Last flight out of the South Pole, goodbye to Evans

Last flight out of the South Pole, goodbye to Evans

Posted: Feb 17, 2012 10:05 pm EST

(Newsdesk) On Wednesday at 00.15 UTC the last flight took off from the from the South Pole base. It will be 8 months before the next one arrives. Remaining on the base: over-wintering researchers isolated with their instruments in perpetual darkness soon to descend on Antarctica.

It has been a dramatic anniversary season, celebrating the sweet triumph of discovery such as Amundsen's.

The bitter cold now sweeping the continent with the approaching Antarctic night is one last reminder; of the cruel price some explorers have had to pay for our species to expand and survive.

100 years ago, on February 17th, the dying Captain Robert Falcon Scott grabbed pen and diary to report on "a terrible day."

100 years ago: Goodbye Evans

Evans looked a little better after a good sleep, and declared, as he always did, that he was quite well. He started in his place on the traces, but half an hour later worked his ski shoes adrift, and had to leave the sledge. The surface was awful, the soft recently fallen snow clogging the ski and runners at every step, the sledge groaning, the sky overcast, and the land hazy.

We stopped after about one hour, and Evans came up again, but very slowly. Half an hour later he dropped out again on the same plea. He asked Bowers to lend him a piece of string. I cautioned him to come on as quickly as he could, and he answered cheerfully as I thought. We had to push on, and the remainder of us were forced to pull very hard, sweating heavily. Abreast the Monument Rock we stopped, and seeing Evans a long way astern, I camped for lunch.

There was no alarm at first, and we prepared tea and our own meal, consuming the latter. After lunch, and Evans still not appearing, we looked out, to see him still afar off. By this time we were alarmed, and all four started back on ski.

I was first to reach the poor man and shocked at his appearance; he was on his knees with clothing disarranged, hands uncovered and frostbitten, and a wild look in his eyes. Asked what was the matter, he replied with a slow speech that he didn't know, but thought he must have fainted. We got him on his feet, but after two or three steps he sank down again. He showed every sign of complete collapse. Wilson, Bowers, and I went back for the sledge, whilst Oates remained with him.

When we returned he was practically unconscious, and when we got him into the tent quite comatose. He died quietly at 12.30 A.M.

On discussing the symptoms we think he began to get weaker just before we reached the Pole, and that his downward path was accelerated first by the shock of his frostbitten fingers, and later by falls during rough travelling on the glacier, further by his loss of all confidence in himself. Wilson thinks it certain he must have injured his brain by a fall. It is a terrible thing to lose a companion in this way, but calm reflection shows that there could not have been a better ending to the terrible anxieties of the past week. Discussion of the situation at lunch yesterday shows us what a desperate pass we were in with a sick man on our hands at such a distance from home.

At 1 A.M. we packed up and came down over the pressure ridges, finding our depôt easily.


The following march towards the next depot would be their last.
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On Wednesday at 00.15 UTC the last flight took off from the from the South Pole base.
Image by Sven Lidstrom courtesy Sven Lidstrom
SP base researcher Sven Lidstrom.
Image by Sven Lidstrom courtesy Sven Lidstrom
It will be 8 months before the plane returns.
Image by Sven Lidstrom courtesy Sven Lidstrom
Remaining on the base: over-wintering researchers isolated with their instruments in perpetual darkness soon to descend on Antarctica.

Image by Sven Lidstrom courtesy Sven Lidstrom