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It was auspicious to read in the recent news, during the last weeks of our Scott exhibition here at the Museum, that the wreck of the SS Terra Nova ship, which transported Captain Robert Falcon Scott and his team on his last Antarctic expedition, has been found off Greenland. Terra Nova was the ship that lent its name to one of the most famous of all polar expeditions and it had been lost since 1943.

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Stills of the Terra Nova on its voyage to Antarctica, taken from Herbert Ponting's astonishing film of the journey, The Great White Silence.

Captain Scott and his polar party set off from Cardiff aboard the Terra Nova in 1910 on one of the most important Antarctic science missions in history. The legendary ship brought the survivors of the expedition back in 1913 and went on to be used by Antarctic coastal traders until it sank in 1943. It was found this month off the coast of Greenland, buried under 1,000 feet of icy water on the seabed.

 

One of our exhibition videos describes the background to the Terra Nova expedition:

 

 

Making my own personal last journey into Scott’s Last Expedition in the gallery today, it was especially poignant to watch the iconic footage of the ship’s outward journey taken by the expedition’s photographer, Herbert Ponting, in the Great White Silence film clip we show at the start of the exhibition.

 

It’s quite sad to think that the 100s of exhibits, unforgettable images and films that tell the unique stories of Scott and his team in the re-created Cape Evans base camp will be sailing off finally to New Zealand after the exhibition closes this Sunday, 2 September. They have really brought this incredible exhibition to life.

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This photo by Ponting captured a rare warm moment as Captain Scott (right) and other members of the Northern party, Evans, Bowers, and Wilson supped food from mugs in a tent around a stove, before their final journey to the South Pole. (c) Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge

Our exhibition here and the international 100th anniversary commemorations of Scott's Last Expedition over the last year have really made their emotive mark on many of us. I genuinely feel like Scott, Wilson, Oates, Bowers, Evans and the rest of the expedition team, including Ponting, have been man-hauling bravely among us over the past months.

 

I have often imagined them out in the treacherous blizzards, their meals together of seal soup and tinned asparagus, starting the day with enamel bowlfuls of hot Hunter's oatmeal (shown below), poring over penguin eggs, writing diaries and scientific notes… until the bitter end.

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If you haven’t experienced Scott’s Last Expedition, I urge you to visit before 17.00 this Sunday, 2 September. If you can't make it during the day, there may still be tickets available for tomorrow when it's open for our Friday Lates night.

 

After closing here, the exhibition goes on to open at the Canterbury Museum, New Zealand on 23 November 2012, and you can keep in touch with the work being performed by conservators on the real Cape Evans hut, which still stands today.

 

Book tickets online for Scott's Last Expedition

 

Browse the Scott's Last Expedition exhibition website

 

See the exhbibition gift range

 

Follow the work of the Antarctic Conservators in their blog

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In memoriam. Captain Robert Falcon Scott, 6 June 1868 to 29 March 1912.

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Portrait of Scott by expedition photographer Herbert Ponting, and Memorial cross image below, courtesy of Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge. Select images to enlarge them.

 

Today marks the centenary of Captain Robert Falcon Scott's last diary entry on 29 March 1912. It is thought to be the day Scott died.

 

Scott's last words from his famous diary read: '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 that I can write any more.'

 

Inside our Scott exhibition, the final exhibits showing the iconic cairn cross adorned with Scott's last messages home, next to the belongings found in the tent where his frozen body and those of Henry Bowers and Edward Wilson were discovered, are among the most haunting in the gallery.

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Scott is assumed to be the last to perish of the five-strong Polar party. It's likely he died on 29 March 1912 in the tent where he, Bowers and Wilson sheltered from the unrelenting blizzards, their food provisions gone. A depot containing enough supplies to get them back to base camp was just 11 miles away. The legendary cairn cross photo (above) was taken by the search party who found the tent and the frozen bodies 8 months later on 12 November 1912.  In tribute they made a great cairn of ice over the tent and bodies and fashioned a cross from skis. A sledge was thrust into a smaller cairn nearby.

