Scott’s Discovery Expedition

Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s Discovery expedition of 1901–04 was the first to set off with the explicit aim of reaching the Pole – and the first to have a reasonable chance of doing so. After establishing a base at Ross Island with a large supporting party, Scott and two fellow Britons, Edward Wilson and Ernest Shackleton, set off on what they hoped would be the final push to the Pole.

Despite initial optimism and a large food depot laid by an advance party, the trio soon struck harsh reality, Antarctica style. The men had never tried skiing or sled-dog driving, and their inexperience produced poor results. Through sheer willpower, they reached S 82°16´30˝ on December 30 before turning back (more than 725km from the Pole). Actually, Scott and Wilson reached that point, with Shackleton having been ordered to remain at camp to look after the dogs. This may not have been an intentional slight on Scott’s part, but Shackleton smarted at the gesture.

The trip home was miserable. The remaining dogs were nearly worthless, and soon were hitched behind the sledge, which the men pulled themselves. On at least one occasion, a dog was carried on the sledge. As dogs weakened, they were shot and fed to the others. The men were also breaking down. Shackleton suffered badly from scurvy (but accounts that say he had to be carried on the sledge are incorrect).