Cambridgeshire

Captain Scott's Antarctic 'lost' photo negatives saved from auction

Henry "Birdie" Bowers, Cape Evans, October 1911 Image copyright SPRI
Image caption Henry "Birdie" Bowers, Cape Evans, October 1911: "Portrait of Bowers standing on snow beside a pile of boxes and a sledge loaded with boxes. Hills in background."

Photographic negatives taken by Captain Robert Falcon Scott during the doomed 1910-13 Antarctic expedition have been saved from sale at auction following a fund-raising appeal.

The 113 negatives, which were thought to have been lost, have been bought for £275,000 by the Scott Polar Research Institute (SPRI) in Cambridge.

Campaigners had feared they would be bought by an overseas collector.

Almost £234,000 was given to the appeal by the National Heritage Memorial Fund.

Image copyright SPRI
Image caption Ponies (left to right) Snippetts, Nobby, Michael and Jimmy Pigg, at Great Ice Barrier on 19 November 1911

The remaining funds were raised during a month-long public appeal backed by explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes, and support from the Victoria & Albert Purchase Grant Fund.

Sir Ranulph described the negatives, which had previously belonged to a private collector, as "a very important part of British polar history", and Scott as "without a doubt the greatest polar explorer of all time".

He said there was "every chance they would have been sold abroad and into a private collection" if the appeal had not been successful.

Scott took the photographs between September and December 1911.

Image copyright SPRI
Image caption View of Cape Evans from the Ramp, Cape Evans, October 1911

SPRI director, Julian Dowdeswell, said: "The best of the negatives are serious artistic achievements in their own right.

"The collection as a whole is a remarkable record of artistic development, quite apart from being of value to the national heritage."

Heather Lane, keeper of collections, said: "The negatives... take us right back to the point of origin, a fact made all the more exciting given that the institute also holds the camera on which they were taken.

"Furthermore, nine images from this set of negatives have hitherto been unknown and will be of major value for research."

Image copyright SPRI
Image caption Henry Bowers and Anton Omelchenko chasing Victor the pony, at Cape Evans

The negatives will be housed in the institute's Polar Museum, which is already home to the remaining prints of Scott's photographs, glass plate negatives taken by Herbert Ponting - who was the main photographer on the expedition - and Ponting's presentation album from the same expedition, together with prints and albums from other expedition members.

Image copyright SPRI
Image caption Camp under the Wild Mountains, Beardmore Glacier, photographed by Scott on 20 December 1911

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