December 30, 2020

After a day of very limited visibility, R. F. Scott and Edward Wilson skied through fog to explore an inlet on 30 December, 1902. Although this was in the final stages of the outward part of the southern journey of Discovery expedition, the men chose to explore and survey rather than travel due south to further their most southernly point.

Stanley L. Wood’s painting for the Pearson’s Magazine, March, 1904. (Dundee Heritage Trust)

The men were at the mouth of an inlet running westwards that ran into the mountains. As Scott fancied looking at the pressure ridges, Huntford wrote that he was ‘the perfect late Victorian scientific amateur’. However, Scott changed his mind and went with Wilson to view the inlet and collect geological samples.
Shackleton was left behind at the tent as his two colleagues took this final journey into the unknown. The camp where Shackleton lay was calculated to be at 82° 15’; Scott and Wilson later took another observation which placed them at somewhere between 82° 16’ S. and 82° 17’ S. This was the most southernly position reached by the team.
As Scott himself wrote: ‘After our modest lunch Wilson and I started off on ski to the S.S.W. We lost sight of the camp almost immediately, and were left with only our tracks to guide us back to it, but we pushed on for perhaps a mile or more in hopes that the weather would clear; then, as there was no sign of this, and we could see little more than a hundred yards, we realised there might be considerable risk and could be no advantage in proceeding, and so turned and retraced our footsteps to the camp.’

Edward Wilson (National Portrait Gallery, London)

After a few days of suffering from snow-blindness and weakness, Wilson was well enough on 30 December, to do the cooking, ‘an important duty’, Seaver later wrote, ‘in which he was most expeditious’.

Discovery (Scott Polar Research Institute)

R. F. Scott, Voyage of the Discovery Vol. II (London, 1905), pp. 78-80.
R. H. Mill, The Life of Sir Ernest Shackleton (London, 1923), pp. 77-78.
G. Seaver, Edward Wilson of the Antarctic: Naturalist and Friend (London, 1933), pp. 111-113.
R. Fiennes, Captain Scott (London, 2004), p. 97.
R. Huntford, Shackleton (London, 2000), pp. 101-103.
Go top