Posted by Richard on  UTC 2017-11-05 12:16


Readers might want to lay down supply depots and plan overnight camps before embarking on this journey – it will be a long haul. Some may not come through, having decided that a short stumble into an icy blizzard would be a quicker way to go and certainly much more fun.

Some years ago Professor Chris 'Ship of Fools' Turney got it into his head that Lieutenant Edward 'Teddy' Evans, second-in-command on Captain Robert Scott's disastrous Terra Nova expedition to the South Pole in 1911/12 had consumed more than his fair share of rations from the depots on his return journey to base camp, leaving Scott's polar team, that was following about a month behind him, short of food. This contributed to the demise of Scott's team, which was only eleven miles away from a substantial supply depot.

Here is Turney's summary from the conclusion of the abstract of his latest paper on the subject:

It is concluded that Evans actions on and off the ice can at best be described as ineffectual, at worst deliberate sabotage. Why Evans was not questioned more about these events on his return to England remains unknown.

Turney 498

The very model of a modern academical, Turney milks this theme to get as many papers in as many journals as he can and leverage the power of the press release to disseminate his name and his ideas as widely as possible. We reviewed one of the press reports last month, but the following is a critical examination of Turney's paper that was the source of these smears.

Terra Nova expedition: Teddy Evans working on a map in the hut at Cape Evans.

Teddy Evans working on a map in the hut at Cape Evans. May 1911. Image: Photographer Herbert Ponting. British Antarctic Expedition 1910-13 (Ponting Collection), P2005/5/1375.

In order to support this argument Turney attacks Evans and his reputation in a number of ways. The attack is with a scattergun, not a rifle, making refutation of his smears – for that is all they are – extremely tedious. The smears are packaged up into little parcels tied up with odd syntax, making the task of refutation even more complex. Worst of all for us, however, Turney is a skilled smearer who can pack three different smears into one or two sentences.

The disentangling of these smears and the satisfactory rebuttal of them demands much labour, which is why we have to warn the reader of the long haul ahead. But Turney will keep generating papers and press releases out of these smears for as long as he can, so the job has to be done.

Since Turney packs his smears in mixed bundles, we have to unpack them in order to deal with them systematically. Here is a list of Turney's main smears, which we shall take in sequence.

  1. Evans blocked the appointment of the mechanic Reginald Skelton to the expedition, the man who was most able to work with the expedition's motorised sledges.
  2. As a mechanic, Skelton was far superior to his replacement Bernard Day. Unlike Day, Skelton would have made a success of the motorised sledges.
  3. Evans, who was in charge of the motorised sledges, was publicly critical of the them: his heart wasn't in their use.
  4. On his team's return journey north, Evans ate more than his fair share of the rations stocked in the depots.
  5. Evans failed to pass on Scott's last instruction about the dispatch of a dog team to meet his party.
  6. Evans was afflicted by snowblindness and scurvy on the return journey. That he developed scurvy was his own fault. As a result of the scurvy he ate even more than his fair share of rations and tried to obfuscate the date of the onset of the scurvy to give him a justification for eating the rations of Scott's team.
  7. Evans was a useless slacker who could not be trusted. Evans hated Scott because Scott left him off the party going to the South Pole. Eating Scott's rations was a revenge for this slight.
  8. Evans' misdeeds were covered up by the powers that be. Evans was not interrogated properly.

These are the major points from nine pages of text in Turney's latest paper on this theme. Just glancing at this list, the reader will appreciate what we are up against in dealing systematically with Turney's assertions against Evans. There is nothing for it but to lower our heads and trudge out into the blizzard of detail – we 'may be some time'.

Map overview

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Antarctica. The red rectangle is the approximate area shown in the detail map below. Image: NASA.

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Scott's expedition route to the South Pole and the return routes of the various parties.
—The solid black line is the route from base camp to the South Pole with the dates of arrival at the depots on the outward journey.
—The dashed black line is the route of the Polar Party from the South Pole to their death tent.
—The dates of the arrival of the Polar Party at the depots are shown in black.
—The dates in blue are the dates of the presence at the depots of Evans' team, the Second Support Party.
Adapted from [Turney 499]

Motorised sledges

Turney wants us to believe that Evans' antipathy to the use of motorised sledges and his opposition to Scott's nomination for the mechanic on the team were contributory factors in Scott's failure. What this has got to do with stolen rations is anybody's guess, but it is one more allegation with which to smear Teddy Evans. Turney describes Scott's faith in motorised sledges as follows:

To ensure success, Scott proposed using motorised sledges for hauling supplies and equipment across the Ross Ice Shelf to relieve the workload on the horses, dogs and men.

Turney 500

That's an odd way to put it. Relying on motorised sledges was no way to 'ensure success', just the opposite – Scott was relying on an extremely immature technology that he hoped would be kept going by the presence of Reginald Skelton, a naval engineering officer known to Scott, who had been tinkering with motorised sledges for a couple of years.

Using only Skelton's account of the affair, Turney blames Evans for keeping Skelton out of the expedition, implying that his absence was responsible for the failure of the motorised sledges.

With sufficient spares and the experienced Skelton, how much further might the motorised sledges have taken supplies? Historian Roland Huntford has suggested 'fifty or hundred miles … is not insignificant' (Huntford, 2009), a distance that would have made all the difference a few months later. In spite of his opposition to Skelton's participation and the problems that ensued on the ice, Evans was publicly critical of the sledges on his return from Antarctica:

…[A] week after Lashly and I had first set out as the pioneers with those wretched failures, the motor sledges… (Evans, 1921).

Unfortunately, Evans' insistence that Skelton be removed from the expedition almost guaranteed such a result.

Turney 502

Where do we begin in untangling this jumble of half-baked speculations? In reading Turney's piece the reader has to be constantly on the alert for such contorted passages that weave several smears about Evans together in one brief section of text.

Take, for example, the incomprehensible 'publicly critical of the sledges' in spite of 'his opposition to Skelton's participation', a good specimen of Turney's impressionistic smearing. It generates an odour of incompetence and hypocrisy about Evans, but what does it mean?

Then we are given Huntford's suggestion that an extra 50 or 100 miles of motorised sledge transport would have been useful. Possibly, possibly not. But in the real world the sledges didn't perform well and finally broke down completely – in the end they were more of a hindrance than a help. Evans' team achieved the same result by manhauling the supply sledges.

Turney then slips in the nonsensical assertion that those extra miles 'would have made all the difference' on the return journey, to which we can only repeat ourselves: Evans' team achieved the same result by manhauling: their heroic efforts ensured that the provisioning goal was achieved completely and within schedule.

Freeing ourselves from the contorted syntax, we see that there are two major smears in this instance, which we have to deal with individually: 1) the impact of the absence of Skelton and 2) Evans' critical attitude to Scott's sledges – namely, that if only the sledges had worked better and gone further the expedition would have been a success and no one need have died. Readers will need some patience while we sort this mess out.

Skelton the genius, Day the incompetent?

Turney writes:

Scott was forced to remove Skelton from the expedition, with the inevitable loss of technical support for the motorised sledges

Turney 501

We cannot blame Evans for the removal of Skelton. If Scott had insisted on having Skelton he could have kept him. Scott was never 'forced to do' anything, let alone by the person he himself had appointed as his second-in-command, yet Turney keeps repeating the 'forced' mantra:

With the forced loss of Skelton, Scott had reached out and recruited Bernard Day, motor specialist on Shackleton's Antarctic Nimrod expedition when the Anglo-Irishman had taken the first motor vehicle south. But the improvised engineering experience does not appear to have been sufficient.

Turney 501

In fact, Day was a highly experienced motor mechanic and engineer, who had worked for a motor manufacturer and had extensive Antarctic experience. His appointment to the expedition can hardly be called 'improvised engineering experience'. It is ridiculous of Turney to attribute the many breakdowns of the motor tractors to Day's 'improvised engineering experience'. This latter phrase is yet another of Turney's impressionistic smears, since it could apply to the appointment of Day or to his skills.

If Turney wants to make a case that Skelton would have been a superior mechanic to Day, he needs to bring more evidence to the debate – asserting that his 'engineering experience does not appear to have been sufficient' is just a speculation based on no evidence at all.

In fact, of course, he cannot, because we have no way of knowing how Skelton would have done in the conditions that Day faced. We can be sure, though, that the mere presence of Skelton in the team would not have prevented the critical mechanical failures that ultimately doomed the use of the motors. The appointment of Day meant that there was never 'the inevitable loss of technical support for the motorised sledges'. It's an easy smear.

Day was in a difficult position: he was the one most open to blame when things went wrong:

By 24 October, 'the motors seemed ready to start and we all went out on the floe to give them a "send off". But the inevitable little defects cropped up, and the machines only got as far as the Cape. A change made by Day in the exhaust arrangements had neglected the heating jackets of the carburettors; one float valve was bent and one clutch troublesome' (R. F. Scott, 1913a).

Turney 501

Far from losing Skelton's magic with motor sledges, in Day the team now contained a specialist motor engineer who performed wonders with the delicate mechanisms in his care. Day had been Shackleton's engineering specialist and had plenty of experience with engines in cold conditions. Skelton's supposed superior magic could not have prevented cracked big ends, wrecked bearings and ruined pistons – many metals become brittle at the low temperatures in the Antarctic.

Repairs were carried out with the spare parts the team had, but they took time. A mechanic in a warm workshop might replace a piston rod in a few hours. On one occasion it took Day and Lashly, in the open at around -20°C, protected only by a makeshift canvas, from around 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. – eight hours – to replace the bearing in a big-end.

With sufficient spares and the experienced Skelton, how much further might the motorised sledges have taken supplies?

Turney 502

Repairs were never inhibited by shortage of spares. Even if there had been more spares, where was the additional motorised sledge that would be needed to carry them?

Scott's (and Turney's) shaky grasp of technological matters is revealed in a remark quoted by Turney:

Two days later the remaining machine failed, 'The big end of No. 1 cylinder had cracked, the machine otherwise in good order' (R. F. Scott, 1913a).

Turney 502

The technologist would say that with a cracked big end, the rest of the machine was merely scrap metal. Scott is here using the old 'Curate's Egg' argument in trying to find something good to say about this obvious failure: 'parts of it are excellent, my Lord'. The motor tractor was useless, but everything on it bar a single big end was working well.

The greatest problem Turney has with his elevation of Skelton and his denigration of Day is that it was Skelton, after all, who designed the motor tractors. If there is any blame to be apportioned for their inadequacies then it should be directed at Skelton, not poor Day, who could only try and do his best with what he had been given. In a moment of doubt, even Scott recognises his debt to Day as the latter copes with a design fault in the motors:

It is already evident that had the rollers been metal cased and the runners metal covered, they would now be as good as new. I cannot think why we had not the sense to have this done. As things are I am satisfied we have the right men to deal with the difficulties of the situation.

Scott 27 October 1911

Evans the luddite

In Turney's mind this late learning of Scott's about the usefulness of motorised sledges is twisted into being another fault of Evans':

On the ice, Scott's concerns over Lt. Evans' abilities intensified, possibly made worse by increasing problems with the motor sledges.

Turney 501

Another incomprehensible conjunction: how could any rational observer associate 'Evans' abilities' with the 'increasing problems with the motor sledges'? Is he suggesting that Evans' very presence in the party caused bearings to disintegrate and connecting rods to crack?

As we have already noted: Scott's rash use of such an immature technology was not the fault of Evans. As far as the lack of Skelton's magical presence is concerned, Scott could have easily overruled Evans' objections had he wanted to. Turney is attributing to Evans much more say in the expedition than he really had. The decision to exclude Skelton was Scott's. The decision to rely on motorised sledges was Scott's.

Evans and his team made the best of a bad job – even Turney cannot suggest that the efforts of Evans' team to make up for the failure of the motorised sledges were anything but heroic. However, if Turney knows this, he keeps quiet about it, being too bent on slandering Evans:

Evans was publicly critical of the sledges on his return from Antarctica:

…[A] week after Lashly and I had first set out as the pioneers with those wretched failures, the motor sledges… (Evans, 1921).

Turney 502

When we look up this passage it turns out that the quote about 'wretched failures' is an aside of Evans' in a reasoned context:

Crean, as already set down, had started with the Main Southern Party a week after Lashly and I had first set out as the pioneers with those wretched failures, the motor sledges.

Evans 252

The point that Evans is making is that the struggles his team had with the motorised sledges had cost them precious time and given them no advantage at all. Crean had set out a week after them and had already caught them up. In this context the motorised sledges, for which he and his team were 'pioneers' were indeed 'wretched failures' and Evans' 'public criticism' was quite justified. By leaving out the context of Evans' 'wretched failures' remark, Turney makes Evans' reasoned statement seem like merely an outburst of bitter prejudice – just another smear.

In reality, it is part of Evans's glass-half-full temperament that he was always on the lookout for positive conclusions. Even after all his struggles with these 'wretched failures' on the expedition, in almost the same breath in his memoir he balances that with a broader perpective:

As will be seen, these were long days, and although he did not say it, Day must have felt the crushing disappointment of the failure of the motors – it was not his fault, it was a question of trial and experience. Nowadays we have far more knowledge of air-cooled engines and such crawling juggernauts as tanks, for it may well be argued that Scott's motor sledges were the forerunners of the tanks.

Evans 198

We also have to note that Evans did not make these remarks 'on his return from Antarctica'. He made them in 1921, nine years after the expedition ended. Once again, Turney is distorting his account to smear Evans by impugning his loyalty. It is regrettable that Turney allows his animus towards Evans to lead him into such misrepresentations.

Scott's mistaken hopes for the motorised sledges had distorted the planning of the expedition as a whole and threatened its success from its beginnings. It may even have been a blessing that of the three motorised sledges delivered, only two came into use: one slipped and was lost in the McMurdo Sound during unloading.

Scott's sledges

Even when the motorised sledges were working, Scott had to admit that their use had not fulfilled his expectations:

On 6 January 1911, Scott remarked in his diary:

The motor sledges are working well, but not very well; the small difficulties will be got over, but I rather fear they will never draw the loads we expect of them (R. F. Scott, 1913a).

Turney 501

At this moment Scott is clearly blind to the efforts that are required to keep his motor sledges working at all. Wrecked pistons are not 'small difficulties'. Stating that the 'motor sledges are working well' is delusional, but Turney only takes the opinion of Skelton and Scott in judging the efficacy of the motor tractors:

With 'an 8–10 HP petrol motor' and two-air cooled cylinders, the sledge was designed to pull a substantial load at five kilometres an hour. By March 1910 the sledge was successfully negotiating slopes and dragging sledges in Norway, steered by an individual pulling on a rope (Skelton, 1910b). Scott hoped that the motorised sledges would be as effective in the south for transporting supplies across the Ross Ice Shelf. He later recorded in his diary:

A small measure of success [for the expedition] will be enough to show their possibilities, their ability to revolutionise Polar transport (R. F. Scott, 1913a).

Turney 500

When we remove Turney's distorting spectacles and read what Scott himself thought about his use of motor tractors as expressed in the entries in his expedition journal we find a mind torn between doubts, hopes, paranoia, deep depression and wild optimism. Let's follow briefly how the unrequited lover of motor technology copes with rejection after rejection by the objects of his desire:

I am secretly convinced that we shall not get much help from the motors, yet nothing has ever happened to them that was unavoidable. A little more care and foresight would make them splendid allies. The trouble is that if they fail, no one will ever believe this.

Scott 17 October

Quite in character, Scott transfers any blame for the inadequacies of the motors onto his subordinates. The statement 'nothing has ever happened to them that was unavoidable' is quite delusional. We sense the level of Scott's paranoid anxiety in his final sentence: 'if they fail, no one will ever believe this'. To which Roland Huntford, as rabidly anti-Scott as Turney is anti-Evans notes:

Scott's lack of 'care and foresight' was his own fault. He had ordered the designer not to bother with extra testing and low temperature trials in a freezing chamber. The designer was a fellow officer, Engineer Commander R. W. Skelton, later Chief Engineer of the Navy. He had been with Scott on the Discovery expedition, but for reasons of naval etiquette had been dropped from this one. Lt Evans had objected to having anyone of a superior rank under him as nominally second-in-command. Skelton reproached Scott with using him and then casting him aside. His design was among the first snow vehicles to use the caterpillar track, an American invention. In the hurry demanded by Scott, turning was unresolved. Only later was it achieved by letting one track move faster than the other. Scott's men turned their sledges by main force, heaving on a shaft attached to the front.

Huntford 77f

We'll leave Huntford – as anti-British as he is anti-Scott – with his gratuitous satisfaction at the (mis)use of an American invention.

Now things seem to be going better with his motors Scott cheers up a little, but knows in his heart of hearts that there may be trouble ahead:

The motor axle case was completed by Thursday morning, and, as far as one can see, Day made a very excellent job of it. Since that the Motor Party has been steadily preparing for its departure. To-day everything is ready. The loads are ranged on the sea ice, the motors are having a trial run, and, all remaining well with the weather, the party will get away to-morrow.


The temperature is up to zero about; this probably means about -20° on the Barrier. I wonder how the motors will face the drop if and when they encounter it. Day and Lashly are both hopeful of the machines, and they really ought to do something after all the trouble that has been taken.

Scott 22 October 1911

Praise for Day, who 'made a very excellent job' of a repair. Only five days before, Scott was expecting to be let down by the humans involved in working with his motors. Day, of course, is the man Turney tells us was an incompetent substitute for Skelton. Then comes more self-doubt from Scott, as he realises that the motors 'really ought to do something after all the trouble that has been taken'.

Two fine days for a wonder. Yesterday the motors seemed ready to start and we all went out on the floe to give them a 'send off.' But the inevitable little defects cropped up, and the machines only got as far as the Cape. A change made by Day in the exhaust arrangements had neglected the heating jackets of the carburetters; one float valve was bent and one clutch troublesome. Day and Lashly spent the afternoon making good these defects in a satisfactory manner.

