25 Apr

News about pollution with plastic is everywhere. It has definitely hit public consciousness. Governments, businesses, and individuals are now conscious of the amount of unnecessary plastic waste thrown out daily and the damage this causes  (although I remain appalled at the number of plastic bottles that are still thrown from car windows onto my garden).

Plastic pollution means plastic products that are disposed of in a way that they cause damage to wildlife, wildlife habitat, or humans.

Plastics are categorized into micro-, meso-, or macro debris. Virtually everyone nowadays must be aware of macro debris; more than 8 million tons of plastics are dumped into the seas yearly resulting in animals being strangled by plastic loops, thousands of albatross chicks killed by the pieces of the plastic they mistake for food, the appalling aesthetics (and health hazards), of hitherto pristine beaches littered with plastic.

Microplastics are small plastic particles of less than 5 mm diameter. They are classified as primary; for example (from clothing and industry) and secondary, from the breakdown of larger macro plastic debris (for example debris at the bottom of the oceans). Microplastics are used, to a degree that I was unaware of, in the cosmetic industry: for example in exfoliates, soaps and other personal care products such as body scrubs and toothpaste. These plastics enter the sewage systems and, as they are too small to be completely retained by the preliminary treatment screens of wastewater plants, they leach into rivers and oceans. They do not degrade easily, persisting for years and so accumulating in the bodies and tissues of animals and plants and hence the food chain.

These microplastics are made of polyethylene, (a component of plastic), polypropylene, polyethylene terephthalate, or nylon.

Plastics seem to be ubiquitous; items of clothing can contain polyester, nylon and acrylic synthetic fibers that shed and persist in the environment. It is a said that a load of laundry can contain more than 1,900 fibers of microplastics, (with fleeces releasing the highest percentage of fibers).

Spillage, coming from packing materials during transport and from processing plants are two other important sources of pollution, sometimes in the form of macroplastics, otherwise as secondary microplastics resulting from long-term degradation. A Swedish investigation, using an 80 µm mesh in Swedish waters, showed that the typical microplastic concentrations of 150–2,400 microplastics per m .   increased to 102,000 per m. in a harbor adjacent to a plastic production facility. A Californian study found that after a storm, the transport of plastics increased from 10 to 60 microplastics per m.

Recreational and commercial fishingmarine vessels, and marine industries are all sources of plastic that can directly pollute the sea. I was surprised that fishing equipment, such as lines and netting (which drift to variable depths in oceans) are a particular hazard. That awful beach debris comes either from people who just dump their debris, or from beaching of materials carried by ocean currents.

This is an urgent geopolitical problem which slowly and none too soon, is being faced up to:

A fascinating development has been the discovery of species of bacteria that uses polyethylene terephthalate (PET), one of the most common forms of plastic, as a food source. This is a huge find: PET takes 450 years to completely degrade in the environment. These bacteria, it is said, can digest it in weeks. But on what scale and how will these bacteria be contained? Will birds eat the bacteria?

Other solutions under consideration are:

a) In the UK a ban has been launched on microbeads. Other countries are introducing this ban.

b) Plastic-Free Aisles in Supermarkets, an Amsterdam store has a plastic free aisle containing more than 700 items. This cannot come soon enough. The amount of plastic packaging, of fruit/veg for example, in my local supermarket is ridiculous and dirtying your hands by handling potatoes, vegetables etc.(as some people object to), can help to build up natural immunity.

c) Banning Cotton buds and Plastic Straws
It is planned that this should be done within a year

d) Plastic Bottles

Have been described as ‘almost a flagship for the wider issues of marine plastic pollution’. 7.5 billion of much larger number of bottles end up in landfill in the UK, others get into the sea. In Britain there has been a 10% rise in plastic pollution on the beaches in the past year. There is now a huge campaign to reduce/stop the production of plastic bottles. Reusable containers are becoming popular. A 25p charge on disposable coffee cups is under consideration — this would greatly reduce the 5 billion cups dumped every year. Also discounts are being offered to consumers who bring their own reusable cups, for example Pret A Manger gives this discount. Since a 5p plastic bag tax was first introduced in the UK in October 2015, there has been a 90% fall in bag use — with 9 billion fewer bags being used across the country, according to figures released last July Tesco took the ban one step further, banning the 5p single-use carrier bags completely, in favour of a 10p bag for life. In his November budget, U.K Chancellor Philip Hammond announced plans for a tax increase on disposable plastic items, including takeaway boxes. These plans are being consulted on.

e) Water fountains. I like this idea. It takes us back decades! The suggestion is that if fresh water is available to the public, we will buy less bottled water.  Greater access to water fountains across the UK is being investigated

f) Recycled Plastics.

Currently, firms in the UK pay one of the lowest contributions to recycling their waste in the whole of Europe — with taxpayers instead paying 90% of the recycling costs.

