Scott 100 Day 24 24th November : They shoot horses don’t they

Bernard Day. Day was a young engineer and this was his second expedition to the Antarctic as he had been with Shackleton aboard the Nimrod years earlier. On this trip he oversaw the motor sledges and like many of the survivors of the expedition he went on to serve in the forces during World War 1.

File:Shackleton nimrod 66.jpg

The Nimrod Crew – Bernard Day is second from right bottom row.

Picture from Wikimedia Commons

Scotts Journal November 24th 1911. ‘A gloomy start’ to the march but things improved as the clouds lifted. The sun was ‘bright and warm’ and the march went well over a good surface. Since they met up with the manhauling tractor team the march has been a procession with those manhauling setting off first, then the crocks, then the others horses and followed by the dog teams. In the morning, after the night march, they led Jehu back down the track and shot him. Scotts journal reflects his delight that the horses have come so far and done so well and he comments that Jehu may even have gone further. He was pulling very little towards the end and Scott sees it as ‘merciful’ to end his life. The rest of the horses show no sign of flagging and Scott’s reports them to be in good condition. Hehu is cut up and fed to the dogs.

Scott and his wife looking over the horses in New Zealand.

Picture from Wikimedia Commons

File:Group including Robert Falcon Scott, with Mongolian ponies, on Quail Island.jpg

Commentary. The first horse is shot, 15 miles passed the point at which Shackleton shot his first animal. The general picture we have is that these beasts were starving, unfit for the task and poor specimens. Scott’s journal indicates he is pleased with their performance and Oates gets praise for how he cared for them over the last year. It is also Oates who pulls the trigger on Jehu. It is noted that when they cut up Jehu as meat for the dogs he still had plenty of fat on him indicating he was not starving and could have continued. It does seem that, depending on what you want to believe, the facts will support your story with equal conviction. What is not in doubt is that because Scott used horses they left Cape Evans later than Amundsen did with just dogs and they were now several days behind Shackltons time.

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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2 Responses to Scott 100 Day 24 24th November : They shoot horses don’t they

  1. Brian N says:

    Scott stupidly organised his “convoy” around the slowest unit, like a naval fleet.
    His best ponies and his dogs had to waste half the day while waiting for the human donkeys to get ahead before catching them up. What a waste of time. Surely it wouldd have been better to send the faster groups ahead and have them prepare the camp before the others arrived.

    Scott was as much in competition with Shackleton as Amundsen. All he had to do was cover the same route and go the extra 97 miles. Had he failed to use ponies and manhauling then his critics would have slated him for using dogs the same way as his supporters slated Amundsen.

    He killed the ponies as and when they had nothing left to carry, he took the dogs beyond the limit of their drivers’ return rations, so he didn’t have to man haul an extra 800kg’s up the glacier to the first depot. Meares felt that put his life at risk as he had to lose one meal a day on the entire homeward journey, a major part of his rift with Scott.

    • hutpoint says:

      Thanks Brian. Terrific point about the slowest member of the ‘fleet’. He did realise speed differences by type of transport and the tractors left early because they were slow. However variation in within the type seemed not to figure in his calculations. Thanks for the contribution.

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