Scott100 Day 33 3rd December 1911 : No plan survives contact with the enemy

Review. The main party left Cape Evans on November 1st 1911. A group with newly invented snow tractors had set of several days before and a dog team will set off several days later. The horses, being led by Scott and his party, found the going difficult but have made good progress. The tractors broke down and those men took to manhauling the supplies and continued south. The dog party soon caught up with Scott and they all caught up with the manhauling tractor team. The plan was simply, to haul their way to the pole using several teams who would construct depots of supplies for use by the returning party. While several teams set off the idea was to reduce the number of teams as they got closer to the pole and then have a final push with just 4 men. At this point in the journey 4 horses have been shot and the food used by dogs and men, as well as depots of horsemeat being laid. So the 6 men leading horses are; Wilson, Oates, Cherry-Garrard, PO Evans, Crean and Keohane with Gerof and Meares with the dogs while Teddy Evans, Lashley, Atkinson and Wright manhauled and both Scott and Bowers were on Ski’s. While they had passed the furthest south point reached by ‘The Discovery’ expedition they were behind the schedule set by Shackleton and the weather had been very poor.

William Lashley with one of the Tractors. Picture from Wikimedia Commons

File:William Lashly standing by a Wolseley motor sleigh during the British Antarctic Expedition of 1911-1913, November 1911.jpg

Scotts Journal December 3rd 1911. The weather was again poor and Scott describes their luck with weather as ‘preposterous’. The party woke to poor snowy conditions but could have progressed however the wind increased and was now blowing a gale. The snow wall they construct to protect the horses blew down and the sledges became buried in the snow. This was the ‘strongest wind’ Scott had experienced during any Antarctic summer. As the day went on the weather cleared and the land ahead could be seen and so the party broke camp and set off in bright sunshine. Scott describes the change in the weather conditions as ‘ inconceivably rapid, perfectly bewildering’. The march was horrible but they still made 11 miles. Scott comments that if the weather conditions continue in this way when they climb the glacier then they ‘shall be awkwardly placed, it is really time luck turned in our favour – we have had too little of it’. Every mile is hard won, horses doing well and Victor was found to have a lot of fat on him and so Scott is convinced transport with the horses won’t be a problem if ‘only the weather was kind’.

Commentary. Scott seems to be contemplating the difficulty ahead if the weather does not improve. In the language of the day what does ‘awkwardly placed’ mean. Scott is a British Naval Officer at the end of the Victorian era. Scott must know at this stage that much is against him but when does a change in plan, an unprepared for difficulty or a failure to keep to a schedule change from being the expected fluctuations to the plan to crossing a line and indicating a near failure. As a military officer Scott would have been trained in dealing with the unknown and having to adapt a plan as no plan survives contact with the enemy. But when is continuing with the aim courageous and when is it stupidity, the judgment is complex and Scott had more and unknown factors to assess than I suspect he makes us aware of in his journal. The language he uses on this day must indicate that he is starting to doubt that they will make it.

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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