South Pole Scott Tragedy

tony leather By tony leather, 27th Apr 2012 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Culture>General

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.

South Pole Scott Tragedy

It was almost 100 years ago that the now infamous Captain Scott and his team all died on what had proved to be a fruitless south polar expedition. After just over a century the final letter written during that ill-fated attempt has for the first time been uncovered.

Scott's closest comrade Sir Edward Wilson had penned the moving message, revealing that the whole party had resigned themselves to their fate, as they approached that tragic and awful end.

"This looks like a finish to our undertaking,for we are out of food and oil and not able to move for three days now on account of the blizzard." He wrote of their attempt to return from the South Pole to their base, this telling missive, sent to publisher Reginald Smith undiscovered since 1913.

An archivist recently chanced to inspect an old box full of documents, and was amazed to find it, this written message conveying the stoicism of Wilson right up to the end, as he told that "We have had a long struggle against intense cold on very short fuel, and it has done us in".

This Terra Nova expedition story is highlighted in displays of member letters, diaries and photographs in a Cambridge University’s Polar Museum exhibition, telling the full story, not just through famous journals and letters of the five - Scott, Bowers, Evans, Oates and Wilson - who died, but also ship’s crew and shore party members.

Described as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, seeing these manuscripts exhibited together will prove a rare delight, perhaps offering a different story to those people are familiar with already, and featuring the rarely seen second journal of Henry Robertson 'Birdie' Bowers who died alongside Scott.

It is not the journal of somebody who set out knowing they were going to die, though as the expedition progresses, his notes become much less detailed as he concentrates on survival, and includes a reference to first to die Edgar Evans.

Scott’s own journal which includes the famous parting comment of Captain Oates that "I’m just going outside and may be some time."
His words prompted to say Scott "We all hope to meet the end in a similar spirit, and assuredly the end is not far".

Officially dubbed the British Antarctic Expedition 1910, they aimed to be the first to reach the geographical South Pole, but found on getting there
on January 17, 1912, that a Norwegian team led by Roald Amundsen had already done so 33 days before them.

The entire team died in March from a combination of exhaustion, starvation and extreme cold, as they tried vainly to get back. Captain Scott had previously led the Discovery Antarctic Expedition between 1901-1904. The exhibition is entitled These Rough Notes in honour of Scott’s message to the public - written at the end of his journal just prior to his death on March 29 1912 -

"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".

His last letter to his wife, found next to the journal, begins with words "Dear widow", and what could possibly be more poignant than that?


Amundsen, Antarctic, Deaths, Expedition, Scott, South Pole, Tragedy

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author avatar tony leather
mainly non-fiction articles, though I do write short stories, poetry and descriptive prose as well. Have been writing for over ten years now

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