Tag Archives: Scott


13 Nov

On our cruise to Norway and Spitsbergen we visited the Polar Museum in Tromso – many details of Roald Amundsen’s expeditions; lantern slides, original letters, photographs, newspaper articles, which gave information about his attempts at the North Pole and the North West Passage in 1906, and his plans for a further attempt to go north in 1909. Also information about his successful expedition to the South Pole in 1911

 I was of course, particularly interested by Amundsen’s change of plans, his decision to sail south from Madeira in September 1910 instead on north: Why did he do this and why did he keep the plans secret? The explanation was funding. 
 In 1910 he wrote that although the plan to take ‘Fram’ south rather than north could be interpreted as a change of plan, this was not the case; it was actually an extension of the original plan, an extension needed so he could be sure of attracting sufficient funds and equipment for the long drift on the polar ice. He wrote that he had actually changed his plans in 1909, secondary to the announcement that the Americans, Peary and Cook had claimed to have got to the North Pole. This claim would have deterred donors from giving Amundsen the necessary funds for his northern plans. Something else was needed to attract public attention and interest in order to attract the large amount of money still needed.
In August 1910, he wrote to Nansen (who he had not informed before sailing), in the same vein. He started his letter; ‘It is not easy to send you these lines, but there is no way to avoid it, and therefore I will just have to tell it to you straight. When the news from the Cook, and later the Peary, expeditions came to my knowledge last autumn, I instantly understood that this was the death sentence for my own plans. I immediately concluded that after this I could not be expected to secure the financial support I required for the expedition’. He said that the Norwegian Parliament’s decisions to decline requests for support proved him right. He did not want to abandon his plans but he realised that the South Pole, the main remaining challenge in the Polar Regions, was the one to excite public interest. He had not told Nansen of his plans because he was afraid that Nansen would stop him. He had no animosity against Scott and wanted to meet him.
He wrote that he was sending the King the same message and that his brother would make a public announcement a few days after Nansen had received the message.
He did not go back to the ‘long drift on the polar ice’ and the scientific expedition he had planned to the north. But his achievement in reaching the South Pole first was magnificent. He attracted world fame, international attention and he lectured widely to fascinated audiences.


18 Apr

Only experts can fully understand the recent discoveries from the South Pole, but all of us can marvel at the implications.

The South Pole is an ideal place for observation of the cosmos because of its high altitude (thin atmosphere) and cold (little water vapour which can confuse signals). The telescope is designed to detect microwave radiation and can scan huge areas of the universe.

The aim, to investigate the nature of the universe, has been triumphantly successful recently and strengthened the importance of continued scientific research in Antarctica. Scientists from Harvard have found evidence of gravity waves, ripples in space-time that were formed in an infinitely miniscule time when the cosmos was created.

The presence of the gravity waves supports the theory of HYPERINFLATION, the idea that, at the start of the universe, there was a violent and hugely fast, period of expansion,

Professor John Kovac’s team recorded photons, which were pulled and squeezed by the gravity waves. This caused light packets to line up in a way that would not be expected if they had crossed the cosmos undisturbed by these gravity waves.

It is claimed that hyperinflation is the only way that these gravity waves could have been produced. An important implication is that our universe is not the only one formed in this way, there could be many, many other galaxies, all containing a similar number of stars.

I think that every confirmation of the validity of Einstein’s theory of general relativity is comforting.

This is further evidence of the value of scientific research in Antarctica. The research by men of science began with Scott’s two expeditions. Scott laid much emphasis on the scientific work.

Impossible for most of us to understand in any detail, but some may say this is part of the scheme of things inspired by the Almighty.


6 Aug

The centenary of Shackleton’s most famous expedition is coming up fast. I imagine there will be many celebrations.

Shackleton is looked on as a charismatic leader, known throughout the world. His management skills are hugely admired. But, I wonder, would he, at the end of his career, have looked upon himself as a success or a failure?

Although his achievements are many, he never in fact, commanded more than 27 men and, it can be said,  he failed in the Antarctic goals he set himself: He was sent home by Scott from ‘Discovery’, a tremendous blow to a proud and ambitious man. On the ‘Nimrod’ expedition he achieved a glorious success in getting to within a hundred miles of the Pole, but he did not get to the Pole and, when eventually he had funds to return this had been achieved, not only by Amundsen, but also by Scott, no glory in being third. On the ‘Endurance’ expedition he did not achieve any of the ambitions that he had set himself – it has been said that some failures are more glorious than success and certainly, his command of this expedition is legendary (the sail to South Georgia and the boat journey to Elephant Island are regarded as almost miraculous), but he did not actually get onto the mainland.

I think ‘Endurance’ (part of the family motto), applies not only to the ship but to Shackleton himself. His endurance was both physical and outstandingly, mental. His overwhelming gift was to instill confidence and hope.

But I think at the end of his life, on balance, he would not have considered himself a great success.

Baumgartner’s amazing achievement

22 Oct

The BBC News Magazine of 15/10/2012 reports on this unbelievable feat.

Interestingly, the article draws attention to previous flights, and describes Scott’s balloon flight over the Barrier on the ‘Discovery’ expedition. Other flights are mentioned, including Yuri Gagarin.

Although Scott was fascinated by science and new innovations, I do not think he would have claimed that this venture was anything particularly extraordinary: except of course that it could have ended in disaster as he plummeted to earth!!

Shackleton went up too. He went a bit higher. But after this the balloon was put away

‘The Blinding Sea’, documentary film by George Tombs

5 Mar

My attention has been drawn to this film, (which is due for release this month), by the Canadian writer and film maker, George Tombs.  The work emphasises how Amundsen was extremely well versed  in dealing with Polar conditions, well before his attempt on the Pole in 1911. He  lived with and learnt from the Inuits. He understood how to manage dog teams, when to kill weaker dogs and importantly how to ward off scurvy by eating meat regularly as well as undigested seaweed from the intestines of slaughtered seals. Amundsen’s recognition  and appreciation of Inuit skills stood him in good stead in the Antarctic. They apparently thought of him as ‘one of their own’.

These were skills that  Scott had no opportunity to learn. Although diligent in acquiring every piece of information and technical advance, his time was completely taken up  between 1904 and 1909 with his naval career (and supporting his mother and sisters). There was no space for exploration. The fact that he did not take dogs onto the glacier and plateau in 1911 contributed significantly to the final tragic outcome.