Tag Archives: “Scott’s Last Expedition”

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.