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Robert Falcon Scott’s Terra Nova expedition begins

Robert Falcon Scott’s Terra Nova expedition begins

Robert Falcon Scott’s ship, the Terra Nova, sets sail from Cardiff, Wales on June 15, 1910, bound for Antarctica. Though it will succeed in reaching its objective, the expedition will end in tragedy as Scott and his companions give up their lives in order to become the second party to reach the South Pole.

Scott had previously led the Discovery expedition, one of the first major explorations of the Antarctic, from 1901 to 1904. He recruited 65 men to aid him on his quest “to reach the South Pole, and to secure for The British Empire the honour of this achievement." Upon reaching Melbourne, Australia, Scott learned that a Norwegian expedition led by Roald Amundsen, who had claimed to be heading to the North Pole, was in fact racing South in an attempt to beat Scott. Upon arriving in the Antarctic, Scott’s team spent most of the next year preparing for the journey South, stocking depots to be used during the polar journey, and conducting scientific research as they waited for the Antarctic summer.

READ MORE: The Treacherous Race to the South Pole

Finally setting out in late September, Scott employed several teams, 28 men in total, as well as motorized sledges, ponies, and dogs in his push to the pole. As the expedition neared its target, Scott selected chief scientist Edward Wilson, Army captain Lawrence Oates, Royal Indian Marine Lieutenant Henry Bowers, and Discovery veteran Edgar Evans to join him in the final approach. On January 16, 1912, the party spotted Amundsen’s flag at the South Pole and were crushed to realize they had been beaten. The next day, having arrived and planted his own flag, Scott wrote, “Great God! This is an awful place and terrible enough for us to have laboured to it without the reward of priority.”

Dismayed, they began the return journey hoping to at least be the first to report that they had reached the pole, but they would never make it back to the Terra Nova. Evans died on February 17, suffering from multiple injuries after repeated falls. Severely frostbitten and convinced he was slowing his companions down, Oates walked out of his tent and into a blizzard in an apparent act of self-sacrifice on March 16. A few days later, just 11 miles shy of the nearest depot, the rest of the team was stopped by a storm and took to their tent, from which they would never emerge. The bodies of Wilson, Bowers, and Scott were found on November 12, along with their farewell letters and records of their expedition. Though historians have recently begun to question Scott’s overbearing leadership style and many of his tactical decisions, he instantly became regarded as a tragic hero in Britain upon his death.

Robert Falcon Scott

Robert Falcon Scott was born on 6 June 1868 at ‘Outlands’ – a small country estate in Stoke Damerel, Devonport (now the Milehouse area of Plymouth). ‘Con’ as his parents called him was the third of six children. He had two older sisters called Ettie and Rose, a younger brother called Archibald and two younger sisters called Grace and Katherine.

Scott’s grandfathers and uncles were in business together, financing a number of breweries and victualling houses (eating house), including the Castle Street, Hoegate and Vauxhall Street Breweries and the Pope’s Head Inn in Looe Street. Whilst his uncles also pursued a career in the armed forces, Robert’s father, John Edward Scott suffered poor health so occupied his time managing the Hoegate Brewery which he subsequently inherited along with the family home.

Scott was christened at Stoke Damerel Church on 30 June 1868.

This christening cup was presented to Scott by his Godparents, M & S Falcon. It was purchased for The Box’s collections in 2013, with the support of the V&A Purchase Grant Fund, the Heritage Lottery and donations from the Friends of Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery and the Devon and Cornwall Polar Society.

Scott was educated first in the nursery at home and then spent four years at a local day school in Stoke Damerel. Like his uncles, he was destined for a military career and was sent off to board at Stubbington House School, Hampshire where he was prepared for the entrance examinations for the Royal Navy.

Having passed his exams he returned to the Westcountry joining the Royal Naval training ship HMS Britannia at Dartmouth as a cadet aged just 13. Scott left HMS Britannia as a midshipman in July 1883, seventh overall in a class of 26 whereupon he joined his first ship HMS Boadicea.

Discovery Expedition 1901 to 1904

The British National Antarctic Expedition of 1901 to 1904, known as the Discovery Expedition, was the first official British exploration of the Antarctic region for over 60 years.

Scott led the expedition, at the order of Sir Clements Robert Markham, Secretary of the Royal Geographical Society. After raising the £90,000 (equivalent to £5.5 million today) needed to fund the project and the building of a specialist research vessel, the SS Discovery, the sailors and scientists finally left British waters on 6 August 1901.

By 8 January 1902, Discovery had crossed into the Antarctic circle. On 2 November 1902, Scott, assistant surgeon Edward Wilson and third officer Ernest Shackleton set off with supporting parties on a journey to get as far south as they could. They returned to the ship on 3 February 1903 having travelled 300 miles further south than anyone before them and within 480 miles of the South Pole itself.

Discovery was icebound at this point so the team spent a further year in the area undertaking various research and observation journeys. Eventually, Discovery was freed from the ice on 17 February 1904 and arrived in Portsmouth on 10 September 1904.

The expedition produced a great number of geographical and scientific results and was presented as a triumph. Scott took leave from the Royal Navy to write the official expedition account. He eventually resumed his naval career having become a national hero – but it wasn’t long before he was preparing to return to the Antarctic.

Terra Nova Expedition 1910 to 1913

After fellow explorer, Ernest Shackleton failed to reach the South Pole on his Nimrod expedition of 1909, Scott was determined to try and achieve the honour himself. By 1910 he had secured funding to purchase the vessel, Terra Nova, and was departing for the Antarctic as commander of a British Expeditionary Force.

