The Tears Of A Giant
The Terra Nova Expedition
February 14th 1912
Tom Crean and Bill Lashly were continuing their gruelling return march from the Polar Plateau, and were hauling the gravely ill Edwards Evans on their sledge, in a desperate attempt to save his life.
Evans who had suffered from snow blindness, having removed his goggles on the descent of the Beardmore Glacier, was by now ravaged by scurvy. The previous day, unable to stand, let alone walk, he had ordered Crean and Lashly to leave him behind and save themselves, but they had refused. Instead they placed their fragile Lieutenant onto the sledge, and endeavoured to get him back to base. Evans recorded later that, during a long and distinguished naval career it was “the first and last time my orders as a naval officer were disobeyed.”
On that February 14th, Evans’ condition was so grave that when he passed out, whilst being dragged along on the sledge, the men thought he had died. Crean in particular was convinced his Lieutenant and close friend was dead.
After enduring a round trip of over 1,400 miles, both men were emotionally and physically shattered. The notion that the man they had fought so hard to save, was now lying dead before them, was a crushing blow to their spirit, and that of their desperate endeavour. Crean almost wilted, his failing yet urgent footsteps crunching forth – the only sound that conflicted with the icy monotone of the Antarctic climate, that seethed all around them. He cradled Evans in is arms, leaning over him, and the tears came. They rolled down his cheeks, momentary channels of warmth. Their passage froze white on the Irishman’s face, but the salty brine of his grief dripped onto the face of his stricken Lieutenant. The warmth of Crean’s anguish, miraculously seemed to revive Evans, and he later recalled – “His hot tears fell on my face and as I came to, I gave him a weak kind of laugh.”
No doubt the relief felt by Crean and Lashly, spurred them on to redouble their efforts, for they were still more than 90 miles from Hut Point, and it was obvious to them both that Evans was dying. The odds were still stacked against them though. Yes, they had passed the last hundred miles point, of a 1,500 mile journey, but their physical strength was starting to diminish, and rapidly so. They were extremely cold, on the verge of starvation and their navigator Evans, could no longer guide them through the vast Antarctic whiteness, that held them captive. Their’s was a desperate battle.
“14th February 1912.
Another good start after the usual preparation, we have not got much to pack, but it takes us some time, to get our invalid ready, the surface is very bad and our progress is very slow, but we have proposed to go longer hours and try to cover the distance, that is if we can stick it ourselves.”
from “The Worst Journey in the World: Antarctic 1910-1913” – Apsley Cherry-Gerrard
Quoting from the diary of William (Bill) Lashly.
Two days later however on February 16th, with Evans still managing to cling to life, their spirits were raised when Crean and Lashly spotted the distinctive features of the landscape around Hut Point. On the distant horizon, loomed Mount Erebus, only faintly discernible, but at least they now knew they had not strayed off course, they knew where to aim for, but they realised that as close at it appeared, salvation was almost out of reach.
“Mr. Evans is getting worse ….. we are almost afraid to sleep at night.”
From the Diary of Bill Lashly
Below is a link to the previous post on Crean, Evans and Lashly’s return march.