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Next to the huge cairn cross display in the exhibition, you'll see some of the belongings retrieved from the tent where Scott, Bowers and Wilson were found. A theodolite, Wilson's sledging diary, the green satchell in which Scott kept his diary, and Scott's own silk embroidered British flag inscribed with the words 'Ready, Aye, Ready' are among them. Near these exhibits, there's the chance to turn the pages and read extracts from Scott's virtual diary, and listen to them too.

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Some months after the search party found Scott, an official Memorial cross was erected at Observation Hill on Ross Island, Antarctica, where it still stands today (left).

 

The Memorial cross bears the names of the five men who were lost, Capt R. F. Scott, Dr E. A. Wilson, Capt. L. E. C. Oates, Lt H. H. Bowers, and Petty Officer E. Evans, and words from Tennyson's Ulysses poem:

 

'To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield'.

 

Today, members of the Museum's staff attended the moving Scott commemorative ceremony at St Paul's Cathedral where 2,000 people gathered from all over the world.

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Outside St Paul's earlier today, a Museum spokesman said: 'It's remarkable to see how Scott's legacy influences us still, 100 years on. It was simply extraordinary to be there.'

Earlier in the week, we welcomed special guests from the British Services Antarctic Expedition team to our Scott exhibition to see rocks and fossils collected by Scott's team which are kept in our collections.

 

As well as the personal stories and everyday objects that played a part in this epic Polar journey, you'll also discover some of the many scientific specimens including geological samples that were found with the last three perished. Come and visit. Scott's Last Expedition is also open late every last Friday of the month.

 

Find out more about Scott's Last Expedition exhbition online

 

Read the news story about the British Services Antarctic Expedition team visiting the Museum and recreating Scott's last birthday meal in the Terra Nova base camp hut

 

Keep in touch with Antarctic research now - follow the Antarctic Conservation blog

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Tonight is the final late-night opening for our 2011 Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition. It is now sold out, so if you haven’t already bought a ticket then your next opportunity for a late night visit won't be until October when the 2012 exhibition opens at the Museum and the last Friday of that month! It's popular because it's such a great exhibition.

 

However, we have another excellent exhibition open late tonight - Scott’s Last Expedition. And a few tickets are still available by phone or at walk-up, so why not make it a part of your Friday night out?

 

If you have never been to After Hours with Mastercard, the first thing you will see when you cross the threshold into the magnificent terracotta Central Hall is the red-lit Diplodocus standing guard over our pop-up restaurant, the Blue Bar, and you will hear jazz spilling out from one of the alcoves. There is a hostess on hand to seat you if you want to have a meal.

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Above: At After Hours, the Central Hall's BIue Bar restaurant offers a choice of three bowl platter menus from smoked haddock pie to chicken paella and vegetable tagine... somewhat different to the menu at Captain Scott's table in the Terra Nova hut recreated in a stylised form in our Scott exhibition, below.
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If you just want to catch an exhibition and a drink at our After Hours evenings, then you have a number of options: turn right, down Fossil Way to our Red Bar, or go straight ahead, to the Gold Bar. And, if you are coming to the Mastercard bar, turn left down Dinosaur Way.

 

Humans being what they are, their eating and drinking offers a fascinating way of relating to the past. For example, this week the luncheon menu from the Titanic, the one served on the day it hit the iceberg - also 100 years ago this year - has been in the news. Reading it, one is instantly transported back to that era so readily that one can hear the tinkling of the piano in the dining room or think about the steerage passengers’ conditions once you see that corned beef, vegetables and dumplings were on the menu, in addition to all the fancy fare.

 

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Above: Scott's last expedition supplies included Fraser River salmon, Dutch Edam cheese and Huntley & Palmers biscuits. The original products are on display in our exhibition.

Being able to actually see one of the real menus for yourself would add in a powerful extra dimension to the impact. So it proves, when you visit Scott’s Last Expedition and see the handwritten menu cut into the shape of an Emperor penguin, with the signatures of Scott's men who ate the meal on the back. That and the original orange tins, worn with age, of Huntley and Palmers Digestive Biscuits (Plain), or the green tin of Lyle and Sons’ Golden Syrup; the box of caster sugar; the jam and cocoa; the Fraser River salmon - just some of the original artefacts (shown above) from the mammoth load of supplies the expedition took to Antarctica.

