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Gallery: Captain Oates’ sledge goes on display at museum

10:15 09 January 2014

Prototype Sledge for Captain Oates ill fated polar expedition made at Ransomes and Rapier of Ipswich. 
Cllr Bryony Rudkin, former Olympian Lenny Paul and Cllr Alistair Ross

Prototype Sledge for Captain Oates ill fated polar expedition made at Ransomes and Rapier of Ipswich. Cllr Bryony Rudkin, former Olympian Lenny Paul and Cllr Alistair Ross

A link with one of the most glorious – and tragic – true-life British adventures of the 20th century has gone on show at Ipswich Museum.

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A sledge ordered by Captain Lawrence Oates before he took part in Captain Robert Scott’s ill-fated journey to the South Pole in 1911/12 has been put on display.

The sledge was made by Ipswich engineers Ransomes and Rapier, and was one of two that were ordered by Capt. Oates before he left on the expedition.

He decided to take his other sledge to the Antarctic – possibly because it was not quite as long as the one made by R&R – and that was abandoned when the party died near the South Pole.

Capt. Oates’ family lived at Gestingthorpe near Sudbury and after the tragdy in the Antarctic they donated the spare sledge to Ipswich Museum.

The British expedition arrived at the South Pole in January 1912, only to find that Nowegian explorer Roald Amundsen had beaten them to it by a few days.

On their way back to their ship their supplies became exhausted and the five-man team perished.

Diaries left by them revealed that Capt. Oates had been suffering from frostbite and illness and as they huddled in a tent he told his comrades: “I am going out, I may be some time.” He never returned – and his body has never been found.

Tragically the other four members of the team also died before a rescue team arrived to find them.

The sledge was put on display at the museum yesterday with the help of a more modern British “Ice Age” hero – bobsleigher Lenny Paul.

He took part in four Winter Olympics between 1988 and 1998, and said: “This is rather different from what we used, although you can seen certain similarities with the construction.

“When bobsleigh started it was an eight-person team and I can see how it evolved from a sledge like this.”

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