Travel, Atlases, Maps & Natural History

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View full screen - View 1 of Lot 188. British Antarctic "Terra Nova" Expedition, 1910-1913—Captain Oates | Oates's ice axe.

British Antarctic "Terra Nova" Expedition, 1910-1913—Captain Oates | Oates's ice axe

Lot Closed

November 15, 04:26 PM GMT


80,000 - 120,000 GBP

Lot Details


British Antarctic "Terra Nova" Expedition, 1910-1913—Captain Oates

Oates' ice axe from the British Antarctic "Terra Nova" Expedition. 1910-1913

Ice axe, with adze and serrated pick on wooden shaft with spiked ferrule, length 1070mm.


Captain Oates needs no introduction as one of the tragic heroes of Scott's ill-fated expedition, whose protagonists perished amidst the formidable landscape of Antarctica, having been beaten to the geographic South Pole by Roald Amundsen's Norwegian team. Oates, a veteran of the Boer War who was affectionately nicknamed "the soldier" by his teammates, recognised that he was rapidly succumbing to frostbite and scurvy during his team's return journey from the Pole, and marched out of his tent to his death in a final, heroic act of self-sacrifice. Whilst Oates' brave final act allowed the rest of the party to increase their speed, thus giving them the best possible chance of making it out alive, it was unfortunately too late to save them. Nonetheless, Oates' reputed final words—"I am just going outside and I may be some time"—have cemented his legendary status within the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration, epitomising the stiff upper lip mentality of the British in the face of adversity.

When previously sold, it was stated by repute that both this ice axe and Oates' compass (for which see lot CFXLB) were "gifted to one William Meadows by Violet Oates - sister of Captain Lawrence Oates of Gestingthorpe Hall - as a thank you for his assistance in moving her to Long Melford in 1947. William Meadows was born at Stable Cottage on the Gestingthorpe estate and later worked as a handyman and driver for the Oates family. At the age of 92 and with no immediate family, Meadows gave the items to his friend and then neighbour, Peter Grant, in 1978. At the time, he informed Mr Grant that the ice axe had been to Antarctica in 1910 with the British Antarctic Expedition" (reproduced in 200 Years of Polar Exploration, p. 125). Subsequent research confirmed the existence of a William H. Meadows resident at Stable Cottage. Meadows would have been "72 not 92" in 1978, though this was likely a simple transcription error (ibid., p. 125).


Hackey, Spink: 200 Years of Polar Exploration, p. 125


Captain Lawrence Edward Grace "Titus" Oates (17 March 1880- 17 March 1912); his sister Violet Emily Oates (1881-1966) of Gestingthorpe Hall, by whom gifted to William H. Meadows in 1947, by whom gifted to Peter Grant in 1978