Centenary of Scott’s Terra Nova in Simon’s Bay 15 August-2nd September 1910

At 18:10 on 15th August 1910 Scott’s ship Terra Nova moored at No 4 bouy in Simon’s Bay under the command of Lt Teddy Evans.  Scott had come out earlier on the RMS Saxon and was in Pretoria meeting General Louis Botha to ask the new Union Government for funding.  

After being replenished and refitted by the Royal Naval Dockyard and having calibrated her scientific instruments (the magnetic laboratory was set up on the lawns of Admiralty House), and with Scott now in command, she set sail on 2nd September for Melbourne, Lyttleton, and McMurdo Sound in Antarctica.  After spending the winter of 1911 in their hut at Cape Evans, they set off across the Ross Ice Shelf at the end of October and reached the South Pole on 17th January 1912 – more than a month after the Norwegian, Roald Amundsen.

On their return all 5 of the Polar Party died from the effects of scurvy, starvation and the quite extra-ordinarily cold weather – Taff Evans, Birdie Bowers, Edward Wilson and ‘Titus” Oates.

Oates had visited Cape Town twice as a young boy and spent his 21st birthday on his back in a house in Aberdeen, having been shot in the leg during the Anglo-Boer war.  Scott, too, had visited Simon’s Town on 2 occasions previously – as a 15 year old midshipman on HMS Boadicea from 1883-1885 and on “Discovery” in October 1901 on his first Antarctic expedition – when he, accompanied by Edward Wilson and Ernest Shackleton, were forced to turn back because of scurvy at 82 degrees South.

In 1910 Scott and his wife, Kathleen, stayed at Admiralty House as guests of Admiral Egerton while the scientists and officers stayed either at the British Hotel in Simon’s Town or Cogill’s Hotel in Wynberg.

Like today’s tourists, they climbed Table Mountain, played golf at Royal Cape, “Did” the Wine Route with a tasting at Schoongezicht (now Rustenburg) – although Scott only drank milk! – were guests at the Owl Club (Edward Wilson described it as “the most awful penalty of being a member of a public expedition”) and did some serious partying.

Lt Teddy Evans, one of the last to see Scott alive when the last supporting party turned back 270ks from the Pole, returned as an Admiral to Simon’s Town  and ,as Commander- in-Chief South Atlantic, lived in Admiralty House from 1933-1935.

Let us use this Centenary to remind Cape Townians that the history of Scotts’ brave but tragic attempt to be the first to reach the South Pole is also part of our heritage and that today we are still one of the Gateways to Antarctica.

The Simon’s Town Historical Museum is planning on establishing an Antarctic exhibition and would be grateful of any relevant Antarctic photo’s or memorabilia.

They have set up a banner about Terra Nova at the entrance to Simon’s Town.  See Photo including Dr. Sydney Cullis and Boet Dommisse, Chairman of the Simon’s Town Historical Society.

 Dr Cullis will be giving an illustrated talk to celebrate the Centenary of the arrival of Scott’s ship Terra Nova in Simon’s Bay on 15th August 1910.  His talk with slides entitled “Terra Nova and other Antarctic Explorers in Simon’s Town” will be held at the Simon’s Town Historical Society on 25 August at 18:00hrs.  A donation of R15 will secure a glass of wine or fruit juice.  For info: Contact Margaret  021 782 3298