The government could introduce incentives for industries designing packaging that is easier to recycle, and raise charges on packaging that is difficult to recycle, making packaging producers more responsible for the type of products they are putting on the market.

g) School education, even a half hour presentation, fitted into the crowded school curriculum, would make an impression

A summary of the UK’s approach was given by the Environment Secretary 1)Cut the total amount of plastic in circulation. 2) Reduce the number of different plastics in use, because that will help recycling firms. 3) Improve the rate of recycling, which has been slipping recently. 4) Make it easier for individuals to know what goes into the recycling bin and what goes into general rubbish.

To this, information could be added as to how our general rubbish is distributed (i.e. the % that is exported (untreated), the % the goes into landfill the % that is burnt.

This is a serious geopolitical problem; if these approaches are adopted widely the situation could be contained and gradually reduced.


Hubert von Herkomer and Vincent van Gogh

30 Mar

A final post about Herkomer, prompted by advanced publicity relating to the exhibition on van Gogh that is to be held in Tate Britain next year.

Herkomer’s ‘Social Realism’ pictures, reproduced in The Graphic, a magazine edited by William Luston Thomas, had a lasting influence on van Gogh who wrote to his brother Theo, that ‘the highest and noblest expressions of art were that of the English’. Van Gogh mentioned Herkomer in his letters to Theo regularly between 1881(when he was twenty-eight) and 1885.

I hoped that this influence would be mentioned in the Tate exhibition and was pleased to hear from the Curator of the van Gogh exhibition, Dr. Carol Jacobi, that she has a long-standing interest in Herkomer and that his importance to van Gogh will be a component of the show and the catalogue.

Herkomer, a few years older than van Gogh, was already an established artist at the time van Gogh wrote to Theo. The Last Muster (which received spontaneous applause when it was shown to the Hanging Committee of the Royal Academy), was internationally admired and had won the Medal of Honour in the Paris International Festival of 1878. Van Gogh also admired Herkomer’s painting of Bavarian peasant life (reproduced in L’Art which he would have seen) as well as paintings illustrating the deprivation and loneliness of old women in the workhouses of London.

Although van Gogh was in London for a few years in the 1870s he did not meet Herkomer, but he regularly went to look at new illustrations posted in the windows of the Graphic and Illustrated London News offices. Later (when in the Hague), he collected a complete series of twenty – one volumes of the Graphic running from 1870 to 1880.

He not only admired Herkomer’s work, which he considered showed both ‘soul’ and a sympathy for his fellow man, but he also admired the man himself . Herkomer’s accounts of the grinding poverty he and his parents endured when, in search of a better life, they emigrated from Germany to America and then to England, and his determination in overcoming these difficulties at the beginning of his career sounded a responsive cord in van Gogh, himself beset with so many career and personal frustrations.

Herkomer, in contrast to van Gogh, was to become a hugely wealthy man, mainly because of his portrait painting (which he defended as ‘Contemporary History’), but he remained a source of admiration to van Gogh, who as late as 1888 was still creating images that reflected the Graphic series – his admiration for the Herkomer’s expressionist ‘soul’ can be said to have remained with him throughout his life.

I am sure this Tate Britain exhibition will be a great success.

The book on Bruce is published!

16 Mar





It is in bookshops as well as on Amazon and I hope you will take a look.

John’s 50th visit to Antarctica

28 Feb

My co-author has been visiting Antarctica regularly since he was a young man. He does scientific work and lectures on cruise ships.

He has written another vivid account of life in the Antarctic. Here it is

Here I am once more on the South Scotia Sea over 50 years since I first voyaged here, heading from one iconic place in Polar history to another – South Georgia to Elephant Island – on the ship the ‘Akademik Ioffe’. Outside my porthole is a symphony in monochrome, grey cloud and dark grey sea with wind torn whitecaps around which wandering Albatross are wheeling and skimming, along with a myriad of other Southern Ocean seabird. Occasionally there will be a whale blow to add a deep bass tone to the music of the Southern Ocean.
The Scotia Sea is named for the ship ‘The Scotia’ which carried William Speirs Bruce and his men on the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition of 1902 to 1904. A forgotten polar hero, but one I hope will become much better known and appreciated with the publication of the new biography of his life and times. I hope he would have appreciated my description of the view from my porthole and the treble tones of the whistling wind – something that was a constant for him during the voyage.
South Georgia is iconic in Polar affairs for many reasons, it was rediscovered by James Cook in 1775 during his second great circumnavigation of the world, and as a result became the centre, first of fur sealing, then in the early 20th century for whaling. As they wiped out the fur seals at South Georgia, the early 19th century sealers turned their attention – and their ships – South West to the South Shetlands, South Orkneys and the Antarctic Peninsula. And it was they who did most of the early explorations there. South Georgia is also, of course, iconic as part of the story of Shackleton and the ‘Endurance’ expedition, and the other day I was privileged to lead a group from Stromness whaling station up the valley to the “Shackleton waterfall”, thus retracing part of his famous journey.
Elephant Island is iconic as the place that Shackleton’s men were marooned at ‘Point Wild’ for 4 months through the winter of 1916, awaiting rescue. We will be visiting it in two days – weather permitting (it rarely does). On my various visits to the vicinity of Point Wild – I have never yet actually managed to set foot there (maybe this time!) – I often reflect on the fact that brave and enterprising folk have several times recreated the voyage from Elephant Island to South Georgia. Others have trekked across South Georgia following in Shackleton’s footsteps. But nobody has ever suggested re-enacting sitting under an upturned boat at Point Wild eating penguins for four months. And I doubt they ever will!

