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Centenary of the Death of ‘Scott of the Antarctic’ by Mike Pryce
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On 29th March 2012 it will be one hundred years since Robert Falcon Scott and his two companions perished in their tent in Antarctica after being beaten by Amundsen in their quest to be first at the South Pole. Much has been written about the expedition during the subsequent one hundred years, and in recent times, much criticism of Scott’s management of the expedition has been made. However, as a New Zealand journal, for this centenary we wish to focus on New Zealand aspects of this event. Little-recorded, and completely ignored by Wikipedia and the like, is any mention that Lt. ‘Teddy’ Evans, second-in-command of the expedition, was married to a New Zealand girl. Edward Evans was born in London in 1881, the second son of barrister, Frank Evans.
Expelled from Merchant Taylors’ School, London for truancy, he eventually completed sufficient schooling to make his way onto the Mercantile Marine training ship H.M.S. WORCESTER and obtain two years later a naval cadetship in 1896. He attended the Royal Naval College from 1900 to 1902. In 1900 he was promoted to Acting Sub-Lieutenant, then Sub-Lieutenant and Lieutenant in 1902, and the same year served as second officer of MORNING (444 gross tonnage, built 1871), the relief vessel of Scott’s first Antarctic expedition in 1901-1904. The relief ship [i]Morning[/i] arrived at Lyttelton on 16th November 1902. By the first week of December, MORNING had been docked, cleaned, and painted: rigging and gear fully overhauled, and the hold laden to its utmost capacity with coal and stores. MORNING left for McMurdo Sound on 6th December 1902, well stocked with “excellent” New Zealand foodstuffs. MORNING returned to New Zealand on 25th March 1903, and spent the winter months in Lyttelton. Her second officer, Lt. E.R.G.R. Evans, anxious to keep up to date with his naval work, secured temporary appointment to H.M.S. PHOEBE then in New Zealand waters. She left in late October 1903 for Hobart to join the second relief ship TERRA NOVA sent out by the British Admiralty before sailing south. All three ships DISCOVERY, TERRA NOVA, MORNING entered Lyttelton in company on 1st April 1904. After returning from Antarctica, DISCOVERY was placed in dry dock for two months to complete repairs. Scott was wined and dined by dignitaries all over the island. Scott wrote his mother, “We have had a very good time here but it is high time we were off, as all our young men are getting engaged. Skelton is actually caught. I believe the young lady is very nice”. Others were caught as well: Teddy Evans of the MORNING and Ferrar among the officers, Blissett and Weller among the men. Lt. Evans married Christchurch girl, Hilda Beatrice Russell, before the three ships left for England, MORNING sailed on 8th June 1904. A Christchurch newspaper of the time reported that “Miss Hilda Russell, daughter of Mr. T.G. Russell, a well-known solicitor, was married on 13th April 1904 to Lieutenant Evans, of the relief ship MORNING. The wedding was a full naval one, the guard of honour being supplied by H.M.S.TAURANGA. All the officers of TAURANGA and the Antarctic ships were present in full naval uniforms.” Scott had offered Evans the position of second in command with his second Antarctic expedition as a means of persuading Evans to drop plans for his own competing expedition to explore King Edward VII Land. However, it was an uneasy working relationship, as Scott continued to regard Evans as a rival.
TERRA NOVA (764 gross tonnage, built 1884) sailed from India Dock, in the Thames, on 1st June 1910 bound for Cardiff via Portsmouth, Portland Harbour and Weymouth, arriving at Cardiff on 10th June. After coaling and storing, she sailed on 14th June, subsequently arriving at Funchal, Madeira on 23rd June and Simonstown on 15th August. On 2nd September she sailed from Simonstown, arriving at Melbourne on 12th October, and at Lyttelton on 28th October. A month later, on 26th November 1910, she sailed from Lyttelton, first to Port Otago, and then from Port Otago on 29th November heading for Antarctica. Scott did not sail with the TERRA NOVA as he remained behind in an attempt to raise additional funding. Scott, with his wife, Kathleen, left the ship at Greenhithe where he was presented two flags by Queen Alexandra (the then Queen Mother): one to be planted at the farthest south attained, and the second to be hoisted at the same spot and then lowered and brought back.
