Ernest Shackleton. Shackleton was from the merchant navy and travelled with Scott on his first expedition south aboard the Discovery. During that expedition events took place which it would be argued began a rivalry between Scott and Shackleton. It is hard to imagine that the two men were instant antagonists as Scott took both Shackleton and Wilson on the march that achieved the furthest south at that particular time. Would he have taken Shackleton if there were difficulties in their relationship ? On that march Shackleton became weak and needed help from Scott and Wilson and at times was carried on the sledge, an event that is not recorded by Shackleton himself. This may have been a representation of weakness for Shackleton who came from a prep school in which those who cried would be forced to stand in front of the whole class with a teddy bear. When Scott, Wilson and Shackleton made it back to basecamp Shackleton was placed on the ship home, against his wishes. This act is said to have begun the difficult relationship between the two. While Scott was discussing his next expedition Shackleton planned and executed his own trip aboard the Nimrod getting to within 97 miles of the pole. Shackleton turned back before reaching the pole and famously wrote to his wife, ‘better to have living donkeys than dead lions’. Thus the legend of Shackleton was born, never losing a man in his team through all his adventures, although this could be disputed. During the Nimrod trip further fuel to the fire would be added by Shackletons use of Scott’s hut, even though he had agreed not to do so. Shackleton would go on to lead the Endurance expedition and his legend would grow. Shackleton’s story would be enhanced even further by later events and his adventure would be used to explore the qualities of leadership. While Scott’s reputation would be damaged by Huntford’s book describing Scott as an angry incompetent.
November 18th 1911. The horses find it tough going and the surface is worse than yesterday but Scott believes these are the sort of conditions that lie ahead for them. Scott has a panic that they are carrying too much food and so they leave some behind. They make the planned 13 miles and the temperature was -21 when they camped. Oates gives Chinaman only a few more days but others are more optimistic. Scott is not certain the horses will make the glacier and wishes that he had started out with 10 good animals. The bright sunshine makes Scott a little more hopeful.
Commentary. The Shackleton letter to his wife with that famous quote would come to haunt the story of Scott. Shackleton the wise leader who understood risk but put his men first, Scott the poor planner with a temper and who was brave for the sake of being brave. Yet Scott generated loyalty and was prepared to try new innovations while Shackleton’s physical courage is never questioned his moral courage is less certain with financial concerns and his disloyalty to his wife. The truth is….. perhaps lost forever. There are such extremes and so many narratives no one position can be called the truth. But perhaps a good exploration of both men comes form the Stephanie Barczewski book ‘Antarctic Destinies’. They were men with failings, as are we all, yet they achieved amazing things, things which are beyond most of us.