Magazine article Geographical

The Trek to Tragedy

Magazine article Geographical

The Trek to Tragedy

Article excerpt

Captain Scott's second antarctic expedition aboard the terra nova is the classic tale of polar adventure. Accompanying him was Herbert G Ponting whose extraordinary photographs of the fateful expedition are perhaps the greatest ever taken of the antarctic

It has happened! We have found what we sought! Good God, what a twist of fate." These were the words of one of the search party on discovering the snow-covered tent containing the bodies of Captain Robert Falcon Scott and his two companions, Edward Wilson and Henry "Birdie" Bowers on 12 November 1912. Tragically the men died just 18 kilometres from their next supply of food and fuel which might have saved them.

Born in 1868, Scott joined the Royal Navy as a cadet aged 13. During his career he commanded two Antarctic expeditions. On the first (1901-1904), he discovered Edward VII Peninsula, surveyed the coast of Victoria Land and explored the continent itself. Yet it was his second expedition, launched in 1910 aboard the Terra Nova, that continues to capture the popular imagination.

The Terra Nova expedition set off from New Zealand on 26 November 1910. Just before his departure, Scott learned that the Norwegian explorer, Roald Amundsen, was on his way to Antarctica too and that he was after the same goal -- to reach the South Pole. Scott continued, setting up base camp at Camp Evans and laying out advance supply depots along the route that the Polar party would be taking the following spring. During the winter the scientists continued with their research and the others with their preparation for the journey. Bowers, Wilson and Apsley Cherry-Garrard made their now famous winter journey to Cape Crozier to study the emperor penguins.

The motor sledges set off on 26 October 1911, with Scott following on 1 November to join the party which now consisted of 16 men, 10 ponies and 20 dogs. After 80 kilometres a combination of bad weather and motor sledge failure resulted in the team falling behind schedule. Three man-hauling parties continued but one turned back half way up the Beardmore Glacier which the other continued to lay a depot. Five men -- Scott, Wilson, Bowers, Lawrence Oates and Edward Evans formed the party for the final assault on the Pole. As they advanced across the Polar plateau their strength began to wane. On 16 January 1912, the party discovered a sledging marker left by the Norwegian party -- Amundsen had beaten them by a month. …

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