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Tresor's dog tag

Tresor's dog tag

(SPRI Museum Y: 2013/13)

The brass tag of one of the British Antarctic Expedition's sledging dogs makes a new addition to our permanent display, courtesy of a gift from Pieter Arriens, marking the importance of the animals to the life of the expedition team.

Tresor was one of thirty-three dogs on the Terra Nova Expedition, 1910-13. Although Captain Scott had initially doubted that dog teams would be effective transport in Antarctica and tended to favour the use of ponies, the members of the expedition felt a great deal of affection for their dogs. They regarded them as characterful companions who brought a sense of domesticity to the tough conditions at Cape Evans.

In his series of light-hearted and humorous tales about South Polar life, In the Antarctic: Stories of Scott's Last Expedition, the expedition geologist and founder of SPRI, Frank Debenham, wrote that:

Sledging-dogs have just as much individuality as we know exists in our own pets in civilised life.

He also described the pleasure of working with them:

One of the delightful things about dog-driving is their eagerness for work. When you came out of the hut with the dog-harnesses on your arm the loose dogs would rush up to you and try to insert their heads into the loop of the harness, begging to be taken.

Debenham makes fond reference to Tresor in particular, calling him 'lazily affectionate'. When he left Antarctica in February 1913, he didn't do so alone:

I am bringing back…one of the old dogs, Tresor, a marvel of quietness and amiability.

Returning to England via Australia and Suez, Debenham left Tresor with a young man called Archbold in Sydney; the tag ended up in the family's button box, where it stayed for many years. Luckily, its connection to a well-travelled dog and a historic expedition was identified and we are delighted to see it join the Polar Museum collection. It is accompanied on display by two portraits – a sketch by Debenham and a photograph by Herbert Ponting.