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Scott and his men had accomplished much, including reaching the South-Pole. As for Scott's Pole Party: they had travelled 1,600 miles, they had gotten there and a good distance of the way back. The party's prospects, however, once it was in the final stage on the Ross Shelf, steadily worsened and yet 400 miles to go. All five74 members of the party died due mainly to dehydration and starvation. The first to die was PO Evens. Next, after a further month of trudging, and a few days after Oates' dramatic exit, the remaining three (Scott, Wilson and Bowers) died, storm-stayed in their tent. The three had made their final camp on March 19th, but 11 miles short of One Ton Depot.75 Scott, with frozen fingers, little light, and storms still raging outside the tent, wrote his final words, on 29 March: "Last entry. For God's sake look after our people."
At the last of it, Scott thought their only chance was if the dogs and their attending men would appear and save them from what they then knew was to be certain death without them. Scott had the expectation that he would meet the dogs, or to find that they had been out to top up the remaining depots with food and fuel. This, as it turned out were but dreams of dying men. We can see from Scott's Journal that he wrote of the dogs, beginning with March 7th, 1912: "We hope against hope that the dogs have been to Mt. Hooper (See Map); then we might pull through." Then on March 8th, "The great question is, What shall we find at the depot? [Mt. Hooper] If the dogs have visited it we may get along a good distance." Then on March 10th, "The dogs which would have been our salvation have evidently failed. Meares had a bad trip home I suppose."
Well to begin with, Meares had packed it in and went aboard the Terra Nova and sailed for home. Instead, on February 26th, 1912, "Cherry and dog handler, Dimitri Gerov made one last supply run out to the 'One Ton Depot'.76 They waited there seven days hoping to meet the South Pole team on their return journey, although the mission was to resupply the dump and not to provide an escort for the polar party 'home' who weren't expected to reach this point for another week or two. Cherry finally turned back on 10 March 1912 in order to preserve his dog team which were short of food, and out of concern for the health of Gerov."77
Atkinson had received specific instructions from Scott that the dogs were to be brought out to One Ton Depot in February and, "with the depot (of dog food) that has been laid at One Ton, come as far as you can" -- presumably to meet and assist the returning polar party. Atkinson was ready to carry out his orders, except on February 19th Crean (he being one in a returning party) arrived at base camp on foot and "reported that Lt Edward Evans was lying seriously ill in a tent some 35 miles to the south, and in urgent need of rescue. Atkinson quickly decided that this mission was his priority, and set out with the dogs to bring Evans back. This was achieved; the party was back at Hut Point on 22 February."78
Upon his departure, Scott reminded Atkinson, who was at the head of a returning parties, of Scott's previously made orders that he was "to take the two dog-teams south in the event of Meares having to return home, as seemed likely." Further we can see that, eleven days before the teams had set off to the pole, Scott gave Meares written orders at Cape Evans dated 20 October 1911 to secure Scott's speedy return from the pole using dogs:
"About the first week of February I should like you to start your third journey to the South, the object being to hasten the return of the third Southern unit [the polar party] and give it a chance to catch the ship. The date of your departure must depend on news received from returning units, the extent of the depot of dog food you have been able to leave at One Ton Camp, the state of the dogs, etc. ... It looks at present as though you should aim at meeting the returning party about March 1 in Latitude 82 or 82.30' Wikipedia."79 (See Map)
Having rescuing him, Atkinson determined to stay with the recovering Edward Evans. (It is to be remembered that Atkinson was a medical doctor.) So, the task set by Scott of taking the dogs and supplies to the One Ton Depot, at least, was left to Apsley Cherry-Garrard. No one seem to think that the five trekking back from the pole needed rescuing.80 As we have already recounted, Cherry-Garrard with Demetri left base camp with the dogs on February 26th, carrying extra rations for the polar party to be added to the depot. After waiting there for several days, "they returned to Hut Point on 16 March in poor physical condition and without news of the polar party."81
While "Teddy" Evans was being nursed back to health, in came the Terra Nova with fresh supplies. Atkinson decided to spend time unloading the ship, seemingly, putting aside Scott's order. "Atkinson tried to send the experienced navigator Wright south to meet Scott, but chief meteorologist Simpson declared he needed Wright for scientific work."82 Though everyone knew of his vision problems (short-sightedness), and the resultant difficulties in him being able o navigate83, Atkinson sent Cherry-Garrard, who, with Dimitri Gerov, set out on February 25.