6 of the fiercest one-liners in history

Finding the right words when detonating an atomic bomb or sacrificing one's life for friendship came easy for these people

R.J. Oppehnheimer
(Image credit: Bettmann/CORBIS)

1. Laurence Oats before walking into a deadly blizzard: "I am just going outside and may be some time."

In 1911, Captain Laurence Oats joined the expedition of Robert Falcon Scott to the South Pole, which they reached only to find that another explorer had beat them to it, 34 days earlier. On the trek back to base, the weather was unforgiving, falling to -47 degrees Fahrenheit. One member of the party froze to death. Then Captain Oats' feet became severely frostbitten, reducing the pace of the survivors to a lethal slowness. He demanded to be left behind so the remaining three men could have a chance of reaching the next food depot. His comrades refused. On March 17, during a blizzard, Scott recorded in his journal that Oats left the tent, saying he was, "just going outside and may be some time." He was never seen again. His brave sacrifice, sadly, did not save the lives of his friends, who died in a blizzard 12 days later, only 11 miles from their goal. Their bodies were recovered; Oates' never was. A cairn was erected with the words, "Hereabouts died a very gallant gentleman, Captain L. E. G. Oates, of the Inniskilling Dragoons. In March 1912, returning from the Pole, he walked willingly to his death in a blizzard, to try and save his comrades, beset by hardships."

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Therese O'Neill

Therese O'Neill lives in Oregon and writes for The Atlantic, Mental Floss, Jezebel, and more. She is the author of New York Times bestseller Unmentionable: The Victorian Ladies Guide to Sex, Marriage and Manners. Meet her at writerthereseoneill.com.