had not, based solely on his belief in himself as being a better and more fit leader. It was a gamble he lost, as the flaw was in the technology used by the two expeditions rather than in the personal qualities of the leaders.
Although the revisionists have made criticisms of Scott, the main reason for his failure was extraordinarily bad weather. It is now known that the route up the west side of the Ross Ice Shelf that Scott used is subject to worse weather than Amundsen's easterly route. Furthermore Scott endured weather conditions that may occur only once in a century, on average 20° colder with blizzards for long periods. The low temperatures they encountered on the Ross Ice Barrier meant that their sledge would not slide easily over the snow in the familiar way. Their task can be better compared to pulling a full bathtub across the Sahara. Scott and his meteorologist, Simpson, had estimated that the temperatures would be high enough to allow the sledge to slide more easily. Another effect of the temperature was the lack of fuel. They had left fuel at depots along the route but much had leaked out because the solder in the cans crystallised at the low temperatures.
Man-hauling sledges requires a daily intake of over 5000 calories and in those days the importance of a very high fat diet was not understood, except perhaps by the Inuit. Scott took large quantities of dried meat (pemmican) which was not high in fat. The massive loss of body weight caused by the physical effort reduced the insulation from their own fat and made them more susceptible to cold. Although the precise cause of Scott's death is the subject of much debate, it is likely that starvation, exhaustion, extreme cold, and scurvy (a dietary deficiency disease) all contributed to the death of Scott and his men.
Scott also made a great virtue of his dedication to science. While Amundsen set out only to reach the Pole and get back alive, Scott's entire expedition was primarily scientific. Even as they were dying, Scott and Wilson stopped to pick up geological samples, of which they were hauling over 30 lb (14 kg) when they died. Although the dual motivation necessarily compromised the already wafer-thin safety margins of the trek, the science was important.
Among the samples found with Scott was a lump of coal from the Trans-Antarctic mountain range, which proved that the continent must have had a warm climate in the distant past. This discovery was of major geological importance and added to the weight of evidence which eventually resulted in the modern theory of plate tectonics. The dying men also kept meteorological records until near the end. The difference of focus between the two expeditions highlights the very different approaches and judgements made by their respective leaders.
Scott memorial window, Binton, panel 4 (detail): Searchers erect a memorial cairn
The relief party that found Scott and his comrades six months after they died built a cairn to mark the spot where they perished. Scott and his colleagues died on a glacier which inched its way towards the sea. In the 1970s, Sir Peter Scott, the only son of Capt Scott visited the cairn. A few months later, the remains of Scott and his comrades fell into the ocean.
Nowadays, the southern continent is shared between 27 nations that have scientists based there. The things they study include changes in climate and the destruction of the ozone layer. For further information about the Antarctic today visit the British Antarctic Survey website.
Scientists at the South Pole take advantage of global warming
to dig deeper and discover more than they bargained for.
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