Scott100 Day 13 13th November : The elephant in the room

Amundsen. When Scott was in England planning the expedition the conditions were clear to him. This would be an expedition to get an Englishman to the pole and to also be a significant scientific endeavour, there was be time, space and all under his control. Shackleton had only just returned, Evans had signed on with Scott and Amundsen was heading for the Arctic aboard the ‘Fram’. The south was Scott’s. Roald Amundsen was an accomplished Norwegian explorer who had searched for the ‘North West Passage’ in the Arctic. There he spent time living with the Inuit people, learning their culture and their survival techniques. When Scott was in New Zealand preparing to make the last leg to the Antarctic he received a telegram from Amundsen which simply read “Beg to inform you Fram proceeding Antarctic – Amundsen” There is huge variation in the description of Scotts reaction to this news, from an eruption of his famous temper to an almost functionary approach to this and so many other pieces of information he was dealing with at the time. Frank Debenham, who was stood beside Scott when he read the telegram, reports that Scott appeared ‘unruffled’ by the news. While the crew and the external world responded to Amundsen with a sense that this was a deceitful and dishonourable act, Scott decided not to be drawn into a dispute by any public statement. Amundsen was going for the pole, Scott’s expedition preparations were set and it was too late to change. Even though Scott declared that the news changed nothing the South Pole was no longer an expedition, it was a race.

Day 13 November 13th 1911. Another horrid march, poor visibility and the surface bad. The horses are doing well even the ‘crocks’ such as Jehu but the conditions must be having an impact on them. The sun came out as they camped and made everything ‘calm and peaceful’. Scott notes that he is ‘very anxious’ about the beasts, they are not the ‘ponies they ought to have been’. A rare entry about his team as he declares that if the horses do pull through it will be all due to the care given by Oates. Scott is desperate for the ‘rank bad’ weather to improve. During the rest period Scott notes that it was snowing again and starts to question the impact of this weather on the expedition. Scott records that if the poor weather is an exception then ‘our luck will be truly awful’.  Scott continues to comment of his people describing the camp as ‘cheerless’ and worries that this is a sign things are ‘going awry’. Temperature still -10.

Commentary. Scott is questioning the weather, the horses and the team spirit today and these will all become areas of investigation into Scotts ability as a leader and the contributing factors to the failure of the expedition. It is also a key day for Amundsen, he had started his trip earlier, had set his base camp closer to the pole and today got a significant breakthrough as the Glacier he needed to find to get to the polar plateau was 60 miles further south which meant less time on the draining surface of Polar Plateau. In the book by Ranulph Fiennes the days events for the Norwegians are described as good luck and in Scott’s journal he begins to contemplate the poor weather as being bad luck. Previous comments discussed the notion that if you wait to be fully ready before you act you would do nothing. Amundsen offers a very different thought and from his own story of the trip he states “… the way in which the expedition is equipped—the way in which every difficulty is foreseen, and precautions taken for meeting or avoiding it. Victory awaits him who has everything in order — luck, people call it. Defeat is certain for him who has neglected to take the necessary precautions in time; this is called bad luck.”

About hutpoint

Interested in leadership, teamwork, resistance, perseverence and change. A former senior nurse dedicated to learning from and sharing with other flawed humans.
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