In Scott's Race To The Pole, Science Beat Speed

Edward Larson, author, "An Empire of Ice: Scott, Shackleton, and the Heroic Age of Antarctic Science" (Yale University Press, 2011), professor, history and law, Pepperdine University, Malibu, Calif.

David Wilson, author, "The Lost Photographs of Captain Scott: Unseen Images from the Legendary Antarctic Expedition" (Little, Brown & Company, 2011), London, England

A hundred years ago, two teams were racing to the South Pole. The Norwegian team led by Roald Amundsen made it first, beating British explorer Robert Scott. But only Scott did pioneering science—and photography—along the way. Ira Flatow and guests discuss the achievements of the first Antarctic expeditions.

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IRA FLATOW, host: You're listening to SCIENCE FRIDAY. I'm Ira Flatow. A hundred years ago today, November 1911, two teams of explorers were racing to be the first to the South Pole. Roald Amundsen, a Norwegian explorer, led one party, British explorer and Royal Naval Officer Robert Falcon Scott the other.

Amundsen ultimately won the race; Scott and the other four members of his team died on the way back. But whereas the Norwegian team had one sole motivation, and that is making it to the pole and getting back, Scott's team had a second goal in mind, and that was conducting science along the way.

And indeed, members of his expedition made many pioneering observations in Antarctica, tracking the movement of glaciers, studying ice crystals, collecting fossils, observing seals, penguins, killer whales, and one of my next guests writes about that scientific history in his new book, "An Empire of Ice: Scott, Shackleton and the Heroic Age of Antarctic Science."

But of course you have to document the trip, right? So aside from his other duties, Scott learned the art of photography while down in Antarctica, taking pictures around his home base and part of the way on his fateful trip to the Pole, pictures that were lost for decades, but now they have been found.

My second guest has uncovered those long-forgotten photos in his new book, "The Lost Photographs of Captain Scott: Unseen Images from the Legendary Antarctic Expedition." And you can see a few of them on our science and arts website if you go to sciencefriday.com/arts.

Let me introduce my guests again. Edward Larson is the author of "An Empire of Ice: Scott, Shackleton, and the Heroic Age of Antarctic Science." He's also professor of history and law at Pepperdine in Malibu, California. He joins us from WOSU in Columbus, Ohio. Welcome back to SCIENCE FRIDAY, Dr. Larson.

EDWARD LARSON: Delighted to be back, thank you, Ira.

FLATOW: You're welcome. David Wilson is the author of "The Lost Photographs of Captain Scott: Unseen Images from the Legendary Antarctic Expedition." He joins us from the BBC in London. Welcome to SCIENCE FRIDAY, Dr. Wilson.

DAVID WILSON: Thank you very much.

FLATOW: Now, you are actually a descendent of the famous Dr. Wilson of that expedition, are you not?

WILSON: I am. He was my grandfather's older brother, so my great-uncle.

FLATOW: Your great-uncle. What kind of science did Scott's Terra Nova Expedition do in Antarctica? Edward Larson, give us a little overview.

LARSON: Actually, it was sort of a predecessor of everything that's being done today. It was really a remarkable achievement. Edward Wilson, David Wilson's great-uncle, was in charge of the overall program, but his specialty was birds. He was studying the penguins especially, took an amazing winter journey.

Shortly before he went on the polar expedition with Scott, he went to Cape Crosier to study the emperor penguins. There were other teams going out to study glaciology, geology. Fossils were very important. They were trying to document the connections between Antarctica and the other southern continents. They were doing oceanography. They were doing regular dredging of the water off the - where their main base was by digging trenches through the ice and then dredging.

They also checked the lakes for small - for algae and different plants growing there. There was seismograph work. They were studying earthquakes, terrestrial magnetism. Basically all the sorts of scientific research, the different types that we continue to do today, they were literally opening a new continent for science.

They were the third in three British expeditions that were funded for that exact purpose, of opening a new continent for science and potentially for empire.

FLATOW: So are you making the case in your book that Scott's secondary mission would be to have been to get to the South Pole?