 

Suppliers were generous to the expedition: Abram Lyle and Sons gave 450kg of golden syrup, Henry Tate & Sons 2,300 kgs of sugar, Huntley and Palmers donated large amounts of digestive biscuits and Beaches gave a range of jams, including 130 kgs of blackcurrant. Frys and Sons donated a range of chocolate and cocoa.

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Scott's cubicle is recreated in our Scott exhibition and shows where he wrote his famous diaries.

Scott’s prodigious diaries show how and when these supplies were used. For example, the biscuits were used as sledging rations and, when mixed with pony meat, they became the famous ‘hoosh’ of which the expedition grew so fond (particularly when eating it was a matter of life or death during their travels in Antarctica).

 

The impact of this close-up experience is heightened in our exhibition when you turn a corner, and see footage of the unloading of those supplies from Scott’s ship, the Terra Nova, as part of Herbert Ponting’s evocative film of the expedition, The Great White Silence. We've just announced a Scott competition which gives you the chance to win a pair of tickets to our Scott exhibition and to see Ponting's film screened at the BFI cinema on 21 March.

 

I remember a teacher once saying to me ‘nothing remains of a civilisation except its art’. Sometimes all that remains of an historical event is its artefacts, so why not take the opportunity of engaging with Scott’s Last Expedition at After Hours this Friday through the medium of its artefacts?

 

You can also take part in what promises to be a fascinating debate on the contemporary issues facing the great white continent, The Scramble for Antarctica?, which is part of our series of Scott evening events

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It may be a mild January so far, but inside the Museum there's a distinctly Antarctic atmosphere. After the mammoth operation that was the royal opening of our Scott’s Last Expedition exhibition last week (see the recent What’s New blog for the news) I had been ‘pacing myself’ on the return back to normality (i.e. slacking) this week. But I was instantly revitalised on discovering that this Friday’s After Hours with MasterCard is listed in both Time Out's Critics Choice and the Daily Telegraph as one of the top things to do this weekend in London.

 

The reason this After Hours has been picked out in this delightful fashion is because we have two top exhibitions opening late, and it won’t cost the earth to come and see them, always attractive at this time of the year.

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A ticket to Scott’s Last Expedition is £9 (£8 excluding voluntary donation) and it will give you a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see artefacts and specimens from the expedition on display together in Britain for the first time (above). It is also a great opportunity to take on board the facts around the 1910-1913 Terra Nova expedition and to glean something of the heroic natures of the men who went out on that terrible journey, a journey embedded in the national psyche.

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Scott films: Glimpse the shell-shocked-looking Apsley Cherry-Garrard (left) and the ordeal of the 'worst journey in the world' to Cape Crozier in 1911 to collect Emperor penguin eggs (right) in our online video or in the exhibition cinema.

 

Specimens on display include one of the three Emperor penguin eggs collected by Dr Edward Wilson, Henry Bowers and Apsley Cherry-Garrard (above left) during the permanent darkness of the Antarctic winter, which were donated to the Museum by Cherry-Garrard on his return to Britain. The eggs were collected under horrendous conditions at Cape Crozier and you can find out about the renowned worst journey in the world in our film.

 

Famously, Scott, Wilson, Edgar Evans, 'Titus' Oates and Bowers, died in 1912 on the journey back from the expedition's attempt on the South Pole. Remarkably during their failed return from the Pole they had with them 35 kilos of geological and fossil specimens that they had collected and hauled by sledge. Not even when their attempt to get back to base at Cape Evans was obviously doomed did they jettison them to lighten their load. For that reason alone, nevermind their high scientific value, these specimens have a powerful legacy and you can see some of them in the exhibition (above).

