Next week is, as you all know, the 100th anniversary of Captain (Robert Falcon) Scott reaching the South Pole. ‘This is an awful place’ wrote Scott in his diary, and who can blame him? But his story has fascinated people ever since, and the Westminster Libraries Gateway to Websites can help in our quest to find out more.
As is so often the case, the first place to start is the Biography section and the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Handily, one of their current Featured Themes is the British Antarctic Expedition and here you can read a short article about the historical significance of the expedition – the memorial fund was used to form the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge, whose website is well-worth exploring – and look up the biographies of the various members of the expedition. Of notable interest are Edward (‘Teddy’) Evans, second-in-command of the Terra Nova, who went to school in Maida Vale, and who survived to become a Labour peer, and Lawrence ‘Titus’ Oates who preferred the company of the Siberian ponies to his human companions. The articles try to analyse the reasons for the failure of the expedition (tragically, they died knowing that the Norwegian Roald Amundsen had reached the Pole a month before them) and it’s interesting to compare the biographies with those in the DNB Archive (check the link on the left) for a less critical view.
For some contemporary accounts of the events, check out the News and Magazines section of the Gateway. The Illustrated London News of 14 January 1911 has some pictures of the crew training ‘sled-dogs’ in New Zealand (ironically it was Scott’s decision not to take dogs on his final trek that fatally slowed down the expedition) . There are various articles about Amundsen (the ‘Titanic Special Number’ of 20 April 1912 has a splendid picture of his party and their dogs), and 18 May 1912 is a ‘South Pole Special Number’. News of Scott’s death took many months to reach London and it is not until 13 February 1913 that the Illustrated London News published an account of it, together with a photo of Scott’s young son, later to become famous as the naturalist Peter Scott.
There are many books about Scott’s expedition, so have a look in the library catalogue to see what you can find. And he has been portrayed several times on film and television. Over to the Stage and Screen section and the Internet Movie Database. A search for Robert Falcon Scott reveals that the man himself appears in a couple of documentaries, notably The Great White Silence about Shackleton’s expedition (recently issued on DVD by the British Film Institute). Of course, the most famous portrayal of him on film is in ‘Scott of the Antarctic’ (1948) with John Mills, Kenneth More and James Robertson Justice but there are various others, most recently the BBC play ‘The Worst Journey in the World’.
All this reading and watching polar stuff may have inspired you to find out more about travel to the Antarctic. The Transport and Tourism section of the Gateway is your friend here. The World Travel Guide offers some helpful advice (‘There are no hotels in Antarctica’) including details of tour operators while Lonely Planet, as you might expect, come into their own here and they’ve even got advice about how to get a job there (it does help if you are prepared to work 60 hour weeks and really, really like penguins!).
The other cold event in January ties in neatly with the favourite hobby at Treasure Hunt Towers. I’m sure you’re all aware that the World Cold Water Swimming Championships are being Latvia next weekend. No? Where’ve you *been*?!? While it’s too late to register, you can follow events on the website and maybe make a New Year’s Resolution to see what the Serpentine is like. It’s a hobby for life, not just for Christmas (when the press are there)!