LARSON: Well, that's how it started. You have a series of three expeditions. The first was Scott's discovery expedition in 1901 that was organized by the Royal Society and the Royal Geographic Society in London, Royal Society being the world's foremost scientific association at that time, funded by the British government for the purpose of doing science.

And they kept their ambition, Scott's ambition to reach the South Pole, quiet. They didn't talk about it. Clements Markham, who was the organizer, president of the Royal Geographic Society, certainly wanted to reach the South Pole. They fell far short. They went south with Edward Wilson, David's great-uncle, and Ernest Shackleton, tried to go toward the Pole, fell, as I said, far short.

But their expedition was billed primarily for science. Then Shackleton came back with his first expedition that he led, the Nimrod Expedition, took along some really superb scientists - Edgeworth David, a member of the Royal Society, other top scientists.

They peeled out, fanned out over the Ross Sea area, doing - collecting science. He - with Shackleton, his stated goal was to also reach the pole. He tried, fell 100 miles short, and then Scott came back with his own expedition, again, with this team of scientists who were going off in other directions.

So it's tough to say which came first and which was second. Certainly Scott wanted to reach the pole. That had become actually something of a British obsession. But they wouldn't have considered - it wouldn't have been proper in Edwardian England to not try to do proper science along the way, and it's the science that gave it a measure of respectability that a mere dash to the Pole could never have commanded at that time.

FLATOW: David Wilson, being part of the family, the Wilson family, of that expedition, were these photos that you discovered in somebody's scrapbook, or how did you find them?

WILSON: Well, I came across them over a glass of gin and tonic.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

WILSON: In a bar, in a bar after a sale in London, and a gentleman came up to me and said: You'll never guess what I've got in my collection. And I hazarded a couple of guesses, and the result was he said that he'd found the lost photographs of Captain Scott, at which point I nearly choked on the lemon.

But I went round to his flat a couple of days later and looked at the photographs, and there were 109 contact prints, about three inches by four inches. They had the original cataloging numbers visible on them. But they were in something of a muddle. The original catalog had been lost. There were no identifications, and so beyond saying Scott had taken them, it took some years of work to identify them all and sort them all out.

FLATOW: And somebody had to teach Scott how to take photos, right?

WILSON: Absolutely. Well, it goes along with what Ed was saying. You know, the important job of an explorer is to bring back records, you know, maps and scientific records and images of where you've been so that the unknown becomes known. That's part of - an important part of human progress.

And originally, you know, the navy had conquered the world with cannon fire. It had mastered it with a pencil and paper. And the tradition of exploration art that all royal naval officers were taught to follow was founded by Captain Cook and his taking of a professional artist with him on his second expedition in 1775, '6.

And that was continued right through to Scott's day, and my great-uncle, on his first expedition, was the sort of last practitioner where pencil and paper was more important than the camera as a means of making a scientific record.

But Scott was - you know, he's from that era where science and human progress were taken as goods. You know, it's before our cynical age, after World War I and Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War II - you know, human progress was considered an unmitigated good. And he believed that the camera and modern technology could open up the polar regions.

He developed the first motorized tracked sledges, and he also invited a professional photographer on his second expedition specifically to improve the use of the camera for scientific exploration. And he invited Herbert Ponting along as that man, and he revolutionized the imaging of the polar regions.

FLATOW: 1-800-989-8255 is our number. We're talking with Ed Larson, author of "An Empire of Ice: Scott, Shackleton, and the Heroic Age of Antarctic Science"; David Wilson, author of "The Lost Photographs of Captain Scott: Unseen Images from the Legendary Antarctic Expedition."

As I say, our number again, 1-800-989-8255. As someone who was - went to Antarctica and the South Pole back in 1979, all they talked about was the comparison. I remember they talked about the comparison of Scott and Amundsen. And Scott was basically seen as the amateur, the amateur explorer compared to the knowledge that Amundsen brought with him, you know, having come from Norway and studied under Nansen and all these great explorers.

And people seem to be trying to resurrect Scott's reputation of those years. Did you see this? Did you have that in your mind, Ed Larson, when you were writing this book?

