Morale. At this point in the march Huntford’s book uses the stories of other members of the party to add a variety of perspectives to the tale. What Huntford describes is a tense group struggling through tough conditions. As much as later criticism will come from the eternal debate of dog or horse or manhauling Huntford submits that a greater burden to the group than the poor conditions was the morale of the party. ‘It was a tensed party crawling over the endless frozen desert, the mirror of Scott’s moodiness’. Huntford also compares Amundsen and Scott, the former as a leader who understand how to work with the ‘human personality’ while the former saw his men as puppets. Huntford refers to Cherry-Garrard who stated ‘it was our simple job to follow, to get up when roused, to pull our hardest’. Huntford also believes that Shackleton is playing a part in this march, a competitor for Scott as powerful, if not more so, than Amundsen. Shackleton is sneered at according to Huntford and sees Oates as the only man showing any regard for Shackletons Nimrod achievement.
Scotts Journal December 7th 1911. The blizzard and poor condition remain and the food for the horses is running out. If they do not get underway again tomorrow the horses will be shot. Scott describes the situation as ‘serious’ but not ‘the worst’, they could make good progress to the glacier with just the dogs. What is concerning is that they have now started to consume rations meant for future depots. Scott re-calculates the distance that supporting parties can now travel forward and still return safe. The wind and temperature have both increased and it shows no sign of improving. Scott comments that all are in agreement that it is impossible to move in these conditions, ‘resignation to misfortune is the only attitude but not an easy one to adopt’. Scott refers to the current predicament as ‘undeserved’ and that his original plan was sound and if he were to do it again nothing would change as the margin for bad weather was ‘ample’ with the known conditions of the time. Scott is writing his journal lying in a wet sleeping bag and describes it as ‘evil’. Meares has snow blindness in one eye and he reports to Scott that it has been painful for sometime. ‘There cannot be good cheer in the camp in such weather but it is ready to break out again, in the brief spell of hope last night one heard laughter’.
Scott is taking in his surroundings and describes it as ‘mottled wet green walls of our tent, the glistening wet bamboos, the bedraggled sopping socks and loose articles dangling in the middle, the saddened countenances of my companions, to hear the everlasting patter of the falling snow and the ceaseless rattle of the fluttering canvas, to feel the wet clinging dampness of clothes and everything touched and to know that without there is but a blank wall of white on every side’. ‘Add the stress of sighted failure to our plan, and anyone must find the circumstances unenviable. But yet, after all, one can go on striving, endeavouring to find a stimulation in the difficulties that arise’.
Commentary. Today’s entry in Scott’s journal shows us a greater glimpse of what he and his men are enduring. His description of the surroundings, the concern for the health of his men, the recognition of low morale, the stress he is under, the humour in the face of terrible adversity and the realisation that they may fail all show a more human side. We have seen the mood swings, the depression, the lack of commentary on his men and today’s journal entry deserves to be seen in its completeness. However, he still defends his original plan and so his reputation of arrogance starts to cement. At this stage of the journey in Huntford’s account Scott is the arrogant leader who shows little understanding of his men and declares great tension in the group while Amundsen is the wonderful intuitive leader motivating his men. Scott is as complex a leader as any other and he does not belong in any of the camps he has been placed in, the real Scott could well be lost forever in the ice.