The causes of the disaster are not due to faulty organisation, but to misfortune in all risks which had to be undertaken.
1. The loss of pony transport in March 1911 obliged me to start later than I had intended, and obliged the limits of stuff transported to be narrowed.
2. The weather throughout the outward journey, and especially the long gale in 83º S., stopped us.
3. The soft snow in lower reaches of glacier again reduced pace.
We fought these untoward events with a will and conquered, but it cut into our provision reserve.
Every detail of our food supplies, clothing and depôts made on the interior ice-sheet and over that long stretch of 700 miles to the Pole and back, worked out to perfection. The advance party would have returned to the glacier in fine form and with surplus of food, but for the astonishing failure of the man whom we had least expected to fail. Edgar Evans was thought the strongest man of the party.
The Beardmore Glacier is not difficult in fine weather, but on our return we did not get a single completely fine day; this with a sick companion enormously increased our anxieties.
As I have said elsewhere we got into frightfully rough ice and Edgar Evans received a concussion of the brain – he died a natural death, but left us a shaken party with the season unduly advanced.
But all the facts above enumerated were as nothing to the surprise which awaited us on the Barrier. I maintain that our arrangements for returning were quite adequate, and that no one in the world would have expected the temperatures and surfaces which we encountered at this time of the year. On the summit in lat. 85º 86º we had -20º, -30º. On the Barrier in lat. 82º, 10,000 feet lower, we had -30º in the day, -47º at night pretty regularly, with continuous head wind during our day marches. It is clear that these circumstances come on very suddenly, and our wreck is certainly due to this sudden advent of severe weather, which does not seem to have any satisfactory cause. I do not think human beings ever came through such a month as we have come through, and we should have got through in spite of the weather but for the sickening of a second companion, Captain Oates, and a shortage of fuel in our depÙts for which I cannot account, and finally, but for the storm which has fallen on us within 11 miles of the depÙt at which we hoped to secure our final supplies. Surely misfortune could scarcely have exceeded this last blow. We arrived within 11 miles of our old One Ton Camp with fuel for one last meal and food for two days. For four days we have been unable to leave the tent – the gale howling about us. We are weak, writing is difficult, but for my own sake I do not regret this journey, which has shown that Englishmen can endure hardships, help one another, and meet death with as great a fortitude as ever in the past. We took risks, we knew we took them; things have come out against us, and therefore we have no cause for complaint, but bow to the will of Providence, determined still to do our best to the last. But if we have been willing to give our lives to this enterprise, which is for the honour of our country, I appeal to our countrymen to see that those who depend on us are properly cared for.
Had we lived, I should have had a tale to tell of the hardihood, endurance, and courage of my companions which would have stirred the heart of every Englishman. These rough notes and our dead bodies must tell the tale, but surely, surely, a great rich country like ours will see that those who are dependent on us are properly provided for.
Thanks to all involved in putting this together, it has been gripping reading for the last 18 months or so. Even though you know the outcome you still wished it was going to end differently. The hope, enthusiasm and pride in the team comes through so strongly you really do believe that they are going to do it.
I echo Matt’s comments. Particularly over the last few weeks it was as if Scott and his companions were out there now – at times, even though you knew the outcome, you almost thought they’d get through!
Its was an excellent idea – and hopefully has been a great way to kick off the centenary.
I hate to say it, but Oates waited too long! Had made his heroic exit a few days earlier it might have made a difference.
With the gift of hindsight it is easy to say this venture was doomed from the start: outdated ideas and outdated equipment even 100 years ago. But the individual bravery of each man cannot be questioned. Scott himself wrote that had the expedition succeeded then he and his men would have been quickly forgotten. But they did not succeed and they are not forgotten.
Scott was a big hero of his era and the fate of him and of his companions gives a lot of inspiration till nowadays. / But as for me Shackleton has been at the higher level in many things… /
But I don´t like Scott´s tending to accusing of his “competitors”:
1/ Shackleton – in Scott´s diaries there are lots of personal attacks against him (e.g. Scott is reproaching him “more luck” on the journey, “blue ice” on the bottom of glacier…).
A different case is Amundsen – Scott ignores him in his diary and Am. is mentioned only on the occasion of reaching the Pole. Then there is not any mention about Am. (this is understandable).
2/ Teddy Evans – it is incredible how Scott slanders him in his diary. Scott writes about “bad performances” of Evans´s team on the glacier but he does not mention that Evans and others had to “menhaul” almost from the beginning of the polar journey (!).
Very strange was Scott´s decision that Evans´s team had to go on foot (see the Scott´s command to depot ski at the beginning of January…). After few days Henry Bowers had to suffer the consequences of this “decision” (when Scott reorganized the teams).
I see in the diary a introspective indivual who maintained a delicate balance of leadership regardless of personal suffering. He made decisions despite horrendous situations. I cannot imagine the stress of caring for a brain injured comrade in the worst of conditions. Scott was poised and dignified to the end and thinking of others. Hip hip hooray Robert Falcon Scott. You will always have this American ‘s deepest appreciation and respect.
[…] Resigned to their impending doom the men penned final letters, and Scott wrote his famous Message To The Public. Scott’s summarisation of their plight in journal entries, bore no malice and appointed no […]