February 17, 2012

Saturday, 17 February 1912


P.O. Evans seemed a little better in the morning, and got into his harness but could not pull. "He asked Bowers to lend him a piece of string," Scott wrote. "I cautioned him to come on as quickly as he could, and he answered cheerfully as I thought. We had to push on, and the remainder of us were forced to pull very hard, sweating heavily. Abreast the Monument Rock we stopped, and seeing Evans a long way astern, I camped for lunch. There was no alarm at first." [1]

Oates recorded in his diary, "After lunch, as Evans was not up, we went back on ski for him, Scott and I leading and we found him on his hands and knees in the snow in a most pitiable condition." Evans said that he thought he must have fainted. "He was unable to walk, and the other three went back for the empty sledge and we brought him into the tent where he died at 12.30 a.m." [2]

"On discussing the symptoms," Scott went on, "we think he began to get weaker just before we reached the Pole, and that his downward path was accelerated first by the shock of his frostbitten fingers, and later by falls during rough travelling on the glacier, further by his loss of all confidence in himself. Wilson thinks it certain he must have injured his brain by a fall. It is a terrible thing to lose a companion in this way, but calm reflection shows that there could not have been a better ending to the terrible anxieties of the past week. Discussion of the situation at lunch yesterday shows us what a desperate pass we were in with a sick man on our hands at such a distance from home."


[1] R.F. Scott, diary, 17 February, 1912, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.
[2] L.E.G. Oates, diary, 17 February, 1912, quoted by Sue Limb and Patrick Cordingly in Captain Oates, Soldier and Explorer (London : Batsford, 1982), p.159.


  1. Most people seem to think it was brain injury like Wilson suggests, or even brain hemorrhage. I think it was blood poisoning from his infected wounds. He had a kind of 'brain injury' from the outset. Possessing a huge, strong body with uniquely capable hands, he was used to be able to do things that others couldn't. With his body mass he was more underfed than the others, subsisting on the same rations as them. But he never complained. Complaining wasn't in his character. He simply couldn't cope with his vulnerability.

  2. Or possibly scurvy, or a combination of a number of things. But there is little record of what he said towards the end, as I suspect that the others were being tactful. Scott's (deleted) remark of 30th January -- "which makes me much disappointed in him" -- is the beginning of hints that Evans's composure was cracking.