To Strive, To Seek, To Find. and Not to Yield

This quote, from Lord Tennyson’s poem ‘Ulysses’, is engraved on a 9ft cross standing on the summit of Observation Hill, McMurdo Sound, Antarctica. The cross is in memory of Captain Robert Falcon Scott Royal Navy, and his four companions who died on their return from the South Pole in March 1912.

January 2012 will see the 100th Anniversary of Scott’s heroic efforts to reach the South Pole. Having attained the South Pole through a combination of incredible fortitude and immense physical effort, Scott and his party of four (Dr Edward Wilson, Lt Henry Bowers R.I.M, Capt Lawrence Oates Inniskilling Dragoons and Petty Officer Edgar Evans Royal Navy) were to find that they had reached their destination behind a Norwegian party led by Roald Amundsen. Undeterred they remained committed to their science projects and during their return journey of some 810miles they collected rock samples which were to confirm that the Southern continents were once been joined as a super continent, thereby confirming the theory of Plate-Tectonics. Furthermore, these specimens also provided evidence for climate change. Undertaking this scientific exploration came at a price though as the 35lbs of rock samples had to be man hauled across the frozen wastes of the Antarctic. Exceptionally bad weather hindered their progress and ultimately led to the team’s tragic demise just 11 miles from safety. When Scott and the remaining members of his team were found frozen in their tent, the rock-samples which they had collected were found at the camp. Despite the hardships they had endured, and in the face of certain death, they had refused to abandon their scientific collections such was Scott’s dedication to his science and the advancement of human exploration and knowledge. Scott and his team had already conducted very significant research and scientific exploration prior to departing for the Pole. Surveying this research shortly before leaving for the Pole and recognizing by then that Amundsen was likely to beat him there, Scott wrote, “It is really a satisfactory state of affairs all around. If the [polar] journey comes off, nothing, not even priority at the Pole, can prevent the Expedition ranking as one of the most important that ever entered the Polar regions.” History and science made it so.

It is the incredible story of Captain Scott Royal Navy and his team that is the inspiration for the British Services Antarctic Expedition 2012 (BSAE2012).

The British Armed Services1 will mount an expedition to Antarctica in 2012 to commemorate Scott’s outstanding contribution to the nation and to science. Beginning in January 2011, the BSAE2012 activity will form the key element of the British military contribution to mark the 100th Anniversary of Scott’s endeavours.

Unlike other expeditions seeking to follow in Scott’s footsteps in 2012, the BSAE will travel in the Spirit of Scott, but not in his tracks. Instead, and very much in the ethos of Scott’s 1910-1913 expedition, the BSAE aim will be: “to conduct scientific exploration in remote areas of the Antarctic Peninsula, seeking to further the bounds of human exploration and knowledge.” The expedition will seek to conduct the scientific exploration in the Peninsula Arm of Antarctica, an area which is warming faster than anywhere else on the planet. Amongst other things, this science will contribute to an understanding of the factors influencing this rapid warming.

Various activities will be undertaken to ensure the science activity is linked to an educational outreach programme to inform and educate the general public and in particular primary and secondary school children. The expedition will seek to emulate the values and qualities of Scott and present these through the information campaign.

The expedition will sail from Chile in the 75 foot yacht Australis and cross the infamous Drake Passage to the Antarctic Peninsula. Once on the peninsula the expedition will follow Scott’s model and set up a base from which to mount exploration and conduct forays into remote areas of the Peninsula. The expedition also plans to make a series of daring ascents of previously unclimbed mountains in the region.

 After news of Scott and his teams demise reached the UK, funds were contributed by the public to look after the families of the heroic explorers. In keeping with this sentiment, the BSAE2012 aims to raise money for modern day military heroes. We will therefore attempt to raise 10,000 for the charity ‘Help for Heroes’ as part of our overall expedition aim.

This expedition will be the first “Joint” expedition mounted to the ‘mainland’ of the Antarctic Peninsula by the British Armed Services. It will follow three Joint Service expeditions to explore ‘Islands’ (Elephant, Brabant and Smith) and three recent British Army expeditions (2001, 2004, and 2007), continuing a series of responsible, ethical and ecological expeditions to the area. The expedition aims to maintain the long tradition of the Armed Services involvement in exploration and in particular, that of Polar science exploration, the essence of which is captured so well by Tennyson in his poem ‘Ulysses’;

"To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."


1 Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Army and Royal Air Force.
Copyright Spirit of Scott 2010