Capt. Scott of the Antarctic's farewell letter to auction for £400,000

The farewell diary letter handwritten by Robert Falcon Scott (Scott of the Antarctic) that was found with his body is to be auctioned by Bonhams in London on 22nd November with a £400,000 - £600,000  estimate.

Capt Scott of the Antarctic farewell letter to be auctioned by Bonhams.
Image: Bonhams


"We have been to the Pole and we shall die like gentlemen".

The letter is the first of the farewell letters written by Scott on his realisation that the expedition to the South Pole was doomed, and, importantly, it is the last letter to be in private hands, the others being in Museums.

In the letter Scott writes to Sir Edgar Speyer the American financier and philanthropist who had helped finance Scott's 1910 British Antarctic Expedition, donating £1,000 of the £40,000 required.

Scott's letter is dated 16th March 1912 and is the only one of his letters that gives the co-ordinates of position 'Lat 79.50s', which was agonizingly just a few miles from the nearest supply centre. 

It appears Scott has realised the expedition will not return alive as he writes:

'Friday, March 16 or Saturday 17. – Lost track of dates, but think the last correct. Tragedy all along the line... the day before yesterday, poor Titus Oates said he couldn't go on; he proposed we should leave him in his sleeping-bag. That we could not do, and induced him to come on, on the afternoon march... At night he was worse and we knew the end had come... We can testify to his bravery... He did not – would not – give up hope to the very end... He said, 'I am just going outside and may be some time'. He went out into the blizzard and we have not seen him since'.

Scott and the remaining Expedition members struggled onwards towards the One Ton Depot where food and fuel waited for them but were unable to continue and set up their tent/s once again.

On 29th March Scott wrote his last entry.

'...We shall stick it out to the end, but we are getting weaker, of course, and the end cannot be far... I do not think I can write more...'.

The tent and the bodies of Scott and his colleagues Edward Wilson and Henry Bowers were found by a search party eight months later.

Scott's body lay in his open sleeping bag with his notebooks (including this one) under his shoulders.

Scott's diary letter to Sir Edgar also included:

"We very nearly came through and it's a pity to have missed it, but lately I have felt that we have overshot the mark - no one else is to blame and I hope no attempt will be made to suggest that we lacked support...'

The letter comprises 4 handwritten pages in pencil measuring 20cm x 110cm and are presented in a purpose made maroon leather presentation case.

The letter last sold in March 2012 when it realised £163,250 at Bonhams' Scott and Amundsen Centenary sale.

Memorabilia relating to Scott's failed Antarctic Mission is hugely collectible and always performs well at auction.

In October 2021 450 items belonging to Frances Davies, a Royal Naval carpenter who worked on the Terra Nova ship that transported the Expedition Team were sold by Bearnes Hampton Littlewood Auctions, including a pair of leather snow goggles with an estimate of £600 that sold for £3,400, an ocean chart for £10,500, and even two penguin eggs that sold for £2,200 against a £200 estimate.


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