Scott 100 Day 26 26th November : Teams – Dogs and Men

Dogs. Amundsen made it safely back from the South Pole with dogs, Scott died in his attempt while manhauling. Not using dogs, it would seem, must be the reason Scott failed. In the past Amundsen had had success with dogs while Scott’s experience of dogs was poor. On the Discovery expedition Scott and his team had very little expertise with dog teams and they struggled to get the dogs pulling well. So the argument took shape, Scott did not want to repeat his poor experience of dogs and he was also over sentimental is his relationship with the dogs. On the Discovery expeditions experience with dogs Cherry-Garrard describes a comment from Scott by stating that ‘he thought they did everything wrong with the dogs’. Huntford seizes on this as admission that Scott made mistakes and that his arrogance was stopping him learning those lessons on this trip. Scott was not the inventor of manhauling, it had been the preferred method for many years and very much encouraged by his sponsor, Clements Markham. Markham had experience in theArctic where debate over dogs or manhauling had existed for some time, however manhauling had prevailed as the British method of transport over ice. At his stage of the journey Scott says very little about the dogs in his party yet other diaries do tell of how well they were doing in the conditions.

Dog Teams – Picture from Wikimedia Commons

File:Sled dogs - Terra Nova Expedition.jpg

Scotts Journal November 26th 1911. The march was easy over a good surface. They continued to shift the start time as they moved to day marching and were making 2miles an hour, ‘good going’. As the march continued it grew misty and they lost sight of the manhaulers out in front even though they were only 300 yards ahead. Snow began to fall during the second half of the march but the horses did well. The sastrugi seem to be coming from the south and with snow 2-3 inches deep it made progress tiring for the men. Scott reports that ‘it is cheering to be in such good company’. The dogs caught up and Meares says ‘it is the best surface yet’ for the dog teams.

Manhauling – Picture from Wikimedia Commons

File:Terra Nova expedition at the South Pole - LOC 3a18826u.jpg

Commentary. ‘it is cheering to be in such good company’, these words do not seem to match up with the reports from the diaries and journals of others on the trip. Huntford compiles them and describes Oates and Meares as finding Scott impossible, Bowers involved in some clashes with Scott and Teddy Evans pulling with all his might to prove himself to Scott. This description does not seem to be ‘cheering’ ? While there are moments that Scott comments on his men in a less than complimentary way, on the whole his journal does not endulge a personal examination of his colleagues, or al least not until close to the end. Was this because he had nothing to say ? did his understanding of his position as a gentlemen forbid it ? was it just not what leaders do ? It is easy to discuss the leader with others in the team, it is almost a given that teams have gripes. But what can the leader do that maintains his integrity, not for the first time Scott’s journal is fascinating because of what it doesn’t say rather than what it does.

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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