Tuesday, September 27, 2011



Food was important to Captain Scott’s team in numerous ways. Most obviously, it was essential sustenance. Although they couldn’t have known this at the time, their sledging rations were not planned to be calorific enough. On a typical day, a sledger would be allocated 4600 (kilo)calories in biscuits, pemmican (a mix of dried meat, fat and cereal), butter, cheese, sugar and cocoa. The crew generally preferred cocoa to tea, which they would drink from aluminium pannikins, pre-warmed to avoid frostbite. Modern ice explorers aim to consume 7000 (kilo)calories a day, which is the maximum the human body can absorb, though more than that can be expended in keeping warm. Sadly, in Captain Scott’s time vitamins had not yet been isolated or identified, so they did not aim to replenish micronutrients, except in a vague way, e.g. they worked out that fresh seal meat would keep scurvy symptoms at bay. In fact, Thursday was known as ‘Scurvy Day’, because it was the only day when they wouldn’t eat seal meat, when not sledging. In a nose-to-tail way that would please the Heston Blumenthals of the world, they would eat every part of the animal, and one seal could last the Discovery crew of 46 for two days.

Picture credit: H Ponting; Getty Images Gallery'

When on the boat or based at more permanent camps (the huts), the crew ate well. On the Discovery expedition, they took with them 16 tons of 12 kinds of meat – mostly tinned – including veal, rabbit, partridge and duck. These provisions were kept in an ice cabin, which sadly did not keep it all from spoiling.

Secondly, food acted as social glue and an aid to regular time-keeping. Regular routines helped to keep motivated the men disorientated by the lack of daylight. Indeed, a significant part of their daily routine involved food preparation. Once they had landed on the Antarctic mainland, they had daily trips to cut out blocks of ice to melt for drinking. Strict Edwardian mealtimes were observed, which must have been especially important in the bleak winter months. For example, they would have their lunch at 1300 hours, followed by grog (a mixture of rum and water), served from a tub. This naval practice was only abolished in 1971. Captain Scott’s crew were not actually keen drinkers, which is why much polar archaeology involves preserving the bottles of booze they left behind at the huts.

Thirdly, food was a motivating factor and source of pleasure. Although luxurious feasts were put on for special occasions, such as Midwinter Day and Christmas, standard fare could be quite unappetising, e.g. ‘hoosh’, a mixture of pemmican, ground biscuits and water. Improvisatory variants of hoosh would include raisins and curry powder. Captain Scott was well aware that 3 years of bottled fruits and concentrated foods with Huxley-novelistic names (e.g. plasmon, somatose, tropon and serin) would affect his crew’s morale, so he paid close attention to the quality of his cook’s output. He dismissed two cooks on the Discovery expedition alone, but was happy enough with Charles Clark’s service to retain him until the end. Clark was tasked with baking bread every day.

"The Times said..."


The Terra Nova Long Overdue
—Eminent Scientists on Board.

LONDON. Aug. 11.—Considerable anxiety is felt for the British antarctic expedition’s ship, the Terra Nova, which is now eleven days overdue at Cape Town.

The vessel has not been spoken since she left Madeira on June 27.

Those on board the Terra Nova include a number of eminent officers and scientific men. These number 28, and the I crew, all picked men, number 27.

Capt. Robert F. Scott, commander of the expedition, which set out on June 1 from London in an attempt to reach the South Pole, is not yet aboard the Terra Nova. but sailed on July 16 to join the vessel in New Zealand.

The Terra Nova stopped at Cardiff to coal, and arrived on June 15 at Madeira. from which port she sailed twelve days later for Cape Town. She should have reached Cape Town not later than Aug. 1.

