March 23, 2012

Saturday, 23 March 1912


"Blizzard bad as ever, "Scott wrote in his diary, "Wilson and Bowers unable to start -- to-morrow last chance -- no fuel and only one or two of food left -- must be near the end. Have decided it shall be natural -- we shall march for the depot with or without our effects and die in our tracks." [1]

Scott continued to write letters, among them to Sir Frances Charles Bridgeman, his last naval chief ("I fear we have shipped up; a close shave; I am writing a few letters which I hope will be delivered some day. I want to thank you for the friendship you gave me of late years, and to tell you how extraordinarily pleasant I found it to serve under you. I want to tell you that I was not too old for this job. It was the younger men that went under first… After all we are setting a good example to our countrymen, if not by getting into a tight place, by facing it like men when we were there. We could have come through had we neglected the sick. Good-bye, and good-bye to dear Lady Bridgeman. Excuse writing -- it is -40°, and has been for nigh a month") and to Sir George Le Clearc Egerton, his naval patron ("I fear we have shot our bolt -- but we have been to Pole and done the longest journey on record. I hope these letters may find their destination some day. Subsidiary reasons of our failure to return are due to the sickness of different members of the party, but the real thing that has stopped us is the awful weather and unexpected cold towards the end of the journey. This traverse of the Barrier has been quite three times as severe as any experience we had on the summit. There is no accounting for it, but the result has thrown out my calculations, and here we are little more than 100 miles from the base and petering out. Good-bye. Please see my widow is looked after as far as Admiralty is concerned. My kindest regards to Lady Egerton. I can never forget all your kindness").

To Sir James Barrie, he wrote, "My dear Barrie, We are pegging out in a very comfortless spot. Hoping this letter may be found and sent to you, I write a word of farewell.... More practically I want you to help my widow and my boy -- your godson. We are showing that Englishmen can still die with a bold spirit, fighting it out to the end. It will be known that we have accomplished our object in reaching the Pole, and that we have done everything possible, even to sacrificing ourselves in order to save sick companions. I think this makes an example for Englishmen of the future, and that the country ought to help those who are left behind to mourn us. I leave my poor girl and your godson, Wilson leaves a widow, and Edgar Evans also a widow in humble circumstances. Do what you can to get their claims recognised. Goodbye. I am not at all afraid of the end, but sad to miss many a humble pleasure which I had planned for the future on our long marches. I may not have proved a great explorer, but we have done the greatest march ever made and come very near to great success. Goodbye, my dear friend,

Yours ever,
R. Scott."

He added two postscripts to this letter. "We are in a desperate state, feet frozen, &c. No fuel and a long way from food, but it would do your heart good to be in our tent, to hear our songs and the cheery conversation as to what we will do when we get to Hut Point."

"Later. -- We are very near the end, but have not and will not lose our good cheer. We have four days of storm in our tent and nowhere's food or fuel. We did intend to finish ourselves when things proved like this, but we have decided to die naturally in the track. As a dying man, my dear friend, be good to my wife and child. Give the boy a chance in life if the State won't do it. He ought to have good stuff in him.... I never met a man in my life whom I admired and loved more than you, but I never could show you how much your friendship meant to me, for you had much to give and I nothing." [2]

To his brother-in-law, who managed the family finances, he wrote, "I leave you in the lurch, but without intention as you know.... I left my money, about £2,000 to Mother. Other money ought to come in. See Speyer and talk over Kathleen's rights. You have been a brick." [3]

Bowers wrote a letter to his mother: "My own dearest Mother ... We have had a terrible journey back. Seaman Evans died on the glacier & Oates left us the other day. We have had terribly low temperatures on the Barrier & that & our sick companions have delayed us till too late in the season which has made us very short of fuel & we are now out of food as well. Each depot has been a harder struggle to reach but I am still strong & hope to reach this one with Dr Wilson & get the food & fuel necessary for our lives. God alone knows what will be the outcome of the 23 miles march but my trust is still in Him & the abounding grace of my Lord & Saviour whom you brought me up to trust in & who has been the stay of my life. In His keeping I leave you & am only glad that I am permitted to struggle on to the end. When man's extremity is reached God's help may put things right -- although the end will be painless enough for myself I would so like to come through for your dear sake. It is splendid to pass however with such companions.... Oh how I do feel for you when you hear all. You will know that for me the end was peaceful as it is only sleep in the cold. Your ever loving son to the end of this life & the next where God shall wipe away all tears from our eyes." He added, "My gear that is not in the ship is at Mrs Hatfields, Marine Hotel, Sumner, New Zealand." [4]


[1] R.F. Scott, diary, 22 and 23 March, 1912, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.
[2] R.F. Scott, letters, March, 1912, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.
[3] R.F. Scott, letter to Sir William Ellison-Macartney, [date not given], quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.543.
] H.R. Bowers, letter to his mother, [date not given or not known], quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.544.

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