Now that the Age of Exploration is on hiatus, we turn inwards with fascination to both the triumphs and the failures of earlier years. One of the key focal points for exhibitions and the public are the polar expeditions of the Edwardian era, whose centenaries fall about now. The cult of anniversary has spawned a rash of new findings.
Most bizarre of all is the uncovering of the Terra Nova expedition's last photos, taken by Captain Scott. Recognised by its leader, Captain Scott, and the untimely end of its members, uncovering a new record of their exploit is surprising. The disputes over copyright can often lead to the destruction of historical records:
After two years of lectures, exhibitions, slide shows and film screenings, and a bitter clash over who owned the rights, thousands of photographs, along with Scott's images, were returned to the expedition photographer, Herbert Ponting.
The nitrate film of the collection disintegrated, but a single set of positives printed by Ponting survived, stored loose in a cardboard box. Ponting died in 1935.
The images were bought by a commercial picture agency but their true identity still went unrecognised. They resurfaced when part of the archive was sold at auction.
Now they will be shown for us. If Scott's last photos can resurface, what other treasures lie hidden in the archival depths?