March 30, 2012

Saturday, 30 March 1912


Faced with gales and drift, Atkinson and Keohane decided to turn back. They had collected Lt. Evans's sledge and got to Corner Camp.

"Taking into consideration the weather and temperatures and the time of the year," Atkinson wrote later in his report, "and the hopelessness of finding the party except at any definite point like a depôt, I decided to return from here. We depôted the major portion of a week's provisions to enable them to communicate with Hut Point in case they should reach this point. At this date in my own mind I was morally certain that the party had perished." [1]


[1] Edward Atkinson, quoted in Scott's last expedition, v.2 (GoogleBooks edition), p.211.

March 29, 2012

Friday, 29 March 1912


In his last diary entry, Scott wrote, "Since the 21st we have had a continuous gale from W.S.W. and S.W. We had fuel to make two cups of tea apiece and bare food for two days on the 20th. Every day we have been ready to start for our depot 11 miles away, but outside the door of the tent it remains a scene of whirling drift. I do not think we can hope for any better things now. We shall stick it out to the end, but we are getting weaker, of course, and the end cannot be far."

"It seems a pity, but I do not think I can write more. R. Scott."

"For God's sake look after our people." [1]


[1] R.F. Scott, diary, 29 March, 1912, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.

March 26, 2012

Tuesday, 26 March 1912


Atkinson and Keohane left from Hut Point on a last-ditch effort to reach Scott and the Polar party. Neither of them had driven dogs before, and Atkinson felt that it would be cruel to take the dogs out again so soon after their journey with Cherry and Dimitri, so he and Keohane went on foot.

They knew that Scott's original plan had the Polar party returning around 27th March, and although they tried in this light not to worry, the strain was beginning to tell. The dogs would sing out, and the men would be sure a party was approaching. "Last night we had turned in about two hours," Cherry wrote, "when five or six knocks were hit on the little window over our heads. Atkinson shouted 'Hullo!' and cried, 'Cherry, they're in.' Keohane said, 'Who's cook?' Some one lit a candle and left it in the far corner of the hut to give them light, and we all rushed out. But there was no one there. It was the nearest approach to ghost work that I have ever heard, and it must have been a dog which sleeps in that window. He must have shaken himself, hitting the window with his tail. Atkinson thought he heard footsteps!" [1]


[1] Apsley Cherry-Garrard, diary [26? March, 1912], quoted in his The Worst Journey in the World, ch.XIII.

March 24, 2012

Sunday, 24 March 1912


To Sir Joseph Kinsey, Scott wrote, "March 24th, 1912. My dear Kinsey, I'm afraid we are pretty well done -- four days of blizzard just as we were getting to the last depot. My thoughts have been with you often. You have been a brick. You will pull the expedition through, I'm sure. My thoughts are for my wife and boy. Will you do what you can for them if the country won't. I want the boy to have a good chance in the world, but you know the circumstances well enough."

"If I knew the wife and boy were in safe keeping I should have little regret in leaving the world, for I feel that the country need not be ashamed of us -- our journey has been the biggest on record, and nothing but the most exceptional hard luck at the end would have caused us to fail to return. We have been to the S. pole as we set out. God bless you and dear Mrs. Kinsey. It is good to remember you and your kindness. Your friend, R. Scott." [1]

He also outlined, in a paper titled, "Message to the Public", an outline of his defence of the expedition. "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 83° 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. 85° 86° we had -20°, -30°. On the Barrier in lat. 82°, 10,000 feet lower, we had -30° in the day, -47° 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 depôts for which I cannot account, and finally, but for the storm which has fallen on us within 11 miles of the depôt 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." [2]

To Bowers's mother, Scott wrote, "I am afraid this will reach you after one of the heaviest blows of your life. I write when we are very near the end of our journey, and I am finishing it in company with two gallant, noble gentlemen. One of these is your son. He had come to be one of my closest and soundest friends, and I appreciate his wonderful upright nature, his ability and energy. As the troubles have thickened his dauntless spirit ever shone brighter and he has remained cheerful, hopeful, and indomitable to the end. The ways of Providence are inscrutable, but there must be some reason why such a young, vigorous and promising life is taken. My whole heart goes outin pity for you. Yours, R. Scott. To the end he has talked of you and his sisters. One sees what a happy home he must have had and perhaps it is well to look back on nothing but happiness. He remains unselfish, self-reliant and splendidly hopeful to the end, believing in God's mercy to you."

