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Thursday, March 29, 2012

100 years since Scott died in the Antarctic

Centenary of the death of "Scott of the Antarctic."

It's not just all about the Titanic . . .

On March 29, 1912, a gallant little party of Englishmen expired after their failed dash to be first to reach the South Pole.  The dramatic story led to many books, a great film, a haunting symphonic poem -- but some of the less dramatic, but very human details of the organization of the expedition have not been revealed until now.

For instance, who knows that Scott's beautiful wife, Kathleen (pictured on the left), was an extremely assertive woman?  Or that Hilda, New Zealander wife of Edward Evans, second-in-command (to the far right), was spirited, too . . . and that the two women did not get along?

This -- along with much, much more about the events surrounded the epic attempt on the South Pole -- are revealed in a painstakingly researched account published in the New Zealand Ship and Marine Society Marine News, and written by Michael Pryce.   On this historic anniversary we can read it online.

And, here, to titillate your interest, is the story that caught my amused eyes:
A clash of personalities between Kathleen Scott and Lt. Evans’ wife Hilda was evident just before the departure of their husbands from New Zealand. Lt. Evans came to Scott with details of trouble and how tempers had flared between the wives.

Capt. L.E. ‘Titus’ Oates reported that “Mrs. Scott and Mrs. Evans had a magnificent battle; they tell me it was a draw after fifteen rounds. Mrs. Wilson flung herself into the fight after the tenth round and there was more blood and hair flying about the hotel than you see in a Chicago slaughter-house in a month, the husbands got a bit of the backwash and there is a certain amount of coolness which I hope they won’t bring into the hut with them, however it won’t hurt me even if they do”.

It is interesting to speculate on the effect this disharmony amongst the wives had on the expedition as a whole, especially once the civilising effects of New Zealand had been replaced by the harsh reality of the southern continent.
Once at sea all was well, but Kathleen decided that if her husband ever mounted another expedition, the selection of men and their wives deserved more consideration. “If ever Con has another expedition, the wives must be chosen more carefully than the men – better still, have none”.

Mike Pryce is Wellington's harbourmaster.

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