VIDEO:Cambridge displays rarely seen artefacts from Scott’s ill fated Polar expedition

AFTER a doomed expedition to the South Pole which left the entire party dead, the only thing we have to tell the story is a selection of final letters, journals and artefacts left frozen in the snow.

And now some of these never-before-seen items that piece together the final days of Britain’s first expedition to the South Pole in 1910 are on show in Cambridge at the Scott Polar Research Institute.

The exhibition tells the story of the ill-fated Terra Nova expedition which reached the Pole only to find it had been beaten to it by 33 days by a Norwegian team.

One of the items on show was found in the depths of the museum’s archives just weeks ago.

The letter from the chief of scientific staff Edward Wilson to publisher Reginald Smith had been known about of course.


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But its significance - a fond farewell - was only spotted when the staff at the museum was going over some of the dates in a box of letters.

“What has really struck me is how powerful much of the writing is,” said Heather Lane, keeper of collections.

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“The manuscripts provide such a vivid record of the daily life of the expedition.”

A rarely-seen journal of Henry Robertson (Birdie) Bowers who died alongside Scott has been repaired especially for the exhibition ahead of a limited edition publication.

These Rough Notes: Capt Scott’s Last Expedition, named after a note written by Scott in his diary, also highlights two side expeditions.

These are ‘Worst Journey in the World’, the winter trip to collect eggs from the Emperor penguin colony at Cape Crozier, as well as the largely-forgotten ‘Northern Party’.

This was about the six men who had to shelter in an ice cave for an entire winter, surviving only on seals and raisins.

“This really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see these manuscripts exhibited together,” said curator Kay Smith.

“Some of them are so fragile and valuable that they probably won’t go on display again for another 100 years.”

Also on show is Scott’s journal including the famous line uttered by Captain Lawrence Oates before he died - “I am just going outside and may be some time”.

There is also Scott’s message to the public: “These rough notes and our dead bodies must tell the tale, but surely, surely, a great rich country like ours will see that those who are dependent on us are properly provided for.”

The exhibition runs until May 5.

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