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History
GREAT LIVES
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SERIES 3
Friday 4 April 2003, 23:02 - 23:30


PROGRAMME 1: Beryl Bainbridge on Scott of the Antarctic

Picture of the arctic explorer, Robert Falcon Scott.Born in 1868 Robert Falcon Scott had a typical late Victorian middle class childhood before joining the Royal Navy in 1880.

He rose to command the National Antarctic Expedition in 1900. His first expedition to the Antarctic (1901-4) was organized jointly by the Royal Geographical Society and the Royal Society. Primarily scientific the expedition sounded the Ross Sea and discovered King Edward VII Land before reaching a new "farthest south" point of 82°17'.

Returning to England, Scott was promoted to captain and wrote a successful account of his expedition, The Voyage of the "Discovery".

Scott set out on his second expedition in 1910, in the Terra Nova, this time in search of the South Pole.

From their base on the Ross Sea, in November 1911, Scott and his four companions started southward on foot toward the pole, manhandling their heavy sledges the entire way across the high polar plateau, in sub-zero temperatures.

Reaching the South Pole on January 18, 1912, they discovered that they had been beaten to it by the Norwegian explorer, Roald Amundsen.

Their heroic retreat has become the stuff of legend. Beset by illness, lack of food, frostbite, and blizzards, all five members died. Oates famously 'stepping outside', the last three overwhelmed by a blizzard when only a few miles from their depot.

When their bodies were later recovered, together with Scott's diaries, Scott's defeat by the Norwegian Amundsen in the race to the South Pole, and his failure to bring his men back alive, the legend was born.

Picture of the novellist Beryl Bainbridge.In her research for her novel The Birthday Boys, Beryl Bainbridge believes she unearthed a different man, an adventurer and a romantic, whose eyes turned from blue to purple whenever he became amorous.

As well as rare archive of Scott's companions on his southerly trips, the programme contains accounts of his love for the bohemian sculptor, Katherine Bruce, and evidence of his friendship with JM Barrie, creator of Peter Pan. The idea for The Lost Boys, Bainbridge believes, came from Scott.

Bob Headland, archivist of the Scott Polar Institute provides the cooler evidence, including an account of the numerous mistakes Scott made, while Humphrey Carpenter will be keeping the expert and the nominator apart should a scrap break out.

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