The food on the expeditions

17 Mar

Jackie Gould has written to enquire if it would have been better to eat fresh meat on the expedition, an interesting question which is often worried about.

In fact, after the outbreak of scurvy on the ‘Discovery’ expedition, the men did eat fresh meat when they were at Base Camp (except on Tuesday which was the cook’s night off and which they called ‘scurvy Tuesday’)!  The problem lay wiith the meat that they took on the sledges; to reduce weight they boiled it, thus reducing the vitamin content.

The real problem with Scott’s manhauling expedition was the amount of food they ate. They ate approximately 4,600 calories per day, which they thought would be sufficient (Amundsen took a similar amount) but manhauling as Scott did, as apposed to riding on sledges requires much more. Mike Stroud, of the Biochemical Research Unit in Nutrition at Southampton, has estimated the daily requirement as being over 7,ooo calories and more for pulling up the glacier. This means by the time that Scott’s party died they had lost about 40% of their body weight.

In relation to the proportion of fats, protein, carbohydrate, modern theory suggests that Scott took too much protein and too little fat on his final expedition. Scott took a daily protein intake of 29% and a fat intake of 24% (carbohydrate 24%). Modern manhauling expeditions in Antarctica have  taken a daily intake containing 57% fat  and only 8% protein. The modern rations are more ‘energy dense’, but Scott, of course, like everyone else at the time, knew nothing of this.

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5 Responses to “The food on the expeditions”

  1. Henry Davies March 17, 2012 at 3:06 pm #

    Very good information. This is beast.

  2. John millard March 19, 2012 at 3:00 pm #

    Dr Williams has written an excellent biography of Edgar Evans who was the first of Captain Scott’s party to die on the terrible journey back from the South Pole. Her story of Evans is both exciting and well written and illustrates some of the social and class distinctions which were common before the first world war. For several years Evans was blamed for the deaths of his companions because he was from the lower deck, was less well educated and of a lower class, he therefore did not have the grit and determination to carry on. Dr Williams demonstrates very well that this is nonsense.

    • Isobel P. Williams March 19, 2012 at 4:01 pm #

      I feel that it was his family and particularly his children who must have suffered particularly from the implications. London newspapers travelled quickly to Wales. When Players Cigarettes made cigarette cards of virtually all the Antarctic heroes, cards that were avidly collected by children and Edgar was not included, this must have been a particular humiliation.
      Lois, his wife and his father -in-law and his family taoned stoically loyal and this must have been a comfort to the children.

  3. Christine Palmer March 20, 2012 at 1:04 pm #

    I am in the throes of reading the biography of Edgar Evans, which I am much enjoying.
    I notice that in the book, Scott and Wilson are referred to by their surnames as is the public school tradition, but Evans is referred to as Edgar, his Christian name.Is this a class distinction?

    • isobelpwilliams March 20, 2012 at 6:39 pm #

      No this was not class distinction. men were virtually always called by their sir names rather than their Christian names and a Petty Officer would never be called by his first name by an officer.
      The reason that I did this was that there were two well known Evans on the Terra Nove expedition. ‘Teddy’ Evans was the First Officer on the ship, Cape Evans was named for him. He went to have a most distinguished career and was ‘Evans of the Broke’ ( when he undertook a daring and successful naval manoeuvre in World War One). Edgar Evans was Scott’s valued Petty Officer. Because both were E.Evans, it is easy to muddle them and I thought it simpler to call my hero Edgar.

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