SCOTT & The South-Pole

"SCOTT & The South-Pole"

1 "The extreme conditions make Antarctica a habitat in which only the hardiest can survive. Very few species have been recorded on the 2% of the continent that is ice-free. They include about 150 lichens, 30 mosses, some fungi and one liverwort." ( : 18/01/2013 )

2 I should mention, for comparison purposes, that the north pole is located pretty much in the middle of a frozen ocean, the Arctic Ocean; to get to it does not require one to go over a stretch of frozen mountains. The ice-cover over the central plane averages 9,000 feet thick.


4 It is interesting to note, that, after service under Ross in the Antarctic, the Erebus and the Terror were outfitted with steam engines and had iron plating added to their hulls. They were then assigned to John Franklin in an Arctic Expedition with a view of discovering the Northwest Passage, which, while it had been charted from both the east and west, had never been entirely navigated. The ships were last seen entering Baffin Bay in August 1845, they were lost together with Franklin and his fellow Arctic explorers.

5 Founded in 1830, The Royal Geographical Society was dedicated to the advancement of geographical sciences; whereas, The Royal Society of London had and has (it is still around) the broader and more general goal of improving natural knowledge; it was established in 1660.





10 After, in the same year, 1909, Curtiss won the world's first airplane race, conducted at Rheims, France and a $5,000 prize. While other pilots slowed down to make turns on a two lap course, Curtiss showed that sharp turns could be banked.



13 A note on the ship, Terra Nova: She was specifically built, in 1884, for services in polar regions as a ship for whaling and sealing. She worked for 10 years in "the annual seal fishery in the Labrador Sea," before being bought, for use in Scott's 1910–1912 expedition. She was a ship of the age with a wooden hull (had to be extremely strong as she plowed through packs of floating ice, and indeed would become stuck for days, and days. She was principally a sailing vessel, a barque with three masts, the first two being square-rigged. So too, she had a funnel, for she possessed an auxiliary coal-fired steam engine. Further along in this work, we will tell more of the Terra Nova.

14 Scott was not on the Terra Nova as she voyaged out to New Zealand. (Teddy Evans was the captain.) Scott travelled separately, together with his wife, leaving baby Peter behind, to join the the Terra Nova at New Zealand. (Huntford, The Last Place On Earth, p. 273)

15 Journal Entry, Scott's Last Exped. Note: much of what follows, and throughout, comes directly out of Scott's journal which commanding naval officers usually keep up, on a daily bases. Scott's Journal is readily available on line.

16 The situation in these waters has been known since when the British, under James Clark Ross, explored the area during the years, 1839-43. So too, it is to be remembered that Scott had picked up personal experiences during his Discovery Expedition of 1901–1904. Scott, also, had the benefit of having read (I should think) of Shackleton's account when he was there during 1907–09 (Nimrod Expedition).

17 Named after Ross' two ships: the Erebus and the Terror when he explored the area during the years 1839-43.

18 Dr. Wilson's Journal.

19 Scott's Journal. It seems that there was a third "motor sledge" which was left aboard and only unloaded on January 8th. In the process it was lost through the ice.

20 Scott's Journal. Scott initially stayed in his cabin aboard the Terra Nova. From another entry, we learn that Scott spent his first night ashore, in a domed tent ("a very comfortable apartment"), on the night of January 8th.

21 Scott, on looking back, thought that "we were terribly incautious in our treatment of this decaying ice." There were a few close calls and the loss of a "motor sledge"; but, in the end, most all of the supplies and equipment was transferred to the shore without serious injury or loss.

22 Oates, the British Army Captain who took charge of the ponies, expressed concern: "such deficiencies as: narrow chests, knocked knees, ... aged" and were the "greatest lot of crocks I have ever seen." ( The men, generally, were thoroughly entertained by these ponies. They were to recognise each as individuals. Cherry-Garrard wrote: "... these ponies were an uneven lot. There were the steady workers like Punch and Nobby; there were one or two definitely weak ponies like Blossom, Blücher and Jehu; and there were one or two strong but rather impossible beasts. One of these was soon known as Weary Willie. His outward appearance belied him, for he looked like a pony. A brief acquaintance soon convinced me that he was without doubt a cross between a pig and a mule."