Reaching the Pole

Early misfortunes and a difficult first season meant preparatory plans for the trek to the Pole were compromised. A team of 16 men eventually set off on 1 November 1911 on the 800 mile journey. Scott was accompanied only by Edward Wilson, Henry Bowers, Lawrence Oates and Edgar Evans on the final 167 miles. They arrived at the South Pole on 17 January 1912 to find that Norwegian explorer, Roald Amundsen had beaten them by five weeks.

A tragic journey

The deflated party turned back and were almost half way back to base camp when Edgar Evans died near the foot of the Bearmore Glacier on 17 February. With 400 miles to go their prospects worsened with deteriorating weather, frostbite, snow blindness, hunger and exhaustion. On 16 March, a weak Oates left the tent and walked to his death rather than hinder the others.

On 19 March 1912, the three remaining men made camp just 11 miles short of a supply depot and safety. Fierce blizzards set in and after nine days their supplies ran out. With frozen fingers Scott wrote letters to family and friends along with a moving letter to the public. He was the last man to die on 29 March 1912. The bodies were discovered by a search party on 12 November 1912. The world was informed of their tragic death when Terra Nova reached New Zealand on 10 February 1913. Within days, Scott became a national icon and is still named amongst the top 100 Britons today.


Since 1912, peoples’ opinions of Scott have changed. At first he was viewed as a hero. In later years he was seen as someone who had been courageous but careless. Today we remember him more fondly – for leading the first British expedition to reach the South Pole and for the scientific results of his two expeditions, both of which laid the foundations for Antarctica’s environmental research and climate research studies.


  • helped map this strange and difficult landscape
  • generated photographs of and information about the geology and wildlife
  • taught us about the weather patterns and ice flows
  • established shore bases and shelters
  • created one of the most compelling visual records in the history of exploration thanks to Herbert Ponting’s archive of 1,700 photographs of the Terra Nova Expedition
  • helped us understand the pitfalls of polar exploration, such as scurvy, snow blindness and frostbite
  • initiated analysis and improvements surrounding the use of skis, dogs, other forms of transport, clothing and food supplies

Across the world

The achievements of Scott and his crew have been marked across the world with memorials, statues, plaques, stained glass windows and streets names. The last century has also seen the establishment of the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge, the founding of the USA’s Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station scientific base, and the preservation of ‘Scott’s Hut’ and ‘Discovery Hut’ on Ross Island by New Zealand and the UK.

Here in Plymouth

Scott was born at ‘Outlands’, a large house that once stood on Outland Road, Plymouth, at Milehouse. The Scott Estate, consisting of Scott Road, Wilson Crescent, Bowers Road, Oates Road, Evans Place and Terra Nova Green, was developed near to the site of ‘Outlands’. A pair of plaques commemorating Scott’s birthplace can be seen on the boundary walls St Bartholomew’s Church, close to the site of the family home. The original and oldest Scott plaque was unveiled over 100 years ago at the entrance to ‘Outlands’.

The National Memorial to Scott and the Polar Party was unveiled in 1925 in Mount Wise Park, Devonport, and a special rededication ceremony took place in March 2012 as part of the Scott 100 Plymouth event programme. The memorial is supported by Plymouth City Council.

Nowadays, Plymouth Hospitals Trust, at Derriford supports Polar exploration by providing medical support and training for the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) through the BAS Medical Unit.

Thus reads the final poignant diary entry of Captain Robert Falcon Scott. Born in 1868 to a Devonshire family with strong military and navel connections, Scott’s own career began in 1888 when he was enlisted into the cadets, aged 13. A prodigal talent, he served on various Royal Navy ships in the 1890s and 1880s, before being appointed by the Royal Geographic Society to captain the British National Antarctic on the HMS Discovery expedition of 1901-1904, reaching further than previous teams. Returning from the expedition as a national hero and promoted as Captain, Scott raised funds for a second trip in an attempt to be the first team to reach the coveted South Pole.

The ill-fated 11-man Terra Nova crew, including zoologist Edward Wilson, set sail from Cardiff in June, 1911, with an arsenal of dogs, ponies and motor sledges for transportation. Scott was filled with optimism, noting in his diary on the 2nd August, 1911, ‘I feel sure we are as near perfection as experience can direct’.The group finally set off from their base the following October. However, following a series of crippling setbacks, including the loss of a motor sledge, and the death of six ponies, who were not acclimatised to the averse, unforgiving weather conditions, many of the support team were sent back. The five remaining men – Scott, Wilson, Henry Bowers, Lawrence Oates and Edgar Evans – were forced to carry forward on foot, hauling their equipment. In spite of these challenges, the diminished team finally reached the Pole on the 17th of January 1912 to find that they had been beaten in the race by the Norwegian team led by Roald Amundsen. Overcome with a sense of personal failure, Scott painfully notes in his diary entry, ‘The worst has happened…all the day dreams must go’ and ‘Great God! This is an awful place’.

Defeated, the team started the 1,500 journey back from the Pole on the 19th of January, but were beset by further complications including exhaustion, crippling weather conditions and rapidly diminishing food supplies. Faced with his own mortality, the last entry in Scott’s diary on the 29th March reads, ‘These rough notes and our dead bodies must tell the tale’. Tragically, the bodies of the men were found eight months later, having perished from starvation and severe frost bite. The group were only 11 miles away from the safety of a designated supply depot.

Coinciding with the centenary of the ill-fated Terra Nova expedition of 1910 – 1913, the Natural History Museum’s held a groundbreaking exhibition in 2012 which featured over 200 rare artefacts, personal belongings and scientific specimens. The exhibition was inspired by a renewed interest by historians in rehabilitating and salvaging Scott’s controversial reputation as an explorer, which has been dominated by the failure of the Terra Nova voyage. The aim of Scott’s Last Expedition was to illuminate the untold human tragedy, and shed a fascinating new light on a story of endurance, thwarted ambition, and the limitations of man in the quest for scientific discovery.

