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Home | 2017 | October

An outrageous libel of a dead hero

Posted by Richard on UTC 2017-10-07 11:13.

A disgusting smear-job on Edward Evans (1880-1957), who was the second-in-command on Captain Scott's (1868-1912) calamitous Terra Nova Expedition to the South Pole.

Utterly exhausted by nearly two months (600 miles) of pulling a supply sled, Evans and the two other members of his supply team were sent by Scott back to base whilst Scott and his team pushed on to the pole.

The return journey was grim, particularly for Evans, who suffered snow-blindness and, worst of all, fell ill with scurvy. Finally, his companions had to pull him along on a sledge. He came close to death, but they refused to abandon him. Had he been able to walk he would have gone down in history as another Captain Oates.

The sufferings, heroic endurance and determination of the three men on that return journey that took them more than a month are the equal of anything else in the saga of the expedition. Their feats are unmarred by the bad decisions, bad luck and incompetence that plagued so much else on that expedition. It would take weeks of hospital care before Evans could even stand up again.

There was indeed some animosity between Scott and Evans, but now an Australian professor claims to have found a document 'buried' in the British Library which suggests that Evans and his team consumed more than their fair share of supplies. They thus sabotaged the expedition and so bear the responsibility for the death of Scott and his companions.

The new documents suggest at the very least appalling leadership on the part of Evans or at worst, deliberate sabotage, resulting in the death of Scott and his four companions.

MailOnline.

This outrageous assertion is based on tittle-tattle by Scott's wife, who had read his diary and assumed that the lack of fuel in the depots that had been established was the fault of Evans and his party. 'It appears Lieut Evans – down with Scurvy – and the two men with him must on return journey have entered & consumed more than their share.' The wife of Dr Edward Wilson, one of Scott's death party, found a note in his diary about the '"inexplicable" shortage of fuel & pemmican [sledging ration] on the return journey'.

We now know that fuel was missing because the seals on the canisters failed at low temperatures and the fuel simply leaked out.

Even if we did not know this, the idea that Evans and his companions consumed more than their fair share of these supplies is simply deranged. 'Well', comes the mealy-mouthed justification, 'Evans was suffering from scurvy', as though he needs some mitigating factor for his selfish sabotage. He had two brave companions who would have to have been complicit in this murderous 'sabotage'. Presumably, the sledge they pulled also carried its own supplies. It is also relevant to mention that Scott had laid down supplies for four returning men, but that in the final party there were five. Nothing in this allegation makes any sense at all to the sane.

Our Australian professor also blames Evans for the fact that the dog teams did not meet up with Scott's party on its return journey from the pole, more precisely that he failed to convey the message with which Scott had entrusted him.

In fact, Evans bears not the slightest responsibility for this disaster. The truth is that several messages to send the dog team had been sent back to base via various people long before the Evans group departed on its way back. Scott had also left written messages at the base for a dog party to be sent out to meet him on his return. The ins and outs of the dog rescue commands have been debated extensively in recent years. No blame at all can be attached to Evans for this failure – in fact, it was Evans who described Scott's written order in 1921 in his book on the expedition.

But, ultimately, as with almost every other of Scott's orders, practical logistics triumphed over his commands – the chances of two weakened teams meeting up in the vast wastes of Antarctica at a predetermined place and time with primitive navigation, terrible weather and without any running communications between them were effectively zero. If that level of probability is not small enough for you, you should consider that the person sent with the dog team had never worked with dogs, had no navigational skills and was extremely short-sighted.

The libel on Evans is completed by the infusion of a fantasy conspiracy theory that his 'sabotage' was hushed up by the powers that be, allowing him to go on to have a long and distiguished career of naval service. In truth, the events of that expedition have been the subject of an extensive public enquiry and have been minutely examined by many authors.

So who is this Australian libeller? Chris Turney. Means nothing? How about 'Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow and Professor of Climate Change and Earth Science at the University of New South Wales'? Still nothing? How about leader of the 2014 'Ship of Fools' expedition. Yes, that one. You remember. The hired icebreaker that got stuck in sea-ice in the sea-ice-free waters of the Antarctic, meaning that its passengers – Turney, snowflake researchers and eco-tourists – had to be rescued.

Somehow this embarrassing incident in the ice-free sea is not now mentioned in Turney's official CVs. It appears that he is prepared to traduce the memory of an honourable, brave man whilst suppressing unpleasantnesses from his own biography.

Climate scientists who want to feed at the climate trough become skilled at getting headlines from phantasmagoria: hints, worries, suspicions and fears. In Turney's case it has become second nature, allowing him to throw mud at someone who cannot respond on the basis of no real evidence at all.