Sir Hubert von Herkomer R.A.

10 Feb

Nestling amongst my talks on Antarctic heroes and Antarctic subjects is one on a Victorian artist, Hubert Herkomer, a man who was one of the most famous artists of the late Victorian era and the Edwardian period. Why is he there? I am not an art historian. I spent my working life as a Consultant in the National Health Service.

caption: self-portrait by Hubert Herkomer held in Bushey Museum Hertfordshire U.K.

The reason that Herkomer entered my life is that I wrote the biography of Edward Wilson, the doctor who died with Scott in 1912. Wilson and his wife made their home in Bushey, Hertfordshire. When I visited Bushey Museum to learn more about my subject, I found they were more interested in their celebrity Herkomer, who had lived in the town for forty years.

Caption: Lululaund Gothic style(built from 1880-1884). Designed by the American architect H.H.Richardson(Boston Mass.USA).

I learnt that during these years, in addition to the most prodigious artistic output he was a talented musician, ran an art school, wrote the music, the words and acted in plays and, with his father and uncles, built a huge Gothic house, designed by H.H. Richardson, the famous Bostonian American architect.

Caption:Students of Herkomer Art School started in 1883. Initially for 60 students, but soon rose to 100 students.

When I looked around the museum I was caught immediately by the numerous examples of his paintings and drawings on display. I decided I would make a presentation, which, I hoped might be of general interest

Caption: Drawn by Herkomer Woodcut printed in the Graphic Magazine 1870. Bushey Museum hertfordshire U.K.

Herkomer was an inexhaustible worker. Initially he produced many ‘Social Realism’ Illustrations. These graphically informed all Victoria’s subjects of the poverty and deprivation of the Victorian working class.



He continued with these for many years; his Diploma painting (presented to the Royal Academy when he was elected a Full Member) was ‘On Strike’, described as ‘a cry for humanity’.



He also produced numerous paintings and pictures, of scenes in England, Wales and Germany. Later in his career he concentrated on the ‘portrait market’ with great success, painting the great and the good in this country and in Germany.

Caption: watercolour painting of JOHN RUSKIN, H.Herkomer 1879. NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY LONDON, U.K.

Caption: MARRIED ANNA WEISE 1873.Her portrait by Hubert Herkomer 1876. BUSHEY MUSEUM, HERTFORDSHIRE U.K.

In 1899 he was awarded the Order of Maximilien by Prince Luitpold of Bavaria; this allowed him to add von to his name, an honour he greatly appreciated as it raised the prestige of the Herkomer family as a whole.

He visited the States twice and on one of his visits to Boston he painted 36 portraits in a few months.

Caption: Herkomer built a THEATRE,created ELABORATE MUSICAL PLAYS,and WROTE AND ORCHESTRATED THE MUSIC, as well taking an active role in the plays. The image is of Edward Gordon Craige, who was the stage designer producing amazingly a mobile full moon, fully lit, that traversed from one side of the stage to the other steadily through out the performance. He was the son of Ellen Terry.

Hubert Herkomer’s original passport to success however was ‘The Last Muster’. This was painted when he was twenty-six. It depicts Chelsea Pensioners in the chapel of the Chelsea Hospital and drew spontaneous applause from the Hanging Committee, of the Royal Academy, when it was submitted for exhibition – surely unusual. It was one of the most popular paintings in England for 40 years and won the Medal of Honour in the Paris Universal Exhibition of 1878. It is said to be a memento mori and a reminder both of patriotism and poverty.


His watercolour portrait of Ruskin, described as one of the greatest portraits of the Victorian era, was painted when Ruskin was probably already suffering from a bipolar disorder. The portrait is considered outstandingly insightful; it certainly drew enthusiastic praise from Ruskin himself who nominated Herkomer for the Slade Professorship in Oxford.

Caption:Watercolour by Hubert Herkomer 1901 of Queen Victoria at Osborne House Isle of Wight.U.K.
The Royal Collection.
This image is from a copy held by Bushey Museum, Hertfordshire. U.K.

Edward VII invited him to paint Queen Victoria on her deathbed and subsequently granted him a knighthood.
But Hubert is now largely forgotten. Why? There are four main reasons. Firstly, although he was a naturalized British citizen, he was born in Bavaria and never lost his connection with Germany, visiting Bavaria regularly. Secondly, he was often perceived to be egotistical, self-praising and effusive, not traits likely to endear him to his fellow citizens and artistic rivals (Royal Academicians filed a question concerning his right to British citizenship). Thirdly, by the time he died in 1914, anti German feeling was rife.

But probably the most important reason was that by the end of World War 1 tastes in art had changed. There was no appetite for ‘vulgar, coloured photographs’. ‘Modernism’ had arrived

Although Herkomer was and is represented in galleries throughout Britain and word-wide, he sank into obscurity for some years. He has been reassessed for his significant contributions more recently.