The highlight of the exhibition was a life size replica of Scott’s hut which was used as the base for operations, and featured actual items from the expedition, including pots, eating utensils, dog collars, ski poles and most poignantly a picture of Scott’s wife, as well as an assortment of letters to mothers, sisters and wives. The real hut, which was shared by a total of 25 men between 1911 and 1913, still survives in Antarctica, and has miraculously been preserved by the sub-polar weather conditions with many of its contents still inside.
By Erdinch Yigitce

Robert Falcon Scott’s Terra Nova expedition begins - HISTORY

The Terra Nova Expedition

A desperate race to conquer the South Pole

Geologist Thomas Griffith Taylor and meteorologist Charles Wright look out towards the Terra Nova from inside an ice grotto.

IMage: Herbert Ponting/Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge/Getty Images

In 1910, British explorer Robert Falcon Scott embarked on an ambitious expedition to Antarctica, aiming to explore uncharted wastelands, conduct scientific studies and above all else, become the first person to reach the South Pole.

He had competition. Ernest Shackleton had come within 100 miles of the pole the previous year, and Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen also had his sights set on reaching it first.

After securing public and private funding, the British Antarctic Expedition (more popularly called the Terra Nova Expedition, after the name of its supply ship) set out for Antarctica.

In January 1911, the ship made landfall in the Ross Dependency, a slice of the frozen continent south of New Zealand dominated by the Ross Ice Shelf, known by many at the time as the “Great Ice Barrier."

At the edge of the barrier, on the volcanic shores of Ross Island, the expedition’s shore party unloaded sled dogs, ponies, motorized sledges and a prefabricated 50-by-25-foot wooden hut with quilted-seaweed insulation.

Image: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images

Men and sled dogs on the Terra Nova, bound for Antarctica.

Image: Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

Able seaman Mortimer McCarthy at the wheel of the Terra Nova.

Image: Herbert Ponting/Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge/Getty Images

Ship's surgeon George Murray Levick skins a penguin on the deck of the Terra Nova.

Image: Herbert Ponting/Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge/Getty Images

An Adélie penguin wanders across the pack ice in the Ross Dependency.

Image: Herbert Ponting/Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge/Getty Images

Men arrange supplies at the camp on Cape Evans, with active volcano Mt. Erebus in the background.

Image: Herbert Ponting/Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge/Getty Images

Capt. Lawrence Oates tends to the ponies in their stables aboard the Terra Nova.

Image: Herbert Ponting/Public Domain

Chief Scientist Dr. Edward Wilson with Nobby the pony. The ponies were brought to haul sledges but proved ill-suited to the Antarctic climate and terrain.

Image: Herbert G. Ponting/Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

A dog team rests by an iceberg.

Image: Herbert G. Ponting/Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

The Terra Nova anchored in McMurdo Sound.

Image: The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images

An Adélie penguin defends its nest from photographer Herbert Ponting at Cape Royds, Ross Island.

Image: Herbert Ponting/Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge/Getty Images

Chris the sled dog listens to a gramophone.

Image: Herbert Ponting/Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge/Getty Images

Petty Officer Edgar Evans.

Image: Herbert Ponting/Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge/Getty Images

With camp established, the expedition members began pursuing their various experiments and explorations.

Men heat up a meal on a camp stove.

Image: Herbert Ponting/Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge/Getty Images

Expedition cook Thomas Clissold leads an Emperor penguin by a rope.

Image: Herbert Ponting/Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge/Getty Images

Dr. Edward Wilson in a sledging outfit.

Image: Herbert Ponting/Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge/Getty Images

An expedition member enjoys a can of beans at camp.

Image: Herbert Ponting/Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge/Getty Images

First Officer Victor Campbell took six men and sailed the Terra Nova east, hoping to carry out scientific work in King Edward VII Land. On the way back to camp, they stumbled upon a surprise — Roald Amundsen’s expedition had arrived and was camped in the Bay of Whales.

The two parties exchanged pleasantries, and Campbell hastened back to camp to inform Scott that his rival had arrived.

Though dismayed by this development, Scott decided to proceed as planned and begin laying supply depots farther and farther into the interior of the continent in preparation for the push to the pole.

The mission encountered complications almost immediately. The party was held up by fierce blizzards. The ponies, who had performed much worse than expected, began weakening and dying. Only two of the eight ponies on the depot-laying mission made it back.

Capt. Scott and other expedition members pose at camp after returning from the depot-laying expedition.

IMage: Herbert Ponting/Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge/Getty Images

Dog handler Cecil Meares and Capt. Lawrence Oates cook blubber for the dogs.

IMage: Herbert Ponting/Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge/Getty Images

Meanwhile, parties of geologists explored the surrounding areas, surveying uncharted regions and collecting samples and specimens.

The 25 men of the shore party hunkered down in the hut with the beginning of the Antarctic winter in April 1911, passing the time with lectures, scientific studies and the occasional soccer match. Scott continued his calculations and planning for the journey to the pole.

In the middle of winter, Chief Scientist Dr. Edward Wilson led several men in an outing to retrieve Emperor penguin eggs from a rookery 60 miles away, during which they endured near-hurricane force winds and temperatures as low as -77 degrees Fahrenheit. They got three eggs out of the ordeal.

Capt. Scott, at the head of the table, celebrates his 43rd birthday.

Image: Herbert Ponting/Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge/Getty Images

Geologist Frank Debenham grinds stone samples.

