The SCOTIA departed from Troon on November 2, 1902 and reached the Falkland Islands on January 6, 1903 where she stayed for three weeks. Sailing south, the SCOTIA arrived in the South Orkneys on February 3 and the next day landed on Saddle Island, the first to do so since Dumont d'Urville in 1838. From here the progress was quite slow and it was not until they reached the area of South Thule Island, in the South Sandwich Islands, that they could even entertain the thought of venturing further south. By February 22 she had forced her way to 70°25'S, 17°12'W. Unfortunately, the temperature suddenly fell to 14°F and she became stuck in the ice. Any thoughts of continuing south were promptly abandoned. She finally worked her way free but after six days she had only made another half a degree of latitude to the north. Progress continued at a miserable rate and with it any thoughts of finding open water for an escape route. They decided to search for a wintering place and after several more uncomfortable days at sea they found a protected bay on the south side of Laurie Island in the South Orkneys. The bay (later named Scotia Bay) became their wintering hideaway as within three days the bay filled with pack ice and a few days later was completely frozen over.
Everyone began to work from the moment the anchor was set. A snowbank was built around the ship to protect her from the weather; ashore a 12-foot stone cairn was built as a reference point for their survey work; a wooden magnetic observatory was erected on one side of the cairn and a stone hut on the other; fish traps were laid and bird skinning undertaken. Extensive studies of what wildlife remained in the area would be another project for the winter months ahead. Despite having plenty to do, the men found time to relax by climbing to the top of a nearby glacier and skiing down.
The spring of 1903 found the SCOTIA still held fast by the ice as a plethora of wildlife arrived providing much-needed fresh seal meat and eggs. The snow surrounding the ship was cleared away and the men now attempted to blast a channel through the ice to open water. Despite using gunpowder, progress was slow since the ice was 15 to 20 feet thick in spots. Eventually a wind came in from the northeast and helped break up the ice to the extent that the ship was finally freed on November 22, 1903. A party of six men were left ashore as the SCOTIA headed north on November 27 for refitting and a round of negotiations with the Argentinean government. She stayed briefly in Port Stanley, Falkland Islands, and arrived in Buenos Aires on Christmas Eve. The Scots negotiated with the Argentinean government to assume responsibility for continued meteorological studies at their winter quarters, named Omond House, on Laurie Island. The SCOTIA had three Argentineans aboard as she set sail for Laurie Island.
Meanwhile, extensive scientific studies on penguins were undertaken by the crew left behind at Laurie Island. When the SCOTIA arrived, the three Argentineans were left at Omond House along with meteorologist R. C. Mossman and the cook as the rest departed on its second attempt at entering the Weddell Sea.
The Antarctic Circle was crossed at 32°W longitude. The pack ice did not present itself a problem until, on the morning of March 3 at a latitude of 72°18'S, she became firmly held in its grasp. They took a sounding and discovered they were at a depth only half that assumed so Thomas Robertson climbed to the crow's nest and to everyone's surprise reported land in the distance. They finally freed themselves and the SCOTIA slowly inched her way further south until coming upon a huge ice shelf stretching in a northeasterly / southwesterly direction. They followed it southwest for 150 miles over the next ten days, taking soundings all along the way, but were never able to reach closer than 2 miles. The soundings confirmed that they had discovered a stretch of land previously unknown to mankind. They had no way of knowing if it was an island or the continent but Bruce guessed correctly when he declared it an extension of Enderby Land. He promptly named it Coats Land in honor of the two Scottish brothers who were so instrumental in the funding of the expedition. While following the new stretch of land, the SCOTIA was nearly crushed in the ice when a huge storm developed and pushed her three feet out of the water right onto the ice. When the storm died down, they discovered they had been pushed into a bight in the ice and were now at a latitude of 74°01'S proving that James Weddell, some 80 years earlier, was unlucky indeed not to have discovered the continent just to the west.
But their attention was now turned to the possibility and fear of having to spend another winter in the Antarctic. As Pirie wrote afterwards, "Had not the mental horizon been somewhat cloudy, nothing could have been finer than our situation. The air was calm, crisp, and beautifully clear, from the crow's nest one could see to the north only huge bergs--ice mast-high going floating by--and pack-ice, with every here and there a black dot where a seal or a penguin lay. To the south lay the Great Barrier, sublime and mysterious, inclining one to be in pensive mood brooding over its awful silent loneliness; but the hum of voices from the deck below, or the shouts ascending from the large floe nearby, which served for the nonce as a football field, soon brought the wandering thoughts back to the worries of our microcosmos, stranded on the edge of the chaos of ice". Fortunately, on March 12 the wind came up from the southwest and the ice began to break up which, by evening, freed the SCOTIA once again.
On April 3 hurricane-force winds hit them hard which destroyed all their work and severely punished Omond House. As Mossmon wrote, "Every wave we thought would give the finishing stroke and to all appearance there was little hope of the southern half of the house standing...We rapidly collected clothing, bedding, documents, and some other necessary articles, which were placed in the storeroom, and vacated the building. The tents were taken over to the highest point of the north beach as a precautionary measure, but owing to the strong wind could not be pitched. Soon after eight o'clock we gathered together in the magnetic hut, where we awaited the apparently inevitable demolition of the southern half of the house with a composure due doubtless to the numbing effect of the unexpected situation. Everyone was soaked to the skin". Fortunately the storm relented and no further damage occurred. The party survived during the long winter months until the URUGUAY arrived on New Year's Eve.
Log of the Scotia Expedition, 1902-4, William S. Bruce. Polar Exploration,
by William S. Bruce. The Voyage of the
Scotia, by R.N. Rudmose Brown, J.H.H. Pirie and R.C. Mossman. Antarctica;
the Extraordinary History of Man's Conquest of the Frozen Continent,
by Reader's Digest. Antarctica,
the Last Continent, by Ian Cameron. Antarctic Conquest,
the Great Explorers in Their Own Words, by Walker Chapman. The White Continent,
by Thomas R. Henry. BIBLIOGRAPHY: Antarctica; the
Extraordinary History of Man's Conquest of the Frozen Continent, by
Reader's Digest, Second Edition. Chronological List
of Antarctic Expeditions and Related Historical Events, by Robert
The Log of the Scotia Expedition, 1902-4, William S. Bruce.
Polar Exploration, by William S. Bruce.
The Voyage of the Scotia, by R.N. Rudmose Brown, J.H.H. Pirie and R.C. Mossman.
Antarctica; the Extraordinary History of Man's Conquest of the Frozen Continent, by Reader's Digest.
Antarctica, the Last Continent, by Ian Cameron.
Antarctic Conquest, the Great Explorers in Their Own Words, by Walker Chapman.
The White Continent, by Thomas R. Henry.
Antarctica; the Extraordinary History of Man's Conquest of the Frozen Continent, by Reader's Digest, Second Edition.
Chronological List of Antarctic Expeditions and Related Historical Events, by Robert K. Headland.