Robert Falcon Scott (1868 - 1912)

In 1900 Scott was chosen to lead the British National Antarctic Expedition on the DISCOVERY. They set sail from Cowes on August 6, 1901 with 50 men and 19 Greenland huskies. (SIDELIGHT: The 1989/90 Steger expedition included dogs descended from these huskies.)

The expedition charted approximately 1,200 miles of coastline. Biological and meteorological as well as geological studies were done. In spring sledding parties set out to explore the continent. The most important of these was made up of Scott, Wilson and Shackleton's attempt to find a route to the pole. They set out on November 2, using all the dogs harnessed in 3 teams. By the time they reached 82-1'S, however, they were forced by illness to turn back.

Scott was promoted to captain upon his return to England in 1904, and in 1905 was made commander of the Royal Victorian Order.

In 1910 he organized another Antarctic expedition. Backed by the British and dominion governments the expedition set sail in June 1910 on the TERRA NOVA. In November 1911 Scott and 4 companions began traveling south by man hauled sledge.

Delayed by bad weather, they reached the south geographic pole on January 17, 1912. Roald Amundsen, using dogs and favored by better weather, had gotten there on December 14, 1911. Upon making this discovery, Scott decided to spend several days collecting geological samples, perhaps hoping to make up for what he saw as a failure.

(SIDENOTE: Amundsen's route was also shorter. He killed several of his dogs on his way to the pole, caching them along the route to feed the remaining dogs on his trip back.)

On the return trip petty officer Edgar Evans suffered continual frostbite. He had twice fallen into crevasses, striking his head. He died in February 1912.

On March 7, 1912 Captain Oates committed suicide by walking out into a blizzard. He had been unable to pull a sledge due to his weakened condition, and had hoped to ease the burden on his companions by sacrificing himself.

On March 21, 1912 the remaining members of Scott's party were 11 miles from One Ton Depot. They had 2 days worth of food and one day's worth of fuel. That night a blizzard came up that lasted for 9 days.

The last entry in Scott's log is dated March 29. It says, in part, "Everyday we have been ready to start for our depot 11 miles away but outside the door of the tent it remains a scene of whirling drift. We shall stick it out to the end, but we are getting weaker, of course, and the end can not be far. It seems a pity but I do not think I can write any more."

On November 12, 1912 a search party found Scott's tent containing the bodies of Scott, Wilson, and Lieutenant Bowers. They built a cairn over the bodies of the explorers, and brought back all the diaries, personal papers and scientific records as well as 30 pounds of geological samples from the Beardmore glacier.

A polar research institute was founded in Cambridge in 1920 in Scott's name to honor his work.


Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton

(1874 - 1922)

Shackleton, then a lieutenant, was a deck officer on the British National Antarctic Expedition (DISCOVERY) lead by Scott. He took part in the sledge journey over the Ross Ice Shelf when latitude 82-16'33"S was reached. He became ill with scurvy, however, and was evacuated on the supply ship MORNING in March, 1903.

In January 1908 he went back to Antarctica as the leader of the British Antarctic Expedition (NIMROD). He led a sledding party that got to within 87 miles of the south pole. The Victoria Land Plateau was claimed for the British crown.

Shackleton was the first to use mechanical vehicles during the Nimrod expedition. He used an Arrol-Johnston vehicle with a 4-cylinder, 15 horsepower air cooled engine and ribbed tires. These vehicles, however, proved less useful then dogs under the extreme conditions in Antarctica.

In March 1914 he left England with the British Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition (ENDURANCE). He had planned to cross Antarctica from a base on the Weddell Sea to McMurdo Sound. The expedition ship ran into problems off the Caird coast, however, and drifted for 10 months before being crushed by pack ice October 27, 1915. The ship sank on November 21, 1915.

The expedition drifted on the ice floes for 5 months. The finally escaped on small boats to Elephant Island in the South Shetland Islands in April 1916.

Shackleton died on January 5, 1922 at Grtviken, South Georgia.