I am making two presentations on him this year. I hope to kindle further interest in an undoubtedly brilliant artist.

Why didn’t they ask Evans? x3+

16 Jan

Kristoffer has commented further on Professor Turney’s paper.

I have altered the order of the images to make sure the words Teddy Evans’interview (NZ press) are in the correct order.

New Book on Bruce

16 Jan

I am delighted that the book is to be published by Amberley Publishing in March. My co-author is John Dudeney who has visited the Antarctic frequently and who also has an invaluable access to government papers relating to the time when Bruce was having ongoing confrontations with the powers-that-be in London.

The book has taken some years to write. In theory I enjoy the research though I have to say that the practical problems of spending hours deciphering increasingly spidery handwriting in letters and statements that turn out to have no relevance to Bruce’s story can be trying! but I think we have presented William Speirs in a fair and balanced way and that the book will deliver him from the relative obscurity that he has somehow sunk to.


6 Jan

Explorers of the early 1900 would be both taken aback and fascinated by the many changes and advances that have taken place in the past century – the scientific advances would enthuse them, climate change would not surprise them. Damage to the food chains that supply wild life and fish would concern them deeply, the detritus that has built up in the hitherto pristine oceans and the beaches and interior of Antarctica would outrage them.

The ‘Antarctic Treaty Protocol on Environmental Protection’ (ref), that aims to protect Antarctica, stipulates what can and can’t be left on the continent. But in spite of this agreement pollution continues. Antarctica is particularly sensitive to this problem because of its freezing temperatures — natural processes that remove waste in other parts of the world function slowly in the cold and this increases the build up of waste. For example organic material that would have disappeared in months in warmer environments can take decades to decay in Antarctica,

The biodiversity in the Antarctic – the mosses, lichens, algae, penguins, seals, and migratory birds – that attracts researchers, their support teams and tourists, results in all the problems that go with a permanent human settlement. Most research takes place during Antarctica’s summer season when the human population swells to around 5,000 scientists and support staff. An additional 25,000 – 30,000 people visit the area as tourists during this time (during the winter the population decreases to about 1,000). It is reported that research stations still contribute to the problem.

Clearly, a conflict of interest between an emphasis on science and tourism can develop in many ways – one small example, tyre treads of vehicles that veer from designated tracks can gouge up sparse vegetation that has taken years to establish. Boot prints will damage the delicate cold-climate moss-banks. When I went to the Peninsula I was given very strict instructions as to where I could, or could not, walk and in the areas we were allowed to explore we tried to walk in the footsteps of the person directly ahead – the penguins must have considered our single file as a strange species of penguin. In some cases the very biodiversity that researchers came to investigate has been threatened by invasive species they, or tourists, have inadvertently carried.

The effect of casual pollution remains a threat. There is still a large amount of rubbish including metal items, oil and other fuels and plastics in a variety of locations. In the past when a station was no longer needed, valuable items were removed, but everything else was left behind. This image shows some abandoned machinery, sleds, vehicles, oil drums and buildings in at what used to be a Russian base, closed in 1991. Although today these items would be removed, there are other similar examples. fact file/science/abandoned.jpg

More generally, the production world wide of synthetic polymers, plastics, is a rapidly increasing long-term threat to marine life – albatrosses, fulmars, shearwaters and petrels mistake floating plastics for food. Over forty percent of seabirds are known to ingest this plastic. Also seals as well as birds get tangled up in lines. Plastic bands can get caught around animals’ necks, causing injury, infection and, very likely, a long and slow death. A recent ‘Blue Planet’ graphically illustrated these problems. Ben Fogle has written in the ‘Geographical’ (November 2017, p.15), that plastic debris is accidentally transporting creatures for thousands of miles from their usual habitat on makeshift plastic ‘rafts’ – about 300 species have reached the US from Japan on marine debris; yet Coca Cola has increased production of its throw- away plastic bottles.

It has been reported that 95% of plastic polluting the world’s oceans comes from just TEN rivers including the Ganges and Niger. Container Ships multiply the problem. These huge ships are the length of about six football pitches – it is said that if the shipping industry were a country, it would be ranked as the sixth biggest contributor to global CO2 emissions worldwide. Pollution problems originate when the ships are far from land (therefore difficult to identify the source without Satellite surveillance) and the situation is made worse (particularly in relation to wild life) as the industry apparently uses bunker oil (the dregs from the refinery process), which is heavy, toxic, does not evaporate, gives off sulphur and is poisonous to fish and crustaceans. The Shipping Industry is investigating alternative sources of energy, such as liquefied natural gas, some form of carbon capture, or simply slowing down, but it is thought nothing will be definitively agreed without further international legislation.

The hole in the ozone layer was recorded in the 1980s. The ozone LAYER is found in the lower stratosphere at about 20 to 30 kilometers. The ozone HOLE is a thinning of this layer that allows harmful ultra violet light to get through the earth’s atmosphere over the South Pole during the Antarctic Spring. It was enlarged by chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) being pumped into the atmosphere by the industrialized world over a long time period. Enforced reduction of CFC emissions has reduced the hole in the ozone layer but it still remains, the best example of pollutants that are produced in one place, having their effects in another.

