Scott worked hard not to convey his concern at Amundsen’s plans to his men and continued preparations for the expedition as they sailed to New Zealand. Terra Nova finally set off from Lyttelton on 29 November 1910, taking on coal in Port Chalmers before departing south. On board was a vast quantity of stores including 162 carcasses of mutton and three carcasses of beef, cheese and butter obtained in New Zealand, and an impressive array of equipment representing the latest technology of the day.
There were three Wolseley motor tractors and drums of Shell petrol, two Siberian and 17 Manchurian ponies (seven Indian Army mules were taken south for the second season), 33 Siberian dogs, a comprehensive selection of Burroughs Welcome medical and photographic supplies, clothing, tools, photographic equipment, sledging equipment, and surveying, navigating and scientific instruments. A large quantity of compressed coal in 12 and 25lb blocks was obtained in Cardiff, and from Australia there were 45 tons of Geelong fodder and a quantity of oil-cake, bran and crushed oats for the ponies. A large number of British schools raised funds and presented the expedition with dogs, ponies, sledges, sleeping bags and tents.
The ship also carried several prefabricated huts. The building, designed for the expedition’s winter quarters, 15 metres by 8 metres in plan with a gabled roof rising to a central ridge 4.3 metres high, had been prefabricated in London. A trial erection of the hut took place at Officers’ Point in Lyttelton; this revealed serious deficiencies in the sizes and quantities of some timbers, which were made good before the expedition sailed. In addition, there were three smaller buildings: one, without iron fastenings so that it could be used for magnetic observations, was erected at Cape Evans; a hut for the Eastern Party (later designated the Northern Party) which was erected at Cape Adare, and a third with an observation deck on the roof to be used as a meteorological station at Granite Harbour.
This was never unloaded; it was taken back to New Zealand and it stands today on the property that used to belong to JJ Kinsey at Clifton in Christchurch.
The expedition got off to a rough start. Shortly after the Terra Nova left New Zealand she was hit by a storm which nearly sank her. Arriving at Ross Island in January 1911, a landing was made at Cape Crozier but the idea of setting up the base here was abandoned. Thick sea-ice prevented the vessel getting through to the old Discovery hut on Hut Point, near the present-day United States McMurdo Station, so, on 4 January, Scott landed some 25 kilometres north at the ‘Skuary’ to investigate establishing his winter quarters there.
The gently sloping ground of this narrow volcanic neck of land with the ramparts of Mount Erebus rising behind and McMurdo Sound in front proved ideal for establishing his base. Originally discovered during Scott’s National Antarctic Expedition 1901–04, the area was named for the large number of skuas that flocked there, but Scott renamed it Cape Evans after the expedition’s second-in-command, Lieutenant Edward ‘Teddy’ Evans. A short distance inland is a large lake named Skua Lake, while to the east the ground rises to form The Ramp and beyond, glaciated slopes rise toward the summit of Mount Erebus. From the hut site there are fine views east over McMurdo Sound to the Trans-Antarctic Mountains and south to the Dellbridge Islands.
After an inspection of the site by Scott, Evans and Wilson, unloading began immediately.