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Coats stories

'At home' in Antarctica

A land with our name all over it

The crew of the Scotia in Antarctica

The Scotia and crew during the Coats funded expedition, 1902-04

Many companies nowadays can genuinely claim to be multi-national with a presence across the world. But there are none that we know of who can lay claim to a part of one the most remote areas on the planet – the frozen lands of Antarctica.

‘Coats Land’ is a large region of the British Antarctic Territory named after the brothers James and Andrew Coats who, in the early 1900s, funded the first Scottish research expedition to the earth’s southernmost continent.

The Scottish National Antarctic Expedition itself was led by William Speirs Bruce, a renowned Scottish explorer of his day who turned down an offer from the English Captain Scott to join the Discovery in favour of the Coats-funded Scottish endeavour. The expedition’s ship, named the Scotia, was skippered by Captain Thomas Robertson another Scot, and businesses throughout Scotland donated supplies of food, clothes and scientific instruments to be used on the voyage.

The Scotia set sail in November 1902 and would not return until almost two years later in the summer of 1904. During that time the ship and its crew travelled widely through the then unknown and unchartered waters of the southern Antarctic, navigating dangerous icebergs and battling freezing conditions. In the winter of 1903 the ship was trapped for weeks on end when the sea froze around it and the crew was forced to make camp on the frozen ice.

The Scotia was frequently frozen during the expedition

Coats Land sighted

The first sightings of what would be named 'Coats Land' took place on 3 March 1904, when 150 foot high ice cliffs were first sighted along a new stretch of the coastline of the Antarctic continent. A log from one the ship’s crew stated: ‘Shortly after 10.00am, the Captain made one of his frequent ascents to the crow’s-nest and startled the ship with the report “land ahead”.  Bruce followed aloft and there was keen competition among the rest of us for a place in the rigging…although no actual rock masses were to be seen, there was an extensive ice barrier …’. The ferocious weather meant the crew of the Scotia never managed to set foot on the new land but its discovery was theirs.

On their return home to Scotland in July 1904, the crew received a telegram of congratulations from King Edward VII. Bruce and Captain Robertson were also awarded gold and silver medals respectively by the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, and the rest of the crew received bronze medals. Coats Land was named in recognition of the generosity and dedication of the Coats family to Scotland's polar expeditions.

A new Royal neighbour

And Coats Land now has a new Royal neighbour - none other than her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. In December 2012 it was announced that part of British Antarctic Territory has been named Queen Elizabeth Land in her honour. The previously unnamed area, which is twice the size of the UK and described as a strange and beautiful landscape of towering mountains and infinite ice, sits directly to the south of Coats Land. See map below.



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