So the oceans, wildlife, and Antarctica itself remain in need of further proactive protection.

The Antarctic Treaty Protocol can be reviewed in four years, but will members have the will to agree to reinforce, develop and enforce the safe guards of 1991 treaty, to ensure that contamination of the oceans that surround Antarctica will be significantly cleared from man-made contamination?

Individual contributions, though small, will help in total.
Some suggestions:

1) Avoid supermarkets, which do not support ‘plastic free aisles’.
2) Buy loose fruit/vegetables in markets or local stores
3) Continue to support development of transport that do not produce any liquid or gaseous pollution. Support a significant levy on use of historic transportation.
4) Do not buy products wrapped in ‘disposable’ plastic

REF. The Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, Madrid. 1991

Further correspondence on Professor Chris Turney’s paper ‘Why didn’t they ask Evans?’

23 Dec

Bill Alp has asked further pertinent questions about this paper as shown below. Some excerpts from Gran’s book are included:
As mentioned above, I wrote to Professor Turney on 15 October 2017, requesting translations of the relevant parts of Gran’s book – the parts about Scott’s orders to Teddy Evans. As of 21 December, there has been no response. To make progress I have purchased a copy of Gran’s book and asked a Norwegian work-colleague to find and translate all paragraphs that mention Scott’s dog teams. Pages from the book have been scanned and inserted below, for those readers who would like to check the accuracy and context of translated passages.
I was expecting to receive from my colleague something akin to Roland Huntford’s well-known paragraph:
“Evans also carried a message from Scott changing the orders for the dogs yet again – for the fourth time. Meares now was to come to out and meet Scott between 82° and 83° S, some time towards the middle of February” (Huntford, 1979, p. 457).
Imagine the surprise when my colleague reported that ‘Kampen om Sydpolen’ contains no such statement. At no point in the book does Gran state that Scott gave orders to Evans about the dogs. There are however several separate statements in Gran’s book which Professor Turney may have combined in order to create his story. This post addresses that possibility and invites the reader to form his or her own opinion of the merits of Turney’s case against Evans.
Regardless of whether one accepts Gran’s story or not, the vital question is whether Professor Turney’s representation of Gran’s narrative is fair and accurate or whether it has been distorted, perhaps to create a headline-grabbing article.
On page 10 of the PDF version, the following paragraph is germane to Turney’s claim that Evans received orders from Scott that were not conveyed:
“Whilst no orders were apparently written by Scott for the Last Supporting Party, it does seem they were issued on the journey. By the time the two final parties had reached two-and-a-half degrees north of the Pole, Scott had settled on his plans for the dogs on their third journey. Meeting privately with Evans, he sent his second-in-command back and ordered the dogs should return across the Ross Ice Shelf to meet the returning party between 82° and 83° S (Gran, 1961).”
Turney’s paragraph does not contain any direct quotations, so I suggest it be treated as a combination of material from several sections of Gran’s book. Some readers may see this as conflation or contextual manipulation.
Only one piece of Turney’s paragraph, “Meeting privately with Evans, he sent his second-in-command back” actually matches Gran’s translated text:
“Scott wanted to take 4 men with him to the South Pole. The chosen were Wilson, Oates, Bowers and non-commissioned officer Edgar Evans.
Scott asked everybody, except Lieutenant ‘Teddy’ Evans to leave the tent, and when they were alone he said:
I know, my dear Teddy that my decision is a hard blow for you, but aside from the fact that it is the best for you, it is also necessary. You are my second-in-command, and the two of us cannot go in the same party. I need, in my absence, a man like you to look after my interests” (Gran, 1961, p. 159)

Assessment of the third part of Turney’s paragraph is more complex. It contains a reference to a region between 82° and 83° S. That region does in fact appear once in Gran’s book, but in a very different context to Turney’s. Gran was describing the discussions that (he claims) took place at Hut Point on 23 or 24 February 1912, where Evans and Atkinson were re-planning the third dog journey, to be led by Cherry-Garrard. Gran’s translated words are:
“The time for the meeting between Scott and the dogs, the directive said, could be set when the last support party had returned. And that happened on 23 February. The leader, Lieutenant Teddy Evans, had suffered from heavy scurvy and had caused the party to be severely delayed. [A couple of points may be noted here: Firstly, any directive for the dog teams to wait for the last support party would make no sense if conveyed via Evans and the last support party. Secondly, there is no suggestion here that the last return party would be bringing revised orders, it is simply a matter of the dates for the dogs departing southwards and meeting Scott.]
All the signs indicated that Scott and his South Pole party were close. According to Lieutenant Evans and his two companions, it was doubtful whether the dogs, even if they set out immediately, would reach One Ton depot before Scott. [This is consistent with Cherry-Garrard’s statement below.]
This was not just a happy piece of information, but came as a great relief. This was because the dog expert Cecil Meares – who had been disappointed with not being allowed to go with his dogs up the Beardmore Glacier – had shut down his work and handed the job over to the expedition physician Dr. Atkinson. And the doctor was no navigator. So if the mission with the dogs should have gone to 82° or 83° S either Charles Wright or the biologist Nelson would have been required to go along [as navigator for Atkinson]. And both of these scientists were practically indispensable in the winter quarters. They were taking over from the meteorologist, Dr. Simpson who quite unexpectedly had been called home. The remaining personnel on the expedition with expertise in navigation, including the author of this book, were all in the West Mountains” ( Gran, 1961, pp. 184-185)

