Food. Key to success would be the food the men had. Food would keep the men healthy and provide the strenght needed to pull the sledges. All the water had to come from the snow and needed melting in the stoves and this took effort and added to the length of time from stopping to eating. Scott had developed different rations and amounts for the teams and learned a great deal from the ‘winter journey’ of Wilson, Bowers and Cherry-Garrard. While at base camp the teams had a varied diet and killed seals to add to their varied intake. It is what they took with them on the march that is often questioned. The staple diet on the march for Scott was a hot stew made of pemmican and occasional additions, this was known as ‘hoosh’. Pemmican was a cake in which meat and fat were separately processed and then mixed together. It could then last, possibly for years, without being refrigerated. Scott also took sledging biscuits made from flour and sodium bicarbonate. Amundsen had berries and dried peas added into his pemmican and biscuits of Oatmeal and yeast. The type and amount of food the men consumed was not only important at the time but has become a key criticism of Scott’s planning and stubbornness.
Scott’s Journal – November 21st 1911. The surface was much better and the horses did very well. The horses don’t look too tired and Scott records ‘impossible not to take a hopeful view of their prospect of pulling through.’ Although he remains worried that the poor weather may return and the temperature during the night was -14. As they marched they saw a large cairn in the distance and when they arrived at it they came across Teddy Evans and the tractor party. They had manhauled to that point after the tractors broke down and had been waiting for Scott for 6 days. They ‘look fit but declare themselves to be very hungry’. Scott is interested in this as it backs up his planning, manhauling will require larger rations than leading horses and Scott has planned for this after learning a great deal from the ‘winter journey’. However, one of the tractor team, Day, does look ‘very thin’. The decision is made that the motor party will come with the main team for three more days. After which Jehu will be shot and fed to the dogs. Meares is looking ‘eagerly’ for the chance to feed his dogs. Oates and Atkinson are keen to get the horses past the point at which Shackleton killed his first animal. Chinaman going well and Scott positive in his notes on the horses.
Commentary. It is often argued that Amundsen’s rations contained a better vitamin balance than Scott’s and our current knowledge and understanding would confirm that. But was that understanding in the domain of Scott and Amundsen 100 years ago ? The arguement over the calorie is debated and while some commentators believe the men were starving other believe the calories intake was acceptable. It is possible Scott and his men had the right calorific understanding, especially after the ‘winter journey’ experiemnts on Wilson, Bowers and Cherry-Garrard. Amundsen used his learning from the Inuit to guide his food choice, so it was what worked rather than an understanding of vitamins that influenced their choices. Scott had experience of the ice and of men struggling both from his Discovery expedition and the experience of Shackleton. As a Naval officer he must have known about the risks of Scurvy so it could be that he was aware and knowledgeable and that he believed he had made the right choices to cover those many factors. In hindsight he may have made the wrong choices but this wasn’t as the ‘arrogant’ leader not thinking through the challenges ahead as often portrayed. Scott had seen too much and come to close to disaster for that. The food was vital, he would have thought this through.