Friday, January 6, 2012

Revisiting Scott of the Antarctic

Expedition photographer Herbert Ponting

The fated five men at the pole took this last picture with a string attached to the camera before setting out on their last journey

Captain Robert Falcon Scott became a national hero after his expedition to be first to the South Pole in 1912 ended in tragedy. Having successfully reached the Pole he discovered Norwegian rival Roald Amundsen had beaten him there by five weeks.

On the 800 mile return journey the five man team encountered deteriorating weather, frost-bite, snow blindness, hunger and exhaustion. First, Edgar Evans died after a fall, then Lawrence Oates, hampered by a war wound to a leg, left the tent to walk into the blizzard with the immortal words, "I am just going outside and maybe some time."

Reduced to three, the team covered a further 20 miles before making their final camp. Trapped by a fierce blizzard for nine days their provisions finally ran out. Waiting for death Scott wrote many letters, to his wife, his mother, his old commander, to many dignitaries and penned a Message to the Public explaining their predicament and finally his last scribble which read:

"Last entry. For God's sake, look after our people."

Of the five men, Scott was the last to die on the 29th March 1912. His memory was celebrated across the British Empire and he became a hero and a legend to be known forever as Scott of the Antarctic.

Now the Natural History Museum in London is staging a major exhibition celebrating Scott's three year journey to the Pole and his many scientific achievements on the trip. They have gathered all his specimens and artifacts, tools, diaries and clothing alongside a life-size representation of Scott's hut.

It runs from 20th January to 2nd September 2012 and celebrates an era of exploration and courage.

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