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Portrait of heroic age of adventure; Fascinating images of Scott's Antarctic mission up for sale.

Byline: Laura Davis

PHOTOGRAPHS taken on Captain Scott's doomed expedition to the South Pole are expected to fetch pounds 100,000 at auction tomorrow.

The 19 colour-toned images were taken by Southport-born Herbert George Ponting, who was the official cameraman for the mission.

They include pictures of Scott writing in his diary just a few days before he and the whole of his team perished in the bitter fields of ice.

Nicholas Lambourn, photographic expert at Christie's, said the pictures were displayed by Ponting during a tour of lectures about the expedition.

He said: ``They are a nice crosssection of his exhibition prints and include some large orangetoned prints which are rather dramatic. They are very valuable because they are beautiful photographs and would be a good addition to a collection of prints.

``However, they are particularly prized now because they are souvenirs of an Antarctic expedition of the heroic age.

``They now benefit from a new wave of interest in this period by people who are not collectors of photographs, which is pushing the value up.''

After nine years working as a photographer and correspondent in Asia and Europe, Ponting was persuaded by Scott to join the explorer's second Antarctic expedition.

He set up a laboratory in a compartment the poop deck of The Terra Nova, the ship which took the expedition party to McMurdo Sound, an ice-locked channel in Antarctica.

At Cape Evans, he constructed a tiny darkroom within the small base hut, where he developed every plate and film he had exposed in the South Pole as well as thousands of metres of kinematograph film. Unable to sledge long distances with all his photographic equipment, he could not record the various geological and surveying exhibitions and had to content himself with subjects close to Cape Evans.

Ponting's own close encounter with death came during one of his night-time sledging expeditions when he almost broke through the melting ice and found himself staring into the eyes of a killer whale in a pool below.

In his memoirs, The Great White South, he wrote: ``During those midnight days when others slept and only the night watch and I were awake, some of the most memorable of my Antarctic experiences befell me. It was in those night hours too, as the sun paraded round the southern heavens, that I secured some of the best of my Polar studies.''

One of these, The Death of the Iceberg, is one of those due to go under the hammer. The photograph, with an estimated value of between pounds 8,000 and pounds 12,000, represents an iceberg in the last stage of decay from the action of the sun and currents.

Ponting left the Polar Party by ship at the end of 1912 so learned of their deaths with the rest of the nation in February 1913.

Having returned to London with nearly 2,000 negatives, he decided to use them as a tribute to the brave explorers.

Looking back, he wrote: ``In view of the tragic ending of the enterprise, I felt it more than ever incumbent upon me to conform to the wishes my late Chief had expressed to me. A beautiful and complete series of the photographs and films of the adventure, and of the Nature of life in the South, was therefore arranged and to these I lectured at a London Hall for 10 months in 1914.''

CAPTION(S):

STUDY OF A HERO: Captain Scott writes in his diary at Cape Evans base hut captured on film by Southport-born Herbert George Ponting; POLAR VIEW: Cameraman Ponting and, above left, an iceberg caught on film in its last stage of decay
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:May 8, 2002
Words:611
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