Tag Archives: Terra Nova

Edgar Evans

15 Jul

Some years ago I wrote the biography of Edgar Evans. Edgar was a Petty Officer with Scott on ‘Discovery’ and a Chief Petty Officer on the ‘Terra Nova’ Expedition. He was the first to die on the ill-fated return from The South Pole and in some circles, was blamed, most unfairly in my opinion, for the deaths of the whole party.

The book is entitled ‘Captain Scott’s Invaluable  Assistant, Edgar Evans’. Details can be found in the book section of this blog.

Now, I am delighted to say, a documentary and film are planned on Edgar.  The reason  for this, is that Edgar’s great grandson, Tyler Ford, aged 11, is a  World Champion Kick Boxer and a film focussing on Edgar’s family is apparently to be made this year. Ross O’Hennesy (from Game of Thrones), is to play the adult Edgar, whilst Tyler plays Edgar as a boy. Tom Delmar is the Producer.

I hope it all works out!.  A film will certainly revive interest and pride in Edgar in South Wales and, perhaps, money will be available finally for the much planned statute of Edgar in his Antarctic kit ( the maquette is excellent), which, it is hoped, will be erected in front of the Swansea Museum.

This is a clip from the ‘Swansea Sound’ related to the film ‘Terra Nova’. Here Ross O’Hennessy describes the current position.



23 Apr

The B.A.S. mounted a very interesting programme for polar enthusiasts last week.

We were shown examples of Antarctic plants (hairgrass and pearlwort), mosses.  lichens and liverworts, animals dead and live (brought back form the continent), the impressive map work, including the interesting topography of the mountains in Antarctica well below the snow line and we were given history of B.A.S. and its contribution to science.

I was fascinated by the ice cores. There are samples which reflect conditions well over 100.000.000 years ago. I was particularly interested to find how they measure the gaseous content of these samples. As I understand it the samples are placed in a vacuum, smashed to release the gases and the levels are then measured. Carbon dioxide has shown marked variation over the centuries but in recent times the level has shot up and up.

We were also shown a film about the discovery of the location of the wreck of the ‘Terra Nova’ Scott’s last ship, which was scuttled off Greenland in the 1943. I wonder what they will do with it!


28 Jan



A new colony of 9,000 Emperor Penguins has been visited in Antarctica.

Fascinatingly they were located via satellite images that showed faecal staining on the ice.

The early explorers of 1902 were the first to realise that Emperors could breed in Antarctica. Until then it was thought that no animal would evolve to breed in the

the caterwauling gloom of Antarctica; it was assumed the birds migrated north to breed.

But on Scott’s first expedition Emperor chicks ware found.

Do birds descend from dinosaurs?  In the early 1900s a biologist, Haekel, postulated that the embryos of each animal went through each stage of its early evolution, so it was thought that if early embryos of the Emperor Penguins could be found, there might be vestiges of teeth or scales that would support the theory. This was no small matter. Evidence of this nature might secure the expedition the Darwinian Prize.

Dr Wilson was primarily a scientist.  To investigate this theory was one of his reasons for going on the ‘Terra Nova’ Expedition. He realised, from knowing which month chicks has been found in 1902, that to obtain embryos, he would have to get to the colony in the middle of the Antarctic winter—this was the last unsupported journey to be made in winter months until Sir Ranulph Fiennes present expedition to cross Antarctica –. Wilson went with two companions, one of whom, Cherry- Garrard was to write the sortie up in his famous book, ‘The Worst Journey in the World’, (Cherry-Garrard hoped to die, the conditions were so awful).  The three travelled in darkness, over surfaces that sometimes allowed progress of one mile per day and in temperatures, always well below freezing and on one occasion, minus 76°F. They captured five eggs, but Cherry-Garrard fell and smashed his two.

After the expedition Cherry-Garrard took his precious specimens to the Natural History Museum where, if his account is accurate, they were received with less that enthusiasm. Years later, when they were examined, the theory of descent from dinosaurs was not substantiated.

Wilson thought penguins were very primitive birds because they are flightless. We now know this is not the case. Bur he would not have regretted his expedition. It was made in the true spirit of scientific enquiry. But he would have been very impressed by the ease with which satellite images can locate the elusive creatures and pleased to know that indeed birds ARE descended from dinosaurs.


Wreck of ‘Terra Nova’ found off Greenland

20 Aug

It is great to hear that the wreck of the trusty ‘Terra Nova’ has been found . She was the wooden whaling ship that carried Robert Scott and his team to the Antarctic on Scott’s second expedition in 1910. Although the British reached the South Pole, they were about five weeks after Amundsen. The British team all died on the return journey. The expedition was known as the Terra Nova’ Expedition.


