Laurence Oates

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Lawrence Oates at South Pole

Lawrence Edward Grace Oates (March 17, 1880-March 17, 1912) was a British Antarctic explorer. Oates went down in history for his last words: "I am just going outside and 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. Oates was nicknamed Titus in reference to Titus Oates, famed for his role in the Popish Plot.

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 and was additionally suffering from an old war wound.

Oates clashed with Scott many times on issues of management of the expedition, and once wrote in this diary "Myself, I dislike Scott intensely and would chuck the whole thing if it were not that we are a British expedition.... [Scott] is not straight, it is himself first, the rest nowhere..."

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.

Lawrence Oates in Fiction

Brenda Clough's 2001 fish-out-of-water science fiction novella "May Be Some Time" has "Titus" Oates transported to the year 2045 where he is healed via advanced Oates sl:Lawrence Oates


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