Aug 12, 1910
New York Times

Monday, September 26, 2011

Final Timeline

Expedition start 1911-10-20 1911-11-01
Amundsen 11 days ahead of Scott
80° S 1911-10-23 1911-11-18 1117 km to the pole, Amundsen 26 days ahead
81° S 1911-10-31 1911-11-23 1005 km to the pole, Amundsen 23 days ahead
82° S 1911-11-05 1911-11-28 893 km to the pole, Amundsen 23 days ahead
83° S 1911-11-09 1911-12-02 782 km to the pole. Amundsen 23 days ahead
84° S 1911-11-13 1911-12-15 670 km to the pole, Amundsen 32 days ahead
85° S 1911-11-17 1911-12-21 558 km to the pole, Amundsen 34 days ahead
86° S 1911-11-27 1911-12-26 447 km to the pole, Amundsen 29 days ahead
87° S 1911-12-04 1912-01-01 335 km to the pole, Amundsen 27 days ahead
88° S 1911-12-06 1912-01-06 223 km to the pole, Amundsen 31 days ahead
88° 23' S 1911-12-07 1912-01-09 Southernmost point reached by Shackleton, 181 km to the pole
Amundsen 33 days ahead
89° S 1911-12-10 1912-01-13 112 km to the pole, Amundsen 34 days ahead
89° 46' S 1911-12-13 1912-01-16 25 km to the pole, Scott finds the first proof of Amundsen
South Pole, 90° S 1911-12-14, 15:00 1912-01-17, 18:30 Amundsen 34 days ahead of Scott
Termination 1912-01-25, 04:00:
Amundsen's expedition returns to base camp after 99 days en route and no casualties
Scott's expedition dies on return journey
1912-02-17: Evans dies; 1912-03-16: Oates dies
1912-03-19: Final camp of Scott, Wilson and Bowers, 18 km short of One Ton depot at 79°29' S
1912-03-29: Approximate date of Scott, Wilson and Bowers dying, 150 days after embarking
1912-11-12: Bodies found by the search party
Departure from the Antarctic 1912-01-30 1913-01-??
Fate known to public 1912-03-08:
Amundsen sends a telegram from Hobart, Tasmania informing the world that he reached the South Pole
1913-02-10: The world is informed of the tragedy when Terra Nova reaches Oamaru, New Zealand

Sunday, September 25, 2011

I was nobly bled on the glorious field of honour

OATES: You're talking to a blessed war hero. Saved East Grinstead from the dreaded Boer Menace....There I was, alone in the Transvaal, facing fifty of the brutes.

The Second Boer War was fought from 11 October 1899 until 31 May 1902 between the British Empire and the Afrikaans-speaking Dutch settlers of two independent Boer republics, the South African Republic (Transvaal Republic) and the Orange Free State. It ended with a British victory and the annexation of both republics to the British Empire; both would eventually be incorporated into the Union of South Africa, a dominion of the British Empire, in 1910. The conflict is commonly referred to as The Boer War but is also known as the South African War outside South Africa, the Anglo-Boer War among most South Africans, and in Afrikaans as the Anglo-Boereoorlog or Tweede Vryheidsoorlog ("Second War of Liberation" or lit. "Second Freedom War") or the Engelse oorlog (English War).

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Different Approach

The different approaches taken by the two explorers.
This gives you a little idea although there are some symbols missing at the end of the Scott chart.

From The National Geographic

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

"With the sextant he made obeisance to the sun-god..."

With the sextant he made obeisance to the sun-god, he consulted ancient tomes and tables of magic characters, muttered prayers in a strange tongue that sounded like Indexerrorparallaxrefraction, made cabalistic signs on paper, added and carried one, and then, on a piece of holy script called the Grail - I mean, the Chart - he placed his finger on a certain space conspicuous for its blankness and said, "Here we are." When we looked at the blank space and asked, "And where is that?" he answered in the cipher-code of the higher priesthood, "31 -15 - 47 north, 133 - 5 - 30 west." And we said, "Oh," and felt mighty small.

Jack London, The Cruise of the Snark

A sextant is an instrument used to measure the angle between any two visible objects. Its primary use is to determine the angle between a celestial object and the horizon which is known as the altitude. Making this measurement is known as sighting the object, shooting the object, or taking a sight and it is an essential part of celestial navigation. The angle, and the time when it was measured, can be used to calculate a position line on a nautical or aeronautical chart. A common use of the sextant is to sight the sun at solar noon and to measure the elevation (altitude) angle at night to measure the elevation angle from the horizon plane to Polaris to find one's latitude. Since the sextant can be used to measure the angle between any two objects, it can be held horizontally to measure the angle between any two landmarks which will allow for calculation of a position on a chart. A sextant can also be used to measure the Lunar distance between the moon and another celestial object (e.g., star, planet) in order to determine Greenwich time which is important because it can then be used to determine the longitude.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

"I sighted South with the Theodolite"

A theodolite (play /θˈɒdəlt/) is a precision instrument for measuring angles in the horizontal and vertical planes. Theodolites are mainly used for surveying applications, and have been adapted for specialized purposes in fields like meteorology and rocket launch technology. A modern theodolite consists of a movable telescope mounted within two perpendicular axes — the horizontal or trunnion axis, and the vertical axis. When the telescope is pointed at a target object, the angle of each of these axes can be measured with great precision, typically to seconds of arc.

Closer to home....A familiar sight in Michigan at the Clare Welcome Center. Although the metal sculptures are not Anarctic exploreres the background of the sculptures does have a history.

 The sprawling interpretation of a road construction crew is actually a tribute to highway workers who have lost their lives on the job. The memorial was conceived and paid for by MDOT employees and retirees, and created by artist Carl Floyd using metal salvaged from highway jobs. It was installed in 1994.