Two happy couples soon parted: (left) Lieutenant Edward Evans and his New Zealand wife, Hilda, and (right) Dr Edward Wilson and Mrs Wilson. On the second Antarctic expedition of 1912, Lt. Evans was Capt. Scott’s second in command, and Dr Wilson was head of Scott’s scientific party. Evans had married Hilda in 1904 after returning with Scott from his first Antarctic visit.
Wilson went with Scott to the Pole in 1912, never to return. To his disappointment at the time, Evans, after participating in the preparations for the final leg, found that Scott wanted him to return to base camp at Cape Evans to await the Polar party. On the return journey to the base camp in McMurdo Sound, Evans became seriously ill with scurvy, and only narrowly survived. He was sent back in TERRA NOVA to New Zealand. There Hilda nursed him back to health over the following months. Neither could know that they had only one more year of marriage before Hilda’s tragic early death in April 1913. Scott stayed another six weeks before leaving for South Africa to join the ship. Kathleen made the difficult (and last moment) decision to leave their son Peter behind and sail with her husband (whom she affectionately called Con – derived from an abbreviation of Falcon) as far as Sydney. They sailed on the Union-Castle Mail Steamship Co.’s SAXON (12,385 gross tonnage, built 1900) on 16th July 1910, and were seen off by Wilhelm Filchner and Ernest Shackleton. Also aboard were Edward Wilson’s wife, Ory, and Teddy Evans wife, Hilda. They reached Cape Town on 2nd August, 13 days before TERRA NOVA. Like DISCOVERY, the TERRA NOVA was a leaker. The leak wasn’t too bad but, nevertheless, everyone took a turn at the hand pumps commencing at 6 a.m. and resuming every four hours around the clock. When the ship reached the tropics, the heat was incredible.
After leaving Madeira, the winds became so light that the engines were required. The men sweated and toiled as they fed enormous amounts of coal into the three furnaces. On 25th July the TERRA NOVA anchored off uninhabited South Trinidad Island, some 700 miles east of Brazil. Expedition members Wilson and Cherry-Garrard, armed with guns, went after the birds; Lillie looked for plants and rocks; Nelson and Simpson searched for fish in pools. Five new species of spiders were collected and a new moth. After leaving the island, the ship went “booming along” before strong westerlies. They arrived in Simon’s Bay, Cape Town on 15th August 1910. The crew was soon reunited with Scott and for the next few days each member was left to himself to do as he pleased. Although not happy about it, Scott’s chief of scientific staff Dr. Edward Wilson was instructed to take an ocean liner to Melbourne as Scott took over command of TERRA NOVA. Malicious tongues suggested a desire to get away from Kathleen, who by now had assumed an air of leader of the expedition, or at least its inspector-general. TERRA NOVA was ‘Teddy’ Evans first command, and although he hid his feelings, he took Scott’s actions as a slur on his professional ability, thereby laying the foundation of an unfortunate antagonism with Scott. Mrs. Scott, Mrs. Evans, Dr. Wilson and his wife all sailed together aboard the White Star liner CORINTHIC (12,231 gross tonnage, built 1902). Upon arrival in Melbourne, Wilson consulted with Professor Edgeworth David and selected a third geologist. Meanwhile, Scott was enjoying himself aboard TERRA NOVA. The object of taking command at Cape Town was to acquaint himself with the crew, and select the members of the two shore parties. One party would remain at the expedition’s base of operations, in or near McMurdo Sound, carrying out scientific research, while the second party made the final assault on the Pole. A splinter group of six men, called the Eastern Party, was to be dispatched in unexplored King Edward VII Land, 400 miles to the east. This group would be led by Victor Campbell. The naval lieutenants, Pennell and Rennick, would remain in charge of the ship. Scott wrote to his mother, “My companions are delightful”.