As mentioned above, Cherry-Garrard’s book supports Gran’s statement about the Polar Party being expected to reach Hut Point within a few days, according to Evans’ Party:
“and indeed it appeared that we had been wrong to hurry out so soon, before the time that Scott had reckoned that he would return, and that the Polar Party would really come in at the time Scott had calculated before starting rather than at the time we had reckoned from the data brought back by the Last Return Party.” (Cherry-Garrard, 2010, p. 434)
The paragraph on page 10 of Professor Turney’s article, quoted above, appears to be his primary ‘evidence’ for the charge that Evans received orders from Scott that he failed to pass on. I invite readers to form their own opinions on whether Gran’s narrative has been accurately represented by Turney (regardless of whether you accept Gran’s narrative or not), and whether there is sufficient evidence to support the case made by Professor Turney in the ‘Failed orders’ section of his article.
Cherry-Garrard, A.G.B. (2010). The Worst Journey in the World. London, England: Vintage Books.
Gran, J.T.H. (1961). Kampen om Sydpolen. Oslo, Norway: Ernst G. Mortensens Forlag.
Huntford, R. (1979). Scott and Amundsen. [Kindle version] Retrieved from
Turney, C.S.M. (2017). Why didn’t they ask Evans? Polar Record 53(5), 498-511

Notes on Chris Turney’s article ‘Why didn’t they ask Evans?’

23 Nov

Bill Alp, a New Zealander, a project manager in information technology and a man with a passion for researching the heroic age of Antarctic exploration, has written a critique of the paper. I agree with his comments and give them in full

