Tag Archives: One Ton Camp

Apsley Cherry Garrard, (Cherry), Part 3

20 Aug

I have covered Cherry’s early life and his experiences on the Terra Nova expedition in my blogs of the 5th and 25th July.

 

This blog covers some of his experiences after the expedition.

 

 

The resupply of food and fuel to ‘One Ton Depot’ by Cherry-Garrard & Dimitri Gerof

 

Cherry died in 1958, forty-four years after the Terra Nova had returned to Cardiff, but his experiences on the expedition and the aftermath of these experiences, became a permanent scar. The expedition was reported in the press as an example of ‘gallantry in the face of catastrophe’ and as ‘a moral and spiritual expedition’, but Cherry did not see it like this. He had lost the two people he most admired in the world – Edward Wilson and ‘Birdie’ Bowers and he was haunted by their loss and by the thought (and suggestion) that when he was sent to replenish One Ton camp, he could have advanced further south of One Ton and possibly saved the explorers. One report claimed that the dog handler, Dimitri, stated that he (Dimitri) had wanted to take the dogs on alone from One Ton. An armchair specialist claimed that ‘all that could have been done was not done’.

 

Cherry had been a member of the party that found the tent where the bodies of his dead companions lay. He had seen Scott’s arm laid across Wilson. He had searched for Wilson’s watch to give to Oriana, Wilson’s widow. He had found the notes that Wilson had left. How could he forget? How could he not go over and over the events and question himself about his and Dmitri’s return?

When he finally arrived at base camp from One Ton he collapsed from physical and mental strain, hardly able to get out of his bed for weeks. He suffered from headaches, fainting fits and serious, profound depression. As he slowly recovered over the months, Dr. Atkinson the base doctor became a friend as well as an adviser and confidant. The two men became united in their distrust of Lieutenant Teddy Evans, who went home with the relief ship (see below). They (and others) lacked confidence in Teddy.[i]

On Cherry’s return to England he returned to ‘Lamer’, his Hertfordshire home. He found it was remarkably unchanged; he went over the estate affairs with his adviser- his income from his estates had increased – he met up with his tenants. He visited his Antarctic colleagues and their relatives. He lived the social life of a wealthy landowner, but his underlying melancholy and anxiety remained.

Scott’s Last Expedition, Scott’s diary was published in October 1913. It was well received, but Cherry had reservations about it. He felt that Scott had changed the story into an allegory of the Christian Story [ii]. But he mainly felt threatened (in the light of criticism of his activities), that the account failed to make the point that was so important to him personally. This was, that on the outward southern trek, Scott had taken the dogs further south than originally planned. As he read the report Cherry suspected that the committee responsible for the book, had produced a cover-up that aimed to enhance Scott’s reputation.

The story of the dogs and the dog food is complex to unravel. The dogs were supposed to turn back at the base of the Beardmore Glacier but Scott, realising their worth, decided to take them onto the glacier where they continued on the southbound journey as far as the Lower Glacier Depot. This decision, though it helped the British party on the glacier, was to have far reaching effects. Scott had not left enough dog food in the depots on his outward journey for the return and clearly more food was used when the dogs continued to the Lower Glacier Depot. When Mears turned back he carried a message from Scott that said that after Mears and the dogs had got back to camp and had rested, they should return to the Ice Barrier as far as One Ton camp carrying fuel and supplies. Scott wanted this to be done by March 1912. He wrote that in the event of Mears returning too late to do this in the necessary time frame, it was absolutely essential that, somehow or other, the supplies should be delivered to One Ton.

Mears and Dimitri turned back from the Lower Glacier Depot on December 11, 1912, 360 miles from the Pole. They had a very difficult journey to Base. Subsequently Mears did not take the dogs back onto the Barrier for the essential run to One Ton as demanded by Scott. This was mainly because he, with a number of colleagues, was booked to return home on the relief ship. Ranulph Fiennes suggests that Mears could actually have completed the run to One Ton and back and still have been on the relief ship[iii] and this may be true, but Mears did not do this; he needed to get home to sort out family affairs, his father had died- he would not run the risk of missing the ship. Someone else would have to do it.

The whole sorry saga is complicated by the fact that Teddy Evans collapsed with scurvy on HIS return from the Plateau. Lieutenant Evans had been sent back with two companions in early February. Scott entrusted him with pivotal instructions, a final message intended to OVERRIDE all previous instructions. Scott stated that the dogs were to come further south than One Ton. Mears was to take the dogs to 82-83°S, allowing Scott to meet the dogs in early March.

Lieutenant Teddy Evans became desperately ill with scurvy on the return journey. He was so ill he was unable to advance and had to be rescued from the Barrier where he lay helpless, looked after by Stoker Lashly, apparently anticipating death. Dr. Atkinson travelled onto the Barrier and carefully nursed him back to health.

