Edward Wilson's Watercolour Pictures From Scott's Terra Nova Expedition

Dr. E. A. Wilson was the expedition doctor on Captain Scott's Terra Nova expedition and was one of the South Pole Party who never returned. He was also a water-colour artist of some skill and made made drawings and paintings of the journey.
Edward Wilson biographical notes.

These colour pictures add a different dimension to Scott's expedition as they place the men in a real world almost exactly like ours, rather than the black and white Edwardian one that the photographs portray. Most of Antarctica is completely timeless and the Antarctica that Scott and the other early explorers experienced is exactly the same today except for a few areas of habitation, the landscape and wildlife in particular are exactly the same.

These pictures were first printed in "The Worst Journey in the World", 1922

Edward Wilson, watercolour painting - Cape Evans In Winter

Cape Evans In Winter

The dogs were left to wander during the winter and would accompany the men on walks at this time. They would hunt for seals and penguins, at least one was carried out by sea-ice and never be seen again.

Edward Wilson, watercolour painting - Midnight


"Stayed on deck till midnight. The sun just dipped below the southern horizon. The scene was incomparable. The northern sky was gloriously rosy and reflected in the calm sea between the ice, which varied from burnished copper to salmon pink; bergs and pack to the north had a pale greenish hue with deep purple shadows, the sky shaded to saffron and pale green. We gazed long at these beautiful effects."

Edward Wilson, watercolour painting - South Trinidad

South Trinidad

Sunrise behind South Trinidad Island. July 26, 1910, off the coast of Brazil.

Edward Wilson, watercolour painting - Seals

The Roaring Forties

"The big swell which so often prevails in these latitudes is a most inspiring sight, and must be seen from a comparatively small ship like the Terra Nova for its magnitude to be truly appreciated. As the ship rose on the crest of one great hill of water the next big ridge was nearly a mile away, with a sloping valley between. At times these seas are rounded in giant slopes as smooth as glass; at others they curl over, leaving a milk-white foam, and their slopes are marbled with a beautiful spumy tracery."

Edward Wilson, watercolour painting - A Halo Round The Moon

A Halo Round The Moon

Showing vertical and horizontal shafts and mock Moons.

Edward Wilson, watercolour painting - McMurdo Sound from Arrival Heights in Autumn

McMurdo Sound from Arrival Heights in Autumn

These pictures were first printed in "Scott's Last Expedition", 1913.

Edward Wilson, watercolour painting - an april sunset from hut point looking west

An April sunset from Hut Point looking west

Edward Wilson, watercolour painting - looking west from Cape Evans

Looking west from Cape Evans

Edward Wilson, watercolour painting - Iridescent clouds looking north from Cape 

Iridescent clouds looking north from Cape Evans

Cape Evans is where the expedition hut was built, in clear conditions Antarctic skies provide spectacular sunsets particularly as the snow and ice reflect the colours extending and intensifying the experience. These clouds are known as Polar Stratospheric or nacreous clouds.

Edward Wilson, watercolour painting - Hut Point, midnight, March 27, 1911

Hut Point, midnight, March 27, 1911

In the summer months inside the Antarctic Circle, there is a period where the sun never sets. Even outside of this time, the sun only dips slightly below the horizon so it never really gets dark, sunset fades but before it is gone sunrise begins.

Edward Wilson, watercolour painting - A sunset from Hut Point, April 2nd, 1911

A sunset from Hut Point, April 2nd, 1911

Antarctica can be an unreal place like no other you have ever experienced. I can imagine myself in this scene with Wilson and the two figures, you look around in awe and then down at where you are walking to jolt yourself back to reality in case you misplace a step.

Edward Wilson, watercolour painting - Sledging


Scotts' teams manhauled sledges, two or three men would be attached to the sledge with canvas harnesses and then lean forwards to pull. It's not so bad as it appears and a huge amount of equipment can be carried in this manner. While not as efficient as travelling with a dog team, there are compensations, mainly that dogs don't need to be considered when stopping and it is very easy to unclip and suddenly become completely unencumbered.

Edward Wilson, watercolour painting - Birdie Bowers reading the thermometer on 
							the ramp, June 6th, 1911

"Birdie" Bowers reading the thermometer on the ramp, June 6th, 1911

Lieutenant Henry Robertson Bowers known as "Birdie" for the size and shape of his nose was one of the hardest working and most dependable of Scott's men. He is pictured here taking a temperature reading from an exposed thermometer near to the Cape Evans hut. Bowers was one of Scott's South Pole Party.

