The 19 Manchurian and Siberian ponies were bought for £5 each at a horse fair in Northern China and were said to be narrow-chested, knock-kneed, pigeon-toed, spavined and suffering from various degrees of lameness.
Yet it was on this bunch of "crocks" that the British explorer Captain Robert Falcon Scott largely based his hopes of reaching the South Pole during his British Antarctic Expedition a century ago.
These pages tell the story of the "scrapheap crowd" as the ponies were known by the men who spent a year toiling with them through the frozen, blizzard-swept continent in their quest to be first at the Pole.
Using the links on the left, meet James Pigg, Weary Willie, Nobby, Christopher, Jehu and all the other ponies, and find out why Captain Scott chose to rely on them for a journey of hundreds of miles through such a desolate environment when the Norwegian Roald Amundsen was preparing to make his own dash to the Pole with sledge dogs.
Which pony was left so weakened by a swim in the icy Antarctic waters, it was thought he would never recover, yet surprised everyone by pulling his sledge more than 200 miles on the Pole journey? And which pony was so full of "cussedness", he seemed determined never to do a day's work for the expedition?
Read how the nicknames given to the ponies reveal what the men really thought of the "crocks" on whom lay their main hopes of getting to the Pole, yet how they became so fond of their "constant companions" that they would share their last precious rations with them, and how Captain Scott's reluctance to push the ponies too far led to a decision that was possibly to have tragic consequences on his return from the Pole in 1912.
January 17, 2012 marked the centenary of Captain Robert Scott and his four comrades,
Dr Edward Wilson, Lt Henry Bowers, Captain Lawrence Oates and P.O. Edgar Evans,
reaching the South Pole – one month after a party led by the Norwegian Roald Amundsen.
Events to commemorate the centenary of the expedition will continue throughout 2013.
For details, please visit the Scott 100 website.
In January 2013, I will be going to Luxor in Egypt to work as a volunteer for two months at the veterinary hospital run by Animal Care in Egypt. The hospital offers free services to the poorest people in Egypt who rely on their working animals, mainly horses and donkeys, to house and feed their families.
It is easy to write about events in the Antarctic a century ago, while forgetting just how terrible the reality was for the men and animals involved, and I am pleased at the chance to make some recompense for the sufferings of our working animals. You might like to see my travel blog or fund-raising page for Animal Care in Egypt. You can read more about me via the link to the left.