Captain Scott sails from Cardiff

David Jenkins

The Terra Nova loading in Bute East Dock, Cardiff, June 1910

F.C. Bowring (front left) and Daniel Radcliffe (front right) with Commander E.R.G.R.Evans (in top hat) aboard the Terra Nova in Cardiff, 17 June 1913.

Scott's Terra Nova leaving Cardiff, 15 June 1910

Robert Falcon Scott (1868-1912) in about 1905

The SS Terra Nova

On 15 June 1910 a large, excited and noisy crowd cheered a heavily laden ship as she left the Roath Basin in Cardiff's docklands. SS Terra Nova was headed south — to Antarctica. On board were Captain Robert Falcon Scott and members of his British Antarctic Expedition, who aimed to be the first to reach the South Pole.

Welsh Coal

The Terra Nova had arrived in Cardiff five days earlier to finish preparations for the voyage and to take on fuel. 300 tons of Crown Patent Fuel, 100 tons of steam coal and 500 gallons of engine and lamp oil were donated by Welsh coal companies. All the cooking utensils were given by the Welsh Tin Plate Company of Llanelli and even Scott's sleeping bag was bought with funds raised by the County School in Cardigan. In addition to support in kind, a further £2,500 was raised in Cardiff, more than from any other city. Locally, the largest individual donors, and two of the expedition's most enthusiastic supporters, were the leading Cardiff shipowners Daniel Radcliffe and

. They played an important role in fund-raising and raising sponsorship from throughout the south Wales business community and in the provision of dock facilities for the Terra Nova. There was so much support in Wales for the expedition that Cardiff was designated the Terra Nova's home port and it was to Bute Dock that she returned at the end of the expedition on 14 June 1913.

Why Cardiff?

In June 1909 William Davies, editor of the Western Mail, met with the young naval officer Lieutenant E.R.G.R. Evans, who was planning his own Antarctic expedition. Davies was very keen on supporting what he initially saw as a Welsh National Antarctic Expedition — Evans's grandfather was probably from Cardiff — and thought that there would be support for such a project from Cardiff businesses.

Soon afterwards, Evans learned of Scott's planned expedition and joined him as second-in-command, bringing with him the support of the editor of the Western Mail and the prospect of Welsh sponsorship. Davies was instrumental not only in rallying business and public support in Wales for Scott's expedition, but in persuading his compatriot, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, David Lloyd George, to provide a government grant of £20,000. Arguably, without the influence of Davies, the support of the Western Mail and the Welsh shipowners, Scott's expedition would not have left in time to reach the Pole in 1912.

Welsh connections

There was another Evans in the Terra Nova's crew, Petty Officer Edgar Evans from Rhossili, Gower. He had been to Antarctica with Scott on his Discovery expedition of 1901-4, and was chosen by Scott to be a member of his polar party on the 1910-12 expedition. Evans was the first to die on the return march from the South Pole.


Scott's links with Cardiff are commemorated by the lighthouse erected in 1915 in Roath Park Lake and the bronze plaque of 1916 on the staircase in City Hall. In June 2003 a commemorative sculpture was unveiled in Cardiff Bay.

Comments (10)

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8 February 2022, 22:38
Misleading title. Scott was not aboard the Terra NIva when it left Cardiff. He joined the ship later on in the voyage.
Charles Wilson-Watkins
12 February 2021, 11:13
Dear David

I wonder, if I could please take a copy of the Welsh flag and mention it in an post on my FB page. Off course, I will credit where I have got the image from

16 October 2020, 16:41
At present I am researching my family Tree and my grandfather Sidney Richard Williams was a hotelier in the dock area; the West Dock Hotel, Herbert Street; and I remember my father telling me that prior to the sailing of the Terra Nova, Scott's wife and son, Peter (later the well known ornithologist) stayed in the Hotel. My father Thomas would have been about 5 or 6 years old at the time. If you are able to either corroberate any of this or shed any further light I would, obviously be very interested.
Jennifer Protheroe-Jones, Principal Curator – Industry Amgueddfa Cymru – Museum Wales Staff
27 September 2019, 10:51

Dear George Clack,

I am sorry but the Museum does not hold any records that could confirm whether your ancestor was awarded the Polar Medal (as the Arctic Medal was renamed – there is a useful online article here). If you obtain a copy of the following book it will explain how to research your ancestor’s Royal Naval service: B. Pappalardo “Tracing your naval ancestors”, Richmond: Public Record Office, 2003. Second-hand copies are available from online booksellers for under £5.00. Royal Navy service records usually record all the ships that a man served on, and usually also record all medals awarded. Once you establish the names of the ships he served on, and the dates he served on them, the logs of the ships can be checked to see whether they were associated with Antarctic expeditions. There are useful online articles on Scott’s expeditions: the Discovery Expedition of 1901-1904 and the Terra Nova Expedition of 1910-1913. The list of books at the end of each article contain fuller accounts and may detail the involvement of any Royal Navy ships – most twentieth-century books published in the UK can be ordered on inter-library loan from your local public library. The Wikipedia article on the Polar Medal / Arctic Medal mentions the numbers awarded which appear to only total around 1,200. The National Archives class ADM 171 lists Royal Navy medal recipients; ADM 176/61 is described as being “Miscellaneous medal roll: covering awards to the Royal Navy including lists of the Arctic and Polar Medals…” and other medals and awards, 1866 to 1966. You will need to contact the National Archives directly to obtain further details.

I regret that the Museum is not able to directly help you and hope that these suggestions may be useful to you.

Yours sincerely,

Jennifer Protheroe-Jones
Principal Curator – Industry

George clack
23 September 2019, 11:55
My grandfather was a member of the royal navy as a regular service man the story has always been told in the family that the ship he was serving on at the time accompanied Scott to a certain point in Antarctica were the y repovisioned his ship before he continued and they returned home and that members of the crew received the Artic medal he died in 1936 and we have wondered if this is fact and if so what the name of the Royal Navel was wr do not know whether this was the first or second attempt I would be most grateful for any information you have and perhaps be able to pass a fuller story onto my grandchildren THANK YOU
Mark Etheridge, Curator: Industry and Transport Amgueddfa Cymru – Museum Wales Staff
2 February 2018, 10:23

On the subject of whether or not Scott was on board in Cardiff:

Scott and various Cardiff dignitaries were on the Terra Nova when she sailed from Cardiff, but they got off onto the tug Falcon near the Breaksea lightship down the channel. Scott eventually returned to London to continue fundraising, and joined the ship in Lyttleton, New Zealand. See ‘Scott of the Antarctic and Cardiff’ by A.M. Johnson (Cardiff, 1984), which is an excellent account of the whole Scott/Cardiff association.

Sara Huws Amgueddfa Cymru – Museum Wales Staff
30 January 2018, 16:17
Hi there,

Thanks for your comment - I think there is a bit of confusion about whether or not Scott himself joined the vessel in Cardiff. I will ask our curator to take another look at this article to see if we can clarify things.

Best wishes

Digital Team
I was led to believe that Scott was on board when they left cardiff. What makes ppl think he joined elsewhere.
30 January 2018, 10:01
I have read some original newspapers from that particular time and it says Scott and his party left from Cardiff on the Terra Nova. Yet I have just read he joined the ship elsewhere. Why would he do that?
8 September 2016, 08:28
On 15 June 1910, Scott's ship Terra Nova, an old converted whaler, set sail from Cardiff, south Wales. Scott meanwhile was fundraising in Britain and joined the ship later in South Africa.
23 February 2016, 19:45
scott did not sail from cardiff on the terra nova. He joined it later abroad.