The Spirit of Mawson - Australasian Antarctic Expedition 2013 - 2014

Australasian Antarctic Expedition

History of Antarctic Exploration in 30 Objects

This statue of Captain Robert Falcon Scott was erected in 1917, to commemorate the polar explorer and his four companions who died in March 1912, returning from the South Pole.  The memorial was commissioned by the Mayor of Christchurch, Henry Holland who established a fund after news of Scott’s death was received across the world.  Scott’s widow Kathleen (1878–1947) was engaged by the city to create a replica of her bronze statue that had been erected in London in 1915.  Due to high demand for metal for armaments in the First World War, the final statue was carved from white Italian marble.  The statue was shipped to New Zealand in October 1916 and unveiled in Christchurch in February 1917.  The statue shows Scott in his polar clothing, facing north on his homeward journey.  A memorial plaque on the plinth features an entry from Scott’s diary:

I do not regret this journey, which shows
that Englishmen can endure hardships,
help one another, and meet death with
as great fortitude as ever in the past.

The statue stood in central Christchurch until February 2011, when the it fell from its plinth during the Christchurch Earthquake and was damaged.

Captain Robert Falcon Scott was already an experienced polar explorer when he came to plan his second and final trip to Antarctica.  Aware of how close Shackleton had got to reaching the South Geographic Pole in 1909, Scott was impatient to prove himself the greater explorer and claim this prize for Britain.  Securing limited funds from the Royal Geographical Society, Scott was largely dependent on private monies to support the expedition.

Aside from the push for the Pole, Scott planned a major scientific programme of work on the ice.  A team was assembled, with scientific experts drawn from a number of fields, to examine every aspect of Antarctica to build as clear an understanding of the icy continent as possible, including geology, meteorology, glaciology, magnetism and zoology.  The ship Terra Nova, an old whaler, was selected to carry the expedition south and loaded with an extensive range of the latest scientific and technological equipment. Amongst the stores were three Wolseley motor tractors, nineteen ponies and 33 Siberian dogs; all of which it was hoped would be able to help carry the team and their supplies over the ice.

On 1 June 1910, the Terra Nova left London, travelling via Australia and New Zealand to Antarctica.  On his arrival in Melbourne, Scott was met with the unwelcome news that Amundsen had decided to head south too.   Deeply unsettled by the prospect of a race for the Pole, the explorer decided not to alter his plans and instead re-stated his commitment to the expedition’s scientific goals. Carrying on, he arrived at Cape Evans on Ross Island in January 1911.

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Currently held by the Canterbury Museum, Christchurch, New Zealand.