Evans, Edgar

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Four copies of letters relating to the 1910-1912 Terra Nova expedition. Two are from Edgar Evans to his mother living at Pilton, Rhossili, the first dated 21 June 1910 at sea on board the 'Terra Nova' heading for Madeira; the second dated 2 January 1911 on board the 'Terra Nova' at Cape Crozier, Victoria Land, Antarctic. Copy letter dated October 1911 from Capt. Robert Scott to Mrs Edgar Evans informing her that her husband is well and fit and a valuable member of the team. Copy letter dated April 1 1912 from Lieutenant Henry Pennell on board the 'Terra Nova' to Edgar Evans wife reassuring her that her husband was reported as being in the best of health (after contracting scurvy) in the most recent reports. Unbeknown to him, all members of the expedition party including Edgar Evans were actually dead by the time of his writing to Lois Evans.

Administrative / Biographical History

Edgar Evans was born in 1876 near Rhossili, Gower, Wales. His father Charles Evans was a seaman from Oxwich, Gower and his mother Sarah Beynon was originally from Middleton, Gower. The family moved to Swansea where Edgar attended the St. Helen's Boys School in Vincent Street. In 1891 Edgar Evans joined the Royal Navy aged 15. He served on H.M.S Excellent, the flagship of the channel fleet 1899-1901 as Leading Seaman and later on as Petty Officer Second Class. It was during this time that he first met Robert Falcon Scott. In 1901 Scott was chosen to lead the National Antarctic Expedition and Edgar Evans was one of those granted special leave from the Admiralty to go with him. The ship used was the 'Discovery' and the expedition lasted from 1901-1904, exploring Antarctica, carrying out scientific research and surveying for mineral deposits.

After returning to Britain in 1904, Edgar married his cousin Lois Beynon of Middleton, Gower. They had three children. The couple moved to Portsmouth where Edgar qualified as a Naval Gunnery Instructor at H.M.S Excellent. Later he became a torpedo instructor at the H.M.S Vernon torpedo school at Portsmouth.

A second Antarctic expedition was planned by Scott with the aim of reaching the South Pole and Edgar was chosen to be part of the expedition team. The expedition ship was called 'Terra Nova' and sailed via Madeira, Cape Town in South Africa, Melbourne in Australia and onto New Zealand. Here Edgar Evans was discharged from the expedition for drunken behaviour but he was later given a second chance by Scott. The 'Terra Nova' finally left New Zealand for Antarctica on the 29 November 1910. Edgar Evans was chosen as one of the five men who made the final journey to the South Pole. The full party consisted of Captain Robert Falcon Scott; Dr E.A. Wilson; Captain Lawrence Edward Grace Oates (q.v); Lieutenant H.R. Bowers, R.I.M and Petty Officer Edgar Evans.

The team left their base camp on the 1 November 1911, finally reaching the South Pole 766 miles away on the 17 or 18 January 1912 only to discover that they had been beaten to it a month earlier by a Norwegian party led by Roald Amundsen. Disheartened they started on their return journey. However the journey was beset with hardships and accidents, lack of adequate food and nutrition, terrible weather conditions and a shortage of oil in the depots (left in advance for the return journey). Edgar Evans quickly deteriorated both physically and mentally. He was suffering from frostbite and disappointment and being six feet tall and well-built he out of all the team suffered most from the inadequate food supplies and lack of nutrition. On 4 February he and Scott fell down crevasses and Edgar injured his head which only served to hasten his deterioration. On the 17th February 1912 Edgar fell, became comatose and never regained consciousness. His body still lies in the ice.

The remaining four team members all eventually perished. On 17th March Oates could no longer carry on with terrible frostbite and walked out into a blizzard in order to enable the rest of the party to go on. However they became caught in a terrible blizzard four days later and could not push on any further. Scott made his last entry in his diary on 29th March 1912.

It was not until February 1913 that Lois Evans heard about the death of her husband.

Conditions Governing Access

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Conditions Governing Use

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Custodial History

This collection forms part of the Royal Institution of South Wales Collection and was transferred from the Archives at University of Wales Swansea to West Glamorgan Archive Service in April 2004.