tue 02/09/2014

Captain Scott: South for Science, National Museum Wales | Visual arts reviews, news & interviews

Captain Scott: South for Science, National Museum Wales

Centenary exhibition highlights the Welsh flavour to Captain Scott's Terra Nova expedition

Should you find yourself in Rhossili, it’s worth visiting the church where a plaque pays tribute to the forgotten fifth man who went to the Pole 100 years ago. Rather closer to the National Museum there is another permanent memorial to Scott’s Welsh connection. It's next door in the city hall, in fact, in Cathays Park, that impressive set of municipal buildings which testify to Victorian confidence in Wales. Halfway up the stairs on the left is a commemorative tablet which was hastily commissioned soon after the Terra Nova docked. The central panel is a portrait of Scott (pictured), but around him are bas reliefs familiar from Antarctic literature: a flag flying at the Pole, the cross over the cairn under which his companion buried Scott, Wilson and Bowers. The then mayor supplies one of the names carved into the monument alongside that of the aforesaid “Dan Radcliffe JP, Hon Treasurer” and the sculptor W. Wheatley-Wagstaff.

At the bottom, rather like a predella panel on an Renaissance altarpiece, is an image of huskies in harness gathered in front of a sledge - rather more peacefully than they ever did on the expedition itself. They are flanked on one side by a seal, on the other by a penguin, perhaps the Welshest thing of all on the southern continent. It has never been finally established, but there must have been a Welshman on the first ever trip to sail among these strange flightless birds. Penguin can also be written pen gwyn, which is Welsh for “white head”.

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