Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 12, 2012

Robert Falcon Scott

November 12, 1912: Robert Falcon Scott’s frozen body is found. Scott was a Royal Navy officer and explorer who led two expeditions to Antarctica. The first exploration went well. The Discovery Expedition (1901 – 04) sponsored by both the Royal Society and the Royal Geographical Society. The did not make a serious attempt to reach the South Pole but did bring back data on biology, zoology, geology, meteorology, and magnetism. They reached as far south as 82⁰17’S before returning to England. The trip brought fame to many of the Heroic Age of Discovery participants but they never mastered competent polar travel using dogs and skis. This would last throughout the period for British Antarctic expeditions. The team returned to England in September 1904 and became celebrities of a sort.

Between the two trips, Scott and a fellow explorer from the first trip began to vie for leadership for the next voyage. Ernest Shackleton wished to lead his own expedition. In the first one, he was near physical collapse and left the expedition early. The two men finally agreed to work in different areas of Antarctica but because of poor landing sites, Shackleton was not able to keep his part of the bargain. Between the two trips, Scott met and married Kathleen Bruce. While Scott was thus occupied, Shackleton made his trip to Antarctica and back, almost reaching the South Pole. This led Scott to make another voyage.

Scott was given leadership of the Terra Nova Expedition and stated his main purpose was to reach the South Pole. Both royal societies were hoping for a more scientific expedition but were not in charge of the trip. Scott did not realize he was in a race for the Pole until he heard word of Roald Amundsen’s quest in October 1910. Scott was still in Melbourne at the time. The rush to supply the ship for the trip south and Scott’s lack of understanding about travel there led to a couple mistakes. He had horses purchased for the trip which proved to be of poor quality and ill-suited to the task. The next issue was being stuck in an ice pack for 20 days, far longer than usual, giving his team a late start to the season. The main supply point was placed 35 miles farther north than originally planned.

Scott’s team left for the South Pole on November 1, 1911. Because both horses and dogs were used, the group traveled at different rates. While it was first planned for all to go to the Pole, it was finally decided that Scott and four men would make the run alone. They finally reached the Pole on January 17, 1912 only to find that Amundsen had been there first. They began their 800 mile journey back two days later. Edgar Evers died on the trip back on February 17 about half way back. Things were looking bleak for the rest of the group as well. The weather deteriorated and the men were exhausted, frozen, and dealing with snow blindness. Lawrence Oates was the next to die. The remaining men were caught in blizzard and died on March 29. The rest of their party found them eight months later, on this day, frozen in their tent and by the placement of the bodies determined Scott was the last to die.

We took risks, we knew we took them; things have come out against us, and therefore we have no cause for complaint, but bow to the will of Providence, determined still to do our best to the last … Had we lived, I should have had a tale to tell of the hardihood, endurance, and courage of my companions which would have stirred the heart of every Englishman. These rough notes and our dead bodies must tell the tale, but surely, surely, a great rich country like ours will see that those who are dependent on us are properly provided for. – Robert Scott, last entry to his diary

As beautiful as simplicity is, it can become a tradition that stands in the way of exploration. – Laura Nyro

Exploration is really the essence of the human spirit. – Frank Borman

That is the exploration that awaits you! Not mapping stars and studying nebula, but charting the unknown possibilities of existence. – Leonard Nimoy

Also on this day:

Thar She Blows – In 1970, a rotting beached whale was removed from an Oregon beach, sorta.
Daring Young Man – In 1859, the first trapeze performance took place.
Terrorist Attack – In 1997, Ramzi Yousef was found guilty of the WTC bombing of 1993.

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