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Captain Scott's lost Antarctic camp discovered

A professor has located a lost campsite from Captain Scott's Antarctic expedition, exactly 100 years after the explorer's team were there.

Photograph of the original camp, 1912, and Professor Oppenheimer’s picture in 2012
Photograph of the original camp, 1912, and Professor Oppenheimer’s picture in 2012

Members of the ill-fated Terra Nova expedition fought thin air and freezing temperatures to climb Mount Erebus in Antarctica on December 12, 1912.

Yesterday, at 1am New Zealand time, Professor Clive Oppenheimer became the first-known visitor to the site since Scott's men left.

Mr Oppenheimer, a volcanologist in Antarctica as part of the US Antarctic Program, said: "Despite many missions to Erebus in the past four decades, no-one has ever discovered the original 'highest camp'.

"Looking through the thousands of photos on Scott Polar Research Institute's Freeze Frame portal, I saw several pictures of the 1912 site, tried to memorise them, then fired up a snow-mobile and set off around the summit cone.

"I was beginning to think I was looking for a needle in a haystack when I noticed a gateway to an almost hidden area Within another minute or two, somehow, I'd found it."

He added: "I was tremendously excited to discover the camp site.

"In my mind's eye, I saw the four men fussing around their tent - transposing again the historic photographs on to the snowy stretch in front of me, I couldn't help smiling and saying 'hello boys'."

Following his discovery, a shared effort between the UK, US and New Zealand is under way to ensure the camp site is protected.

An archaeological survey is also expected to record the area and search for any items that may have been left behind by the 1912 party.

A team of five Britons and one Norwegian from the shore party of the Terra Nova expedition took part in the original Mount Erebus climb.

They undertook mapping and collected geological specimens.

The climb is of historical significance as it was during his time on Mount Erebus that geologist Frank Debenham had the idea of a polar research institute.

After serving in the First World War, Debenham became the founding director of the institute.

Philippa Foster Back, granddaughter of Prof Debenham and chair of The United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust, said: "Clive Oppenheimer's location of the original 'highest camp' is a wonderful addition to all the activity which has taken place throughout 2012 to mark the centenary of Captain Scott's expedition.

"It is a reminder of both the dangers and thrills of Antarctic science and a fitting tribute to the great legacies of exploration and discovery left to us by all the brave men of that party."

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