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'The Polar Party at the South Pole' (Lawrence Oates; Birdie Bowers; Robert Falcon Scott; Edward Adrian Wilson; Edgar Evans)

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- place 'Antarctica'

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'The Polar Party at the South Pole' (Lawrence Oates; Birdie Bowers; Robert Falcon Scott; Edward Adrian Wilson; Edgar Evans)

by Henry Robertson ('Birdie') Bowers, added to by Herbert George Ponting
vintage print, 17 January 1912
5 1/8 in. x 7 in. (129 mm x 177 mm) overall
Given by Terence Pepper, 2011
Photographs Collection
NPG x135720

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Events of 1912back to top

Current affairs

The Royal Flying Corps is established. During the Great War, planes and balloons were used mainly for reconnaissance and observation before technological advances made them fast enough and manoeuvrable enough to attack enemy positions and fight in the air. Arthur (Bomber) Harris won distinction as a pilot destroying five enemy aircraft in the war. In the Second World War he became Marshal of the Royal Air Force.

Art and science

George Bernard Shaw writes Pygmalion.
Charles Babbage's invents the Analytic Machine. Considered to be the forerunner to the modern computer, the machine was able to make automatic mathematical calculations.

International

Scott leads the British Expedition to the South Pole reaching it in January 1912 only to discover that the rival Norwegian party had beaten them by a month. All members of Scott's team perished on the return journey. Captain Oates' famous last words were immortalised in Scott's diary: 'I am just going outside and may be some time.'
The 'unsinkable' Titanic strikes an iceberg and goes down on its maiden journey between Southampton and New York.

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Maxine Puttick

30 April 2019, 00:31

The 'Anonymous' photographer of this image is well known to us Antarctic tragics. It is Henry Bowers. He's the man sitting front left. If you look carefully you can see the string running from his hand out of the picture frame to the camera. The photo is usually seen titled 'The Polar Party at the South Pole'.
The day is Wednesday, 17 January 1912. Scott, Wilson, Oates, Bowers and Evans have suffered a terrible journey be first to the South Pole, only to be confronted with Amundsen’s Norwegian flag and the knowledge that they have failed in their goal. The faces in this image show clearly their disappointment and despondency. Scott’s diary records his reaction: ‘Great God! this is an awful place and terrible enough for us to have laboured to it without the reward of priority. Well, it is something to have got here, and the wind may be our friend to-morrow. Now for the run home and a desperate struggle. I wonder if we can do it.’ None survived the return journey.
Herbert Ponting, the Expedition's official photographer, later added in the Union Jack flag to Bower’s image. His multiple negative images were controversial in his lifetime.

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