To Wilson's wife, Scott wrote, "If this letter reaches you Bill and I will have gone out together. We are very near it now and I should like you to know how splendid he was at the end -- everlastingly cheerful and ready to sacrifice himself for others, never a word of blame to me for leading him into this mess. He is not suffering, luckily, at least only minor discomforts."

"His eyes have a comfortable blue look of hope and his mind is peaceful with the satisfaction of his faith in regarding himself as part of the great scheme of the Almighty. I can do no more to comfort you than to tell you that he died as he lived, a brave, true man -- the best of comrades and staunchest of friends. My whole heart goes out to you in pity."

To Kathleen, he wrote in part, "Make the boy interested in natural history if you can; it is better than games; they encourage it at some schools. I know you will keep him in the open air. Above all, he must guard and you must guard him against indolence. Make him a strenuous man. I had to force myself into being strenuous as you know -- had always an inclination to be idle."

"There is a piece of the Union Jack I put up at the South Pole in my private kit bag, together with Amundsen's black flag and other trifles. Send a small piece of the Union Jack to the King and a small piece to Queen Alexandra."

"What lots and lots I could tell you of this journey. How much better has it been than lounging in too great comfort at home. What tales you would have for the boys. But what a price to pay. Tell Sir Clements -- I thought much of him and never regretted him putting me in command of the Discovery." [3]


[1] R.F. Scott, letter to Sir Joseph Kinsey, 24 March, 1912, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.
[2] R.F. Scott, "Message to the Public" (undated, March 1912), quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.
[3] R.F. Scott, letters to unnamed recipients, March 1912), quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.

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.

March 21, 2012

Thursday, 21 March 1912


"Got within 11 miles of depôt Monday night [at Camp 60]; had to lay up all yesterday in severe blizzard. To-day forlorn hope, Wilson and Bowers going to depot for fuel." [1]

They were ten miles north of the point at which Scott had been urged to take the depot.


Amundsen left Hobart for the mainland to begin a lecture tour of Australia and New Zealand.


[1] R.F. Scott, diary, 21 March, 1912, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition : the Journals, v.1.

March 20, 2012

Wednesday, 20 March 1912


Albert Armitage, who had been Scott's second-in-command on the Discovery expedition, wrote to Nansen, with "heartiest congratulations" on Amundsen's success. "It proves once more the value of practical experience & logical reasoning.... I fear that Scott, with his dislike for Ski, to say nothing else, will find great difficulty in reaching his goal.... I see that Amundsen intends making the Bering Sea passage across the North Pole, and I sincerely hope that he will be as fully successful as in the South." [1]

The Fram left Hobart for Buenos Aires to be refitted for the Arctic drift, set to begin in 1913.


[1] Albert Armitage, letter to Fridtjof Nansen, 20 March, 1912, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.542.

March 19, 2012

Tuesday, 19 March 1912


"Sledge dreadfully heavy," Scott wrote tersely. "We are 15 1/2 miles from the depot and ought to get there in three days. What progress! We have two days' food but barely a day's fuel. All our feet are getting bad -- Wilson's best, my right foot worst, left all right. There is no chance to nurse one's feet till we can get hot food into us. Amputation is the least I can hope for now, but will the trouble spread?" [1]


[1] R.F. Scott, diary, 19 March, 1912, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.

March 18, 2012

Monday, 18 March 1912


"My right foot has gone," Scott wrote, "nearly all the toes -- two days ago I was proud possessor of best feet. These are the steps of my downfall. Like an ass I mixed a small spoonful of curry powder with my melted pemmican -- it gave me violent indigestion. I lay awake and in pain all night; woke and felt done on the march; foot went and I didn't know it. A very small measure of neglect and have a foot which is not pleasant to contemplate. Bowers takes first place in condition, but there is not much to choose after all. The others are still confident of getting through -- or pretend to be -- I don't know! We have the last half fill of oil in our primus and a very small quantity of spirit -- this alone between us and thirst. The wind is fair for the moment, and that is perhaps a fact to help. The mileage would have seemed ridiculously small on our outward journey." [1]


Publisher William Heinemann, writing to Nansen, thought that Amundsen's story in The Daily Chronicle was dull. "I am disappointed with the want of imagination he displays ... in even so thrilling a thing as his achievement.... I cannot help feeling that however great Amundsen's feat is, he is not likely to write a good book." [2]


[1] R.F. Scott, diary, 18 March, 1912, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.
[2] William Heinemann, letter to Fridtjof Nansen, 18 March, 1912, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.552.

