Aims of the Expedition
After ﬁve months at sea, Antarctica was eventually sighted on January 8th 1902. The main purpose of the expedition was scientiﬁc – to make magnetic surveys and carry out meteorological, oceanographic, geological and biological research. Five scientists carried out the work: zoologist Edward Wilson, biologist Thomas Hodgson, geologist Hartley Ferrar, physicist Louis Bernacchi and the ship’s senior surgeon and botanist Dr. Reginald Koettlitz. Hauling sledges through blizzards in temperatures as low as minus 45º, they risked frostbite and snow blindness to take measurements and collect specimens.
The work was truly groundbreaking. Over ﬁve hundred new kinds of marine animals, spiders, shrimps, star and shellﬁsh were discovered. The expedition was the ﬁrst to sight an Emperor Penguin rookery and obtain an egg of the species. Many hundreds of miles of unknown coast, towering mountain ranges and glaciers were mapped. Invaluable magnetic measurements, auroral observations and seismic recordings were made. The body of work was massive when the research had been analysed and the Royal Geographical Society came to publish the results, ten large, weighty volumes were ﬁlled. It represented a major contribution to the understanding of the Antarctic continent, a feat made all the more remarkable considering the extreme conditions endured by the heroic scientists of Discovery.
On November 2nd 1902 Scott, Wilson and Shackleton set off to cross the Great Ice Barrier and explore the frozen desert beyond. With them were nineteen dogs pulling ﬁve sledges laden with 1,853 lbs of supplies and equipment. On November 25th they had passed latitude 80º south, charting new lands and features every day. But there was a heavy price to pay. One by one the under-nourished dogs began to die. The men too were beginning to suffer dreadfully. They carried on until December 30th, when, at latitude 82º 17’, they reluctantly turned for home. Shackleton was in the advanced stages of scurvy, incapacitated and coughing up blood through his congested throat. Against near impossible odds they arrived back at Discovery on February 3rd 1903. They had trudged over 950 miles in 93 days, travelling further south than any man before them.