He passed his examinations in 1881 and began his naval career as a cadet, aged 13. A couple of years later, he passed out of Britannia as a midshipman.
In 1883, he joined the HMS Boadicea in South Africa as a midshipman. Over the next few years he served on several other ships in the same position. He became acquainted with Clements Markham, then Secretary of the Royal Geographical Society, while serving on HMS Rover in West Indies. Markham, who was much impressed by the Scott's intelligence and enthusiasm, would play a significant role in Scott’s later career.
Scott passed the examinations for sub-lieutenant in 1888 and was promoted to lieutenant in 1889. By 1891, he had become a full lieutenant.
During the mid-1890s, several financial problems befell his family. He also lost his father and a brother at this time, and this further increased the woes of his family which now consisted of his mother and two unmarried sisters. Even though Scott was a successful navy officer, the opportunities for advancement in the Royal Navy were limited.
In June 1899, he once again met Clements Markham, who was now knighted and was President of the Royal Geographical Society (RGS). Markham told Scott about an upcoming Antarctic expedition with the Discovery, under the auspices of the RGS. Scott volunteered to lead the expedition believing that it would give him a chance to distinguish himself.
Scott was given overall command of the expedition, and he along with his crew set sail for the Antarctic on 6 August 1901 abroad the RRS Discovery. Ernest Henry Shackleton served as third officer on this expedition.
The aim of the expedition was to carry out scientific research and geographical exploration in the hitherto largely unexplored continent. The expedition conducted scientific research in varied fields such as biology, geology, meteorology, and magnetism. They also discovered the existence of the only snow-free Antarctic valleys which contain Antarctica's longest river.
On its return home in 1904, the crew received considerable appreciation and respect, and the Discovery Expedition was considered a landmark in British Antarctic exploration history.
Scott was elevated to a popular hero and promoted to the rank of a captain. After being occupied with public receptions, lectures and the writing of the expedition record for over a year, he resumed his full-time naval career in January 1906, as an Assistant Director of Naval Intelligence at the Admiralty. In August the same year, he became the flag-captain to Rear-Admiral Sir George Egerton on HMS Victorious.
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Scott soon began planning for a second, more ambitious expedition to the Antarctic. In 1910, he took command of the British Antarctic Expedition, to be known as the Terra Nova Expedition from its ship, Terra Nova. Scott stated that its main objective was "to reach the South Pole, and to secure for the British Empire the honour of this achievement”.
He wanted the British team to be the first to reach the geographic South Pole. Along with four companions, he managed to successfully reach the pole on 17 January 1912 but found out that a Norwegian team led by Roald Amundsen had preceded them by 34 days.
Personal Life & Legacy
Robert Falcon Scott met Kathleen Bruce, a sculptress and socialite, in 1907 and married her a year later. The couple was blessed with one son, Peter Markham Scott, who later on became the founder of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).
The Terra Nova Expedition which he led reached the South Pole on 17 January 1912. Scott and his party died from a combination of exhaustion, starvation and extreme cold on their return journey, hardly at a distance of 150 miles from their base camp and 11 miles from the next depot. Scott is presumed to have died on 29 March 1912. The bodies of Scott and his companions were discovered months later by a search party.