Pony camp, Camp 15. Ponies (left to right) Snippetts, Nobby, Michael and Jimmy Pigg, Great Ice Barrier, 19 November 1911

“Ponies tethered on the ice beside a man-made ice wall. Sledges in background.” SPRI P2012/5/76

University of Cambridge seeks cash to buy Captain Scott’s Antarctic negatives

March 07 , 2014 by: Daniela Bowker Corporate, News

When Captain Scott ventured to the Antarctic on his ill-fated polar expedition in 1911, it wasn’t just about racing Roald Amundsen to the South Pole. He was accompanied by a strong scientific team, and Herbert Ponting, the official expedition photographer. Ponting’s images of the expedition are well-known, but he also tutored Captain Scott in the use of a camera and several other members of the team had cameras, too.

The Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge, which is a sub-department of the University, holds Herbert Ponting’s glass plate negatives and his presentation album from the same expedition, the prints and albums of all the other expedition members equipped with a camera, and the remaining prints of Scott’s photographs in its archives. Together, they form the most comprehensive photographic record of the expedition held anywhere in the world.

What the Institute doesn’t hold, however, are 113 ‘lost’ negatives of Scott’s images. These negatives record his early attempts at photography under Ponting’s direction as well as those he took of the team on the Southern Journey. In order to secure the negatives for the archive, the University needs to raise a total of £275,000 before 25 March 2014, after which point they will be sold at auction.

Pony camp, Camp 15. Ponies (left to right) Snippetts, Nobby, Michael and Jimmy Pigg, Great Ice Barrier, 19 November 1911 “Ponies tethered on the ice beside a man-made ice wall. Sledges in background.” SPRI P2012/5/76

Pony camp, Camp 15. Ponies (left to right) Snippetts, Nobby, Michael and Jimmy Pigg, Great Ice Barrier, 19 November 1911
“Ponies tethered on the ice beside a man-made ice wall. Sledges in background.” SPRI P2012/5/76

The university has already succeeded in raising £75,000, and is asking for donations to reach its £275,000 goal. Explorer Sir Ranulf Fiennes explains why the negatives are regarded as important for the archive: ‘The negatives of Scott’s lost photographs are of major significance to the national heritage. Scott’s attainment of the South Pole and his subsequent death captured the public imagination on its discovery in 1913 and continues to exercise an extraordinary fascination. The negatives are a key component of the expedition’s material legacy as an object and as a collection in themselves.’

He speaks at greater length in this video:

Anyone able to make a donation can do so here.

About Daniela

This post was written by Daniela Bowker, who has written 1382 articles for Photocritic

Daniela has written three books on photography, contributed to several others, and acted as the editorial consultant on many more.

Her newest book, Social Photography, is currently available as a digital download as well as in bookshops in the UK and US.

You might also want to check out her exploration of other-worldly photographic creations, Surreal Photography: Creating the Impossible, and Photo School Fundamentals, for which she contributed the section on composition.

2 Comments

Add a comment

Join the Mailing List

We send out a quick e-mail every week to make sure you don't miss any of the news on Photocritic. Want in on the fun? Pop your e-mail address in below!

We use cookies - By using this site or closing this you agree to our cookies policy.
Accept cookies
x