Scott expedition display opens

Story of quest for South Pole told 100 years after Scott's fateful expedition

The story of Captain Scott's fateful expedition to Antarctica is being told at the National Library of Scotland (NLS) almost 100 years to the day that his party made it to the South Pole.

The team arrived at the Pole on 17 January 1912, only to discover a Norwegian flag. They had lost the race to Roald Amundsen who had beaten them by more than a month. All five of the British polar party lost their lives to the extreme Antarctic weather on the return journey.

It is a story of courage, selfless sacrifice and tragedy that has captivated generations. 'Scott's last expedition', which opens today (12 January), features a wide variety of material from the NLS collections including a copy of Scott's published diary, photographs of the expedition, letters and newspaper cuttings from the time.

It commemorates all the men of the British Antarctic 'Terra Nova' expedition of 1910-1913 who found themselves hauling sledges in a race, not of their making, to reach the South Pole. It was a round trip of 1600 miles through one of the most hostile environments on earth.

It all started with the Sixth International Geographic Congress in London in 1895, which declared that 'the exploration of the Antarctic Regions is the greatest piece of geographical exploration still to be undertaken'. This sparked a frenzy of exploration as countries vied to explore Antarctica and the goal of reaching the South Pole became a worldwide obsession.

Documents on display show the struggle to raise the money for the expedition which had to be funded privately. Companies such as Fry's chocolate, Huntly and Palmer biscuits and Heinz beans provided sponsorship, as they could see benefits in having their products associated with such an endeavour.

The diary entries, newspaper cuttings and books written by expedition members tell of the hardships endured and the final tragic outcome. The display also features a number of memorial postcards of the dead explorers which captured the nation's grief over what had happened.

Paula Williams, the NLS curator who has put the display together, said: 'The teams led by Amundsen and Scott ventured beyond the edge of the known world to get to the South Pole. This is one of the great stories of human endeavour and endurance, triumph and tragedy.

'Our display celebrates their achievement and, we hope, provides an insight into how it was planned and conducted and how it has been viewed both by people at the time and in succeeding decades.'

'Scott's last expedition' runs until 25 March at the National Library of Scotland, George 1V Bridge, Edinburgh EH1 1EW. Entry is free.

12 January 2012

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