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.

March 16, 2012

Saturday, 16 March 1912


Scott, realising by now that there was little hope for them, began to write letters, one of the earliest to Sir Edgar Speyer, the expedition's treasurer.

"Dated March 16, 1912. Lat. 79.5°.

"I hope this may reach you. I fear we must go and that it leaves the Expedition in a bad muddle. But we have been to the Pole and we shall die like gentlemen. I regret only for the women we leave behind.

I thank you a thousand times for your help and support and your generous kindness. If this diary is found it will show how we stuck by dying companions and fought the thing out well to the end. I think this will show that the Spirit of pluck and power to endure has not passed out of our race …

"Wilson, the best fellow that ever stepped, has sacrificed himself again and again to the sick men of the party …

"I write to many friends hoping the letters will reach them some time after we are found next year.

"We very nearly came through, and it's a pity to have missed it, but lately I have felt that we have overshot our mark. No one is to blame and I hope no attempt will be made to suggest that we have lacked support.

"Good-bye to you and your dear kind wife.

                Yours ever sincerely,
                        R. Scott."

Cherry and Dimitri arrived back at Hut Point. Atkinson and Keohane were waiting for them, but until the sea froze, they were unable to get back to Cape Evans.


[1] R.F. Scott, letter to Sir Edgar Speyer, 16 March, 1912, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.

March 15, 2012

Friday, 15 March 1912


"Johansen is beginning to go 'boozing'," Hassel had recorded in his diary a few days earlier. "Now he wants to go home from here. He spoke to Amundsen this morning about it. It appears that he got permission to go." [1]

Amundsen noted tersely, "Paid off Johansen today who could not possibly remain on board any longer." [2]


[1] Sverre Hassel, diary, 12 March, 1912, in Dagboksnotater fra Sydpolen (Skien : Vågemots miniforlag, 1997), p.11.
[2] Roald Amundsen, diary, 15 March, 1912, quoted by Tor Bomann-Larsen in Roald Amundsen (Stroud, Gloucestershire : Sutton, c2006, c1995), p.113.

March 14, 2012

Thursday, 14 March 1912


"Poor Wilson horribly cold, could not get off ski for some time," Scott wrote. "Bowers and I practically made camp, and when we got into the tent at last we were all deadly cold. Then temp, now midday down -43° and the wind strong. We must go on, but now the making of every camp must be more difficult and dangerous. It must be near the end, but a pretty merciful end. Poor Oates got it again in the foot. I shudder to think what it will be like to-morrow. It is only with greatest pains rest of us keep off frostbites. No idea there could be temperatures like this at this time of year with such winds. Truly awful outside the tent. Must fight it out to the last biscuit, but can't reduce rations." [1]


[1] R.F. Scott, diary, 14 March, 1912, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.

March 12, 2012

Tuesday, 12 March 1912


"Things are left much the same," Scott wrote, "Oates not pulling much, and now with hands as well as feet pretty well useless. We did 4 miles this morning in 4 hours 20 min. -- we may hope for 3 this afternoon, 7 × 6 = 42. We shall be 47 miles from the depot. I doubt if we can possibly do it. The surface remains awful, the cold intense, and our physical condition running down. God help us! Not a breath of favourable wind for more than a week, and apparently liable to head winds at any moment." [1]


[1] R.F. Scott, diary, 12 March, 1912, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.

March 11, 2012

Monday, 11 March 1912


"Titus Oates is very near the end, one feels," Scott wrote. "What we or he will do, God only knows. We discussed the matter after breakfast; he is a brave fine fellow and understands the situation, but he practically asked for advice. Nothing could be said but to urge him to march as long as he could. One satisfactory result to the discussion; I practically ordered Wilson to hand over the means of ending our troubles to us, so that anyone of us may know how to do so. Wilson had no choice between doing so and our ransacking the medicine case. We have 30 opium tabloids apiece and he is left with a tube of morphine. So far the tragical side of our story." [1]

"The sky completely overcast when we started this morning. We could see nothing, lost the tracks, and doubtless have been swaying a good deal since -- 3.1 miles for the forenoon -- terribly heavy dragging -- expected it. Know that 6 miles is about the limit of our endurance now, if we get no help from wind or surfaces. We have 7 days' food and should be about 55 miles from One Ton Camp to-night, 6 × 7 = 42, leaving us 13 miles short of our distance, even if things get no worse."