24 The camp ("the hut") at Cape Evans was built to house up to 33 men. This is where Scott and his men stayed before their trip to the South Pole commenced in November, 1911 (the beginning of the summer in the Antarctic). It has been preserved and can be seen today.

25 Atkinson and Crean (left at Safety Camp, see Map); E. Evans, Forde and Keohane (returned with the weaker ponies on Feb. 13); Meares and Wilson (with the dog teams); and Scott, Bowers, Oates, Cherry-Garrard, and Lashly.

26 Written on Sunday, February 5th at the Corner Camp, No. 6, viz. early days yet. (See Map)

27 We will see, in time, that if only they had gone on for that next "half march," what a difference that would have made; but how was Scott to know? When one examines the routes (See Map, side by side, of both Scott and Amundsen, it can be seen that Amundsen was meticulous in meeting each of the objectives he set for himself and his men. At each degree, it seems exactly, Amundsen built his depot. Scott went as far as he calculated he could go. Note his depots were not evenly spread out as those of Amundsen. To me, this observation is telling.

28 The immense sheet of ice, over 400 miles wide and of still greater length, which lies south of Ross Island to the west of Victoria Land.

29 Hut Point (Discovery Hut) was not as large, or as comfortable, or as the well stocked as their home base at Evans Point (Terra Nova Hut) which was built on their arrival in January, 1911. At one point, Scott wrote "The Barrier, five geographical miles from Cape Armitage ..."

30 It was then, as a letter had been left at Hut Point by one of the men from the main base, that Scott learned that Amundsen had established a camp at the Bay of Whales. Scott seemed to have thrown this disappointing news off and determined to carry on as if Amundsen was no threat.

31 Since there only 12 men with Scott when they set out to build the "One Ton Depot," four, maybe more, were left to clean out Hut Point which had been left vacant, indeed quite a load of snow had gotten in through a broken window.

32 The nine were: Simpson, Nelson, Day, Ponting, Lashly, Clissold, Hooper, Anton, and Demetri. So, we can now do a recap of the number of men with Scott distributed between the two camps -- 16 + 9 = 25 men, and who were to spend the winter in Anarchic.

33 They all had nicknames: James Pigg Keohane, Bones Crean, Michael Clissold, Snatcher Evans (P.O.), Jehu, China, Christopher Hooper, Victor Bowers, Snippets (windsucker) and Nobby Lashly. On May 13th, the men, the dogs and the two ponies came over from Hut Point to Cape Evans. Thus, everyone, including the animals, spent the winter at Cape Evans.

34 All the dogs were from Eastern Siberia, except for two. According to Debenham ("Stareek: the story of a sledge dog"), the Siberian variety were stockier than the Canadian or west Greenland dogs. Well, I am not so sure -- Amundsen preferred the western Greenland variety. (The study of sledging-dogs, would indeed be an interesting one.)

35 "Scott specifically wanted white ponies for the expedition because during the 1907 Nimrod Expedition, Ernest Shackleton observed that the white ponies outlived the dark ponies." (

36 Savours, Scott's Last Voyage Through the Antarctic Camera of Herbert Ponting, p. 112.

37 Note 1, p. 3.

38 "Stareek: the story of a sledge dog."

39 Note 9, p. 81. Notwithstanding Wilson's view, Scott sent all the dogs home just after they started to climb Beardmore.

