Terra Nova part 2

Captain Scott had re-joined his ship at Cape Town for the voyage to Australia but, as the expedition was always short of money, public speaking and fund raising took priority. Second-in-Command, Lieutenant “Teddy” Evans continues….

Scott left us again at Melbourne and embarked on yet another begging campaign, whilst I took the ship on to Lyttelton, where the Terra Nova was dry-docked with a view to stopping the leak in her bows. The decks, which after her long voyage let water through sadly, were caulked, and barnacles six inches long were taken from her bottom and sides.

A_TePapa_NZS-Cos-Aorangi-in-dock_full-2

Lyttelton dry dock with the mail steamer Aorangi** taking up much more room than Terra Nova would have. Photo by Burton Brothers of Dunedin from the Te Papa collection.

Whilst in New Zealand all the stores were landed, sorted out and restowed. On a piece of waste ground close to the wharves at Lyttelton the huts were erected in skeleton in order to make certain that no hitch would occur when they were put up at our Antarctic base.

A_trial-erection-of-th569f02b73a2ce2.92175117-785x

Instruments were adjusted, the ice-house re-insulated and prepared to receive the 150 frozen sheep and ten bullocks which were presented to us by New Zealand farmers. Stables were erected under the forecastle and on the upper deck of the Terra Nova, ready for the reception of our ponies, and a thousand and one alterations and improvements made.

800px-Lawrence_Oates_photo

Lawrence “Titus” Oates taking care of the expedition’s ponies in the forecastle. Neither Oates nor his ponies would return from “The Ice”.

We spent four weeks in Port Lyttelton, four weeks of hard work and perfect happiness. Our prospects looked very rosey in those days, and as each new member joined the Expedition here he was cordially welcomed into the Terra Nova family.

Mr. J. J. Kinsey acted as agent to the Expedition, as he had done for the National Antarctic Expedition of 1901-4, and, indeed, for every Polar enterprise that has used New Zealand for a base.

New Zealanders showed us unbounded hospitality; many of us had visited their shores before and stronger ties than those of friendship bound us to this beautiful country.

We sailed from Lyttelton on November 25 for Port Chalmers, had a tremendous send-off and a great deal of cheering as the ship moved slowly away from the piers. Bands played us out of the harbour and most of the ships flew farewell messages, which we did our best to answer.

Some members went down by train to Dunedin and joined us at Port Chalmers. We filled up here with what coal we could squeeze into our already overloaded ship and left finally for the Great Unknown on November 29, 1910.

A_TerraNova_PortChalmers__1518361329239__w975-2

Terra Nova about to leave Port Chalmers.

A_Capt. Scott_of_the_Antarctic_crop-2

Capt. R.F. Scott. 1868-1912.

Lady Scott, Mrs. Wilson, and my own wife came out with us to the Heads and then went on board the Plucky tug after saying good-bye. We were given a rousing send-off by the small craft that accompanied us a few miles on our way, but they turned homeward at last and at 3.30 p.m. we were clear with all good-byes said – personally I had a heart like lead, but, with every one else on board, bent on doing my duty and following Captain Scott to the end.

There was work to be done, however, and the crew were glad of the orders that sent them from one rope to another and gave them the chance to hide their feelings, for there is an aweful feeling of loneliness at this point in the lives of those who sign on the ships of the “South Pole trade” – how glad we were to hide those feelings and make sail – there were some dreadfully flat jokes made with the best of intentions when we watched dear New Zealand fading away as the spring night gently obscured her from our view.
‘South With Scott’, Edward R. G. R. Evans, 1921. (Abridged)

800px-Terra_Nova_ship_by_Herbert_Ponting,_1911

Terra Nova in the Antarctic. Photo by Herbert Ponting.

** Just over two years later Scott’s wife, Kathleen, was a passenger on the Aorangi, (pictured at top in dry dock). She was on her way to New Zealand to be reunited with her husband. The ship was in mid-Pacific and out of radio range, so she hadn’t heard the news of his death.

