British Antarctic Expedition, 1910-1913
Robert Falcon SCOTT (1868-1913). Autograph letter signed ('R. Scott') to Francis Drake (secretary of the British Antarctic Expedition), n.p. [Cape Evans],  October 1911, on paper with printed heading of British Antarctic Expedition, 7 pages, 4to, four lines underlined and one other mark in green pencil (tears to upper inner corner of first, third and fourth leaves, and to lower inner corner of fourth leaf, a few tears to margins, occasional browning, last page slightly soiled).
SCOTT'S LAST INSTRUCTIONS TO HIS EXPEDITION SECRETARY BEFORE SETTING OUT FOR THE SOUTH POLE, GIVING DIRECTIONS FOR THE DISPOSAL OF HIS DIARIES IF HE DOES NOT RETURN
On the eve of setting out for his fatal polar journey, Scott writes last-minute instructions for the conduct of the financial affairs of the expedition in his absence: 'There are one or two points for you to see to - I am jotting them down herein as they occur to me hence there will be no sequence in them'. The instructions concern first the salaries of expedition members, sending an indemnity against responsibility for certain salaries; Ponting's is to be continued even if he returns home at the end of that season - 'He will be doing Expedition work all the time till we return'. Second, Scott discusses arrangements for advertisement letters and photographs, reproving Drake for being 'much too importunate with Ponting...last year. - Colman should not have had those two fine photographs', and adding a note about the timing of the advertisements. A third heading gives directions for the treatment of important papers, first of all his diaries, 'My diaries are just inside my cubicle on shelf to left - I don't want these touched till I return and that failing they should be sent to my wife'; he has already prepared a copy of the diary for her benefit. On the subject of the expedition mails, Scott gives a stern instruction against being 'too lavish with Expedition stamps', hoping that an indirect report of Drake's generous issue of stamps the previous year is inaccurate: 'you must remember your first duty is care of the Expedition's credit'. There follows a series of instructions relating to the Expedition's exclusive contract with Central News for dispatches on their progress; Scott discusses the length of the dispatch (evidently one he has already prepared), and the method of adding to it reports from the Southern Party in the course of its advance. The message is to be sent encoded in a cipher referred to as 'Hereward', and Scott complains of the imperfections of the system - 'I see the stupid man has not provided for precisely the thing which is likely to happen, viz. for the latest news being incomplete. In this case...look out that words 'en clair' don't give the main facts away'. If Scott does not return from his polar journey before Drake's departure for New Zealand, he is to send a telegram to Scott's wife, the wording of which Scott will send with one of the returning parties - 'if not let it be "all well best love"'. A postscript returns to the subject of the indemnity, confessing that 'Atkinson should have signed but unfortunately he left before I could bring it to his notice', and noting that 'Certain officers, Wilson, Bowers, Day are left out with a reason'.
A vivid evocation of the hurry and confusion of Scott's last hours at the hut at Cape Evans. The detailed handwritten instructions are typical of Scott's naval instincts, and he spent a large part of his last few days at Cape Evans in composing similar directives. As often at the prospect of action, Scott was jumpy - Cherry-Garrard describes him as 'worried and unhappy' during this period - and preparations for the journey were interrupted by what proved to be an unnecessary dash to Hut Point on 26 and 27 October after a report of difficulties with the motor sledges. The present instructions, though dated only 'October 1911' show every sign of having been composed in extreme haste and must have been one of the last sets to be finished: Atkinson's departure from Cape Evans, referred to in the postscript, took place at 4.30pm on 31 October. Scott left for the Pole the next morning.
Francis Drake had sailed to Cape Evans with the Expedition on its first arrival, and returned with Terra Nova in 1912 and again for the embarkation of the remainder of the Expedition in January 1913. As Secretary of the Expedition, he was entrusted with the conduct of its financial affairs: money was very tight, and the bulk of the present letter is concerned with expedients - advertisements, the exclusive news contract, the stamp issue, the forgoing of salaries - for eking out the Expedition's slender reserves. The issue of priority with news of the conquest of the Pole was a particular preoccupation. Indeed, immediately on his arrival at the Pole, and discovery of Amundsen's precedence, Scott's thoughts turned to this second race: 'Now for the run home and a desperate struggle to get the news through first. I wonder if we can do it' (Journal, 17 January 1912). Even after Scott's death, the Expedition kept to their contract, and it was to Central News that Pennell and Atkinson sent their famous telegram on 10 February 1913 to announce the Polar Party's death to the world.