March 24, 2009

Wednesday, 24 March 1909


Marshall, Wild, and Shackleton at 88°23'S, 9th January 1909. Adams took the photograph. [1]

The same day that he took up his new Admiralty appointment as Naval assistant to Admiral Sir Francis Bridgeman, Second Sea Lord, Scott heard the news of Shackleton's arrival in New Zealand.

Shackleton had got within 97 miles of the Pole before weather, short rations, and dysentery forced the four-man Polar party to turn back.

Doubts were soon cast on Shackleton's latitudes, which had been calculated by dead reckoning, the estimation of present position based on route, speed, and elapsed time since the previous observation (as opposed to the more accurate celestial navigation, determining current position by its relation to sun, stars, etc.), but on the whole Shackleton was received with acclamation and official recognition.

"The private feeling incurred by past incidents cannot affect my judgment of his work," Scott wrote to Leonard Darwin, now president of the RGS. "That excited my interest and admiration to an extent that can scarcely be felt by those who have no experience of Polar difficulties." [2]

He wrote rather differently to Skelton. "Shackleton's exploit is very fine, but of course I cannot but share your mixed feelings -- However, outwardly, there is only one attitude for me and I shall have to do & say things that go a little against the grain -- What a difference it would make if one could be genuinely enthusiastic! -- but there's such a lot that tastes bad!" [3]


Upon hearing Shackleton's news, Amundsen wrote to the RGS, "I must ... congratulate you ... upon this wonderful achievement.... The English nation has by the deed of Shackleton won a victory in the Antarctic exploration [sic] which never can be surpassed. What Nansen is in the North Shackleton is in the South." [4]

"More than any of their predecessors," he later wrote of Shackleton and his men, "[they] had succeeded in raising the veil that lay over 'Antarctica.' But a little corner remained." [5]


[1] Wikipedia.
[2] R.F. Scott, letter to Leonard Darwin, 23 March, 1909, quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.355.
[3] R.F. Scott, letter to Reginald Skelton, undated, quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.355.
[4] Roald Amundsen, letter to Scott Keltie, 25 March, 1909, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.244-245.
[5] Roald Amundsen, The South Pole, ch.1.

March 1, 2009

March 1909


As Scott was unable to get leave from the Admiralty, Skelton ran the motor sledge trials. Scott had chosen Lillehammer in eastern Norway, as it was easily accessible.

It was about this time that, realising the motor sledges would not be as useful as he had hoped, Scott decided to take ponies as well.