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Antarctic memorabilia recalls tragedy of polar expedition

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 06, 2012

The dog collar worn by Joe, one of the sled dogs on Captain Scott's Discovery expedition. Right, the photograph of Captain Oates taken by the Terra Nova expedition's photographer Herbert George Ponting

The dog collar worn by Joe, one of the sled dogs on Captain Scott's Discovery expedition. Right, the photograph of Captain Oates taken by the Terra Nova expedition's photographer Herbert George Ponting

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His final words have become synonymous with heroic self-sacrifice in the face of adversity.

When Captain Lawrence Edward Grace Oates told fellow Antarctic explorers on the ill-fated 1910 expedition he was "stepping outside and might be some time" he became a legend.

Oates was part of Plymouth-born Robert Falcon Scott's doomed Terra Nova expedition to the South Pole.

A photograph of Captain Oates by Herbert George Ponting recently sold at Bonhams, London, for £10,625 – more than doubling the initial pre-sale estimate of £3,000-£4,000.

Also at the auction was a sled-dog collar of Joe, one of the most trusted dogs on the earlier Discovery expedition. The collar sold for £8,750. Joe, along with all the other dogs used in the 1902-03 expedition by Scott, Ernest Shackleton and Edward Wilson, died due to malnourishment.

The sled-dog collar is a lasting reminder of the debate surrounding Scott's use of dogs for Antarctic exploration. His dependency upon dogs on the Discovery expedition, combined with a lack of skilled sled-dog handling within the team, led him to make important transportation decisions during the ill-fated Terra Nova expedition from 1910-1913 which arguably cost Oates his life.

Oates spoke his famous final words as he left the team's tent on March 16, 1912, the day before his 32nd birthday. He wandered into the snow and was never found.

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