Cold-hearted betrayal: Was Captain Scott killed by his deputy’s raid on the rations?
THE death of Scott of the Antarctic in 1912 after failing to be first to the South Pole plunged Britain into mourning.
Over the years, the loss of Captain Scott and his four companions was blamed on terrible weather, bad luck or – more recently – incompetence.
However, it may have been deliberate sabotage by his second-in-command, an expert now claims after uncovering unpublished diaries and documents.
Robert Falcon Scott and his team died in -40C, two months after discovering that he had been beaten to the Pole by Roald Amundsen in January 1912.
Professor Chris Turney says the deaths may have been caused by Edward ‘Teddy’ Evans, furious at not being included in the team racing to the Pole.
Scott had a low opinion of his deputy – calling him a ‘duffer’ and saying he was ‘not to be trusted’ in his diaries.
Professor Turney, from the University of New South Wales in Australia, accuses Evans of deliberately ransacking food supply depots lining Scott’s route back, and contravening an order to send a relief team to meet Scott on his return.
He also claims Lord Curzon, president of the Royal Geographical Society, did not investigate foul play while deciding whether to hold an inquiry. Writing in the academic journal the Polar Record, Professor Turney said: ‘The new documents suggest at the very least appalling leadership on the part of Evans or, at worst, deliberate sabotage.
‘For too long Scott has been held responsible for the death of himself and the men of his party who made the fateful expedition to the South Pole.’
Evans was part of a three-man support group sledging behind Scott and the main party. He was enraged to be told he would not be continuing to the Pole, but would be leading the last supporting party back while Scott and four others went for the Pole.
Evans is accused of betraying his comrades by eating considerably more than his fair share of rations – oatmeal, biscuits and dried beef – meant for Scott’s party on their return. When Scott and his remaining colleagues reached the depots on their way back, there was not enough to keep them alive. Evans had scurvy – which might excuse eating more than his share. But it was self-inflicted, caused because he hated eating seal liver – despite medical advice that it prevented the disease. He also didn’t have scurvy for as long as he claimed, Professor Turney has found.
Captain Scott, Lawrence ‘ Titus’ Oates, Edward Wilson, Henry ‘Birdie’ Bowers and Edgar ‘Taff’ Evans continued to the Pole – only to discover that Amundsen had got there first. They then turned back – only to find depleted food and fuel in depots. He wrote in his diary that the men in Teddy Evans’s group ‘must on return journey have consumed more than their share’.
On around March 29, Scott died, short of food and caught in a nine-day blizzard.
The final sabotage, Professor Turney says, was Evans’s refusal to send a rescue mission for Scott. Instead, he convinced others at base camp to take him to New Zealand. He was later ennobled as Baron Mountevans.
Tryggve Gran, a Norwegian ski expert on the expedition, said Scott and his team ‘would have got through in a relatively fine condition’ if they’d been met by a dog party.
‘Eating more than his fair share’