|Grotto in an Iceberg, Scott Expedition, by Herbert Ponting|
|Lawrence Oates by Ponting|
|Ponting's portrait of Charles Seymour Wright|
|Captain Scott in His Den, by Ponting|
Ponting wasn't part of the Scott party that later set out for South Pole; after spending 14 months in the Antarctic, he returned home with a number of other men and began to prepare his images for the lecture tour Scott was going to give when he returned, after becoming the first man to reach the South Pole. The images were vital for Scott—he had borrowed considerable funds to pay for the expedition, and he expected to pay off the loans in part with a series of lectures featuring lantern slides of Ponting's work.
Scott did reach the Pole, on January 17, 1912, only to discover that a rival team led by Roald Amundsen had been there before him. He'd been slowed down because of his unwise choice to use use horses rather than dogs to pull his sleds: When the horses succumbed to the harsh environment, his men had had to haul the heavy sleds themselves. Worse, he miscalculated the amount of food the men would need. On their return from the Pole, the team began to starve. There was heroic self-sacrifice—expedition member Lawrence Oates famously walked from his tent into a blizzard saying, "I am just going outside and may be some time"—but Scott and his team nonetheless perished after making a desperate but futile dash for food supplies they had cached; their bodies were discovered in November, 1912, by a party led by Charles Seymour Wright, a member of the Terra Nova expedition not included on the dash to the Pole. Also found was Scott's diary, which became a literary sensation when it was published. Compared to the grand tragedy of Scott's words, Ponting's pictures, which instead told a story of intrepid success, were beside the point and largely ignored. Then in 1914 World War I began, and the piece of history that Ponting had recorded slipped away from view. In journalism as in art, timing is everything.