After six weeks at sea, TERRA NOVA reached Melbourne on 12th October, 1910. Wilson loaded the wives and a bag of mail in a motor launch and set out to find the ship in pitch darkness. Kathleen wrote in her dairy, as they approached the ship “I heard my good man’s voice and was sure there was no danger, so insisted, getting more and more unpopular with the others in the boat . . . We at last got close to the beautiful TERRA NOVA with our beautiful husbands on board. They came and looked down into our faces with lanterns”. Scott, still chasing money, went on to New Zealand, via Sydney, on Union Steamship Co’s WARRIMOO (3,326 gross tonnage, built 1892). Meanwhile, Teddy Evans resumed command of the ship as they left the harbour under full sail in full view of the Australian-station Admiral’s 13,000 ton flagship and the rest of the squadron.
Scott and his wife arrived in New Zealand on 27th October, and were greeted by the sister of Sir Clements Markham (who was patron of various British Antarctic expeditions), Lady Bowen, and her husband, Sir Charles. They stayed in Lyttleton with the expedition’s agent, Joseph J. Kinsey. Scott’s wife, Kathleen, wrote, “There we were for a happy fortnight working and climbing with bare toes and my hair down and the sun and my Con and all the Expedition going well. It was good and by night we slept in the garden and the gods be blest”.
TERRA NOVA arrived and was promptly put into dry dock in order to fix her leak. The ship had her stores rearranged and repacked with everything getting banded: red for the main party, and green for the Eastern one. The scientific instruments were checked, and the hut was erected on land by the men who would have the job of setting it up at winter quarters. The three motor sledges, still in their crates, were lashed to the deck. Oates argued for 45 tons of food for the ponies (The ponies and dogs were waiting with Bruce and Meares on Quail Island in Lyttelton Harbour). Stalls were built for 19 ponies while the 39 dogs were chained to bolts and stanchions on the ice-house and the main hatch, between the motor sledges. Scott managed to get 430 tons of coal into the holds and 30 more tons stacked in sacks on the upper deck. Oates managed to get an extra two tons of fodder on board without Scott’s knowledge. In the ice-house were three tons of ice, 162 carcasses of mutton, three of beef, and cases of sweetbreads and kidneys. Scientific instruments were everywhere: sledges, an acetylene plant, the wooden huts, clothing, five tons of dog food, and hundreds of other items had to be squeezed in – there was hardly room for the men. And, of course, there were a myriad of other minor details to attend to.
On 26th November TERRA NOVA sailed from Lyttelton for Dunedin and Port Chalmers. Scott and his wife did not sail with her, but came back in the harbour tug and spent their last two days together walking over hills to Sumner. Arriving in Port Chalmers, Scott “found all well, excepting [Teddy] Evans – he much excited with very vague & wild grievances . . . the cause of all this not difficult to guess – smoothed him down.” Scott was probably referring to his reinstatement of Petty Officer Edgar Evans, whom Lt. Evans had wanted dismissed for being drunk at Lyttelton, but there seems to have been more to it than that. A clash of personalities between Kathleen Scott and Lt. Evans’ wife Hilda was evident just before the departure of their husbands from New Zealand. Lt. Evans came to Scott with details of trouble and how tempers had flared between the wives. Capt. L.E. ‘Titus’ Oates reported that “Mrs. Scott and Mrs. Evans had a magnificent battle; they tell me it was a draw after fifteen rounds. Mrs. Wilson flung herself into the fight after the tenth round and there was more blood and hair flying about the hotel than you see in a Chicago slaughter-house in a month, the husbands got a bit of the backwash and there is a certain amount of coolness which I hope they won’t bring into the hut with them, however it won’t hurt me even if they do”. It is interesting to speculate on the effect this disharmony amongst the wives had on the expedition as a whole, especially once the civilising effects of New Zealand had been replaced by the harsh reality of the southern continent. Once at sea all was well, but Kathleen decided that if her husband ever mounted another expedition, the selection of men and their wives deserved more consideration. “If ever Con has another expedition, the wives must be chosen more carefully than the men – better still, have none”. Lt. H.R. ‘Birdie’ Bowers regarded Hilda Evans as a womanly woman of remarkable beauty and general charm “who was everything that a wife should be”. He was much less in sympathy with the more emancipated and forthright Kathleen. Expedition photographer Herbert Ponting wrote, very diplomatically: “It was as interesting as it was delightful to note that our leader’s wife spent many days checking packages as they were unloaded and then re-stowed”.
