Doomed Expedition to the South Pole, 1912

Hotdoglegs, Going Postal
The Terra Nova

I have always been captivated and fascinated by the Scott Story, The Man, the expedition, and the tragic outcome.

We all know the story, but here it is again very briefly.

Scott’s Team set out to beat the Norwegian expedition led by Roald Amunsden.

Hotdoglegs, Going Postal
Capt Oates and Mears at the blubber stove

The two expeditions employed entirely different strategies. Amundsen relied on dogs to haul his men and supplies over the frozen Antarctic wasteland. Scott’s British team distrusted the use of dogs preferring horses, once these died from the extreme conditions the sleds were man-hauled to the Pole and back. In fact, Scott deprecated the Norwegian’s reliance on dogs. Their use was somehow a less manly approach to the adventure and certainly not representative of the English tradition of “toughing it out” under extreme circumstances.

Scott finally arrived at the Pole on January 17th 1912 only to find the Norwegians had beaten them too it, the Norwegians had arrived 4 weeks earlier on December 14th 1911, A massive psychological blow to the team in an already demoralised unit, which consisted of Capt Oates, Capt Scott P.O Evans Lt Bowers Dr Wilson.

Hotdoglegs, Going Postal
Scott at the pole, only to find the Norwegian Tent

Scott wrote in his Journal “The Norwegians have forestalled us and are first at the Pole. It is a terrible disappointment”

Hotdoglegs, Going Postal
Top Capt Oates, Capt Scott, P.O Evans Bottom Lt Bowers, Dr Watson

After the shock discovery of the Norwegians success, Scott wrote “”Now for the run home and a desperate struggle”.

The Antarctic summer was coming to an end and time was running out. As they travelled north, they were slowed by unexpected cold, blizzards and sand-like ice that made man-hauling gruelling. Forced to reduce their daily rations, they began to starve. Exhausted and suffering from frostbite, they knew they might not make it.

Death of the First team Member “Evans”

At first, they made satisfactory progress, but slowly the effects of the cold and scurvy set in. They reached the upper Beardmore depot and from here they had a five-day march with just enough rations. There was no room for manoeuvre. The weather was good, and they stopped to collect 35 pounds of geological specimens in line with the scientific motivation to their expedition. They only just made it to the next depot and by this point Evans was steadily declining. On 4 February he took a turn for the worse when he fell into a crevasse along with Scott. It is thought that Evans hit his head and suffered a concussion. Scott describes him as being ‘broken down in the brain’. On 17 February Evans stopped to tie his boots and, when he failed to catch them up, the others skied back to find him. He was found on his hands and knees in the snow. He was put on the sledge and hauled back to the tent. Evans died at 12:30 am, likely from a brain injury brought on by his fall.

They had to leave Evans Body behind and so they trudged on.

Hotdoglegs, Going Postal
Scott in the Shackleton hut prior the assault on the Pole
Hotdoglegs, Going Postal
Evans observing an Occulation of Jupiter

Death of the 2nd member of the team Member “Oates” and those famous haunting last words.

By this time, Oates was struggling very badly from the effects of frostbite. Eventually his boot had to be cut just so he could get his foot in. The effects of frostbite were severely curtailing Oates’ speed and on 15 March he told the men ‘I am going outside and may be some time’. He left the tent and walked out into a blizzard never to be seen again. He gave his life in the hope that the rest of the party would be able to move faster without him. On 21 March eleven miles from One Ton Depot the three men made their final camp. A severe blizzard prevented them from leaving their tent and they only had enough food for a couple of days and enough fuel for one hot meal. Trapped in their tent the men wrote their farewell letters to family and friends. Scott also wrote his ‘Message to the Public’ which outlined his reasons as to why the expedition had failed. He blamed it on a mixture of poor weather and bad luck. It is thought that Scott was the last of the three to perish.

On March 29, Scott recorded his final diary entry, he wrote

“Every day we have been ready to start for our depot 11 miles away, but outside the door of the tent it remains a scene of whirling drift. I do not think we can hope for any better things now. We shall stick it out to the end, but we are getting weaker, of course, and the end cannot be far. It seems a pity but I do not think I can write more. R. Scott. Last entry. For God’s sake look after our people.”

The remaining three men including Scott died of starvation and exposure in their tent on 29 March 1912. They were in fact only 20 km from a pre-arranged supply depot.

Hotdoglegs, Going Postal
Scotts last entry in his journal before he Perished

After Wintering in a hut, the rest of the original expedition team members went out look for the Scott and the rest of his Team, Less than two weeks later they found the bodies of Scott, Wilson and Bowers. They built a stone cairn over them where they lay.

Hotdoglegs, Going Postal
 

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