January 29, 2007

Amundsen's route to the South Pole, 1910-1912

A map drawn from the first telegraphic account of Amundsen's route to the South Pole. Also shown is the route of Shackleton's Nimrod expedition in 1908-1909. No route is shown for Scott as it was not known at the time the map was drawn.

January 28, 2007

28 January 1907


In late January, Scott began to sound out the Royal Geographical Society about funding another Antarctic expedition. He spoke with Sir George Goldie, the Society's president, although his plans were still nebulous, and a few days later wrote to Scott Keltie, its secretary. "[You] must do the very best you can to enlist general sympathy. There cannot be a doubt that the thing ought to be done. There is the finest prospect of a big advance in latitude that has ever been before a polar explorer."

"Rub all this into Goldie -- it's essentially the thing for a Geographical Society and remember what a future generation will think if you lose the experience combined with the will to go when these are at your command. It will soon be on record of course that I want to go and only need funds. I am pretty certain that I could do the whole thing for £30,000. It won't look well for the Society if an inexperienced foreigner cuts in on the thing while we are wasting time. There really is a splendid chance." [1]


[1] R.F. Scott, letter to Scott Keltie, 28 January, 1907, quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (
New York : Knopf, c2005), p.297.

January 6, 2007

Scott's route to the South Pole, 1910-1912

A map drawn by Apsley Cherry-Garrard for his book The Worst Journey in the World, of Scott's route to the South Pole, with depots shown.

January 4, 2007

Robert Falcon Scott

"Captain Robert Falcon Scott, R.N., C.V.O., F.R.G.S., Leader of the National Antarctic Expedition 1901–04 and 1910–12." [1]

Robert Falcon Scott was born 6th June, 1868, the son of a prosperous brewer and magistrate and his wife, in Stoke Damerel in Devon. Coming from a family with a strong naval tradition, young Scott entered the navy as a cadet at the age of thirteen, and in a fairly smooth progression was made lieutenant by 1889. Due to unwise investments and the unexpected deaths of his father and younger brother, Scott’s family found themselves in dire financial straits, with Scott the only means of support for his mother and two unmarried sisters.

In June of 1899, Scott volunteered to lead the expedition to the Antarctic then being put together under the auspices of Sir Clements Markham, then President of the Royal Geographical Society. The ambitious Scott regarded this as an excellent opportunity to both obtain an early command and to distinguish himself, not only advancing his career but providing support for his nearly-penniless family. Through the influence of Sir Clements, Scott was made leader of the expedition and promoted to the rank of commander. The Discovery sailed for the Antarctic on 31st July, 1901.

Amongst the fifty members of the expedition, there was little polar experience, and the expedition struggled in the Antarctic terrain. Skis and dogs were taken, but hardly any of the men knew how to use them. An ill-fated attempt to reach Cape Crozier on the easternmost part of Ross Island resulted in the death of one of the seamen in early 1902. A long march southwards taken by Scott with Ernest Shackleton, the expedition’s third officer, and Edward Wilson, its zoologist and junior doctor, got them as far as 82° 17' S, but led to Shackleton’s physical collapse from strain and scurvy on the return journey. Tensions between members of the expedition led to the departure of a number of them on the relief ships, including Shackleton himself, sent home on the grounds of ill-health. A second march in late 1903 led to the discovery of the Polar Plateau.

The Discovery returned to England in September 1904, and despite the expedition’s amateurism in many areas and the necessity for an expensive relief mission to free the ship from the ice, it received great public acclaim, and Scott was promoted to captain. Endless receptions and lectures and the writing of the expedition record, The Voyage of the Discovery (published in 1905), delayed Scott’s return to a full-time naval career until early 1906, when he became assistant to the Director of Naval Intelligence at the Admiralty and later flag-captain to Rear-Admiral Sir George Egerton.


[1] National Maritime Museum.