Image: Herbert Ponting/Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge/Getty Images

Photographer Herbert Ponting in his makeshift darkroom.

Image: Herbert Ponting/Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge/Getty Images

Image: Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Apsley Cherry-Garrard looks on as Michael the pony rolls in the snow.

Image: Herbert Ponting/Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge/Getty Images

Capt. Scott writes in his diary in his quarters. Pictures of his wife and son adorn the wall behind him.

Image: Herbert Ponting/Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge/Getty Images

A man stands atop the Matterhorn Berg with active volcano Mt. Erebus in the background.

Image: Herbert Ponting/Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge/Getty Images

Men in "The Tenements." Henry Robertson Bowers, Lawrence Oates, Cecil Meares and Edward L. Atkinson lie on bunks, while Apsley Cherry-Garrard stands on the left.

Image: Herbert Ponting/Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge/Getty Images

Anton Omelchenko stands at the end of the Barne Glacier on Ross Island.

Image: Herbert Ponting/Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge/Getty Images

Dog handler Cecil Meares at the piano in the hut.

Image: Herbert Ponting/Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge/Getty Images

Capt. Scott outfitted for his push to the South Pole.

Image: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

When spring finally came, Scott laid out his plan to reach the South Pole.

An initial party of 16 men would set out across the Great Ice Barrier, carrying supplies with motor sledges, ponies and dogs. Members of the party would turn back at specified latitudes, leaving a final group of five to reach the pole.

The group with the motor sledges set out on October 24, 1911. The sledges broke down after about 50 miles. Without them, Scott had to adjust his plan and make the dogs push on.

Capt. Scott leads a sledging party on a bid to reach the South Pole before Amundsen.

Image: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

A frostbitten Charles Wright at camp after returning from the Great Ice Barrier as part of the first support party aiding Scott's push to the South Pole.

Image: Herbert Ponting/Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge/Getty Images

On December 4, the party reached the far edge of the Great Ice Barrier and began to climb the Beardmore Glacier. On December 20, they reached the beginning of the vast, empty plateau which lay between them and the pole.

The dogs were sent back to base, and on January 3, 1912, Scott selected the four men who would join him in the polar party: Chief Scientist Dr. Edward Wilson, Lawrence Oates, Henry Bowers and Edgar Evans.

The final five men pushed southward. On January 16, amid the endless expanse of white nothingness around them, they spotted something — a black flag fluttering from a sledge runner.

A note was attached. Amundsen had beaten them by a month.

Crestfallen, Scott and his companions reached the South Pole the next day, and discovered the camp that Amundsen had left behind the day after that.

Dr. Wilson, Capt. Scott, Capt. Oates, Henry Bowers and Edgar Evans pose at the South Pole.

Capt. Scott and the polar party discover a tent left behind by Amundsen, who had reached the South Pole a month earlier.

Image: Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Though not the triumph they had envisioned, their mission was complete. They turned around and headed back the way they came.

The five men crossed the polar plateau with relative ease, but began to struggle as they ascended the Beardmore Glacier. Evans, suffering from severe frostbite and other injuries, collapsed and died as they neared the bottom of the glacier on February 17.

The surviving four men proceeded across the Great Ice Barrier to a supply depot where they had planned to rendezvous with the dog teams. But the dogs never showed.

Frostbite and gangrene in Oates’ feet made it impossible to march more than a few miles a day. By March 17, his 32nd birthday, he had lost the use of his hands as well, and knew he was slowing the group down. Huddled against the wind in their tent, Oates told the others, “I am just going outside and may be some time,” and stepped outside to his death.

Scott, Bowers and Wilson pressed on, growing more feeble and sickly by the day. On March 20, just 11 miles from the largest supply depot, they were immobilized by a ferocious blizzard.

On March 29, Scott recorded his final diary entry.

Back at camp, the other members of the expedition made numerous trips to supply depots in hopes of catching the polar party, to no avail. After wintering in the hut, a search party set out on October 29.

Less than two weeks later they found the bodies of Scott, Wilson and Bowers. They built a stone cairn over them where they lay.

Expedition members return to New Zealand on the Terra Nova after finding the bodies of Scott and the other victims.

Captain Robert Falcon Scott & the ill fated Terra Nova Expedition

Robert Falcon Scott CVO (6 June 1868 – c. 29 March 1912) was a Royal Navy officer and explorer who led two expeditions to the Antarctic regions: the Discovery expedition of 1901–1904 and the ill-fated Terra Nova expedition of 1910–1913.

On the first expedition, he set a new southern record by marching to latitude 82°S and discovered the Antarctic Plateau, on which the South Pole is located. On the second venture, Scott led a party of five which reached the South Pole on 17 January 1912, less than five weeks after Amundsen’s South Pole expedition.

The deadly race to the South Pole

A planned meeting with supporting dog teams from the base camp failed, despite Scott’s written instructions, and at a distance of 162 miles (261 km) from their base camp at Hut Point and approximately 12.5 miles (20 km) from the next depot, Scott and his companions died.

Scott’s Last Letter

I want to tell you that I was not too old for this job. It was the younger men that went under first.

“I want you to secure a competence for my widow and boy. I leave them very ill provided for but feel the country ought not to neglect them. 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.”

Race to the South Pole-The Terra Nova Expedition Documentary

When Scott and his party’s bodies were discovered, they had in their possession the first Antarctic fossils ever discovered. The fossils were determined to be from the Glossopteris tree and proved that Antarctica was once forested and joined to other continents.

Before his appointment to lead the Discovery expedition, Scott had followed the career of a naval officer in the Royal Navy. In 1899, he had a chance encounter with Sir Clements Markham, the president of the Royal Geographical Society, and thus learned of a planned Antarctic expedition, which he soon volunteered to lead.