LARSON: No, I did not have that particularly in my mind. I know it's happening. You can read it in the different books. I'm - I take nothing away from Amundsen. Giving credit to the science of Scott's expedition actually does take nothing away from Amundsen's achievement. Only the Norwegians reached the pole and returned safely, and they did so over an unknown route in less than 100 days with food to spare.

Further, the pursuit of science doesn't excuse Scott for poor choices that, combined with forgivable misfortune, contributed to suffering and death on his polar journey. But it does give perspective. And it gives meaning to the British endeavor. And the one thing that Roland Huntford in his famous book about Scott and Amundsen didn't do was talk about the other aspects of Scott.

Oh, he criticized Scott for Scott's mistakes, and Scott did make mistakes. Amundsen was certainly - planned a better trip to the Pole. But what Scott was also planning was a multifaceted, complex expedition. He had 32 men on the ice. He had teams going all over, where Amundsen had 30 and they were focused on one end. They did that one end better. But if you look at the overall expedition, actually, the British Terra Nova Expedition, Scott's expedition, was actually more modern and a marvel of planning, if not execution.

FLATOW: Here's a tweet, came in from James Healey(ph), who says: Didn't hauling rocks and things helped contribute to the team's death?

LARSON: Oh, you can certainly say that might have. I mean, their death was - you could have a lot of "but for" excuses - they might not have died but for the weather being colder. They might not have died but for the fact that they stopped and collected geological specimens, very important geological specimens, on the way back at the Beardmore Glacier, when they were already highly stressed. But, on the other hand, if you take those things away, it wouldn't be Scott. It wouldn't be a British expedition.

British, when they traveled - and David mentioned Captain Cook. You can also - James Clark Ross going - discovering this region, they took along artists, they took along geographers, they took along scientists, natural historians making collections. It wouldn't be a British expedition without those. And so while certainly they were stressed - just think of Edward Wilson, David's great-uncle. Before going on the polar journey, he had made this death-defying midwinter journey to Cape Crozier to collect penguin eggs and studying the evolutionary development of penguins.

Scott himself had gone in an opposite direction from the Pole, just a month before leaving for the Pole, to check movements of stakes that had been placed on a glacier to see how much the glacier had moved. Certainly, all these activities made it much less likely for Scott to succeed. Still, he thought he had a margin of safety, that he could do all this science, and with the margin of safety provided by the enormous amount of resources he brought down, that he could still make it back safely. And the surprising thing was that there was a combination of mistakes and chance, with the fuel leaking from the containers in the stores that they didn't expect so they ran out of fuel, and the extraordinary cold that - I know it's always cold in Antarctica - but it was even colder than it - than normal. And it was that combination of taking risks, trying to do science, making mistakes and misfortune. And it took them all combined, because they came so close to getting back, only 11 miles from their supply depot.

FLATOW: Mm-hmm. I'm Ira Flatow. This is SCIENCE FRIDAY from NPR. Talking with Ed Larson and David Wilson. David, Ponting, the photographer, I think maybe that Ed talked - was touching on this, had an extraordinary bad luck, where there was one incident, in particular, with killer whales almost getting him. Tell us about that?

WILSON: I'm not so sure if it was bad luck as just what goes with the territory in those days, you know, where they had big, heavy, cumbersome camera equipment and so on. And yes, he used to get people to pose on icebergs and they fell off icebergs. And he was trying to film killer whales, and then they decided that they'd try and eat him and came up under the ice, bumping it in the technique that they have, and decided they'd quite like him for lunch, so he nearly got eaten by killer whales. And on another occasion, he licked his lips whilst taking a photograph and it - his tongue stuck to a little part of the metal work on the camera, and it froze to the camera and he had to jerk his head away and left the tip of his tongue stuck to the camera. So...

FLATOW: Wow.

WILSON: They were hazardous times for explorers.

FLATOW: I did that with a stenography pad when I was in Antarctica. I got it off pretty fast, so - those little curlicue, you know, on the top of the pad. 1-800-989-8255. Let's go to the phones, to Kirsten in Berkeley. Hi, Kirsten.

