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Laurence Oates

Laurence Edward Grace Oates, Antarctic explorer, has gone down in history for his last words: "I am going out now. I may be some time." These words, as recorded by Robert Falcon Scott, have caused Oates to be remembered as the epitome of the English upper-class hero.

The truth behind the legend is somewhat different. Oates was born in London in 1880, and educated at Eton College. He saw military service during the Boer War, as an officer in the dragoons. In 1910, he applied to join Scott's expedition to the South Pole, and was accepted on the strength of his experience with horses and his ability to make a financial contribution to the expedition. At the last minute, Scott selected him as one of the five-man party who would travel the final distance to the pole, but Oates did not have the same level of experience as the others.

On the way back from the pole in January 1912, the party faced impossible conditions. After the loss of one man, Edgar Evans[?], Oates became a burden on the others. His own refusal to admit defeat after he had fallen into a physical condition from which recovery was impossible, coupled with the unwillingness of his three remaining companions to leave him behind, caused such delays that it probably made the difference between life and death to the rest of the party. Eventually, Oates, recognising the need to sacrifice himself in order to give the others a chance of survival, left the tent to die in the snow. However, his gesture came too late, and Scott and his remaining men perished only a few miles short of their food depot. Ironically, had Scott taken Oates' earlier advice on the placing of the depots, he might still have survived.



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