I have appended some general comments of my own at the end of his critique

Bill’s comments
General – the importance of verifiable facts in research articles
Professor Chris Turney’s article ‘Why didn’t they ask Evans?’ has recently been published by Polar Record. It may be viewed at
Whilst the article draws upon many historic documents, it is rather light on verifiable facts. There are plenty of conjectures, insinuations and rumours. However, statements such as: “before sending Atkinson and his team back, Scott repeated that the dogs were not to be risked” and “Whilst no orders were apparently written by Scott for the Last Supporting party, it does seem they were issued on the journey” and “Atkinson remained convinced the orders as he understood them had not been rescinded” would be more acceptable if supported by verifiable citations.
A significant proportion of the article reiterates the opinions of individuals back in England ( Lord Curzon, K Scott, O Wilson etc.), who could not possibly have witnessed Evans’ alleged transgressions in Antarctica. The article would have more substance if it included eye-witness accounts of Evans’ alleged transgressions.
Turney has worked hard to depict Teddy Evans as being a bad person, using a technique of presenting multiple adverse opinions and innuendo. This approach is not a trusted alternative to straightforward assembly and presentation of verifiable facts. In short, Turney’s article falls well-short of the standard normally associated with scholarly research.
Alleged theft of food by Evans
The common storyline of the Terra Nova expedition maintains that the energy content of Scott’s man-food rations fell well-short of what was required. For example, Fiennes assessed Scott’s summit ration at 4500 calories per day and stated that energy consumption would exceed 7000 calories per day when man-hauling in polar conditions (Fiennes, 2003, pp. 283-285). The Polar Party was close to a ‘starvation diet’ for 77 days, from commencement of man-hauling up the Glacier until arriving back on the Barrier on 24 February, and thence onto the even lower energy Barrier ration, until their deaths. It is surprising that Turney’s article makes no mention of the energy shortfall in the diet planned and organised by Scott, writing only about possible food shortages allegedly caused by Evans. For the article to be perceived as being well-reasoned and balanced, a distinction between problems caused by inadequate ration content versus alleged food theft would add credibility. A more balanced approach to analysis of food-related problems could have avoided press headlines such as “Captain Scott of the Antarctic’s doomed 1911 expedition to the South Pole was ‘sabotaged’ by his second in command who stole vital rations and rebelled against orders, expert claims” (Daily Mail (Australia), 12 October 2017).
The article provides no evidence that the Polar Party was forced to go onto short rations whilst returning across the Barrier. It may be noted that Scott’s Message to Public stated every detail of their food supplies worked out to perfection (obviously, Scott was silent about the adequacy of their fuel oil supplies}. Scott’s statement may be evaluated by investigating when the returning Polar Party was able to consume full rations and when it was obliged to go onto short rations. Based upon Shackleton’s average speed in his Nimrod expedition, Scott had decided upon a 144 day southern journey and took an appropriate number of ration packs (albeit with insufficient daily energy content). With a start date of 1 November 1911, 144 days’ worth of food would last until 22 March 1912, which is very close to when the Polar Party came off their full ration in the death tent. Scott’s journal shows he dared not cut back on food rations whilst returning across the Barrier. The evidence suggests the Polar Party enjoyed full rations until about 21 March 1912.
It is therefore apparent that even if 80 ounces of biscuit (5 man-days of summit ration, as highlighted by Turney) plus an unknown quantity of pemmican had been under-provisioned by Bowers, or had been misappropriated by any of the returning parties (be it the Dog Party, the First Return Party or Evans’ Second Return Party), this alone did not cause the Polar Party to go onto short rations.
Whilst Turney’s article puts up a convincing case that a few people in far-off England had fussed over possible shortages of biscuit or pemmican, no evidence is presented to demonstrate that such shortages, if they existed, had any adverse impact on the Polar Party at all.
In order to attain a better standard of proof about alleged food shortages, the article needs to analyse and compare its new theories against the well-established facts. If that analysis comes out in favour of the new theories then there would be a better chance of acceptance by historians and researchers.
As the article stands, the charge that Evans took food beyond his entitlement, to the detriment of the Polar Party, is unproven.
Alleged failure of Evans to convey orders
Turney’s article bases its case about Evans’ alleged failure to convey Scott’s revised orders upon a single thread, originating in Gran’s 1961 book Kampen om Sydpolen (not available in English). One is left wondering why such a pivotal piece of evidence is not quoted in full, in English and the original Norwegian, to allay any concern about biased or selective translation. I wrote to Professor Turney on 15 October 2017 requesting a copy of Gran’s text, but as at 22 November 2017 had received no response.
The common storyline of the Terra Nova expedition contains a lot of widely accepted information about Atkinson’s actions when he became responsible for the third dog journey. For example, Mike Tarver’s biography of Atkinson (Tarver, 2015, pp. 53-54) tells of the letters Atkinson wrote to his parents about responsibilities assigned to him by Scott. Independent journal entries by Wright, Simpson and Cherry-Garrard (all available from SPRI archives), plus a letter from Demetri to Meares and Evans’ book itself, all paint a consistent picture of how the events of the third dog journey evolved during Atkinson’s watch. There is so much primary evidence available that independent verification of Atkinson’s account is straightforward.
However, the new theory about the orders allegedly given by Scott to Evans is not independently verified in Turney’s article, at all. The article would be more believable if Gran’s 1961 account could be verified to a similar level of confidence as Atkinson’s account. Without verifiable evidence, the charge that Evans failed to convey orders is based solely on hearsay and conjecture.
In assessing Turney’s new theory, several points come to mind:
• Gran was not present at the time the alleged instructions were given to Evans; he was not even present on the southern journey. He was therefore not an eye-witness.
• He did not enjoy Scott’s confidence. It seems highly unlikely that Scott would have shared information about his plans and instructions with Gran that he did not share with others.
• All we have is Gran’s belated recollection of Evans alleged admission, made at an unspecified place on an unknown date, recorded for the first time in 1961.
• His book Kampen om Sydpolen, from which the new material is apparently drawn, was published almost 50 years after the event. It is surprising that the story of Evans’ alleged instructions does not appear in Gran’s published diary, covering the period from 29 November 1910 until 12 February 1913 (Gran, 1984).
• Perhaps Gran created the story from memory, almost 50 years after the event. Without seeing Gran’s text one cannot be sure, but it seems as though Gran’s story could be a jumbling together of Scott’s written orders to Meares (Evans, 1961, pp. 162-163) plus Atkinson’s verbal instructions from Scott (Atkinson, 2011, p. 665) with names changed (Evans instead of Atkinson) and destination changed (83° 00’ instead of 82° 30’).
Hypothetically, Gran’s account could be true. As with the charge of food theft, the article needs to analyse and compare its new theories against well-established facts. If the analysis comes out in favour of the new theory then there would be a better chance of acceptance by historians and researchers.
The article does not address the need to provide adequate dog food for the extended journey. From surviving records, such as Wilson’s sketchbook, we can see that Scott’s food-planning was thorough and it would have been out of character for him to issue instructions for the Dog Party to travel beyond their maximum (food determined) range, with fatal consequences for men and animals. The article would be more credible if it included an analysis of dog food planned for the extended journey.
Another concern is the vagueness arising from the absence of any timeline. Turney’s article provides no evidence about when Scott expected Evans to meet the Dog Party, in order to pass on the revised instructions, or when the dogs should meet up with the Polar Party. This is an important omission because the Dog Party would need to receive the revised instructions before departed south, in order to alter their payload to suit Scott’s revised instructions. The article would have more substance if it included a clear timeline analysis.
As the article stands, the charge that Evans failed to convey Scott’s revised orders, based solely upon Gran’s unverified story, is unproven. Verifiable facts would strengthen Turney’s charge that Evans failed to comply with Scott’s orders.
Atkinson, E.L. (2011). The last Year at Cape Evans, In: Scott, R.F. Scott’s Last Expedition. Ware, England: Wordsworth Editions Ltd.
Evans, E.R.G.R. (1961). South With Scott. London, England: Collins
Fiennes, R. (2003). Captain Scott. London, England: Hodder & Stoughton
Geroff, D. (1913). Letter to Cecil Meares 2 January 1913 (written by F. Debenham), Victoria, Canada: Royal British Columbia Museum MS0455
Gran, J.T.H. (1984). The Norwegian with Scott: Tryggve Gran’s Antarctic Diary 1910-1913. G. Hattersley-Smith (Ed.). London, England: HMSO
Tarver, M.C. (2015). The Man Who Found Captain Scott. Antarctic Explorer and War Hero. Surgeon Captain Edward Leicester Atkinson. Brixham, Devon UK: Pendragon Maritime Publications

