Scott of the Antarctic

Cardiff Sailing History

Scott of the Antarctic

New disclosures

When Scott died on the edge of Antarctica he was first a hero, then later described as foolhardy and accused of leading his team to disaster. Scott set sail from Cardiff Bay in March 1910 and though was successful in reaching the south pole he never made it back. Cardiff recently acquired a painting of his departure from Cardiff Bay. It seems his preparation was good in that his instructions, if followed would have saved his men. Scott having sailed from Cardiff Bay on his quest for the South Pole

Scott of the Antarctic

Information from the Scott Polar Research Institute show that orders if followed would have saved the team. Diet might well have contributed to their fate which led to Scotts death and his burial underneath his tent.

Scott of the Antarctic

Scotts food

The Cardiff story museum has bought an historic painting of Scotts ship, the Nova Scotia leaving Cardiff. The picture was painted by Richard Short and depicts the ship leaving Cardiff; looking closely at the buildings in the background several are recognisable. Costing 13,000 pounds it was recently bought at Bonhams auction in London. The story of Scotts fateful expedition is well known.

Scotts Antarctic Food

Scott died only 170 miles from base camp in a particularly cold snap, even for the Antarctic. Recently there has been speculation about their diet of penguin meat and champagne. This was for special occasions, with seal meat and hoosh – a stew made from pemmican and biscuits a common feature. Fresh bread and rhubarb pie also featured. The practicalities of taking these provisions may have contributed to the venture struggling. Given the cold temperature of minus 45 including the wind chill its difficult to deny them a bit of a treat!

Painting of Scotts Discovery

The painting is a fine depiction of the event, fortunately it wasn’t the only image, a few photographs remain of the departure and even a piece of film. This was recorded as the SS Terra Nova left Roath Dock on its way to the Antarctic.

Painting of Scotts Discovery

Captain Scott’s ill fated mission

Scott of the Antarctic, or to give him his full title, Robert Falcon Scott, has become synonymous with the city of Cardiff, his ship the Terra Nova having sailed from the port on the ill-fated expedition to the South Pole in 1910, as well as on his original ship The Discovery some ten years earlier. Choosing Cardiff was due to its ability to provide the 100 tonnes of coal, 300 tonnes of fuel made from coal dust and bitumen, as well as other supplies such as pots and pans from the Llanelli tin works, Scott of the Antarctic was also indebted to local business who provided sponsorship and much needed funds for the expedition. Such was his gratitude that the Terra Nova flew the Welsh flag during the whole time she was away and he never forgot that Cardiff contributed more to his adventure than any other city in the United Kingdom.

Although he did not actually sail himself from Cardiff on the Terra Nova, watched by thousands of people on the quayside, due to him staying behind on expedition business and to raise funds for his trip, Scott of the Antarctic caught up with his ship in South Africa. However, due to various delays and misfortune, including time spent on a pre-agreed comprehensive scientific research programme, he was beaten to the South Pole by the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen by just 33 days. Sadly, on the return trip, Scott and his three fellow explorers, exhausted, cold and hungry, died just 11 miles from a supply camp and were found eight months later. The Terra Nova finally returned to the port of Cardiff in 1913 and was welcomed by a crowd of over 60,000 cheering well-wishers including as Scotts widow and young son.

Captain Scott’s Expedition Equipment.

One of the reasons Scott faired worse that his rival Roald Amundsenwas possibly due to better equipment. One look at their equipment, makes on think how Scott and his fellow explorers ever made it to the pole in the first place! The actual overshoes worn by Scott are shown in the pictures below, The overshoes are crudely sewn with a sole made of sealskin, canvas sides, and wooden heels The soles are sewn on with twine; they have leather straps and buckles, The hair has worn quite badly on most of the shoes. Also shown is an example of the sleeping bag used on the exploration. The sealskin sleeping bag was used by Surgeon Commander George Murray Levick on the British Antarctic Expedition. It was hand sewn, there were no zips of course so it was closed by wooden toggles. It is hard to believe that they would function in temperatures of minus 30 degrees!

Scott of the Antarctic
Sleeping bag from the expedition

Time keeping was vital on such an expedition, Scott’s watch was specially made for him and can be seen below. Scotts pocket watch was a 30 hour watertight watch supplied by S. Smith & Sons Ltd, Strand and made by Emil Nielson, it is described as a robust model suitable for expeditions!

Scotts Watch

Scott carried a flag on his sledge The pennant was made of heavyweight silk sateen, and machine stitched. Designed as a medieval standard with Cross of St George nearest the hoist; the remainder of the flag is divided horizontally white over blue. The embroidery is of the Scott family crest of a stag’s head. The motto reads: ‘Ready Aye Ready’ in brown. It was flown at the South Pole during Scott’s expedition in 1910-1913.

Scotts Sledge pennant

Source for expedition images

Scott of the Antarctic – Roath Park Memorial

Nowadays, around the city of Cardiff, you will find tributes to Scott of the Antarctic the main one being the Lighthouse located in Roath Park. Built in 1915, it contains a scale model of Scotts ship, the Terra Nova, and is the citys most formal dedication to the memory of the great explorer, listing the names of all four explorers and the gratitude shown for their scientific work and gallantry.

Scotts memorial Roath Park
Scotts Memorial plaque

Previously on display has also been the original mast head from the Terra Nova, the vessel he purchased from a Liverpool ship owner. However, due to weathering, this was removed in 1932 and remains in the Cardiff Maritime Museum where it recently featured in the BBCs – A History of the World in 100 Objects -. The contents of the Cardiff Maritime Museum have now been relocated to Swansea Maritime Museum.

New Scott memorial

Scott of the Antarctic – The Discovery Pub

Named after another one of his famous ships from he set from Cardiff in 1900, The Discovery Pub is located just north of Roath Park and has a fascinating display of pictures from both his original voyage and that of 1910. Situated in Celyn Avenue and offering a warm welcome, excellent food at reasonable prices, it also has the aptly named Terra Nova Lounge Bar.

The Discovery Celyn Avenue Lakeside Cardiff CF23 6EH Tel: 02920 755015


Scott of the Antarctic – Final Resting Place

The surviving members of the Terra Nova expedition in 1912 discovered Scotts last resting place. The body of Scott was found between his other two compatriots Henry Bowers also known as -Birdie- and Edward Wilson.

The exact location was believed to be -81.5000 -175.000 on the Ross Ice Shelf but given the nature of ice it will be moving. It was spotted by Charles Wright the physicist of the party who saw an object pointing out of the snow, which turned out to be part of a tent.

The three party members had been reduced from the five who originally set out having lost Edgar Evans -Taff- and Lawrence Oates -Titus- died earlier Evans dying descending the Beardmore Glacier and Oates later on the Ross Ice Shelf. Oates, with an injured foot famously left the tent in a blizzard and was never seen again.

He was worried that he was slowing the others up so sacrificed himself recorded in Scotts diary it was 17th March. The last entry by Scott was on 29th March about 11 miles short of the food depot, that might as well have been 10 times that distance given the freezing temperatures, -60c at the time.

The bodies of Scott and his men were not moved. Apsley Cherry-Garrard, who had been part of the search party stated Quote-We never moved them. We took the bamboos of the tent away and the tent itself covered them. Over them we built the cairn.- The cairn, topped with a solitary cross, was all that marked the spot in the Antarctic and has not been seen for over 100 years.

The location was covered by a huge snow drift. We know that the bodies would slowly get deeper and deeper in the ice forced down by the weight of fresh ice and snow above. It is likely that as the ice shelf moves seaward it will eventually drift out to sea.

SGrave_of_Scott Wilson Bowers