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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
NPG x135720

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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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