The UK news had been full of disappointed theatre managers, museum curators and street vendors – the warnings to steer clear of the Underground in London as much as possible had been putting visitors off, so much so that seats were empty, the queues diminished and the Olympic
tat memorabilia remained unsold.
I hadn’t been keen to go to London, in case of overcrowding – but Scout (16) had 2 tickets each for the train and the judo – (and Cyclo – my husband – was already in London… as a volunteer) so I travelled with Scout on the first Sunday of the London Olympics down to Marylebone Station where we met up with Cyclo and our old friend The Ex-Pat, who is now living back in London.
Cyclo and Scout went off to the judo after we had all been re-caffeinated: The Ex-Pat and I tootled off to a museum – The Natural History Museum, no less, where we found a wonderful outdoors exhibition of wildlife photography.
In the main body of the museum we found among other things, dinosaur bones and a dissected plasticised camel, doncha know?
After this, the main reason for the visit, an exhibition –‘Scott: The Last Expedition’ – an examination and explanation of the history, the trip, the science, the rivalries of Scott of the Antarctic and his tragic trip, all fantastically done.
The central part of the exhibition is laid out in the same way that their hut had been: marked out on the floor are the outlines of the beds, for example, which gives an indication of the cramped living quarters.
From Wiki -The Terra Nova Expedition (1910–1912), officially the British Antarctic Expedition 1910, was led by Robert Falcon Scott with the objective of being the first to reach the geographical South Pole. Scott and four companions attained the pole on 17 January 1912, where they found that a Norwegian team led by Roald Amundsen had preceded them by 33 days. Scott’s entire party died on the return journey from the pole; some of their bodies, journals, and photographs were discovered by a search party eight months later….
For many years after his death, Scott’s status as tragic hero was unchallenged, and few questions were asked about the causes of the disaster which overcame his polar party. In the final quarter of the 20th century the expedition came under closer scrutiny, and more critical views were expressed about its organisation and management. The degree of Scott’s personal culpability remains a matter of controversy among commentators.
(I can recommend the whole article, for those of you who are interested)
The exhibition was excellent and for me augmented by my knowledgeable companion; The Ex-Pat, it turns out, has read many of the many books published on Scott (and his much maligned mistakes!)
And it was quiet. We were able to spend as long as we liked on each of the displays, including the most moving part: an interactive screen which showed the diary Scott wrote in his final few days, with the extracts available in clear text to enable easy reading.
One of the scientific objectives of the trip was to collect penguin eggs, in order that scientists could examine the developing embryos – a theory at the time was that the breed of penguin at the South Pole was a primitive type of bird and that studying the embryos could enlighten scientists about the link between birds and reptiles. These birds lay their eggs in the depths of winter, and the collection was a dangerous adventure. Five were collected, but only three survived as two were broken in a fall.
Sadly by the time the eggs were available for study, scientific opinion had moved on and the theory of embryo study revealing a link between reptiles and birds had been left behind. However at the end of the exhibition we were shown current scientific projects still ongoing at the South Pole and some wonderful footage. The over-riding message was that there had been significant scientific data collected by Scott and his team – and some of their samples and observations are still very relevant and important today, providing the basis for on-going studies.
Scout and Cyclo had in the meantime enjoyed the Judo!