OATES

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In the same build­ing as Gil­bert White’s House is the Oates Col­lec­tion – a fo­cus on the lives and ad­ven­tures of two mem­bers of the Oates Fam­ily, both pi­o­neers and ex­plor­ers of the nat­u­ral world. Cap­tain Lawrence Oates (1880-1912) is best re­mem­bered as the brave Antarc­tic hero who was cho­sen to be part of Scott’s team to un­der­take the epic jour­ney of dis­cov­ery to the South Pole 1911-12. The sci­en­tific ex­pe­di­tion be­came, to an ex­tent, a race for the pole when the ex­plor­ers learnt of the pres­ence of the Nor­we­gian team led by Amund­sen. Scott’s team suf­fered in­ad­e­quate food sup­plies, se­vere weather con­di­tions and fail­ing health, so Oates sac­ri­ficed his life in the hope of sav­ing his com­rades, leav­ing the tent in a ter­ri­ble bliz­zard with the fa­mous last words “I am just go­ing out­side and may be some time”. His body has never been found. Frank Oates (1840-1875), un­cle of Cap­tain Lawrence Oates, is the third of the ex­plor­ers of the nat­u­ral world com­mem­o­rated at Sel­borne. Like other mem­bers of the Oates fam­ily, Frank liked a chal­lenge. In 1873 Oates set off on a ma­jor ex­pe­di­tion to ex­plore the un­known ter­ri­tory north of the Zambesi River. Dur­ing this trip he recorded and col­lected pre­vi­ously un­known species of trees and wildlife in Mata­bele­land. His name – and im­por­tance to sci­ence – is com­mem­o­rated in the sci­en­tific name given to these var­i­ous species, of oate­sii. On 31st De­cem­ber, 1874, he reached the Victoria Falls, prob­a­bly the first Euro­pean to see them since David Liv­ing­stone. It was, he recorded in his di­ary, “a day never to be for­got­ten”. On the jour­ney home, he fell ill and died of fever on 5th Fe­bru­ary 1874. Frank Oates’ book Mata­bele Land and the Victoria Falls; A Nat­u­ral­ist’s Wan­der­ings in the In­te­rior of South Africa was pub­lished in 1881.

FERN-OWL Tele­phone: email: Cap­tain Lawrence Oates

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