Scott 24 October 1911

If this passage sounds familiar to you, it should. We quoted it above, but in the Turney version, which stopped after the explicit criticism of Day's neglectful modification, thus leaving out the positive that didn't fit the Turney thesis: 'Day and Lashly spent the afternoon making good these defects in a satisfactory manner.' More positive statements about Day follow this entry:

This morning the engines were set going again, and shortly after 10 A.M. a fresh start was made. At first there were a good many stops, but on the whole the engines seemed to be improving all the time. They are not by any means working up to full power yet, and so the pace is very slow. The weights seem to me a good deal heavier than we bargained for. Day sets his motor going, climbs off the car, and walks alongside with an occasional finger on the throttle. Lashly hasn’t yet quite got hold of the nice adjustments of his control levers, but I hope will have done so after a day’s practice.

Scott now gives us a paragraph of hopes, dreams and fears about his beloved motors:

I find myself immensely eager that these tractors should succeed, even though they may not be of great help to our southern advance. A small measure of success will be enough to show their possibilities, their ability to revolutionise Polar transport. Seeing the machines at work to-day, and remembering that every defect so far shown is purely mechanical, it is impossible not to be convinced of their value. But the trifling mechanical defects and lack of experience show the risk of cutting out trials. A season of experiment with a small workshop at hand may be all that stands between success and failure.

At any rate before we start we shall certainly know if the worst has happened, or if some measure of success attends this unique effort.

Scott 24 October 1911

The confusion of his thoughts, full of contradictions and non sequiturs, is remarkable – but quite characteristic for Scott. He is still radiating love for his innovations, even if 'they may not be of great help to our southern advance'. In other words, it doesn't matter if they are useless to him: in this respect the tormented lover will be satisfied with only 'a small measure of success'. We read and re-read statements such as 'every defect so far shown is purely mechanical' and can find no meaning in them at all. We are told that 'it is impossible not to be convinced of their value'. Clearly, some complex special pleading has sprung up in his mind to justify the uselessness of his objects of desire.

Scott gives us more motor optimism three days later:

Providing there is no serious accident, the engine troubles will gradually be got over; of that I feel pretty confident. Every day will see improvement as it has done to date, every day the men will get greater confidence with larger experience of the machines and the conditions. But it is not easy to foretell the extent of the result of older and earlier troubles with the rollers. The new rollers turned up by Day are already splitting, and one of Lashly’s chains is in a bad way; it may be possible to make temporary repairs good enough to cope with the improved surface, but it seems probable that Lashly’s car will not get very far.

It is already evident that had the rollers been metal cased and the runners metal covered, they would now be as good as new. I cannot think why we had not the sense to have this done. As things are I am satisfied we have the right men to deal with the difficulties of the situation.

Scott 27 October 1911

More trouble with his beloveds, but a sudden expression of confidence in his subordinates: 'we have the right men to deal with the difficulties of the situation'. You won't find this quotation in Turney, of course.

In true Scott style, this confidence will not last long, but first we have to get through some more irrational dreaming and another dose of paranoia:

The motor programme is not of vital importance to our plan and it is possible the machines will do little to help us, but already they have vindicated themselves. Even the seamen, who have remained very sceptical of them, have been profoundly impressed. Evans said, ‘Lord, sir, I reckon if them things can go on like that you wouldn’t want nothing else’ – but like everything else of a novel nature, it is the actual sight of them at work that is impressive, and nothing short of a hundred miles over the Barrier will carry conviction to outsiders.

Scott 27 October 1911

The 'motor programme is not of vital importance to our plan', 'the machines will do little to help us' but they have 'vindicated themselves' – translation: the motors haven't worked but it doesn't matter – I still love them. Scott is obsessed with the need to convince 'outsiders of the inner worth of these objects of desire. 'Evans' here is Petty Officer Edgar Evans, not Lieutenant Teddy Evans, just in case you failed to detect the below-decks accent.

Nemesis, that hater of oddities, arrived three days later, when the precious oddities disintegrated, one after the other:

Evans reported that Lashly’s motor had broken down near Safety Camp; they found the big end smashed up in one cylinder and traced it to a faulty casting; they luckily had spare parts, and Day and Lashly worked all night on repairs in a temperature of -25º. By the morning repairs were completed and they had a satisfactory trial run, dragging on loads with both motors.

On account of this accident and because some of our hardest worked people were badly hit by the two days’ absence helping the machines, I have decided to start on Wednesday instead of to-morrow.

Scott 30 October 1911

Scott has begun to realise just how much time and effort is being wasted on keeping his beloved motors running.

Camp 2. Led march – started in what I think will now become the settled order. Atkinson went at 8, ours at 10, Bowers, Oates and Co. at 11.15. Just after starting picked up cheerful note and saw cheerful notices saying all well with motors, both going excellently. Day wrote 'Hope to meet in 80°30' (Lat.).' Poor chap, within 2 miles he must have had to sing a different tale. It appears they had a bad ground on the morning of the 29th. I suppose the surface was bad and everything seemed to be going wrong. They ‘dumped’ a good deal of petrol and lubricant. Worse was to follow. Some 4 miles out we met a tin pathetically inscribed, ‘Big end Day’s motor No. 2 cylinder broken.’ Half a mile beyond, as I expected, we found the motor, its tracking sledges and all. Notes from Evans and Day told the tale. The only spare had been used for Lashly’s machine, and it would have taken a long time to strip Day’s engine so that it could run on three cylinders. They had decided to abandon it and push on with the other alone. They had taken the six bags of forage and some odds and ends, besides their petrol and lubricant. So the dream of great help from the machines is at an end! The track of the remaining motor goes steadily forward, but now, of course, I shall expect to see it every hour of the march.

Scott 4 November 1911

One motor tractor has broken down irreparably: 'the dream of great help from the machines is at an end!' Scott follows the track of the remaining motor, expecting to come across its corpse, too, before long. He does, two days later:

Camp 4. We started in the usual order, arranging so that full loads should be carried if the black dots to the south prove to be the motor. On arrival at these we found our fears confirmed. A note from Evans stated a recurrence of the old trouble. The big end of No. 1 cylinder had cracked, the machine otherwise in good order. Evidently the engines are not fitted for working in this climate, a fact that should be certainly capable of correction. One thing is proved; the system of propulsion is altogether satisfactory. The motor party has proceeded as a man-hauling party as arranged.

Scott 6 November 1911

We have already noticed the lover's delusion in some of these words in a quotation from Turney: 'The big end of No. 1 cylinder had cracked, the machine otherwise in good order'. True to form, Turney stopped here, characteristically omitting to give us the next sentences that reinforces Scott's delusion at this point.

Turney's presentation of Evans as a half-hearted, luddite motor-tractor user and of Day as a bungling incompetent is a travesty of the real efforts both men made in order to make a success of Scott's decision to used motorised hauling. Scott himself, gazing at the corpse, doubles down on his delusional love: 'One thing is proved; the system of propulsion is altogether satisfactory'. It was all in his plan, he tells us: 'The motor party has proceeded as a man-hauling party as arranged'. There comes a point where the historian has to call in the shrinks.

We remind ourselves: according to Turney the failure of the motorised sledges was Evans' fault. In fact, the reality was just the opposite. It is not possible to refute Turney's impressionistic smears and selective quoting in a few words, but the true extent of the efforts of the team can be judged from Evans' own account of that part of the journey, an account the veracity of which has never been questioned.

Evans's sledges

Those who read Evans' account of the expedition South with Scott will find a detailed and extremely balanced section on the team's struggle with the motorised sledges. Where Scott is bitter and paranoid, Evans is cheerfully generous and unfailingly balanced in his judgments:

Day, Nelson, and Lashly worked with the motor sledges; the newest motor frequently towed loads of 2500 lb. over the ice at a six mile an hour speed. The oldest hauled a ton and managed six double trips a day. Day, the motor engineer, had been down here before — both he and Priestley came from the Shackleton Expedition. The former had a decidedly comic vein which made him popular all round. From start to finish Day showed himself to be the most undefeated sportsman, and it was not his fault that the motor sledges did badly in the end.

Evans 70

The quoted section reproduced below is not as brief as one would like, but it gives a good insight into what Evans, Day and Lashly went through with these 'wretched failures' and how much effort they put into making the use of them deliver at least some results. The length of this quotation is a good example of the lengths to which we must go to refute just one of Turney's one line smears: 'Evans was publicly critical of the sledges on his return from Antarctica'.

Evans' account is complementary to Scott's account, since it covers the work of the motorised sledge party from the perspective of Teddy Evans, its leader. The following extracts will give readers a flavour of the problems, the heroic and goal-oriented work of the team and the character of Teddy Evans, its author.

On October 24, 1911, the advance guard of the Southern Party, consisting of Day, Lashly, Hooper, and myself, left Cape Evans with two motor sledges as planned. We had with us three tons of stores, pony food, and petrol, carried on five 12 ft. sledges, and our own tent, etc., on a smaller sledge. The object of sending forward such a weight of stores was to save the ponies' legs over the variable sea ice, which was in some places hummocky and in others too slippery to stand on. Also the first thirty miles of Barrier was known to be bad travelling and likely to tire the ponies unnecessarily unless they marched light, so here again it was desirable to employ the motors for a heavy drag.

Terra Nova expedition: The Motor Party.

The Motor Party, with its ever cheerful leader Teddy Evans: (l-r) Day, Lashly, Hooper and Evans. October 1911. Image: Photographer Herbert Ponting. British Antarctic Expedition 1910-13 (Ponting Collection), P2005/5/572.

We had fine weather when at 10.30 a.m. we started off, with the usual concourse of wellwishers, and after one or two stops and sniffs we really got under way, and worked our loads clear of the Cape on to the smoother stretch of sea ice, which improved steadily as we proceeded. Hooper accompanied Lashly's car and I worked with Day.

A long shaft protruded 3 ft. clear each end of the motors. To the foremost end we attached the steering rope, just a set of man-harness with a long trace, and to the after end of the shaft we made fast the towing lanyard or span according to whether we hauled sledges abreast or in single line. Many doubts were expressed as to the use of the despised motors—but we heeded not the gibes of our friends who came out to speed us on our way.


We made a mile an hour speed to begin with and stopped at Razorback Island after 3½ miles.

We had lunch at Razorback, and after that we "lumped," man-hauled, and persuaded the two motors and three tons of food and stores another mile onward. The trouble was not on account of the motors failing, but because of a smooth, blue ice surface. We camped at 10 p.m. and all slept the sleep of tired men. October 25 was ushered in with a hard wind, and it appeared in the morning as if our cars were not going to start. We had breakfast at 8 a.m. and got started on both motors at 10.45, but soon found that we were unable to move the full loads owing to the blue ice surface, so took to relaying. We advanced under three miles after ten hours' distracting work – mostly pulling the sledges ourselves, jerking, heaving, straining, and cursing—it was tug-of-war work and should have broken our hearts, but in spite of our adversity we all ended up smiling and camped close on 9 p.m.

Terra Nova expedition: Teddy Evans and Bernard Day with a motor tractor.

Teddy Evans (front) and Bernard Day with a motor tractor. The design fault that made the motor tractors so useless on Antarctic surfaces, irrespective of whether their engines worked or not, is clear on a moment's reflection. The tractor was attempting to drag a dead weight without having any corresponding weight above the tracks to provide enough downward force for the grip required. On any slippery surface it could never hope to drag the dead weights of the sledges. (This is why railway locomotives are always heavy.) If this arrangement is Skelton's design then it is a very bad one. Image: Photographer Herbert Ponting. British Antarctic Expedition 1910-13 (Ponting Collection), P2005/5/991.


Captain Scott and seven others came up with us at 2 p.m., but both motors were then forging ahead, so they went on to Hut Point without waiting.


The motor engines were certainly good in moderate temperatures, but our slow advance was due to the chains slipping on hard ice. Scott was concerned, but he made it quite clear that if we got our loads clear of the Strait between White Island and Ross Isle, he would be more than satisfied.


On October  27 I woke the cooks at 6.30 a.m., and we breakfasted about 8 o'clock, then went up to the motors off Cape Armitage. Lashly's car got away and did about three miles with practically no stop. Our carburettor continually got cold, and we stopped a good deal. Eventually about 1 p.m. we passed Lashly's car and made our way up a gentle slope on to the Barrier, waved to the party, and went on about three-quarters of a mile.

Here we waited for Lashly and Hooper, who came up at 2.30, having had much trouble with their engine, due to overheating, we thought. When Day's car glided from the sea ice, over the tide crack and on to the Great Ice Barrier itself, Scott and his party cheered wildly, and Day acknowledged their applause with a boyish smile of triumph.

As soon as Lashly got on to the Barrier, Scott took his party away and they returned to Cape Evans. It would have been a disappointment to them if they had known that we shortly afterwards heard an ominous rattle, which turned out to be the big end brass of one of the connecting rods churning up – due to a bad casting.

Terra Nova expedition: Bernard Day working on the engine of one of the motor tractors.

Bernard Day working on the engine of one of the motor tractors. Mount Erebus is in the background. October 1911. This image is close to base. Imagine the problems of open-air maintenance, attempting to use tools with gloved hands in extremely low temperatures. Image: Photographer Herbert Ponting. British Antarctic Expedition 1910-13 (Ponting Collection), P2005/5/568.

Luckily we had a spare, which Day and Lashly fitted, while Hooper and I went on with the 10 ft. sledge to Safety Camp.

Here we dug out our provisions according to instructions and brought them back to our camp to avoid further delay in repacking sledges. We then made Day and Lashly some tea to warm them up. They worked nobly and had the car ready by 11 p.m. We pushed on till midnight in our anxiety to acquit ourselves and our motors creditably. The thermometer showed -19.8° on camping, and temperature fell to -25° during the night.


I caught the motors late in the afternoon after running nine miles; they had only done three miles whilst I had been doing fifteen. We continued crawling along with our loads, stopping to cool the engines every few minutes, it seemed, but at 11 p.m. they overheated to such an extent that we stopped for the night.


We intentionally lay in our bags until 8.30 next morning, but didn't get those dreadful motors to start until 10.45 a.m. Even then they only gave a few sniffs before breaking down and stopping, so that we could not advance perceptibly until 11.30. We had troubles all day, and were forced to camp on account of Day's sledge giving out at 5 p.m, – we daren't stop for lunch earlier, for once stopped one never could say when a re-start could be made.


Started off at six and soon found that the big end brass on No. 2 cylinder of this sledge had given out, so dropped two more tins of petrol and a case of filtrate oils. We thereupon continued at a snail's pace, until at 9.15 the connecting rod broke through the piston. We decided to abandon this sledge, and made a depot of the spare clothing, seal meat, Xmas fare, ski belonging to Atkinson and Wright, and four heavy cases of dog biscuit. I left a note in a conspicuous position on the depot, which we finished constructing at midnight. We wasted no time in turning in.


After breakfast we dug out sledges, and Lashly and Day got the snow out of the motor, a long and rotten job. The weather cleared about 11 a.m. and we got under way at noon. It turned out very fine and we advanced our weights 7 miles 600 yards, camping at 10.40 p.m.

Terra Nova expedition: Bernard Day digging out a snowed up motor tractor.

Bernard Day digging out a snowed up motor tractor. August 1911. This is taken close to base. Both of the expedition's motor tractors are visible, together with a spare set of tracks. This image makes it clear that we should not overlook the draining effects of the peripheral labour involved in the use of the tractors. Image: Photographer Herbert Ponting. British Antarctic Expedition 1910-13 (Ponting Collection), P2005/5/467.

As will be seen, these were long days, and although he did not say it, Day must have felt the crushing disappointment of the failure of the motors – it was not his fault, it was a question of trial and experience. Nowadays we have far more knowledge of air-cooled engines and such crawling juggernauts as tanks, for it may well be argued that Scott's motor sledges were the forerunners of the tanks.

On November 1 we advanced six miles and the motor then gave out. Day and Lashly gave it their undivided attention for hours, and the next day we coaxed the wretched thing to Corner Camp and ourselves dragged the loads there.

Arrived at this important depot we deposited the dog pemmican and took on three sacks of oats, but after proceeding under motor power for 1½ miles, the big end brass of No. 1 cylinder went, so we discarded the car and slogged on foot with a six weeks' food supply for one 4-man unit. Our actual weights were 185 lb. per man. We got the whole 740 lb. on to the 10 ft. sledge, but with a head wind it was rather a heavy load. We kept going at a mile an hour pace until 8 p.m.

I had left a note at the Corner Camp depot which told Scott of our trying experiences : how the engines overheated so that we had to stop, how by the time they were reasonably cooled the carburettor would refuse duty and must be warmed up with a blow lamp, what trouble Day and Lashly had had in starting the motors, and in short how we all four would heave with all our might on the spans of the towing sledges to ease the starting strain, and how the engines would give a few sniffs and then stop—but we must not omit the great point in their favour : the motors advanced the necessaries for the Southern journey 51 miles over rough, slippery, and crevassed ice and gave the ponies the chance to march light as far as Corner Camp — this is all that Oates asked for.

It was easier work now to pull our loads straightforwardly South than to play about and expend our uttermost effort daily on those "qualified" motors. Even Day confessed that his relief went hand in hand with his disappointment.

Evans 191-199

Anyone reading this who has spent precious days of their youth trying to get even the engine technology of the fifties to work will still remember the relief when the offending vehicle was eventually towed off to the scrapyard or sold to another idiot. With that in mind, this remark of Evans will sound very familiar:

We were very happy in our party, and when cooking we all sang and yarned, nobody ever seemed tired once we got quit of the motors.

Evans 200

Food and supplies

Turney's most serious slander of Evans is the assertion that on the return journey from the south, Evans consumed more than his fair share of rations. Scott's team were following in their tracks, around 24 days behind them. According to Turney, this shortage of rations was a contributory factor in the failure of Scott's team and their ultimate demise only 11 miles from One Ton depot.

Turney implies that the motive for this disgraceful behaviour arose from Evans' resentment that Scott did not choose him to join the team that went to the South Pole. As if this motive were not enough, Turney adds that Evans was afflicted by scurvy on the return journey (his own fault, of course, according to Turney) and helped himself to extra rations because of that.

