January 3, 2012

Wednesday, 3 January 1912


"Last night I decided to reorganise," wrote Scott, "and this morning told off Teddy Evans, Lashly, and Crean to return. They are disappointed, but take it well." [1]

"'You've got a bad cold, Crean,' said Scott. But Crean saw through him. 'I understand a half-sung song, sir.'" [2]

Scott also told Lt. Evans privately that he wanted Bowers to go on with Scott's own team. Evans recalled, "He asked me to spare Bowers from mine if I thought I could make the return journey of 750 miles short-handed; this, of course, I consented to do, and so little Bowers left us to join the Polar Party. Captain Scott said he felt I was the only person capable of piloting the last supporting party back without a sledge meter. I felt very sorry for him having to break the news to us, although I had foreseen it." [3]

"I never thought for a moment that he [Lt. Evans] would be in the final party," Bowers wrote, "but he had buoyed himself up with the idea of going till the last minute.... Poor Teddy -- I am sure it was for his wife's sake he wanted to go. He gave me a little silk flag she had given him to fly at the pole." [4]

"Bowers is to come into our tent," Scott continued, "and we proceed as a five man unit to-morrow. We have 5 1/2 units of food -- practically over a month's allowance for five people -- it ought to see us through."

"I am one of the five to go on to the Pole," Wilson wrote to his wife. "It seems too good to be true that this long journey to the Pole should be realizing itself -- we ought to be there in less than a fortnight now..... Our five are all very nice together and we shall be a happy party." [5]

"The Captain said he was satisfied we were all in good condition," wrote Lashly, "fit to do the journey, but only so many could go on, so it was his wish Mr. Evans, Crean and myself should return. He was quite aware we should have a very stiff job, but we told him we did not mind that, providing he thought they could reach the Pole with the assistance we had been able to give them. The first time I have heard we were having mules coming down to assist us next year. I was offering to remain at Hut Point, to be there if any help was needed, but the Captain said it was his and also Capt. Oates' wish if the mules arrived I was to take charge of and look after them until their return; but if they did not arrive there was no reason why I should not come to Hut Point and wait their return. We had a long talk with the owner [Scott] in our tent about things in general and he seemed pretty confident of success. He seemed a bit afraid of us getting hung up, but as he said we had a splendid navigator [Lt. Evans], who he was sure he could trust to pull us through. He also thanked us all heartily for the way we had assisted in the Journey and he should be sorry when we parted. We are of course taking the mail, but what a time before we get back to send it. We are nearly as far as Shackleton was on his Journey. I shall not write more to-night, it is too cold." [6]

Oates' last letter home was dated "The Plateau, 3rd Jan '12. Dear Mother, I have been selected to go on to the Pole with Scott as you will have seen by the papers. I am of course delighted but I am sorry I shall not be home for another year as we shall miss the ship. We shall get to the Pole alright. We are now within 50 miles of Shackleton's farthest South.

"It is pretty cold up here (9500 feet) and the work has been very heavy but it is easier now as we can ski. The last supporting party takes this home. I am now lying writing this in my bag, we had -20° last night. I am very fit indeed and have lost condition less than anyone else almost. I hope the alterations at Gestingthorpe have been carried out I mean the archway between Violet's room & my room and my gear is in the room opposite the bath room, it shd be nice in there as I can have a fire at night better than in my old one. My clothes I left in the ship for returning to Lyttleton [sic] in will be in a fearful state from damp I am afraid so I have enclosed a list of things I should like sent out for me if you will, also I enclose a note for Brujum it is about the filly. Can you please also ask Col. Boucher to send me 1/2 doz books so that I can start working for my Major's exam on the way home. These things should be addressed to the Terra Nova at Lyttleton. What a lot we shall have to talk about when I get back. God bless you & keep you well until I come home.... 4th Waiting in the tent for hoosh. We get plenty of food & as soon as we start back we have plenty in the depots. Please give my love to Violet Lilian & Eric, & mention me to Algy. I am afraid the letter I wrote you from the hut was full of grumbles but I was very anxious about setting off with those ponies." [7] He enclosed the list of clothing he wanted sent out, adding at the end tobacco, cigarettes, and a big box of caramel creams.

"My feet are giving me a bit of trouble," he confessed in his diary. "They've been continually wet since leaving Hut Point. And now walking along this hard ice [on the Beardmore] has made rather hay of them." [8]

Back at Cape Adare, the Terra Nova put in at Robertson Bay to collect the Northern Party. "I sighted her," Levick noted at 8:30 a.m., " and hoisted a flag to alert the five men in the hut." Heavy pack meant that time was short, and many of Levick's specimens had to be left behind, to his great disappointment. Campbell, however, wrote, "We were not sorry to leave that gelid desolate spot, our place of abode for so many dreary months." [9] Pennell's orders were to drop off the Northern Party at Evans Coves, and to collect from the same place Debenham's Second Western Party, around January 8th.

Gran with his mule Lal Khan at Cape Evans, date unknown. [10]

The ship also carried a new set of dogs and seven mules. Oates had earlier persuaded Scott that mules would be a better form of transport on the Barrier than ponies, specifically trained Indian Transport mules.


Since the weather was fine and the going good, Amundsen abandoned his timetable and drove twenty miles, stopped for a five-hour rest, and continued on. After the first ten miles, they picked up their line of cairns.


[1] R.F. Scott, diary, 3 January, 1912, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.
[2] Tryggve Gran, Kampen om Sydpolen, p.158, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.472.
[3] E.R.G.R. Evans, South with Scott (London : Collins, 1947), p.210, quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.482.
[4] H.R. Bowers, quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.480.
[5] E.A. Wilson, letter to Oriana Wilson, 3 January, 1912, quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.483.
[6] William Lashly, diary, 3 January, 1912, quoted by Apsley Cherry-Garrard in The Worst Journey in the World, ch.XII.
[7] L.E.G. Oates, letter, 3 January 1912, reproduced by Sue Limb and Patrick Cordingly in Captain Oates, Soldier and Explorer (London : Batsford, 1982), p.153-155. Violet and Lilian were Oates' sisters; Oates and the unmarried Violet lived with their mother in the family home at Gestingthorpe Hall, near Sudbury in Essex.
[8] L.E.G. Oates, diary, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.474.
[9] Both quoted by Katherine Lambert in The Longest Winter (Washington DC : Smithsonian Books, c2004), p.105-106.
[10] R.F. Scott, Scott's last expedition, v.2 (GoogleBooks edition), facing p.216. Note that the header on this e-book states that it is volumes 1 and 2, but is in fact only volume 2, which contains the various accounts of the Winter Journey, the Northern Party and Western Journeys, the second winter at Cape Evans, and scientific reports.

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