Professor Sienicki’s assertions about Scott’s ‘suicide’

1 May

I have received correspondence from Professor Sienicki’s team concerning my recent blog on the subject of The Weather and its Role in Captain F. Scott and his Companions’ Deaths. What follows is their letter, followed by my response.

I recently came across your blog post “The Weather and its Role in Captain F. Scott and his Companions’ Deaths, by Professor Krzysztof Sienicki”. I have been helping Prof. Sienicki with a book he has been writing, and thus felt the need to correct several errors in your blog post.

First, you make the mistake of stating Prof. Sienicki made a neural network across the Barrier. This is not correct: what he did was take weather data and ran it through an artificial neural network. You also failed to note the similarity of temperatures at Elaine (at the foot of the Beardmore Glacier) and Schwerdtfeger (near One Ton Depot) AWS stations he noted. These two AWS stations are on Captain Scott’s route. The conclusion is tangible: weather conditions along Captain Scott’s route would have been similar from Elaine onward.

With that in mind, you then fail to note Sienicki’s noting of the First Relief Party’s weather record in support of his thesis. The First Relief Party’s weather record can be found in Simpson’s Vol. III, Table 78, available here: http://archive.org/details/meteorology03simp Compare the Table 78 record with the Scott party’s record, while keeping in mind Sienicki’s observation that Scott’s temperatures were daily mid-day temperatures, and the conclusion is obvious.

Then you miss the point of Sienicki’s pointing out of Leonard Huxley’s falsification of the 1st edition of Scott’s Last Expedition’s temperatures and Jones’ papering over of them. His point is about their actions, not Scott’s. Sienicki pointed out more than an aggregated miscalculation by Solomon; he also pointed out her data dragging by misrepresenting the Scott party’s daily mid-day near surface temperatures after March 10 as daily minimums, and logical fallacies.

Finally, in your citing of Scott’s letter to Sir Bridgeman, you make the mistake of failing to note that the Bridgeman letter has for a long time been partially available in Scott’s Last Expedition, and you incorrectly indicate that the recently released content in the Bridgeman letter includes your quote. The actual recently released content is: “I want you to secure a competence for my widow and boy. I leave them very ill provided for, but feel that the country ought not to neglect them.”

In addition, with regard to your insinuation that the Scott party had neglected the sick, this is certainly in my view true regarding P.O. Evans, but it should be noted that Scott was not entirely consistent in regard to Oates being dead weight. See Scott’s diary entry of March 10 for these quotes: “In point of fact he [Oates] has none. Apart from him, if he went under now, I doubt whether we could get through…At the same time of course poor Titus is the greatest handicap.”

Your assertion that dying was not part of Scott’s plan betrays that you have made an all too common mistake: taking what Scott wrote at face value. Prof. Sienicki and I believe that dying was part of the Scott party’s plan. Evidence that they were stage managing their exit can be found as early as February 7, when Scott manufactured a food shortage, finding the rations short by 1 day and declaring that they hadn’t increased rations. In doing so, Scott deliberately ignored his own diary entry of January 29, where he declared that they would increase rations on “the day after tomorrow,” which would be January 31, and ignored his own diary entry of February 1, where he listed the ration increase as 1/7. 7 times 1/7 equals 1, so if they started the increased ration on January 31, this would place Scott’s party short of rations by 1 day at the beginning of lunch on February 7.

These details and much more will be detailed in Prof. Sienicki’s book, Captain Scott’s Fatal Antarctic Expedition: Slanted Truths-Centennial Account, due to be released this year.

Thanks for considering,

Kristoffer Nelson-Kilger

REPLY

My concern is not on Professor Sieniki’s techniques, but on the interpretation of his findings.

He analysed weather data at various sites over The Barrier for a prolonged period. During this time the pattern of temperature change at different sites followed each other. Scott’s recordings of nearly a century earlier were at variance to Sienicki’s measurements (lower) and furthermore, did not follow the pattern of other explorers in the early 1900s. Professor Sienicki therefore thinks they were falsified.

He concludes that Birdie Bowes and Scott had decided that self destruction was the best way out of their situation and that, by altering the temperature records, they would strengthen Scott’s claims in his messages that the conditions the British team encountered were extraordinarily bad.

He then goes on to involve Huxley in a cover up, stating that where Scott had recorded positive temperatures, Huxley had changed them to negative. He states that Max Jones said the alterations could have been a mistake and that the renowned scientist, Susan Soloman is mistaken in her interpretation of the data.

You say that Sienicki proved that Scott and Bowers falsified evidence. He has done no such thing.  He has shown that the recorded temperatures were dramatically at variance from the norm. But he himself found temperatures approximating to Scott’s low readings in 1985.

The main point of my objection however is that whole tenure of the article is that there was a suicide pact. I think this most unlikely.

If Scott had lived he would not have been held responsible for the deaths of those he had lost, (Scott lost two men on the Discovery Expedition, Amundsen lost men in 1903-6 and 1918-25, Mawson lost his two companions in 1912-13. Shackleton lost men in his Ross Sea party. The last three were honoured). Scott had ‘played the game’ and this would have been respected by the British who honoured Teddy Evans who was sent home with scurvy. He would have been financially secure. He would have been promoted.

Birdie Bowers was a committed Christian and meticulous in his recordings. It would have gone against a lifetimes practice to falsify them.

Wilson, another committed Christian, who longed to return to his wife and family and, in the tent with them day and night as they weakened, does not get a mention. Did this intrigue, which would affect him so fatally, take part in the tent alongside their valued friend, somehow excluding him from their decisions?

The proposed scenario seems most unlikely and I do not think we are going to progress further on this one.

Isobel Williams

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