Tag Archives: Mike Stroud

GEOGRAPHICAL: August 2012, Worldwatch, Scott and his men starved to death

3 Aug



Mike Stroud and Lewis Halsey, (reported in the ‘Geographical’ in Worldwatch P.12), conclude that  Scott’s party starved to death. This is undoubtedly true. By the time Edgar Evans died on 17/02/1912 the party has been on the summit rations of 4,400 kilocalories since early December 2011.They thought they had adequate rations but current nutritional information shows that each man probably burnt 7,000 kcal per day whilst manhauling. This means that by the time Evans died, each man would have had an astounding calorie deficit of at least 170, 000 kcal and lost over 35% of his body weight. The rations simply did not supply enough calories for their needs and they lost a huge amount of their insulating body fat. All the men suffered in addition from a lack of fluid, dangerously low body temperatures and vitamin deficiency. But in spite of this the men might have got through if it were not for medical factors.


Edgar Evans had problems before the party got to the Pole and there are frequent referenced to his enfeebled condition as the party battled across the featureless landscape. When the party descended the Beardmore Glacier he deteriorated dramatically.  He had cut his hand whilst shortening a sledge on December 31, 1911, the cut festered and needed daily attention from Dr. Wilson.  His fingernails fell off; his fingers were raw, swollen stumps.


Staphylococcus aureus is a bacterium commonly carried in the nose and on the skin. I think it is very probable that this bacterium infected Edgar’s hand and got into the bloodstream causing repeated infections. This medical complication would have been more than enough to exacerbate Edgar’s deterioration and contribute to his weakened condition, which so slowed the party’s return.


As is well known, Captain Oates, stoical and courageous suffered with an appalling gangrenous foot. It took him nearly an hour to get into his boots. He could not pull the sledge. As is well known he eventually crawled out of the tent so as not to further prejudice his companion’s chances of getting to their base.


Without the slow progress imposed by the medical conditions of these two heroes the British Party might have succeeded in reaching One Ton safely.


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.