Frederick Hooper’s diary, 12th November 1912
F.J. Hooper was one of the party who went searching for Captain Scott, Wilson, Bowers, Captain Oates, and P.O. Evans in October 1912, after the Polar Party had not returned from their push for the South Pole the previous March. His diary was started as a letter to his fiancee, and recounts the Search Party’s quest to find the Polar Party, a journey which unexpectedly culminated on 12th November 1912 with the discovery of a tent containing the bodies of Scott, Wilson, and Bowers.
11th, 12th November 1912
We found the Pole Party this evening about 11 miles south of 1 Ton Depot. We noticed what we thought was a cairn 1 miles to the west of our course, when we got up to it we found it was a tent badly difted up. We dug it out & lifted the tent off & I shall never forget the sight that met our eyes. Capt. Scott was laying with his head opposite the door, half out of his bag, both of his arms were thrown across the other two bags which we found contained Dr. Wilson & Lt. Bowers. It’s apparent they have died of starvation. Dr. Atkinson read us a few details of Capt. Scott’s diary. They reached the Pole on Jan. 17th, 1912, three weeks after Amundsen had reached it. Comping back down the Beardmore P. O. Evans fell and hit his head [on] some blue ice. He died shortly after on the Lower Glacier. They had very bad weather & low temperatures all the time. Capt. Oates was badly frost bitten about the face & feet. About two days from Mt Hooper they had a blizz. & Capt. Oates went to sleep with the intention of not waking again. He has been suffering for some time with frostbites. On the following evening he said he was going out of the tent for a minute & would not be long. He was never seen again after that. It appears he walked to his death to save his companions. They reached here on March the 21st, short of food and fuel & badly frostbitten. They only had 2 cups of tea from the 20th to the 29th. The last entry in Capt. Scott’s diary was on the 29th March. It appears he was the last alive out of the three. I don’t know at present when the others died. He said death was due from shortage of food, fuel & frostbite.
We had a service over them & buried them as they were totally stiff, frozen in every limb. It was an awful sight to see our dear comrades in such a state, a sight I shall never forget in a hurry. I forgot to say that a blizzard kept them at this place. It lasted over 8 days.
Dead Men, the novel, is based on the scientific fact that Antarctic blizzards cannot last for more than three days. So why did Scott and his companions spend their last ten days in a tent 11 miles from the relative safety of a large food and fuel depot?
Birdie Bowers, an infamously secretive painter, is a woman with a dead man’s name. Her parents were obsessed by her namesake, Henry ‘Birdie’ Bowers, one of Scott’s companions. Almost a hundred years after his death, she is determined to discover what really happened to him. On her way to view some of the things recovered from Scott’s tent, she collapses, and is rescued by Adam, a bored computer geek, who falls in love with her, to the extent of agreeing to travel to the Antarctic with her to discover the site of Scott’s tent, now under 30 metres of ice.