The Daily Chronicle published a letter from Nansen defending Amundsen. "[He] had set his course, as he had determined, and without looking back.... It was foggy day after day, week after week -- the charitable fog of mediocrities in which all that is high and great is shrouded, when all at once ... a new message came. Men stop, look up, and there, high above them shines a deed, a man.... It is unique as a deed, as a voyage of discovery, and in results; and told so simply, as if it were of an Easter pleasure trip on the mountains. And yet what does it not convey of a sage, well-laid plan, and splendid execution of determined courage, endurance and manly power!" [2]


[1] R.F. Scott, diary, 11 March, 1912, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.
[2] Daily Chronicle, 11 March, 1912, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.547-548.

March 10, 2012

Sunday, 10 March 1912


"Things steadily downhill," Scott wrote. "Oates' foot worse. He has rare pluck and must know that he can never get through. He asked Wilson if he had a chance this morning, and of course Bill had to say he didn't know. In point of fact he has none. Apart from him, if he went under now, I doubt whether we could get through. With great care we might have a dog's chance, but no more. The weather conditions are awful, and our gear gets steadily more icy and difficult to manage. At the same time of course poor Titus is the greatest handicap. He keeps us waiting in the morning until we have partly lost the warming effect of our good breakfast, when the only wise policy is to be up and away at once; again at lunch. Poor chap! it is too pathetic to watch him; one cannot but try to cheer him up." [1]

"Yesterday we marched up the depot, Mt. Hooper. Cold comfort. Shortage on our allowance all round." Having had Meares and the dogs go further than planned in November, and the last-minute decision to take five men to the pole instead of four, had meant that the returning parties passing the depot earlier had been forced to break into rations and redistribute them; Scott seemed now not to remember this, and wrote in his diary, "I don't know that anyone is to blame -- but generosity & thoughtfulness have not been abundant -- The dogs which would have been our salvation have evidently failed. Meares had a bad trip home I suppose. -- It's a miserable jumble."

With no sign of the Polar party at One Ton, Cherry-Garrard and Dimitri turned back for Cape Evans.


[1] R.F. Scott, diary, 10 March, 1912, quoted by Roland Huntford in Race for the South Pole : the expedition diaries of Scott and Amundsen (London : Continuum, c2010), p.292. The two asides in the second paragraph quoted here -- "generosity & thoughtfulness have not been abundant" and "It's a miserable jumble" -- were deleted from the published edition of Scott's diary.

March 8, 2012

Friday, 8 March 1912


"Worse and worse in morning," Scott wrote, "poor Oates' left foot can never last out, and time over foot gear something awful.... We did 4 1/2 miles this morning and are now 8 1/2 miles from the depot -- a ridiculously small distance to feel in difficulties, yet on this surface we know we cannot equal half our old marches, and that for that effort we expend nearly double the energy. The great question is, What shall we find at the depot? If the dogs have visited it we may get along a good distance, but if there is another short allowance of fuel, God help us indeed. We are in a very bad way, I fear, in any case." [1]

The weather at One Ton remained bad, with a "good day" at -10° F (-23 C), and blowing most of the time. Cherry wrote in his diary, "-28 when we turned in & must have been -40 at least last night. This morning -28 & wind 4. It is a very cold wait -- waiting & thinking. I was so sure I saw them coming last night I nearly started to walk to them." [2]


Fram's crew upon arrival in Hobart. From left, in the back row, Hassel, Ludwig Hansen, Steller, Bjaaland, Kristensen, Rønne, Beck, Wisting, Halvorsen, Sundbeck; seated, Johansen, Prestrud, Amundsen, Nilsen, Gjertsen, Helmer Hanssen; in front, Lindstrøm, Stubberud, Karenius Olsen, A. Olsen. "Beattie's studios Hobart Tas." [3]

Helmer Hanssen, Amundsen, and Lindstrøm.