Having taken this step, his name became inseparably associated with the Antarctic, the field of work to which he remained committed during the final 12 years of his life.

The grave of Scott and bowers

Following the news of his death, Scott became a celebrated hero, a status reflected by memorials erected across the UK. However, in the last decades of the 20th century, questions were raised about his competence and character. Commentators in the 21st century have regarded Scott more positively after assessing the temperature drop below −40 °C (−40 °F) in March 1912, and after re-discovering Scott’s written orders of October 1911, in which he had instructed the dog teams to meet and assist him on the return trip.

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  • Captain Scott and Southern party at the South Pole. British Antarctic Expedition, 1910-13. Photographer: Henry Bowers
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Routes to the South Pole taken by Scott and Amundsen

The Terra Nova Expedition, officially the British Antarctic Expedition, was an expedition to Antarctica which took place between 1910 and 1913. It was led by Robert Falcon Scott and had various scientific and geographical objectives. Scott wished to continue the scientific work that he had begun when leading the Discovery expedition to the Antarctic from 1901 to 1904. He also wanted to be the first to reach the geographic South Pole. He and four companions attained the pole on 17 January 1912, where they found that the Norwegian team led by Roald Amundsen had preceded them by 34 days. Scott’s entire party died on the return journey from the pole some of their bodies, journals, and photographs were found by a search party eight months later.

The expedition, named after its supply ship, was a private venture, financed by public contributions and a government grant. It had further backing from the Admiralty, which released experienced seamen to the expedition, and from the Royal Geographical Society.

The expedition’s team of scientists carried out a comprehensive scientific programme, while other parties explored Victoria Land and the Western Mountains. An attempted landing and exploration of King Edward VII Land was unsuccessful. A journey to Cape Crozier in June and July 1911 was the first extended sledging journey in the depths of the Antarctic winter.

For many years after his death, Scott’s status as tragic hero was unchallenged, and few questions were asked about the causes of the disaster which overcame his polar party. In the final quarter of the 20th century the expedition came under closer scrutiny, and more critical views were expressed about its organization and management. The degree of Scott’s personal culpability and, more recently, the culpability of certain expedition members, remains controversial

This is simply the story of a boy trying to grow up, survive, thrive, have fun & discover himself against a backdrop of events that might best be described as ‘explosive’, captivating & shocking the world for thirty long years.

History of Scott’s Expedition

He had previously led the major National Antarctic Expedition (1901–04) during which he reached a record 82º11’ South, and a great many scientific and geographical discoveries were made. However, while science and geography remained key objectives to Antarctic explorers of the day, the real prize in the public’s imagination was the South Pole.

Just 18 months before Scott’s second expedition departed, Shackleton had turned back only 97 miles south of the Pole. Aware of how close Shackleton had come to snatching what he regarded as his trophy, Scott planned his British Antarctic Expedition 1910–13 meticulously. It was to be the pinnacle of Edwardian exploration with the attainment of the Geographical South Pole for Britain being the ultimate goal. Today, the legend of that expedition continues to echo down the years, a bittersweet epic of triumph and tragedy immortalised forever in the history of human endeavour and exploration.

Upon returning from the Antarctic in 1904, Scott wrote his account of the expedition The Voyage of the Discovery, before returning to the British Navy. He was promoted to Captain and married Kathleen Bruce in 1908.

From early 1909 he had held an Admiralty post as Naval Assistant to the Second Sea Lord but he resigned later that year to concentrate on planning and raising money for his second Antarctic expedition. The British Government pledged £20,000, with the governments of New Zealand and Australia also contributing along with various businesspeople and private donors. Places in the expedition were also effectively ‘sold’ with Lawrence Oates and Apsley Cherry-Garrard each paying £1,000 to join, and so from these combined sources the total budget of £40,000 was raised.

Aside from reaching the Pole, a comprehensive scientific programme was planned. Dr Edward Wilson was appointed senior scientist and he assembled a competent group of professionals for the shore party with fields including, meteorology, magnetism, glaciology, geology, marine biology and cartography. The Terra Nova, built as a whaler in Dundee and used as the relief ship on the National Antarctic Expedition, was selected as the expedition’s vessel.

The Terra Nova left London on 1 June 1910, but Scott travelled later by fast steamer to Cape Town where he joined the ship before it departed for Melbourne on 2 September. Whilst in Melbourne he received news that was to distress him deeply. The veteran Norwegian polar explorer Roald Amundsen had been planning an expedition to reach the North Pole but was thwarted by news that the American, Robert Peary, had reached the Pole on 6 April 1909. Undeterred, Amundsen simply switched his goal to the other end of the planet, pointing the Fram to Antarctica and the South Pole. He left Norway on 6 June 1910 keeping his intentions secret even from most of his crew until he reached Madeira where he sent this telegram to Scott: “Beg leave to inform you Fram proceeding Antarctic. Amundsen”.

Scott worked hard not to convey his concern at Amundsen’s plans to his men and continued preparations for the expedition as they sailed to New Zealand. Terra Nova finally set off from Lyttelton on 29 November 1910, taking on coal in Port Chalmers before departing south. On board was a vast quantity of stores including 162 carcasses of mutton and three carcasses of beef, cheese and butter obtained in New Zealand, and an impressive array of equipment representing the latest technology of the day.