40 "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." (Scott, The Voyage of the Discovery)

41 Unlike Amundsen, who had considerable experience with dogs, and who had great faith in them. Likely, Amundsen's use of dogs was one of the principal reasons why he beat Scott to the pole, in shorter time. Though I have yet to run across Scott's stated reasons for this, we might guess at a couple: "Man Hauling" would reduce the loads considerably. Food (biscuit for the dogs, and oats and hay for the ponies), hundreds of pounds of it, would not have to be hauled. The only loads would be food for the men and camping supplies.

42 Scott reported that "these little animals haul anything from 12 to 18 cwt. ... The dogs, working five to a team, haul 5 to 6 cwt."

43 It is hard not to make these comparisons (it has been done by many): Amundsen was an experienced polar traveller; he and his men knew exactly how to handle the dogs; Scott, as can be seen, was on a learning curve.

44 For example, there was the time (February 14th, 1911) when the dogs caught up with a straggling pony. Scott, who was up ahead with the main group, wrote: "Suddenly we heard much barking in the distance ... Oates [his dog] team had got out of hand and attacked Weary Willy when they saw him fall. ... W.W. had been much bitten, but luckily I think not seriously: he appears to have made a gallant fight, and bit and shook some of the dogs with his teeth." All the animals did survive, but the drivers had their hands full getting things back to normal. Here is Cherry's version: "Gran's pony, Weary Willie, a sluggish and obstinate animal, was far behind, as usual, when we halted our ponies at the camping place. Farther off the dog-teams were coming up. What happened never became clear. Poor Weary, it seems, was in difficulties in a snow-drift: the dogs of one team being very hungry took charge of their sledge and in a moment were on the horse, to all purposes a pack of ravenous wolves. Gran and Weary made a good fight and the dogs were driven off, but Weary came into camp without his sledge, covered with blood and looking very sick."

45 "Lawrence Oates, the British Army Captain on the expedition whose role was to look after the ponies, was disappointed in Meares’s selection as they had 'such deficiencies as: narrow chests, knocked knees, ... aged" and were the "greatest lot of crocks I have ever seen.'" (

46 Scurvy proved to be a serious problem when Scott was on the Discovery Expedition (1901–1904). Armitage, who had been on this first expedition, later blamed the outbreak on Scott's "sentimental objection" to the slaughter of animals for fresh meat. The entire expedition's diet was quickly revised, and the trouble was thereafter contained.

47 "Meares has become enamoured of the gramophone. We find we have a splendid selection of records. The pianola is being brought in sections ..."

48 It is to be remembered that Scott's Expedition (unlike Amundsen's) was a scientific expedition. Scott regularly sent up a balloon to take measurements in the atmosphere.

49 "... the chains slip on the very light snow covering of hard ice. The engines are working well, and all goes well when the machines get on to snow." A couple of days later Scott came across the last of the motors, deserted, filled sledges and all. The two men (Evans and Day) who had brought the motors out, reorganized and proceeded as "a man-hauling party as arranged."

50 Not sure about the dogs at this point. Scott determined that they should not go up the glacier, well before hand, I suspect, thinking that they could not get a footing on the icy surface of the glacier. Without too much of a test, he sent them all back on December 11th with their handlers, Meares and Demetri. Though they did ascend some distance above the Lower Glacier Depot. It is to be remembered that Amundsen went up a glacier and all the way to the South-Pole, 800 miles, one way, with his dogs.

51 From the summit, on December 22nd, 1911, the First Support Party under Atkinson returned to base, reaching Cape Evans on 29 January 1912 after a generally straightforward journey.

52 A few days earlier, Scott had ordered all men, except his own hauling crew who would need them in their final push to the pole to depot their skis, to be picked up on their return. It seems Scott had not concluded, yet, that Bowers was to come along with Scott as the fifth man. (It was originally planned that the final leg to the pole should consist of only four men.) Thus it was, that Bowers had to travel on foot to the pole while Scott and the others proceeded on skis.