Lt. Bowers, in letters home, was more forthcoming. “Captain Scott has left everything to me in the most extraordinary manner”, he began cheerfully. A few days later he was more critical: Mrs Wilson has not been about much owing to the strained relations between Mrs. Scott and Mrs. Evans. I don’t know who to blame but somehow don’t like Mrs. S. I don’t trust her – though I have always been prepared to give her her due. Nobody likes her in the expedition and the painful silence when she arrives is the only jarring note in the whole thing. There is no secret that she runs us all now and what she says is done – through the Owner. Now nobody likes a schemer and yet she is undoubtedly one. Her brother Lt. Bruce is a nice chap in himself, but again one does not like to trust family. We all feel that the sooner we are away the better. She will go home to her small son and will sow no more discord. I am sorry for her as she has tried hard to be one of us and always does anything she can for any of us. She actually brought our initials and came down and sewed them on our winter clothes for us. Very nice of her, was it not – I wish I could like her but I am suspicious. Hilda Evans, a New Zealand girl, had put up with the forceful Kathleen Scott since they left England. [img]/theme/nzshipmarine/sites/all/files/scottevans.jpg[/img]
Photo: South Glamorgan County Library, Cardiff [i][b]Captain Robert Falcon Scott and his wife Kathleen (left), Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Cardiff, and (right) Lt. Edward Evans with his Christchurch wife, Hilda. Reading of the mistrust of Kathleen Scott, and of her unpopularity and ability to upset Hilda Evans and other wives and expedition members, one could be tempted to read more than perhaps one should into her unusual crossed-arms pose.
On 29th November, in the afternoon, it was time to say farewell. There were massive cheering crowds on the shore as the Otago Harbour Board tug PLUCKY (81 gross tonnage, built 1880) took off the three wives. Wilson wrote of his wife, Ory, “There on the bridge I saw her disappear out of sight waving happily, a goodbye that will be with me till the day I see her again in this world or the next – I think it will be in this world and some time in 1912”. Despite the huge row earlier, differences were forgotten at the moment of departure. Kathleen Scott wrote, “I didn’t say goodbye to my man because I didn’t want anyone to see him sad. On the bridge of the tug Mrs. Evans looked ghastly white and said she wanted to have hysterics, but instead we took photos of the departing ship. Mrs. Wilson was plucky and good . . . I mustered them all for tea in the stern and we all chatted gaily except Mrs. Wilson who sat looking somewhat sphinx-like”.
The ship sailed late in the afternoon. For most of the men it would be a year and a half before they would see any green living thing. Five of them would never return. There were two men named Evans on this expedition: Lt. Edward ‘Teddy’ Evans who was second-in-command, and Petty Officer Edgar Evans who had previously sailed with Scott. P.O. Edgar Evans was the first to perish on the return journey from the South Pole, In Antarctica, Lt. Evans was initially in charge of Scott’s motor-sledge party. After the sledges broke down, he continued south, man-hauling, as the leader of the last supporting party to accompany Scott to the pole. After hearing from Scott that he was not going to be one of the men making the final push to the South Pole, Evans turned back on 4th January 1912, within 150 miles of the pole, leaving another of his party, Henry R. Bowers, to join Scott’s polar party. On the return journey, Evans became seriously ill with scurvy and by 11th February, still 100 miles from base camp, could no longer stand unaided and had to be pulled on the sledge by his remaining two companions, Tom Crean and William Lashly. Evans ordered them to leave him behind as he feared all three would otherwise die, but they refused. Evans would later say that this was the only time in his naval career where his orders were disobeyed. Evans declining condition was chronicled in the journal of Lashly, who observed that Evans was “turning black and blue and several other colours as well”, and later that he was in great pain and unable to stand. Evans later wrote: “Very seriously and sadly they re-erected our tent and put me once again inside. I thought I was being put into my grave . . .”