Photographer on Ice
Photograph by Herbert G. Ponting, National Geographic
Moustache encrusted with ice, photographer Herbert Ponting stands on an iceberg near McMurdo Sound, Antarctica, in 1911. Ponting was part of the scientific staff on the 1910-1912 Terra Nova expedition to the South Pole.
British explorer and expedition leader Robert Falcon Scott reached the Pole on January 17, 1912. A hundred years later, Ponting's photographs—including many rarely seen copies housed in the National Geographic archives—offer an "incredibly rich visual record" of the expedition, according to historian Max Jones.
Though Ponting did not go all the way to the South Pole, he chronicled the Antarctic continent from a hut on the coast, capturing scientists at work, unusual wildlife, and "grand landscapes," said Jones, senior lecturer in modern history at the University of Manchester.
"These astonishing photographs he took really created a language of heroic Antarctic photography—of presenting the Antarctic as a natural fortress to be besieged and conquered by man," Jones said.
(Read "Race to the South Pole" in National Geographic magazine.)
Staying behind likely saved Ponting's life: Upon reaching the Pole, Scott and his team discovered that Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen had gotten there first, on December 14, 1911. (Find out how Amundsen won the Pole, in his own words.) Then, weakened by extreme cold and dwindling supplies, Scott's entire party died on the return journey, in late March 1912.
Christine Dell'Amore is the author of the new bookSouth Pole: The British Antarctic Expedition.
Published January 17, 2012