November 1911–January 1912 main content.

November 1911–January 1912

Part of the Race to the End of the Earth exhibition.


The British Set Out For The South Pole

Transportation, Weather Difficulties Indicate Trouble Ahead: November 1911-January 1912

Scott and his men set out with 10 ponies and teams of dogs on November 1, 1911. He left later than Amundsen because he was concerned about his decrepit ponies, and hoped for slightly warmer conditions.

A motor sledge party of four had left earlier, but their machines quickly broke down and they had to continue by manhauling. The weather deteriorated in early December, with large snow falls followed by a thaw which made travel extremely difficult for both man and beast. The last of the ponies were shot, skinned, and their meat stored in a cache for later use by dogs and men. The dog teams were sent back on December 10, just before the Beardmore Glacier was reached. From now on, the 12 men headed for the polar plateau and hoped-for glory would be manhauling their sledges the entire distance.

Scott Dispatches Supporting Parties Back To Camp

Working up the Beardmore was agony. Maneuvering through deep drifts and around crevasses in whirling snow, the men made painfully slow progress. In late December they topped the glacier and could now start to cross the polar plateau. Scott sent back the first supporting party of four men with the pole still more than 300 miles away. On the last day of December the two remaining sledge teams neared 87°S, which they celebrated with extra rations.

On January 4, with 180 miles to go, Scott sent back the second supporting party--but with three men rather than four. He had decided to add Birdie Bowers to his team of four (Scott, Wilson, P.O. Evans, and Oates) because he would provide extra pulling power. Scott misjudged how this last-minute change would affect both parties--one group short of haulers, the other increasingly short of supplies.

Although food was reapportioned, it now took much longer to prepare for five men, which depleted Scott's fuel stores at a greater rate. All the men were losing weight on an inadequate diet, and the temperatures were dropping steadily.