. At this point, with not enough supplies to last the three men for the remaining 35 miles, Crean volunteered to go alone to fetch help. On 19th February, after walking for eighteen hours non-stop, Crean reached Hut Point where he found two members of the expedition, physician Edward L. Atkinson and dog-handler Dimitri Gerov, who set off on dog sleds and rescued Evans and Lashly. Altogether, the three had marched about 1,500 miles. Because of his illness, Lt. Evans was sent home in the expedition’s ship TERRA NOVA in March 1912, very much a physical wreck, and unable to get about in comfort for many months, but his wife Hilda nursed him back to health. He returned the following year in command of TERRA NOVA to take off the expedition’s survivors. On 12th November, 1912, searchers found the tent with the frozen bodies of Captain Scott, Dr. E.A. Wilson, Lt. H.R. Bowers, geological specimens from Beardmore, and Scott’s records and diaries, which gave a full account of the journey. He had died in March 1912. The expedition had been expected back in New Zealand early in April 1913. In January, Kathleen Scott set out by way of the United States to meet Scott. After a few days of camping with cowboys in New Mexico, she left San Francisco aboard Union Steamship Co.’s AORANGI (4,268 gross tonnage, built 1883). On 19th February 1913, between Tahiti and Raratonga, she was called to the captain’s cabin. With shaking hands, the captain showed her a message received by wireless: “Captain Scott and six (sic) others perished in a blizzard after reaching the South Pole 18th January”. Kathleen went into mental shock as she went about her business the rest of the day: playing cards, taking a Spanish lesson and discussing American politics. Her brother Wilfrid Bruce met her in Wellington along with Mrs. Ory Wilson, Edward Atkinson and Teddy Evans who had taken TERRA NOVA down to McMurdo Sound to embark Scott’s party and the rest of the expedition. Atkinson handed Kathleen her husband’s diary and last letter. It was now Kathleen’s turn to be courageous in the face of tremendous debt still owed from the expedition. Ironically, with the death of the leader came funding that retired the £30,000 debt. Before long, £75,509 had come in, which paid all outstanding debt and allowed grants to all dependants. There was still £12,000 remaining, and this was handed over to Cambridge University which used the gift towards the foundation of the Scott Polar Research Institute. Officially constituted in 1926, Frank Debenham became the first director.
Kathleen Bruce, born on 27th March 1878, had married Captain Robert Scott, R.N., on 2nd September 1908, and a year later gave birth to their son Peter Scott, who became famous in broadcasting, ornithology, painting, conservation and sport. After his death, Capt. Scott was regarded as a national hero for his courage and patriotism, and Kathleen was given the status of a wife of a Knight Commander of the Order of Bath on the grounds that this honour would have been bestowed on Scott had he survived. Kathleen became Lady Scott. In 1922, she married Edward Hilton Young, a politician who later became Lord Kennet of the Dene. Her second son, Wayland Hilton Young (1923-2009) was a writer and politician. Her grandchildren include artist Emily Young, and Louisa Young, writer. Lady Scott died of leukemia in 1947.
