Captain Robert Scott Biography

Captain Robert Scott

The great English Naval officer and explorer, Robert Falcon Scott, was born the youngest of eight children of well-to-do Plymouth family.

Robert Falcon Scott was born on 6 June 1868 and enjoyed a comfortable childhood as his father John owned a successful brewery, which John later sold.

A day-dreamer as a schoolboy, he followed his family's naval heritage in becoming a naval cadet in 1881. In July 1883, he became a midshipman and served in St Kitts on the ship HMS Rover. As an 18-year-old he won a cutter race and was noticed by Clements Markham, then the secretary of the Royal Geographical Society, who would later select Scott for polar expeditions. By 1891, he had become a full lieutenant.

He was the commander of the Discovery expedition to Antarctica, which reached furthest south in 1902, following his appointment by Markhams. It was on this expedition that Scott met Ernest Shackleton, who collapsed on the way back from a march to the South Pole. They were 530 miles away from the pole and their ship had to be freed from the ice by two relief ships and explosives.

However, it was deemed a success as Scott discovered the Polar Plateau and made some important meteorological, geographical and zoological findings.

Upon his return to England in 1904, he was promoted to captain. He married the sculptress Kathleen Bruce in 1908at Hampton Court. Their only child Peter Markham Scott was born on 14 September 1909.

In June 1911, Scott embarked on the infamous second Antarctic expedition, to study the Ross Sea area, and reach the South Pole.

Equipped with motor sledges, ponies and dogs, he and 11 others started overland for the pole from Cape Evans on 24 October 1911. When the motors froze, the ponies had to be destroyed and the dog teams sent back.

The party began to ascend Beardmore Glacier on 10 December, their party consisting of three man-hauled sledges.

All but five men, Scott, E.A. Wilson, H.R. Bowers, L.E.G. Oates and Edgar Evans – had fallen ill and returned to the base by 31 December. The valiant four reached the pole on 17 January 1912.

It had been an exhausting, 81-day trek, and, to their horror, they found evidence that Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen had beaten them to the pole by about a month.

The return journey was immensely perilous. Evans died at Beardmore in February 1917, Oates perished a month later.

The remaining four found themselves trapped inside their tent in a nine-day blizzard.

Their frozen bodies were found only 11 miles from their destination eight months later (November).

Scott's lasting legacy has been ever-changing with his reputation remaining intact until after the Second World War. In 1966, Scott's first biographer Reginald Pound revealed the man's personal failings while endorsing his heroism.

However, in 1979 Roland Huntford's duel biography of Scott and Amundsen depicted the explorer as a ' heroic bungler' and challenged his heroism in the face of death.

Scott's reputation has since improved, with David Crane publishing a new and flattering biography about Scott in 2005.

On 30 March 2012, a letter written by Scott in March 1912, just before his death, to financier Sir Edgar Speyer will be auctioned at Bonhams. It is expected to sell for between £100,000 and £150,000.


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