The Voyage of the Discovery, 1905
Scott’s Last Expedition, 1913
Robert Falcon Scott’s early education was acquired at Stoke Damerel and Stubbington House, Fareham; at twelve years of age he entered service on HMS Britannia, and in 1882 he became a midshipman. He served on various ships, rising steadily in rank, and was promoted to first lieutenant in 1897. In 1899 he was offered, and accepted, the command of the National Antarctic Expedition. The party, consisting mostly of naval personnel but sailing under the merchant flag, embarked aboard the ship Discovery in 1901. They explored the Antarctic ice barrier, discovered King Edward VII Land, and established a camp in McMurdo Sound that remained the expedition base for approximately two years. Various scientific activities were carried out during this period, and Scott made two notable sledge journeys southward into the interior of the continent.
On his return from Antarctica in 1904 Scott was promoted to captain; his achievements were acclaimed, and publication of his journal in two volumes the following year assured his international reputation. In 1909 he was appointed naval assistant to the second sea lord of the Admiralty. At this time he was engaged in planning a second Antarctic expedition, which tried to reach the South Pole.
His party sailed aboard the Terra Nova in June, 1910, and upon arrival at McMurdo Sound a number of supply depots were established along the overland route Scott planned to follow. A similar expedition headed by the Norwegian Roald Amundsen arrived at the Bay of Whales during this time. Scott and four companions set out for the South Pole on November 1, 1911; after severe hardships and the longest sledge journey ever undertaken–1,842 miles–they reached their destination on January 18, 1912, only to find that Amundsen had been there on December 14. Scott’s return journey was an unremitting series of disasters. Blizzards, frostbite, and exhaustion took their toll. Scott was the last of the five men to succumb. He made the final entry in his journal on March 29. The other tasks of the expedition were pursued by the members who had remained at the base camp. Much valuable exploration and scientific work was carried out by this group.
When the expedition returned to civilization in 1913, Scott’s achievements and the circumstances of his death became generally known. His journal, published posthumously the same year, has remained a classic in the literature of exploration. It is an account of epic struggle and tenacity, of indomitable spirit, and of quiet courage when the end becomes inevitable. The concluding pages, which consist of messages to his own family and friends and those of his companions, betray only a deep concern for others. The sincerity and nobility expressed in his words have ensured his hold upon the public imagination.