On March 29, 1912, Captain Robert Falcon Scott of the British Antarctic Expedition made one final entry in his diary:
The Expedition Begins
A year and a half earlier, the expedition that would claim his life began. Captain Scott’s expedition set sail in the summer of 1911 aboard the Terra Nova, the ship which gave the expedition its nickname.
Race to the Pole
They reached Antarctica in January, a few weeks later than planned. The early months of the expedition were spent laying depots and taking smaller scientific expeditions. Roald Amundsen‘s Norwegian Expedition was camped not far off, and Scott’s group felt the pressure to be the first to reach the South Pole.
Scott’s path to the South Pole took a different route than Amundsen’s, as seen in the clipping above. After enduring months of bitter cold and blizzards, Scott and the four men he’d chosen to make the full trek arrived at the pole. There they found Amundsen’s flag and a letter. The Norwegian team had beat them to the prize.
The Fateful Return
It was on the trip back to base that things quite literally went south. At first all went smoothly—weeks passed without trouble, and the men made good progress. But their health was quickly deteriorating as frostbite and general weariness took their toll. Petty Officer Edgar Evans was the first to die, one month after reaching the South Pole. Scott noted Evans’ poor condition, and it seems probable that Evans suffered a bad concussion from a fall.
Soon after, Lawrence Oates began to show signs of failing health. With his decline came Scott’s recognition that none of them would make it back.
It became clear that Oates would not make it. He deliberately walked off from the party to his death, saying, “I am just going outside. I may be some time.” When he did not return, the group continued on without him.
Scott and the two remaining explorers, Edward Wilson and Henry Robertson Bowers, were forced to make camp 11 miles from One Ton Depot. Lack of supplies from the base camp and terrible weather sealed their doom. Scott made his March 29 diary entry, and it is presumed that the three men died later that day.
Some months later the surviving expedition members formed a search party to learn the fate of Scott and his traveling companions. They found the three bodies of Scott, Bowers, and Wilson and erected a cairn as their final resting place. Speculation about whether they could have been saved circled among the survivors, and continues to be discussed today.
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