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Captain Scott’s Antarctic Expedition 1912 Leader’s Skis Returned

Exactly a centenary after the return of SS Terra Nova to Lyttelton, New Zealand from the Antarctic, a set of skis belonging to Edward Atkinson has been returned to New Zealand’s Antarctic Heritage Trust. It was Atkinson who assumed leadership of Captain Scott’s last expedition and who was the leader of the party that found the tent containing the bodies of Captain Scott, Edward Wilson and Henry Bowers.

On 12 February 1913 the SS Terra Nova entered Lyttelton harbour with its flag at half-mast to a country and the world in mourning. Two days earlier, the ship had moored off Oamaru Harbour where Atkinson and the ship’s Captain came ashore during the night and wired the news of Scott and the polar party’s death to the expedition’s agent.

The wooden skis, clearly etched with Atkinson’s initials, were retrieved from a pile of abandoned equipment at Scott’s Cape Evans hut in 1948 by a navy helicopter pilot Lloyd Tracy aboard USS Edisto, part of US Operation Windmill. Mr Tracy’s son, Dick Tracy said “it is with great joy that after many years these will be returned to Cape Evans from where dad recovered them”.

The skis will be returned to Antarctica by the Antarctic Heritage Trust. Trust Executive Director, Nigel Watson said “the provenance of the skis is beyond doubt. These are a most poignant link to Captain Scott’s last expedition. It seems like fate that these have been returned to Christchurch, exactly 100 years to the day after Atkinson himself returned here from the Antarctic with details of the loss of the polar party.”


Antarctic Heritage Trust Executive Director Nigel Watson with one of Dr Atkinson’s skis. Photo credit: Antarctic Heritage Trust,

Dr Atkinson, Cape Evans, October 1911, photographer Herbert Ponting. Photo credit: Canterbury Museum.

Exhibition now on at Canterbury Museum, New Zealand. In partnership with Antarctic Heritage Trust, Canterbury Museum and Natural History Museum.

Updated on 23rd July 2015