Crean, Evans and Lashly- Return March
The Terra Nova Expedition
Less than 150 miles from the South Pole, on January 3rd, 1912, Scott decided to send Tom Crean, Bill Lashly and Lt. Edward Evans back to base, as the last supporting team, to his Polar Party.
Prior to this none of the seven men who had accompanied Scott to this point on the Polar Plateau, knew who would be among the number selected for the final leg of the journey.
Tom Crean was sorely disappointed not to have been chosen, and it must surely have rankled him, Evans and Lashly, that they were to be sent back as a three man team, instead of the usual four man unit, as Scott had decided his team would now have five members.
On January 4th the men parted company, Scott’s team heading for the Pole, and Crean, Evans and Lashly facing a 750 mile return journey. The first stage of the trek, was 230 miles across the desolate Polar Plateau, after which they descended the treacherous 120 miles of the Beardmore Glacier.
Their descent was a fraught with danger and on several occasions they diced with death, none more so than when they decided to climb aboard the sledge and plummet down the Shackleton Ice Falls, to make up for a navigational error. Miraculously the men survived the ride, somehow avoiding crevasses and rocks, and crashing to a halt in a snow bank. They had saved themselves days of arduous trekking, by not having to negotiate a route around the Falls.
By the 21st of January the men were at the bottom of the Glacier, with perhaps the most difficult aspects of the journey behind them, certainly terrain-wise. They still had to trek 400 miles across the barrier, at the mercy of the temperature and unpredictable weather, whilst all the time facing near starvation.
It was at this time that Edward Evans began showing clear signs of scurvy, brought on as a result of the poor quality and quantity of the mens rations. By early February they had made good progress but Evans’ condition was in rapid decline, and he was soon unable to pull the sledge.
From the Diary of Bill Lashly
“11th February 1912.
To-day we built a cairn and left all our gear we could do without, as it is impossible for us to drag the load now, and Mr. Evans we think is doing well as long as he can keep on his legs. We have had a very bad light all day, and to-night we have a bliz on us, so we had to camp early. Our day’s run has been 11 miles. We are now about 99 miles from our base.”
― from “The Worst Journey in the World: Antarctic 1910-1913” – Apsley Cherry-Garrard.
The efforts of Lashly and Crean, now a two-man sledge team, were at this point, simply mammoth. Against all odds they laboured forward, with Evans barely and gallantly managing to keep apace, and somehow they achieved distances of up to 12 miles a day. On February 11th 1912, as Evans worsened, Crean and Lashly, weakened by their efforts and lack of sustenance, decided to jettison all surplus equipment from the sledge in an effort to lighten the labour of hauling it.