There were three Wolseley motor tractors and drums of Shell petrol, two Siberian and 17 Manchurian ponies (seven Indian Army mules were taken south for the second season), 33 Siberian dogs, a comprehensive selection of Burroughs Welcome medical and photographic supplies, clothing, tools, photographic equipment, sledging equipment, and surveying, navigating and scientific instruments. A large quantity of compressed coal in 12 and 25lb blocks was obtained in Cardiff, and from Australia there were 45 tons of Geelong fodder and a quantity of oil-cake, bran and crushed oats for the ponies. A large number of British schools raised funds and presented the expedition with dogs, ponies, sledges, sleeping bags and tents.

The ship also carried several prefabricated huts. The building, designed for the expedition’s winter quarters, 15 metres by 8 metres in plan with a gabled roof rising to a central ridge 4.3 metres high, had been prefabricated in London. A trial erection of the hut took place at Officers’ Point in Lyttelton this revealed serious deficiencies in the sizes and quantities of some timbers, which were made good before the expedition sailed. In addition, there were three smaller buildings: one, without iron fastenings so that it could be used for magnetic observations, was erected at Cape Evans a hut for the Eastern Party (later designated the Northern Party) which was erected at Cape Adare, and a third with an observation deck on the roof to be used as a meteorological station at Granite Harbour. This was never unloaded it was taken back to New Zealand and it stands today on the property that used to belong to JJ Kinsey at Clifton in Christchurch.

The expedition got off to a rough start. Shortly after the Terra Nova left New Zealand she was hit by a storm which nearly sank her. Arriving at Ross Island in January 1911, a landing was made at Cape Crozier but the idea of setting up the base here was abandoned. Thick sea-ice prevented the vessel getting through to the old Discovery hut on Hut Point, near the present-day United States McMurdo Station, so, on 4 January, Scott landed some 25 kilometres north at the ‘Skuary’ to investigate establishing his winter quarters there.

The gently sloping ground of this narrow volcanic neck of land with the ramparts of Mount Erebus rising behind and McMurdo Sound in front proved ideal for establishing his base. Originally discovered during Scott’s National Antarctic Expedition 1901–04, the area was named for the large number of skuas that flocked there, but Scott renamed it Cape Evans after the expedition’s second-in-command, Lieutenant Edward ‘Teddy’ Evans. A short distance inland is a large lake named Skua Lake, while to the east the ground rises to form The Ramp and beyond, glaciated slopes rise toward the summit of Mount Erebus. From the hut site there are fine views east over McMurdo Sound to the Trans-Antarctic Mountains and south to the Dellbridge Islands.

After an inspection of the site by Scott, Evans and Wilson, unloading began immediately. In Wilson’s words,

“We found a most admirable sandy flat for the hut with a long snow drift for the horses and easy access from the sea ice”.

There was also ice for water and ideal sites for meteorological and other scientific stations.

By noon of the first day all the horses, dogs, a tent, emergency rations and two of the motor tractors were unloaded. For the rest of the day, there was a continual procession of men and ponies with sledges and by midnight most of the hut was ashore and the hut ‘scantlings’ erected. A large tent was erected for the work party and construction of the hut began in earnest. On 8 January, however, the third motor tractor was lost through the sea-ice. Two days later, as construction of the hut continued on a foundation of coarse grey scoria just a few metres from the sea, Scott noted:

“The hut is progressing apace, and all agree that it should be the most perfectly comfortable habitation. It amply repays the time and attention given to the planning. The sides have double boarding inside and outside the frames, with a layer of our excellent quilted seaweed insulation between each pair of boardings. The roof has a single matchboarding inside, but on the outside is a matchboarding, then a layer of 2-ply ‘ruberoid’, then a layer of quilted seaweed, then a second matchboarding, and finally a cover of 3-ply ‘ruberoid’. The first floor is laid, but over this there will be quilting, a felt layer, a second boarding, and finally linoleum as the plenteous volcanic sand can be piled well up on every side it is impossible to imagine that draughts can penetrate into the hut from beneath, and it is equally impossible to imagine great loss of heat by contact or radiation in that direction. To add to the wall insulation the south and east sides of the hut are piled high with compressed-forage bales, whilst the north side is being prepared as a winter stable for the ponies. The stable will stand between the wall of the hut and a wall built of forage bales, six bales high and two bales thick. This will be roofed with rafters and tarpaulin, as we cannot find enough boarding. We shall have to take care that too much snow does not collect on the roof, otherwise the place should do excellently well.”

Nine days later he had this to say of their new home, the largest building constructed in Antarctica during the heroic era:

“The hut is becoming the most comfortable dwelling-place imaginable. We have made ourselves a truly seductive home, within the walls of which peace, quiet and comfort remain supreme. Such a noble dwelling transcends the word ‘hut’, and we pause to give it a more fitting title only from lack of the appropriate suggestion. What shall we call it? The word hut is misleading. Our residence is really a house of considerable size, in every respect the finest that has ever been erected in the polar regions 50ft. long by 25 wide and 9ft. to the eaves.”

An icon of Empire?

Born in 1868, Scott shares a birth year with one of the most iconic buildings in British politics: the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in Westminster. The coincidence is significant Scott was born just as the biggest and most impressive monument to British imperial power opened its doors to (among others) the Foreign Office and the India Office. By the time Scott was building his reputation as a geographer and explorer in the early twentieth century, the ‘Scramble for Africa’ and continuing naval dominance left Britain at the height of its economic and military dominance at the same time, the gruesome Boer War and Joseph Chamberlain’s debates over free trade symbolised the moral and political ambiguity of the imperial project.

What Scott and other heroes of Empire before him provided were straightforward tales of bravery and fortitude through which ordinary Britons could make sense of Britain’s superpower status. Already famous through his successful Discovery mission (1901-04), Scott’s Terra Nova expedition, which began in 1910, promised to be his most triumphant yet. He set out with the goal of being the first person in history to reach the South Pole.

