Henry Bowers: Robert F. Scott's Southern Party at the South Pole (1912)


(Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge, UK)

A famous photo taken by the Scottish Lieutenant Henry Robertson "Birdie" Bowers (1883 – 1912). These 5 men were the members of British Antarctic Expedition from 1910-1913, beter known as the Terra Nova Expedition, and which was led by Captain Robert Falcon Scott (1868-1912). The goal of the expedition was to continu the scientific work done by previous expeditions and to be the first to reach the geographic South Pole. At the same time the British team was going to the South Pole, a Norwegian team lead by the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen (1872-1928) also headed to the South Pole. The Norwegian team had only 1 goal: to reach the geographic South Pole. Both team met in 1911 at the Bay of Whales behaved civilly towards each other (Admunsen had kept his true intentions of the expedition a secret). Both teams started to make their own preparations for the journey to the South Pole. The British team wanted to use a mixed transport of dogs, ponies, and motors and used clothing made from wool. The Norwegians only used dogs and clothing made from fur. The British managed to reach the geographic South Pole on 17 January 1912, only to be greeted by the Norwegian flag. Upon inspection the British learned that the Norwegian team had reached the pole almost 34 days earlier (the depicted photo was taken shortly after this discovery). The way back for the British turned into a nightmare. Edgar Evan was to first to die: a hand injury which was failing to heal, badly frostbitten and a head injury. Evan collapsed and died on 17 February 1912 near a glacier. Another member of the British team, Lawrence Oates, also suffered from afflicted with gangrene and frostbite and sacrificed himself by walking from his tent into a blizzard and −40 °C (his injuries was compromising his three companions' chances of survival). His last words were ""I am just going outside and may be some time". The three remaining members (Scott, bowers and Wilson) died after 29 March 1912 and were later founded frozen to death in their tent. The last words of Robert Scott in his diary were "For God's sake look after our people". The Norwegian team on the other hand had a much easier journey with little difficulties. Much has been said regarding both teams. The British and the Norwegians each made their own preparations according to their own philosophy. Looking back the most important conclusion was that the Norwegians made better preparations for the journey to the south Pole. The depicted photo made taken by Bowers, using a piece of string to operate the camera shutter. Depicted from left to right:

- standing: Captain Lawrence Oates (1880 - 17 March 1917)
- sitting: Lieutenant Henry Bowers (1883 – 29 March 1912)
- standing: Captain Robert Falcon Scott (1868 - 29 March 1912
- sitting: Dr. Edward Adrian Wilson (1872 - 29 March 1912)
- standing: Petty Officer Edgar Evans (1876 – 17 February 1912)

Photo taken on 18 January 1912

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