Historic item linked to famous Polar expedition is coming up for auction

AN HISTORIC item linked to a famous Polar expedition has been discovered - and is coming up for auction.

Sunday, 24th January 2021, 2:33 pm
Updated Monday, 25th January 2021, 12:27 pm

An Edwardian silver table-cigarette box belonging to the fearless explorer and Royal Navy Officer Captain Robert Falcon Scott is attracting interest from across the world as Nesbits Auctions Ltd & John Cameron Associates, Southsea, prepares to put the item up for auction on February 3.

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The surface of the cigarette case features the motto ‘Discovery Antarctic Expedition 1901’ as well as ‘A. B. Armitage / in remembrance 1901-04.’

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British explorer Robert Falcon Scott during his doomed expedition to the Antarctic, circa 1912. Picture: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

It also is engraved with the facsimile signature of ‘Captain Falcon Scott’.

The box was discovered during a local routine probate valuation with subsequent research confirming its link to the renowned Discovery Expedition 1901-1904.

On that voyage Captain Scott was joined by Scottish Royal Navy Officer and Polar explorer Albert Borlase Armitage who was second in command and Scott’s navigator.

The historically important expedition saw them discover the Antarctic Plateau, where the South Pole is located. On this expedition, Armitage became the first person to walk on the plateau.

A cigarette case signed by famous explorer Captain Scott is coming up for auction

But a row between the competitive pair followed after Armitage - who later went on to work for P&O and had links with Portsmouth - published his memoirs of the journey before Captain Scott.

‘It is well documented that Albert Borlase Armitage was “paid off” after the Discovery Expedition, having played such an important role in getting the party to Antarctica and leading a sledging party to the Western Mountains,’ auctioneer John Cameron said.

‘Publishing his own account of the expedition before Scott's own book was released led to a row with Scott's publisher.

‘Armitage and Captain Scott met only once afterwards and it is quite possible this personally engraved silver box, also engraved with Scott’s facsimile signature, was both a peace offering and parting gift.

Auctioneer John Cameron. Picture: Chris Moorhouse

‘Whilst the expedition was widely successful, and paved the way for a full attempt at the pole, it seems likely that Armitage, like (explorer) Ernest Shackleton, who was also on the expedition, were both seen as a possible threat to upstage Scott’s own ambitions.

‘Both appear to have fallen from favour with Captain Scott following their return and were both subsequently “paid off”.

‘Certain accounts of the expedition credit Armitage with some “firsts” regarding their successes and achievements.

‘Armitage was also a short-tempered Scotsman who didn’t mind rubbing people up.’

Captain Scott Picture: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Now collectors will have the chance to get their hands on the unique item.

But no specific value has been set. ‘It is difficult to know the value,’ John said. ‘But a simple porcelain cup and saucer printed with the official crest of the expedition and souvenir from the ship recently sold at auction for £5,000.

‘There is no price for it because there is not another one like it to compare to. It is only worth what someone is prepared to pay.’

The box also has London Hallmarks for 1902 and John Evans as the maker’s mark.

The cigarette case will go online on Wednesday before its auction the following week.

Nesbits Auctions has also sold medals and memorabilia belonging to Portsmouth born Bernard James Stone, who joined Captain Scott aboard Terra Nova on his ill-fated last voyage to Antarctica between 1910-1912.

The items were bought for £12,600 by a Canadian collector.

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