This is an outrageous accusation, which can be easily dismissed by the fact that, on that return journey, Evans was never alone. He was in a team of three and the alleged pilfering of food would at a minimum have been noticed by the others, Crean and Lashly, unless, of course, we are prepared to imagine Evans lurking outside the tent secretely snaffling biscuits and pemmican from the depot. In Turney's twisted world all three of them would have had to have been conspirators or participants in the cheating. Crean and Lashly have no known motive for doing this.

Such a brief refutation might be enough for the sane, but unfortunately we are in Turney's world – a place full of deranged impressionistic smears against the hated Teddy Evans. Faced with such slanders, it is not enough to say that the speculations are obviously absurd – 9/11 on ice – we need to show that Turney's accusations cannot possibly be true.

Food, glorious food

There is no doubt that Teddy Evans liked his food – anyone reading his account of the polar expedition will be touched by his repeated tales of welcome meals. One highpoint was reached at the Midwinter Day feast in Camp Evans on 22 June 2011, the menu for which Evans reproduces in loving detail in South with Scott. [Evans 134] His readers will also be touched by his repeated tales of hunger. Scott also confides his sufferings of hunger to his diary, but without Evans' humour or pictorial imagination. All the trekking parties suffered from insufficient food for a number of reasons.

Rations too small

Firstly, Scott's calculation of the food requirements of the expedition were based on a very low daily calorific requirement. In Scott's defence we must say that nutrition at the beginning of the 20th century was not the precise science it is now. Men who are pulling sledges over refractory surfaces in extreme cold require a huge calorie intake to function properly. Anything less than that intake moves the men into a starvation zone.

Terra Nova expedition: A four man sledge team manhauling.

A four man sledge team manhauling.

Charles Wright, one of the geologists on the team and a member of Evans' man-hauling party, experienced at first hand the food deprivation that this team in particular suffered. Compared to Evans and Lashly, who had man-hauled from Corner Camp, his own exposure to hunger was limited. The core man-hauling team was Teddy Evans and Lashly, who had already man-hauled from Corner Camp. Atkinson joined them after his pony was shot, and now Wright arrived after the execution of his pony, Chinaman:

I was very pleased indeed that I had nursed Chinaman and saved him so long from the dogs, but I ate him without compunction.

Cherry has expressed his opinion in The Worst Journey [in the World] that we should have cached more pony meat at the cairns for our own use with some additional fuel…. I think Cherry was right in principle and at least some more care might have been taken in burying the cached pony meat at the bottom of the Beardmore Glacier when all the remaining ponies were shot.

Of course, it is very easy to be wise after the event, but the man-hauling party was very, very hungry after little over a month on our way.

Wright 203 [28 November 1911]

Terra Nova expedition: Charles Wright after his return to the camp at Cape Evans with the First Support Party.

A frostbitten Charles Wright after his return to the camp at Cape Evans with the First Support Party. January 1912. Image: Photographer Herbert Ponting. British Antarctic Expedition 1910-13 (Ponting Collection).

Without pony meat, the basic rations predestined these physical labourers to starvation.

Furthermore, as any modern sportsman or woman knows, that intake has to be balanced in type – carbohydrate, fat and protein – to match the circumstances. There was no concept of this at the time and no idea of the existence of vitamins and the need for minerals. In effect, all Scott's trekkers and haulers were suffering from chronic malnutrition. They were surviving on starvation provisions almost all of the time.

Inadequate depots

Secondly, Scott's calculations assumed that all the other parts of his plan worked perfectly: men walking alongside the motorised sledges and the ponies for the expected distances under the expected conditions. The men would have been hungry even if all had gone to plan, but men dragging large sledges, erecting tents, trudging along all day, battling cold and damp and taking two or three times as long to reach depots pushed gnawing hunger into serious starvation.

In Scott's detailed account of his team's journey back from the Pole the reader will notice the remark, again and again, that even when the specified supplies are present, even when they have 'good food' and even 'extra food', the team is permanently hungry. They have, for example, on 22 January '5 days' food in hand'; two days later, trudging uphill, the situation is 'scant food'.

Depots too far apart

Thirdly, Scott was a planning optimist. He had no reserves to cover the times when things did not run to plan, particularly that most unpredictable factor, weather, which is what killed him and his polar party. Eight days pinned down in a cold, wet tent in a blizzard with only two days' supply of food and almost no heating fuel is bad luck, but when bad luck struck again and again they had no reserves to survive it. It is a testament to the endurance of the three returning teams that they got as far as they did under the terrible circumstances.

Consequently, given the cold and the physical effort, all the trekking members of Scott's expedition were living on emergency rations as a normal case. When the worst case occurred, as it always must, there were no reserves to cope – emergency rations became starvation rations. That failure, combined with his optimism about the speed of travel of men dragging sledges over resistant snow at extremly low temperature killed him and his group.

Terra Nova expedition: A four man sledge team manhauling.

A four man sledge team manhauling. 1912. The wheel behind the sledge is the 'sledge-meter' that, when it worked, gave an approximate indication of distance travelled.

On the march, Scott's assumption had also been that there would always be units of four men. Scott's decision to take a group of five on to the pole and to leave Evans' team a man short was a serious logistical error which has been criticised by many later commentators. Evans himself did not realise the danger of that decision until it was almost too late:

On January 3 Scott came into my tent before we began the day's march and informed me that he was taking his own team to the Pole. He also asked me to spare Bowers from mine if I thought I could make the return journey of 750 miles short-handed – this, of course, I consented to do, and so little Bowers left us to join the Polar party.

On 4th January we took four days' provision for three men and handed over the rest of our load to Scott.


Reluctant as I was to confess it to myself, I soon realised that the ceding of one man from my party had been too great a sacrifice, but there was no denying it, and I was eventually compelled to explain the situation to Lashly and Crean and lay bare the naked truth. No man was ever better served than I was by these two ; they cheerfully accepted the inevitable, and throughout our homeward march the three of us literally stole minutes and seconds from each day in order to add to our marches, but it was a fight for life.


As mile after mile was covered our thoughts wandered from the Expedition to those in our homeland, and thought succeeded thought while the march progressed until the satisfying effect of the last meal had vanished and life became one vast yearning for food.

Evans 234-7

Far from robbing Scott of supplies, Evans had inadvertently robbed himself and his own team at the start of their journey north. It was a mistake he accepted and about which he was quite open in his 1921 account of the journey. His team made up the shortfall by exceptionally long marching days and by taking a breakneck shortcut over the Beardmore icefalls.

Fuel shortages

The greatest setback in provisioning was the leaking of fuel oil from the storage cans. The now generally accepted explanation is that the leather seals in the caps were affected by the cold and allowed the fuel to dribble out. Do we need to state the obvious that in Antarctic temperatures the loss of heating fuel was a serious matter – just as serious as the lack of food, since without either of them a team was doomed.

Even Turney cannot blame Evans for this mishap. As the editors noted in a footnote on the issue in the first edition of Scott's journals, the problem was just another of those unforeseens in the planning of the expedition that doomed any chance of its success:

At this, the Barrier stage of the return journey, the Southern Party were in want of more oil than they found at the depots. Owing partly to the severe conditions, but still more to the delays imposed by their sick comrades, they reached the full limit of time allowed for between depots. The cold was unexpected, and at the same time the actual amount of oil found at the depots was less than they had counted on.

The worst time came on the Barrier; from Lower Glacier to Southern Barrier Depot (51 miles), 6½ marches as against 5 (two of which were short marches, so that the 5 might count as an easy 4 in point of distance); from Southern Barrier to Mid Barrier Depot (82 miles), 6½ marches as against 5½; from Mid Barrier to Mt. Hooper (70 miles), 8 as against 4¾, while the last remaining 8 marches represent but 4 on the outward journey. […]

As to the cause of the shortage, the tins of oil at the depots had been exposed to extreme conditions of heat and cold. The oil was specially volatile, and in the warmth of the sun (for the tins were regularly set in an accessible place on the top of the cairns) tended to become vapour and escape through the stoppers even without damage to the tins. This process was much accelerated by reason that the leather washers about the stoppers had perished in the great cold. Dr. Atkinson gives two striking examples of this.

1. Eight one-gallon tins in a wooden case, intended for a depot at Cape Crozier, had been put out in September 1911. They were snowed up; and when examined in December 1912 showed three tins full, three empty, one a third full, and one two-thirds full.

2. When the search party reached One Ton Camp in November 1912 they found that some of the food, stacked in a canvas 'tank' at the foot of the cairn, was quite oily from the spontaneous leakage of the tins seven feet above it on the top of the cairn.

The tins at the depots awaiting the Southern Party had of course been opened and the due amount to be taken measured out by the supporting parties on their way back. However carefully re-stoppered, they were still liable to the unexpected evaporation and leakage already described. Hence, without any manner of doubt, the shortage which struck the Southern Party so hard.

Scott 441 (Appendix, Note 26, p. 401.)

Turney likes to draw our focus onto supplies that were 'inexplicably missing'. Anyone reading the accounts of the polar group's supply situation contained in Scott's journal will become aware that the greatest shortage of supplies related to fuel oil (that had leaked out) – Scott, according to his journal, always had more food than fuel available.

The missing food smear

Turney places much emphasis on the complaints relayed through their widows by Scott and Wilson, and some remarks in Scott's journal. These are largely the complaints of men whose plans have collapsed and who are struggling to cope with the changed reality of their situation. The slightest setback reported in these journals triggers the bereaved into a state of concern. If these are the only viewpoints reported then the reader receives a very distorted view of events.

In dealing with this subject we must also distinguish very carefully between food rations and fuel rations. The only sure way to deal with Turney's missing food smear is to put Scott's remarks in context by making a table of the storage depots with the dates on the return journey when the various parties reached them.

Supplies on the return journeys of Scott and Evans

Food supply | Fuel supply | Dogs | Discussion points | Text not published

Depots etc. Evans'/Lashly's accounts Scott's journal
[Parting of Scott and Evans. Scott heads south to the Pole, Evans north to base camp.] 03.01
He also asked me to spare Bowers from mine if I thought I could make the return journey of 750 miles short-handed — this, of course, I consented to do, and so little Bowers left us to join the Polar party. Captain Scott said he felt that I was the only person capable of piloting the last supporting party back without a sledge meter.
Bowers is to come into our tent, and we proceed as a five man unit to-morrow. We have 5½ units of food – practically over a month's allowance for five people – it ought to see us through.
we took four days' provision for three men and handed over the rest of our load to Scott.
The second party had followed us in case of accident, but as soon as I was certain we could get along we stopped and said farewell. […] I was glad to find their sledge is a mere nothing to them, and thus, no doubt, they will make a quick journey back.
We had to make average daily marches of 17 miles in order to remain on full provisions whilst returning over that featureless snow-capped plateau.
Cooking for five takes a seriously longer time than cooking for four; perhaps half an hour on the whole day. It is an item I had not considered when re-organising.
Built cairn and left one week's food together with sundry articles of clothing. We are down as close as we can go in the latter. We go forward with eighteen days' food. Yesterday I should have said certain to see us through, but now the surface is beyond words, and if it continues we shall have the greatest difficulty to keep our march long enough.
To-morrow we depot a week's provision , lightening altogether about 100 lbs.
Last - 15.01
here we leave our last depot – only four days' food and a sundry or two.
South Pole - 17.01
We have had a fat Polar hoosh in spite of our chagrin, and feel comfortable inside – added a small stick of chocolate and the queer taste of a cigarette brought by Wilson.
Terra Nova expedition: Four of the Polar Party standing disconsolately around Amundsen's tent.

Four of the Polar Party standing disconsolately around Amundsen's tent at the South Pole. 18 January 1912.Image: Library of Congress. [Click to open a larger image in a new tab.]

Terra Nova expedition: Evans, Scott, Oates, Wilson and Bowers at their camp at the South Pole.

The Polar Party – (l-r) Evans, Scott, Oates, Wilson and Bowers – at their camp at the South Pole. 18 January 1912. Image: Library of Congress, J195226.

Terra Nova expedition: the Polar Party, a picture of desolation.

The Polar Party, a picture of desolation: Wilson, Scott, Oates standing; Bowers and Edgar Evans sitting. 18 January 1912. [Click to open a larger image in a new tab.]

Last - 20.01
our Southern Depot, and we pick up 4 days' food. We carry on 7 days from to-night with 55 miles to go to the Half Degree Depot made on January 10.
45 miles to the next depot and 6 days' food in handthen pick up 7 days' food (T. -22°) and 90 miles to go to the 'Three Degree' Depot.
We are within 2½ miles of the 64th camp cairn, 30 miles from our depot, and with 5 days' food in hand.
Is the weather breaking up? If so, God help us, with the tremendous summit journey and scant food .
1½ Degree - 25.01
We had lunch and left with 9½ days' provisions […] Needless to say I shall sleep much better with our provision bag full again. The only real anxiety now is the finding of the Three Degree Depot.
We are slowly getting more hungry, and it would be an advantage to have a little more food, especially for lunch . If we get to the next depot in a few marches (it is now less than 60 miles and we have a full week's food ) we ought to be able to open out a little, but we can't look for a real feed till we get to the pony food depot.
If this goes on and the weather holds we shall get our depot without trouble. I shall indeed be glad to get it on the sledge. We are getting more hungry , there is no doubt. The lunch meal is beginning to seem inadequate . […] We talk of food a good deal more, and shall be glad to open out on it.
We are certainly getting hungrier every day . The day after to-morrow we should be able to increase allowances .
3 Degree
[Evans and Scott are now following the same route, Scott 24 days later than Evans.]
06.01  30.01 
It ought to be easy to get in with a margin, having 8 days' food in hand (full feeding). We have opened out on the 1/7th increase and it makes a lot of difference.
The extra food is certainly helping us, but we are getting pretty hungry. The weather is already a trifle warmer and the altitude lower, and only 80 miles or so to Mount Darwin [Upper Glacier depot].
The extra food is doing us all good , but we ought to have more sleep.
Thank the Lord we have good food at each meal , but we get hungrier in spite of it.
Food is low and weather uncertain, so that many hours of the day were anxious; but this evening, though we are not as far advanced as I expected, the outlook is much more promising.
[Risky but successful descent of the Bearmore icefalls.]
So we pitched our little tent, had a good filling meal, and then, delighted with our progress, we marched on until 8 p.m.
Upper Glacier
[Scott 24 days later than Evans.]
Here we took 3½ days' stores as arranged , and after sorting up and repacking the depot had lunch and away down the Glacier,
First panic, certainty that biscuit-box was short. Great doubt as to how this has come about, as we certainly haven't over-issued allowances. Bowers is dreadfully disturbed about it. The shortage is a full day's allowance . […] and what with hot tea and good food , we started the afternoon in a better frame of mind […] Soon after 6.30 we saw our depot easily and camped next it at 7.30 .
Our food satisfies now , but we must march to keep in the full ration
a pleasant day, its ending peaceful, with a sufficiency of excellent sledging rations and the promise of a similar day to succeed it.
To-morrow's lunch must serve for two if we do not make big progress. It was a test of our endurance on the march and our fitness with small supper . We have come through well.
after a very short supper and one meal only remaining in the food bag ; the depot doubtful in locality.
Mid Glacier
[Scott 27 days later than Evans.]
camped and made some tea before marching on to the depot, which lay but a few miles from us. We ate the last of our biscuits at this camp and finished everything but tea and sugar , then, new men, we struck our little camp, harnessed up and swept down over the smooth ice with scarcely an effort needed to move the sledge along. When we reached the depot we had another meal and slept through the night and well on into the next day.
At 9 we got up, deciding to have tea, and with one biscuit, no pemmican, so as to leave our scanty remaining meal for eventualities . […] Then suddenly Wilson saw the actual depot flag. It was an immense relief, and we were soon in possession of our 3½ days' food . The relief to all is inexpressible; needless to say, we camped and had a meal. […] In future food must be worked so that we do not run so short if the weather fails us. We mustn't get into a hole like this again . Greatly relieved to find that both the other parties got through safely.
The next day I had an awful attack of snow blindness , but the way down the glacier was so easy that it did not matter.
[Lashly] To-night Mr. Evans is complaining of his eyes, more trouble ahead!
We can't risk opening out our food again, and as cook at present I am serving something under full allowance.
We have reduced food , also sleep; feeling rather done. Trust 1½ days or 2 at most will see us at depot.
We are on short rations with not very short food; spin out till to-morrow night . We cannot be more than 10 or 12 miles from the depot
Lower Glacier
[Scott 27 days later than Evans.]
[Lashly] Mr. Evans is a lot better to-night
[Death of Edgar Evans]
At Shambles Camp. […] Here with plenty of horsemeat we have had a fine supper, to be followed by others such, and so continue a more plentiful era if we can keep good marches up .
but, above all, we have our full measure of food again . To-night we had a sort of stew fry of pemmican and horseflesh, and voted it the best hoosh we had ever had on a sledge journey.
[Lashly] Mr. Evans complained to me while outside the tent that he had a stiffness at the back of his legs behind the knees. I asked him what he thought it was, and he said could not account for it, so if he dont soon get rid of it I am to have a look and see if anything is the matter with him, as I know from what I have seen and been told before the symptoms of scurvy is pains and swelling behind the knee round the ankle and loosening of the teeth, ulcerated gums.
To-night we had a pony hoosh so excellent and filling that one feels really strong and vigorous again .
[Lashly] Mr. Evans seems better to-day.
South Barrier
[Scott 30 days later than Evans.]
Found store in order except shortage oil – shall have to be _very_ saving with fuel otherwise have ten full days' provision from to-night and shall have less than 70 miles to go. […] Short note from Evans, not very cheerful, saying surface bad, temperature high. Think he must have been a little anxious. It is an immense relief to have picked up this depot and, for the time, anxieties are thrust aside . […] It is great luck having the horsemeat to add to our ration. To-night we have had a real fine 'hoosh' .
Very much easier – write diary at lunch – excellent meal – now one pannikin very strong tea – four biscuits and butter .
We are doing well on our food, but we ought to have yet more . I hope the next depôt, now only 50 miles, will find us with enough surplus to open out . The fuel shortage still an anxiety . […] We want more food yet and especially more fat . Fuel is woefully short .
We are naturally always discussing possibility of meeting dogs, where and when, &c. It is a critical position. We may find ourselves in safety at next depôt, but there is a horrid element of doubt. […] 31 miles to depôt, 3 days' fuel at a pinch , and 6 days' food . Things begin to look a little better; we can open out a little on food from to-morrow night , I think.
Things must be critical till we reach the depôt, and the more I think of matters, the more I anticipate their remaining so after that event. Only 24 1/2 miles from the depôt. […] Splendid pony hoosh sent us to bed and sleep happily
Next camp is our depôt and it is exactly 13 miles. It ought not to take more than 1½ days; we pray for another fine one. The oil will just about spin out in that event, and we arrive 3 clear days' food in hand .
[Lashly] Mr. Evans is still very loose in his bowels. This, of course, hinders us, as we have had to stop several times.
[Lashly] Mr. Evans is still suffering from the same complaint: have come to the conclusion to stop his pemmican, as I feel that it have got something to do with him being out of sorts. Anyhow we are going to try it. Gave him a little brandy and he is taking some chalk and opium pills to try and stop it. His legs are getting worse and we are quite certain he is suffering from scurvy, at least he is turning black and blue and several other colours as well.
Mid Barrier
[Scott 30 days later than Evans.]
By this time I had made the unpleasant discovery that I was suffering from scurvy . It came on with a stiffening of the knee joints, then I could not straighten my legs, and finally they were horrible to behold, swollen, bruised, and green. As day followed day my condition became worse: my gums were ulcerated and my teeth loose. Then finally I got haemorrhage.
[Lashly] Very bad light but fair wind, picked up the depôt this evening. Did the 14 miles quite in good time, after taking our food we found a shortage of oil and have taken what we think will take us to the next depôt. There seems to have been some leakage in the one can, but how we could not account for that we have left a note telling Capt. Scott how we found it, but they will have sufficient to carry them on to the next depôt, but we all know the amount of oil allowed on the Journey is enough, but if any waste takes place it means extra precautions in the handling of it. Mr. Evans is still without pemmican and seems to have somewhat recovered from the looseness, but things are not by a long way with him as they should be. Only two more depôts now to pick up.
we found a shortage of oil; with most rigid economy it can scarce carry us to the next depôt on this surface (71 miles away)
We are about 42 miles from the next depôt and have a week's food , but only about 3 to 4 days' fuel — we are as economical of the latter as one can possibly be, and we cannot afford to save food and pull as we are pulling . […] Providence to our aid! We can expect little from man now except the possibility of extra food at the next depôt . [ A poor one ] It will be real bad if we get there and find the same shortage of oil .
We went to bed on a cup of cocoa and pemmican solid with the chill off […] We started march on tea and pemmican as last night — we pretend to prefer the pemmican this way. […] We are two pony marches and 4 miles about from our depôt. Our fuel dreadfully low
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 depôt before running out.
We are 16 from our depôt. If we only find the correct proportion of food there and this surface continues, we may get to the next depôt [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 .
Mt. Hooper
[Scott 34 days later than Evans.]
[Lashly] we arrived at the depôt at 7.40 P.M. We are now 180 miles from Hut Point, and this Sunday night we hope to be only two more Sundays on the Barrier. No improvement in Mr. Evans, much worse. We have taken out our food and left nearly all the pemmican as we dont require it on account of none of us caring for it, therefore we are leaving it behind for the others. They may require it. We have left our note and wished them every success on their way, but we have decided it is best not to say anything about Mr. Evans being ill or suffering from scurvy.
Cold comfort. Shortage on our allowance all round. I don't know that anyone is to blame , but generosity and 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 is a miserable jumble.
[Death march of polar party]   11.03
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.
Must fight it out to the last biscuit, but can't reduce rations .
[Oates walks out] No. 14 pony camp, only two pony marches from One Ton Depot
We have the last half fill of oil in our primus and a very small quantity of spirit – this alone between us and thirst.
 [Scott's tent. Scott was 39 days later than Evans.]   19.03
We are 15½ miles from the depôt and ought to get there in three days. What progress! We have two days' food but barely a day's fuel .
To-day forlorn hope, Wilson and Bowers going to depôt for fuel .
no fuel and only one or two of food left
    29.03 ?
We had fuel to make two cups of tea apiece and bare food for two days on the 20th.
[Scott, Wilson and Bowers are dead, 11 miles from One Ton Camp.]
One Ton 09.02
[Lashly] A very fine day and quite warm. Reached the depôt at 5.5 P.M. and we all had a good feed of oatmeal. Oh, what a God-send to get a change of food! We have taken enough food for 9 days, which if we still keep up our present rate of progress it ought to take us in to Hut Point. We cannot take too heavy a load, as there is only the two of us pulling now, and this our last port of call before we reach Hut Point, but things are not looking any too favourable for us, as our leader is gradually getting lower every day. It is almost impossible for him to get along, and we are still 120 miles from Hut Point.
[Cherry-Garrard's support party arrived on 03.03 (Scott had just left Mid Barrier depot), stocks up the depot and leaves on 10.03 (Scott had reached Mt. Hooper depot).]
Bluff 13.02 -
[Evans tent] 18.02 [Crean leaves] Then Lashly came in to me, shut the tent door, and made me a little porridge out of some oatmeal we got from the last depôt we had passed .
[Lashly] After Crean left I left Mr. Evans and proceeded to Corner Camp which was about a mile away, to see if there was any provisions left there that would be of use to us. I found a little butter, a little cheese, and a little treacle that had been brought there for the ponies. I also went back to the motor and got a little more oil while the weather was fine.
Hut Point 19.02[Lashly] After Crean left I left Mr. Evans and proceeded to Corner Camp which was about a mile away, to see if there was any provisions left there that would be of use to us. I found a little butter, a little cheese, and a little treacle that had been brought there for the ponies. I also went back to the motor and got a little more oil while the weather was fine. -

