Quite a few of you have asked to know more about the four men who sadly perished with Captain Scott, shortly after reaching the South Pole in 1912, so that’s what I’ll focus on in this week’s blog post. I’ll look to write more complete biographical entries on these four men in due course, as I can’t do them justice in today’s space.
From left to right: Capt. Oates, Capt. Scott, Dr Wilson, Lt. Bowers, P.O. Evans
Captain Lawrence Oates
He was born in Putney, London. Having been the adjutant of his regiment (the 6th Inniskilling Dragoons) in India, he effectively accepted a demotion to become the only member of Captain Scott’s crew to have served in the army (not the Navy). His left leg was shorter than his right, from an injury sustained in the Boer War. He was tasked with tending the horses on the Terra Nova Expedition. The one ornament he took to Antarctica was a small print of Admiral Nelson. Remembered for his stoical reserve, he described the Antarctic climate as bring ‘healthy although inclined to be cold.’ He uttered the famous laconicism, ‘I am just going outside and may be some time,’ choosing to die through self-sacrifice when he felt he would otherwise burden his sledging companions.
Dr Edward Wilson
Born in Cheltenham, Dr Wilson was a conscientious medical doctor who set high standards of self-discipline for himself. After working hours, he would offer medical assistance to slum children around the Battersea university settlement area, and he also taught them on Sundays. Noted for his gentle manner and strong Christian faith, Dr Wilson was anti-imperialist. A natural polymath, he served on both the Discovery and Terra Nova expeditions as zoologist, medical officer and artist. He also acted as Captain Scott’s confidant and spiritual counsellor. His penetrating zoological insights and his pellucid watercolours set benchmarks for future Antarctic endeavours.
Lt Henry Bowers
Born in Greenock of Scottish descent, he was raised by his mother after his father died when he was 3. He first went to sea in the merchant navy, before joining the Royal Navy. Having previously commanded a Royal Indian Marine gunboat on the Irrawaddy he, too, effectively accepted a demotion to join Captain Scott’s Terra Nova team as storekeeper. He stood out for his prodigious memory, excellent navigation skills and physical strength. His pacific Christian faith and straightforward, kind nature made him popular with the other crew members. He had dreamt of visiting Antarctica from the age of seven.
Petty Officer Edgar Evans
He was born in Middleton, Wales. Like Captain Scott, he enlisted in the Royal Navy at 13 and they both served on HMS Majestic. P.O. Evans went on both the Discovery and Terra Nova expeditions and his equanimity and charm saw him through difficulties – for example, they helped to overturn his dismissal (for a minor infraction) from the Terra Nova Expedition. He was valued for his physical strength and ingenuity in modifying equipment to suit needs ‘in the field’. On the Discovery Expedition, he fell into a crevasse, but dealt with it with characteristic equanimity. His plan was to open a pub, upon return from the South Pole.