All the diaries become depressed. At this stage in the march Cheery-Garrard writes in ‘The Worst Journey in the World’ that all the men’s diaries become depressed with the bad weather but how quickly they cheer up when the sun comes out. He notes that the mood changes must have been true for the horses and also that the ‘mental strain’ upon those responsible was very great. Cherry-Garrard also comments on the party’s bewilderment at the weather conditions and that they became ‘not a little exasperated’.
Apsley Cheery Garrard – Picture from Wikinedia Commons
Scotts Journal December 8th 1911. Scott hopes for better weather and although there are occasional signs of improvement these quickly disappear. They dug out the buried sledges and decided to move the tents. The tents were well covered with snow and wet, moving them provided significant comfort for the men. The old tent areas were now large pits filled with water. Scott comments that their ‘case is growing desperate’. The snow is very deep but Evan’s and the manhauling team managed to pull the sledges with 4 men on them. They pulled on skis as walking without saw them sink to their knees. They tried with one of the horses but the beast sunk to their belly and Wilson thinks the horses are finished but Oates thinks they can deliver another day, if that day is tomorrow. If the horses are finished then they would be just be left with the dogs and Scott ‘wonders what the dogs can do on such surface’. As the day progressed the temperature dropped and the ‘water nuisance is already abating’. Scott begins to feel confident that they would be able to travel tomorrow and reports ‘good cheer in the camp’ and it would be ‘cruel’ if the conditions worsened again. Things are improving but Scott notes that another 4 days have been lost.
Commentary. Huntford blames Scott for the swinging morale of the men as he believes they respond and follow his own mood swings. The mood, attitude, language and actions of the leader can impact greatly on the morale of a team. Action and successful increments in the overall achievement of the end goal can also have a significant impact. Amundsen’s men are busy, swift and making progress while Scott’s men are stuck in their tents seeing, for themselves, the plan fall apart in front of them. They are also locked together for huge amounts of time in isolation when on the move or in intensely close quarters when in the tents. There are other leaders in this party who could influence morale in their own tent but maybe with the harsh reality of what they faced the diaries of the men took more of the brunt of their inner turmoil than their actions within the group. If you only ever read one book on this epic tale then it shoul be ‘The Worst Journey in the World’ by Apskley Cherry-Garrard, it is a wonderful wonderful book.