KIRSTEN: Hi. I was calling to say that I have a lot of undocumented photographs from Amundsen's expedition because my grandfather, Magnus Eriksson(ph), was there from Spitsbergen all the way through. And I heard great stories about polar bears and fires, and all kinds of things that had happened. I don't have anything to add to the science. I think it's really great what you're doing. I...

FLATOW: Let me just - allow me to interrupt, Kirsten - you say you have photographs no one has seen from Amundsen's expedition?

KIRSTEN: Yes, that I inherited from my grandfather. I have pictures...

FLATOW: Anybody interested?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

WILSON: Oh, I think everyone will be interested in seeing those if you took them into a museum.

KIRSTEN: Yes, I have lots of photographs. I have maps and some things from my grandfather.

FLATOW: Wow.

KIRSTEN: And I think even pictures of Mussolini and all kinds of stuff.

LARSON: Well, David and I were together just last week in Ireland at the Shackleton - Major Shackleton conference, and the people from the Fram Museum in Norway were there. I'm sure - and David's book is beautiful, by the way. The - I'm sure there - lots of museums would be very - right here at Ohio State, Byrd Polar would be very interested in those, but so would the Fram Museum, so would the Scott Archives in - Scott Institute in Cambridge.

FLATOW: Take them out of the attic, Kirsten, bring them out so we can all see them.

KIRSTEN: They're in a box. I pull them out and I look at them all the time because I grew up with the childhood stories of the expedition. So I would be - if anybody would like my contact information - I won't give it over the phone, but I will give it to somebody and they can contact me.

FLATOW: All right. We'll take - we'll put you on hold and we'll take your contact information. You're in Berkeley. There's got to be a lot of people in Berkeley who can help you out with...

KIRSTEN: Yes. If somebody can just put me in touch, that would be great.

FLATOW: OK. We're going to put you...

LARSON: I'll actually be there next semester at Stanford, and I'd be delighted to come over and look at those photographs. It'd be an honor.

KIRSTEN: OK.

FLATOW: Don't hang up, Kirsten. I'm going to put you on hold.

KIRSTEN: I'm not hanging up.

FLATOW: All right. Good luck with that. That was very interesting. One other thing is that, you know, she talked about Shackleton. Shackleton had his own photographer. He had a guy with a movie camera, didn't he, on his trip?

LARSON: Mm-hmm.

FLATOW: Gorgeous.

WILSON: Yup. He did. Frank Hurley went south, first, with Douglas Mawson at about the same time as Scott went south, taking Ponting. But his photographs weren't particularly better than the average for the period. It was only when he studied Ponting's film and Ponting's photograph from Scott's expedition that he learned the techniques that really worked in the Antarctic. And that was what enabled him to produce those amazing photographs and the astonishing film for Shackleton's second expedition. So the key is Herbert Ponting's work. And, you know, all photography, up to this day, is a footnote to Ponting's effort. Even David Attenborough's programs find their roots in Herbert Ponting.

FLATOW: We're going to get more into that, talk more about "The Lost Photographs of Captain Scott: Unseen Images from the Legendary Antarctic Expedition," and "An Empire of Ice: Scott, Shackleton, and the Heroic Age of Antarctic Science." Stay with us. We'll be right back after this break. I'm Ira Flatow.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FLATOW: This is SCIENCE FRIDAY. I'm Ira Flatow.

We're talking this hour about the heroic age of Antarctic exploration - a hundred years ago today - and some of the scientific observations that were made on those early trips and some gorgeous photographs that came back that were made by Robert Falcon Scott.

Ed Larson is the author of "An Empire of Ice: Scott, Shackleton, and the Heroic Age of Antarctic Science." And David Wilson is the author of "The Lost Photographs of Captain Scott: Unseen Images from the Legendary Antarctic Expedition."

And I wanted to - David, I'll talk to you about those photographs. But before you do, let me just set the stage. A hundred years ago today, at - where were they at this point?

