Scott's Terra Nova visits Oamaru

A snapshot of Captain Robert Falcon Scott's Antarctic party, taken as the Terra Nova was about to leave Lyttelton on the journey south in 1910. In the group are the four men who perished on their return from the South Pole: Captain Scott (1), Dr Wilson (2), Lieutenant Bowers (3) and Captain Oates (4). - Otago Witness, 19.2.1913. Copies of picture available from ODT front officer, lower Stuart St, or www.otagoimages.co.nz.
A snapshot of Captain Robert Falcon Scott's Antarctic party, taken as the Terra Nova was about to leave Lyttelton on the journey south in 1910. In the group are the four men who perished on their return from the South Pole: Captain Scott (1), Dr Wilson (2), Lieutenant Bowers (3) and Captain Oates (4). - Otago Witness, 19.2.1913. Copies of picture available from ODT front officer, lower Stuart St, or www.otagoimages.co.nz.
Oamaru (February 10): Early this morning a report was current that the Antarctic exploration vessel the Terra Nova had paid a visit to Oamaru.

At first the statement was received with incredulity, but any doubt was dispelled when the steamer Ngatoro arrived at 9 o'clock and reported having passed the Terra Nova about five miles away, passing northwards. 

About 2 a.m. a ship appeared in the offing, and Mr McKinnon, the lighthouse keeper and night watchman, thinking that the Ngatoro might have arrived earlier than expected, set the signals against her.

A reply was received that a boat was being sent ashore, and shortly afterwards a boat containing four men was discerned in the harbour, and the occupants were by signal directed to the landing at one of the wharves.

To the inquiry ''What ship,'' no reply was forthcoming, and the watchman sought information in another direction by turning his lantern on to the boat.

He was greeted with the assurance ''It is no use looking for any name there,'' and my informant tells me that if the boat had ever borne a name it had been painted out.

The watchman insisted on being given the name, and threatened to invoke the aid of the police, but he was met with a declaration that he would get no information out of them though he called in the police, the Customs officer, the harbourmaster, or anyone else that he like to call to his aid.

Then, two of the mysterious visitors stepped ashore, and the remaining two in the boat pulled off, and the vessel started out to sea.

As to the two strangers who had landed, the official told them that they could not leave until he had communicated with the harbourmaster, and this led to the information being elicited by them that the ear of the harbourmaster could be reached by telephone.

The strangers asked that they might do this themselves, and were conducted to the office telephone. Even there the watchman was denied any chance of piercing the mystery, for he was coolly told that he must go outside, as they wanted to have a private communication with the harbourmaster.

Mr M'Kinnon's response was a threat to put the men under arrest until Captain Ramsay arrived, but that threat was not put into execution.

What passed over the wire cannot be said, but the explanation was evidently satisfactory, for the sequel was that the strangers were directed to Captain Ramsay's residence. I have interviewed Captain Ramsay, who frankly admitted that the visitors were officers of the Terra Nova expedition.

I pressed for further information, but the only reply given was ''I am under a pledge of secrecy, and I must be a man and keep my word as to who they really were or what their purpose was in landing at Oamaru.''

 Christchurch (February 19): The Terra Nova has returned much earlier than was expected. It was given out that the Terra Nova would return to New Zealand some time in March, and indeed Mrs Scott, wife of the leader of the expedition, who left San Francisco a few days ago on her way out to meet her husband, confirmed that statement.

It may be, of course, that the Terra Nova on arriving at the base found the whole party waiting and everything in readiness for an immediate return.

The men who arrived from Oamaru tonight are Lieut. Pennell and Dr Atkinson. They state that nothing can be divulged about the expedition until the cable message to the Central News agency has been given 24 hours' start.

Both men looked in excellent health, but when asked as to the health of the other members of the party Lieut. Pennell said: ''I can't even tell you that. As I said before, Captain Scott is the only man who can tell you the story. Captain Scott has arranged to supply an account of the expedition to the New Zealand papers.''

When? - Well, 24 hours after it has reached London.

- ODT, 11.2.1913.