Crime & History

5 Insane Facts About Captain Scott's Doomed South Pole Expedition

23 Apr 2017


The frozen and bitter climate of the South Pole is one of the most unforgiving environments on the planet, with temperatures routinely dropping to -30 degrees. This is why when Captain Robert Falcon Scott announced he would lead an expedition to the Antarctic in 1910; he was thought to be insane.

Famously, the Arctic conquered Scott, and he perished while trying to achieve his goal, leaving a diary telling of the struggles he and his team were faced with. Here are five insane facts about Captain Scott's South Pole expedition.

5Not The First Person To Attempt The Journey

Scott was not the first adventurer to attempt a voyage to Antarctica. In 1839, British Naval officer James Clark Ross launched his own expedition.

The Ross team made several important discoveries, such as the existence of two massive volcanoes within the Antarctic, which were dubbed “Mount Erebus” and “Mount Terror”, named after the expedition’s two naval war vessels, as well as the Ross Sea.

Even though the expedition was successful, Ross made it known that the voyage was exceedingly difficult, and he tried to dissuade others from attempting it. Unfortunately, these were warnings that Scott did not heed.

4The Expedition Was Doomed From The Start

Many had come to believe that the entire expedition was going to fail before it even began, largely due to Scott’s organisation and planning.

For instance, Scott had inadequately organised the men’s rations. To survive in the temperatures, they would be facing, each member of the team would have needed around 6500 calories per day.

Examination of the rations shows that at most the men would have had to live on 4500 calories per day, essentially unknowingly starving themselves.

Scott also shot down the idea that ponies were an unsuitable mode of transport in the Antarctic. However, this later proved to be the case, and many of the ponies, either died or were forced to turn back near the start of the expedition, due to their inability to handle the conditions.

3Only Five Remained

Just 35 days into the expedition, only five of the original team continued on the trek. When it became apparent that the weather and terrain was, too much for the ponies and dogs many members of the crew turned back; leaving the rest of the men to pull an additional 200 pounds of supplies through the knee-deep snow.

On the 20th of December, Scott told four of his men to return to the base and wait for a pick up from the retrieval team; this left just Scott and four others, Edward Evans, Henry Bowers, Lawrence Oates and Edward Wilson.

2They Faced The Ultimate Sacrifice

Scott’s diary tells of the dire circumstances the five men who pushed on towards the pole faced. They all suffered from frostbite and had sustained broken bones from numerous trips and falls.

On February 16th, after becoming delusional and stripping out of his clothes, Evans died of hypothermia. But worse was still to come, the surviving men were now faced with the reality that there were not enough rations to sustain them all, that is when Oates made the ultimate sacrifice. He turned to his companion and said, “I am just going outside and may be some time”. He sacrificed himself to save his comrades.

On the 29th of March, Scott made his last diary entry before perishing. The rescue team that found Scott’s and the others bodies noted that they were just 11 miles away from a refuelling depot.

1Scott Was Beaten To The Pole

Perhaps the biggest insult to the memory of those that lost their lives in the expedition was that, after the struggles they faced, they were not the first people to reach the South Pole.

Scott was racing against a Norwegian party, led by Roald Amundsen. It is widely believed that the reason the Norwegian expedition succeeded was that they used lighter sledges and did not use ponies.

Agonisingly Scott was aware of this before his death, as he did achieve his goal and reached the South Pole on 17 January 1912, only to find a Norwegian flag already standing proudly there.

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