17th January 1912. Scott’s Last Voyage.
‘I am going outside; I may be a little while’: Captain Oates member of Scott’s second expedition. He was never to return.
Whilst nowadays reaching the South Pole in the southern summer seems to be a regular occurrence, the pioneers of Antarctic exploration were subjected to more hazardous conditions engaged as they were in scientific exploration, but also as Scott said, ‘To secure for the British Empire the honour of this achievement’.
On his second voyage Scott couldn’t get the Discovery, his first ship. as it had been chartered to the Hudson Bay Company, so he sailed on the whaling ship Terra Nova, the relief ship of his first trip, from Cardiff in June 1910. However arriving in Melbourne, a message awaited: ‘Beg leave to inform you proceeding Antarctica’ [ signed] Amundsen.
Undeterred Scott pressed on and by 6th January 1912 had crossed the line where Shackleton had turned back in 1907, reaching the South Pole on the 17th January. With temperatures of -44(c) and horrendous conditions on their return ‘Taff’ Evans died and Oates had ‘walked out’; the remaining three were found in November. They were eleven miles from a food depot.
It was in the spirit of previous Antarctic explorers, such as Sir John Clark Ross of the 1840s, that Today in 1912 Captain Robert Falcon Scott and his team of four, reached the South Pole, only to find that Amundsen had beaten them.(1)
However despite all this the expedition did much important scientific work undertaken by Lt. Henry ‘Birdie’ Bowers, Edward Wilson and Apsley Cherry-Garrard, who left Ross Island base camp in the middle of the southern winter to find eggs of the Emperor penguins, this in total darkness and temperatures of -600(c).
The longest unbroken Antarctic weather records were collected and the study of glaciology was pioneered. One of the more exciting finds was the discovery of a fossil sample of the Glossopteris fern, now extinct. This having been found in Australia, India and South America, helped to support the theory of Continental Drift.(2)
Specimens of 2109 animal and fish were collected, 401 of which had never before been seen.
Scott’s tattered sledging flag can be seen in Exeter Cathedral and the story of the expedition is told in the windows of Binton Church, Warwickshire, where his brother-in law was rector.
A set of 1000 glass-plate negatives by Herbert Ponting were saved for the nation with a Lottery grant in 2004 by the Scott Polar Research Institute at Cambridge University.
(1a) Scott recruited also: Edward Wilson as senior doctor and scientific director, Sub-Lt. Henry Bowers of the Royal Indian Marine, the tough Petty Officer ‘Taff’ Evans who had been with Scott on the Discovery, and Captain L.E.G. Oates of the 6th Inniskilling Dragoons.
(1b) Scott departed on 27.6.1911.
(2) The fern specimen is now at National History Museum, entitled Aptenodytes forsteri, Cape Crozier 20.7.1911.
Ref: telegraph.co.uk/Pic Image.