March 17, 2012

Sunday, 17 March 1912


"Lost track of dates, but think the last correct," Scott wrote. "Tragedy all along the line. At lunch, the day before yesterday, poor Titus Oates said he couldn't go on; he proposed we should leave him in his sleeping-bag. That we could not do, and induced him to come on, on the afternoon march. In spite of its awful nature for him he struggled on and we made a few miles. At night he was worse and we knew the end had come."

"Should this be found I want these facts recorded. Oates' last thoughts were of his Mother, but immediately before he took pride in thinking that his regiment would be pleased with the bold way in which he met his death. We can testify to his bravery. He has borne intense suffering for weeks without complaint, and to the very last was able and willing to discuss outside subjects. He did not -- would not -- give up hope to the very end. He was a brave soul. This was the end. He slept through the night before last, hoping not to wake; but he woke in the morning -- yesterday. It was blowing a blizzard. He said, 'I am just going outside and may be some time.' He went out into the blizzard and we have not seen him since." [1]

"I can only write at lunch and then only occasionally. The cold is intense, -40° at midday. My companions are unendingly cheerful, but we are all on the verge of serious frostbites, and though we constantly talk of fetching through I don't think anyone of us believes it in his heart."

"We are cold on the march now, and at all times except meals. Yesterday we had to lay up for a blizzard and to-day we move dreadfully slowly. We are at No. 14 pony camp, only two pony marches from One Ton Depôt. We leave here our theodolite, a camera, and Oates' sleeping-bags. Diaries, &c., and geological specimens carried at Wilson's special request, will be found with us or on our sledge."

On the return from One Ton, Dimitri had begun complaining that he was feeling ill, with first a headache, then a bad right arm and side so that he could hardly work. Back at Hut Point, he recovered almost immediately upon their arrival, to the astonishment of Cherry, who was on the verge of a nervous breakdown himself, from worry over Scott and especially his own companions on the Winter Journey, Wilson and Bowers. "Dimitri is quite well. It is sad that he has really been shamming ill," Cherry wrote bitterly in his diary, "it has made the last journey very bad & it is all rather disgraceful. He just hasn't got the guts." [2]


[1] R.F. Scott, diary, 16 or 17 March, 1912, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1. It is not completely clear why, if in fact Oates did say something before he left the tent, Wilson did not relay these last words to Mrs Oates.
[2] Apsley Cherry-Garrard, diary, 17 March 1912. Scott Polar Research Institute.

1 comment:

  1. Sara Wheeler, in her biography of Cherry, adds here, "In later years Cherry asked a doctor specialising in psychiatric illness about Dimitri, and the man diagnosed hysterical hemiplegia" (p.136).