Hassel, Wisting, Amundsen, Bjaaland, and Helmer Hanssen. [4]

"Pole Attained Fourteenth-Seventeenth December 1911. All Well" ran headlines everywhere. "The whole world," said the New York Times, "has now been discovered." [5]

"On a day like this," exulted Aftenposten, a leading Christiania newspaper, "everything is changed.... It is more warmth and pride that we feel that we are all children of the same, happy country. Smiles are more frequent -- in bold mens' deeds we are richer and more united and happier. Ah yes -- at one blow, we are far forwards!" [6]

Helland-Hansen, though, wrote to Nansen that he could not understand "why people don't show more pleasure than they do." [7] Many Norwegians, it seemed, felt that Amundsen's accomplishment was a political mistake; one paper wrote, "We are glad that Roald Amundsen chose a new route to the South Pole, so that he avoided going directly in Scott's path. The English had the exclusive right to the route from McMurdo Sound. That was their opinion at any rate." [8] The Times, indeed, wrote a day later that the Norwegian expedition was "a mere dash for the Pole, designed to forestall the British expedition in the most spectacular, though not the most valuable part of the work." [9]


[1] R.F. Scott, diary, 8 March, 1912, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.
[2] Apsley Cherry-Garrard, diary, 8 March, 1912, Scott Polar Research Institute.
[3] Roald Amundsen Bildearkiv, Nasjonalbiblioteket.
[4] "Tasmanian views, Edward Searle's album of photographs of Australia, Antarctica and the Pacific, 1911-1915", National Library of Australia.
[5] New York Times, 8 March, 1912, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.546.
[6] Aftenposten, 9 March, 1912, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.547.
[7] Bjørn Helland-Hansen, letter to Fridtjof Nansen, [date not given], quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.547.
[8] Norges Handels- og Sjøfartstidende, 9 March, 1912, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.547.
[9] The Times, 9 March, 1912, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.547.

March 7, 2012

Thursday, 7 March 1912


"This morning in 4 1/2 hours," wrote Scott, "we did just over 4 miles. We are 16 from our depot. If we only find the correct proportion of food there and this surface continues, we may get to the next depot [Mt. Hooper, 72 miles farther] but not to One Ton Camp. We hope against hope that the dogs have been to Mt. Hooper; then we might pull through. If there is a shortage of oil again we can have little hope. One feels that for poor Oates the crisis is near, but none of us are improving, though we are wonderfully fit considering the really excessive work we are doing." [1]


"'The Fram' at Hobart, Tasmania, from South Pole, 1912." [2]

The Fram put in at Hobart, after having sighted land three days earlier and been held off by storm. The first thing that Amundsen asked about was news of the Terra Nova, and was cheered when he was told that she had not been heard of.

Having learned a hard lesson on the Northwest Passage, losing his newspaper scoop and the resulting funds to cover his debts, Amundsen himself did not even know with which newspaper his brother Leon had contracted, and the Fram remained at anchor outside Hobart and refused to identify herself. Amundsen, he wrote in his diary, went ashore alone and "got a room at the Orient Hotel -- Treated as a tramp -- my peaked cap and blue sweater -- given a miserable little room.... Visited the Consul.... Then I cabled to the King ... Nansen and Leon. The day passed quietly, except for reporters, who were insistent but without result." [3]

The next day, Amundsen "received a telegram from Leon, instructing me to cable my report to the Daily Chronicle, London. This was immediately done. After that, I kept very quiet. When I had gone to bed -- 10 p.m. -- the telegrams began to rain down -- the King's came first."


[1] R.F. Scott, diary, 7 March, 1912, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.
[2] "Tasmanian views, Edward Searle's album of photographs of Australia, Antarctica and the Pacific, 1911-1915", National Library of Australia.
[3] Roald Amundsen, diary, [date not given], quoted by Roland Huntford in The Amundsen Photographs (London : Hodder & Stoughton, c1987, p.142.

March 6, 2012

Wednesday, 6 March 1912


Oates's feet were so swollen that it took an hour to get them into his finnesko each morning.

They were now struggling nine or more hours to manage six or seven miles a day.

"Poor Oates is unable to pull, sits on the sledge when we are track-searching -- he is wonderfully plucky, as his feet must be giving him great pain. He makes no complaint, but his spirits only come up in spurts now, and he grows more silent in the tent. We are making a spirit lamp to try and replace the primus when our oil is exhausted. It will be a very poor substitute and we've not got much spirit. If we could have kept up our 9-mile days we might have got within reasonable distance of the depot before running out, but nothing but a strong wind and good surface can help us now, and though we had quite a good breeze this morning, the sledge came as heavy as lead. If we were all fit I should have hopes of getting through, but the poor Soldier has become a terrible hindrance, though he does his utmost and suffers much I fear." [1]


[1] R.F. Scott, diary, 6 March, 1912, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.

