I am going outside: Camping out in memory of Scott and his men

As many of you will already know… it is the Centenary of the passing of Captain Scott, following the death of his remaining team members, on the 29th March 2012.  It was on 29th March 1912 that Captain Scott had made his last entry in his diary.

Sleeping on ice

To commemorate and mark this important date, I will be joined by several of my Antarctic Station’s crew in abandoning our comfortable beds to spend one night camping outside in a tent, alone, away from the station, under the polar blanket of stars.  Temperatures will hover below minus 70 degrees Celcius.  We will be the first crew members in winter to do so, in this extreme environment, at around 3800 metres.  I am sure it will be an ‘awful’ experience, but an important one.

Sharing our experience live on BBC Radio

On Thursday 29th March, I will be talking live from the tent by satellite phone to BBC Radio 4 and also BBC Oxford’s morning show.

Tune in to the PM Show with Eddie Mair on BBC Radio 4, on Thursday between 5-6pm (GMT time).  This may also be available for a short time afterwards on BBC’s iPlayer.  Since we are currently living 7 hours ahead of GMT – this will be at around midnight (12am) local Antarctic time and will be at the coldest point of the Antarctic night.

I will be speaking to BBC Radio Oxford’s morning show again at around 7.45am on Thursday.  Last time I was on the show, I was back home in UK in December!  Oh, how time flies in the middle of nowhere.

100 years on

100 years ago in the height of midwinter, Dr Wilson had led two others out, set upon the task of collecting Emperor Penguin Eggs in support of evolutionary theory.  It later would go down in history as the ‘Worst Journey in the World’.  Meanwhile, Captain Scott sat at his desk in Cape Evans, dreaming of becoming the first men in history the ‘uttermost end of the world’ – the Geographical South Pole.

100 years later I sit at my desk at Concordia Station, carrying out research for the European Space Agency’s human spaceflight programme, dreaming about a future manned mission to Mars, about to endure the worse winter the world has to offer.

A blazing trail of Antarctic Science

Regardless of the theories circulating, which sometimes express feelings of Scott ‘failing’, I invite you to celebrate a team that made the most honourable of sacrifices by devoting their lives to exploring the unknown and pushing the boundary of science.

They may not have been first to the South Pole, or escaped to tell the tale in person, but to me that is not what is important in life.  Its what you leave behind that counts.  And out here in the dark of the polar night, I can see and feel the warmth of the blazing and inspiring trail of science and exploration left by Scott’s team, still burning bright 100 years on, high and mighty.  A North Star of the Southern Hemisphere – so bright you can sail your boat by it, if there was water, and not ice.

Exploration today: the first to drive around the world backwards

In my opinion, too much in exploration today is about being ‘first’ – who cares if you are the ‘first person to drive around the world in reverse’.  Life should have more meaning – the genius of exploration today, to me, lies in science- exploration of science and discovery.

Tommorow’s hero will be the scientist who will have explored and exhausted every possible theory, until they find a way to protect our people and our planet- a Mahatma Gandhi of conservation- or the cure for Malaria perhaps.  Something that benefits mankind.  The way the world is going, with overpopulation, we are sure to be the first species in history to forecast and spin the web, suffocating us to our own end.

You only have to look at the tragic, expressionless skeletons of past skyscrapers, left by the Rapanui people, on Easter island to understand.

I dream about the time when sailors were too scared to sail beyond the horizon for fear of falling off the ‘edge of the world’.

100 years ago, Scott and his men defied boundaries of fear, and marched into history.

Here is to a glorious and heroic age of British Polar Exploration, inspiring a past magnificent century of Antarctic science.

The spirit of Scott

You don’t need to read another biography with someone’s tainted interpretation.  A journey through the Antarctic winter is a personal journey.  Anyone can interpret anything in this day and age.

Instead, I leave you with the last words of Captain Scott from various letters he left behind.  Let his own words describing his own story live in your imagination, as the truest of tales.

Writing from the heart of the lonely Antarctic plateau, I look out due South into the Great White Silence – Here is to you and your team, Sir.

The last words of Captain Scott

Every day some new fact comes to light – some new obstacle which threatens the gravest obstruction. I suppose this is the reason which makes the game so well worth playing.

On reaching the South Pole, Scott wrote, “Great God! this is an awful place and terrible enough for us to have laboured to it without the reward of priority.

We are very near the end, but have not and will not lose our good cheer.

For four days we have been unable to leave the tent – the gale howling about us. We are weak, writing is difficult, but for my own sake I do not regret this journey, which has shown that Englishmen can endure hardships, help one another, and meet death with as great a fortitude as ever in the past. We took risks, we knew we took them; things have come out against us, and therefore we have no cause for complaint, but bow to the will of Providence, determined still to do our best to the last.

I may not have proved a great explorer, but we have done the greatest march ever made and come very near to great success.

We have been to the Pole and we shall die like gentlemen. I regret only for the women we leave behind.

Take comfort in that I die at peace with the world and myself – not afraid.

I have done this to show what an Englishman can do.  We are showing that Englishmen can still die with a bold spirit, fighting it out to the end.

Each man in his way is a treasure.

Had we lived, I should have had a tale to tell of the hardihood, endurance, and courage of my companions which would have stirred the heart of every Englishman. These rough notes and our dead bodies must tell the tale.

We shall stick it out to the end, but we are getting weaker of course and the end cannot be far. It seems a pity, but I do not think I can write more.

For God’s sake, look after our people.

 

Today’s weather report

2012/03/28 00:42

Temperature -62.1 °C Windchill -82.7 °C
Dew Point -69.7 °C Pressure 633.9 hPa
Wind Speed 5 m/s Relative Humidity 37 %
9.8 knots Wind Origin 200°

Data are provided by the IPEV-PNRA Concordia RMO Project

For more information on the use of these data, please contact: osservatoriometeoantartico@enea.it

 

Song of the day

Song of the day is today, replaced instead by poem of the day.  Here is one of my favourite poems: ‘The sleeping bag’ a poem by Herbert Ponting, the official photographer on Scott’s Terra Nova expedition:

On the outside grows the furside; on the inside grows the skinside. So the furside is the outside, and the skinside is the inside. One side likes the skinside inside, and the furside on the outside. Others like the skinside outside, and the furside on the inside. If you turn the skinside outside, thinking you will side with that side, then the soft side, furside’s inside, which, some argue, is the wrong side. If you turn the furside outside, as, you say, it grows on that side, then your outside’s next the skinside, which for comfort’s not the right side. For the skinside is the cold side, and your outside’s not your warm side. And two cold sides side by side are not right-side when side to side! If you decide to side with that side, turn the topside furside inside. Then the cold side furside skinside, beyond all question, inside out! 

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