This January, heavy snowfalls added an air of authenticity to the statue of famous Antarctic explorer, Robert Falcon Scott, by the main entrance of the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.
The statue’s frosty decoration is not only picturesque but timely as 100 years ago Scott was preparing for his ill-fated, second Antarctic expedition.
The statue of Scott along with one of his trusty dogs, was sculpted in loving detail by his widow, Lady Kathleen Scott, in 1915. It commemorates his attempt to reach the South Pole and subsequent death in 1912. The statue came to be in Portsmouth following its commission by the then Commanding Officer of HMS Vernon as a tribute to the great explorer, with all the ship’s officers helping to fund the project.
The Grade II listed bronze sculpture is inscribed with a moving extract found in his journal on his return from the South Pole - the gale is howling about us, we are weak, writing is difficult but for my own sake I do not regret this journey, which has shown that Englishmen can endure hardships, help one another and meet death with as great a fortitude as ever in the past. We took risks, we knew we took them. Things have come out against us and therefore we have no cause for complaint but bow to the will of providence determined to do our best to the end.
The statue originally stood in Portsmouth Naval Base along The Parade and was subsequently moved to outside Storehouse 11 (now the National Museum of the Royal Navy), before moving to its final resting place between the Mary Rose Museum and Porter’s Lodge, allowing the public to freely visit the stunning memorial.
Today, museums in Portsmouth and Cambridge are preparing to celebrate the centenary of this important scientific voyage.
In 2012, the National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth, is planning a special centenary display of the original sledge and pair of skis from the Antarctic expedition, which are currently held in a reserve collection. This particular sledge was used by Petty Officer T. S. Williamson in the search for Scott’s missing polar party. In June this year, the anniversary month of Scott’s departure for Antarctica, the Polar Museum at the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge will reopen with brand new galleries.
The Scott Polar Research Institute was established in 1920 by Frank Debenham as a memorial to Scott and his companions. Debenham was a geologist on the expedition and a member of a support party who turned back before the final push to the Pole. While he wanted a fitting tribute to the national hero, he was also keen to see Scott’s work continue.
The new museum will include a gallery about the explorers who mapped out the Arctic and Antarctic. The section on Scott and his expedition will display clothing, food, transport and scientific equipment, as well as Captain Oates’ sleeping bag, recently selected as one of the top one hundred items in the BBC’s ''A History of the World''.
Lawrence Oates was one of the four men who accompanied Scott in his attempt to be the first to reach the South Pole. On their return, injured and slowing the party down, Oates sacrificed himself so the others might stand a better chance of survival.
The museum will also showcase the research of scientists and explorers since Scott who have lived and worked in the harsh, snowy polar regions, many of whom have set off from the Scott Polar Research Institute.
Over the next two years the commemoration of the centenary of this expedition will continue, with more exhibitions and special events to come. Keep an eye on websites of both museums for more information.
Notes for editors:
Photos courtesy of Phil George and Rolf Williams
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