The life of Sir Robert Falcon Scott

By ExpeditionsOnline / 28 September 2017

The life of Sir Robert Falcon Scott

The life of Sir Robert Falcon Scott was one of adventure and drama. So much so that Robert Falcon Scott Antarctic Explorer became known as simply ‘Scott of the Antarctic’.

The life of Sir Robert Falcon Scott was one of adventure and drama. So much so that Robert Falcon Scott Antarctic Explorer became known as simply ‘Scott of the Antarctic’. In the UK, his adventures and his spirit made him a national hero during the heroic age of polar expeditions. 

It is little wonder that he’s still held in high regard today. He remains a hero for those of us who love adventure and travel to Antarctica. At Expeditions Online, we have a number of polar expedition cruises that follow in his footsteps. But first, let’s take a look at the life of Sir Robert Falcon Scott and his memorable story of risk, endurance and courage.  

Destined for a life in the navy 

At the age of 13, Robert Falcon Scott began his naval career as a cadet. He was destined for a life in the armed forces. His family had a long tradition of military service. By the age of 15, he was a midshipman. And his career within the navy continued to progress smoothly. However, at the same time, his family were experiencing hardship. They lost their family fortune, and soon after, Scott’s father died. His brother passed away two years later after contracting typhoid fever in the colonial service. So, from then on the financial responsibility for his family lay squarely with Robert Falcon Scott. 


A need to distinguish himself 

Commentators on his life have remarked that the challenges at home probably drove Scott’s need to distinguish himself. He knew that the opportunities for promotion and distinction in the navy were limited, so he was open to looking elsewhere. Around the time of crisis in his family, he bumped into an ex naval colleague in London who was now president of the Royal Geographical Society. It was during this encounter that he learned of the plans for an Antarctic expedition with Discovery and he volunteered to lead the expedition. 

Discovery Expedition 1901 – 1904 

His ex-naval colleague – Clements Markham – gave him the job and command of the expedition. They set sail for the Antarctic on 6 August 1901 aboard Discovery. Interestingly, there was very little experience of the polar environment amongst the crew. However, they did reach further south, and were closest to the South Pole, than anyone had ever been before. They also discovered the polar plateau in Eastern Antarctica. 

Scott the popular hero! 

Scott’s Discovery expedition was very significant as it was the first time that anyone had reached that far south, and it was also the first time that Antarctic land had been explored extensively for zoological and geological purposes. Scott returned to Britain as a national hero. He received honours from King Edward VII and spent much time appearing at lectures and receptions where he told his tale about the Robert Falcon Scott expedition on Discovery.

Terra Nova Expedition 1910 – 1912

He was bitten by the exploration bug and began to plan a further expedition. After Shackleton returned from another Antarctic expedition have not been able to reach the pole, Sir Robert Falcon Scott took command of the Terra Nova expedition in 1910. The ship left Cardiff in June 1910. Scott continued fundraising at home and joined the expedition in South Africa where they set sail for Australia. Scott was set on being first to reach the South Pole. But once in Australia, he received a telegram from Roald Amundsen and his Norwegian expedition informing him that they were also headed for the Pole. The race was on. Sir Robert Falcon Scott and four of his party reached the pole on 17 January 1912. Only to find that Amundsen’s Norwegian party had narrowly beaten them to it. 



By the end of March 1912, all five men had perished at various points on the return journey from the Pole. One, Oates, had suffered from very bad frostbite. To avoid holding his companions back he deliberately walked out of their tent and into the wilderness where he perished. Scott and two of his party perished in their tent on 29 March 1912, only 20 kilometres from a supply camp. Their return journey was badly hampered by fierce weather, hunger, and exhaustion. Later that year a search party found their remains and diaries. The men were buried on that spot – with a cairn to mark their last resting place. Scott became an icon. And the surviving members of the expedition were rewarded with polar medals. 

Today, polar travel to Antarctica is far more accessible thanks to the efforts of those who participated in the heroic age. However, it’s far from simple and still offers the traveller an adventure in one of the world’s last wildernesses. At Expeditions Online we offer a number of polar expedition cruises to Antarctica that follow in Scott’s footsteps. It is such a thrill to experience for yourself the places where history was made by one of the world’s greatest ever Antarctic explorers. Here are some of those polar expedition cruises: 

Ross Sea and Peninsula aboard the strongest ice-class vessel with helicopters.

Wake of Scott and Shackleton expedition cruise aboard a small, ice-strengthened expedition ship.

Feel free to peruse these options which follow in Scott’s footsteps or get in touch with Expeditions Online now to see if we can meet your travel needs – our advice is independent and expert, and we have individually tested every trip we offer. 

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