Commander Evans arrived back in Britain in late April 1913, the victim of a personal tragedy. While returning from New Zealand with his wife aboard the Orient liner OTRANTO (12,124 gross tonnage, built 1909) ahead of TERRA NOVA, Hilda Evans developed peritonitis and died on board ship on 18th April 1913 in the Mediterranean. Evans buried his wife in Toulon from whence he travelled back to Britain. On 22nd January 1916 he married Norwegian Elsa Andvord. Following his Antarctic service, Commander Edward Evans had a successful naval career. On 20th April 1917, while on a night patrol of the Dover Barrage near Goodwin Sands, he commanded the destroyer H.M.S. BROKE in an action against six German destroyers of the Kaiserliche Marine that had started to bombard Dover. Along with H.M.S. SWIFT, Evans engaged the German destroyers in what became known as the Battle of Dover Strait. A torpedo from H.M.S. SWIFT sank one of the enemy destroyers,G-85. Then the BROKE deliberately rammed another, G-42, almost breaking it in two. The two ships became locked together and for a while there was close-quarters fighting on BROKE's deck until the BROKE managed to break free. The German destroyer sank while the remaining German warships escaped. The badly damaged BROKE was towed home, while the equally damaged SWIFT made her own way back. The action gained him immediate promotion to the rank of Captain and his D.S.O. It made Evans a popular hero, feted in the British press as “Evans of the BROKE”. Evans wrote an account of his activities on the Dover Patrol in his book “Keeping the Seas” (1920). While in command of H.M.S. CARLISLE on the China Station, Evans rescued over 200 survivors from HONG MOH (3,954 gross tonnage, built 1881), wrecked on White Rock, Lamock Island off Swatow on 3rd March 1921. His actions, including swimming to give directions on the sinking ship, gained several awards for life-saving. In February 1928 he was promoted to Rear-Admiral commanding the Royal Australian Navy Fleet (formal title was “Rear Admiral Commanding HM Australian Squadron”). In November 1932 he was made Vice-Admiral. He was commander-in-chief of the Africa Station and Deputy High Commissioner of the British Protectorates from 1933 to 35. He was made a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB) in 1935. He was Commander-in-Chief, The Nore, from 1935 to 1939, and was promoted to Admiral in July 1936. Recalled in 1939, the following year he participated in the Norwegian Campaign, after which he retired from the Royal Navy on 9th January 1941. During the remainder of the Second World War he served as London Regional Commissioner for Civil Defence. In December 1945, he was created a baron, Lord Mountevans of the BROKE. He was Rector of the University of Aberdeen from 1936 to 1942. He died on 20th August 1957. One hundred years have passed since the fateful expedition.
In 2012, it is perhaps difficult to fully appreciate the hardships and challenges that faced Scott’s Second Antarctic Expedition. Technology has made a huge difference. Today, the area is relatively well-mapped; logistics have vastly improved, as have satellite communications with the outside world. It is not unusual today to have disasters, upheavals and events throughout the globe being reported on our TV screens as they are happening. Consider the explosion and destruction of Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986 or the disintegration of the Shuttle Columbia on re-entry in 2003; even more recently, the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in 2011. It may be hard to comprehend that, although the remaining members of Scott’s polar party perished on 29th March 1912, their bodies were not found until 12th November – almost eight months later, and that it was a further three months, on 10th February 1913, before a ship’s boat from TERRA NOVA crept ashore in the early hours of the morning at Oamaru with details of the sad events. Later that morning, news of the expedition and the deaths of Captain Robert Falcon Scott, Dr. Edward Wilson, Lt. ‘Birdie’ Bowers, Capt. ‘Titus’ Oates, and Petty Officer Edgar Evans was telegraphed to London via Christchurch.
Gavin McLean’s book “Kiwitown’s Port” reminds us that Oamaru never forgot its footnote in world history. Before the year of 1913 was out, a memorial tree had been planted in Arun Street, complete with wrought iron fence and marble plaque honouring “the Antarctic Heroes, Scott, Wilson, Bowers, Oates and Evans, who reached the South Pole on 18th January 1912 and perished on the return journey”. In 1998, it was calculated that Captain Scott had arrived in death at the destination that eluded him in life. Encased in ice, his body had drifted north past the One Ton Depot that he failed to reach in 1912. Since then, he had been carried 56 kilometres from the spot where he recorded the last words in his diary. When the bodies of Captain Scott and his companions, Wilson and Bowers, were found in their tent, a cairn was built over the site. In the years since their deaths, the cairn has sunk below the snow and into the ice. The subsequent drift of the location has been calculated by the Byrd Polar Research Centre, based on knowledge of glacial dynamics. The Centre estimates that the site has been covered by about 30 centimetres of ice a year, and that the bodies were 28 metres below the surface. They are on an ice shelf that is moving north, and it can be estimated where they lie today. The expedition’s final journey could last another 240 years. Data suggest that Scott’s body and those of his comrades will eventually sink around the year 2250 to a final resting place on the bed of the Ross Sea. It will be a silent ending and it will go unmarked – an occasion which will echo the deaths of the party in the unforgiving Antarctic environment almost three and a half centuries before.
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