LARSON: Well, a hundred years ago today, Scott had just left. He had left. He left his base on November 1st. So he was still traveling with the entire contingent of forces that he was bear - bringing to bear on getting south. So he had his tractors that Dave has already told you about, developed these new tractors. They hadn't yet broken down. They would break down very soon. He had ponies pulling sledges. That was an innovation that Shackleton had worked on. He had dogs pulling sledges, and he had himself and others on foot. And they were heading down very slowly. They weren't far past the beginning.

And the idea was that these different teams, this vast number of people, what they'd do is they would fall back in stages. It would be like a Apollo rocket. They would go away, and then they'd drop off supplies, and the tractors stopped, and then the horses would fall back and then the dogs.

Now, Amundsen was much further along. He originally left in September, found out it was too cold, went back and then left in mid-October. Now, he was traveling very rapidly, only with men that would go the entire way. They were dog-sledged, these sleds being pulled, 52 dogs he was starting with in these large teams of 13, 14 dogs pulling a sled, and the cross-country skiers, expert Alpine cross-country skiers. Amundsen had learned how to mush dogs when he took his northwest passage. He was the first person to make the northwest passage. And they were speeding along. At this point, they were speeding along what's now known as the Ross Ice Shelf, and then heading up the glacier toward the pole.

FLATOW: And Amundsen would mush his dogs all the way up there and actually eat them as part of their food. And - but Scott just man-hauled those sledges. There were no animals involved during the last pushes up there.

LARSON: Right. The idea was that - he had pretty well determined that the ponies could make it across the Ross Ice Shelf, which is at sea level. But because Shackleton had - the ponies had failed by falling into the huge crevasses going up the Beardmore Glacier, that ponies couldn't make it up that. So the idea was to man-haul.

Now, they had used dogs on the first Discovery Expedition. But the trick with - they had used dogs to pull their sleds, but it hadn't worked very well. The trouble is, it's very hard to mush dogs, as anybody who's ever done it knows, and the British hadn't mastered that skill.

And so if the dog - if you're not mushing the dogs right, it's just a mess. They're pulling in different directions. The British even tried to man-haul and use dogs at the same time, and dogs won't pull with humans. And that combination of events, coupled with the fact that Shackleton had almost made it to the pole, within a hundred miles of the pole, by man-hauling up the glacier and across, led Scott to believe that was the way to go.

One other fact has to be remembered, and that is Scott didn't know he would be in a race. He thought that he was the only one going. So he - it sounds ironic today - he had planned his trip for safety, where Amundsen, from the get-go, knew it was a race. He hadn't announced he was going to the South Pole. He had publicly announced he was going to the North Pole, and then turned on a dime and went south.

And so while, by the time Scott left he knew that Amundsen had come south, when he planned his trip, when he planned his trip with the ponies and the horses and the - I mean, ponies and the dogs and the tractors, he wasn't anticipating a race. He was planning for safety. So it turned out that it was a very unequal race if you're just talking about speed.

FLATOW: Yeah. David Wilson, from an artistic point of view, in - these photos of yours in your book are just fantastic. Do they serve as mere documentation of the trip, or do they aspire to something more? Because there are some beautiful photographs of the snow there, just...

WILSON: Mmm.

FLATOW: You know? Not...

WILSON: They - yeah, they aspire to considerably more than just document it - just documentation. Scott and Ponting were about replacing the tradition of exploration art with the camera. So they wanted to replace the use of sketchpad and pencil with cameras for scientific purposes. So - but I don't think that even Scott or Ponting realized quite how radical the photographic program was going to turn out to be. Ponting was one of the finest landscape photographers of his time, and he took with him the tradition of Victorian photography. So he produced the most beautiful landscapes, very carefully posed.

He would wait for hours for the penguins to get into exactly the right shape to echo the shapes of the mountains behind. All the images were carefully composed, and he produced the most astonishing photographs taken certainly to that date. He also produced pictures in the Victorian tradition of the sublime, you know, small human figures set in vast, icy landscapes. But he was also starting to produce - to sort of push the aesthetic tastes of the time and was taking him - he got interested, when he was down there, in the form and the texture and the shape of ice.