The story, however, did not play out as planned: using better navigation and much better equipment, Amundsen beat Scott to the pole by 3 days. Devastated and defeated, Scott led his five companions back towards their base camp, only to run into uniquely adverse weather conditions and freeze to death on the way.

The initial reaction to Scott’s death in Britain was an overwhelming display of public grief – comparable in many ways to the mourning of Princess Diana in the 1990s. The press obituaries were hagiographic British schools and churches across the country organised special commemorations and King George V himself kneeled to pray at Scott’s funeral in St. Paul’s Cathedral. Like General Gordon in 1885, whose defeat at Khartoum made him a national hero, Scott’s death chimed with a popular conception of peculiarly British masculinity, in which emotional fortitude and brave acceptance of fate were venerated above mere victory.

Scott’s blue plaque, erected outside his home in Chelsea in 1935 by London County Council.

Conversely, when Amundsen attended a dinner at the Royal Geographical Society in 1912, the president and future Foreign Secretary, Lord Curzon, raised a toast – not to Amundsen, but to his dogs. While Scott’s men had dragged their own sleds across the ice, the Norwegian team had relied on dog teams to carry them. This was considered to be bad conduct, even cheating – a cardinal sin in Edwardian aristocratic culture.

Sixty years later, however, Scott’s reputation suddenly came under threat. With the Empire gone and unable to arrest its terminal economic decline, Britain was psychologically less inclined to admire its most famous imperial failure. In 1979, as Margaret Thatcher was on the verge of power, a Marxist writer called Roland Huntford published The Last Place on Earth: a dual biography that pointed out the serious flaws in Scott’s planning, and the technological and strategic insight that ensured Amundsen reached the pole first. Almost overnight, the pair’s reputations reversed. Huntford’s image of Amundsen as a rugged individualist chimed well in 1980s Britain, whereas his caricature of the bungling Scott, according to historian Max Jones, became ‘the new orthodoxy’, and attacking him was ‘something of a national pastime since Huntford’s intervention’.

Edgar Evans Dies

The return trip for Scott and his Polar Party was a tortuous affair, and by February 17th the situation was a desperate one. Edgar ‘Taff’ Evans, was suffering badly from frostbite to his fingers, nose and cheeks, and a knife wound he had picked up before they had reached the Pole, had failed to heal.

He had twice fallen into crevasses and on the second occasion was badly concussed, causing rapid deterioration in both his mental and physical condition. As they descended the Beardmore Glacier Evans’ condition was hindering progress. He had left the sledge harness and tried to stumble alongside, but even this proved futile as he still could not keep pace and fell behind the team, who had to retrace their steps to fetch him.

When they located him, he was in an almost delirious state and they made camp, placing the now unconscious Evans in the tent. He would die later that night. Scott did not make a record of what was done with the body of Edgar Evans.

Scott Expedition Marks Anniversary Of Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s Epic Achievement

Whitley UK, 17 th January 2014 - 102 years ago today iconic British explorer Captain Robert Falcon Scott and his team became the first Britons to reach the South Pole. Today, more than 100 years later, two British Explorers - Ben Saunders and Tarka L'Herpiniere - are in Antarctica on route to making the first completion of his ill-fated Terra Nova route.

On the 1 st November 1911 Scott and his five man team set out from Cape Evans (Scott's Terra Nova Hut) on the 1,800 mile journey from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole and back. The team traversed the Beardmore Glacier and on 20 th December reached the beginning of the polar plateau where upon they laid their Upper Glacier Depot. They reached the South Pole on 17 January 1912 - 102 years ago today - which declared them the first British team to achieve such a feat.

They began their return journey on the 19th January but ran into trouble on the Ross Ice Shelf. Scott's last diary entry was made on the 29th March 1912, he is presumed to have died soon after. The team was 11 miles short of their final depot (One Ton depot) and only 97 miles short of their journey's end.

Ben and Tarka's own journey is aiming to retrace and make the first completion of Scott's iconic 1910-12 Terra Nova route. They are following Scott's original 1,800 mile route from the coast to the South Pole and back - a journey that sits right at the limits of human capability. Their endeavour is to honour Scott and his men's remarkable display of human fortitude by completing the route as well as inspire others worldwide to challenge their own personal limits and realise their own potential.

Speaking from Antarctica, Land Rover and Intel Global Ambassador Ben Saunders said,

"More than 100 years on, the achievement of Captain Scott and his men remains among the highest benchmarks of human endeavour. Their incredible display of fortitude in battling the harshest elements on earth to reach the South Pole before embarking on their ill-fated return is a story that has inspired many, including myself, for generations. I've always known it's a journey that sits at the very limits of human endurance - hence my fascination and ambition to retrace and celebrate it. Yet, it's only now as I follow in Scott's footsteps that I can really appreciate quite how tough it must have been. Even with the benefits of a century's innovation, Tarka and I have been and continue to be pushed to our very limits."

"We have been overwhelmed with the incredible interest and support for us and our journey shown via our blog - a huge boost and a luxury that would have been unthinkable to Scott. Please continue to follow but for today, on the anniversary of Scott and his men becoming the first Britons to reach the South Pole, please also take a moment to remember these inspirational men that have trodden our path before. We feel immensely privileged and proud to be able to honour them and hope you join us in doing so too."

Expedition patron Falcon Scott, grandson of Captain Scott said, "The Scott Expedition is a truly exceptional and meaningful way to recognise and commemorate my grandfather's expedition to the South Pole. No one in history has ever walked to the South Pole and back to the coast replicating the route my Grandfather would have taken if he had got back alive. I fully support Ben and Tarka, and admire their resilience and courage in this bold venture. With under a month to go they are doing so well, and I wish them all the best in their last few weeks as they use their final reserves to complete their return journey to the coast. Hopefully they will not experience the extreme freak cold weather on the barrier that finally killed my Grandfather and his party."

