By Ross Logan
Thursday, January 26, 2012
A NEW book by a retired Hatfield doctor has thrown new light on Captain Scott’s ill fated 1912 expedition to the South Pole.
Former physician Isobel Williams wants to end an enduring myth about the legendary voyage and one of its central figures – petty officer Edgar “Taff” Evans.
She believes Evans’ perception as a weak-minded drunkard whose own demise caused the deaths of his colleagues Scott, Lawrence Oates, Edgar Wilson and Henry Bowers, is wide of the mark.
Her book, Captain Scott’s Invaluable Assistant, Edgar Evans, claims he was actually a key player in the expedition, who was instrumental in getting the team to the South Pole, and whose death played no part in the fate of his comrades.
“He was very much castigated for holding up the rest of the party, and inadvertently causing the deaths of all the people he admired,” Dr Williams said.
“This criticism is devastating and not true. He was tough, organised, strong, humorous and very practical.”
Captain Scott agreed. Writing in his journal, he described Evans as “a giant worker” and an “invaluable assistant” and praised his organisational skills.
But on the 1912 expedition, Evans cut his hand shortly before reaching the South Pole, a wound which failed to heal properly.
On the return journey – after discovering they’d been beaten to the South Pole by Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen – the men were hit by atrocious weather, and Evans’ mental and physical condition deteriorated. After injuring his head, Evans died on February 17, 1912.
A month later, a weakening Oates sacrificed himself in a bid to give the remaining three a fighting chance of survival, but Scott, Wilson and Bowers eventually succumbed to the freezing temperatures in late March.
But the deaths of the last four men were not the result of Evans’ own – the terrible weather and the insufficient diet were to blame, according to Dr Williams.
“I think he should be remembered for the remarkable things he did,” she said.
Captain Scott’s Invaluable Assistant, Edgar Evans is published by The History Press, priced £12.99