 

Many of the contemporary family relatives of the original Polar Party attended the royal opening of the exhibition and it was a great honour to have them present. Prior to the event I had the privilege of talking with Petty Officer Edgar Evans’ grandson John Evans, who sadly was unable to be present on the night. And at the exhibition opening I had my hand held by Lady Kennet, the daughter by her second husband of Kathleen, Robert Falcon Scott’s wife. She and her own daughter were intently studying a large photograph of the expedition party at the time. Although it is 100 years since the Southern Party members died on their way back from the Pole, that felt like history very close up.

 

One member of the family relatives who definitely couldn't attend the opening was Scott's only grandson, Falcon, but for good reason. Falcon is currently in Antarctica to help preserve the Cape Evans hut of the Terra Nova expedition. You can see a film of him entering his grandfather's hut for the very first time here and read about his reactions in our Antarctic conservation blog.

 

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Back on the menu this Friday is the Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2011 exhibition - now very much sold out. And for those of you who have been missing it, our much loved Central Hall pop-up restaurant in the Blue Bar, returns (above). Here you can indulge any cravings for seasonal comfort food under the shadow of the glowing Diplodocus. If you just want to get a drink, then we have two main bar areas - the Gold Bar, just past the Blue Bar, and the Red Bar in Fossil Way.

 

As usual, there’ll be live jazz and this Friday's special Scott-related event promising a lively discussion on the question Do we naturally need heroes?. Come and join two key speakers, Meredith Hooper and Andrew Morton, to talk about the nature of celebrity and how things have changed since Scott’s death raised him to heroic status.

 

It's also a good time to visit both our exhibition shops and the main Museum shop.

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Today, our Scott's Last Expedition exhibiton opened to the public after a week of media coverage and VIP events in the exhbiition gallery, to mark the centenary of Captain Scott reaching the South Pole on 17 January 1912.

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Museum mineralogist David Smith and exhibition interpretor Elin Simonsson introduce HRH The Princess Royal to some of the scientific exhibits in Scott's Last Expedition at the VIP launch event on 19 January. The exhibition opened to the public today on 20 January.

Among the VIPs who attended the exhibition's launch party were HRH The Princess Royal (above) who opened the exhibition as its official patron, and Sir David Attenborough (below being greeted by Museum director Dr Mike Dixon).

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The VIP guests were still packing out the shop at the end of the evening when the party was officially over, so engrossed were they in our Polar-themed books and merchandise on display.

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So what of the exhibition itself? My first impressions on entering the gallery are of the stark contrast of warm-brown domesticity inside the Antarctic base camp wooden hut - the central focus of the exhibition - against the frozen-white surroundings of the unforgiving Antarctic landscape. And how these elements are so beautifully brought to life in the photographs and films of the expedition's photographer, Herbert Ponting.

 

Browse our Scott exhibition highlights slideshow to see what's in store

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Above and below: The main exhibition gallery space is designed as a life-size, walk-through representation of the Antarctic hut where Scott's shore party of 25 men lived and worked for the 3 years of the expedition. At its centre is an animated table showing how the hut's own central table was used by the crew members during the years at Cape Evans. Select images to enlarge them.

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One of the remarkable things our exhibition really demonstrates is the wealth and quality of visual and scientific records that Scott's Terra Nova team has given us. But then Scott's aim wasn't just to be the first to reach the South Pole on this expedition. He had planned an ambitious scientific programme, and to that end 12 scientists accompanied his expert exploration team, along with the first ever professional photographer to go on an Antarctic expedition, Herbert George Ponting. As a result, the expedition brought back a huge collection of specimens, 40,000 of which are in the Museum's collection, and a rich photographic and cinematic Antarctic archive. Some of the most iconic and treasured of these feature in the exhibition.

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Left: Officer Evans dressed for outside, as photographed by Ponting. Right: Herbert Ponting's cinematograph camera, a hand-cranked British Prestwich 35mm cine camera. Ponting was one of the first photographers to capture short video sequences on the ice.

Alongside treasures like the Cape Crozier emperor penguin egg and extracts from Ponting's fascinating film the Great White Silence, you'll frequently be surprised by homelier objects such as Huntley & Palmer expedition biscuits, a gramophone, extracts from Scott's and others' diaries and letters, Pontings cine camera, and of course many items of essential sledging clothing.

