3 Nov 2011

Scott’s Last Journey - marking the centenary

From Our Changing World, 9:50 pm on 3 November 2011

terra nova hut

A hundred years ago this week, Robert Falcon Scott set off from his hut at Cape Evans, pictured above, on his journey to the South Pole.

He was well aware of his rival by that stage, and wrote in his diary in October 1911 that he was unsure what to think of Amundsen’s chances. “If he gets to the Pole, it must be before we do, as he is bound to travel fast with dogs and pretty certain to start early. On this account I decided at a very early date to act exactly as I should have done had he not existed. Any attempt to race must have wrecked my plan, besides which it doesn’t appear the sort of thing one is out for.”

Scott’s party departed on November 1, 1911, with ponies in tow, including the “little devil Christopher” whom Oates had to hold with all his might just to get him harnessed. A day earlier Scott had written that his diary now began the “first chapter of our history. The future is in the lap of the gods; I can think of nothing left undone to deserve success.”

The team’s first task was to cross The Barrier, as the Ross Sea Ice Shelf was known then. By Sunday, November 5, 1911, they reached camp 3, where Scott found a note from Evans, who had been travelling with a motor and had to abandon it when one cylinder cracked. The motor party proceeded as a man-hauling party instead, as it had been agreed beforehand. However, Scott was pleased wit the performance of the ponies. “We are all much cheered by this performance. It shows a hardening up of ponies which have been well trained; even Oates is pleased!”

oates bunk

The tenements: Oates' bunk is easily identified by the horse tack.  (images: V Meduna)

Our Changing World will track Scott's journey, first once a month and then week by week as his party reaches the Polar Plateau, to mark the centenary of the discovery of the South Pole.