Edward Wilson, watercolour painting - Cave in the barrier, Cape Crozier, Jan. 4th, 

Cave in the barrier, Cape Crozier, Jan. 4th, 1911

An ice cave formed probably from a combination of deformities of the ice flowing from the land as part of an ice shelf and an under-ice meltwater stream leading to cave-ins above. The ice here has met the sea while still attached to the land. Two snow petrels are seen flying over, these are typical Antarctic sea birds found almost anywhere there is some open water within a few hours flight.

Edward Wilson, watercolour painting - Lunar corona

Lunar corona

Antarctica has a great many optical phenomena of rings and bright areas of light at particular angles from the sun or moon. These are usually caused by the presence of ice crystals in the atmosphere. They are similar to rainbows in that they are dependent on the relative angles of the sun/moon and the viewer. If you can manage to drag yourself outside on a bitterly cold night such as this must have been, you can be rewarded with some magnificent atmospheric effects.

Edward Wilson, watercolour painting - Paraselene, June 15th, 1911

Paraselene, June 15th, 1911

A paraselene is a bright spot on the halo of the moon, sometimes appearing as large and bright as to be another mock moon. In Wilson's picture above the paraselene is therefore the upwards curved arc on the inner halo. It is another example of an optical phenomena encountered not frequently, but neither rarely in Antarctica. June the 15th when this was observed and later painted is just a week away from midwinter's day and is at a time of permanent 24 hour darkness.

Edward Wilson, watercolour painting - The great ice barrier - looking east from 
							Cape Crozier

The great ice barrier - looking east from Cape Crozier

Edward Wilson, watercolour painting - Seals


Most probably southern fur seals seen on a sub-Antarctic island en route to Antarctica, these seals are not usually seen as far south as the Ross Sea area.

The Great Ice Barrier is the edge of waht is now known as the Ross Ice Shelf a floating ice-shelf about the size of France that extends for hundreds of miles. It is where the glaciers that flow from the Antarctic land mass begin to float on the sea providing a cliff of ice with only very rare places where a landing is possible. These ice-cliffs prevented the early explorers of Antarctica from making landfall, they would sail for days in awe of the height and extent of the ice.

Sledging in April, Camping After Dark

April is the start of the Antarctic winter, days now have more dark than light, temperatures drop and the first storms can come early.

Edward Wilson pencil sketch

Handing in the Cooking Equipment at Camp

When setting up a camp, there is usually an "outside man" and an "inside man" after erecting the tent. The outside man passes in equipment that will be needed and secures, dogs, sledges and the tent while the inside man will arrange the interior while there is a little more room and gets the stove going for a hot drink.

Edward Wilson pencil sketch

Down a Crevasse

Being harnessed to a sledge while manhauling meant that the sledge can stop you falling if you break through a crevasse, though help is usually needed to extracte yourself from the situation.

Edward Wilson pencil sketch

Besides the Dog Camp, Nov 22nd, 1911

10 horses, 4 tents, 3 snow walls, 11 sledges.

Edward Wilson pencil sketch

Antarctic Sledging, 1903

A picture from the Discovery expedition some years before the Terra Nova expedition.

Edward Wilson pencil sketch

Emperor Penguins, the Great Ice Barrier and Sea-ice

Edward Wilson pencil sketch

The Emperors Rookery

The Great Barrier, a view looking east from Cape Crozier.

Edward Wilson pencil sketch

Leading Ponies on the Barrier, Nov 20th 1911

The "Great Ice Barrier" is attached to the Antarctic landmass on the shortest route to the South Pole, a long flattish plateau before reaching land.

Edward Wilson pencil sketch


In the days before echo-sounders, the depth of water was measured by lowering a weight on a wire until it reached the bottom of the sea.

Edward Wilson pencil sketch

Mount Kyffin, Dec 13th 1911

Near the foot of the Beardmore Glacier.

Edward Wilson pencil sketch

Mount Patrick, Dec 16th 1911

About a third of the way up the Beardmore Glacier, this usually ice-free mountain is one of the most important fossil sites in Antarctica.

Edward Wilson pencil sketch

Sledging in a High Wind

Sails were and still are a good way of making progress in Antarctica while saving effort.

Edward Wilson pencil sketch

The Last of the Dogs

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