Assessment of the timeline

From even a relatively superficial review of the timeline the following general points can be extracted:

  1. Apart from the 'short' biscuit box on 07.02 (see the discussion of this point later), all the food rations at the depots were in order and as foreseen– at no point does Scott say otherwise. Scott's team was short of food because of delays and the extra calorific requirement for strenuous sledge-hauling in extreme cold: 'we cannot afford to save food and pull as we are pulling'. [04.03] Even after the death of Edgar Evans on 17.02 meant that there was one less mouth to feed, the situation did not improve. Oates' death on 17.03 came too late to help.
  2. The critical shortage is fuel. From the South Barrier depot onwards the shortage of fuel becomes ever more desperate. We read repeatedly of Scott's party having more food available than fuel, meaning that the lack of fuel was almost always the limiting factor. It is assumed that the leather seals on the stoppers of the fuel cans leaked at low temperatures and allowed evaporation at high temperatures, which would explain the shortages. At no point does Scott suggest that insufficient fuel has been left behind by the other parties with access to the depots.
  3. From occasional remarks after the South Barrier depot (27.02, 17.03, 10.03) it is clear that Scott is hoping for the arrival of adog team. During most of this time Cherry-Garrard and a dog team were waiting at One Ton camp with no idea of what to do next.
  4. In a hare-brained and extremely risky action, Teddy Evans' team made a direct descent of the ice falls above the Beardmore glacier [13.02] to attain the Upper Glacier depot. This manoeuvre paid off, saving the team three days' march according to Evans. The estimate seems reasonable, since before the icefalls Scott's team had been 24 days behind Evans; by the next depot, Mid Glacier, it is 27 days behind.
    We armchair experts are tut-tutting: had there been injuries to one or more of Evans' team the Terra Nova expedition would have cost many more lives than it did. But, as Napolean reportedly remarked: the best generals are the lucky ones. We have here a foretaste of Evans' later career, where he also triumphed in extremely risky situations ('Evans of the Broke'). If we read only Scott's account we get an impression of Teddy Evans as being some kind of ineffectual incompetent who was not cut out for leadership. On this occasion, like all the best leaders, he came to an agreement with the men under him to take this risky route down and their luck held. It is no wonder that Crean and Lashly never abandoned him later to save themselves.
FoS image, size 708x903

A map detail showing the return route shared by Scott's Polar Party and Evans' Second Support Party. The First Support Party (Wright et al.) followed the same route from the Upper Glacier depot. The dates of Evans' snowblindness and scurvy are in red.

Disputed sections

Turney relies on his own interpretation of certain passages, some of which were not in the first published editions of Scott's journal, but which were reinstated in the critical edition published in 2005. Let's take these sections one by one.

The missing biscuits

This worry upset Scott's team on 7 February. Here is Scott's full journal entry:

A wretched day with satisfactory ending. First panic, certainty that biscuit-box was short. Great doubt as to how this has come about, as we certainly haven't over-issued allowances. Bowers is dreadfully disturbed about it. The shortage is a full day's allowance. We started our march at 8.30, and travelled down slopes and over terraces covered with hard sastrugi – very tiresome work – and the land didn't seem to come any nearer. At lunch the wind increased, and what with hot tea and good food, we started the afternoon in a better frame of mind, and it soon became obvious we were nearing our mark. Soon after 6.30 we saw our depot easily and camped next it at 7.30.

It is important to realise, once the context for this remark is given, that this incident is really just a trivial fright – a 'panic' as Scott puts it, the sort of reaction that occurs in anxious people.

  1. The discovery that the 'biscuit-box was short' occurred on the morning of the day on which the team reached Upper Glacier depot. Whether the box really was short or not, it could have no possible effect on the success of the journey since the party was within a few hours of the next depot. Scott tells us how quickly they all cheered up once they got going and, two days later, 'our food satisfies now'.
  2. The biscuit box had been in their possession for some time. It was their biscuit box, which they refilled from the bulk stores at the depots. It was not collected or refilled at Upper Glacier depot, but at a depot before that. If they had picked up the biscuit box or refilled it at the previous depot, 3-Degree, then this was the first depot that Evans' team had visited, 24 days before. Evans team had a good stock of reserves at this point and had no motivation at all to purloin Scott's supplies.
  3. The previous two depots after the North Pole, Last and 1½-Degree, had been laid down by Scott's team and visited by no one else.
  4. The shock the team feels at the missing biscuits seems to be directed at themselves and not at Evans' team: 'we certainly haven't over-issued allowances'. It seems more likely to be a case of simple miscounting that only came to light as the quantity of the biscuits in the box was reduced. Bowers was responsible for portioning and accounting for the supplies, which is why he in particular was 'dreadfully disturbed about it' – no one in the Polar Party entertained the idea that someone else had stolen their biscuits.
  5. Scott's team, after their fright that morning, meticulously checked the supplies they loaded at Upper Glacier depot (and probably all succeeding depots). For the day of their departure, 8 February, Scott's journal explicitly tells us this:
    Started from the depot rather late owing to weighing biscuit, &c., and rearranging matters.
    Scott records no irregularities after 'weighing biscuit'; the purpose of the procedure seems to be to ensure a better portion control between the members of the team, not principally to check the quantity left for them at the depot. We can say this because, as the last team passing that way, they had no reason to leave anything behind – everything in the store was theirs. There are no more frights or complaints about missing food rations.

Turney, always happy to smear Evans and the Second Support party, carefully phrases his discussion of the 'missing biscuits' to imply that the biscuits were missing from the Upper Glacier Depot, which, as noted above, is simply not true. We repeat: the biscuits were missing from the box they carried with them.

But the shortfall in anticipated food happened at least twice. The first occurred on the Polar Party’s return journey at the Upper Glacier Depot on 7 February 1912 (Fig. 2), when the team found a full day’s biscuit allowance missing.

Turney 505

Those who have not ploughed through the extensive literature on Scott's expedition may not realise that the expedition's trekking supplies – food and fuel – were not pre-portioned in any meaningful way. Taking supplies from a depot was not a simple interaction: packages and containers had to be opened and their contents counted, weighed or measured into a transportable form. That is why we read the otherwise mystifying entry in Scott's journal for 8 February about 'weighing biscuits', reminiscent of an old corner shop of the time – which is what, in effect, the depot was.

The shopkeeper on Scott's party was Henry 'Birdie' Bowers. Scott had praised him fulsomely for the performance of his shopkeeper role a month before, on 8 January:

Little Bowers remains a marvel – he is thoroughly enjoying himself. I leave all the provision arrangement in his hands, and at all times he knows exactly how we stand, or how each returning party should fare. It has been a complicated business to redistribute stores at various stages of re-organisation, but not one single mistake has been made. In addition to the stores, he keeps the most thorough and conscientious meteorological record, and to this he now adds the duty of observer and photographer. Nothing comes amiss to him, and no work is too hard. It is a difficulty to get him into the tent; he seems quite oblivious of the cold, and he lies coiled in his bag writing and working out sights long after the others are asleep.

Scott 8 January 1912

It was a 'complicated business' and it was only a matter of time in the terrible circumstances of the journey that a mistake would be made. It was Bower's mistake, which is why he was 'dreadfully disturbed about it'. Bowers is one of Scott's favourites, as this quote from Scott's journal amply demonstrates, which explains the gentle and oblique way that Scott describes the problem of the missing biscuits in his journal. Not 'Bowers had miscounted' but he was 'dreadfully disturbed about it'. This obliqueness in the service of a favourite allows Turney, a century later, to use the incident to blame Teddy Evans, Scott's non-favourite, for pilfering biscuits from a biscuit box to which he had no access.

In fact, despite what Scott says about the precision of Bowers' work, portioning was a very inexact science. We only need to recall an incident that occurred with Evans and his team on 4 December:

A blizzard started on December 4, which delayed us for some hours. Our party found it had a surplus of 27 whole biscuits — no one could account for this ; we told Bowers, however, and he did not seem surprised, so I think he shoved in a few biscuits here and there. He told me that some tins carried 2 lb. more than was marked on them. We covered about 13 miles despite the bad weather beginning the day.

Evans 209

As for Turney's po-faced certainty that 'the shortfall in anticipated food happened at least twice' – well, we have to shrug our shoulders and look at the practicality of food allocation on an Antarctic expedition. Once again, it is Teddy Evans who brings us the reality. On the 4 December mentioned above, the day the extra biscuits were discovered, Evans was on cooking duties:

I also had the pleasure of issuing four biscuits each, or twice the ration, Meares and Dimitri having given us eight whole biscuits which they spared from their supply. The dog drivers were not so ravenous as the manhauling party, which was natural, but still it was uncommonly generous of them to give us part of their ration for nothing. I made an extra strong whack of cocoa, as we still had some of my private tea left, so could save cocoa. I brought tea in lieu of tobacco in my personal bag. At least that night the man-hauling party turned in on full stomachs.

Evans 210

Rationing and shortages

On arrival at the Southern Barrier depot on 24 February Scott found the 'store in order except shortage oil'. In respect of the alleged shortage of supplies for Scott's team in the depots, the most relevant section of the journey falls between the two depots Mid Barrier and Mt. Hooper. Turney's assessment is unambiguously bad for Teddy Evans:

Even with the loss of P.O. Evans, they were short of a day's full rations compared to the more bullish entry on the 24 February, lending further weight to Curzon's notes. It suggests that one or more individuals did indeed take more than their fair share of food from the Southern Barrier Depot.

Turney 506

Laughter at Turney's police report style – 'one or more individuals' – soon gives way to astonishment at his confused argumentation in the service of his smears against Teddy Evans. Scott himself writes that the (food) stores in the Southern Barrier depot were 'in order'. Had they not been, Scott would have certainly recorded this fact.

Turney's smear that 'that one or more individuals did indeed take more than their fair share of food from the Southern Barrier Depot' is therefore completely unfounded –Scott found no rations missing from the Southern Barrier Depot. That Scott and his team 'were short of a day's full rations' does not 'suggest' in any way that food been stolen from Southern Barrier depot.

The members of Scott's party were hungry and short of food in this section of the route because 1) their marching was delayed (by the weather and the fact that Oates was still holding them back) and 2) Scott's provision planning for the expedition had completely underestimated the food needs of men dragging sledges in the Antarctic. Like everyone else trekking in the expedition they were permanently hungry, except for brief periods when horsemeat became available.

Turney's confident assertion that they were short of a day's full rations is simply not true: it is one more of Turney's impressionistic smears. If Turney means that a 'day's full rations' was missing from the Southern Barrier depot then this is not what Scott himself tells us. If Turney means that Scott ran out of rations by this amount, we can only point out again that Scott's team, up until the very end, always had more food rations than it had fuel. It was the shortage of fuel that did for them. They were hungry because of the portioning, not because the portions were not there.

Bearing in mind Roland Huntford's rabid anti-Scott and pro-Amundsen bias, it is difficult to find fault with his summary of the defects of Scott's planning of depots and provisioning:

They were ineluctably starving, not because the elements were against them, but because the depots were too far apart. Scott had spaced them for animal transport, when he must have known that he would be man hauling on the way back. Between 80° S. and 84° S. he had four depots, at irregular intervals. Over the same distance, Amundsen had five depots, precisely a degree of latitude or 60 nautical miles between each. Scott was taking about eight days for a degree of latitude; Amundsen and his dogs had done it in three. Besides which, Scott had cut things fine. He had not put enough in his depots to get him safely home. He depended on returning parties, and particularly the dogs, to bring out more supplies. His orders were unclear, so that had not been done. Even at the best of times, he allowed for no margin of error. All this explains his lurching from one crisis to another; repeatedly running out of food. He had condemned his men to march or die.

Huntford 285

Rationing and shortages in Scott's journal

Let's reproduce Scott's journal for this section once more, this time with a detailed analysis of the supply situation. In focussing on the supply situation we shall neglect all the other misadventures which befell this brave team: the terrible weather, the difficult sledging conditions and the effect of Oates, the dead man walking's presence on the team. Had any one of these factors been different the team might very well have survived their ordeal. But they weren't and they didn't.

01.03 Mid Barrier
we found a shortage of oil; with most rigid economy it can scarce carry us to the next depôt on this surface (71 miles away)

In terms of provisions, Scott's situation on the last day before the team's arrival at Mid Barrier depot was vulnerable but not desperate. With 13 miles (1½ days) to go he had just about enough oil to 'spin out' and '3 clear days' food in hand'.

