On This Day 31st December 1911
Scott & Polar Team at 87º S, on 31st December 1911
Terra Nova Expedition
Tom Crean spent New Years Eve 1911 on Antarctica’s Polar Plateau, as a member of Scott’s Polar team, on a quest to reach the South Pole. At this point in time there were eight men still trudging towards the Pole, but three days later on January 3rd 1912, Scott would announce that his Polar Party would consist of five men, namely himself, Wilson, Bowers, Edgar Evans and Oates. The last support team would return to base, and it was comprised of Tom Crean, Lt. Edward Evans and Bill Lashly. They were within 150 mile of the South Pole when both parties went their separate routes on January 4th.
Below is a photograph which was taken by Bowers on the 31st of December 1911, on the Polar Plateau, at 87º S.
For more on the Terra Nova Expedition see our page, Terra Nova
Death on the ice.
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.
From – ‘Tom Crean, the Solo March and the Albert Mrdal for Lifesaving.’
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