Starving and frostbitten, Scott's team reached the South Pole on 17 January 1912, 34 days after Amundsen's team. Left to right: Captain Lawrence Oates, Lieutenant Henry Bowers, Captain Robert Falcon Scott, Dr Edward Wilson, Petty Officer Edgar Evans. Image Credit: University of Cambridge

New documents reveal possible cover up of five men's deaths during Antarctic voyage

  • BY AG Staff |
  • October 05, 2017

Robert Falcon Scott has long been blamed for his own death, as well as the death of his four companions during the famous 1912 British Antarctic Expedition. Now, new documents reveal that it may have been the fault of second-in-command, Teddy Evans.

NEW DOCUMENTS discovered by UNSW researcher, Chris Turney provide an alternative explanation to the tragedy of Robert Falcon Scott’s expedition to the South Pole in 1912 that ended in the death of Scott and his four men.

Scott was widely regarded as a polar hero until the 1970s when critics began to question the treatment of his team, and whether he was responsible for his men's deaths.

The critics suggested that because Scott refused to use dogs to pull sledges he had pushed his men to exhaustion. Others have put it down to the mysterious evaporation of the fuel they needed to heat their food and drink on the return journey.

However, according to Chris, “These new documents tell a very different story about how Scott’s planning for the expedition was undermined and reveal that his orders were fatally ignored.”

By analysing several letters and public records pertaining to the 1912 British Antarctic Expedition, Chris argues that it was the second in command — Lieutenant Edward (Teddy) Evans who undermined Scott by stealing rations and failing to pass on orders.

“The new documents suggest at the very least appalling leadership on the part of Evans or, at worst, deliberate sabotage, resulting in the death of Scott and his four companions,” said Chris.

“The documents also show how public records were altered in later recounts of the expedition and why a Committee of Inquiry into the expedition was rapidly shut down almost before it began.”

The documents analysed by Chris suggest that Evans had history of taking more than his fair share of supplies and that public records had been altered to deflect from this fact.

Letters from Scott reveal that he himself was concerned about Evans’ leadership skills writing that Evans was “not at all fitted to be second-in-command.”

In the paper, Chris argues that this is why Scott sent Evans back to base camp before pushing on to the South Pole and implies that, out of bitterness, Evans may have removed the rations that would have returned Scott and his four men safely back to base.

The information in Chris's revelatory paper will undoubtedly have a profound impact on Scott's legacy. 

“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,” Chris said.

The research was published today in the journal Polar Regions.

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