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Explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes has backed an urgent appeal to save negatives of photographs taken by Captain Scott on his ill-fated last polar expedition.

The Polar Museum at the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge has just weeks to raise £275,000 to avoid the prospect of the 113 negatives being sold at auction, probably to a foreign bidder.

The negatives are described as an “extraordinary visual record” of Scott’s famous 1912 Terra Nova Expedition in which he and his four companions perished on their return from being beaten to the South Pole by Norwegian Roald Amundsen.

Sir Ranulph Fiennes, who is spearheading the fund-raising campaign, said: “Scott’s negatives are of outstanding importance to the United Kingdom’s heritage and the opportunity to keep the collection intact – and in this country – cannot be lost.

“This is the only chance a museum in the United Kingdom will have to purchase the actual negatives taken by Scott on his final expedition.

“We must raise the funds by the end of March so that they can take their rightful place in Cambridge alongside the camera on which they were taken as well as the remaining Scott and Herbert Ponting prints – all of which speak so powerfully to us of the courage and sacrifice of those on the British Antarctic Expedition.”

The negatives had been in a private collection and only emerged in 2012. The museum, which has no budget for acquisitions, said this is the only chance a museum in the United Kingdom has of acquiring this extraordinary visual record.

Julian Dowdeswell, director of the Scott Polar Research Institute, said: “The best of the negatives are serious artistic achievements in their own right; the collection as a whole is a remarkable record of artistic development, quite apart from being of value to the national heritage.”

For more information on the museum appeal visit www.spri.cam.ac.uk