Bad Luck. Scott talks with some detail about the good luck of others and the poor luck of his expedition. Huntford believes that Amundsen and Scott faced similar conditions but that Amundsen’s planning, resolve and leadership made the difference while Scott’s mood swings and poor ability worked against him. But what some may call luck may simply be variation, so what is the difference between Scott’s current expedition and Shackleton’s Nimrod trip ? Fiennes takes a very pragmatic view of the situation, Scott had used 4 days of the rations designated for the summit of the glacier and was now 7 days behind his original plan and a similar amount behind Shackleton, this was not a doomed cause at this point. The weather is the other area of good or bad luck often commented on. Huntford argues that the difference in conditions from Shackleton’s expedition was not that great and Amundsen experienced similar conditions to Scott. But Fiennes refers to the work of Susan Solomon who studied the weather conditions as an Atmospheric Scientist and she states ‘Scott and his men were the victims of bad luck in this exceptionally severe and prolonged storm’. The weather was bad for the season, was it the difference between success and failure ? Amundsen was at the Antarctic at the same time as Scott but because of the different locations he may not have suffered in the way Scott did. What are the other elements impacting on Scott ?
Officers of the Terra Nova – Picture from Wikimedia Commons
Scotts Journal December 11th 1911. A day of mixed fortunes. They were manhauling – Scott, Wilson, Oates and PO Evans made up one team, Teddy Evans, Atkinson, Wright and Lashly the second and the final sledge was pulled by Bowers, Cherry-Garrard, Crean and Keohane. Meares and Gerof brought up the dogs. There were crevasses on the route but only PO Evans put a leg and ski through. They left a large depot of supplies and equipment at the base of the glacier. The party led by Teddy Evan’s, referred to as ‘the old man hauling party’ by Scott, struggled until Scott took some of the load of their sledges and then they came on in ‘fine style’. The sledges occasional became stuck in deep snow and the team needed to stop and get the sledge out. As the march progressed they adapted and made progress but this was not true for all the teams. Evan’s and his team were late catching up and Scott feels their technique is wrong as they keep straining and so tiring themselves out and they have problems with their ski shoes. Ski is the only way forward in these conditions and Scott criticises others by recording ‘Ski are the thing and here are my tiresome fellow- countryman too prejudiced to have prepared themselves for the event’. Many of the men are suffering from snow blindness ‘due to incaution and Wilson examines the rock and finds it is made of granite and large crystals.
Commentary. Strange to hear Scott blame the poor preparation and action of his men in terms of ski training and snow blindness protection. The leader blaming his men for actions he should have been part of is not what we consider to be a modern leadership approach. What training programme did Scott put in place for Ski training ? How were snow blindness precautions inspected ? The leader must take responsibility. The relationships between the men are vital to the telling of this story and an interesting point is made by Fiennes concerning Oates. Oates had a history of complaining about his superiors and throughout this trip he had snipped at Scott. When the horses had been shot Wilson congratulated Oates and Scott thanked him for his care of the horses. Oates stopped his ‘carping’ from that point onwards. This is a strange event, when the horses were Oates responsibility he was often critical of Scott, and not just on matters concerning the horses, but now he becomes a loyal follower. What the highly principled Oates is thinking it is hard to say but these relationships are complex and appear beyond rational understanding. So many books have been written on this expedition but the true story of the relationships between the men still seems to elude us.