SCOTT & The South-Pole

Herbert George Ponting ("Ponco")
(18701935)

Ponting With Camera Gear

Ponting was a professional photographer and was with Scott's Terra Nova Expedition, 19101912.

Ponting was born in Salisbury. His father was a banker, so it will be of no surprise to learn that Ponting was first employed in a bank; he lasted for four years. From there, attracted by the wild west stories coming out of America, Ponting moved to California where "he worked in mining and then bought a fruit ranch in the 1890s." He married in California in 1895 and the couple had a daughter in 1897.

It would appear that Ponting developed an interest in photography, likely when he was younger, back in England. His interest only grew in California. During 1900, with his farming operation losing money, Ponting determined he could make money in the business of photography. His new business brought him abroad on a freelance bases: Burma, Korea, Java, China and India.1 His photos proved to be a world wide success.

"Improvements in the printing press had made it possible, for the first time, for mass-market magazines to print and publish photographic illustrations. Ponting sold his work to four of London's foremost magazines, The Graphic, The Illustrated London News, Pearson's, and The Strand Magazine. In The Strand, Ponting's work appeared side by side with the Sherlock Holmes stories of Arthur Conan Doyle, one of Ponting's contemporaries."2
It can only be concluded, that at the time he was gearing up for his campaign (Terra Nova Expedition, 1910-1913), Scott was looking to document the matter in the best manner possible by the best persons available.
"As a member of the shore party in early 1911, Ponting helped set up the Terra Nova Expedition's Antarctic winter camp at Cape Evans, Ross Island. The camp included a tiny photographic darkroom. Although the expedition came more than 20 years after the invention of photographic film, Ponting preferred high-quality images taken on glass plates. Ponting was one of the first men to use a portable movie camera in Antarctica. The primitive device, called a cinematograph, could take short video sequences. Ponting also brought some autochrome plates to Antarctica and took some of the first known color still photographs there."3
A word from Scott:
"Ponting has been doing some wonderfully fine cinematograph work. My incursion into photography has brought me in close touch with him and I realise what a very good fellow he is; no pains are too great for him to take to help and instruct others, whilst his enthusiasm for his own work is unlimited."4
Though Ponting reaped a rich harvest of photographs of Scott and the others, he made them, only before Scott and his selected men headed out over the ice and snow to the south-pole, 900 miles away. Once the caravan headed out, Ponting's work was done. While Scott and his men were out on this very, very long expedition, in February, 1912, having spent 14 months there, Ponting, with eight others, boarded the Terra Nova to return, eventually, to England.

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FOOTNOTES:
[1] World Traveler he was, yet, it is interesting to note, as Scott observed, that Ponting was subject to sea sickness! "Yesterday he was developing plates with the developing dish in one hand and an ordinary basin in the other!"(Journal Entry, Scott's Last Exped.)

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbert_Ponting

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbert_Ponting

[4] Scott, Oct 3, 1911

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Peter Landry
2013