Bill Alp
Wellington, New Zealand
22 November 2017

GENERAL COMMENTS; Isobel P. Williams

1) In relation to food:
Scott recorded in his journal on the evening of 10th December that ‘Evans’ party could not keep up …they took nearly half an hour to come up a few hundred yards’ (Robert Falcon Scott Journals, p 344).- this is hardly surprising as two of the men had been man-hauling for the previous 40 days on Barrier Rations. The Summit Rations for the assault on the Pole had been re-calculated (4,500 calories) after Edward Wilson’s winter expedition to Cape Crozier (27 June -1 August 1911). In the 1990s Mike Stroud calculated the calories needed for man-hauling to be 7,000 calories per day (Fiennes, ‘Captain Scott’, p. 284/5). Teddy Evans started to man-haul on the 1st November 1911, as did P.O.William Lashly (Lashly’s Antarctic Diaries. p.120). 65 days later they started the Return Journey, with Thomas Crean, on 4th.January 1912 (Lashly’s Diaries, p.135). By this time both Teddy Evans and P.O. Lashly would have already expended over 150,000 calories more than they had taken in (this deficit was less than it could have been, as they were held up by blizzards for 9 days). They would have lost more weight (muscle and fat) than their peers who had only started to man-haul from the foot of the Beardmore Glacier on 10 December 1911 (Lashly’s Diaries p.127).
In relation to the five men on Scott’s return party from the Pole – by the time they reached the Barrier, each man would have built up a deficit of 301,000 calories although they did not realize this, having man-hauled for 72 days.

2) On page 498, ‘Introduction’, Professor Turney states that C.P.O. EDGAR Evans, (as apposed to Teddy), died ‘apparently from the effects of concussion’. In my biography of Edgar Evans, ‘Captain Scott’s Invaluable Assistant Edgar Evans’, I go into the possible causes of Edgar’s death in considerable depth. My conclusion is that he probably died of a Staphylococcus Aureus bacteraemia that developed secondarily to his cutting his hand whilst shortening a sledge on 31st. December 1911 (Lashly’s Diaries p.133). I am unconvinced by the ‘concussion’ theory, for the reasons mentioned in the relevant chapter.

3) On page 501, in relation to vitamin C, Professor Turney states that ‘it would be twenty years before its importance of the prevention of scurvy was fully realized’. Here I must put in a plug for Shackleton. In his preparation for his Trans Antarctic Expedition he was fully cognizant of the dangers of scurvy, having suffered severely from the disease himself and was determined to do all he could to prevent this problem. This is explained in an article he wrote in ‘The Daily Telegraph’ July 1914, p. 5 ‘The Antarctic’—Considerations of Diet. In his preparations he consulted carefully with Colonel Beveridge of the Royal Army Medical College’ (each man was allocated a pack daily containing 5,452 cals).

4)The cause of scurvy was demonstrated in 1907 by the Norwegians Axel Holst and Theodor Frolich, when guinea pigs were shown to be the only mammals at that time (other than humans) that could not manufacture an ascorbic factor. The guinea pigs developed scurvy when fed a deficient diet and recovered when fed a diet that included vegetables (much later the factor was isolated as hexuronic acid, later re named Ascorbic Acid, commonly known as Vitamin C).

5) Undoubtedly Teddy Evans was a brave man- – on the ‘Terra Nova’ expedition he did sterling work when the ‘Terra Nova’ was in danger of sinking in the Southern Ocean after the suction pumps choked, Teddy, sometimes submerged in filthy oily water, squeezed through a hole in the engine room bulkhead and ‘wriggled over the coal, found his way to the pump shaft and down it. He soon cleared the suction of the coal balls which choked it’ (Journals, Captain Scott’s Last Expedition, Max Jones p.19). In WW1, on HMS Broke, he deliberately rammed a G42′, almost breaking it in two. This action gained him immediate promotion to the rank of Captain, and the award of the DSO

Ranolph Fiennes, 2003 Captain Scott, London, Hodder and Stoughton
A.R.Ellis, 1969 Under Scott’s Command, Lashly’s Antarctic Diaries, London, Victor Gollancz
Max Jones, 2005 Robert Falcon Scott Journals, Captain Scott’s Last Expedition, Oxford University Press UK
Isobel Williams, 2012 Captain Scott’s Invaluable Assistant Edgar Evans, The History Press, Gloucestershire UK