In contrast, Scott’s crew of 65 men aboard the Terra Nova included physicists, meteorologists, zoologists, glaciologists and a photographer with a complete darkroom. The men camped at several locations during the year and a half they spent in Antarctica. To traverse sea ice, glaciers and the vast ice sheet that covers much of Antarctica, Scott brought not only dog teams but also four motorized tractors (one of which broke through the ice and sank; the others broke down) and several dozen Siberian ponies (whose hooves sank in the snow).
Before sailing from London in June 1910, Scott announced to the world that he was headed south to find the pole. Young men clamored to join his expedition, many paying a thousand pounds to join the adventure. By the time Scott reached Australia in October, the expedition had turned into a race: He received a telegram from Amundsen — who had thus far kept his plans secret — saying that he, too, was sailing to the continent at the bottom of the planet.
(Derek AdamsNHM Image Resources/©NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM) - Specimens collected by Scott’s team include these starfishlike brittle stars.
Both teams reached Antarctica in January 1911. While Amundsen spent all his time preparing for a lightning-fast dash to the South Pole once the summer began in November, Scott was busy launching scientific side trips, including a geology trip to Antarctica’s Western Mountains and another to collect emperor penguin eggs in the animal’s winter rookery.
“Scott was a British gentleman, and at that time science was part of the standard British expedition,” Larson said. “He was determined to lead it in a way that facilitated the work of scientists.”
Scott’s expedition certainly produced scientific results:
● Shipboard oceanographic measurements on the Terra Nova led to the discovery that marine currents, colder than the surrounding water, circle the Antarctic continent. Since then, scientists have concluded that these currents form a natural barrier that has allowed Antarctic marine life forms to develop along their own evolutionary paths. Scott’s scientists at both the winter quarters on Ross Island and on ship voyages also pulled up dozens of examples of strange, previously unknown sea life.
● Weather balloons launched daily by meteorologist George Simpson and other members of the expedition recorded temperature, wind and barometric pressure data that scientists are still using today as a base line to measure climate change. These balloons also measured the high-altitude winds that circle the Antarctic continent and since then have been found to affect weather around the globe. To expand the temperature data, Simpson assigned a night watchman to take readings at midnight as well as noon.
● Before leaving base camp for the pole, Scott and three other men explored the Dry Valleys along the western Antarctic coast. This two-week, 150-mile “jolly excursion,” as one man described it, brought back fish fossils and rocks that gave clues to the continent’s early history. Scott also made the first measurements of the movement of the region’s glaciers using flags that had been planted in the ice a year earlier.