Captain Oates' legacy doubles estimate at Bonhams

Polar II; India and Beyond, Travel and Photography
4 Dec 2012
London, Knightsbridge

Portrait of Captain Oates on 1910-1913 'Terra Nova' expedition

A photograph of Captain Oates by Herbert George Ponting has sold at Bonhams, Knightsbridge, for £10,625 more than doubling the initial pre-sale estimate of £3,000-£4,000.

Captain Oates was born in 1880 in South London. He served in the army before eventually applying to become a part of Robert Falcon Scott's 'Terra Nova' expedition in 1910. After reaching the pole on the 18th January 1912, second to the Norwegian team, the men began the fatal return journey.

When the first casualty occurred on 17th February, Oates was then the team's main concern as he was suffering from relentless frostbite. On 16th March, he awoke and informed the others that he was going outside and may be some time, aware of his hindrance to the group's progress. In an act of self-sacrifice to save his team, he wandered into the snow and was never found.

Oates' bravery was remembered at Knightsbridge today alongside the animals that facilitated the polar expeditions. A sled-dog collar of one of the most trusted dogs on the 'Discovery' expedition, Joe, sold for £8,750. Joe met a similar fate to Oates, for due to malnourishment he was put down in 1903 on the return journey from the south on the 'Discovery' expedition.

The sled-dog collar is a lasting reminder of the debate surrounding Scott's use of dogs for Antarctic exploration. His dependency upon dogs on the 'Discovery' expedition, combined with a lack of skilled sled-dog handling within the team, led him to make important transportation decisions during the ill-fated 'Terra Nova' expedition from 1910-1913 which arguably cost Oates his life.


Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son & Neale. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America. Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street and Knightsbridge; and a further three in the UK regions and Scotland. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Carmel, New York and Connecticut in the USA; and Germany, France, Monaco, Hong Kong and Australia. Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments go to

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