Ice pick from Captain Scott’s doomed Antarctic expedition to be sold at auction

An ice pick once owned by a member of Captain Scott’s doomed Antarctic expedition team is to be sold at auction.

Geologist Frank Debenham was part of the expedition but injured his knee while playing football in the snow and did not go on to the South Pole with Scott and four comrades, who all died in 1912.

Debenham later helped found the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge as a memorial to Captain Scott and his four companions.

Human Interest – Polar Exploration – Scott’s Expedition to Antarctica
Captain Robert Falcon Scott, leader of the ill-fated Terra Nova Expedition to the South Pole (PA Archive)

The ice pick, which Debenham took on the Terra Nova British Antarctic Expedition of 1910 to 1913, is to be sold at Cheffins in Cambridge where it has a pre-sale estimate of £200 to £400.

Debenham, who died in 1965, had gifted the ice pick to a friend, who in turn gave it to its current owner.

Charles Ashton, a director at Cheffins, said: “Items dating back to the early expeditions, such as the Terra Nova, are really very rare to the open market.

“The ice pick has incredibly strong provenance and can be directly traced back to the well-known Frank Debenham, which will certainly help it to sell well.”

17th January – On this Day in History – 1912
Captain Robert Falcon Scott (centre, balaclava) and members of the ill-fated British expedition to Antarctica to reach the South Pole (PA Archive)

It was on Scott’s expedition to the South Pole that Captain Lawrence Oates, one of his four companions, left his tent to sacrifice himself to the elements with the famous last words: “I am just going outside and may be some time.”

He had been suffering frostbite and believed he was slowing the progress of the others.

“There is a real romanticism attached to Scott’s expeditions,” said Mr Ashton.

“Not too far from the public fascination with the Titanic, these great acts of exploration, hardship and bravery in the face of the unknown has always appealed to collectors from all over the world.

“The Terra Nova must be the most famous of all great expeditions, mainly because of its tragic end for the explorers.”

Scott led a party of five which reached the South Pole on January 17 1912, only to find that they had been preceded by Roald Amundsen’s Norwegian expedition which arrived a month earlier.

Scott and his comrades all perished on the return journey.

Debenham’s ice pick will go to auction as part of the Cheffins Fine Sale on March 6 and 7.

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