Here I am in London outside the former home of the explorer Robert Scott. Though this grand house in London afforded security and comfort something compelled him to a life of dare and dangerous destinations. Aged 43-year-old he froze to death on the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica and now lies where he died encased in ice.
He was a Royal Navy officer and explorer who's expeditions found success and failure. He led two expeditions to the Antarctic regions - on the first one he set a new southern record by marching to and discovering the Antarctic Plateau (on which the South Pole is located.) On the second he led a party of five men to the South Pole but they died. They reached the South Pole on 17th January 1912 only to discover that Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen had beaten them to it a month earlier. Their deep disappointment didnít last long as on the return trip all five died from starvation or death. They started the 862 mile journey back knowing they were only 12 miles from a pre-arranged supply depot but severe conditions stopped them. One of the men Edward Evans died in mid-February and they had to leave him. By March Captain Lawrence Oates was suffering from severe frostbite and, knowing he was holding back his companions, walked out into the freezing conditions knowing he was committing suicide. His last words were "I am just going outside and may be some time" and he was never seen again. A fierce blizzard prevented the three remaining men making progress back to safety. Over nine days their supplies ran out and they wrote their farewell letters. They died of either starvation or exposure in their tents probably on 29th March 1912.
Eight months later the frozen bodies were found by a search party. All three men were still in their tents which were covered in snow. The positions of Robert's body suggested he was the last one to die. Alongside the bodies were tree fossils which proved that Antarctica had once been warm and connected to other continents. Their final camp became their tomb. A tent was dropped over the bodies, a high cairn of snow was built up over them and a cross made from skis was fixed on top. As the ice shelf is moving slowly northward itís estimated their ice-encased bodies will return to the Ross Sea in about 200 years.
Here I am out Robert's home where he left a comfortable life, a wife and son. It's in Chelsea and is worth about £7 million though it's now been broken up into flats. If you step outside the door and turn left the River Thames is about 50m away. External changes to these charming terraces are forbidden so the street probably doesn't look much different than it did when Robert left it for the last time. Sadly there's a modern apartment block across the road which highlights how modern architecture can't compare with the old stuff. Robert could have lived here in some style but he was the third of six children from a family steeped in naval and military traditions. He was pre-destined to served in one of the armed forces and see danger. Had he gone into another profession he'd probably have lived twice as long. Forty-three isn't much is it? Other famous people who died at 43 are actress Natalie Wood (drowned), painter Jan Vermeer (unknown), outlaw Butch Cassidy (suicide after being captured) and Edward II (red hot poker in his bum.)
Tired, frozen, beaten...
The final resting place...