Item #23730 Autograph letter from Scott, written in the Antarctic, possibly with a partial fingerprint. Antarctic, Autograph.
Autograph letter from Scott, written in the Antarctic, possibly with a partial fingerprint.

Autograph letter from Scott, written in the Antarctic, possibly with a partial fingerprint.

[1911?]. In this letter, Scott writes in great haste and some annoyance to an unidentified recipient about the inability to fulfill the recipients request to send photos of the motor sledge. It is likely to have been a request by Wolseley, the manufacturer of the motor sledge. Scott brought three of them for this push to the South Pole but they were a severe disappointment. One sank through thin ice on unloading at Cape Evans. When the final push to the Pole commenced, the two remaining motors departed on October 24th, 1911; they broke down from the horrible surfaces, overheating and mechanical problems, only 6 and 8 days out. Scott & the rest of the party departed Cape Evans on November 1st, 1911 and would only have learned about the motors' failure as they rendezvoused on November 21st. This was a disastrous beginning to the Southern Journey, as the 'Motor Party' had now become the first man-hauling team on the outward leg, and the ponies were forced to pull loads far heavier than planned. Although the motors were not judged a complete failure because they initially functioned, undue strain was placed on the ponies, dogs and men. Ultimately, Scott & his party never returned.

The letter is written in the present tense, which implies that it was written in the Antarctic. It has the appearance of a letter quickly dashed off, annoyed by the frivolous request for photographs while they were "just full with practical work". The tone is quite ironic and written hurriedly in ink, as opposed to most of the final letters sent to sponsors, etc., which were typed and/or quite formal as they were official expedition records. The use of ink also has resulted in the tantalizing smudge that appears to be Scott's partial fingerprint.

Scott comments that "there are no photographs of the motor sledge in my hands or those of my companions..." Herbert Ponting, photographer on the expedition, "almost always used glass plates (the exception is too complicated to explain), but he certainly made lantern-slides at least from his negatives for a lantern-slide show on Mid-winter day. He also made some prints which were incorporated in the South Polar Times, their “in-house” journal … I suspect he also made some when he and Scott were discussing which ones magazines, etc., would like. Some of Ponting’s photographs were also processed in New Zealand in 1910-2, either in Joseph Kinsey’s darkroom or by local professionals (there is a record of enlargements being made in 1912 in NZ. (According to Anne Strathie, author of an upcoming book on Ponting.) In any case, actual photographs that might be shared with Wolseley, would have been scarce to nonexistent in any period before the push to the Pole and would have been disparaged following the tragedy.

Scott wrote: "Dear Sir I regret there are no photographs of the motor sledge in my hands or those of my companions though there are a great number of cameras the results of which I may or may not be permitted to see! I'm afraid we cannot undertake to send you information as our hands are just full with practical work. Yours very truly R Scott". There is an intriguing smudge, possibly a partial fingerprint in the right margin below the signature.

Plain cream laid paper with a partial watermark, 7 1/4 x 8 7/8". One period central fold, no letterhead. A small circle of paper is adhered to the upper margin of the first page.

The motor sledge had failed despite a 'Popular Mechanic' report that they did well on snow. A short, irritated yet controlled letter written in the Antarctic by RFS before he headed towards the South Pole, and his death. Very good condition. Item #23730

Price: $7,500.00

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