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Captain Scott's 'lost' photographic negatives saved for the nation

The Scott Polar Research Institute's urgent appeal to save historic Antarctic negatives taken by Captain Scott in 1911 has been successful.

Camp under the Wild Mountains, Beardmore Glacier, 20 December 1911

Camp under the Wild Mountains, Beardmore Glacier, 20 December 1911. ("View of snow covered mountain range, with camp scene in foreground. Three pyramid tents and men sitting on sledge.")


Pony camp, Camp 15. Ponies (left to right) Snippetts, Nobby, Michael and Jimmy Pigg, Great Ice Barrier, 19 November 1911

Pony camp, Camp 15. Ponies (left to right) Snippetts, Nobby, Michael and Jimmy Pigg, Great Ice Barrier, 19 November 1911. ("Ponies tethered on the ice beside a man-made ice wall. Sledges in background.")


Ponies on the march, Great Ice Barrier, 2 December 1911

Ponies on the march, Great Ice Barrier, 2 December 1911. ("Line of men and ponies pulling laden sledges on the ice. A man walks at the head of each pony (seven groups). They walk from right to left across the centre of photograph")

The Polar Museum at the Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge, is proud to announce that it has successfully raised the £275,000 needed to be able to purchase the 113 photographic negatives, thanks to public support. The negatives represent an extraordinary visual record of Scott's last expedition, but were in danger of being sold abroad.

The National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) has just awarded the Scott Polar Research Institute (SPRI) a grant of £233,450 to secure the negatives. This clears the final hurdle in the race to secure the funds in time. The museum has already received generous support from the V&A Purchase Grant Fund and other private donors. In addition, a significant amount was raised through a public appeal campaign, spearheaded by Sir Ranulph Fiennes.

Dame Jenny Abramsky, Chair of the NHMF, said,

"Captain Scott's images provide us with an extraordinary insight into the rigours of his epic but ultimately doomed expedition. As precious as the corresponding original prints, these negatives record not only day-to-day life in the Antarctic but also the development of Scott's photographic skills. The National Heritage Memorial Fund - the fund of last resort - is proud to be providing the final part of the funding jigsaw which will ensure these negatives are kept together as part of the Institute's wider public collection."

The negatives are a record of Scott's earliest photographic attempts - under the guidance of expedition photographer Herbert Ponting - through to his unparalleled images of his team on the journey to the South Pole. The force, control and beauty of his portraits and landscapes number them among some of the finest early images of the Antarctic.

Sir Ranulph Fiennes said,

"Scott's negatives can now take their rightful place in Cambridge alongside the camera on which they were taken, as well as the remaining Scott and Herbert Ponting prints - all of which speak so powerfully to us of the courage and sacrifice of those on the British Antarctic Expedition.

The negatives have been recently rediscovered, having been thought lost. If the Scott Polar Research Institute had not been successful then there was every chance that they would have been sold abroad and into a private collection." Professor Julian Dowdeswell, Director of SPRI, said, "The overwhelming level of support and assistance from the public and from charitable trusts and bodies has helped The Scott Polar Research Institute purchase this extraordinary visual record of Scott's last heroic expedition. As we have no budget for acquisitions, we have been delighted to see how the story of Scott still captures the public imagination. As part of the University of Cambridge, SPRI will ensure that these negatives are cared for to the highest possible standards and, once digitised, we will ensure that these resources will be within reach of a worldwide audience." Following a period of conservation and research, The Polar Museum plans to mount a public exhibition of the images.

The negatives are a record of Scott's earliest attempts - under the guidance of expedition photographer Herbert Ponting - through to his unparalleled images of his team on the Southern Journey. The force, control and beauty of his portraits and landscapes number them amongst some of the finest early images of the Antarctic. These photographs were taken between September to December 1911.

The Polar Museum is already home to the remaining prints of Scott's photographs, Herbert Ponting's glass plate negatives and Ponting's presentation album from the same expedition. Added to that are the prints and albums of all the other expedition members equipped with a camera. Together, they form the most comprehensive photographic record of the expedition held anywhere in the world.

Herbert G. Ponting Platinum Prints for sale to raise funds

Salto Ulbeek Publishers have kindly donated two limited edition platinum prints of photographs by Herbert G. Ponting to be sold in aid of the Save Scott's Negatives appeal. These are part of the platinum print edition co-published with the Scott Polar Research Institute and normally retail upwards of £1,600.

Both images are available to purchase at the special price of £1,500, with all proceeds contributing to the Save Scott's Negatives fund.

For more information about these beautiful prints, please go to the University of Cambridge's Alumni pages.

Captain Robert Falcon Scott (1868-1912)

Captain Robert Falcon Scott is probably Britain's most famous Antarctic explorer and better known for his contributions to the literature of exploration than as a photographer. Born in Plymouth, he joined the Royal Navy as a cadet at the age of thirteen. Scott led his second expedition to the Antarctic in 1910. He took a strong scientific team, both naval and civilian, that included several companions from his previous expedition. Aware of the rival bid of the Norwegian explorer, Roald Amundsen, who was equipped with excellent dog teams, Scott started out for the Pole in late October 1911. With the aid of experimental motor tractors, dog teams and ponies, he followed his previous route across the Ross Ice Shelf before resorting to man-hauling up the Beardmore Glacier along a route pioneered by Sir Ernest Shackleton in 1908-09.

A five-man polar party successfully traversed the plateau, reaching the Pole on 17 January 1912, to find that Amundsen had reached the South Pole on 14 December 1911. On the return journey, the weakened party faced exceptionally unfavourable weather and sledging conditions. Edgar Evans was the first to die, near the foot of the Beardmore Glacier. Lawrence Oates followed on 16 March, when he famously left the tent in a blizzard for the good of the party. Scott himself died with Henry Bowers and Edward Wilson in late March 1912, laid up by a blizzard 11 miles short of One Ton Depot. He was 44 years old. During these last days in the tent, Scott kept up his journal, wrote twelve letters to friends, family, and next of kin and left a message for the public explaining his reasons for the failure of the expedition.

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