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Inside the exhibition's hut area, visit Scott's cubicle where, in his prolific writings, he penned much of his famous diary entries and expedition observations.

At the end of the exhibition journey, sit a-while in the cinema space and watch films that explore Scott's scientific legacy to Antarctic research, and find out what's being done today to preserve the Cape Evans hut.

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In Antarctica today, Captain Robert Falcon Scott's only grandson, Falcon Scott (above), is helping conserve the Antarctic base camp with a specialist conservation team and you can read about Falcon's visit to the Cape Evans hut in the Antarctic conservation blog.

 

Find out about Scott's Last Expedition and book tickets online

 

Read our news article about the opening of the exhibition

 

Discover what life was like in Scott's base camp with Museum spokesperson Louise Emerson in the BBC Online audio slideshow


Explore Antarctica online

Finally, see how elegant the Museum's Central Hall looked last night for HRH The Princess Royal's opening of Scott's Last Expedition...
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It's been a long wait, but the wall and graphic panels and display cases for our much-anticipated Scott's Last Expedition exhibition have arrived from Sydney, where the Australian National Maritime Museum's version of the exhibtion ran until October last year. After a long journey, all parts of the exhibtion are finally together here in the Museum, busily being prepared before they are moved into their new home in Dinosaur Way’s Jerwood Gallery. (And following its stay with us, the exhibition travels on to Christchurch in New Zealand.)

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Behind-the-scenes exhibition photos show some of the wall panels and work in progress as the installation of Scott's last Expedition nears completion. Select images to enlarge

About 200 items including original objects, specimens collected on the Terra Nova expedition, and artefacts ranging from books and clothes to food and scientific tools used by Captain Scott and his team, will be positioned in the exhibition gallery starting today. These are the things that will really bring to life the expedition’s many stories and the team’s everyday activities, alongside the incredible archive imagery and film footage.

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But as I saw yesterday and in these behind-the-scenes gallery photographs (above and below), the exhibition space is now really taking shape. All the wall-mounted images and information panels are in place and set the scene for the epic journey that awaits visitors from 20 January when the exhibition opens. You’ll notice the timber surrounds that take their inspiration from the Cape Evans hut, which was the base for Scott's expedition during its time in Antarctica. Our life-sized, walk-in representation of the hut with its central ‘animated’ table will be finished on Friday.

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Colours in the exhibition space have been chosen to reflect the history and legacy of the Terra Nova expedition: from purples for Edwardian England to white for leaving the hut and snow; black for the team’s return journey and blue for the contemporary part of the narrative.

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Antarctica is of course the dramatic backdrop to this exhibition which covers the Terra Nova expedition from many different perspectives. From the exhibition’s starting point - 1913’s tragic news of the death of the Polar Party - to the final cinema area showing films which explore the lasting impact of the expedition, visitors will get a real sense of the awesome landscape, enormous scale and harsh conditions of the continent.

 

Watch this space and our website for more news of the exhibition’s progress. Next week, on 17 January, TV and media crews arrive to get their first glimpse of the finished exhibition.

 

Find out more about the Scott’s Last Expedition exhibition and buy tickets online

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Today, 1 November 2011, we pay our respects to Captain Scott's Terra Nova sledging team who set out to conquer the South Pole exactly 100 years ago on 1 November 1911 from their base camp on Antarctica's Ross Island.

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Bleak times: Scott's Terra Nova expedition and pony-led sledges at the Great Ice Barrier a month after they left on 1 November 1911. Image from David Wilson's book, The Lost Photographs of Captain Scott. © Richard Kossow

On 1 November 1911, Captain Scott and his pony-led team left base camp in Antarctica's Ross Island for the South Pole. Scott was accompanied by support parties, innovative motor sledges (abandoned later on during the trip due to mechanical failure in the cold) and ponies for their ultimate journey south to conquer the Pole. The dog team had left Cape Evans a few days earlier. The day before, 31 October 1911, Scott wrote in his diary:

 

'The sun is shining and the wind dropping. Meares and Ponting are just off to Hut Point. Atkinson and Keohane will probably leave in an hour or so as arranged, and if the weather holds, we shall all get off to-morrow. So here end the entries in this diary with the first chapter of our History. The future is in the lap of the gods; I can think of nothing left undone to deserve success.'

