The aftermath

"We have found them - to say it has been a ghastly day cannot express it - it is too bad for words." - Apsley Cherry-Garrard, The Worst Journey in the World

Waiting in vain

Back at the Cape Evans hut, the remaining men had no way of knowing how the Polar Party was getting on.

They were expected to return in March 1912 and it was a nerve-wracking wait. At the end of the month, they had still not returned and as the weeks went by the terrible possibility that Scott and his four companions had perished became increasingly likely. Geologist Frank Debenham wrote in his diary, "It seems useless to hope any longer but whilst I cannot give up yet, we must face the fact that we have lost 5 of our strongest men".

Life carried on despite the fears – another Antarctic winter, another midwinter feast and more scientific work. When spring finally came, a search party set off on 19 October to look for Scott’s group.

Finding the last camp

On 12 November 1912, the search party saw a triangular shape in the distance. It was a snow-covered tent, the last camp of their three companions – Scott, Wilson and Bowers.

Inside they found their frozen bodies along with letters and diaries that told the story of their harrowing journey back. The search party also recovered geological specimens collected on the return from the South Pole. Evans and Oates were never found, their bodies forever part of the vast Antarctic wilderness. After a burial service, the tent with the three bodies still in it was covered with snow and a cross was raised on top.

The Great Ice Barrier became their final resting ground.

Snow cairn with cross

The snow cairn raised over Scott, Bowers and Wilson by the search party
© Canterbury Museum, New Zealand

The return from Antarctica

In January 1913, Terra Nova left Antarctica for the last time with all the surviving men on board. The news of Scott’s death and that of his companions was sent by telegram from Oamaru in New Zealand to the United Kingdom and quickly spread. It shocked the world and millions were touched by the sad news. Donations flooded in to support the families of the men.

But that was not the end of the story. There was still work to be done, with large quantities of scientific information and thousands of specimens to be examined and analysed. The zoological and geological specimens were shared between the Canterbury Museum and the Natural History Museum, who became central in co-ordinating the completion of the work. In recognition of Scott’s support for science, the Scott Polar Research Institute was established in Cambridge in 1920.

Frederick Hooper was part of the search party

Frederick Hooper was part of the search party
On 12 November 1912 he wrote in this diary, “We had a service over them and buried them as they were absolutely stiff, frozen in every limb. It was an awful sight to see our dear comrades in such a state, a sight I shall never forget in a hurry.”
© Canterbury Museum, New Zealand