In the early years of the twentieth century, the British began a significant effort to explore the Antarctic region for the attainment of scientific and geographical knowledge. The British National Antarctic Expedition, 1901–04, was the first such effort. Robert Falcon Scott (1868-1912) led this expedition, sailing upon the SS Discovery.
This first expedition was somewhat successful in attaining the scientific objectives set out for it, while being wildly successful in stroking the public’s imagination and support for such missions. Scott’s account of the journey was documented in his popular 1905 publication, The Voyage of the Discovery. The adventure, danger, and insight into the unknown and brutal environment in which Scott operated, make for excellent reading. It is hard not to admire the sheer force of will men like Scott had to have in order to persevere in such extreme conditions.
On a visit to By The Book, in Phoenix, Arizona, I was thrilled to see a first edition of Scott’s work, still in pretty good condition. It was even more exciting to see that Scott had signed this edition, with an inscription to Ernest Joyce, who participated in the Discovery expedition with Scott. This is a real find, I hope you enjoy the pictures below. As far as I know, this may still be available. If interested, contact Sam at By the Book.
Unfortunately, Scott was to die of exhaustion, starvation and extreme cold, along with three members of his expedition, in his ill-fated 1910-1912 return trip called the Terra Nova expedition. Among letters he wrote as he lay dying in a brutal blizzard, lost in Antarctica, Scott memorably wrote:
We took risks, we knew we took them; things have come out against us, and therefore we have no cause for complaint, but bow to the will of Providence, determined still to do our best to the last … Had we lived, I should have had a tale to tell of the hardihood, endurance, and courage of my companions which would have stirred the heart of every Englishman. These rough notes and our dead bodies must tell the tale, but surely, surely, a great rich country like ours will see that those who are dependent on us are properly provided for.
This shows the courage and strength with which the Western world used to face exploration and the unknown.
As an aside, for those with interest in Scott and his expeditions, Folio Society is working on a complete facsimile of South Polar Times, the in-house magazine of Captain Scott’s Antarctic expeditions. I assume this will be released some time next year.
About the Edition
- First edition, 1905, two volumes, published in London by Smith, Elder & Co.
- Signed by Scott, inscribed to Ernest Joyce, who participated in the Discovery expedition with Scott
- Original blue cloth bindings with gilt medallions on the covers and gilt lettering on the spines
- With 260 illustrations, photogravure frontispieces, 12 colored plates, panorama’s and maps (including two folding maps in rear pockets)
- Volume 1 is 556 pages, volume 2 is 508 pages