The Oates Collections

The Oates Collection exhibits focus on the lives and adventures of two members of the Oates Family, both pioneers and explorers of the natural world.

Captain Lawrence Oates

Captain Lawrence Oates (1880 – 1912)

Soldier, Explorer, Hero

Captain Lawrence Oates is best remembered as the brave Antarctic hero who was chosen to be part of Captain Robert 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.

To mark the 2012 centenary of the Scott Antarctic Expedition and anniversary of the death of Captain Lawrence Oates the Lawrence Oates Gallery was redesigned.  This was made possible with a Heritage Lottery Fund ‘Your Heritage’ Grant and match funding from the United Kingdom Antarctic Trust plus many other generous donations from Trusts and individuals.

The new galleries tell the story of Oates’s early life and his distinguished service in the Boer War – where he earned the nickname “No Surrender Oates” for refusing to surrender to a much superior Boer force. Most of the space in the gallery is devoted to the story of the Scott Expedition of 1910-12. The expedition was very well documented and photographed, and the new exhibition has numerous artefacts, photographs and documents – many not seen before – from the expedition. A completely new section reflects the scientific importance and legacy of the Scott Expedition: almost all climate change science originates with the work done by Scott’s scientific team.

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Some images from the new galleries can be seen below:

The ponies

One of the many interactive features

The expedition hut

This film was produced for a student project as part of the refurbishment of the Lawrence Oates Gallery for the Scott Centenary in 2012.

Lawrence Oates owned a yacht named the Saunterer which is still in use today. Please click here to find out more The Saunterer


Frank Oates (1840 – 1875)

Frank Oates birds


Lawrence’s uncle, was fascinated by natural history from an early age, particularly the study of wild birds.  He entered Christ Church College, Oxford, to read Natural Sciences in 1860, but because of  ill-health failed to complete his studies.   In 1871 he visited the Americas in an attempt to re-establish his health.  On display in the Frank Oates Gallery is a stunning display of Central American birds collected from his travels there.  The Gallery also details his fateful journey to Africa, begun in 1873, with displays of various artefacts and specimens he collected during his trek from Durban, through Natal, Transvaal and finally to Matebeleland and the Victoria Falls.

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