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Scott's Last Journey
     

Scott's Last Journey

by Peter King, Robert Falcon Scott
 

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The dramatic disappearance of the explorer Captain Robert Falcon Scott and his companions in their race to reach the South Pole was seen by their contemporaries as creating heroes in a new mould. A few years later, during World War I, Scott's rival Shackleton also nearly met his death in the Antarctic, becoming in the process another hero. Both men were set on a

Overview

The dramatic disappearance of the explorer Captain Robert Falcon Scott and his companions in their race to reach the South Pole was seen by their contemporaries as creating heroes in a new mould. A few years later, during World War I, Scott's rival Shackleton also nearly met his death in the Antarctic, becoming in the process another hero. Both men were set on a pedestal, uncritically, because they tried and failed.

As the years have gone by, Scott's reputation has been weighed in the balance with Shackleton's - and found wanting. Even the precious journals that Scott wrote on the journey are no longer in print, while photographs of the expedition have gathered dust in scientific institutes. In this new edition of the journals, Peter King re-examines Scott's exploits, setting his own account against modern studies of the Polar Race and thus enabling readers to make their own judgements for the first time.

The text is illuminated by a selection of photographs, many of breath-taking quality, taken by one of the greatest Antarctic explorers, Herbert Ponting, who accompanied Scott. More than a hundred and forty of these, many only recently released by the Royal Geographical Society, bring this extraordinary story to life.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060196707
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
05/01/2000
Edition description:
1st U.S. Edition
Pages:
192
Product dimensions:
8.79(w) x 10.18(h) x 0.71(d)

Read an Excerpt

Through Stormy Seas—1910

Thursday, December 1. —The month opens well on the whole. During the night the wind increased; we worked up to 8, to 9, and to 9.5 knots. Stiff wind from N.W. and confused sea. Awoke to much motion.

The ship a queer and not altogether cheerful sight under the circumstances.

Below one knows all space is packed as tight as human skill can devise-and on deck! Under the forecastle fifteen ponies close side by side, seven one side, eight the other, heads together and groom between -swaying, swaying continually to the plunging irregular motion.

One takes a look through a hole in the bulkhead and sees a row of heads with sad, patient eyes come swinging up together from the starboard side, whilst those on the port swing back; then up come the port heads, whilst the starboard recede. It seems a terrible ordeal for these poor beasts to stand this day after day for weeks together, and indeed though they continue to feed well the strain quickly drags down their weight and condition; but nevertheless the trial cannot be gauged from human standards. There are horses which never he down, and all horses can sleep standing; anatomically they possess a ligament in each leg which takes their weight without strain. Even our poor animals will get rest and sleep in spite of the violent motion. Some 4 or 5 tons of fodder and the ever watchful Anton take up the remainder of the forecastle space.

There are four ponies outside the forecastle and to leeward of the fore hatch, and on the whole, perhaps, with shielding tarpaulins, they have a rather better time than their comrades. Just behind the ice-house and on either side ofthe main hatch are two enormous packing-cases containing motor sledges, each 16x5x4; mounted as they are several inches above the deck they take a formidable amount of space. A third sledge stands across the break of the poop in the space hitherto occupied by the after winch. All these cases are covered with stout tarpaulin and lashed with heavy chain and rope lashings, so that they may be absolutely secure.

The petrol for these sledges is contained in tins and drums protected in stout wooden packing-cases which are ranged across the deck immediately in front of the poop and abreast the motor sledges. The quantity is 2 1/2 tons and the space occupied considerable.

Round and about these packing-cases, stretching from the galley forward to the wheel aft, the deck is stacked with coal-bags forming our deck cargo of coal, now rapidly diminishing.

We left Port Chalmers with 462 tons of coal on board, rather a greater quantity than I had hoped for, and yet the load mark was 3 inches above the water. The ship was over 2 feet by the stern, but this will soon be remedied.

Upon the coal sacks, upon and between the motor sledges, and upon the ice-house are grouped the dogs, thirty-three in all. They must perforce be chained up, and they are given what shelter is afforded on deck, but their position is not enviable. The seas continually break on the weather bulwarks and scatter clouds of heavy spray over the backs of all who must venture into the waist of the ship. The dogs sit with their tails to this invading water, their coats wet and dripping. It is a pathetic attitude, deeply significant of cold and misery; occasionally some poor beast emits a long pathetic whine. Such a life is truly hard for these poor creatures.

We manage somehow to find a seat for every one at our cabin table, although the wardroom contains twenty-four officers. There are generally one or two on watch, which eases matters, but it is a squash. Our meals are simple enough, but it is really remarkable to see the manner in which our two stewards, Hooper and Neale, provide for all requirements—washing up, tidying cabin, and making themselves generally useful in the cheerfullest manner.

With such a large number of hands on board, allowing nine seamen in each watch, the ship is easily worked, and Meares and Oates have their appointed assistants to help them in custody of dogs and ponies, but on such a night as the last with the prospect of dirty weather, the 'after guard' of volunteers is awake and delightfully enthusiastic: some lend a hand if there is difficulty with ponies and dogs, others in shortening or trimming sails, and others again in keeping the bunkers filled with the deck coal.

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