Explorers: Following the footsteps of Captain Scott
As a child, one of my favourite Ladybird Books was ‘Captain Scott’ a true dramatic story of a naval officer and explorer, who died attempting to be the first to reach the South Pole. The story of Captain’s Scott’s journey to the Antarctic tells of the courage, determination and devotion of five very brave men who sacrificed their lives in a great adventure.
21st Century Explorers
The conquest of the Poles alongside other challenging regions such as Mount Everest are still a tempting attraction today by 21st century adventurers. Those who attempt such perilous journey’s face the same dangers Scott did, even though the clothing, transport and knowledge have advanced. Many still return having lost fingers and toes due to frost bite and extreme cold.
It takes not only determination but a strategy, planning and fight against the elements. Those that have taken these tasks on have their own compiling stories to tell of their training, initiatives, sacrifice, overcoming adversity and as such have been compiling Keynote Speakers at corporate events. Among the most popular are Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Tori James, Jan Meek and Neil Laughton all bookable and arranged through the Comicus office.
Captain Scott’s Story
Robert Falcon Scott (b: June 6 1868) in Devonport, joined the navy at an early age. Towards the end of the 19th century after serving with the Royal Navy, Scott was noticed by the Royal Geographical Society, which appointed him to command the National Antarctic Expedition of 1901-1904.
This expedition – which included Ernest Shackleton (who went on to have his own personal adventures in the Antartic) – reached further south than anyone had done before. Scott returned to Britain a national hero. However, he was now motivated to go further and began to plan an expedition to be the first to reach the South Pole. He spent years raising funds for the trip, many questioning his reasons for going, but eventually by using only one ship, he was ready.
The whaling ship Terra Nova left Cardiff, Wales in June 1910, making their way to the Antarctic. Once firmly established, the expedition set off from camp base the following October, with mechanical sledges, ponies and dogs. However, the sledges and ponies could not cope with the conditions and the expedition carried on without them, through appalling weather and increasingly tough terrain. In mid December, the dog teams turned back, leaving the rest to face the ascent of the Beardmore Glacier and the polar plateau. By January 1912, only five remained: Scott, Wilson, Oates, Bowers and Evans.
On 17 January, they reached the pole, only to find that a Norwegian party led by Roald Amundsen, had beaten them there. They started the 1,500 km journey back. Evans died in mid-February. By March, Oates was suffering from severe frostbite and, knowing he was holding back his companions, walked out into the freezing conditions never to be seen again. The remaining three men died of starvation and exposure in their tent on 29 March 1912. They were in fact only 20 km from a pre-arranged supply depot.
Eight months later, a search party found the tent, the bodies and Scott’s diary. The bodies were buried under the tent, with a cairn of ice and snow to mark the spot. None ever set a nobler example of heroism and devotion.
A major feature film documenting Scott’s adventure was made in 1948 ‘Scott of the Antarctic’ starring John Mills, Kenneth More and James Robertson Justice, this along with several TV documentaries have kept Scott’s legacy and extra ordinary achievement alive.
Matthew Willetts MA is the Director of Comicus who has over 35 years experience in television, film, theatre, and comedy club/cabaret entertainment, working as a performer, screenwriter, producer and agent. He lectured at Southampton Solent University in Comedy, Screenwriting, Television, Theatre & Radio. Matthew can sometimes be seen and heard on TV & Radio and often quoted in the national press and media publications. As well as speaking regularly at festivals and industry conferences, he has been a judge at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Montreux Television Festival.