Even if we believe that Teddy Evans, whose scurvy had begun around this time (earlier according to Turney), had been munching away at more than his share of the food reserves, that has not not affected Scott's team in any practical way. On arrival at Mid Barrier depot he makes no mention of a shortage of food stocks, his main concern is a serious lack of fuel oil. Without additional help the team is in effect doomed. At Mid Barrier depot, Scott is looking into the abyss.

From this perspective we can understand why the team is buoyed by its forlorn hope of the arrival of a dog team (27.02). This single hope kept them going and probably kept Oates going, too. Oates' suicide on 16? March was heroic but futile, whereas the act would have been not only heroic but also useful at Mid Barrier or even Mt. Hooper. Hindsight is wonderful.

We are about 42 miles from the next depôt and have a week's food, but only about 3 to 4 days' fuel — we are as economical of the latter as one can possibly be, and we cannot afford to save food and pull as we are pulling. […] Providence to our aid! We can expect little from man now except the possibility of extra food at the next depôt. [A poor one] It will be real bad if we get there and find the same shortage of oil.

Three days after setting off from Mid Barrier the team has just enough food but as usual a desperate lack of fuel. 'Providence to our aid!' writes Scott, acknowledging the doom they face.

The phrase 'a poor one' clearly relates to the possibility of extra food having been deposited at the next depot. This phrase was left out of the first published versions for some reason, an omission which Turney interprets as part of the cover up of Evans' over-consumption.

Whether in or out, the phrase is perfectly innocuous. Scott – or Birdie Bowers, his human computer – knew precisely what the dumping party was supposed to have left at the Mt. Hooper depot – the quantities were derived from Scott's own calculations, which turned out to be highly optimistic when things did not go as planned. Hindsight again, sorry.

There is a 'possibility' that extra supplies may have been left at Mt. Hooper depot, but why would this happen? Since when did the men under this martinet's command deviate from his calculations? As a possibility, then, it really is a 'poor one'.

Once again, it is oil, not food, that is the really critical factor.

We went to bed on a cup of cocoa and pemmican solid with the chill off […] We started march on tea and pemmican as last night — we pretend to prefer the pemmican this way. […] We are two pony marches and 4 miles about from our depôt. Our fuel dreadfully low

NB: Once again, the lack of oil is the greatest problem.

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 depôt before running out.

Desperate measures are being taken: if oil and spirit run out they can no longer melt snow and will ultimately die of thirst. They are almost certainly seriously dehydrated already.

We are 16 from our depôt. If we only find the correct proportion of food there and this surface continues, we may get to the next depôt [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 .

The transcription suffers from an incorrect editorial intervention. The section '[Mt. Hooper, 72 miles farther]' does not appear in Scott's manuscript and has been inserted into the transcript by someone, possibly Cherry-Garrard. Knowing this fact solves the confusion over the unnamed depot that is 16 miles away, which is actually the Mt. Hooper depot, consistent with Scott's subsequent entries. The distance of 72 miles mentioned in the insertion is approximately that to One Ton depot, the next-but-one depot which Scott's party never managed to reach.

The fact that such obvious nonsense as the bracketed remark can be propagated from edition to edition for nearly a hundred years, apparently noticed by no one, and is still present in the online 'transcripts' hosted by the Scott Polar Research Institute and – most shamefully of all – by the British Library as an adjunct to selected facsimiles of the manuscript of Scott's journal is a testament to the bad habit of many academics of copying off each other without further thought.

All that confusion aside, we read once more of the desperate hope placed by Scott's party in the dog team, the 'hope against hope that the dogs have been to Mt. Hooper'. Scott is implying that reaching the base in itself will be not enough to save them: they need the extra provisions that the dogs would bring. More specifically, this refers to their desperate situation with heating oil: 'If there is a shortage of oil again we can have little hope'.

Scott's phrase '[i]f we only find the correct proportion of food there' is superficially ambiguous enough for conspiratorial minds like Turney's to read it as being as suggestion that the 'correct proportion of food' has been lacking at some point. Must be that scurvy knave Evans.

In fact it is not at all ambiguous. It is uttered in the context of there having been repeated hopes of extra provisions being laid down at Mt. Hooper depot. We could paraphrase it as follows: 'if there is only just the correct proportion of food there then we shall survive to One Ton depot.' This interpretation is in line with the hope repeatedly shortly afterwards that 'the dogs have been to Mt. Hooper'.

That said, if this is the intended meaning then the English-speaking purist would prefer Scott to have written 'if we find only the correct proportion of food there', but starving to death in a freezing tent and looking death in the face does not bring out the purist in writers. However, Scott certainly did not write the phrase that the conspiracists think they read: 'if only we find the correct proportion of food there'.

Scott's plan foresaw a re-provisioning of One Ton depot with substantial extra rations, whether by dogs or manhauling. This was done to some extent, but not completely, but it really made no difference: Scott's party never made it to One Ton depot, they perished 11 miles away. Scott's hope that the dogs had reached Mt. Hooper and stocked up there was illusory – that was never part of the plan.

10.03 Mt. Hooper
Cold comfort. Shortage on our allowance all round. I don't know that anyone is to blame,but generosity and 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 is a miserable jumble.

FoS image, size 708x496

Facsimile of Scott's journal entry from 10 March at Mt. Hooper, containing the passages left out of the published version. Image: British Library.

Turney, determined to pin the blame for Scott's demise on Teddy Evans, takes the 'shortage on our allowance all round' to mean that the stocks in the depot were short because Evans had pilfered the missing 'allowance'

Read without those distorting spectacles, Scott's remark becomes a plain statement of the facts. Their 'allowance' for the fifty-six or so miles they now have to trudge will be insufficient – Oates is still with them, slowing them down. They simply will not reach the next depot.

We should not scrutinise the words of a man in such extremis– physical and mental, staring death in the face – with lawerly precision. It is clear that the extra he so desperately needed at the camp is not there. He has the rations he planned for and these will be insufficient. There is no one to 'blame', because no one has done anything wrong – they left the rations specified by Scott himself in his planning. If Scott could have thought of someone to hold accountable, we would hear of it, without doubt. Instead we are given the pathetically paranoid 'I don't know that anyone is to blame'.

There is no room for 'generosity and thoughtfulness' either. In Scott's plan there is no anticipation at all that the returning polar party would end up at Mt. Hooper in such dire circumstances, desperately in need of extra food and particularly fuel to cover the much longer time they are going to need to get themselves and the near-dead Oates back to One Ton depot. The planning, not the humans, have failed Scott. The historian Roland Huntford has no pity for Scott at this point:

The shortage of food and fuel was Scott's own fault. By taking a fifth man on to the Pole, and disrupting his lines of retreat, he had forced the returning parties to rearrange the depot. Since he had not organized his supplies in modules, they had to weigh out, measure and repack. Without proper equipment, mistakes were inevitable.

Huntford 293

The dogs they had hoped for had not arrived. We remember Scott's own assessment of their value three days before his team arrived at Mt. Hooper: 'We hope against hope that the dogs have been to Mt. Hooper; then we might pull through'. Without them, the stores in the Mt. Hooper depot would always be insufficient. His team needed the extra that only they could provide.

A miserable jumble

If ever an epitaph were needed for Scott's planning errors on the expedition it would be his own remark: 'It is a miserable jumble', another phrase excised from the printed journal. Given that there was no communication between Scott's party and the remainder of the expedition, a large part of the 'planning' was speculation about imponderables. No one at the base camp had any idea where Scott's team was, what shape it was in or whether it was even still alive.

The dog expedition under Cherry-Garrard in fact set off too early to be of use, because no one had any idea of how slow Scott's progress had been. Cherry-Garrard's rescue team had set off back home, their own supplies exhausted, on the very day that Scott arrived at the Mt. Hooper depot. Cherry knew no better: was Scott's party dead or lost somewhere or just around the corner or many miles away? When Cherry-Garrard and his dogs arrived at One Ton depot on 3 March Scott's party was around 100 miles further south, just after Mid Barrier depot. The dog team did not have the resources for a long journey and would have been just as hampered by the weather as Scott was. Huntford's assessment:

Likewise, Scott had only himself to blame for the absence of the dogs that would have been his salvation. Meares did have a bad trip home because Scott had taken him further than intended. This was the last straw, and Meares went home in Terra Nova, which had come and gone, disgusted with the whole affair. That left a gap in the chain of command, with Demetri the only dog driver, unable to work on his own.

Again, Scott was suffering from unclear orders of his own. He had left confused and contradictory instructions for the dogs, repeatedly changed along the way. A critical last-minute order to bring them to between 82° and 83° S to help him home had been lost in transmission. He had mentioned it to Lt Evans before parting at the head of the Beardmore Glacier. Evans had fallen victim to scurvy on the way back, and in the ensuing race for life, understandably forgot what Scott had said. Besides, a depot of dog food Scott mentioned in one of his messages did not in fact exist. So the dogs waited at McMurdo Sound, their masters uncertain what to do, unwittingly leaving Scott and his companions to their fate. Eventually Cherry-Garrard and Demetri made a half-hearted attempt with the dogs to meet the polar party, but got no further than One Ton Depot, where they waited in vain before turning back.

Huntford 293

The stretch between the South Barrier depot and One Ton depot was a trial for all of the returning parties, not just Scott. The First Support Party was the first of the returning parties to experience the hunger of this stretch, described in Charles Wright's journals, and they were not struggling along with invalids:

Had an extra biscuit to celebrate the occasion [New Year]. Now overcast. Would give anything for a full tummy. If we can keep our present average will be in One Ton Depot in about two weeks. Hope to heaven it is laid by that time or we may have to make Hut Point on half rations or less. Full ration God knows leaves one empty enough. I get hungry again one hour after lunch. Am certain [I] could do more and better work on a bigger ration.

All the returning parties took advantage of the pony meat cached at the mouth of the Beardmore [Glacier] but I was desperately hungry on the return journey and, speaking for myself, I found it was unpleasant to finish a meal and be just as hungry after it as before.

I feel sure I was a trial to some of the party for urging for longer marches in order to have a little spare store of food in case the XS rations had not been delivered to One Ton Depot before we arrived.

Wright 229f 1 January 1912

'I found it was unpleasant to finish a meal and be just as hungry after it as before' could serve as the summary of everything that was wrong with the provisioning of the expedition.

Scott's team, which had been slowed down by Edgar Evans, now dead, was now slowed down by the increasingly decrepit Oates. Wright's party, all relatively fit, managed to get to One Ton depot only with great suffering. Like Scott's party, they too dreamed of the cornucopia of supplies that were waiting there.

One Ton depot, the oasis

Scott never reached One Ton depot, so its provisioning state is irrelevant for the accusation that Evans and his team ate more than their fair share of food. The only depot that counts in this respect is Mt. Hooper, the depot immediately before One Ton depot, which Scott had vainly hoped had been restocked by a dog team. Scott reports that food supplies are in order at the preceding depots, South Barrier and Mid Barrier.

But in order to remove all doubt about the impact of the supposed over-consumption of Evans and his team, let's briefly look at what happened to the stores at One Ton depot. The First Support Party containing Charles Wright was the first to arrive at there on their run home, on 15 January.

We now have two full weeks' rations for one hundred and twenty miles and possibly some [more food available] at Corner Camp. Have left for 2nd [Supporting] party double as much as we took, so we are not treating them badly. Would feel full after another hoosh like this one.

As a matter of fact, I am damn sore at Atch. He insists on leaving for the second party two or three times as much grub as we take. They for instance pick up three weeks' [rations] plus biscuit here. If they had half starved like us they would have two and a half times the ordinary ration to go in on.

[Editor's note: An undated note in the diary was added later: "Jolly good thing they did have the extra grub. Wrong again. C.S.W" When Evans, Crean, and Lashly reached One Ton Depot on February 9, Evans was suffering very badly from scurvy and the three were in dire need of the extra food.

Wright 236 15 January 1912

The Second Support Party, with the suffering Teddy Evans, arrived at One Ton depot about two weeks later, on 9 February. The depot was then restocked by Cherry-Garrard's dog team around a month later on 3 March. Had Scott's party been able to get there they would have found, as foreseen, plenty of fuel and provisions.

Hoping for the dogs

Turney makes much of the supposed fact that Teddy Evans did not pass on or implement Scott's last orders about the dog team when he returned to base camp. Whether he did or didn't doesn't matter, since the orders would have made no difference at all.

Teddy Evans got back to Hut Point on 19 February, having been saved by Atkinson's team on its way to support Scott. Cherry-Garrard then set off on his relief attempt on 26 February, either too early or for too short a distance, depending on your taste.

Even if a dog team had been dispatched two days rather than six days later neither the dogs nor the provisions they pulled were in a state to simply continue south for an unknown duration until they finally bumped into Scott's party at an unknown position.

Scott's remark in his journal, 'Meares had a bad trip home I suppose', is difficult to interpret without some background.

Scott had left written instructions for Cecil Meares and Dimitri Gerov, the dog handlers, before he set out for the Pole. The two were to set out with a dog team in early February and meet up with the returning polar party somewhere between the Mid Barrier and South Barrier depots on about 1 March.

Allowing for all our scepticism about Scott's planning skills, this was remarkably prescient: Scott's party arrived at Mid Barrier depot on 1 March precisely. Had Mears and Dimitri followed Scott's written orders then the Terra Nova expedition would be a footnote in a schoolbook.

That Mears did not set off as planned is one of the puzzles that we cannot solve here, but it is fair to say that Scott also violated his own plan by taking the dogs much further south with him than foreseen. Meares and Dimitri were only allowed by Scott to turn back from the Lower Glacier depot on 11 December. They arrived back at base camp on 5 January (this was the day after Scott and Teddy Evans had parted before the Pole) weeks later than planned. In normal circumstances, after all their efforts during the Antarctic summer, the dog team would be considered to be exhausted and would have been rested. Meares and Dimitri really did have a bad trip home: they ran out of rations and were forced to appropriate just enough extra for themselves to keep them alive.

We now see why Scott and his party had such high hopes of a dog rescue from the South Barrier depot onwards: they still believed that the original plan – or something close to it – had been put into effect. The great pathos of Scott's entry at the Mt. Hooper depot, ten terrible days after the dog team should have appeared, is now easy to understand.

That Scott feels abandoned by his team is also completely understandable – he has no idea of what is going on back in the safety of the base camp. 'I don't know that anyone is to blame, but generosity and thoughtfulness have not been abundant' are the words of someone who no longer knows what to believe and who has lost all his faith in his colleagues. They are not the words of someone who believes his team mates had pilfered his rations from the stores. It is a sentence that will upset a loyal widow, but which we must see in context.

The statement certainly hints at some sort of delusion in Scott's mind, which is understandable and quite forgiveable in the circumstances. The last contact he had had with anyone else outside the polar team took place two months before on 4 January, the moment he and Teddy Evans bade each other farewell. Since that moment, Scott had been cut off from all other events and so, apart from brief notes left by Evans at the depots, left alone with his plans and hopes.

Without getting involved in the unresolved and unresolvable debate on the use of the dog teams for support, all the plans – whether Scott's written orders or various messages through various people, whether concerning restocking of supplies or meeting up – ended in naught.

Even the restocking of One Ton depot that Scott had ordered had not been carried out properly, but it didn't matter – it would not have made the slightest difference because Scott never got there.

In effect, Scott and his team were trekking a vague path through Antarctic wastes at erratic speeds and no one else in the expedition had any real idea where they were at any particular moment in time. The blizzards and unseasonable cold which blighted Scott's journey back from the South Pole also blighted everyone else's movements.

It seems bizarre of Turney to try and blame Teddy Evans for the failure to launch a dog rescue of Scott. In all the smoke and mirrors around this controversial subject, Turney chooses to ignore one simple fact: at their last meeting, when they parted on 3 January, neither Scott nor Evans had any idea about the problems Scott's party would encounter on its return journey. The planning could neither be more precise or more detailed than the written orders that Scott had left at base camp.

The only relevant extra bit of information was that Scott had brought Meares and his dog team much further south than originally foreseen, meaning that it was unrealistic for them to set off at the foreseen time. We must be clear: from all the surviving accounts, Scott never foresaw the need for a dog rescue – the dogs were always viewed as the fastest way of getting the news of Scott's 'conquest' of the South Pole to the Terra Nova before she sailed and then out to an expectant world.

Turney makes much use of Cherry-Garrard's justifications in order to smear Evans, but we have to remember that, after the expedition, Cherry-Garrard was in the firing line for having failed to rescue Scott's party. The criticism of him was not fair, but he was repeatedly forced into defensive positions on the matter. The episode left him with feelings of guilt or paranoia which, combined with physical disabilites and his experiences during his service in the First World War, seem to have been the cause for his rapid mental decline. As far as the lack of a dog rescue for Scott is concerned, Scott's own words best sum it up: 'a miserable jumble'.

Conspiracies everywhere

The sections of critical text highlighted in yellow were not included in the standard transcription of Scott's journal, a fact which triggers Turney into further conspiratorial hysteria. They are, it is true, the unguarded outbursts of a disappointed man.

The remark about the lack of generosity and thoughtfulness is really a slander on the other members of his expedition, not a rebuke aimed at Teddy Evans. The remark about the miserable jumble reflects badly on Scott, too.

Scott's widow naturally read these remarks with different eyes from ours. For us, it is difficult to imagine at whom the remark is directed and how anyone else in the rest of the expedition could have shown 'generosity and thoughtfulness' in the circumstances.

Let us ourselves be generous. At this point in his journal, Scott is a man suffering from extreme cold, exhaustion, painful frostbite, dehydration and certainly some form of malnutrition, if not full-blown scurvy. He is in a cloud of unknowing: Where was the support team? When would the dogs arrive? Would his crippled team reach the next depot and would there be food and fuel there?

Scott had no idea what was happening to the fuel stocks, no idea that fuel was leaking from the cans in unpredictable ways. In such situations a few outbursts of hurt and paranoia are allowed, but warm, well-fed commentators should not take these remarks to be the measured judgements from a calm mind.

