Crean, Evans & Lashly – Return March From The Polar Plateau
Terra Nova Expedition
February 13th 1912
By February 13th 1912, Crean, Evans and Lashly had completed almost 650 miles of their return march, from the Polar Plateau. Yet they were still over 100 miles from Hut Point and Edward Evans was perilously close to death.
Tom Crean and Bill Lashly had been hauling their sledge along the Barrier for days, as the afflicted Evans had dropped out of the harness, barely able to walk. The scurvy symptoms which were first evident in Evans during the descent of the Beardmore Glacier, had rapidly progressed , to the point where, on February 13th, he was passing blood, and unable to walk.
Evans knew he was dying and felt that the burden of his condition would only hinder Lashly and Crean’s chances of survival, so he issued an order for the two men to proceed, and leave him behind.
This was an order the two men refused to obey, and instead they lifted the Lieutenant onto the sledge, made him as comfortable as possible, and resumed the drag forward. “We shall stand by him to the end one way or other, so we are the masters to-day. He has got to do as we wish and we hope to pull him through,” Lashly had noted in his diary.
The selflessness and determination of both Crean and Lashly, to save the life of their comrade was truly staggering. And despite his condition, Evans also came to the aid of his comrades too. That morning Lashly had decided to change his socks, and had got one of his feet badly frostbitten in the process. Evans suggested that Lashly should place the frozen foot on his stomach. Lashly was hesitant, but eventually agreed to give it a try. His ability to walk was paramount to all their survival chances, after all. It worked. Evans’ body heat had succeeded in bring the foot around. “I shall never forget the kindness bestowed on me at a critical time in our travels,” Lashly said of Evans’ gesture.
The men were cold, hungry and exhausted, having hauled their sledge the entirety of their journey, with only three of them in the harness, instead of the usual four. But at this stage it was only Crean and Lashly doing the hauling, they had the added weight of Evans to pull, and the real danger was that they would not reach their food depots in time. In an effort to remedy this, the two men extended their daily marches, in the hope of covering the required distances.
Evans later noted that as he lay on the sledge, he noticed “..the wild and roaming eyes”, of Crean and Lashly, as they gasped with exhaustion at the end of one days hauling.
“We then pull the sledge alongside his bag and lift him on to it and strap him on. It is a painful piece of work and he takes it pretty well, but we can’t help hurting him, as it is very awkward to lift him, the snow being soft and the light so bad, but he dont complain. The only thing we hear him grind his teeth.”
― from “The Worst Journey in the World: Antarctic 1910-1913” – Apsley Cherry-Garrard (Quoting the diary of William Lashly).
The Worst Journey in the World: Antarctic 1910-1913″ – Apsley Cherry-Garrard
Quotations cited from the diary of William (Bill) Lashly, taken from The Worst Journey in the World: Antarctic 1910-1913″ – Apsley Cherry-Garrard
Why were Crean and Lashly not badly affected by scurvy?
Much speculation has arisen over the years, as to why Edwards Evans developed scurvy to such an alarming degree, whilst Crean and Lashly, who shared the same meagre and inadequate rations, were much less affected.
The most likely answer seems to stem from Edward Evans’ dislike of seal meat, and in particular seal liver, which is a rich source of Vitamin C. During the winter months of confinement most of the men ate the seal meat on offer, but it seems Evans did his best to avoid consuming it, thus denying himself a rich source of Vitamin C.
To be continued – Below is a link to the previous article about Crean, Evans and Lashly’s return march.
Below is a link to the next article about Crean, Evans and Lashly’s return march.