February 18, 2007

Monday, 18 February 1907


To Scott, Shackleton's announcement seemed a breach of professional etiquette if not an act of outright treachery. Keltie, having been told Scott's intentions in confidence, could say nothing about them to Shackleton, and wrote to Scott, "He told me he had been planning something of the kind ever since he came back, probably to prove that though he had been sent home, he is quite as good as those who remained. He assured me that he had heard on the best authority that the Belgians had an expedition ready to send out to the Discovery quarters and make for the Pole, and that is the reason why he wished to rush out with his announcement.... The position is an awkward one, as you can understand."

"I suppose even if you had the necessary funds, you would not think of going down there as a rival to Shackleton? He is very confident of success, but I am doubtful of it myself, and it is just possible that he may have to return within 18 months after he set out without doing much. then of course it might be our opportunity." [1]

Scott was already writing to Shackleton. "The situation is awkward for me. As a matter of fact I have always intended to try again but as I am dependent on the Navy I was forced to reinstate myself & get some experience before I again asked for leave, meanwhile I thought it best to keep my plans in the dark.... You see therefore that your announcement cuts right across my plans but in a way I feel I have a sort of right to my own field of work in the same way as Peary claimed Smith's Sound and many African travellers their particular locality -- I am sure you will agree with me in this and I am equally sure that only your entire ignorance of my plan could have made you settle on the Discovery route without a word to me. As I say Michael Barne is now in town I wish you would meet him and discuss matters as he is in possession of my ideas."

Barne, who had been Scott's second lieutenant on the Discovery, had since tried to raise money for an expedition of his own to the Weddell Sea, but agreed in September 1906 to accompany Scott again instead.

"PS," Scott wrote, "I feel sure that with a little discussion we can work in accord rather than in opposition -- I don't believe the Foreigner will do much, the whole area is ours to attack." [2]

He was writing again almost immediately. "I ought perhaps to explain to you what has been my attitude with regard to the South a little more carefully as I wrote in haste.... Of course my intention was to go to McMurdo Sound our old winter quarters again! I cannot but look upon this as my area until I signify my intention to desert it -- I think this is not a dog in the manger attitude for after all I know the region better than anyone, everything concerning it was discovered by our expedition and it is a natural right of leadership to continue along the line which I made.... The foreigners always conceded this when I was abroad or rather they conceded that the sphere of the Ross Sea was English; indeed they did this in the case of 'Discovery' herself on account of Ross. Surely if a foreigner has the good taste to leave this to the country which has done the work there, the English must admit the same argument to apply amongst themselves." He added, somewhat disingenuously, "I would explain to you that the reason I did not write to you [earlier] was because it never entered my head that you had a wish to go on. I have imagined you as very busy.... I had naturally no object in keeping any of our old company in the dark, you know how attached I am to all and how gladly I would take anyone who cared come again." [3]


[1] Scott Keltie, letter to R.F. Scott, 18 February, 1907, quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.299.
[2] R.F. Scott, letter to Ernest Shackleton, 18 February, 1907, quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.299-300.
[3] R.F. Scott, letter to Ernest Shackleton, undated, quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.300.

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