Rare Scott artefacts reunited after 100 years

06 June 2011

After nearly 100 years, artefacts and scientific specimens from Scott’s last Antarctic expedition, such as his Royal Navy uniform and a pair of Adélie penguins, are being reunited on Scott’s birthday today.

Captain Scott (centre) and crew, 13 April 1911.

Captain Scott (centre) and crew, 13 April 1911. © H Ponting photograph, Pennell collection Canterbury Museum NZ, 1975.289.28 (detail)

They are part of an upcoming exhibition, Scott's Last Expedition, opening at the Australian National Maritime Museum on 17 June and at the Natural History Museum, London, in January 2012. 

The exhibition is a partnership between the Natural History Museum, London, the Antarctic Heritage Trust and Canterbury Museum, Christchurch, New Zealand, where it opens in November 2012.

Robert Falcon Scott was born on 6 June, 1868. His Terra Nova expedition, from 1910 to 1913, collected thousands of scientific specimens

After the expedition, real objects used by the expedition team, from woollen mittens to letters and diaries, were dispersed around the world and looked after in different institutions including the Natural History Museum, which looks after around 40,000 expedition specimens.

Hundreds of these expedition artefacts are now being brought together for Scott’s Last Expedition opening in Sydney next week. 

Fossilised extinct plant Glossopteris indica helped reveal Antarctica was once part of a supercontin

Fossilised extinct plant Glossopteris indica collected on Scott's expedition helped to reveal Antarctica was once part of a supercontinent.

Penguins and extinct plants

The Adélie penguins were collected in 1911 by Murray Levick, one of the Terra Nova expedition’s surgeons. 

Levick conducted one of the earliest detailed studies of Adélie penguins. For 3 months, he observed the behaviour of the penguins during their breeding season. 

It was the first study of its kind. These specimens are looked after at the Natural History Museum.

Another Scott artefact looked after at the Museum is a fossilised extinct plant Glossopteris indica that the chief of scientific staff Edward Wilson collected. 

Canterbury Museum staff preparing Scott's woollen mittens

Canterbury Museum staff prepare Scott's woollen mittens © Canterbury Museum New Zealand

It was a significant find, later used to help provide evidence that Antarctica had once been part of the supercontinent Gondwana.

Scott’s uniform

Looked after at the Canterbury Museum in New Zealand is Scott’s Royal Navy uniform, which includes a pair of epaulettes, a sword and sword belt. 

This will be on display along with other expedition items such as diaries, food and polar exploration equipment in the exhibition. 

Scott’s Last Expedition commemorates the centenary of the expedition and celebrate its achievements.

Science of the Terra Nova

Today, Scott’s Terra Nova expedition is most well-known for the race to the South Pole and the tragic death of the Polar Party on the return. 

But the expedition also had a rich scientific programme and its team of scientists carried out valuable work in many fields

Installing Scott's Royal Navy uniform

Installing Scott's Royal Navy uniform © Australian National Maritime Museum

They studied Antarctic wildlife on land and in the sea, surveyed new terrain, examined the geology, and studied the formation of glaciers and land surfaces.

They made observations of magnetism, atmospheric electricity and gravity, and recorded meteorological data in many locations.

Terra Nova returned from Antarctica with hundreds of crates, jars and bottles, containing thousands of zoological and geological specimens. These made an important contribution to what is known about the geology and biology of Antarctica.

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