Antarctic History: Scott Snowbound in a Tent

800px Scott's party at the South Pole

As most of you know, this past Antarctic season marked the 100th anniversary of Roald Amundsen reaching the South Pole. Amundsen’s triumph was the culmination of an epic struggle between the Norwegian and his British rival Robert Falcon Scott, who arrived a few weeks later to find that he had lost the race to plant his nation’s flag at 90ºS. Beaten and dejected, Scott and his remaining men faced a long, cold march back to the coast where their ship was waiting to take them home. We all know that they suffered mightily on that return trip before ultimately succumbing to their fate just 11 miles from a supply depot that would have made the difference between life and death.

Scott and his four remaining companions turned away from the South Pole on January 19th and for two months they struggled to complete their fateful journey. Along the way, one of the men, Edgar Evans, suffered a fall that left him badly injured. He managed to continue forward for several more weeks, but on February 17th he fell once again and this time he wouldn’t get up. Nearly a month later, on March 16, Lawrence Oats, suffering severely from frostbite, would exit the tent in the middle of night and wander off into the Antarctic expanse. He was never seen again.

On March 20th, one hundred years ago today, Scott and his two remaining companions, Edward Wilson and Henry Bowers, found themselves caught in a major Antarctic blizzard. That storm left them stranded in their tent, unable to move forward and woefully low on food, fuel and supplies. While their spirits were no doubt incredibly low and the three men were both physically and mentally exhausted, they knew that their supply depot was probably only a day or two away. That depot would provide them with everything they would need to complete the last leg of their journey back to the coast, where their ship the Terra Nova, waited.

Unfortunately that blizzard would last for nine straight days and Scott and his men would slowly run out of food and fuel. Of all the hardships they suffered on that expedition, sitting there in that tent, waiting to die, had to be the worst.

The last entry in Scott’s journal came on March 29th. But that is another story.

Kraig Becker

2 thoughts on “Antarctic History: Scott Snowbound in a Tent”

  1. Nice post, Kraig. (and curse upon the spammers!) The Scott story has fascinated me since I was a kid. Some have tried to cast a negative slant to his story, but for mine, he remains a heroic, tragic character, even if a he suffered from human flaws.

  2. Right there with you Andrew. I have always been fascinated with Scott's story too. For me it is one of the most tragic in history and I can't help but empathize with the feelings he must have had when he was defeated at the Pole and faced that long march back out. Ugh!

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