On This Day – March 9th 1912

Scott arrives at Mount Hooper Depot

Terra Nova Expedition

Scott’s Journal – March 8th, 1912.

“The great question is, What shall we find at the depôt? If the dogs have visited it we may get along a good distance, but if there is another short allowance of fuel, God help us indeed. We are in a very bad way, I fear, in any case.”

― from “Journals: Captain Scott’s Last Expedition (Oxford World’s Classics)”

On the 9th of March 1912, Scott, Oates, Bowers and Wilson arrived at the Mount Hooper Depot, on their homeward march from the South Pole. At this point in their journey, Edgar Evans had died near the foot of the Beardmore Glacier on February 17th, and as the four remaining men had continued their struggle across the Barrier, they were subject to some of coldest and most severe weather conditions ever recorded in the area.

Scott had outlined in his journal, the difficulties they had encountered trying to haul the sledge across the ice shelf, and compared it to dragging over desert sands. The normally icy surface had become covered in crystallised snow, which caused friction beneath the sledges runners, and this had seriously slowed their progression.

Returning From The Pole

Returning From The Pole

To add to the mens woes, the Mount Hooper depot had not been restocked, and they discovered that there was a serious shortage of oil, as had been the case when they had reached the Mid-Barrier Depot on March 1st, as most of the supply had evaporated. It was a crushing blow to the men. With unseasonably low temperatures plummeting to as low as -40º C, the shortfall in oil was critical. It would deny the men the ability to prepare the necessary hot meals that their situation demanded, and left them with no means to melt ice for drinking water.

The party had also held out hope that they would encounter the dog teams, which would have been their salvation, but due to a prior order from Scott, not to risk the dogs unnecessarily, no relief team had ventured past One Ton Depot. Scott had initially hoped to spare the dogs for further sledging expeditions the following season, but had changed his mind when sending back Crean, Evans and Lashly as the last supporting team, 150 miles from Pole.
He had then issued Edward Evans with the instruction that Meares and the dog teams were to meet the returning Polar Party between latitude 82º S and 83º S, which was farther south than previously arranged.

In the ensuing drama with Evans almost dying on the return, save for the heroics of Crean and Lashly, and then being sent to recover in New Zealand aboard the Terra Nova, shortly afterwards, the message appears to have never got through.

“Shortage on our allowance all round” Scott had wrote as the realisation dawned on him that no rescue was coming, and they were on their own, failing fast and critically short of food and fuel.

On March 1st Lawrence Oates had revealed the horrific extent of his frostbitten and gangrenous feet, to Scott. His condition, along with the tortuous conditions for sledge hauling had greatly slowed the returning team. All of the men were suffering from scurvy but Oates also had the added complication of a previous war wound on his thigh, picked up serving in South Africa, which was now reopening.
Scar tissue needs vitamin C to bind it, and due to the deficiencies, Oates’ scar began to dissolve and the wound reopened, to add to his suffering. Scott had noted in his journal, on March 8th, that Oates would never pull through.

Scott’s Journal – March 10th 1912

“Yesterday we marched up the depôt, Mt. Hooper. Cold comfort. Shortage on our allowance all round. I don’t know that anyone is to blame. The dogs which would have been our salvation have evidently failed. Meares had a bad trip home I suppose.”

― from “Journals: Captain Scott’s Last Expedition (Oxford World’s Classics)”

Terra Nova Expedition – Route Map

Terra Nova Expedition Route Map

Terra Nova Expedition Route Map

Source – With Scott To The Pole

On This Day – February 19th 1912

2 Replies to “On This Day – March 9th 1912”

  1. Pingback: On This Day – March 17th 1912 | Tom Crean

  2. Pingback: Roald Amundsen | Tom Crean

Leave a Reply