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Terra Nova Expedition

In the early 20th Century, several countries were competing with each other to explore Antarctica and be the first to reach the South Pole. In 1910, Captain Robert Falcon Scott of the British Navy, set off on the Terra Nova Expedition with the aim of reaching the South Pole before anyone else. 

Herbert Ponting Scott's ship Terra Nova 1910

They arrived in Antarctica on 4th January 1911 and built huts to live in on the shore. The long, dark Antarctic winter was on the way so they decided to wait until spring before starting their trek to the Pole. In the meantime, they began to set up food stores along the first part of the route to leave room for more on the sledges which they would have to drag with them.

Terra nova hut inside

Some of the men went off to look for fossils, rocks and Emperor penguin eggs but bad weather stopped them from getting back. Temperatures plunged to -60oC so they made an ice cave and lived in it all winter. They ate seals and penguins and only just survived.

When spring arrived, Scott set out on the 1,530km (950 miles) journey to the South Pole with four of his companions. Both the motorised sledges soon broke down and their ponies collapsed with exhaustion, however. The group also had to cross a huge glacier which was difficult because they had no skis and it was very steep.

Antarctic expedition map (Amundsen - Scott)-en

To keep warm, they had to wear many layers of clothing, including: thick underwear, two flannel shirts, a jacket, a sweater, cloth trousers, a jacket, an outer suit, a balaclava and woollen mittens. Their boots and sleeping bags were made from reindeer fur.

Scott reached the Pole on 17th January 1912, only to find that he had been beaten there by the Norwegian explorer Ronald Amundsun just a month earlier. Scott found: tracks of Amundson's dogs, a little tent and a Norwegian flag fluttering in the wind. He wrote in his diary: 'Great God! This is an awful place.'


Bitterly disappointed, they began to walk the terrible journey back. As the days passed however, snow began falling harder and harder. A man named Evans fell and was injured, hampering the rest until he died. Then another - Captain Oates - was suffering from terrible frostbite so he bravely walked out into a blizzard to die. He told the group: "I am just going outside, I may be some time".

Eventually, Scott and his two surviving comrades also died, trapped in their tent by the snow and killed by starvation and exposure to the extreme cold. Their bodies were found eight months later, along with photos showing the dejected group at Pole. Scott had his diary tucked under his arm. The last entry, 29th March 1912, reads: 'The end cannot be far. It seems a pity but I do not think I can write more'. They were just 11 miles from the safety of their next food store.