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Public for the First Time: A Last Letter from Dying Antarctic Explorer Captain Scott

In private hands for the past hundred years, Captain Scott's final letter is revealed

Captain Robert Falcon Scott writes in his journal a year before his death. Photo: Library of Congress

One hundred and one years ago today famed Antarctic explorer Captain Robert Falcon Scott—leader of one of the first teams to ever reach the South Pole—wrote his final missive, a letter to his former Navy commander lamenting how his impending death will affect his wife and young son.

The letter, says the Telegraph, was written “from inside his final Antarctic camp in March 1912” just before his death. In the letter, one of several written leading up to his death, Scott asks Admiral Sir Francis Bridgeman, his former commander, to look after his family. The University of Cambridge:

My Dear Sir Francis

I fear we have shipped up – a close shave. I am writing a few letters which I hope will be delivered some day. I want to thank you for the friendship you gave me of late years, and to tell you how extraordinarily pleasant I found it to serve under you. I want to tell you that I was not too old for this job. It was the younger men that went under first. Finally I want you to secure a competence for my widow and boy. I leave them very ill provided for, but feel that the country ought not to neglect them. After all we are setting a good example to our countrymen, if not by getting into a tight place, by facing it like men when we were there. We could have come through had we neglected the sick.

Good-bye and good-bye to dear Lady Bridgeman

Yours ever

R. Scott

Excuse writing – it is -40, and has been for nigh a month

Though many of Scott’s final letters have been made public, this one had remained in private hands since it was delivered to Scott’s former commander and had never been released in full. The University of Cambridge’s Scott Polar Research Institute just bought the letter, says the Telegraph.

More from Smithsonian.com:

The Last Letters From Scott’s South Pole Team Are Heart Breaking
Sacrifice Amid the Ice: Facing Facts on the Scott Expedition

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About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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