Race to the South Pole

Cover of 'Roald Amundsen, Explorer' by Charle Turley, published 1935 (colour litho)/ The Stapleton Collection
Cover of 'Roald Amundsen, Explorer' by Charle Turley, published 1935 (colour litho)/ The Stapleton Collection

Robert Falcon Scott (1868-1912) by Harrington Mann / Royal Geographic Society, London, UK
Robert Falcon Scott (1868-1912) by Harrington Mann / Royal Geographic Society, London, UK

By 1910, South Pole rivals Robert Falcon Scott of Great Britain and Roald Amundsen of Norway were both skilled polar explorers, having made expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic regions. On September 13, 1909, in The Times of London, Scott published his intention to reach the South Pole by 1910. Amundsen had been preparing for a sponsored trip to the North Pole, but secretly changed plans after an American team made the conquest. He too, would try to reach and claim the South Pole for Norway in spite of Britain’s public expedition.

'Terra Nova' in the ice, from 'Scott's Last Expedition' (b/w photo) by Herbert Ponting / The Stapleton Collection
'Terra Nova' in the ice, from 'Scott's Last Expedition' (b/w photo) by Herbert Ponting / The Stapleton Collection

The aim of the British team under Scott's leadership was to engage in scientific experiments and undergo extensive exploration of the pole, along the coast of Victoria Land on the Ross Ice Shelf. The Norwegians were expert polar travelers, and also experienced skiers and dog handlers. Neither team headed for the pole had radio contact, so the race would continue in the return to civilization to share the news following a victory.

The world would later learn that Roald Amundsen had reached the pole on 14 December 1911 and returned safely, while Scott's party followed to find the Norwegian tent at the pole some 35 days later. Nearly a year would pass until the bodies of Scott and his colleagues were found; the British team having perished in March on the journey back only 11 miles from certain rescue. 

Bridgeman is delighted to represent the Scott Polar Research Institute, the archive of the Cambridge University research center devoted to the polar regions. Other notable collections with material related to this topic are photographer Sue Flood's images of Scott's hut and The Stapleton Collection, with images from earlier British explorations of the region, Amundsen and the Norwegian team, the British effort as documented by Herbert Ponting, flora and fauna and clothing and artifacts.

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