Ben and Tarka have now covered more than 1200 miles (1931km), in 85 days in Antarctica. Like Scott, they too have battled the Beardmore Glacier and Polar Plateau and reached the South Pole on 27 th December 2013, 63 days into their journey.

The duo have also experienced similar conditions to those logged by Scott - by day 63 they had battled temperatures as low as -46°C and consumed almost 378,000 calories. The monotony experienced by Scott is echoed by Ben in his diary live from the ice - http://scottexpedition.com/blog/steady-plodding

Mark Cameron, Jaguar Land Rover's Global Brand Experience Director, said "The Scott Expedition epitomises the Land Rover spirit of going Above and Beyond. Both the original Terra Nova Expedition and the current Scott Expedition have pushed the boundaries of human fortitude and endeavour to the limit overcoming the unimaginable challenges presented by the most inhospitable continent on the planet."

"Ben and Tarka's Expedition has given us the opportunity look back and celebrate the great man that was Captain Robert Falcon Scott and compare the similar extraordinary challenges faced by both teams over 100 years apart. We are able to now look to the future and I have no doubt, celebrate the first ever completion of this remarkable landmark journey."

Like Scott, Ben and Tarka have been recording their journey. Intel's latest 4 th Generation technology has enabled Ben to blog daily from the ice and readers can follow the journey on a daily basis as it unfolds via www.scottexpedition.com/blog - and can track their journey live at www.scottexpedition.com/tracking

Videos detailing Scott's original feat can be found at:

  • Ben on Scott's 1912 Terra Nova expedition - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PyMLx2mv1Qg
  • Ben visiting the Scott Polar Research Institute - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S9EtaAPWr0E&feature=c4-overview-vl&list=PLUAuh5Ht8DS1-ga6kvxIfhh0vZgIAcgV5

Further information including the Scott Polar Research Institute's online version of Scott's diary can be found here - http://scottexpedition.com/activities/learn-about-captain-robert-falcon-scott

Land Rover & Intel are co-presenting partners of The Scott Expedition. The Scott Expedition reflects the spirit of adventure, capability and rugged quality that are fundamental to Land Rover's brand and heritage.

For further information log onto www.media.landrover.com or contact:

Senior Press Officer, Land Rover

- Since 1948 Land Rover has been manufacturing authentic 4x4s that represent true breadth of capability across the model range. Defender, Freelander, Discovery, Range Rover Sport, Range Rover and Range Rover Evoque each define the world's 4x4 sectors. Land Rover products are currently sold in approximately 180 global markets.

- The technology that is now available to Ben has developed considerably since Captains Scott's mission in the early 1900s the world of Land Rover has also evolved significantly since it was founded 65 years ago. With continuous advances in design and engineering and high-tech systems giving today's models even greater off-road capabilities and on-board connectivity. At the same time, Land Rovers have retained at their heart the same essential principle of all-terrain ability that inspired the original, in the same way as Scott's polar ambition remains central to what Ben Saunders wants to achieve

- Although Land Rover vehicles will not play a physical role in Antarctica, they are highly valued by Ben as his vehicle of choice for all types of occasion - with the versatility to carry all the kit he needs to the remote training areas beyond the Arctic Circle, and take him across the UK on a busy schedule of speaking engagements and personal appearances. A great supporter of the Land Rover Discovery 4 - with its reputation as the go-to vehicle for many modern explorers - he says that it is "never just a journey" in a Land Rover as the brand is so closely associated with "adventure and excitement"

- Since 1948 Land Rover has been manufacturing authentic 4x4s that represent true breadth of capability across the model range. Defender, Freelander, Discovery, Range Rover Sport, Range Rover and Range Rover Evoque each define the world's 4x4 sectors. Land Rover products are currently sold in 178 global markets

- Ben is best known for skiing solo to the North Pole in 2004, and for blogging live from his expeditions. He is the third in history and the youngest by ten years to reach the North Pole alone and on foot

- In his home and work life, Ben drives a Land Rover Discovery. This vehicle enables him to travel to many training locations, as well as providing the space required to house all of his specialist equipment. With the history-making Scott Expedition, he will go further to demonstrate the spirit of "Above and Beyond" that's at the heart of the Land Rover brand

Follow Ben and Tarka’s Progress Online

Follow Ben and Tarka's live progress in Antarctica online from wherever you are in the world - live tracking and daily blogging

Pack Ben and Tarka’s Sled

Have a go at packing a sled bound for Antarctica and learn a little more about what Ben and Tarka are taking on their journey

Learn About Captain Scott

Learn about Scott Expedition inspiration - iconic British polar explorer Captain Scott and his 1910-12 Terra Nova Expedition

Download a Map of Antarctica

Download your own map of Antarctica to pop on your wall and annotate throughout Ben and Tarka's journey

Enjoy the Scott Expedition in Video

Get behind-the-scenes and watch the build up to Ben and Tarka's departure for Antarctica, plus see footage sent from the ice

Help Us Record History

Help us record history by transcribing some of Scott's meteorological readings from more than a century ago

Set Your Own Goal

Time Capsule - like Ben and Tarka setting out to achieve their goal in Antarctica, set yours here

Get Your Own Scott Expedition T-Shirt

Be a part of the Scott Expedition community - get your own Scott Expedition t-shirt

Watch the video: Amundsen vs. Scott. What killed the British polar expedition? (January 2022).