Tag Archives: Apsley Cherry-Garrard

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 Amazon.com
Turney, C.S.M. (2017). Why didn’t they ask Evans? Polar Record 53(5), 498-511


20 Dec

Edward Wilson put his and the lives of his companions, ‘Birdie’ Bowes and Apsley Cherry-Garrard, at risk, when they made their scientific expedition to obtain specimens of very early penguin eggs in 1911. The three survived darkness, temperatures down to minus 76° F and a surface snow like sand, that held progress at little more than a mile on some days day. The sortie which lasted 5 weeks, was the subject of Cherry-Garrard’s book ‘The Worst Journey in the World’
Edward Wilson wanted to investigate the evolution of birds. Haekel had postulated that species pass through their early evolution in the embryo form and Wilson thought if he could get very early eggs he might find evidence of teeth or other evidence, that threw light on avian development. Had birds actually descended from dinosaurs? He chose penguins because, as they were flightless, he thought they were amongst the most primitive of birds. In spite of his fantastic efforts he did not find evidence to support the theory.
Now an international investigation The Avian Phylogenomics Consortium has revealed how birds evolved after the mass extinction of dinosaurs. After the asteroid hit some 65 million years ago, larger birds were exterminated but a few feathered species remained. These had an unrivalled opportunity to diversify.
The Consortium undertook the mass genome sequencing that has done much to explain the avian tree. Scientists examined small pieces of flesh from 45 bird species that had come from museums around the world. They were able to extract the birds’ genomes and add these to genomes of three species that had been previously sequenced. The genomes were compared and arranged into a family tree. The results of this groundbreaking work have been published extensively recently. Apparently it took nine computers the equivalent of 400 years of processor time to compare the genomes and arrange them in an avian tree.
As Wilson wished to investigate birds ARE descended from toothed dinosaurs, (as was shown in the fossil bird Archaeopteryx), but this analysis shows that their common ancestor lost their teeth more than 100 million years ago. A number of genes that allow bird song is similar to those that give humans the ability to speak.
This study throws light also on Emperors, Wilson’s particular interest. Emperors possess genes that make proteins for feathers, so that they have a dense coat that allows then to survive sub zero temperatures. The Emperor male, who nurtures his chick for weeks in the caterwauling gloom of the Antarctic winter, has three genes involved in lipid metabolism, which help it survive his ordeal without food.
Penguins evolved about 60 million years ago and have wonderfully survived ever since.


3 Apr

Edward Wilson’s interest in science was overriding. In 1910 there was much interest in the idea that birds have descended from dinosaurs. The polymath Ernst Haekel (biologist, naturalist, physician, artist, who amongst other things suggested the terms, phylum and phylogeny), proposed that ‘ontology recaptures phylogeny’–the recapulation theory–,

i.e. an individual’s biological development, ontology, follows its species evolutionary development, phylogeny. He was also, importantly from Wilson’s point of view, a supporter of Darwin and Wilson was very interested in this theory.

He postulated that if he obtained early specimens of Emperor Penguin eggs, he might find vestiges of teeth or other evidence that would show that birds do indeed descend from dinosaurs. He was interested in Emperor Penguins because they were flightless and he thought they were amongst the most primitive of birds. His journey, in mid winter, in the dark and in temperatures that reached -76 degrees F, was a horrible story of endurance made famous by the book, ‘The Worst Journey in the World’ by the youngest member of that sortie, Apsley Cheery-Garrard

The Oates Museum has a wonderful collection of penguins but lacked an Emperor (there are apparently few well preserved stuffed specimens in the UK). When one died naturally near the British Halley Research Station in Antarctica, arrangements were made to add this specimen into the collection. The journey, of over 9780 miles, is worthy of Gilbert and Sullivan. The frozen male bird was taken from the Antarctic Peninsula on the research ship ‘Shackleton’, to Port Stanley. The complications of paper work, a licence from DEFRA and a passport was successfully navigated but the defrosting and taxidermy work took so long that the Emperor ‘ missed the boat’ when the ship ‘Shackleton’ returned to England.

Contacts were contacted. The Ministry of Defence were able to help, but would have to charge for the air freight which was expensive, The situation was saved eventually when the Governor of the Falklands, His Excellency Nigel Haywood, agreed to bring the 40 kilo box to England as part of his luggage.

The Earl of Portsmouth opened the exhibit; The Emperor is now a proud part of the collection in the Oates Museum.

I am not sure what Oates would have made of it but Wilson would have been delighted.


1 Mar

Ranulph Fiennes must be gutted that he has had to give up his trans-Antarctic winter journey attempt before actually setting off in the Antarctic, because of his frost-bitten fingers.

But he had no choice. He has already lost several finger tips with frostbite which occurs when the temperature is so low that blood vessels constrict and  the flow to the affected part is significantly reduced. If this reduced blood flow persists the tissues die. and the surface skin becomes black. Gangrene may follow if the deeper tissues are affected.

The condition needs prompt treatment to limit the extent of the damage. The return of blood flow is painful.

I’m sure that the team will continue successfully with the many scientific aims that have been planned, also the big fund raising for charity.

The last time a man pulling expedition was made in the Antarctic was when Edward Wilson, ‘Birdie’ Bowers and Apsley Cherry-Garrard crossed Ross Island in 1911. The journey was very short by comparison with Sir Ranulphs expedition, but memorably awful.