Captain Oates' sleeping bag

Contributed by The Scott Polar Research Institute

Captain Lawrence Oates' reindeer-skin sleeping bag, used in the Antarctic, 1910-12. ©Scott Polar Research Institute

Used by Arctic peoples for thousands of years, reindeer or caribou hair is the world's best insulator against the coldOn the way back from the South Pole, suffering from severe frostbite, Oates decided to sacrifice himself to give his companions a chance of survival.

On 17 March 1912, Scott wrote in his Journal:
Oates' last thoughts were of his Mother, but he took pride in thinking that his regiment would be pleased with the bold way in which he met his death. We can testify to his bravery. He has borne intense suffering for weeks without complaint ? He did not - would not - give up hope to the very end. He was a brave soul.This was the end. He slept through the night before last, hoping not to wake; but he woke in the morning ? It was blowing a blizzard. He said, 'I'm going outside and may be some time.' He went out into the blizzard and we have not seen him since ?We knew that poor Oates was walking to his death, but though we tried to dissuade him, we knew it was the act of a brave man and an English gentleman.

It was Oates' 32nd birthday.

Comments are closed for this object


  • 1 comment
  • 1. At 12:13 on 15 October 2010, oliver green wrote:

    I visited the newly refurbished Polar Museum only yesterday and saw Captain Oates' sleeping bag on display. Earlier the same day the successful rescue of the 33 Chilean miners trapped for weeks deep underground had been shown live on tv all round the world. No such happy ending for Oates and his colleagues returning from the South Pole nearly a century ago, which makes this object and the other items recovered from Scott's ill fated expedition even more poignant, but so important to preserve. The hoist that brought those miners to safety should now be preserved in the same way as this sleeping bag as a powerful reminder of a major international but also very human and personal story.

    Complain about this comment

Most of the content on A History of the World is created by the contributors, who are the museums and members of the public. The views expressed are theirs and unless specifically stated are not those of the BBC or the British Museum. The BBC is not responsible for the content of any external sites referenced. In the event that you consider anything on this page to be in breach of the site’s House Rules please Flag This Object.

About this object

Click a button to explore other objects in the timeline


British Antarctic Expedition, 1910-13


View more objects from people in Cambridgeshire.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.