53 Teddy Evans, Lashly and Crean left Scott 167 mile short of the pole. We might forget, in focusing on the return from the pole of Scott an his group, that the last supporting party were faced with the business of travelling back 700 miles. Their journey is described by wikipedia's entry:
"Crean, Lashly and [Teddy] Evans now faced a 700 mile journey back to Hut Point. Soon after heading north, the party lost the trail back to the Beardmore Glacier, and were faced with a long detour around a large icefall where the plateau tumbles down onto the glacier. With food supplies short and needing to reach their next supply depot, the group made the decision to slide on their sledge, uncontrolled, down the icefall. The three men slid 2,000 feet ... dodging crevasses up to 200 feet wide, and ending their descent by overturning on an ice ridge. Evans later wrote: 'How we ever escaped entirely uninjured is beyond me to explain.'
The gamble at the icefall paid off, and the men reached their depot two days later. However, they had great difficulty navigating down the glacier. Lashly wrote: 'I cannot describe the maze we got into and the hairbreadth escapes we have had to pass through.' In his attempts to find the way down, Evans removed his goggles and subsequently suffered agonies of snow blindness that made him into a passenger. When the party was finally free of the glacier and on the level surface of the Barrier, Evans began to display the first symptoms of scurvy. By early February he was in great pain, his joints were swollen and discoloured, and he was passing blood. Through the efforts of Crean and Lashly the group struggled towards One Ton Depot, which they reached on 11 February. At this point Evans collapsed; Crean thought he had died and, according to Evans's account, 'his hot tears fell on my face.' With well over 100 miles ... to travel before the safety of Hut Point, Crean and Lashly began hauling Evans on the sledge, "eking out his life with the last few drops of brandy that they still had with them.' On 18 February they arrived at Corner Camp , still 35 miles from Hut Point, with food running low. With only one or two days' food rations left, but still four or five days' man-hauling to do, they decided that Crean should go on alone to fetch help. With only a little chocolate and three biscuits to sustain him, without a tent or survival equipment, Crean walked the distance to Hut Point in 18 hours, arriving in a state of collapse. He reached safety just ahead of a fierce blizzard, which probably would have killed him, and which delayed the rescue party by a day and a half. The rescue was successful, however, and Lashly and Evans were both brought to base camp alive. Crean modestly played down the significance of his feat of endurance. In a rare written account, he wrote in a letter: 'So it fell to my lot to do the 30 miles for help, and only a couple of biscuits and a stick of chocolate to do it. Well, sir, I was very weak when I reached the hut.' (

54 Finnesko a Norwegian expression for a boot made of birch-tanned reindeer skin with the hair left on the outside.

55 "A series of irregular ridges formed on a snow surface by wind erosion and deposition, aligned parallel to the direction of the prevailing wind." (OED)

56 Scott wrote on January 7th, that Evans sustained "a nasty cut on his hand (sledge-making). I hope it won't give trouble."

57 Atkinson's search team, who found the frozen bodies of Scott, Wilson and Bowers, reported, "We recovered all their gear and dug out the sledge with their belongings on it. Amongst these were 35 lb. of very important geological specimens which had been collected on the moraines of the Beardmore Glacier: at Doctor Wilson's request they had stuck to these up to the very end, even when disaster stared them in the face and they knew that the specimens were so much weight added to what they had to pull ..."

58 We read this entry in Scott's Journal made later, on March 16th: "I take this opportunity of saying that we have stuck to our sick companions to the last. In case of Edgar Evans, when absolutely out of food and he lay insensible, the safety of the remainder seemed to demand his abandonment, but Providence mercifully removed him at this critical moment. He died a natural death, and we did not leave him till two hours after his death."

59 Wright, Nelson, Gran, Lashly, Crean, Williamson, Keohane, and Hooper.

60 "Nine [Himalayan] mules, a gift from the Indian Government, had been landed from the Terra Nova during its March 1912 interim visit, together with snowshoes and blinkers which, according to Atkinson rendered them much more efficient than the previous year's ponies." However, not everyone thought that the mules were such a success. ( "The expedition was originally formed for two years from the date of leaving England. But before the ship left after landing us at Cape Evans in January 1911 the possibility of a third year was considered, and certain requests for additional transport and orders for stores were sent home. Thus it came about that the ship now landed not only new sledges and sledging stores but also fourteen dogs from Kamchatka and seven mules, with their food and equipment." (Cherry, The Worst Journey in the World.)


