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Robert Falcon Scott Passes Away

Today in Masonic History Robert Falcon Scott passes away in 1912.

Robert Falcon Scott was a British naval officer and explorer.

Scott was born on June 6th, 1868 near Devonport, Plymouth, England. According to family tradition Scott and his younger brother Archie, were destined for military service. Archie went into the Army and Scott went into the Navy. To prepare for his naval career Scott first went to a day school for two years. He then attended Stubbington House School in Hampshire which was a cramming school, a school designed to prepare a student for a specific goal. In Scott's case it was to prepare for the entrance exams to become a cadet on the HMS Britania. At the age of 13 Scott began his naval career. At 15, Scott became a midshipman and was stationed on a variety of ships.

After becoming a sub-lieutenant in 1888, Scott served aboard a variety of ships until in 1891 he applied for a two year torpedo training course. This led to a command, a small blip in his career when he ran the torpedo boat he was commanding aground. There is also a claim by some there was a cover up of some kind. Eleven weeks of Scott's service cannot be accounted for and are missing from admiralty records. Some claim it was due to a scandalous affair, others claim it was just poor record keeping.

In 1894, tragedy struck the Scott family. Scott's father after selling the family brewery made a bad investment and lost all of the families money. Scott's father took a job in a brewery and three years later passed away. This left Scott and his brother Archie to support the family. One year later, Archie passed away from typhoid fever. This put Scott in the position to support his mother and two unmarried sisters. In a chance encounter in London, Scott met Clements Markham who was the head of the Royal Geological Society (RGS). The two had met before when Scott was only a midshipman. Still Markham faith in Scott and Scott was desperate for a way to increase his rank and thereby his wages to support his family. Markham put Scott forward to lead the British Antarctic Expedition, later the Discovery Expedition, which was a joint expedition between the RGS and the Royal Society to Antarctica. After some back and forth, Markham won out and Scott was put in full command of the expedition.

The Discovery Expedition left England in 1901. The stated mission of the expedition was scientific discovery and there was no real attempt to get to the South Pole on the expedition. By the time the expedition returned to England, there had been strife between Scott and some of the crew. This led to conflicts later on. Overall the expedition was considered a success and Scott returned to a hero's welcome. Scott wanted to return Antarctica and began raising funds to get an expedition together. He left the Royal Navy and began planning his expedition with his sights set on reaching the South Pole.

Scott knew the march to the pole was impossible for him. At the time there were no motorized vehicles to travel over snow, one of Scott's team members did envision such a machine and one was constructed for the expedition. Scott also brought along dog teams and horses. The expedition started out on June 15th, 1910 on the ship Terra Nova. Scott had to catch up with the ship in Australia so he could continue raising funds until the last minute. The voyage there was plagued with problems including being trapped in pack ice for 20 days and not being able to land at their original landing site. This was all against the back drop of a perceived race to the South Pole between Scott and Roald Amundsen.

In October 1911, Scott and his team started out for the South Pole. They used staged teams with a large group heading out and the group getting smaller and smaller as part of the group dropped away for various reasons. The final team reached the South Pole 5 weeks after Amundsen's team did. This was devastating to Scott and his team. The initial leg of their journey back went well. Before long the terrain and the conditions began claiming members of his team. Before they set out, Scott gave orders a dog team was to meet them on the way back on March 1st, 1912, along with a specific location. Scott's remaining team made camp and waited for the relief team. They became snowed in due to the weather. The first to go was Lawrence Oates who got frostbite on his toes. Scott recorded in his diary Oates' last words were "I am just going outside and may be some time." The three remaining members of the team were able to make it another 20 miles before the weather overcame them. They were just 11 miles from their destination. The three died from exposure, it is believed because of the position of the bodies Scott was the last to die. His last entry in his diary was:

We took risks, we knew we took them; things have come out against us, and therefore we have no cause for complaint, but bow to the will of Providence, determined still to do our best to the last ... Had we lived, I should have had a tale to tell of the hardihood, endurance, and courage of my companions which would have stirred the heart of every Englishman. These rough notes and our dead bodies must tell the tale, but surely, surely, a great rich country like ours will see that those who are dependent on us are properly provided for.

This entry was made on March 29th, 1912. It's believed to be the day Scott passed away.

Scott was a member of several lodges including his home lodge of Drury Lane Lodge No. 2127, London, which he joined in 1901. He was also a member of St. Alban's Lodge No. 2597, Christ Church, New Zealand, and Navy Lodge No. 2613, of England.

This article provided by Brother Eric C. Steele.