Robert Falcon Scott
|Robert Falcon Scott|
|Born||6 June 1868
|Died||29 March 1912
Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctica
|Education||Naval cadet programme, HMS Britannia|
|Occupation||Royal Navy officer and Antarctic explorer|
|Children||Peter Markham Scott, later Sir Peter Scott|
|Parents||John Edward and Hannah Scott|
Captain Robert Falcon Scott CVO, RN (6 June 1868 – 29 March 1912) was an English Royal Navy officer and explorer who died on an expedition to the South Pole. He is widely known as Scott of the Antarctic, the title of a 1948 movie.
Scott led two expeditions to the Antarctic regions: the Discovery Expedition, 1901–04, and the ill-fated Terra Nova Expedition, 1910–13. Before his appointment to lead the Discovery Expedition, Scott had followed the conventional career of a naval officer in peacetime Victorian Britain, where opportunities for career advancement were keenly sought after by ambitious officers.
It was the chance for personal distinction that led Scott to apply for command of the Discovery. His name became associated with the Antarctic, his field of work for the final twelve years of his life.
Terra Nova Expedition 1910–1913[change | edit source]
During this second venture, Scott led a party of five which reached the South Pole on 17 January 1912, only to find that Roald Amundsen's Norwegian expedition had got there first. On the return journey, Scott and his four comrades died from exhaustion, starvation and extreme cold.
After his death, Scott became a British hero, a status he kept for more than 50 years. In a more sceptical age at the end of the 20th century, the legend was reassessed. Attention focused on the causes of the disaster, and whether Scott was responsible. Scott became a figure of controversy, with questions raised about his competence and character.
In particular, Scott's decision to take ponies and motorised sleds, as well as dogs, was a disaster. The ponies proved almost useless, and the sleds (which worked well at the start) eventually froze up. The dogs, of which there were far too few, were left behind on the final attempt on the Pole. Scott's instructions to the men he left at the base camp were unclear. They did not know whether they should use the dogs to rescue Scott's party when they were overdue. The final group of four died on the way back, after running into a blizzard which stopped their progress.
A widespread view is that his reluctance to rely on dogs, despite the advice of expert ice travellers, was a critical factor. It lost him the race to the pole and, ultimately, the lives of his party. Amundsen, on the other hand, had plenty of dogs. When food ran short, he was able to kill a couple of dogs to feed the men and the rest of the pack.
One author thought there was "devastating evidence of bungling", and that "Scott doomed his companions, then covered his tracks with rhetoric" (in his diaries and letters). Commentators in the 21st century have, so far, regarded Scott more positively.
References[change | edit source]
- Cacho Gómez, Javier 2011. Amundsen-Scott: duel in the Antarctic Forcola, Madrid. ISBN 978-8-41-517431-8
- Crane, David 2005. Scott of the Antarctic: a life of courage, and tragedy in the extreme south. HarperCollins, London. ISBN 978-0-00-715068-7
- Jones, Max: The last great quest: Captain Scott's Antarctic sacrifice. 2003. Oxford University Press, Oxford. ISBN 0-19-280483-9
- Huntford, Roland 1979 (1985). Scott and Amundsen. [later titled The last place on Earth] Modern Library Exploration, ISBN 978-0375754746 ISBN 0375754741
- Spufford, Francis 1997. I may be some time: ice and the English imagination. Faber & Faber, London. ISBN 0-571-17951-7