Evans' snowblindness

Evans suffered a bout of snow blindness from 18 January. He writes that he made no further entries in his diary until 29 January, presumably the date when the snow blindness had subsided. [Evans 251]

On 30 January he found he was suffering from scurvy. At this point the team was at the Mid Barrier depot. The onset of the disease would not be overnight – in fact, he must have had a the vitamin C deficiency for some time; only now did it begin to manifest itself in symptoms. By obfuscating Cherry-Garrard's account of the journey Turney attempts to make the date of the first symptoms earlier, thus, presumably, increasing Evans' motive to pilfer extra food from the rations of Scott's team.

Evans' scurvy

On the journey back to the base camp Evans became afflicted with scurvy, a disease caused by a vitamin C deficiency. Turney has no pity for Evans' plight, even though scurvy is a condition that was extremely unpleasant and almost killed him. He repeats the assertions of some people that Evans' aversion to eating fresh or lightly cooked seal meat caused his own undoing.

This judgement is a little harsh and certainly debatable, since for most of the journey, once the teams were away from the shoreline, no one had these foods available. At the time it was also thought that tinned meat might be in some way a cause of scurvy.

A number of writers now presume that most of the members of the trekking parties suffered from some form of incipient scurvy – they had all done without sources of vitamin C for long periods. But for Turney, not only is Evans' scurvy a personal misfortune he brought on himself, it is also suggested that it was the scurvy that caused Evans' to raid the supplies left for the polar party to get food beyond his fair ration.

Since in Turney's mind this is so, it is of great importance to him to show that the onset of Evans' scurvy occurred much later on the return journey, so denying Evans the excuse of having this disease for raiding more than his fair share of the stored provisions. Furthermore, according to Turney, through interventions and manipulations in the later accounts of the expedition Evans tried to change the date of the onset of his scurvy to be much earlier than it was, thus giving him an excuse for his pilfering. Yes, it is a complicated chain of assumptions, but that is how conspiracy theorists' minds work.

Regardless, it now seems likely that Evans actually fell down with scurvy considerably further north than Curzon understood. And the original text strongly suggests Evans took the additional pemmican and other supplies when he had not yet succumbed to scurvy, possibly because of his anger at having been sent back early and forced to drag his sledge with just two other men, rather than the expected three. By changing the narrative so that Evans fell down with scurvy before the Southern Barrier Depot, there was at least some justification for the removal of extra food.

Turney 506

In the abstract of his paper Turney summarises this as 'the apparently deliberate obfuscation of when Evans fell down with scurvy'. To which we have to put the question: why does the precise moment when Evans started showing symptoms of scurvy matter to anyone? And why, since this date does not matter at all, there having been no pilfering of the stores, is there any reason for 'deliberate obfuscation'?

The charge of 'deliberate obfuscation' arises out of:

Comparison between Lashly's sledging diary and The worst journey in the world reveals a remarkable embellishment of the entries in the popular account, with key dates pertaining to Evans' scurvy offset by one week (Fig. 2). Consistent with Evans' first interviews and his letter to Irving, the first symptom of scurvy – a stiffness at the back of the knees – was not remarked upon until the men were halfway across the Ross Ice Shelf (30 January 1912), eight days after that described in The worst journey in the world when the men reached the bottom of the Beardmore Glacier (22 January).

Turney 503

We have to give Turney credit for tinfoil-hat effort, but when we reformulate Turney's tortured prose the 'obfuscation' immediately disappears. One single book, Cherry-Garrard's The worst journey in the world (1922) states that Evans' symptoms became apparent 'when the men reached the bottom of the Beardmore Glacier (22 January)'. Lashly's sledging diary indicates the first symptoms of scurvy in Evans were noticed around 22 January, 'stiffness behind the knees', followed by 'loose bowels', which Crean had also had shortly before.

Lashly became certain of his diagnosis on 29 January. Evans' own account, published in 1921, for which he also used Lashly's sledging diary for the times when he was incapable of note-taking, also dates the diagnosis as around 30 January.

Having published this date himself, why would Evans need to indulge in 'deliberate obfuscation' to get this date brought forwards by eight days in Cherry-Garrard's book? Turney believes that someone edited the copy of Lashly's sledging diary that Cherry-Garrard used, extending it considerably. Turney does not produce this 'manipulated' document, only relying on Cherry-Garrard's version of the entries that he wrote in his book.

Turney sees the motive in this supposed 'obfuscation' as the need to provide a justification for the 'removal of extra food'. However, according to Lashly, on 4 February at Mt. Hooper, they left behind 'nearly all' their stock of pemmican, which Lashly believed was provoking or worsening Evans' ailment. This would have been an extra reserve for Scott. If we believe Lashly – and there is no reason at all not to – Evans' team actually added pemmican to the depots, not removed more than their fair share.

Turney, eyes-swivelling rapidly and sparks crackling around his tinfoil hat, then sticks it good to that swine Evans:

Evans' refusal to follow medical advice not only jeopardised his own life and the lives of those on his sledging team but as detailed below, others on the expedition. It has remained unclear, however, why such considerable efforts were made to rewrite the timing of events.

Turney 505

The scurvy timeline

Let's go the extra refutation mile and disentangle Evans' scurvy timeline. Bored readers – we brazenly assume that there are still readers left – can skip this section, since we have already demonstrated that Evans was quite open about the start of his scurvy.

We shall take as the baseline Evan's statements from his book, written eight years after the events and with the help of his own records.

Evan's suffered two afflictions on that return journey: snowblindness and scurvy.

Evan's tells us that he had to leave his goggles off on 17 January and an attack of snowblindness started the day after. [Evans 251]

Fortunately, the hauling conditions at the time enabled him to walk alongside the sledge without too much difficulty. The snowblindness got better over a period of days; the most effective remedy, Evans tells us, were poultices of used, wet tea-leaves on his eyes. Evans had recovered from the attack by 23 January, according to Lashly [Turney 504]

By 30 January at the Mid Barrier depot, he tells us, he noticed the first symptoms of scurvy, stiff and painful knee-joints.

By this time I had made the unpleasant discovery that I was suffering from scurvy. It came on with a stiffening of the knee joints, then I could not straighten my legs, and finally they were horrible to behold, swollen, bruised, and green. As day followed day my condition became worse: my gums were ulcerated and my teeth loose. Then finally I got haemorrhage.

Evans 252

We should note particularly his phrase 'by this time', which is as accurate as one can be in the context of the creeping onset of a disease such as scurvy. The disease had been performing its silent ministry for months.

Within the space of a few days the symptoms got rapidly worse – bleeding gums, loose teeth, etc. – and finally, even after heroic efforts such as standing on a ski and pushing himself along with his ski-sticks he could no longer continue. [Evans 253]

His companions dumped the 35 pounds of rock samples from the sledge and loaded him on to it, on top of their sleeping bags to cushion the shocks.

Turney snidely holds it against Evans – what else can we expect? – that these rock samples were dumped: 'Losing geological samples to shed weight'. [Turney 502] To which we might point out that Scott's team died still in possession of a similar load of samples. Roland Huntford notes in relation to this point:

There were more private reservations. When Scott’s sledge was dug out, Tryggve Gran noted in his diary: a geological collection of about 20 kg … I think they might have saved themselves the weight.’(94) Commander [Teddy] Evans wrote that Scott’s sledge

contained 150 lbs of trash … It seems to me extraordinary that … they stuck to their specimens. We dumped ours at the first big check … I considered the safety of my party before the value of the records … apparently Scott did not.(95)

Huntford 306

During this time Evans was barely able to move his limbs and could certainly not move around independently – he had to be carried everywhere. The suggestion that he spent this time raiding the store dumps for other people's rations is frankly not just stupid but despicable.

His two companions, Lashly and Crean, were heroes who refused to abandon him and performed an epic rescue of their commander, for which they quite rightly each received the Albert Medal for Lifesaving, the forerunner of the George Cross. It is obvious that if Evans, barely able to move, consumed more than his due of rations then his two companions would have to have been accomplices, perhaps themselves beneficiaries of the theft.

After Crean had set off to walk the thirty-five miles alone to fetch help, Evans – dying and immobile – and Lashly – weak and done for – were left alone in that tent:

A couple of days passed, and every now and then Lashly would open up the tent door, go out and search the horizon for some possible sign of relief. The end had nearly come, and I was past caring; we had no food, except a few paraffin saturated biscuits, and Lashly in his weakened state without food could never have marched in. He took it all very quietly – a noble, steel true man—but relief did come at the end of that day when everything looked its blackest.

We heard the baying of the dogs, first once, then again. Lashly, who was lying down by my side quietly talking, sprang to his feet, looked out, and saw! They galloped right up to the tent door, and the leader, a beautiful gray dog named Krisravitsa, seemed to understand the situation, for he came right into the tent and licked my hands and face. I put my poor weak hands up and gripped his furry ears. Perhaps to hide my feelings I kissed his old hairy, Siberian face with the kiss that was meant for Lashly.

Terra Nova expedition: Krisravitza, the sledge dog who led Evans' rescue team.

Krisravitza / Krisravitsa / Cresarovitza, the sledge dog who led Evans' rescue team. October 1912. Image: Photographer Frank Debenham. British Antarctic Expedition 1910-13 (Debenham Collection), P54/16/753b(1)z/b/16.
Krisravitza achieved some fame on the expedition. The following references come from Cherry-Garrard's book: It takes all kinds to make a world and a dog-team. We had aristocrats like Osman, and Bolsheviks like Krisravitza, and lunatics like Hol-hol. [] At times [Bowers] looked after some of the dogs because at the moment there was nobody else whose proper job it happened to be, and he took a particular fancy to one of our strongest huskies called Krisravitza, which is the Russian (so I'm told) for 'most beautiful.' This fancy originated in the fact that to Kris, as the most truculent of our untamed devils, fell a large share of well-deserved punishment. A living thing in trouble be it dog or man was something to be helped. [] [Meares] had killed one American dog some camps back: if he killed more he was going to kill Krisravitza who he said was the fattest and laziest.
Krisravitza survived Meares' return journey and so was on hand to lead the rescue of Teddy Evans.

We were both dreadfully affected at our rescue. Atkinson and the Russian dog-boy, Dimitri, had come out hot-foot to save us, and of all men in the Expedition none could have been better chosen than "Little Aitch," our clever naval doctor.

After resting his dogs and feeding me with carefully prepared foodstuffs, he got me on one sledge and Lashly on the other, the dogs were given their head, and in little more than three hours we covered the thirty-five miles into Hut Point, where I was glad to see Crean's face once more and to hear first hand about his march. It had taken him eighteen hours' plodding through those awful snows from our camp to Hut Point, where fortunately he met Atkinson and Dimitri and told them of my condition.

Evans 254-5

Even after these heroic travails, Turney cannot resist sticking the knife into Evans:

Partially recovered, Evans left on board the Terra Nova when it departed McMurdo Sound for New Zealand on 4 March 1912. Evans was therefore sent home on medical grounds by Atkinson rather than the dismissal envisaged by Scott (Wheeler, 2002).

Turney 502

Is there no end to Turney's hate for Evans? These men 'sabotaged' Scott's expedition, according to Turney, who draws inferences from the fact that the date of the onset of Evans' scurvy. Lashly, in his own sledging diary noted:

In his sledging diary, Lashly remarked on 5 February that he was 'beginning to suspect something is wrong with Mr Evans' and five days later the disease is finally mentioned in the diary: I am sorry to say Mr Evans is suffering from scurvy and very badly…have come to the conclusion he have got scurvy and bad (Ellis, 1969). Fortunately, having reached One Ton Depot where special 'XS' rations had been left for the returning parties (E. Wilson, 1912b), Lashly now had a greater range of food types than that available further south. As a result, the day after diagnosing Evans with scurvy, Lashly was able to act on the medical advice on the expedition regarding its prevention. In his (original) diary, Lashly wrote on 11 February 1912: Today no improvement in Mr Evans, but worse. So we have left behind gear. I am giving him [Evans] oatmeal and seal liver and meat out of the pemmican and other changes of food as we have got (Ellis, 1969).

Turney 503

Lashly's account is entirely confirmed by Evans' own account:

Crean came in to say good-bye to me. I thanked him for what he was doing in a weak, broken sort of way, and Lashly held open the little round tent door to let me sec the last of him. He strode out nobly and finely—I wondered if I should ever see him again. Then Lashly came in to me, shut the tent door, and made me a little porridge out of some oatmeal we got from the last depot we had passed. After I had eaten it he made me comfortable by laying me on Crean's sleeping-bag, which made my own seem softer, for I was very, very sore after being dragged a hundred miles on a jolting, jumping sledge. Then I slept and awoke to find Lashly's kind face looking down at me. There were very few wounded men in the Great War nursed as I was by him.

Evans 254

But what Turney fails to mention, because he is clearly only interested in propagating his 'Evans ate the rations' libel, is that Scott's party never reached One Ton Depot, where Evans and Lashly stopped, but died eleven miles away. Not only that, One Ton Depot was visited and reprovisioned by Cherry-Garrard and Dimitri on 3-10 March, where they had gone in anticipation of meeting the polar party. From One Ton Depot, Crean and Lashly dragged Evans on the sledge to a point 35 miles (56 km) south of Hut Point.

The polar party's death camp on the 19 March was only eleven miles from One Ton Depot. They had 'two days' food but barely one allowance of fuel'. Cherry-Garrard and Dimitri had had to leave One Ton Depot nine days before. They had no idea where Scott's party was, whether dead or alive, on-course or lost. They had no provisions to go further without some certainty. The rescue of Evans and Lashly had not distracted in any way from the rescue attempt of Scott's party: they were too early, not too late. Scott, Wilson and Bowers died on 29 March.

Terra Nova expedition: Petty Officer Edgar Evans.

Petty Officer Edgar Evans. 1911. Edgar Evans died on 16 February, premsumably from head injuries sustained sometime earlier in a fall. Image: Photographer Herbert Ponting. British Antarctic Expedition 1910-13 (Ponting Collection).

Terra Nova expedition: Captain Lawrence E.G. Oates.

Captain Lawrence E.G. 'Titus' Oates. 1911. In an act of self-sacrifice Oates walked out into a blizzard on 16 March. His body has never been found. Being heartlessly realistic for a moment, his act came much too late to help Scott, Wilson and Bowers. Had he done the deed even a few days earlier, his three companions would probably have made it to the safety of One Ton depot. Image: Photographer Herbert Ponting. Library of Congress.

Terra Nova expedition: Captain Oates and Siberian ponies on board the 'Terra Nova'.

Captain Oates and Siberian ponies on board the Terra Nova. 1910. Oates was a cavalry officer with skills in handling horses. Image: Photographer Herbert Ponting. Royal Collection, RCIN 2580003. [Click to open a larger image in a new tab.]

Scott v. Evans

In order to achieve his goal of demonising Evans for the failure of Scott's expedition, Turney goes to some length to blacken Evans' character – mainly with Scott's opinion of him:

Scott's frustration at his second-in-command was expressed in his private writing:

Evans himself is a queer study. His boyish enthusiasm rallies all along till one sees clearly the childish limitations of its foundation & appreciate that it is not a rock to be built upon – being desirous to help everyone he is manfully incapable of doing it. There are problems ahead here for I cannot consider him fitted for a superior position though he is physically strong & fit for a subordinate. The _ _ _ _ _ seems incapable of expanding beyond the limits of an astonishingly narrow experience (K. Scott, 1913).

Turney 501

Terra Nova expedition: Lieutenant Evans and Captain Scott on the deck of the Terra Nova.

Lieutenant Evans (left) and Captain Scott (right) on the deck of the Terra Nova. 1 January 1911. Image: Photographer Herbert Ponting. British Antarctic Expedition 1910-13 (Ponting Collection), P2005/5/1154.

In most of the historical treatments of Captain Scott's expedition Scott's autocratic management style, the rigidity of his hierarchical organization and his personal coldness come to the fore. Of this, the passage quoted here by Turney is a fine example. Only Turney could take Scott's opinion as in any way a valid assessment – unbiased readers wonder at the personality of Scott, this leader of men.

In Evans' case there may have also been a substantial degree of snobbishness by Scott towards this man with relatively humble beginnings. In the following, also quoted by Turney but interpreted by him – as usual – against Evans, we hear the genuine tone of the snobbish autocrat:

By the eve of his departure for the Pole, Scott's views on Evans appear to have crystallised and he wrote to his expedition manager Joseph Kinsey in New Zealand:

Teddy Evans is a thoroughly well-meaning little man, but proves on close acquaintance to be rather a duffer in anything but his own particular work. All this is strictly 'entre nous', but he is not at all fitted to be 'Second-in-Command', as I was foolish enough to name him. I am going to take some steps concerning this, as it would not do to leave him in charge here [at the Cape Evans base] in case I am late returning (Scott, 1911).

Turney 501

Such tittle-tattle should not be read as a criticism of Evans but as a criticism of Scott, who himself had chosen Evans as his second-in-command – thus demonstrating his own terrible judgement of character. Once again, we find Scott taking a decision, then regretting it, then sabotaging it – a strange personality trait.

Not only that, we note that this letter was written to Kinsey in the autumn of 1911. Despite the explicit gravity of its sneering description of Evans' serious limitations Scott did not act and nothing was done. Evans – fortunately a cheerful chap by nature, a fact which was also held against him – managed to perform heroically well in this unpleasant atmosphere and do everthing that was required of him.

Terra Nova expedition: Teddy Evans looking through a telescope.

Teddy Evans doing some star-gazing (an occultation of Jupiter). June 1911. Image: Photographer Herbert Ponting. British Antarctic Expedition 1910-13 (Ponting Collection), P2005/5/441.

We note particularly that this is Scott's opinion 'on the eve of the expedition's departure'. Scott is about to lead his team into hardship, suffering and death with these thoughts about his second-in-command in his head. Consider the patrician and patronising phrase a 'thoroughly well-meaning little man'. Would you like to have followed him on the expedition, through all that hardship and danger, when we know now that this was his tacit opinion of you? And how could Evans ever expect fair treatment from this unpleasant piece of work?

