Their morale sunk, the five-man group began the long trek back. But hunger, injuries, and exhaustion slowed their progress as they dragged the sled across the frozen terrain. By February, the continent was again sliding into winter, sending temperatures plummeting. The expedition slowed to a crawl.
On February 17, one of the men fell into a coma and died. In the following weeks, the men began to starve. In March, they were caught in a howling blizzard. One of Scott’s companions, L. E. G. Oates, suffered such severe frostbite in his feet that he could scarcely walk.
Realizing that he was slowing the expedition, Oates turned to the other men in the tent and told them he was going to go outside. “I may be some time,” he added and then disappeared into the swirling snow, never to be seen alive again.
“We knew it was the act of a brave man and an English gentleman,” wrote Scott in his journal. The three survivors continued to struggle north, but in vain. A blizzard locked them in their tent. Unable to move and realizing that death was imminent, Scott wrote letters to his wife, to his mother, to friends, and a “Message to the Public.”
His final entry in his journal is dated March 29. Eight months later, a rescue party discovered the three bodies still inside the tent. The party also recovered Scott’s journal, and his name became a symbol around the world of courage in the face of death.