By now you will most likely know that our Haskell was inspired, and its design heavily influenced by, the Terra Nova Expedition to the South Pole. Led by arguably one of the most highly renowned British adventurers, Robert Falcon Scott, this team of men – a diverse mix of individuals including Navy and military men, geologists, ski experts and zoologists - battled extreme temperatures, damaged equipment, ill health and ailing spirits to reach the South Pole. When Scott and the core members of his team reached the pole and learned that a Norwegian expedition led by Roald Amundsen had beaten them, the diminished team had no choice but to rally, continue to gather scientific samples, and try to return home alive.
During this week 106 years ago, Scott and his team sadly perished on the return leg of their expedition. They are remembered as heroes, and quite rightly so; their accomplishment in reaching the South Pole, though ending in tragedy, was extraordinary. There are, however, many facets to their endeavours and accomplishments which are often overlooked, and because we are all about the details here at MWC, we want to honour this anniversary by shedding some light on the lesser known details of the Terra Nova expedition, and how the spirit of this expedition has inspired some of the design decisions in our Haskell watches.
Robert Falcon Scott was born into a normal family. His ancestors were military men, sure enough, but none had any history in the field of exploration. One of six children of John Edward Scott, a brewer, Robert joined the navy at a young age and, after the death of his father and brother, took responsibility for the security of his mother and sisters. Scott impressed with his tenacity and enthusiasm and quickly worked his way up the ranks, but was worried by the lack of quick progression available to him which would enable him to provide financial stability for his family.
It was a chance encounter in the street while home on leave in the summer of 1899 with a gentleman called Clements Markham that sparked Scott’s desire for adventure. Clements was the President of the Royal Geographical Society, and he told Scott of an impending Antarctic expedition. There are no records of what was discussed between the two men beyond this, but a few days later, in mid-June, Scott appeared at the Markham residence and volunteered to lead the expedition. It is the very same Royal Geographical Society who now support and fund the next generation of modern-day adventurers including the Mobile Malaria Project, who we are delighted to be supporting on their current sub-Saharan adventure.
Inexperienced but skilled, passionate and backed by Markham, Scott was given command of the Discovery expedition to the Antarctic and achieved significant recognition as a competent and intrepid commander. He returned home, married, and had a son – Peter Markham Scott, named for Clements Markham who had supported Scott throughout this adventure. Peter went on to found the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).
Scott’s second, and final, expedition – The Terra Nova - was to prove far more challenging and, ultimately, fatal. Thankfully Scott’s diary, held at the British Library, provides a fascinating insight into their progress across the Haskell Strait, after which our Haskell watch is named, and onwards to the South Pole. The diary makes for insightful and inspirational reading, bittersweet in Scott's hope and determination that they would reach the Pole first, and return home alive, and gut wrenching as he documents the deaths of his team and, ultimately, signs off with his final entry. Fraught with setbacks from the early days, the spirits of the men were tested until the bitter end. Yet among the harrowing accounts of the gnawing cold, driving winds and the exhausting terrain, Scott is sure to document the sun in the rare moments when it fights its way through the snow clouds and revels in its surprising, and most welcome, presence.
“Tonight it is wonderfully calm and warm, though it has been overcast all the afternoon. It is remarkable to be able to stand outside the tent and sun oneself. Our food satisfies now, but we must march to keep in the full ration, and we want rest, yet we shall pull through all right, D.V. We are by no means worn out.”
Our Green and Blue Haskell faces feature a sunburst effect, known as radial brushing, when they catch the light. This beautiful effect is a nod to these special moments, where Scott and his men took a moment to greet the sun and admire the spectacular wilderness around them.
“We have been in the shadow all the afternoon, but the sun has just reached us, a little obscured by night haze. A lot could be written on the delight of setting foot on rock after 14 weeks of snow and ice.”
In contrast, the Haskell Polar features a lightly textured, snowy face to honour the ever-changing and magnificent terrain which Scott describes so well in his diary.
“The loose snow has been swept into heaps, hard and wind-tossed. The rest has a glazed appearance, the loose drifting snow no doubt acting on it, polishing it like a sand blast.”
Scott and the two remaining members of the Polar Party succumbed to the brutal Antarctic conditions, having previously lost another two men in the weeks before. When their bodies were eventually discovered in their tent they were found frozen, with Scott’s diary, a comprehensive amount of scientific data, observations and samples taken from their expedition, and the very first Antarctic fossils ever discovered. Scott and his men had determinedly carried these samples with them, despite the significant extra weight and bulk they added to their already backbreaking load, in the hope that they could be studied upon their return home. Those fossils contained evidence that the Antarctic was once forested and adjoined to other continents, therefore proving continental drift and significantly shaping our understanding of our planet.
“Wilson, with his sharp eyes, has picked several plant impressions, the last a piece of coal with beautifully traced leaves in layers, also some excellently preserved impressions of thick stems, showing cellular structure. In one place we saw the cast of small waves in the sand… Altogether we have had a most interesting afternoon, and the relief of being out of the wind and in a warmer temperature is inexpressible.”
How sad that the team did not survive to see these findings celebrated and spark further studies for generations to come. The mens' determination to carry out their studies, burdening the extra load and investing their precious and ever-dwindling energy into collecting specimens and writing up their findings, alongside attempting to be the first to reach the South Pole, is admirable. As Scott himself wrote in his final entry:
“Had we lived, I should have had a tale to tell of the hardihood, endurance, and courage of my companions which would have stirred the heart of every Englishman.”
Thankfully his diary, along with the bodies of the team and this precious scientific data was found and their tale was told - the harsh realities of such an expedition brought to life, and light shed on the indomitable spirit of the men who set out on such a magnificent adventure.
Our Haskell is our tribute to these men - the embodiment of the spirit of adventure. It's difficult not to be inspired over and over again when poring over the photographs, diaries, data and maps of the Terra Nova team. Scott’s route map alone with its lines of latitude and longitude have been a keen source of inspiration for us, and we're excited to say we've used the same style for an imminent Special Edition Haskell - coming soon.