And so he started to take photographs which are really a form of proto-modernism. They foreshadow modernism by about 20 years, so they're very, very 20th century photographs. And they weren't particularly popular with the Edwardians when they were sent home, so they tend to forget - get forgotten about. But Scott was taught by Ponting in all those traditions, and it shows in his photographs.

But Scott went one further than Ponting. He also - there was a little bit of reportage in his methods, but he also wanted to take action photographs. I think that's a reflection of the man and his character, you know? And so he started taking some action photographs, which are absolutely stunning. I mean, some of the scenes taken on the way to the pole are absolutely amazing. But the primary purpose was scientific, and most of Ponting's images are actually of the life cycles of the birds and the seals and the penguins and all sorts of, you know, different aspects of Antarctic wildlife.

They don't often get shown these days, but they were for use in the scientific reports when they got home. And he used, even with his - those sorts of photographs, they're all very carefully taken, very carefully composed, you know, the skewer chicks are put up against rulers so everyone can see what size they are, that sort of thing. But he also had a film camera with him. And with that, he pioneered the modern wildlife documentary and paved the way, as I say, for, well, Walt Disney and David Attenborough, really, and their sort of sequences of wildlife films over the 20th century.

And he started to use film as a method of recording life cycles, but he also started making scientific breakthroughs with film. So he was the first to record the Weddell seal making its hole in the ice with its teeth with his film, and he was very proud about that because it disproved a theory of my great-uncle's as to how they kept their holes open through the winter. And so, you know, that's the breakthrough. Prior to that, there had been filming the Antarctic, but it was always sort of entertainment, you know? There's a famous sequence of film from the Scottish expedition where they play bagpipes at emperor penguins and that sort of thing.

But this is the first time filmmaking got serious for science in the Antarctic. And it transformed cinema, and people forget that. People tend to dismiss Ponting as Scott's photographer, but he actually pushed, you know, 19th-century photography into 20th-century photography. And he pioneered film. His was the first film to receive a royal command performance, which meant it was shown to the king. And every year ever since there's been a royal command film for the monarch of the period. And prior to that, that was an honor that was only given to the high arts, to opera and ballet and so on. So it was the birth of cinema in some ways, in this country anyway.

FLATOW: Hmm. This is a quite interesting book. It's quite beautiful with those photos that were brought back. Ed Larson, I always thought it was unusual that following Scott's and his party's death and then - and after the winter was over and they went back and found the bodies, they didn't bring the bodies back with them. Why is that?

LARSON: Well, there were various reasons for that, but that's, I mean, look where they all ended? Shackleton and Amundsen also ended up in polar realms, and that's where their bodies lie. They had - first, it would have been awkward and difficult because then they'd have to - once they got them back, they'd have to bring them back on the ship. But here, they found them in the tent where they died. In a dramatic pose, actually, Wilson and Bowers are at the side in the attitude of sleep, and Scott is open with his arm flung out. His sleeping bag half open, arms flung out across Wilson. They had with them the rocks, the geological specimens that they had collected. They had brought those all the way back to where they died. They had their diaries. They had their journals, which were written up, almost ready for publication. And it seemed fitting that at that place, they build a large cairn of ice.

Because what would happen would be then it would be covered over the years and sink down into the glacier, into the Ross Ice Shelf and then move gradually out to sea so that the best anybody can tell, about this time, the chunk of ice that entombs Wilson, Bowers and Scott will break loose and float into the sea. And to the people on that expedition, that seemed to be the appropriate way to commemorate what they had achieved.

FLATOW: 1-800-989-8255. Let's see if we can get a phone call or two in here. Let's go to John(ph) in San Rafael, California. Hi, John.

JOHN: Hi, Ira. Thanks for taking my call. I'm a biologist who studies whales. And a lot of the historical information that we have about whales and whale biology comes from the pioneering works that the British did in the Antarctic, the British Antarctic survey folks. And also one of the tools that we use as whale biologists now is photography to document individuals and follow individuals over time. So it struck me how important the books that your two guests have are to the field of marine biology and studying whales specifically. So I'm looking forward to reading both books, and all that work in the Antarctic was so critical to what we know about whales today.

