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What did we learn from the 1910-1913 British Antarctic Expedition?

IcebergYou may have heard about recently discovered photos taken by Robert Falcon Scott during the British Antarctic Expedition from 1910 to 1913. The journey was meant to further scientific research and explore the continent of Antarctica -- which it did -- but Scott, the expedition's leader, and four others died during their return from the South Pole.

Timothy De Ver Dye, PhD, adjunct professor of public health and preventive medicine at Upstate, spent time in the Antarctic researching the expeditions of early explorers including Scott. In a Health Link on Air radio interview earlier this year, he spoke about seeing the huts used by Scott's team, still stocked with provisions in cupboards and frozen seal meat that sustained the men.

Dye's paper, "Dreadful to Behold: Frostbite on the 1910-1913 British Antarctic Expedition," focused on social factors that the men faced in the extreme environment of cold, winds and isolation. To accomplish this, he studied journals kept by all of the men, which helped explain the culture and revealed some of the social pressures.

"People don't always do what they're supposed to do, or use the equipment they're supposed to be using," Dye says. It was true 100 years ago, and it's true today. He says sometimes safety gear, such as goggles, can get in the way of your work, or wearing nonslip devices to your shoes may be perceived as uncool. For whatever the reasons, in remote environments, "people take risks, they get injured, and they're very reluctant to disclose that they're injured," Dye says. The compounding effects of injuries, which were not revealed to others, is what killed the men on Scott's expedition, he says.

Dye says some of this culture continues today, in which people want to be tough and hardy and fight the environment.

See some of the just-published photos by Robert Falcon Scott.

Read the New York Times story about the new book.

Read the American Journal of Public Health article by Timothy Dye, PhD

Listen to Dye's interview on Health Link on Air