Terra Nova Expedition – Medal Awards Ceremony.
Buckingham Palace – July 26th, 1913.
The Terra Nova Expedition is probably better remembered for it’s tragic failures than for it’s heroic triumphs. The deaths of Scott, Wilson, Oates, Bowers and Edgar Evans on their return from the South Pole, sent shockwaves around the world, that reverberate to this very day.
They had arrived at the pole, on January 17th, 1912, to find that the Norwegian, Roald Amundsen had preceded them there over a month beforehand. It was a cruel blow, but the worst was yet to come for the polar party. Their return journey became a desperate battle for survival. One that they were destined to lose.
Misfortune and mishap would contribute to their deaths, but it was cold and hunger that ultimately killed them. Having crossed the polar plateau, and descended the Beardmore Glacier, the party had expected that the most grueling stages of their journey were behind them. Edgar Evans had died on February 17th 1912, near the foot of the Beardmore. As they progressed across the Barrier, the temperature plummeted beyond anything they could have expected. Their advancement was slowed by Oates’s frostbite, and upon reaching their depots, they discovered an alarming shortage of fuel.
Oates walked to his death on March 17th, no longer able to withstand the agonies he was enduring. It was his 32nd birthday. The temperature continued to fall and the air was deathly still. With no wind at their backs, their sledge sail was of little or no benefit to them. Not only that, but the frozen surface had become almost impossible to haul their sledge over. Gradually they weakened, and sequentially they starved and froze to death. Scott’s last diary entry was on March 29th, twelve days after the disappearance of Lawrence Oates. In that time Scott, Wilson and Bowers had only managed to cover a further 20 miles. They died in helpless limbo, 11 miles from One Ton Depot.
After the long Antarctic winter, a search party left Cape Evans on October 29th, in an attempt to uncover the fate of their comrades, whom they knew were dead. On November 12th the men found the tent containing the bodies of the Scott, Wilson and Bowers. Scott’s diaries would outline the prologue to their fate, and tell the tragic tale of the demise of Evans and Oates. Efforts to locate the body of Lawrence Oates, only yielded his discarded sleeping bag, and the party returned to base on November 25th. Continue Reading →
The Death of Captain Lawrence Oates.
Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctica, March 17th, 1912.
“Tragedy all along the line..”
“We knew that poor Oates was walking to his death, but though we tried to dissuade him, we knew it was the act of a brave man and an English gentleman. We all hope to meet the end with a similar spirit, and assuredly the end is not far.”
― from “Journals: Captain Scott’s Last Expedition (Oxford World’s Classics)”
Antarctica’s ferocious elements, enveloped the tiny camp – a solitary anomaly on the vast white landscape, of the once named Great Ice Barrier. Within the tent, huddled four men, in desperate condition and circumstance, but none more so than Lawrence Oates. None yet, as it would inevitably transpire. Tragedy was stalking all of them, and they sensed it tangibly.
Outside in the white scree noise, of the frigid weather that churned around them, it was -40º C, at midday, and they were cold to their very bones. On reaching the previous two depots the weary group had discovered that the cached oil had evaporated, and so too had dissipated their hopes of survival. Any notion that a dog team would meet the returning party, would never materialize. They were on their own.
March 17th, 1912, was Lawrence Oates’ 32nd birthday, and was the day he would walk from the tent of the doomed Polar Party, and into the annals of Antarctic heroes. “I am just going outside and may be some time”, his parting words, before disappearing into the raging blizzard. Gone. Lost forever in a desert of endless ice, that would never yield him back. His final thoughts were of his Mother, Scott had recorded. That curious maternal haunting that afflicts men, who have been afforded that moment in time, to realize that they are going to die. The mortally wounded soldiers of countless battlefields, have expelled their final breath, desperately calling for the comfort of their mothers cradling presence.
But Oates was calm and reflecting. His mother had always been the dominant character in his life, and she simply adored her Lawrie. Resigned to the fact that he was going to die, Oates would have wanted her to know, that he was thinking of her.
Captain Lawrence Oates.
A Brief Video Biography.
On March 17th 1912, the day of his 32nd birthday, Lawrence Oates walked to his death, from the tent of the returning Polar Party, and into the realm of Antarctic heroes. Oates was among a group of five men, who were on their return march from the South Pole, which they had reached on January 17th 1912. Led by Captain Scott, the group had discovered, to their dismay, that Roald Amundsen‘s Norwegian team, had been to the pole before them.
