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Shell motor spirit crate from Robert Falcon Scott's TERRA NOVA expedition

Date: 1910-1913
Dimensions:
Overall: 510 x 660 x 320 mm
Medium: Wood, rope, metal
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from the Gordge Family
Classification:Tools and equipment
Object Name: Crate
Object No: 00051897
Place Manufactured:England
Related Place:Antarctica,

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    Description
    Shell motor spirit crate from Robert Falcon Scott's British Antarctic Expedition (also known as the TERRA NOVA Expedition), 1910 - 1913.

    Shell provided fuel for the motorised sledges, a new Antarctic transport method pioneered by Scott. The fuel was carried in crates made especially for the expedition and featured in some of the advertisements for Shell. The connection with Scott allowed Shell to imply that they were at the forefront of modern technology. Unfortunately these motor sledges did break down and added to the many problems experienced on the fatal expedition.
    SignificanceShell provided fuel for the motorised sledges, a new Antarctic transport method pioneered by Scott. The fuel was carried in crates made especially for the expedition.
    HistoryFor centuries philosophers and geographers theorised that there had to be a great continent in the south to balance the lands of the Northern Hemisphere. Aristotle called it 'Antarktikos'. Ptolemy called it 'Terra Australis Incognita' - the unknown southern land.

    The search for the great landmass at the bottom of the world really began in the early 18th century. In 1773 Captain James Cook was the first to cross the Antarctic Circle but it wasn't until 1820 that the elusive Antarctic continent was finally seen, probably by English sealer Edward Bransfield. For the next 75 years explorers, sealers and whalers gradually pushed their way through the outlying islands and surrounding ice towards the continent.

    The first to set foot on the white continent was Norwegian Henryk Bull, landing at Cape Adare on 24 January 1895 while hunting for new sealing and whaling grounds. Following this the continent was visited by a series of national expeditions which sailed in search of profitable whaling and sealing grounds and of geological marvels and scientific knowledge. Many sought to be the first to find the South Pole. The heroic age of Antarctic exploration was imminent.

    For Britain it was a matter of national pride to be first to reach the South Pole. In July 1901 a British Antarctic expedition (1901-1904) sailed under the command of Robert Falcon Scott to march into the icy continent's heart. Just 660 kilometres from the Pole he had to turn back due to illness and insufficient supplies. On 30 July 1907 another British Polar hopeful and rival, Ernest Shackleton, set sail for Antarctica where he and his men reached a point just 156 kilometres from the Pole. This NIMROD expedition (1907-1909) achieved significant Antarctic 'firsts' including the ascent of Mount Erebus and locating the South Magnetic Pole.

    Scott's new expedition (1910-1913) aimed 'to reach the South pole for the Empire', but was also to be a significant scientific expedition. He received news that the professional Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen was also heading to Antarctica. The race for the Pole had begun. Scott, accompanied by Wilson, Oates, Evans and Bowers, reached the Pole on 17 January 1912 only to discover that Amundsen had beaten them. Robbed of the prize, morale was low and this combined with poor health and extreme weather conditions resulted in all five perishing on the return leg. Scott was later accused of poor logistical planning, including his refusal to take dogs, but he also encountered unseasonably cruel weather.

    Scott raised money for the expedition through various fundraising means such as lectures, sponsorship and private donations. Shell provided fuel for the motorised sledges, and as a result Scott and the Antarctic expedition feature in some of the advertisements for Shell Motor Spirit from that period. Unfortunately these motor sledges did break down and added to the many problems experienced by the expedition party.

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