The Norwegian Tent. The finding of the tent, equipment and letters gave the British team every indication of what a well organised and professional group the Norwegians were. They take pictures and the most famous shows 5 men whose tired, cold, hungry and frostbitten bodies tell it all. Even in the picture Oates stands uneven indicating his leg was in poor condition, but all of them have a haunting look about them. Oates is in a poor way but manages a generosity to Scott as he comments that he is taking defeat better than he expected. Oates also refers to Amundsen as a man who must have had ‘his head screwed on right’ but also says that they must have had a ‘comfortable trip with their dog teams, very different to our wretched man hauling’. Huntford describes in great detail the location of the pole and the confusion in Scotts mind as to what he was seeing. Bowers and Scott had got their original position wrong and moved closer to the pole but Huntford suggests they were moving further away. When they found the black flag they believed this to be the Norwegian pole but it was only one of Amundsens markers. Huntford claims that Scott never actually got to the pole. Wilson makes little comment on the huge disappointment and concedes to the Norwegians but only as far as they made a race of it while they carried out their planned trip. Wilson took some souvenirs and in his biography by Isobel Williams she ends today with ‘Had they got home they would have been fetted but then lost from popular interest as the unfolding drama of the first world war progressed. As is was they marched to death and posterity’.
Back Oates, Scott and Evans, Front Bowers and Wilson – Wikimedia Commons
Scott’s Journal January 18th 1912. After they had taken all the observations required they agree they are 1 mile further on and 3 miles to the right of the pole. As they move towards the pole the sharp eyes of Bowers spots a cairn or tent ahead. When they arrive they find it is a Norwegian tent which is still a mile off the pole. In the tent they find the names of the 5 Norwegians who made it to the pole of Dec 16th 1911, Amundsen, Olavson Bjaaland, Hanssen, Hassel and Wisting. Scott leaves his own record of the 5 British men who had visited this spot. They are impressed with the tent and the equipment left. Bowers takes some pictures while Wilson makes some sketches. Amundsen left a note for Scott and asks him to deliver a letter to the King of Norway, Haakon. By lunch they found themselves half a mile from the pole and build a cairn, raise the flag and take some photographs. They spot an old sledge runner about half a mile south and the estimate this is the mark the Norwegians used for their positioning of the pole. Scott commandeered it and they will use it to create a sail for their sledge using the floorcloth of the tent. Scott is in no doubt that the Norwegians have been diligent in making their mark and undertaking the work required to assure them of first at the pole. Scott believes the Norwegians expected colder weather than they experienced and puts this down to the record of Shackleton’s march. ‘Well, we have turned our back on the goal of our ambition and must face our 800 miles of solid dragging – and goodbye to most of the daydreams’.
Commentary. On the day of such disappointment Shackleton is still present in Scotts mind with a slight dig at the honesty of his Nimrod march. The accuracy of the pole position, the difference in the struggle to get there, the timing in the season, weather, food and means of transport have all appeared in the text of the last few days. But just look at that picture of 5 men who must now begin an 800 mile march home, a march they will not complete. Of everything that has been written about the pole nothing is more powerful than this one picture, nothing conveys more emotion than this image of the deep hurt etched onto tired, hungry and cold men. On my way into work today there was another picture from the south pole, one taken yesterday at the Amundsen Scott South Pole Base and published in a newspaper. It was of men and women playing cricket to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of Scott reaching the pole. I threw the paper away.
The Amundsen Scott South Pole Base – Wikimedia Commons