Defeated they turned for home, and their journey gradually descended into a desperate battle for survival. Edgar Evans died at the foot of the Beardmore Glacier on February 17th, and one month later, Lawrence Oates also met his untimely demise. Oates took matters into his own hands and gallantly walked to his death, deeming his afflicted presence a burden upon the survival chances of his comrades. Continue Reading →
Scott’s Southern Journey.
A Quotation by Thomas Griffith Taylor.
NOVEMBER 1st 1911
“Cherry had Michael, a steady goer, and Wilson led Nobby — the pony rescued from the killer whales in March…. Christopher, as usual, behaved like a demon. First they had to trice his front leg up tight under his shoulder, then it took five minutes to throw him. The sledge was brought up and he was harnessed in while his head was held down on the floe. Finally he rose up, still on three legs, and started off galloping as well as he was able. After several violent kicks his foreleg was released, and after more watch-spring flicks with his hind legs he set off fairly steadily. Titus can’t stop him when once he has started, and will have to do the fifteen miles in one lap probably!
Dear old Titus — that was my last memory of him. Imperturbable as ever; never hasty, never angry, but soothing that vicious animal, and determined to get the best out of most unpromising material in his endeavour to do his simple duty. Continue Reading →
The Last Place On Earth
A Central Television Production, 1985
The story itself is long over a century old, and this television production has notched three decades since its first airing. This is the story of Scott’s Terra Nova Expedition, which was well under way, and southward bound, before Roald Amundsen announced his intention to beat them to the prize, and Scott suddenly found himself a contender, as well as an expedition leader. But most of all it is the tale of two groups of brave men who had ventured into the realm of the unknown, to claim the last place unknown to man – the South Pole.
The Last Place on Earth is a 1985 Central Television seven part serial, written by Trevor Griffiths based on the book Scott and Amundsen by Roland Huntford. The book is an exploration of the expeditions of Captain Robert F. Scott (played by Martin Shaw) and his Norwegian rival in polar exploration, Roald Amundsen (played by Sverre Anker Ousdal) in their attempts to reach the South Pole.
The series ran for seven episodes and starred a wide range of UK and Norwegian character actors as well as featuring some famous names, such as Max von Sydow, Richard Wilson, Sylvester McCoy, Brian Dennehy, and Pat Roach. It also featured performances early in their careers by Bill Nighy and Hugh Grant.
Subsequently Huntford’s book was republished under the same name. The book put forth the point of view that Amundsen’s success in reaching the South Pole was abetted by much superior planning, whereas errors by Scott (notably including the reliance on man-hauling instead of sled dogs) ultimately resulted in the death of him and his companions.
The Death Of The Polar Party
Terra Nova Expedition
On the 29th of March 1912, in a blizzard battered tent on Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf, Robert Falcon Scott’s trembling frozen hand scribed his final words – “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.”*
Scott, Bowers and Wilson had been trapped in their tent for nine days, unable to strike for One Ton Depot, which as Scott had stated lay a mere 11 miles away. It must surely have haunted Scott, to know that his decision not to establish the depot where initially intended, in February of 1911, would now definitively decide the mens fate.
Had he done so, the starving, scurvy stricken men would have reached the potentially life saving cache, approximately twenty miles south of where they currently lay dying. Ironically Lawrence Oates, who had protested in vain to Scott, during that depot laying excursion, that they should forge ahead and lay the supplies at the predetermined point, walked to his death in the vicinity of the intended depot on March 17th 1912.
Prior to Oates’ tragic demise the Polar Party had lost Edgar Evans on February 17th, through a combination of scurvy and a serious concussion he had suffered when falling into a crevasse on February 4th. The three remaining men made scant progress after the disappearance of Oates, perhaps covering a further 20 agonising miles, before the adverse weather trapped them in their tent, and slowly wrought their doom.
Lawrence Oates Walks To His Death
Terra Nova Expedition
On March 17th 1912, the day of his 32nd birthday, Lawrence Oates walked to his death, from the tent of the returning Polar Party, and into the realm of Antarctic heroes. Oates had been suffering intensely and privately throughout the return march from the South Pole. It was only on March 1st 1912 that he had revealed the true and horrific extent of his condition to Scott, Wilson and Bowers.