March 1912 main content.

March 1912

Part of the Race to the End of the Earth exhibition.

With Three Men Left, The End Draws Near

Scott, Bowers And Wilson Write Their Last Letters: March 1912

After Oates' death the three remaining members of the polar party kept going, slower and slower as temperatures continued to plummet. Scott's right foot had become so bad that "amputation is the least I can hope for now." He could no longer pull, but at this juncture it is unlikely that the others could have done much even if they left him behind to seek help.

On March 21, Bowers and Wilson planned to set off for the next depot with the hope of bringing food and fuel back to where Scott lay. They never left. They may have been stopped by the weather, as a storm blew in. Or perhaps they were simply too weak to carry on.

Instead, they stayed in the tent and wrote their last letters. Scott, however, did much more than that. His letters display the tones of one who was stepping into his role as martyr. "I was not too old for this job," he wrote in a letter to his last commanding officer, Admiral Sir Francis Bridgeman. "It was the younger men that went under first ... We are setting a good example to our countrymen, if not by getting into a tight place, but facing it like men when we get there." In letter after letter, Scott trumpeted the courage and dignity of his fellow Englishmen, who can "still die with a bold spirit, fighting it out to the end." In letter after letter, he blamed weather, debilitation, and misfortune--but not faulty organization--as the cause of the disaster.

Scott Pens His "Message To The Public"

In his most famous missive, his "Message to the Public," Scott concluded by avowing that, "Had we lived, I should have had a tale to tell of the hardihood, endurance and courage of my companions which would have stirred the heart of every Englishman. These rough notes and our dead bodies must tell the tale, but surely, surely, a great rich country like ours will see that those who are dependent on us are properly provided for."

According to Scott's last entries, they stayed in the tent for nine days and nights, unable to go farther because of the terrible weather, helplessly waiting for the weather to break as food and fuel grew less each day. They were just 12.7 miles (28 km) away from the plenitude of supplies awaiting them at One Ton Depot, but distance was now an irrelevancy.

Perhaps any unsettled weather was too much for the men to face now; perhaps in the end they preferred to die in their tent rather than in their traces.

One Final Journal Entry, And Antarctica Takes Scott And His Men

They shared what little food remained and waited for the end. Perhaps they managed to gain a little comfort from the opium pills that had been distributed earlier. "I do not think we can hope for any better thing now," Scott wrote in his last diary entry on March 29. "We shall stick it out to the end, but we are getting weaker, of course, and the end cannot be far. It seems a pity, but I do not think I can write more. R. Scott. Last entry: For God's sake look after our people."

Eventually, the tent fell silent. The winds outside continued to whip up the fine snow, coating the canvas in a thin white rime.