Whatever happened to Scott’s last pivotal instructions that the dogs should go further south then One Ton, they did not get to Cherry.

It was clearly understood that food had to be got as far as One Ton, but the decision as to who to send with the relief dog team was difficult. It was considered that Wright, as a scientist, had to remain at Base to make the meteorological and other scientific observations. Dr. Atkinson was needed to care for Teddy Evans. Cherry was the only possibility; so, burdened by poor eyesight, limited basic skills in navigation, and a lack of dog driving experience, Cherry set out with Dimitri, the dog handler, to the depot, 150 miles away on the featureless Barrier.

Navigation was difficult. Cherry had to rely on Dimitri to spot the cairns. At One Ton Camp they were held down by weather conditions for four days. The dog food and fuel was running out. Cherry knew that the only way that further progress south could be made was by killing the dogs, but he knew also that Scott’s instructions had been that the dogs were not to be risked. He had no information about Scott’s final instructions. In addition Dimitri apparently developed a right-sided weakness and was unable to cooperate. But probably the most important factor was that Cherry had no reason to suppose that the polar party were in trouble. He had absolutely no way of knowing that of the five returnees, one had already died, Oates was die soon and the remaining three were in a battle against death which they were to lose at the end on March.

On the10 March 1912, Cherry, leaving a message for Scott, turned back to make the return journey to Base.

After his slow medical improvement and his return to England Cherry, at home in Lamer brooded. He went over and over the dog scenario. His distrust of Teddy Evans festered, particularly when Teddy was made part of the committee writing an official, formal account of the expedition. Cherry was against this; he thought it would be a permanent shame if the story was told by Evans who had been ‘the one blot on what I believe is the best expedition which has ever sailed’.[iv]

It was therefore music to his ears when the Secretary of the committee approached him to ask him to take over the account, as Teddy was too busy.

Cherry accepted immediately.

 

To be continued

 

 

[i] Wheeler, S. Cherry, A life of Apsley Cherry-Garrard, 2001, Jonathan Cape, p. 79,96,138.

[ii] Wheeler, S. Cherry, A life of Apsley Cherry Garrard, 2001, Jonathan Cape, p 161.

[iii] Fiennes, R. Captain Scott, 2003, Hodder and Stoughton, p. 360.

[iv] Wheeler, S. Cherry, A life of Apsley Cherry-Garrard, 2001, Jonathan Cape P. 138.

‘A kind of suicide’? Comments on Roland Huntford’s account of the last days of Scott’s polar party

31 Jan

Karen May and George Lewis have produced a forensic analysis of Huntford’s conclusion that, at the end of his life Scott  ‘probably’ had no reason to wish to survive and that he ‘persuaded’ Edward Wilson and ‘Birdie’ Bowers to remain with him in the doomed tent when they could have gone on. (Polar Record, p.1-9 @Cambridge University Press 2013. doi:10.1017/S0032247413000041).

The paper is a ‘must’ for anyone who felt the injustice of Huntford’s negative, subjective assessment of Scott’s expeditions in his work ‘Scott and Amundsen’

The authors challenge Huntford’s statement that Scott’s writings read ‘like a long suicide note’. Scott did not write at the Pole (as is regularly quoted); ‘Now for the run home and a desperate struggle. I wonder if we can do it’. This quotation was posthumously edited. Scott actually wrote ‘Now for the run home and a desperate struggle to get the news through first. I wonder if we can do it’, hardly a suicidal intent. They state that although the party had opium there is no evidence the tablets were taken, Wilson and Bowers were committed Christians, Scott wrote that he would face death naturally.

Huntford remarkably appeared to believe that the possibility of social stigmatisation would have made Wilson and Bowers decide not to live. The authors argue that the two friends, modest and with few social aspiration, could and would have faced the social stigma of surviving Scott who had a severely frostbitten right foot; the reason the two men did not attempt the final journey to One Ton Camp and onwards was not because they were held back by Scott, but that they were simply too weak to make it.

They also question Huntford’s assertion that at the end Scott was ‘almost certainly in the early stages of scurvy. Here I agree with Huntford. By this stage the team had been without significant vitamin C for four months. It is inevitable that they had sub-clinical scurvy as well as other vitamin deficiencies. What the team did not have was overt scurvy (both Wilson and Scott had had the disease before and were not shy about recording its effects). But the vitamin deficiency probably caused a breakdown of Oates’ Boer War injury; his shattered femur and this slowed the return.

May and Lewis dismiss the suggestion that if Scott had lived he would have had to answer for the men he has lost.  Why would he have had to? They list numerous examples of men dying on Antarctic sorties without the expedition leader being called to account– most notably Mawson who last his two companions on his ‘Far Eastern Party’ of 1912/13.  They write compellingly that Scott, having reached the Pole and played the game’ (in contra distinction to Amundsen), would have returned to honour and acclaim.

This is  compulsive

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.