UK TOUR DAY FOUR (CARDIFF): The Royal Hotel. Cardiff. This is where I'm staying on the second leg of The Toronto Dreams Project's UK Tour. It's the oldest hotel in the city — a Grade II listed heritage building from the 1800s right in the heart of the Welsh capital. I've come here because 100 years ago, this is where one of the most famous stories in all of British history began. And that story included two Torontonians.
|The Terra Nova heads out of Cardiff Bay|
Taylor was immediately hired as the expedition's senior geologist. But Wright's application was rejected. Still, he wasn't about to take no for answer. When they got the bad news, the two friends walked all the way from Cambridge to Scott's office in the middle of London — 100 kilometers away — so that Wright could plead his case in person. Scott was so impressed that he hired Wright after all. He, too, would be on the boat when it sailed south from Cardiff.
It was the beginning of one of the most epic tales in all of British history.
The men of the Terra Nova spent two years living in some of the harshest conditions on earth. They froze in temperatures that sometimes plunged below −60°C. They were battered by storms with winds so strong that pebbles were picked up off the beach and hurled through the air. They starved. They were poisoned by their own contaminated food. They fell through the ice. They slipped down crevasses. They were hunted by killer whales. They endured months of nothing but darkness, only to go snowblind when the summer sun finally did return. They dragged equipment and supplies across the ice for hundreds of kilometers, their bodies ravaged by frostbite, their faces blackened by the cold.
And in the end, they failed.
Scott took four men with him on the final leg of the journey to the South Pole. And when they got there, they discovered an abandoned tent and a Norwegian flag were already waiting for them. The Scandinavian explorer Roald Amundsen had beat them by a few weeks. "Great God!" Scott wrote in his diary, "this is an awful place..."
|Charles Seymour Wright in Antarctica|
The last three surviving men carried on for another few days. But just a few kilometers from the next cache of supplies, they ran into yet another snowstorm. They waited for the weather to clear, but it was too late. They couldn't go any further. "We shall stick it out to the end," Scott wrote in the final entry in his diary, "but we are getting weaker, of course, and the end cannot be far. It seems a pity but I do not think I can write more. R. Scott. For God's sake look after our people."
It was the Torontonian, Charles Seymour Wright, who found the bodies. As part of the search party, he spotted the tent half-buried in the snow. Inside, he found the dead men along with their diaries and photographs. That documentation helped turn the Scott expedition into one of the most famous tales in British history.
Thanks to the Society, the Royal Hotel has a new blue plaque dedicated to the farewell dinner that was held here in 1910. The room where the dinner happened is still called The Scott Room. They say some of the wood on the walls came from the Terra Nova. Artifacts from the expedition are on display in the National Museum of Wales. There's a memorial to Scott and his men in Cardiff City Hall. There's a lighthouse dedicated to their memory in a Cardiff park. The Terra Nova's binnacle is on display in the historic Pierhead Building right on Cardiff Bay. The Terra Nova restaurant is just 100 meters away. And across the water, in the town of Penarth, there's a road called Terra Nova Way.
There's another memorial on Cardiff Bay, too. It's a striking white monument that stands next to the lock where the Terra Nova sailed off into history. It's right outside the Norwegian Church — a reminder of the expedition's tragic failure. And it was commission by the Scott Society before being giving to the City of Cardiff. It shows Captain Scott, his men and the Terra Nova being swallowed up by an abstract swirl of snow and ice. In the middle of the sculpture, you'll find a hole. The shape of that hole is meant to remind you of the mouth of an ice cave. In fact, it's meant to remind you of one ice cave in particular. It was the setting for the expedition's most iconic photograph. Through the cave in the photo, you look out onto the Antarctic ice. In the distance, you can see the Terra Nova — that hardy ship from the waters off Newfoundland — waiting on the frigid sea. And in the cave itself, you can see two small figures. The Torontonians. Thomas Griffith Taylor on the left and, on the right, Charles Seymour Wright:
|The Scott memorial sculpture, Norwegian chapel|
|A dream for C.S. Wright|
|Julian Rosser, Chairman of the Scott Society|
|The Captain Scott Room, Royal Hotel|
|A dream for C.S. Wright in the Captain Scott Room|
|Blue plaque for Scott at the Royal Hotel|
|Memorial lighthouse at Roath Park Lake|
|A dream for C.S. Wright at Roath Park Lake|
|The Pierhead Building|