62 Tryggve Gran, the Norwegian in the British team, wrote in his diary: "It has happened -- horrible, ugly fate, only 11 miles from One Ton Depot, Scott, Wilson, and Birdie. All ghastly. I will never forget it as long as I live: a terrible nightmare could not have shown more horror ...


64 Sir James Matthew Barrie (1860-1937) was an author, best remembered today for his Peter Pan. Though I have no details of the relationship between Scott and Barrie, it was sufficient enough for Scott to have him act as the godfather to Scott's son, Peter. We read where Barrie was so proud of the letter that he carried it around for the rest of his life. See letter.

65 Sir Edgar Speyer (1862-1932) was an American-born financier and philanthropist, who became a British subject in 1892. He was the honorary treasurer of the fund for Scott's expedition. He donated £1,000 of the £40,000 that was required for the expedition. See letter.

66 Admiral, Sir Francis Charles Bridgeman (1848-1929) was appointed the Second Sea Lord in March 1909 as such Bridgeman was one of the most senior admirals of the British Royal Navy (after the First Sea Lord and the Commander-in-Chief Fleet). As the Second Sea Lord, Bridgeman was "responsible for personnel and naval shore establishments." See letter.

67 Admiral Sir George Le Clerc Egerton (1852-1940) was another senior Royal Navy officer. Egerton flew his flag on HMS Victorious, with Captain Robert Scott as his flag captain. See letter.

68 See letter. Joseph James Kinsey (1852-1936): He is described as "the trusted friend and representative who acted as the representative of Captain Scott in New Zealand during his absence in the South." ( Note 2, p. 4.) I also note that a number of photographs, such as those made by Ponting, came into his possession which were donated to a museum. See for photos, some of which I have borrowed.

69 See letter.

70 Sir William Grey Ellison-Macartney (1852-1924) was a British politician, who served as the Governor of Tasmania from June 4th, 1913 to March 31st, 1917. He married to Scott's sister in 1897, at Holcombe, Somerset.

71 Admiral Sir Lewis Anthony Beaumont (1847-1922).

72 Set out in the work by Edward Evans, South with Scott,

73 A note on the ship, Terra Nova: "On return from the Antarctic Terra Nova was purchased by the American millionaire, William Ziegler and placed under the command of a Norwegian, Captain Kjeld Kjeldsen. She sailed to the Arctic to return members of the US Fiala/Ziegler expedition from Franz Josef Land to Norway. This expedition had lost its ship America, crushed by ice, during an attempt to reach the North Pole.
After returning to Newfoundland in 1906, the Terra Nova resumed sealing duties with her owners, C.T. Bowring & Co. of St. John's and Liverpool." (
After returning from the Antarctic in 1913, and being decommissioned, the Terra Nova resumed the work she was designed for: the seal fishery and did so in the waters off of Newfoundland. We read too, where, in 1918 she was "charted by DOSCO to transport coal from the coal mines at North Sydney to Bell Island." ( She was still working away in 1942 (a 59 year run for a wooden sailing vessel is quite unusual). These were war years; she was running supplies from Newfoundland to Greenland. On September 12th, 1943, while at sea she sent out an SOS; the water was over the boilers and pumps were not working. The coastguard respondent and saved the crew. The Terra Nova, this brave explorer of the polar regions then met her end. The rescue ships, seemingly outfitted for such activities: set her afire and afterwards shot it up and send her to bottom (At 60º 15' 15" N, 45º 55' 45"W).
Apparently the destroying officers knew of the Terra Nova, and, before sending her to the bottom. They rescued the figurehead (now at the National Museum of Wales), her bell (Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge) and the binnacle (Pierhead Building, Cardiff, Wales).