FLATOW: Let me just remind everybody that I'm Ira Flatow and this is SCIENCE FRIDAY from NPR. Go ahead. Did you want to react to that?

LARSON: Well, reaching his point, he's absolutely correct. I want to thank the caller for his observations. The Discovery expedition, which was Scott's first, was designed to follow up on the great Challenger expedition, the expedition of the British of the 1880s, which went around into the Southern Ocean. And that was designed in part to follow up on Ross's expedition and on before that on Cook's. So it was a series of British expeditions, and many of these were designed with a part in mind, whales.

Whales were important part of the economy then. They were monitoring the whales. Scott was very interested in the whales. They did take the photographs. David has beautifully described the type of photographic work they did, and I agree with him. I studied it closely. They viewed this as an integral part of the scientific research they were doing. That was also part of the reason why they moved to filming, to catch movies, to make movies of the whales and especially the penguins.

They'd come back from the Discovery expedition, says, no one can capture these penguins unless you do it with a movie. And so Shackleton, Amundsen, Scott came back, in part, to capture these penguins and the way they moved in movies, partly for entertainment to be sure, and certainly they are entertaining and they become a rage in Edwardian England, but also as a part of - as a critical part of scientific research. So the penguins, the whales, the seals, this was a central part of what all these expeditions were about.

FLATOW: David, did they actually have a darkroom down there in Antarctica?

WILSON: They did have a darkroom. Ponting had his own darkroom in the hut in which he developed a lot of the film. He actually had the only private space in the expedition hut. So they certainly took it seriously. On the precise question of whales, the Terra Nova expedition was equipped to sample whales in the Antarctic. They took with them some harpoons and things. My great-uncle at the time was involved in one of the great illustrative projects illustrating the standard work of British mammals. And the third volume of which was never published, because he died, was on the Cetacea. And he wasn't terribly happy with the paintings and illustrations he'd made, and he wanted to study whales in more depth.

But they'd also spotted species on the Discovery expedition, they though were new species and they wanted to see if they could collect samples, which is why they took the harpoons with them and so on. So they were certainly very, very interested in studying the whales, and the Natural History Museum was interested in them bringing specimens home.

FLATOW: Ed...

WILSON: But...

FLATOW: Oh, I'm sorry, I just want to interrupt because we only got a minute left. I want to touch on one thing that was quite interesting to learn about, Ed, and that was about that they were also studying global warming at that time here.

LARSON: Oh, they were tremendously interested in global warming because they had - by this time, during the 1800s, they discovered that Europe had once been covered by glaciers and that the shape of Europe was shaped by these glacial retreats. And they very much - it was very much part of the itinerary for the Discovery expedition and then the Nimrod and the Terra Nova was that this is one place where they could study the glaciers that are still of the size that were in Europe.

They noted the retreat, and they documented the retreat of the glaciers in Antarctica. They were talking about - they were trying to study how much had retreated, how it moved out of dry valleys. Scott had discovered the first dry valleys in the Antarctic during his Discovery expedition. They were documenting global warming, climate change over time.

FLATOW: Quite interesting. And let me just repeat the names of the books. They're terrific books. "An Empire of Ice: Scott, Shackleton, and the Heroic Age of Antarctic Science" by Edward Larson. And David Wilson is author of "The Lost Photographs of Captain Scott: Unseen Images from the Legendary Antarctic Expedition." David, are there any other photos left? Do you think you have them all?

WILSON: Oh, I don't know. I know we don't have them all, and I'm rather hoping that, like your lady caller earlier, somebody's got them hiding in their attic. And if they have, perhaps they'd call you and tell me.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

FLATOW: Well, we have the number. We'll get you in touch with her and see. She did mention something about polar bears, so we're not quite sure that's the south - Antarctica or not. So maybe he went some other places and had some other photos also. So thank you both for taking time to be with us today. And great...

LARSON: You're welcome.

WILSON: Thank you so much.

FLATOW: ...great books. Thank you for writing them.

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