This month, the Natural History Museum, London opens a new exhibition documenting Captain Scott’s ill-fated last polar exhibition, the Terra Nova. This exhibition brings to light many previously unseen artefacts from the expedition including clothing, tools, diaries, a life-size recreation of Scott’s hut and more importantly, documentary photographs.
In 1910 Captain Robert Falcon Scott and his team of explorers would begin their three-year journey to the South Pole on the Terra Nova Expedition. As it is well known, the trip ended in disaster when Scott and his team were not only beaten to the pole by a rival team led by Roald Amundsen, but were then trapped on their return to base camp by extreme weather conditions which resulted in their eventual deaths.
This exhibition however does not take the stance of many before it and instead repositions the expedition not as a tragic story of failure but as a scientific expedition. It focuses on the scientific work carried out by the team such as meteorology, geological and zoological studies and investigations into glaciers. There is also a focus on the everyday stories of the members of the team looking at what they ate, the clothes they wore, the tools they used and so on, with both the artefacts themselves and documentary photographs of them in use being displayed.
Visitors to the exhibition will first walk through exhibits documenting the planning involved in the polar journey before encountering a life-size recreation of Scott’s base camp hut. Also featured are photographs taken by members of the team and diaries from Scott himself which have been previously unseen.
His final diary entry was made on the 29th of March 1912 and reads:
Since the 21st we have had a continuous gale from W.S.W. and S.W. We had fuel to make two cups of tea apiece and bare food for two days on the 20th. Every day we have been ready to start for our depot 11 miles away, but outside the door of the tent it remains a scene of whirling drift. I do not think we can hope for any better things now. We shall stick it out to the end, but we are getting weaker, of course, and the end cannot be far.
It seems a pity, but I do not think I can write more.
For God’s sake look after our people.