Monday, September 12, 2011

"It is Not Gaudy, It's Italianate"

1840 - 1885: Italianate House Style

Italianate became the most popular housing style in Victorian America. Italianate is also known as the Tuscan, the Lombard, or simply, the bracketed style.

Victorian Italianate style house in Cape May, New Jersey

Victorian Italianate style house in Cape May, New Jersey

Photo © Jupiterimages Corporation
Italianate houses have many of these features:
  • Low-pitched or flat roof
  • Balanced, symmetrical rectangular shape
  • Tall appearance, with 2, 3, or 4 stories
  • Wide, overhanging eaves with brackets and cornices
  • Square cupola
  • Porch topped with balustraded balconies
  • Tall, narrow, double-paned windows with hood moldings
  • Side bay window
  • Heavily molded double doors
  • Roman or segmented arches above windows and doors
About the Italianate Style:

The Italianate style began in England with the picturesque movement of the 1840s. For the previous 200 years, English homes tended to be formal and classical in style. With the picturesque, movement, however, builders began to design fanciful recreations of Italian Renaissance villas. When the Italianate style moved to the United States, it was reinterpreted again to create a uniquely American style.

By the late 1860s, Italianate was the most popular house style in the United States. Historians say that Italianate became the favored style for two reasons:

  • Italianate homes could be constructed with many different building materials, and the style could be adapted to modest budgets.
  • New technologies of the Victorian era made it possible to quickly and affordably produce cast-iron and press-metal decorations.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

You Never Know Until you Do the Research!

Kathleen: "I've a theory that all social events fall under one of two broad categories; balloon ascensions and bear baiting. According to their pretensions, of course. Last evening was a bear-baiting posing as a balloon ascension."
BEARBAITING, the medieval sport of setting of dogs on a bear or a bull chained to a stake by the neck or leg. Bears would often also be blinded. Popular from the 12th to the 19th century, when they were banned as inhumane, these spectacles were usually staged at theatre-like arenas known as bear gardens. In England many large groups of bears were kept expressly for this most barbaric and obscene purpose. Contemporary records reveal, for example, that 13 bears were provided for an entertainment attended by Queen Elizabeth I in 1575.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Happy Feet?

On June 27, 1911, Wilson and “Birdie” Bowers embarked, with Apsley Cherry-Garrard, on what Wilson described as “the weirdest bird’s-nesting expedition that has ever been or ever will be”. It was a painful, five-week odyssey, the best example of the lengths to which Scott’s men would go purely in the name of science. Scott called it “one of the most gallant stories in Polar history”.

“Why should three sane and common-sense explorers be sledging away on a winter’s night to a Cape which has only been visited before in daylight, and then with very great difficulty?” asked Cherry-Garrard in his book The Worst Journey in the World. Because the Emperor penguin – which was six feet tall, never stepped on land, laid its eggs on ice during the winter, rested the eggs on its feet and pressed them to its abdomen for incubation – was “probably the most primitive bird in the world”.

After three weeks, during which they were sometimes unable to travel more than a mile a day, and the temperature could descend to -75F, they found the birds. “We were witnessing a marvel of the natural world, and we were the first and only men who had ever done so,” enthused Cherry-Garrard. “We had within our grasp material which might prove of the utmost importance to science; we were turning theories into facts with every observation we made.” Men had seen the Emperors before but never with their eggs; and they had never collected undamaged eggs containing embryos. Wilson believed they might reveal the missing evolutionary link between dinosaurs and birds – he was wrong, but the surviving eggs and embryos remain much asked-for treasures of the Natural History Museum.

Captain Scott may have failed to become the first to reach the Pole – but for his contributions to science, he will be remembered for ever.


Happy Feet, Lost Emperor Penguin, Swims for Antarctic Home. Follow the journey!

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Friday, September 2, 2011

Early 1911

4 February 1911
  • Corner Camp is established by the depot laying party, 40 miles from Hut Point
The team later lay One Ton Depot at 79° 29' S, more than 30 miles north of its
original intended location

9 February 1911
  • Victor Campbell's Eastern party becomes the "Northern Party" and sets sail

17 February 1911
  • The Northern Party arrives at Robertson Bay and builds a hut close to the
Norwegian explorer, Carstens Borchgrevink’s old quarters, for the 1911 winter

2 March 1911
  • The Western Geological party starts for home taking a southerly route

14 March 1911
  • The Western Geological party arrives back at Hut Point
6 June 1911
  • A feast is arranged to mark Scott's 43rd birthday

21 June 1911
  • A second celebration to mark Midwinter Day, the Antarctic equivalent of Christmas, is held