Robert Falcon Scott and four companions reached the South Pole 100 years ago today. The goal of that British expedition team was to be the first in history to reach the bottom of the world. They failed by five weeks.
The team rested. Scott wrote of his disappointment in his journal. Then they began what became a death march. A month later the team was one man down. Two months later all lives were lost.
The five died for the glory of King, Country and Science…and in the manner of Greek Tragedy – for personal loyalty. Not quite a band of brothers – Scott was a stickler when it came to rank and class – they shared a common purpose.
Scott became a national hero, lionized in press and film. His companions became mythic heroes, whose names were conjured when examples of selflessness were required during dark and difficult times.
In a twist that has fascinated me for a lifetime, the man who became the first to reach the South Pole, became a footnote in British history books, overshadowed by Scott in the English-speaking world.
Captain Scott’s accrued accomplishments should outweigh his one, dramatic, tragic and complete failure. They should, but that has never been the case. His expeditions to the south polar region contributed greatly to science, art and photography. Let’s spend the next 100 years celebrating that, not his deadly hubris.