74 Scott's decision to put an extra man on the Polar Party, was likely one of the reasons the five lost their lives. Cherry wrote: "The final advance to the Pole was, according to plan, to have been made by four men. We were organized in four-man units: our rations were made up for four men for a week: our tents held four men: our cookers held four mugs, four pannikins and four spoons. Four days before the Supporting Party turned, Scott ordered the second sledge of four men to depôt their ski. It is clear, I suppose, that at this time he meant the Polar Party to consist of four men." Scott's decision at the last moment to take an extra man, meant, of course, that each of the four men of the Polar Party, who ever they may have been, were obliged to give up 5% of their rations to feed the fifth man; rations which were rather thin for four; and, as it turned out, inadequate for five.

75 Back in the depot laying stage, January 25th through to April 21st, 1911, the team under Scott did not get as far as was intended (80°S). Scott was concerned for his ponies; he figured they were getting tired and he might lose them if pushed on. The sad history and fate of Scott's polar party likely would have been quite different, if, back in February, 1911, Scott had carried on for a couple of extra days to get to the planned spot. Lawrence Oates, in charge of the ponies, advised Scott to kill certain of the ponies for food and advance to the spot intended. Scott refused to do it. Oates, it is reported, said to Scott, somewhat presciently, "Sir, I’m afraid you’ll come to regret not taking my advice.

76 It will be remembered, with much effort, through from January 25th to February 17th, 1911, Scott and his depot building team, had travelled 130 miles from base camp at Cape Evans to establish the One Ton Depot. There they left a great cache, consisting of the following: 7 weeks' provisions (tea, butter, biscuit, a tin Rowntree cocoa, gallons of oil, a tin of matches, sacks of oats, bales of fodder, 250 Tank[?] of dog biscuit. It all amounted to 2181 pounds of supplies, which, incidentally, included: skeins of line, a spare harness, two 12 ft. sledges, 2 pairs of skis, 1 pair ski sticks.



79 Cited was: Evans, E.R.G.R. 1949, South with Scott, London: Collins, p. 187-188. It is to be remembered that these were military men (navy) who did things by orders.

80 "However, after dispatching Cherry-Garrard and the dogs to One Ton on 26 February, Atkinson, who was by now aware that there was no dog food at One Ton, wrote: 'It cannot be too firmly emphasised that the dog teams were meant merely to hasten the return of the Southern Party and by no means as a relief expedition.'" (

81 Before the dogs went out, "a man-hauling party from Cape Evans, consisting of Day, Nelson, Clissold and Hooper, had already, according to plan, taken out three of the five XS rations for the returning parties. The weights of the man-hauling party did not allow for the transport of the remaining two XS rations, nor for any of the dog-food. Thus it was that when Atkinson came to make his plans to go South with the dogs he found that there was no dog-food south of Corner Camp [Map], and that the rations for the return of the Polar Party from One Ton Depôt had still to be taken out. That is to say, the depôt of dog-food spoken of by Scott did not exist. There was, however, enough food already at One Ton to allow the Polar Party to come in on reduced rations. This meant that what the dog-teams could do was limited, and was much less than it might have been had it been possible to take out the depôt of dog-food to One Ton. Also the man-food for the Polar Party had to be added to the weights taken by the dogs." (Cherry, The Worst Journey in the World.)


83 Up to the One Ton Depot One Ton, Mount Erebus was in sight, much beyond that, the Ross Ice Shelf was a flat plain of snow and ice in every direction.


85 Huntford, The Last Place On Earth, p. 259.


87 "Scott did not know that he would be in a race until he received Amundsen's telegram in Melbourne, in October 1910. Before this, he had set about fashioning the expedition according to his own preferences, without the restraints of a joint committee." (









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Peter Landry
2013 (2020)