'[S]trictly entre nous' – how can we take a leader of mean seriously who indulges in such gossip? Of course, Turney, desperately wanting to smear Evans, takes every negative remark at face value. He quotes one of the team's geologists, Frank Debenham's opinion of the relationship between the two men:

Scott's lack of confidence in Evans was well known amongst the team, with Debenham penning on 14 November 1911:

Teddy Evans, 2nd in command is a very nice jolly fellow with overflowing spirits (out of sight of the Owner [Scott]) but he is not unfortunately the right man in the right place and relations between him and the Owner are rather strained – the fault I think, being 6 of one and half a dozen of the other. He is great fun in company but I don't like being alone with him – his confidences are too overwhelming and ill-advised (Back, 1992).

Turney 501

Terra Nova expedition: Captain Scott writing his diary.

Captain Scott writing his diary. 7 October 1911. Image: Photographer Herbert Ponting. Royal Collection, RCIN 2580018. [Click to open a larger image in a new tab.]

In Turney's mind this comment seems to reflect badly on Evans, when, in fact the problems observed by Debenham are '6 of one and half a dozen of the other'. The quotation may reveal 'Scott's lack of confidence in Evans', but just as importantly it reveals Scott's management defects as well as Evans' problems with the martinet Scott, who ultimately lacked confidence in everyone apart from his favourites. It only reinforces our view that Scott had a down on Evans from the very start of the journey. Evans would have had to have been a saint to recover from that.

Turney's assertion that 'Scott's lack of confidence in Evans was well known amongst the team' is yet another of his misrepresentations in the service of a smear. In fact it was Scott who had very serious psychological defects that made him completely unsuitable for man management. It is simply not fair of Turney to takes Scott's opinion of anyone as automatically true.

For more than a century, commenters on Scott's doomed polar expedition have argued about its leader's character. The best the pro-Scott camp – a minority of opinions – can do can be summarised as 'flawed hero'; for the anti-Scott camp he was, at worst, a 'deranged bungler'; everyone else is somewhere in between. We need to walk a path between the worshippers and the demonizers of Scott's reputation.

Terra Nova expedition: The 'Tenements', in the hut at Cape Evans.

The 'Tenements', in the hut at Cape Evans. 9 October 1911. Those shown are (l-r) Henry Bowers, Apsley Cherry-Garrard, Lawrence Oates, Cecil Meares and Edward Atkinson. Image: Photographer Herbert Ponting. British Antarctic Expedition 1910-13 (Ponting Collection). [Click to open a larger image in a new tab.]

Scott of the journal

From Scott the naval captain we might have expected the traditional ship's log, but Scott's journals go far beyond the factual listing of events and actions during the polar journey. We should really read Scott's expedition journal as a work of literature: a creation of its author: it is a narrative construction by the mind that wrote it.

There are, of course, certain 'facts' – dates, times, temperatures etc., which themselves may or may not be correct – but they are embedded in an overall narrative which is ultimately a viewpoint of the author. Which facts are mentioned and how they are mentioned are features of this narrative, as are things that are not mentioned at all.

The question of the intended readership must always be asked of those strange creatures, diarists. Scott's journal is a carefully crafted narrative intended from the beginning for the consumption of the public. In Scott's case the fact that his journal ends in rhetorical bombast and with a 'Message to Public' should be proof enough of this.

Scott was desperately worried about what people thought of him. Just in case anyone should think he had any responsibility for the disastrous outcome of his expedition, he makes everything clear in the first paragraph of 'Message to Public', in which he begins his momentous broadcast by telling us that he bears no responsibility at all for the disaster – they were just unlucky:

The causes of the disaster are not due to faulty organisation, but to misfortune in all risks which had to be undertaken.

'Message to Public'. Diaries of Robert Falcon Scott, p 168 (facsimile).

'Message to Public'. Diaries of Robert Falcon Scott. Image: British Library, p168 (facsimile).

We have already seen how sensitive Scott is to the opinion of others about his use of motor tractors to pull sledges. There are many other self-justifying passages in his journals, but never any passages of self-doubt – these, if he had them, he does not make public. We are therefore entitled to read his diaries as a personal, narrative construction – a fictional spotted-dick with a few factual raisins in it.

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The passage in Scott's journal from 17? March describing the deaths of Petty Officer Edgar Evans and Captain 'Titus' Oates. This entry displays Scott's paranoia and his desire to use the expedition journal as a means of sculpting the narrative reality of the journey. He goes out of his way to tell us that his team never abandoned Oates but 'stuck with our sick companion' to the end, a statement that doesn't really need to be said since the facts are clear from previous entries. The suggestion had been made that Oates' hands were so bad that someone else would have had to undo the ties of the tent door and tie them up again after him. Assisted suicide? Who knows?
Of Evan's death Scott tells us explicitly that 'he died a natural death', after telling us equally explicitly that the 'safety of the remainder seemed to demand his abandonment'. Fortunately for Scott and his fellows 'Providence mercifully removed him'. Some have argued that Scott's rather creepy distribution of a suidical dose of opium pills to everyone in the party a few days before (11 March) was intended as a strong hint to Oates. Is this Scott the gentleman or the ineffectual leader who caused the death of three by not finishing off in a timely fashion the two 'dead men walking'?
Whatever the facts of the case, we can see how carefully constructed Scott's journal is.

Evans the unperson

If you plug through Scott's journal to the end, reading it as a piece of imaginative literature, one of your first thoughts will be: 'Where is Teddy Evans?' For, given that he was second-in-command of the expedition, Evans plays a remarkably small role in Scott's journal. In a traditional ship's log, we might expect frequent mentions of Evans, but in Scott's journal Evans barely exists.

In Scott's journal we find no record of any consultation between the two. Even during the tense period when the motorised sledges were being used, Teddy Evans, nominally leader of the Motor Tranport team, barely appears. Scott writes copiously of the work of Day and Lashly with his beloved sledges, whereas Evans appears very rarely in the narrative. When he does appear it is usually only as the author of notes to Scott or when, in Scott's opinion, he has done something wrong, such as having to ski back to Hut Corner on his birthday to collect his mislaid personal bag.

One man's view

If we only read Scott's journals we get a very one sided view of Evans, seen only through the distorting lense of Scott's dislike, which was focused on suppressing Evans' good deeds, emphasising mistakes and finding fault where there really was no fault at all.

An example of this occurred on 3 December 1911, when Evans' team was manhauling through particularly bad weather. Evans team was leading and laying down the route the pony team following them at some distance was to follow. Scott and Bowers had gone ahead on skis, leaving everyone else to labour. After a while, Scott noticed that Evans team had stopped and camped. In Scott's version:

[…] by 4.30 it was blowing a full gale from the south. The pony wall blew down, huge drifts collected, and the sledges were quickly buried. It was the strongest wind I have known here in summer.


The changes of conditions are inconceivably rapid, perfectly bewildering. In spite of all these difficulties we have managed to get 11½ miles south and to this camp at 7 P.M. – the conditions of marching simply horrible.

The man-haulers led out 6 miles (geo.) and then camped. I think Evans had had enough of leading. We passed them, Bowers and I ahead on ski.

Scott 3 December 1911

Scott's snide remark 'I think Evans had had enough of leading' was softened in the published version of Scott's journal: the name 'Evans' was replaced by 'they'.

We only need to remember that Evans and his party were manhauling a sledge in this awful weather, while Scott and his favourite Bowers were floating around on skis. As lead team, Evans was responsible for navigating the route that the others had to follow, a task that was extremely difficult in bad weather and poor visibility, a task too that could not be done whilst pulling a sledge.

If we simply take Scott's account of this incident at face value we hear only of Scott's need to remonstrate with that undisciplined slacker Teddy Evans. Let us, however, read the account of Charles Wright the geographer, who was at that time manhauling in Evans' team. From Wright's sledging journal:

Blizzard in A.M. — started off 1 A.M. and made cairn at four miles. Camped at six miles in half blizzard. Ponies went on to ten miles. Owner [Scott] sick about our stopping. He and Birdie [Bowers] walking ahead on ski.

Light after [the four mile] cairn too utterly awful for words. I was steering by sastrugi alone. It is impossible to steer well and pull well at same time and don[']t see why Scott could not have steered for us on ski.

The same moment was expanded in Wright's memoir (1974), in which the background now becomes clear:

On December 3rd the weather was so bad for the pilot and our tracks were filling so quickly with drifting snow that we wondered if the ponies and dogs would be able to follow us. It was therefore decided that it would be best to make camp and wait and see how the others were making out.

In due course, Scott appeared and expressed great surprise that we had camped. I felt sorry for Evans as it really was a difficult job to maintain direction while pulling on the sledge and there were now others, whose ponies had been shot for dogfood, who could have led the way and freed the man-hauling party from the duty of navigation.

Wright 206 3 December 1911

In this context we should also note that Wright was no great fan of Teddy Evans, as a remark in his journal only a day before this incident shows:

Hope I do not stay long in Teddy's tent, am sure to have a row sooner or later.

Wright 206 2 December 1911

But at least, unlike Scott, he was fair to him.

Love is in the air

Returning to Scott's account of the Motor Party for the moment, we contrast the absence of its leader Evans from Scott's remarks with the much more frequent naming of Day, which in itself doesn't surprise us greatly, since he is the mechanic responsible for the motors. Our surprise comes at the many, gushingly positive mentions of Lashly and, most of all, Bowers.

We find that this distortion in the dramatis personae of the expedition exists throughout the journal. Bowers is singled out there, too, Oates also, but most particularly Edgar Evans, the big petty officer with whom Scott clearly had what we would call today a 'bromance'. Bowers returns Scott's love in his own diary: 'A better leader or tent companion one could not have', he writes of Scott.

The reader may remember in our discussion of the performance of the motor sledges that it is Edgar Evans' opinion of the value of the motor sledges that Scott conveys to us, not that of Teddy Evans, Scott's second-in-command, who was the one in charge of the Motor Party.

Readers of the journals who have noticed, if only subliminally, this bizzare lack of even-handedness in its narrative will therefore not be surprised that one of the great criticisms of Scott as a leader of men was his favouritism.

Scott had clear favourites – who could do no wrong – and also clear enemies – who could do no right. There were also nonenties who were just that: people who didn't exist, a long naval tradition of 'below decks' people who didn't matter as long as they were not mutinous.

Terra Nova expedition: Captain Scott and other expedition members pose at camp after returning from the depot-laying expedition.

Captain Scott and other expedition members pose at camp after returning from the depot-laying expedition. April 1911. Image: Photographer Herbert Ponting. British Antarctic Expedition 1910-13 (Ponting Collection). [Click to open a larger image in a new tab.]

His favouritism guided Scott's selection of the party he took to the Pole. Just as Scott exorcised enemies such as Teddy Evans from his journal, his favourites are given frequent and extravagant character references. In doing this, Scott uses the function of his journal as a public document to the full. An outstanding example of this comes in his journal entry for 8 January, written mid-way on his party's march to the South Pole. These descriptions are in no way intended as a personal aide-memoire, but as a public testimonial:

It is quite impossible to speak too highly of my companions. Each fulfils his office to the party; Wilson, first as doctor, ever on the lookout to alleviate the small pains and troubles incidental to the work, now as cook, quick, careful and dexterous, ever thinking of some fresh expedient to help the camp life; tough as steel on the traces, never wavering from start to finish.

Evans, a giant worker with a really remarkable headpiece. It is only now I realise how much has been due to him. Our ski shoes and crampons have been absolutely indispensable, and if the original ideas were not his, the details of manufacture and design and the good workmanship are his alone. He is responsible for every sledge, every sledge fitting, tents, sleeping-bags, harness, and when one cannot recall a single expression of dissatisfaction with any one of these items, it shows what an invaluable assistant he has been. Now, besides superintending the putting up of the tent, he thinks out and arranges the packing of the sledge; it is extraordinary how neatly and handily everything is stowed, and how much study has been given to preserving the suppleness and good running qualities of the machine. On the Barrier, before the ponies were killed, he was ever roaming round, correcting faults of stowage.

Little Bowers remains a marvel – he is thoroughly enjoying himself. I leave all the provision arrangement in his hands, and at all times he knows exactly how we stand, or how each returning party should fare. It has been a complicated business to redistribute stores at various stages of re-organisation, but not one single mistake has been made. In addition to the stores, he keeps the most thorough and conscientious meteorological record, and to this he now adds the duty of observer and photographer. Nothing comes amiss to him, and no work is too hard. It is a difficulty to get him into the tent; he seems quite oblivious of the cold, and he lies coiled in his bag writing and working out sights long after the others are asleep.

Of these three it is a matter for thought and congratulation that each is sufficiently suited for his own work, but would not be capable of doing that of the others as well as it is done. Each is invaluable. Oates had his invaluable period with the ponies; now he is a foot slogger and goes hard the whole time, does his share of camp work, and stands the hardship as well as any of us. I would not like to be without him either. So our five people are perhaps as happily selected as it is possible to imagine.

Scott 8 January 1912

Terra Nova expedition: Captain Scott's birthday dinner.

Captain Scott's birthday dinner. 6 June 1911. Scott is at the far end of the table, Oates is standing on the left and Tryggve Gran, the Norwegian, is standing on the right. Teddy Evans is sitting at Scott's right hand. Image: Photographer Herbert Ponting. Royal Collection, RCIN 2580020. [Click to open a larger image in a new tab.]

Mistreating Teddy

Teddy Evans was not merely not a favourite, he was an enemy. The highest praise he ever got in Scott's journal was that some surveying he did was 'useful'. The sort of cloying written praise given to Wilson, Edgar Evans, Bowers is unthinkable for Teddy Evans – the reward for his service is silence, the oblivion of being left out of the public record which Scott was writing. We note that Evans' post-expedition renown came from the heroic final part of his party's return journey, not from anything that Scott ever wrote about him.

Where and when Scott's hatred and contempt for Teddy Evans came about is not precisely known, but it manifested itself long before the teams set off for the South Pole. Turney writes that 'Scott's lack of confidence in Evans was well known amongst the team', but a more honest and accurate statement would be that Scott not only did not hide his contempt for Evans, he openly expressed it, repeatedly shouting at his second-in-command in front of other team members:

On 26 April 1913 Mrs Oates recorded a conversation with Meares, who 'said … Captain Scott would swear all day at Commander [then Lieut.] Evans … and the worst was it was not possible to get away from the rows.'

Huntford 321

For Huntford there is no doubt that Scott was bent on denigrating Teddy Evans. In Scott's uncensored journal during December 2011, when all the teams were manhauling on the route southwards between the South Barrier (1 December) and the 3-Degree (1 January) depots, there are a number of instances of Scott disparaging the performance of Evans and his team. Here are sections in strikethrough that were excised from Scott's journal before publication; passages that were added are in {curly braces}:

3 December: 'I think {they} Evans had had enough of leading'.

10 December: 'I have not felt satisfied with this party and very dissatisfied with its management'.

11 December: 'But Evans’ party didn’t get up till 10. They started quite well, but got into difficulties, did just the wrong thing by straining again and again, and so, tiring themselves, went from bad to worse. {Their ski shoes, too, are out of trim.} It is most awfully trying. I had expected failure from the animals but not from the men – I must blame little Evans much – he shows a terrible lack of judgement, instead of having his people trim and drilled he lets things go on any way – half of them have their ski-shoes down at the heel and as a rule only three out of the four pull the other men while wrestling with his ski of course this is fatal. – So Just as I thought we were in for making a great score, this difficulty overtakes us – it is dreadfully trying.

Scott, the leader of men, equates his men – in other words, 'little Evans' (as opposed to big Evans, his favourite) – to animals, who have failed him. They 'were in for making a great score' but Evans has let him down.

On 31 December, the day before the teams laid down 3-Degree depot, Scott ordered Evans' team to deposit their skis and continue the rest of the journey on foot. 'I sent them off first; they marched, but not very fast', Scott noted in his journal. This order defies comprehension. Huntford – an Amundsen fan and passionate ski advocate – can only understand Scott's bizarre order as a punishment with Machiavellian dimensions:

In the meanwhile, Scott had all but promised Evans a place on the final party for the Pole. Scott’s solution to that dilemma was clearly to wear Evans out by depriving him of skis and forcing him to struggle along through the snow on foot. That would, in turn, allow Scott to send him back on grounds of fitness without any public hint of rancour.

Huntford 215

Captain Queeg

The one thing that was 'known among the team' was Scott's mental instability. The scientists on the team – educated, loquacious and not slaves of naval discipline – were all astonished in their own ways at the oddities of Scott's character traits. No one who has read Scott's journal carefully can have any doubt that these assessments are true. Here is just one, from a letter written to his mother by Frank Debenham, an Australian geographer, who would achieve distinction in his later career:

I must tell you what I think of [Scott]. I am afraid I am very disappointed in him, tho’ my faith died very hard. There’s no doubt he can be very nice and the interest he takes in our scientific work is immense, he is also a fine sledger himself and as organiser is splendid. But there I’m afraid one must stop.

His temper is very uncertain and leads him to absurd lengths even in simple arguments. In crises he acts very peculiarly. In one, where Atkinson was lost for 6 hours in a blizzard I thought he acted splendidly but in all others I have been quite disgusted with him. What he does is often enough the right thing I expect, but he loses all control of his tongue and makes us all feel wild… But the marvellous part of it is that the Owner is the single exception to a general sense of comradeship and jollity amongst all of us. We all get on simply splendidly. We are a really jolly party, such as I never dreamt 25 men could be, living as we do…

Frank Debenham, letter to his mother, 14 November 1911, quoted by Diana Preston in A First Rate Tragedy : Robert Falcon Scott and the Race to the South Pole (Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 1998), p.161-162.

Far from being a 'lack of confidence', implying some magisterial assessment of Evans' qualities on Scott's part, Scott's campaign against Evans was an open one. He clearly did everything he could to undermine Evans. As we have already heard, Scott's favourite phrase for Evans was 'little man', a standard sneer in the British class system for an inferior, whether of the same height (as Evans and Scott were) or even taller.

Terra Nova expedition: the Shore Party.

The Shore Party: the complete land-based team of the expedition, with the exception of Clissold, the cook, and Ponting, the photographer. January 1911. Image: Photographer Herbert Ponting. Royal Collection, RCIN 2580014.