March 5, 2012

Tuesday, 5 March 1912


"Regret to say going from bad to worse," Scott wrote at lunchtime. "The result is telling on all, but mainly on Oates, whose feet are in a wretched condition. One swelled up tremendously last night and he is very lame this morning. We started march on tea and [cold] pemmican as last night -- we pretend to prefer the pemmican this way. Marched for 5 hours this morning over a slightly better surface covered with high moundy sastrugi. Sledge capsized twice; we pulled on foot, covering about 5 1/2 miles. We are two pony marches and 4 miles about from our depot. Our fuel dreadfully low and the poor Soldier nearly done. It is pathetic enough because we can do nothing for him; more hot food might do a little, but only a little, I fear. We none of us expected these terribly low temperatures." [1]


Having sighted the coast of Tasmania the previous day, the Fram was held off by bad weather. "It was a stinking job to get in to Hobart," Bjaaland wrote in his diary. "Storm and calm followed each other, and when we finally were at the approaches to our goal, so God help me we were blown past, the result being we had to lay to in a storm with torn sail and splintered gaff." [2]


[1] R.F. Scott, diary, 5 March, 1912, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.
[2] Olav Bjaaland, diary, 5 March, 1912, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.531.

March 4, 2012

Monday, 4 March 1912


After a long morning of pulling over a sandy, rimed surface, Scott and his men managed 3 1/2 miles. They were forty-two miles from the next depot, with fuel for only three days. "It will be real bad [sic] if we get there and find the same shortage of oil," Scott worried. "Shall we get there? Such a short distance it would have appeared to us on the summit! I don't know what I should do if Wilson and Bowers weren't so determinedly cheerful over things." [1]

At One Ton, the weather was so bad that further travel was impossible; Cherry recorded temperatures of -34° and -37° at eight that evening. As he could not navigate, he feared missing Scott if he was not at the assigned rendezvous. There was no depot of dog food at One Ton, and in order to push on they would have had to kill some dogs to feed the others, running counter to Atkinson's instructions not to risk the dogs for the following season. "I had no reason," Cherry wrote later, "to suspect that the Polar Party could be in want of food." [2]


[1] R.F. Scott, diary, 4 March, 1912, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.
[2] Apsley Cherry-Garrard, in The Worst Journey in the World, ch.8.

March 3, 2012

Sunday, 3 March 1912


"God help us," wrote Scott, "we can't keep up this pulling, that is certain. Amongst ourselves we are unendingly cheerful, but what each man feels in his heart I can only guess. Pulling on foot gear in the morning is getter slower and slower, therefore every day more dangerous." [1]

Cherry and Dimitri arrived at One Ton Depot. "There is no sign of Scott here & so perhaps he will get in soon & all will be well," Cherry wrote in his diary the next day. "I have decided to wait 2 days & then settle what we will do. I think he must be in in 2 or 3 days.... Goggles very bad all the day & I had to trust D. for the cairns -- but he is splendid with them -- He says in this weather we should give the dogs more food than their rations as they are losing their coats. I have agreed. This leaves us with 13 more days dogs food including todays feed --" [2]

Browning at the entrance to the igloo on Inexpressible Island, photographed by Levick. The bamboo poles were used to clear out the "chimney" inside the igloo to keep the men from suffocating. [3]

Campbell, Priestley, and Dickason began to built the igloo on what they later named Inexpressible Island, where they would winter. They were now down to one biscuit a day each from their meagre stores. They were still not sure whether or not the ship would come.


[1] R.F. Scott, diary, 3 March, 1912, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.
[2] Apsley Cherry-Garrard, diary, 4 March, 1912 [Scott Polar Research Institute].
[2] Scott Polar Research Institute.

March 2, 2012

Saturday, 2 March 1912


"Misfortunes rarely come singly." At the Middle Barrier Depot, at 81° 35', they again found a mysterious shortage of oil. "Titus Oates disclosed his feet," wrote Scott, "the toes showing very bad indeed, evidently bitten by the late temperatures. The third blow came in the night, when the wind, which we had hailed with some joy, brought dark overcast weather. It fell below -40° in the night, and this morning it took 1 1/2 hours to get our foot gear on, but we got away before eight. We lost cairn and tracks together and made as steady as we could N. by W., but have seen nothing.... In spite of strong wind and full sail we have only done 5 1/2 miles. We are in a very queer street since there is no doubt we cannot do the extra marches and feel the cold horribly." [1]


[1] R.F. Scott, diary, 2 March, 1912, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.