Reassessing Scott's Final Expedition: The Influence of the Terra Nova Expedition Extends Far beyond the Myths That Have Built Up around the Race to the Pole. Today, Its Significance Can Be Felt All over the World in Many Walks of Life, from Science and Exploration to Music and Even Popular Culture

By Wilson, David M. | Geographical, January 2012 | Go to article overview

Reassessing Scott's Final Expedition: The Influence of the Terra Nova Expedition Extends Far beyond the Myths That Have Built Up around the Race to the Pole. Today, Its Significance Can Be Felt All over the World in Many Walks of Life, from Science and Exploration to Music and Even Popular Culture


Wilson, David M., Geographical


[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

A glorious race! (Ig)Noble tragedy! Even today, few people think about Captain Scott beyond the Edwardian myth or the 1970s anti-myth. Our minds struggle to move outside storylines broadly formed by century-old newspaper headlines. As we contemplate the centenary of Scott's Antarctic expedition aboard Terra Nova, surely it's time to refresh our thinking.

Besides, both stereotypes are broadly untrue. When contrasted with the subsequent events of the 20th century, it seems slightly preposterous to view Scott's fate as either tragic or a failure. Had Scott lived and returned to the Royal Navy, perhaps to captain HMS Bulwark, the ship that he was commanding prior to the expedition, what would his fate have been?

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

On 26 November 1914, while recoaling off Sheerness, an explosion ripped Bulwark apart, killing all but 14 ratings of her 750 officers and crew. It barely merits a mention in the history of the First World War. This, it seems to me, is closer to a tragedy. The death of Scott and his companions, by contrast, inspired significant cultural achievement throughout the 20th century.

Nor was there ever a race to the South Pole in the specific sense. Amundsen raced Scott, but Scott refused to race Amundsen. 'I don't know what to think of Amundsen's chances,' Scott wrote in his diary on 22 October 1911. 'If he gets to the Pole, it must be before we do, as he is bound to travel fast with dogs and pretty certain to start early. On this account I decided at a very early date to act exactly as I should have done had he not existed. Any attempt to race must have wrecked my plan, besides which it doesn't appear the sort of thing one is out for.'

Not the sort of thing one is out for. True exploration has never been about dashing from A to B but about furthering the bounds of human knowledge by bringing back visual records, scientific data and samples. This takes time. If Scott had raced, he would have had to give up his scientific and exploration work. There is no doubt about which Scott himself saw as the more important: 'If the Southern journey comes off, nothing, not even priority at the Pole, can prevent the Expedition ranking as one of the most important that ever entered the polar regions.'

Scott was right. The expedition laid the foundations of modern polar studies and pioneered significant scientific progress throughout the 20th century, regardless of priority at the pole.

LITERARY ACHIEVEMENT

The simplest place to start anew is to reread Scott's own journal. There's no doubt that it is a remarkable document, often taught in history classes, but written so well that it's often also taught as English literature.

As with all great works, it's inspirational. Scott's diary challenges; it changes the way we see the world by illuminating the heart of the human condition. It does so because it faces us all up to our inevitable deaths, even as we plot our worldly success; and it does so because it was never written to be published verbatim, revealing Scott's doubts and human frailty, along with his battles to overcome his all too human flaws. In this, Scott's training as a Royal Navy officer shines through. The values of a naval officer, still taught in the Navy to this day--commitment, courage, discipline, respect, integrity and loyalty--are Scott's own values.

It's easy to forget that Scott was a forward-thinking officer of the Royal Navy in an era when science and human progress were considered to be unmitigated goods. Scott specialised in new technologies, such as torpedoes, and became the youngest junior battleship commander in the Navy.

Even in the way that he treated his men, Scott was a part of the meritocratic Fisher generation, rather than the hereditary hierarchy of the Victorian navy. It's no wonder, then, that Scott is still held as an example of Naval excellence and has a vessel of oceanographic exploration named for him, in HMS Scott.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Reassessing Scott's Final Expedition: The Influence of the Terra Nova Expedition Extends Far beyond the Myths That Have Built Up around the Race to the Pole. Today, Its Significance Can Be Felt All over the World in Many Walks of Life, from Science and Exploration to Music and Even Popular Culture
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.