It requires little effort to imagine what Teddy Evans had to suffer under Scott's command. The slightest error – as in the personal bag incident – is magnified out of all proportion. Even when there are no errors, they are invented. Evans seems to have borne this tyranny well – perhaps one needs a thick skin in the navy, crammed together with no escape for long periods of time.

The last insult

As if the daily low-level persecution were not enough, Scott served Evans one last insult: he did not select him for the Polar Party.

This really was an insult. Evans had been planning his own expedition to the Pole and had even collected some sponsorship, when he was persuaded to throw in his lot with Scott's expedition. Evans had also been extremely active in the organizational phase of the expedition. It is not credible that Evans did all this without the promise that Scott and Evans would stand shoulder to shoulder at the South Pole.

Had Evans really given up running his own expedition only to end up messing about with Scott's rickety motor tractors and dragging the expedition's supplies almost to the Pole? Then, after all this effort, Scott pulled rank and left Teddy Evans out of the team for the assault on the South Pole.

And what a bizarre choice Scott made for his companions on that last stretch. Scott took his favourites and chose to leave behind the man with the most important skill that would be needed at the Pole – the navigator who would reliably and accurately measure the teams position, his enemy Teddy Evans, who was without doubt the most skilled navigator and surveyor on the team. Adding insult to injury, in order to fulfil the navigational function Scott took Bowers – a navigator but also a favourite – from Evans' team, leaving Evans short-handed on the return journey.

For some reason that has never been explained, once Bowers had been chosen, Scott told him to leave his skis behind in Evans' group, meaning that he was the only member of Scott's party who had to tramp hundreds of miles on foot without benefit of skis.

We can only wonder whether all the bad things that Scott asserted about Evans leading up to this moment and his banishment to oblivion in Scott's journal were not simply some deep psychological justification in Scott's mind for his final decision to exclude Evans from the polar party.

Given all the insults and injuries that Scott directed at Teddy Evans, Turney could have easily established a motive for Evans' supposed sabotage of Scott's expedition. Your author, not having Evans' resiliance, discipline or strength of character, would have pushed this 'fool' Scott (as Wright characterised him) down a crevasse at the first opportunity, before he killed the lot of us – which he nearly did.

Instead Evans took the decision like a man, even Scott had to admit that – probably relieved that Evans didn't make more of a scene. Evans' team, who had worked so hard, also took it like men and set off with short rations to return to base. Lashly and Crean's tears at the parting of the two groups were not feigned.

That personality equilibrium was part of Evans' character. He really was a glass-half-full man. We read his balanced and measured book – no scores are settled, we see him always with a big toothy grin and odd posture for Ponting's camera. We think of the years of persecution he endured under Scott, making the best of a bad job, always doing his best. And we understand why his subsequent career was so brilliant.

Whilst Turney is bashing Evans with Scott's vicious perception of him, we have to remember who Evans was, this man that Scott cannot consider to be 'fitted for a superior position'. This 'duffer in anything but his own particular work' rose through the ranks to the highest levels of command, distinguished himself in action in two world wars and received a long list of honours and decorations from his own country and from other countries. Nor does his record carry any taint of scandal or controversy.

When we read Evans' account of the polar expedition in South with Scott we find it to be fair and measured in its judgements, even towards Scott. There is no tittle-tattle or egregious blaming. This being the tone of a man who would achieve great things as a commander at all levels.

In contrast, Turney, in order to blacken Evans' character and so support his absurd narrative of Evans' food pilfering, takes the opinions expressed by Scott of a man of Evans' calibre at face value.

The cover up

No conspiracy theory is complete without a good cover-up: Turney's conspiracy theory about Evans is no exception. Central to this is Admiral Lewis Beaumont:

Concern had already been raised in some quarters over what might have happened on the ice. On 15 March 1913, Admiral Lewis Beaumont, Fellow of the RGS, had written to Kathleen Scott:

It is good that you should have time to read quietly, and think over all that has come to you from him – it will enable you to decide what to do and be prepared for what the future may have in store… I cannot but think that more has happened than has been mentioned and that the diaries and journals that were sealed, contained things which had been done or said which it was not for those into whose hands the diaries had first fallen to reveal – I may be wrong – I hope most sincerely that I am, but I cannot put away the sense of fear which comes from knowing so much of the expedition and its members… I dread the gradual coming out of the painful revelations when the whole of the Expedition's people have dispersed to their homes… God grant that there may be nothing that will give you pain or add to your burden! (Beaumont, 1913a).

Turney 498

Crucial to every conspiracy theory, ghost story or horror film are the worrying rumbles that presage the horror to come. Add in some spooky music and some hints (large waves in the ocean) and clues (shipwrecked trawlers) and by the time Godzilla finally appears, half-way through the film, the members of the audience are already gripping their armrests, primed and ready. At the start of his conspiracy theory, Turney has just given his readers more than a few worrying rumbles in Beaumont's remarks, but the monster itself has yet to appear.

The widow's search

Kathleen Scott was given Scott's journals and read them with an angry widow's eye. She had read her late husband's letters to her, too, and was currently bathing in his hatred of Teddy Evans. Let us recall what Scott told Kathleen about Evans, which we quoted from Turney a while back:

Evans himself is a queer study. His boyish enthusiasm rallies all along till one sees clearly the childish limitations of its foundation & appreciate that it is not a rock to be built upon – being desirous to help everyone he is manfully incapable of doing it. There are problems ahead here for I cannot consider him fitted for a superior position though he is physically strong & fit for a subordinate. The _ _ _ _ _ seems incapable of expanding beyond the limits of an astonishingly narrow experience (K. Scott, 1913).

Turney 501

In mid-April 1913 she met Lord Curzon – Earl Curzon of Kedleston, President of the Royal Geographical Society – and discussed with him the contents of Scott's diaries and letters. Turney lights upon her comments about the lack of food and fuel in the depots as relayed to Curzon and recounted in Curzon's notes:

But the big surprise was Scott's 'words in his Diary on exhaustion of food & fuel in depots on his return. He spoke in reference of "lack of thoughtfulness & even of generosity". It appears Lieut Evans – down with scurvy – and the two men with him must on return journey have entered & consumed more than their share.'

This revelation implied that the returning party led by the expedition's second-in-command had taken more than their allocation of supplies.

Turney 500

These notes are 'buried in the British Library', according to Turney's press release for his paper. Turney has ensured they will stay buried, having failed to produce any transcript. Still, this is a climate scientist burying data that other people might use – a diligent historian would have transcribed and published the source for everyone to see and then commented upon it separately. We thus have to rely very reluctantly on Turney's very untrustworthy quoting and the lack of all context for the main piece of evidence for his argument. The same is true of Beaumont's letters on this subject, which are 'buried' in the British Library in London and the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge.

Attentive readers will be able to deal with the 'revelation' of Kathleen Scott's interpretion of Scott's remarks without difficulty. Certainly no one who has read the background will be able to agree with her paranoid conclusion as recorded by Curzon: 'Lieut Evans – down with scurvy – and the two men with him must on return journey have entered & consumed more than their share'.

In fixing on Evans and his comrades, who 'must' have consumed more than their fair share, she is ignoring the First Support party, who also passed this way, and Meares and Dimitri with the returning dogs. Her assertion is quite unfounded – extremely improbable in fact – and we have dealt with it sufficiently.

Perhaps she latched on to Evans as a possible cause of her sainted husband's demise as a result of reading the unpleasant and unfair things that Scott wrote about him in his letters to her. Who knows?

Lifting the stone

Turney suggests, without supplying any evidence at all, that Curzon wanted an enquiry. Beaumont is portrayed once more as the blocker of this initiative:

…[T]he important point, to my mind, being the necessity of deciding what attitude the Society should take with regard to your questions (a) & (b) that is:- the exhaustion of the supplies of food & fuel – and the conduct of the relief parties. I am not in favour of the informal meeting becoming a Committee of Enquiry – because for the Society to be on sure ground it would have to probe very deep and would have probably to disapprove of what was done in many particulars – it would be different if good could come of the enquiry, but I fear nothing but controversy would come of it (Beaumont, 1913b).

Turney 500

Turney again tells us, again without any evidence, that 'Curzon seems to have initially persisted in his efforts to hold an enquiry', whereas 'Beaumont continued to argue against':

I beg of you to meet first to talk the matter over, before calling any of the members of the Expedition before you. I am quite sure that to do this would be equivalent to holding an enquiry which personally I am very anxious to avoid. The rumour would be certain to go the rounds of the papers that the Geographical Society had held an enquiry – they would probably say 'a secret meeting' (Beaumont, 1913d).

Turney 500

Curzon talks to another grieving widow, this time Edward Wilson’s widow, Oriana. Turney quotes from a letter of Curzon's to Kathleen Scott:

Mrs Wilson told me later there was a passage in her husband's diary which spoke of the 'inexplicable' shortage of fuel & pemmican on the return journey, relating to depots which had not been touched by Meares and which could only refer to an unauthorised subtraction by one or other of the returning parties. This passage however she proposes to show to no one and to keep secret (Curzon, 1913c).

Curzon's notes imply someone other than Meares had taken supplies from another depot and Kathleen Scott had implicated Evans.

Turney 500

Once more Turney presents us with a game of undocumented Chinese whispers. Widow Wilson confirms (orally) that her husband reported an 'inexplicable shortage' of fuel and pemmican; the riff on this subject starting with the words 'relating to depots' from the sound of it came from Curzon and not from Mrs Wilson.

Let us not forget that Curzon is here writing to Kathleen Scott, that most vigorous defender of her husband's shrine. He is essentially feeding her paranoia.

Mrs Wilson appears to have destroyed some pages of her husband's journal, so we shall never know what exactly he wrote in this respect. It would be unlikely that she destroyed the pages to protect the reputations of either Evans or anyone else. Wilson may have written things that did not reflect well on him – he was, after all, in a terrible state – but speculation is pointless: unless these pages are found we shall never know. We repeat though: Mrs Wilson had no reason to shield Evans from any criticisms of him her husband may have made. We have to look elsewhere for her reasons for destroying those pages.

According to Turney, whilst Curzon is stoking the fires with Scott's widow, Beaumont is trying to prevent any enquiry at all costs:

[Evans' wife died in mid April.] There appears to have been widespread thought that Evans had suffered enough (Atkinson, 1913). Shortly after, the enquiry seems to have been closed with Beaumont writing to Curzon on 24 April 1913 thanking him for the 'unanimous decision of your committee' (Beaumont, 1913e). By July 1913, Evans had been removed from the official leadership of the expedition.

Turney 500

Along with the usual smearing by mystification – 'appears', 'implies', 'widespread thought', 'seems' – those weasel words of implied guilt '[t]here appears to have been widespread thought that Evans had suffered enough' are allegedly derived from a letter from Atkinson to Kathleen Scott, another communication held deep in the bowels of the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge. On this point the letter is not directly quoted, although it is quoted in another context, when it suits Turney to do so:

As part of his planned enquiry, Curzon wanted to know why the expedition had failed to undertake a rescue, a question most expedition members were at a loss to understand. On 21 April 1913, Atkinson wrote to Kathleen Scott:

I had a very long cross-examination from Lord Curzon today and I shall not be at all sorry to get away for a short holiday. There seems to be some idea that Cherry might have done more. I can assure you no other officer under the circumstances would have done more than Cherry. It is so very difficult to explain to people (Atkinson, 1913)

Turney 508

To all this flummery Turney then concludes with a nicely juxtaposed smear: 'By July 1913, Evans had been removed from the official leadership of the expedition', as though some secret punishment had been exercised. In fact, Evans, now promoted to commander, took over the command of the expedition until all its members were safely brought back from the Antarctic. Evans and the remaining members of the expedition left the Antarctic on 26 January 1913.

Evans was not 'removed' from the 'official leadership' of the expedition: by April there was no expedition from which to remove him. In 1917 he was promoted to captain, in 1928 rear-admiral, 1932 vice-admiral and 1936 admiral, throughout being festooned with stars, gongs and titles. This is not a man who was 'removed' from anything.

Out of this phantasmagoria of hints and widows' worries, 'appears', 'seems' and 'suggests', Turney crafts a solid conclusion:

The above suggests Curzon was considering an enquiry to focus on two issues. First, had Evans, who was suffering from scurvy, taken extra supplies on his return journey to save his own life, but potentially to the fatal disadvantage of Scott and his team? And second, what orders had been given, and perhaps ignored, for the relief of the Polar Party (Curzon, 1913c)?

Turney 500

'The above suggests' and 'considering': a speculation full of solid sounding detail, concluded with reference to a document which makes it seem to the casual reader that the 'suggests Curzon was considering an enquiry' somehow comes from Curzon himself '(Curzon, 1913c)'. No such enquiry every took place.

Protecting Scott's reputation

We can exorcise this phantasmagoria of Turney's ghostly conspiracy with little effort. We only have to recall that Beaumont was a close family friend of the Scotts and thus his motive for squashing an enquiry is exactly as he told us: 'for the Society to be on sure ground it would have to probe very deep and would have probably to disapprove of what was done in many particulars'.

Perhaps there had been failings by Evans, as Kathleen Scott believed, but what might be said about her husband? Beaumont actions were not to protect Evans but to protect Scott's memory and his widow's veneration for her dead hero. She might think her dead husband impeccable, but an enquiry wouldn't.

Perhaps, as a family friend, he knew something of what Scott was like. He certainly understood, as is clear from the letters quoted by Turney, how many failings would be revealed in an enquiry. Despite Turney's solid assurance that the enquiry would focus on only two points, Beaumont is clearer sighted: that deep probe into many particulars would do more harm to Scott than it would to Evans. Avoiding an enquiry was not therefore a cover up of Evans' and his party's alleged misdeeds, it was a cover up of Scott's failures.

Turney is either ignorant of Beaumont's loyalties or suppresses his knowledge for the purposes of smearing Evans, implying that because of this cover-up, Evans' many misdeeds on the expedition were never examined. Turney titled his smear job: 'Why didn’t they ask Evans?' The weakness of his title, a question he cannot answer – it 'remains unknown' – shows how little faith Turney has in the strength of his case against Evans.

Beaumont was perceptive and right in his position. An enquiry would set man against man; a probe into supply stocks and rationing would inevitably bring the dead Bowers – the expedition's shopkeeper – to the front of the stage: its only possible conclusion would have been to expose Scott's miscalculations that had condemned so many of his men to near starvation. Amundsen had beat him to the pole with dogs; Scott had failed with motorised sledges, ponies, dogs and men used as dogs.

One only has to reflect that in the hundred years or so since Scott's death, the examinations have all focused on Scott's errors – in a hierarchical command structure the blame always rises to the peak of the pyramid. As far as Scott is concerned, a century of research has shown that there is a lot for which he can be blamed. Instead of taking a century, an inquiry would have toppled Scott from his hero's pedestal within a few months.

We must close with an observation we have made several times, but which is key to refuting Turney's attack on Teddy Evans. Turney has thrown a cloud of smears and suspicions around Evans: denigrated his character, his honesty and his loyalty. All these failures, according to Turney, were well known after the expedition and he should have been grilled by an offical enquiry. Why he wasn't 'remains unknown':

It is concluded that Evans actions on and off the ice can at best be described as ineffectual, at worst deliberate sabotage. Why Evans was not questioned more about these events on his return to England remains unknown.

Turney 498

Yet we can see from Evans' subsequent naval career that nothing was held against him, no cloud of suspicion floated above him. He became the official voice of the expedition and held an immense number of public lectures to packed audiences on speaking tours in many countries. Despite all Turney's smears, wonky syntax and smoke and mirrors we fail to find in Evans the flawed personality of Turney's account, who stole rations to spite his commander, an action which resulted in the deaths of at least four men.


Evans Evans, E.R.G.R. South With Scott Collins, London, 1921. Download available from Project Gutenberg.
Huntford Huntford, Roland. Race for the South Pole: The Expedition Diaries of Scott and Amundsen, Continuum, 2010.
Scott Scott, Robert Falcon, and Max Jones. Journals: Captain Scott’s Last Expedition, Oxford University Press, 2005.
An unreliable blog-style version of Scott's journal is available online from the Scott Polar Research Institute. The blog-style navigation is tedious.
The British Library has a facsimile version of extracts online. Incomplete, missing pages, annoyingly slow, with playschool-level page-turning and rotation animation, an utterly unusable navigation and a transcript that has been just copied from the printed work and so diverges from the facsimile.
Update: Some news from the British Library. The British Library has helpfully confirmed to us that the transcription displayed with the facsimiles is the text of the Max Jones (2006) edition of the journals. Jones has a chapter 'Significant changes to Scott's original base and sledging journals' on pages 457-471, which contains all the emendations to the mss for the first published version, but these were never collated with the main text – hence the discrepencies with the facsimiles. The BL also tells us that 'Turning the Pages is now considered a legacy project, and whilst we continue to provide access to it we no longer support it as an active platform, and so are unable to update the text', which is fair enough. It adds that '[we] hope to make the Scott diaries available in full in the future'. The British Library is to be congratulated on this exemplary response.
Turney Turney, Chris S. M. 'Why Didn't They Ask Evans?' Polar Record, vol. 53, no. 5, 2017, pp. 498–511., doi:10.1017/S0032247417000468.
Turney does not do his readers the courtesy of giving page numbers for his references and quotations. Like many climate scientists, he doesn't expect anyone to check his sources and if they do, he is certainly not going to help them. Turney also quotes with the minimum of context from manuscript sources that are difficult to access and for which no transcript is available. If some of these manuscripts really are 'buried' then it is his duty to transcribe and publish them. In all situations involving archival materials it is a convention among historians to either provide a suitable transcript of a whole document or at the least a generously dimensioned section. Quoting just the few words needed to help your argument raises suspicions.
Wright Wright, Charles S., et al. Silas: The Antarctic Diaries and Memoir of Charles S. Wright, Ohio State University Press, 1993.

Herbert Ponting

Terra Nova expedition: Herbert Ponting with a movie camera.

Herbert Ponting with a movie camera. 1911? Reproduced here as a tribute to a photographer who took beautiful and technically superb photographs on primitive equipment and developed and printed these images in a makeshift darkroom in a hut on the edge of the Antarctic. Image: Library of Congress, J181346.

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