‘Terra Nova’ started her Antarctic journey from Cardiff. This was because of the huge backing given to the expedition by the people of Wales. Funds were short and the Welsh gave money and resources to an extent that exceeded any other town or group in the United Kingdom. Scott was initially initially dubious but he became so appreciative of the Welsh support that he announced that Cardiff would be the return port of call from the South. This happened, but sadly without Scott and his four brave companions, amongst them Chief Petty Officer Edgar Evans, a man from nearby Gower, who had given a rousing speech at the farewell banquet in the Royal Hotel in Cardiff. ‘Terra Nova’ sailed with the Welsh flag, plus a couple of large leeks, proudly hoisted at the mizzen.


She nearly came to grief before she reached the far South. She was very  over-laden and the Southern Ocean is amongst the stormiest in the world.   Engulfed by force 10 gales, ‘Terra Nova’ pitched and plunged for three days, as waves broke with increasing fury over her decks washing all before them. The pumps failed and the engines were shut down as the ship drifted at the mercy of the elements. Her survival owed much to the sturdy construction of the Scottish whaler.


When she had disembarked her cargo of men, animals and equipment, ‘Terra Nova’ returned to New Zealand, sailing back to Ross Island in early 1912 carrying relief supplies (which included dogs and fourteen mules). The final relief voyage was in early 1913 when she was decked out for a joyful celebration. When the tragic news was transmitted, the flags was hauled down and mail, which had been eagerly sorted for the returning heroes, was quietly sealed.


After her return, ‘Terra Nova’ was re purchased by her former owners. She making a quiet and lonely departure from Cardiff in August 1913; no cheering crowds, just huddled groups of onlookers. She recommenced sealing duties. In 1918 she was transporting coal and in 1942 she was charted to carry supplies to base stations in Greenland.


Her end came in September 1943.  A report in the Lloyd’s Weekly Casualty Reports of August 1943 stated that she was extensively damaged (by ice) and repairs were impossible. There was a fire on board. ‘Terra Nova’ sank. Her crew was saved and her figurehead was sent to the National Museum of Wales.


Now a crew from the Schmidt Ocean Institute has located her with their echo-sounding equipment. It is wonderful that she has been located; a century after the Pole w


9 May

Shackleton was an inspiring leader in adversity, he gave hope. In my talk on Shackleton I go over the three expeditions ‘Discovery’, ‘Nimrod’ and ‘Endurance’, each one follows inexorably after the other.

He is said to have advertised his Trans-Antarctic expedition: ‘Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages. Long months of complete darkness. Constant danger. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success’.

He had thousands of applicants including a wonderful letter from ‘three sporty girls’, who were ‘strong and healthy, gay and bright’. Then, excellently, ‘If our feminine part is inconvenient we should be happy to don male attire’. They had been reading up on the Polar Regions and couldn’t see, ‘why men should have the glory and women none’ especially as there were women who were as capable and brave as men. They were not accepted!

Interestingly, they were not the only females who were interested in Antarctic exploration. Marie Stopes, of birth control fame, was an eminent botanist and biologist. She was particularly interested in glossopteris (seed ferns), which flourish in warm climates and she wanted to investigate their presence in Antarctica, which  would prove that the Antarctic had once been a warm climate. She discussed this with Scott before his ‘Terra Nova’ venture and he promised to bring back samples. These were found in the tent with the dead bodies of Scott and his companions in 1912, and did indeed confirm the theory.

There is no suggestion that Stopes wanted to go with Shackleton. She was 44, getting divorced, and no doubt her thoughts had moved on from pure research

A service to commemorate the life of Edgar Evans at St Mary’s Church, Central Swansea

24 Feb

This was a wonderful occasion. The great and the good of Wales and beyond gathered to give proper recognition to Edgar Evans’s contribution to Scott’s expeditions, exactly 100 years after his death. The service was attended by the Lord Lieutenant and the High Sheriff of West Glamorgan and other dignitaries. The navy was well represented. Edgar’s grandson, John Evans, read from Scott’s journal and made a plea for a statute for his grandfather to be erected in Swansea, Edgar’s granddaughter was also present. The Bishop of Swansea and Brecon made an excellent address stressing Edgar’s virtues, the Archdeacon of the Gower led the Intercessions. Naval Cadets marched up and down the aisle, a Petty Officer Cadet read the Naval Prayer.

The whole service was much appreciated by those of us who have come to admire Edgar.

You can read a report of the service on the BBC News website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-17071873