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Robert Falcon Scott

(1868—1912) naval officer and Antarctic explorer


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(1868–1912)

British explorer who, on the second of his two Antarctic expeditions, reached the South Pole with several companions only to perish on the return journey.

Born in Plymouth, Scott entered the Royal Navy, becoming a first lieutenant; in 1900 he was appointed leader of the National Antarctic Expedition and promoted to commander. His ship Discovery departed in August 1901 and, after studies of the Ross Ice Shelf, moored for the winter at McMurdo Sound. The expedition, which included E. H. Shackleton, spent two years making scientific observations and surveying South Victoria Land. On their return in 1904, Scott was promoted to captain.

After various naval commands and admiralty duties, Scott's plans for a further Antarctic expedition came to fruition on 1 June 1910 when his vessel Terra Nova departed for the Ross Sea. They established base at Cape Evans in January 1911 and, after setting up forward supply bases, set out for the Pole on 1 November 1911. The motor sledges were soon abandoned; several of the ponies succumbed and the rest were shot for food. At the Beardmore Glacier, only five members continued, pulling their sledges by hand: Scott, Dr E. A. Wilson, Captain Lawrence Oates, Lieutenant H. R. Bowers, and Petty Officer Edgar Evans. They reached the Pole on 17 January 1912 only to find the Norwegian flag erected by Amundsen's team one month earlier. Exhausted and dejected, Scott's group started the return journey. On 17 February, Evans died. On 17 March, Oates, too badly frostbitten to continue, gallantly crawled out of their tent into a blizzard to his death in order not to slow down the rest of the party. Scott wrote the final entry in his diary on 29 March as they camped in a blizzard only eleven miles from their southernmost supply depot. Their bodies, together with Scott's diaries and letters and the geological specimens they had gathered, were found by a search party the following November.

Subjects: Maritime History.


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