By Tim Lambert
The early life of Scott
Robert Falcon Scott was a great Antarctic explorer. He is sometimes called Scott of the Antarctic. However, he died tragically in 1912. Robert Scott was born on 6 June 1868 in Devon. He was one of 6 children. His father was a brewer and the family was comfortably off.
When he was 13 Robert Scott enrolled in the navy. He was sent to the training ship HMS Britannia. Between 1883 and 1887 he served on various ships. In 1887-88 he trained to be a lieutenant at the Royal Naval College in Greenwich. Robert Scott later qualified as a torpedo expert.
Then in 1899, Scott heard of a planned British Antarctic Expedition. He applied for command and it was granted to him in June 1900. Robert Scott set sail in The Discovery in August 1901. Scott and his crew explored part of the coast of Antarctica. They also went on expeditions inland. Scott left the Antarctic and returned to Britain in 1904. The expedition was a great success and Scott became a hero and was showered with honors.
Robert Scott then resumed his naval career. Meanwhile, on 2 September 1908, Scott married Kathleen Bruce. The couple had a son named Peter Markham Scott on 14 September 1909.
The Expedition to the South Pole
Captain Scott is remembered, of course for his journey to the South Pole. Scott set sail in June 1910 and arrived at Antarctica in January 1911. In October 1911 (Spring in the Southern Hemisphere) Scott set off for the South Pole. The expedition relied on ponies and dogs for transport. Along the way, depots of supplies were left for the return journey. Scott took extra men with him to help transport the supplies for the depots. When they were no longer needed the extra men were sent back and only a small group of 5 men carried on, on foot to the South Pole.
Captain Scott and his men reached the South Pole on 17 January 1912 but to their great disappointment, the Norwegian Amundsen had already reached it. In his diary, Captain Scott commented ‘This is an awful place’.
Captain Scott and his men then set out on the 800-mile journey back to the coast of Antarctica. Unfortunately, they were suffering from exposure and lack of rations. On 16 March 1912, Lawrence Oates sacrificed himself by going outside the tent and never returning. The survivors made it to a spot only 11 miles from a supply depot but they were caught in a blizzard and their supplies ran out. Captain Scott made his last entry in his diary on 29 March 1912.
The bodies of Robert Falcon Scott and his men were discovered on 12 November 1912. They were buried where they died. News of Captain Scott’s tragic fate reached the rest of the world in February 1913. A memorial service was held in St Paul’s Cathedral and a memorial fund raised money to start the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge.
Captain Scott’s widow Kathleen Scott died in 1947. Captain Scott’s diary is now kept in the British Museum.