Polar Record

Research Article

Could Captain Scott have been saved? Revisiting Scott's last expedition

Karen May

C/O Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge, Lensfield Road, Cambridge CB2 1ER (karenmay31@gmail.com)


Captain Scott has been criticised for indecisiveness and for not making use of the dog teams for his own relief in his Terra Nova Expedition (1910–1913). This essay will demonstrate how a mistake made in Roland Huntford's double biography of Scott and Amundsen in 1979, repeated in polar writing by various authors until the present day, has maligned Scott's reputation. In fact, Scott left appropriate written orders in October 1911 for the polar party's relief by the dog teams, orders that were not subsequently implemented by the men at base. A re-examination of the actions and roles of two expedition members in particular, Lieutenant E.R.G.R. Evans and Surgeon Edward Atkinson, suggests strongly that misjudgements back at Cape Evans led to the failure of the mission to rescue Scott and his polar party. In this account all distances are in geographical miles.

(Received August 2011)

(Online publication January 20 2012)