In the year Aston Martin was founded, news of the tragic end to Captain Scott’s journey to the South Pole reached Britain. A stunning new book has now brought together a collection of remarkably candid photographs of the expedition
Brave, daring and ambitious but, in the end, tragic and fatal. The attempt to become the first men to reach the South Pole early in the 20th century was an heroic adventure undertaken by Captain Robert Scott and his team, known as the polar party. Having sailed to the Antarctic on board the Terra Nova and made extensive preparations, they left their base camp at Ross Island in January 1912 full of hope and expectation. However, on arrival at the Pole after a lengthy but relatively uneventful journey on 17 January, Scott’s men found a Norwegian flag flying and realised they had been beaten there by Roald Amundsen’s team (who, aided by the use of husky dogs, had reached it some 33 days previously and thus written themselves into the history books).
Dejected, the British began the daunting 800-mile return passage, battered and buffeted by some of the worst weather ever recorded in the region. Scott perished along with his four colleagues—Edgar Evans, Edward Wilson, Henry Robertson Bowers and Lawrence Oates. After a second serious fall, Evans collapsed and died near the foot of the Beardmore Glacier, before Oates, suffering from severe frostbite in his feet, tried to ease the others’ return with an extraordinary act of self-sacrifice. Famously, according to Scott’s diaries, he stepped out of the tent in which they were sheltering, saying: “I am just going outside and I may be some time”.
The remaining three members pushed on but the deteriorating weather meant they travelled just another 20 miles, before making their final camp. Fierce blizzards prevented them progressing any further and once their supplies had run out, with storms still raging outside the tent, they are presumed to have died on or around 29 March 1912.
Eight months later, in November 1912, a search party from the expedition’s base camp located the tent containing the frozen bodies of Scott, Wilson and Bowers, lying side by side in their sleeping bags. The tent was just 11 miles short of the next supply depot, where supplies, which could have saved them, lay waiting. The rescue team headed further south to look for Oates’s body, but could only find his sleeping bag before returning safely to base. Word of their tragic passing was finally sent back to the United Kingdom in February 1913.
By coincidence, that same year Aston Martin was founded and, as we celebrate the marque’s centenary, it is apt to reflect upon the story of Captain Scott and his intrepid team, who pushed the very boundaries of human endurance during their epic journey to the foot of the world.
Their story is told in detail in South Pole: The British Antarctic Expedition 1910-1913 (Assouline), written by Christine Dell’Amore, environment editor for National Geographic News. Mesmerising black-and-white photography by Herbert Ponting is accompanied by entries from Scott’s frank and harrowing personal journal. A special waterproof limited edition is available, standing two feet tall. The book’s proceeds are being donated to the Antarctic Heritage Trust, whose mission is to preserve expedition bases and the thousands of associated artefacts that survive for the benefit of future generations, and to “inspire people through the values associated with adventure, discovery and leadership”. Copies can be ordered from assouline.com.