 

On 1 November 1911, the day he actually set off, Scott recalled:

 

'This morning we got away in detachments – Michael, Nobby, Chinaman were first to get away about 11 A.M. The little devil Christopher was harnessed with the usual difficulty and started in kicking mood, Oates holding on for all he was worth. Bones ambled off gently with Crean, and I led Snippets in his wake. Ten minutes after Evans and Snatcher passed at the usual full speed. The wind blew very strong at the Razor Back and the sky was threatening – the ponies hate the wind.'

 

Many of Scott's early diary entries centred around the plight and personalities of the ponies, which he showed immense concern for throughout the journey, until they met their end.

 

In our 21st-century world of global communications and exclusive adventure holidays, it's hard to imagine what it would have felt like to embark on such remote expeditions into the unknown, and this is why Scott's diaries and photographs are all the more remarkable and poignant.

 

But as contemporary Antarctic explorer Felicity Aston says:

 

'Scott wasn’t on a suicide mission when he set out for the Pole. He had spent years making careful plans and preparations to mitigate the risks and give him and his men the best possible chance of success and survival. When they set out, they had every intention of returning. I think anyone setting out on an expedition that involves a degree of risk – even today – would feel exactly the same as Scott and his team.'

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Explorer Felicity Aston sets off on 1 November 2011 on her expedition to the South Pole to become the first woman to cross Antarctica alone. Below, preparing in Iceland last year. © Felicity Aston

Today, British explorer Felicity Aston, pictured above, is embarking on her 1,700km, 65-day journey to become the first woman in the world to cross Antarctica alone.

 

Last week, we asked her for some thoughts on her solo Kaspersky ONE Trans-Antarctic Expedition and how things have changed since Scott's time.

 

'I don’t think satellite communications have affected our passion for exploration, they are simply a tool that allows us to push further and harder than ever before. Perhaps the biggest difference today is our ability to communicate the experience as it happens. Using social media and satellite technology I can share my adventure in real time with a worldwide audience – a century ago the public had to wait years.'

 

 

'Polar travel is much more of a mental challenge than a physical one. Success or failure has more to do with what is going on in your head than the size of your muscles. On this trip I will be completely by myself for 70 days which just adds to the mental pressure of the challenge so I think keeping myself motivated and focused for that length of time on my own will be the hardest part.

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'I feel equal amounts of nerves and excitement about my expedition. In my mind I am already in Antarctica and so there is a certain amount of frustration that even though I leave the UK in a few days, it will actually be three weeks before I start on my journey.Then there is the anxiety about whether I have thought of everything, whether I am prepared. But most of all I am looking forward to the calm that comes when I begin skiing – the expedition routine is strangely relaxing after all the hectic months of preparation!

 

'When I read about the adventures of others I always wonder if I would be capable of doing the same. Over the last ten years each of my expeditions has pushed me a little further mentally or physically but I still don’t feel that I have reached my limit. I would like to know where my personal limits are – perhaps I’ll find them on this journey.

 

'Strange as it may sound I am actually really looking forward to the experience of being alone in Antarctica. It is a fantastically magical place and to have it completely to myself will be an incredible privilege.'

 

We wish Felicity every success. Keep up to date with the Kaspersky ONE Trans-Antarctic expedition on Felicity Aston's expedition blog.

 

Watch out for more Scott updates as we get ready for the opening of Scott's Last Expedition here at the Museum on 20 January 2012.

 

Find out about The Lost Photographs of Captain Scott

 

Explore the legacy of the ‘heroic era of Antarctic exploration’ that remains in Antarctica, including pre-fabricated huts used as base camps and the possessions the explorers left behind in them.

 

In our Antarctic Conservation blog discover what it’s like to work in Antarctica and follow the experiences of conservators working to preserve the artefacts left behind by the great explorers such as Scott.