Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Captain Oates

Today's picture shows Captain Lawrence Edward Grace Oates, of the Terra Nova Antarctic Expedition. He was chosen for the mission because of his financial support for the effort, and his expertise with horses. He was at odds with Captain Scott for most of the expedition, and felt the horses provided for the mission were not suitable. Scott felt Oates was a permanent pessimist. Oates was one of the five men on the expedition to make the last leg of the trek, to the South Pole. 

During the return march from the Pole, Oates grew weak, suffering from frostbite. He was having difficulty keeping pace with the party, yet they refused to leave him behind. He realized that his weakened condition, and inability to maintain the required pace was endangering the entire party. Realizing the predicament, on March 16 he told his companions that "I am just going outside and may be some time". Without even putting his shoes on, he walked out into a blizzard, sacrificing himself for the sake of the remainder of the party.


  1. So sad that he had to die like that. People back in those days sure had a lot of fortitude. To realize that they might not make it themselves and may cause the end for others to just go out into a storm and let themselves die.
    Now that guy was a true hero.

    Back to yesterdays comments about WAR. I didn't mean that all wars were a waste of lives. I meant that if idiots could just learn to live with what they have, and not try and take what others have worked hard for.
    But you will always have those nuts that think you should think and act like them and not only accept their religion, but convert to their religion. It has been that way for thousands of years
    People, I guess will always see what others have worked hard for and want it for themselves with out the hard work. Thus we wind up having useless wars and the useless waste of lives, because of religion and envy.

  2. Just want to say that, as a mountaineer/hiker, I'm really enjoying this week's posts :-)

    That being said, I want to comment that it sounds like Oates was probably suffering from hypothermia. Severe hypothermia will paradoxically make you feel very warm - hence no shoes (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypothermia#Paradoxical_undressing). A decrease in sugar and oxygen to the brain will also make you act... well, irrationally. It's nice that Oates's decisions were perceived as heroic by his team, but it sounds more like he just died of exposure. Which sucks - but it's a good reminder to be aware of nature.

  3. Sad very sad...I agree with anonymous about the hypothermia...it really makes you do funny things.. Me being from Finland..I do know:o)

    Sad story though..

  4. Anon: "...It's nice that Oates's decisions were perceived as heroic by his team..." sounds immensely patronizing whether that be your intention or not.

    Oates didn't just up and decide to not wear his shoes and head out into the elements; Scott recorded that Oates had been for some time telling the rest of the team, who refused to do so, to leave him behind as he felt his injuries prevented the team from advancing with sufficient speed to the food depot. Going out barefoot has been attributed to Oates having severe frostbite and being unable to endure putting his footwear back on again.

    Yes, of course Oates died of exposure as all of the members of that group in the expedition died of exposure and malnourishment. The remaining team was unable to complete the distance to the food depot due to the weather and they died 9 days after Oates sacrificed himself.

  5. It's amazing what Scott's group accomplished despite so many disastrous decisions. (Oates was right.) I hope you'll do Apsley Cherry-Garrard this week.

  6. Lady Ann's thought is my thought, and after reading the comments I still think that.
    To continue, Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

  7. Wow! I love this photo! I remember seeing it in a book that my parents had eons ago, and as our family name is Oates, it's especially interesting to me. Thanks so much!