From the New Zealand Times of 28th February 1913 – Lady Scott, widow of the late Captain Scott, arrived at Wellington from San Francisco by the Aorangi last evening. She was met by her brother, Lieutenant [Wilfred] Bruce, and came ashore in the Janie Seddon. The Aorangi left Papeete about 6 p.m. on February 18th, and at midnight a wireless message was received from the Talune, which was on her way from Auckland to the islands, and some 500 miles distant, that Captain Scott had perished in a blizzard after reaching the South Pole. Captain Stevens broke the news to Lady Scott next morning at breakfast time.

According to Lady Scott – ‘The poor old chap’s hands were trembling when he said, “I’ve got some news for you, but I don’t see how I can tell you.” I said; “The Expedition?” and he said, “Yes.” “Well,” I said, “let’s have it,” and he showed me the message.’
‘Scott of the Antarctic’, Reginald Pound, 1966.

There was a sad sequel to this episode two months later, with parallels to Kathleen Scott’s personal loss. On 30th April 1913, “poor old” Captain Stevens’ wife, Catherine, died aged 46, in Auckland – while he was on the Aorangi in San Francisco.
There were no headlines. We can only hope he met with a messenger as empathetic as he had been.

Captain Scott’s ‘Discovery’

Today’s post was prompted by an excellent set of images of R.R.S. Discovery by Mark Simms on his blog last Monday. The ship, which is now a museum in Dundee, Scotland, took Robert Falcon Scott‘s first Antarctic expedition to the Southern Continent in 1901.

Like the old whalers before her, the Discovery was built for her purpose down to the last plank. Her designer was W.E. Smith, one of the Chief Constructors at the Admiralty. Nearly all his working life had been spent in building wooden ships. He was one of the last two men in the Service of whom that could be said. The Discovery’s frame of solid English oak, twenty-six inches thick, was made to resist tremendous side stresses. Her bows were fortified to a degree beyond anything known in wooden ship construction. Some of her bolts were eight feet long, running entirely through wood. She was considered a masterpiece of specialized shipbuilding, a verdict that time was to modify.

Discovery-in-her_winter_quarters

Image from a postcard in the Te Papa collection.

Her overhung stem ensured that when she charged into pack ice it was lifted two or three feet until the ship’s weight acted with a downward force that cracked the floe and made a passage for her to move forward to the next obstacle. There was less enthusiasm among the shipyard critics at Dundee for her peculiar stern, intended to buffer the rudder in heavy ice. Some were prepared to bet that it would collapse under stress; in fact, it served the vessel well in several seaward crises.

Early in June 1901, the Discovery was towed to London to be berthed in the East India Dock.

Visitors to the ship who asked Scott to face their box Kodaks observed that he liked his pet terrier Scamp to be in the picture. Scamp was sailing with him. No such favour was shown to the East End cats that had taken up quarters in the ship. A last-hour count revealed the number to be thirty-two. It was reduced to one by a ruthless concerted drive organised by the stewards.
‘Scott of the Antarctic’, Reginald Pound, 1966.

When the expedition returned to England in 1904, Discovery was sold to the Hudson’s Bay Company to cover expenses. She carried munitions to Russia during World War I and, with peace restored, spent several years on charter work. A refit in the 1920s revived her career and she was lent to the BANZARE expedition at the end of the decade, which took her back to Antarctic waters.

Discovery-at-Cape_Town

Discovery in Cape Town in 1929 for the start of BANZARE’s two seasons of Antarctic research. (Te Papa collection)

Discovery-3She was laid up in London as a training ship for Sea Scouts by 1936. Taken over by the Admiralty in the ’50s, she became a familiar sight berthed in the Thames at Victoria Embankment (at left in 1970) but her condition declined over the next 20 years. The Maritime Trust saved her from the scrap yard, restored the old ship, and added her to their vintage collection at St Katherine’s Dock. Unfortunately that venture was a finacial failure and the fleet was dispersed around the country in 1986. Discovery, quite rightly, went back to Dundee where it all began.