Saturday, June 25, 2011

Pole Dancing, Scott-Style

Exactly a century ago this week, polar explorer Captain Robert Falcon Scott and his team lifted their spirits in the dark Antarctic wastes with the traditional treat of a "midwinter dinner".
They broke from routine to enjoy seal soup, roast beef and plum pud, washed down by champagne. For five of them, it was to be their last great feast.
Within nine months, in one of the most tragic episodes in British exploration history, Scott and four of his companions would die on the ice. The team successfully reached the South Pole in Jan.1912, only to find the Norwegian flag already planted there by rival Roald Amundsen. On the return leg, bad weather stopped them reaching a vital supply store, at which point death was inevitable.
This week in UK, descendents of those five attended a special commemorative dinner: two of Scott's grandchildren, a great nephew of Dr Wilson, a great nephew of Captain Oates (famous for his last words, "I'm just going outside and may be some time"), a cousin of Lt.Bowers and a grandson of Petty Officer Evans. This was one of several events marking the centenary of Scott's journey - including two planned Antarctic expeditions next year.
Though Scott will always be remembered for his death, his scientific and technical accomplishments should not be forgotten. He was the first to use motorised vehicles in Antarctica, and to ditch furs in favour of layered clothing (used ever since by explorers). His team's collection of weather records, geographical information and fossils are seen as pivotal examples of modern scientific fieldwork.
But nothing can erase the mistakes he made while planning his heroic failure - mistakes that cost him and his men their lives.

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