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Monday, September 6, 1999 Published at 11:54 GMT 12:54 UK


Explorer's relics unfrozen

Scott (second from right) and his heroic party

Relics from Captain Robert Scott's doomed expedition to the South Pole have gone on show at Christie's auction house in London.

BBC Science Correspondent Christine Mcgourty reports
The collection, which belonged to his widow, has been kept in a bank vault for the last 50 years. The items - some recovered from the tent in which the explorer died - are due to go under the hammer on 17 September.

One of the prize lots is the Union Flag that Scott flew from his sledge and can be seen in many of the famous black and white photographs taken at the time.

[ image: Some of the items were recovered from the tent in which Scott died]
Some of the items were recovered from the tent in which Scott died
Bidding is expected to be especially strong for the explorer's pipes - tobacco was one of the few things in plentiful supply on the ill-fated journey to the bottom of the world in 1912.

Each pipe should go for at least £1,500.

There are also parts of the primus stove Scott and his companions used to cook their last meal before their fuel ran out. But perhaps the oddest lot is an uneaten biscuit.

"It doesn't look very appetising," says Nick Lambourne of Christie's," but after a long day's sledding on the Antarctic continent it was probably manna from heaven."

Epic journey

The death of Scott and four fellow explorers has become fixed in the British psyche as an epic tale of bravery in the face of adversity.

Sir Ranulph Fiennes: The family has already given many items to the nation
The team succeeded in their goal of reaching the South Pole on 18 January, 1912, only to find the glory of being the first had already been taken by Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen a month before.

Scott and his heroic party fought ferocious weather to return to their supply depot but died in their tent just a few miles from fresh supplies on, or shortly after, 29 March, 1912. Their bodies were later recovered, together with Scott's diaries, and many of the items that are now up for sale at Christie's.

[ image: An Antarctic biscuit:
An Antarctic biscuit: "Manna from Heaven"
A previous auction of Scott memorabilia attracted some criticism but Sir Ranulph Fiennes, who completed the first unsupported walk across the Antarctic in 1992, says the family has every right to sell the artefacts.

"The family, in the past, has been very grateful to the nation and given things to the Scott Polar Institute. If anyone does get indignant, they can quite easily help the country obtain these things by giving a cheque to the Antarctic Heritage Trust in Cambridge."

The 17 September sale at Christie's will include 130 lots relating to the pioneers of Polar exploration, from Franklin and Ross to Scott and Shackleton.

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