Conquering the Antarctic – The People : Edward Wilson

Posted on: January 24, 2012 in: Uncategorised



Our Conquering the Antarctic tour celebrates the achievements of Captain Scott, the most well-known of the five-man party that reached the South Pole a hundred years ago in 1912. As the inspirational leader of the team, his personal qualities, courage and charisma were reflected in his journals and letters, which provide a moving picture of the expedition that endures today.

But what of the other four men Scott selected to accompany him to the Pole? They were Wilson, Bowers, Evans and Oates. Over the next four days, we profile the other members of Scott’s team, beginning today with Dr Edward Wilson.


Edward Wilson


Born in Cheltenham in 1872, Edward Wilson was an artist and naturalist, who first joined Captain Scott aboard the Discovery as Assistant Surgeon and Vertebrate Zoologist to the British National Antarctic Expedition (1901-1904). In 1910 he returned to the Antarctic with Scott aboard the Terra Nova as Chief of the Scientific Staff. He was devoted to the study of Antarctic specimens and highly skilled at watercolour painting, particularly at capturing the colours, wildlife and light of the Antarctic.

‘Uncle Bill,’ as Wilson became known to the other explorers, was friendly and affectionate, and succeeded in mastering his temper thanks to a strong Christian faith. Scott selected him for the trek to the South Pole, which delighted him, and he continued his pursuit of scientific discovery even after the pole was reached, stopping with the rest of the team to collect 16kg of geological specimens.

Wilson’s is the last letter thought to have been written by any member of the polar party. Dated March 1912, the letter, written to his friend Reginald Smith, refers to his unfinished book about disease in grouse, his only regret at the time of his death. “We shall make a forlorn effort to reach the next depot but it means 22 miles and we are none of us fit to face it. I want to say how I have valued your friendship … I have no fear of death, only sorrow for my wife and for my dear people. Otherwise all is well. I should like to have seen the grouse book but it is not allowed to me. God’s will be done.” 

It is believed that Wilson died alongside Bowers and Scott in late March 1912. The three bodies were found in their tent by a rescue party the following November.



Conquering the Antarctic – the Scott Centenary Concert Tour

 A celebration in music, words and images

Stephen Layton, conductor
Robert Murray, tenor
Hugh Bonneville, narrator

3-8 February and 3 March 2012