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Friday, 22 June, 2001, 11:40 GMT 12:40 UK
Relatives relive Scott's farewell dinner
Captain Scott's last mid-winter meal
The final dinner was captured on camera
Ninety years ago this month Captain Scott and his team gathered for a last dinner together before setting off on their fateful journey to the South Pole.

BBC science correspondent Christine McGourty joined the explorers' descendants at the National Maritime Museum, in London, for a special meal to mark the poignant anniversary.

Christmas may be some way off, but descendants of Captain Scott and his team have been celebrating early to mark the 90th anniversary of the explorers' last mid-winter dinner before setting off on their tragic journey to the South Pole.

The original celebrations, on 22 June 1911, were recorded in a now-famous photograph by Herbert Ponting, the expedition photographer.

This was an occasion for the men to feel good before they set off for the South Pole, which they knew would be an arduous trek

Sian Flynn, curator of Antarctica exhibition

Seated beneath a glorious array of sledging flags, Scott heads a table replete with champagne and wine.

A copy of the original menu for the dinner reveals it began with seal soup and ended with pineapple custard, raspberry jellies and cake.

There was roast beef and Yorkshire pudding with potatoes and brussels sprouts as well as such treats as plum pudding, mince pies, chocolate bonbons, toffee, almonds and raisins.

It was all washed down with sherry, champagne and brandy punch.

In his journal, Scott describes it as "an extravagant bill of fare as compared with our usual simple diet".

National Maritime Museum dinner
Relatives ate food similar to the original menu

"A wondrous attractive meal even in so far as judged by our simple lights, but with its garnishments a positive feast, for withal the table was strewn with dishes of burnt almonds, crystallised fruits, chocolates and such toothsome morsels, whilst the unstinted supply of champagne with accompanied the courses was succeeded by a noble array of liqueur bottles from which choice could be made in the drinking of toasts."

Falcon Scott, the explorer's grandson, said such occasions were an important morale-booster for the men.

June Christmas

"I think it was terribly important to have this mid-winter celebration. It was effectively their Christmas, even though it was June," he said.

An "unstinted supply of champagne" was available

"It was the middle of winter for them. They had a six-month period of total darkness, cooped up in this little wooden shed in the middle of nowhere with howling blizzards outside.

"I grew up with books about my grandfather and one of the most famous pictures is the one of the mid-winter dinner with all the flags.

"I think it's fantastic to celebrate the 90th anniversary of that dinner."

Joining him to commemorate the dinner, held on Thursday night at the National Maritime Museum, were descendants of all those who perished with Scott on their polar journey as well as relatives of others at the original dinner.

Also invited from Oslo was Mrs Anne-Christine Jacobsen, great-nice of Captain Roald Amundsen, Scott's Norwegian rival, who pipped him to the post.

She said there were no such lavish feasts for Amundsen and his men.

"They celebrated Christmas at Christmas time. They had some cigars, but nothing like this."

Lavish celebration

Sian Flynn, curator of the Museum's Antarctica exhibition, said Scott was convinced of the merits of such a lavish celebration.

"As you can imagine, in such harsh conditions food became a mental tonic and Scott knew this," she said.

"This was an occasion for the men to feel good before they set off for the south pole, which they knew would be an arduous trek, and of course we know they didn't come back, so it's a very poignant occasion."

All the food on the original menu was served up at the relatives' dinner on Thursday night, except the seal soup.

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See also:

21 Mar 01 | Scotland
Scott's ship celebrates 100 years
06 Sep 99 | Sci/Tech
Explorer's relics unfrozen
29 Nov 98 | Asia-Pacific
Following in Scott's footsteps
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