Scott reaches the South Pole
The 17th of January 1912 AD
Arriving at the South Pole in the middle of its year-long winter, Robert Falcon Scott and his four colleagues had another disappointment to contend with.
What was an expedition had turned to a race, and they had lost. The Norwegians, led by Roald Amundsen, meant that Earth’s southern most extremity was ‘conquered’ by the time Scott had arrived on the scene. It was an agonising irony: the south yielding to men from Norway, a land
whose bulk rests in the Arctic Circle. But coming second, and not having the satisfaction of stabbing a Union flag into the snow and ice, would pale into insignificance when assessed in the context of the Terra Nova expedition’s tragic, frigid fate.
It was Scott’s second visit to Antarctica. A Naval officer of some distinction, he was one of history’s men who, through the ages, became smitten with the glory of an adventure into the unknown. He led the Discovery expedition tantalisingly close to the South Pole in 1901. The Royal Geographic Society and the Royal Society sired the mission – officially known as the National Antarctic Expedition, the Dundee -built Discovery endured the icy expanse of Antarctica and made it back. That in itself a victory.
But for Scott, it was not enough. He needed the Pole. Lauded for his bravery at the time, current opinions of his leadership have been more critical; eschewing the help of Siberian huskies, it is said that Scott was perhaps naive in his pursuit of the South Pole. His relationship with his fellow explorers was also said to be strained: the competition for the glory a potential dynamic that soured relations between the crew.
For Terra Nova and Scott, morale must have plummeted lower than the local temperature after Amundsen’s success, and the future was even more bleak. The 800 mile journey back was fated by Scott to be “dreadfully tiring and monotonous” – he was wrong, it would be much worse.
More famous dates here
8158 views since 17th January 2008
On this day: