Historic Place Category 2
On reserve opposite the Clarendon Hotel. Statue faces the former Municipal Chambers.
Res 9 (CT CB373/207), Canterbury Land District
Extent of Registration
Extent of registration includes part of the land described as Res 9 (CT CB373/207), Canterbury Land District and the structure known as Captain Scott Memorial, thereon.
Christchurch was the New Zealand base for Captain Scott's Antarctic expeditions in 1901 and 1910. Scott reached the South Pole on 25 January 1912 but died on the return journey. The Christchurch City Council appealed for donations for a memorial and raised over £1,000. Lady Scott, Captain Scott's widow and a sculptor, modelled the statue and it was officially unveiled on 9 February 1917.
The inscription reads: 'Robert Falcon Scott/Captain Royal Navy/Who died returning from the South Pole 1912/With A.E. Wilson, H.R. Bowers, L.E.G. Oates, E. Evans' and quotes Scott's farewell message: 'I do not regret this journey, which shows that Englishmen can endure hardships, help one another, and meet death with as great fortitude as ever in the past.'
The statue is significant as one of a handful of statues worldwide, which commemorate Scott and were carved by his widow, Kathleen Scott. It is also important as a link to Christchurch's history as a base for Antarctic exploration. This continues today with the New Zealand, Italian and United States Antarctic bases at Christchurch airport.
For nearly a century Christchurch has been used as a base for various Antarctic expeditions. Robert Falcon Scott used Lyttleton for both his 1901-1904 and his 1910 trips. Ernest Shackleton also used the port for his 1907-1909 expedition. The statue of Scott at the corner of Oxford Terrace and Worcester St was erected to commemorate Christchurch's links to Scott's second trip to the Antarctic which ended in disaster when he and four others, Captain Oates, Dr Edward Wilson, Lieutenant Bowers and Petty Officer Evans, died on their way back from the South Pole. Their deaths led to their lionisation throughout the British Empire.
Scott's first trip to the Antarctic, on the Discovery, was seen as a great success and as a consequence Scott became part of London society, and met his future wife Kathleen Bruce at a lunch party given by Mabel Beardsley in 1906. Kathleen was a sculptor who had studied at the Slade, and then in Paris where she met Augustus Rodin and Isadora Duncan. Robert and Kathleen married in 1908.
By 1907 Scott had decided to make another expedition to the Antarctic and spent the next two years organising money and people. On 27 October 1910 the Scotts arrived in New Zealand in preparation for the expedition. While in Christchurch Robert and Kathleen stayed at Joseph J Kinsey's house in Clifton whilst the Terra Nova was outfitted and stores loaded on board. The ponies and dogs that accompanied the expedition were kept on Quail Island.
The Terra Nova sailed for Dunedin on 26 November where it stopped briefly in Port Chalmers. On 29 November the Terra Nova left Dunedin harbour and set sail for the Antarctic. On their arrival in Antarctica Scott and his men settled at what is now known as Cape Evans and erected a hut and stables for the ponies. The first major trip the group made in January 1911 was to lay depots for the later attempt to the Pole. In November a party of twelve set out for the Pole and on January 4 1912 it split into two with five men, Scott, Wilson, Oates, Evans and Bowers setting off on their own for the South Pole. On 9 January 1912 they passed Shackleton's furthest point south and two days later were 74 miles from the Pole.
On 16 January they discovered the remnants of one of Amundsen's camps and realised that the Norwegian explorer had beaten them to the Pole. Amundsen had in fact reached the Pole on 14 December 1911. Scott made it there on 17 January 1912, over a month later, and wrote in his diary 'Great God! this is an awful place and terrible enough for us to have laboured to it without the reward of priority'.
The British expedition then turned back with the intention of being the first back with the news if at all possible. Their diaries record the story of their return journey, the lack of food and their growing depression and weakness. Evans was the first of the party to die, collapsing on 17 February. Oates was the next to go. His toes had become gangrenous and by 6 March he could no longer pull the sledge. He was becoming a burden to the others, and on 17 March he left the tent saying 'I am just going outside and may be some time' and walked outside to die.
The remaining three struggled on and by 19 March were eleven miles from One Ton Depot. However, a blizzard blew up and they lay trapped in their tent getting weaker and weaker. It is believed that Scott died around 29 March, the day of his last diary entry. The bodies of Scott, Wilson and Bowers were discovered eight months later, when one of the search party, Charles Wright spotted the top of their tent. The explorers' diaries and final letters home were taken and the bodies buried under a cairn of snow.
News of Scott's and his companions' deaths reached Christchurch on 11 February 1913. They became immediate heroes, with the King attending their memorial service at St Paul's Cathedral, London, on 14 February. Six days later Madame Tussauds' had already acquired a figure of Scott to add to their waxworks.
Only a week after the first announcement of Scott's death, the Mayor of Christchurch, Howard Holland called a public meeting to arrange for a memorial to commemorate Scott. The Scott Memorial Fund committee was established and they began to appeal for donations, raising over £1,000. There was an initial flood of contributions but these dropped off once it became obvious that the British government would provide for the explorers' dependants in fulfilment of Scott's last plea, 'For God's sake look after our people'.
While the site and type of memorial had not yet been decided, the committee wrote to Kathleen Scott to ask for her feelings about the matter. Kathleen gained a number of commissions for sculptures of Scott after his death and of the many monuments erected in memory of this expedition around the Commonwealth seven were sculpted by her.
By December 1914 the Christchurch committee had finally decided that the memorial should take the form of a statue situated outside the Municipal chambers. They commissioned Kathleen to create a replica of her statue of Scott, which had already been erected in 1915 in Waterloo Place, London. While the Christchurch sculpture was initially also to be bronze the rising cost of metal due to World War I made marble a better option. It had been planned to have four relief panels, two of Antarctic scenes and two of the heads of the other members of the party, but the cost of bronze meant these were abandoned. Kathleen went to Carrara, Italy, in March 1916 to carve the statue, as Britain had banned the importation of marble during the war. The block she was working with was 16 cubic yards and it needed 13 oxen to move it. Kathleen said of the marble 'You will be glad to hear that it is a remarkably fine piece of marble, of a good colour and without any flaw whatever. Considering the great size this is very fortunate.' She also built the base and pedestal for the statue. Scott's statue was finished in early April but, again due to war restrictions, it was not shipped until October 1916. However, two shipping firms, Shaw Savill & Albian Company and the New Zealand Shipping Company agreed to move half of it each for no charge. It was unveiled on 9 February 1917 before a large crowd on the site where it remains today, facing north to the former municipal chambers across Worcester Street.
- Original Construction: 1916 (circa)
- Archives New Zealand (Christchurch),Scott Memorial Fund correspondence, CH 343/100a
- Peter Jackson, Quail Island. A Link with the Past, Christchurch, 1990
- Historic Places in New Zealand,Russell Joyce and Yvonne Martin, 'Old Antarctic Huts Ravaged by Elements', 37, June 1992, pp.8-10.
- New Zealand Historic Places,Keith Lyons, 'Hell with a Capital H', 54, July 1995, pp.43-45
- Gordon Ogilvie, The Port Hills of Christchurch, Auckland, 1991
- New Zealand Journal of Geography,Eric Pawson, 'Monuments, Memorials and Cemeteries: Icons in the Landscape', in New Zealand Journal of Geography, Oct 1991, pp.26-27.
- Diana Preston, A First Rate Tragedy. Captain Scott's Antarctic Expeditions, London, 1997
- Christchurch City Libraries,Mark Stocker, ' 'Loving hands and a eye that knew': The Scott memorials in Christchurch and London', n.d., in 'Christchurch cemeteries, memorials and public sculpture'
- Christchurch Press,29 August 1922, p.7
- Edward Wilson, Diary of the Terra Nova Expedition to the Antarctic 1910-1912, London, 1972
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