Who goes home ? Scott has made his decision and four of them will dump their supplies and create a depot at the end of today on the upper glacier and then head for camp. Scott hasn’t given us much in the way of insight into his thinking around the four. The four need to get back safely and so a navigator will be needed and that was to be Wright. Although Scott describes Wrights reaction as possibly bitter but Teddy Evan’s describes the news a little differently, ‘Scott came into our tent and told us… we were all very sad but once detailed loyally abided by the decision of our chief. There was not talk of unhappiness. Cheery-Garrard seemed more concerned that there maybe another reason and was greatly reassured by the ever calming Wilson. Wilson said it was a toss up between Cherry-Garrard and Oates. Cherry-Garrard records that Scott confirmed his decision and that he would need seamen to go forward to rebuild sledges, Cheery-Garrard is not convinced. Critics suggest Oates was limping by this stage but Fiennes suggested no evidence exists to back this up, although Oates diary does mention that his feet are causing him some difficulty, should Oates have been sent back ? Huntford believes Scott wanted naval men involved and his close connection with PO Evans clouded his judgment as they were together on the Discovery expedition. Atkinson was a doctor and before going back Wilson asked his opinion of the men and who he thought should go on. They both agreed that top of the list would be Lashly but were unsure between Crean or PO Evans as to who would be next. There was no agreement but Huntford noted that Wilson was unhappy that Evan’s was held if such high regard on the trip.Wilson had previously seen Evan’s deteriorate and he was known to turn to drink. The decision is made and four men dump their supplies, share out their spare equipment and head for home.
Scotts Journal December 21st 1911. By the end of the day they are almost at the top of the glacier. They had a bad day in terms of crevasses and almost everyone fell into one at some point. Atkinson and Teddy Evans fell deepest and the poor conditions continued even though Scott crossed the glacier to find a better surface. The wind came up and delayed their start after lunch. When they began again they soon cleared the crevasses and although the pull was hard they made good progress. The temperature has dropped below zero but Scott notes it is ‘calm and bright and one feels delightfully warm and comfortable in the tent’. The good weather helps the ‘indefatigable’ Bowers sort through their supplies and equipment. Scott writes a note to be taken back, ‘we are struggling on considering all things against the odds. The weather is a constant anxiety, otherwise arrangements are working exactly as planned. For your own ear also I am exceedingly fit and can go with the best of them. It is a pity the luck doesn’t come our way because every detail of equipment is right. So here we are practically on the summit and up to date in the provision line, we ought to get through.’
Scott aged 13 as a naval cadet : Picture by Wikimedia Commons
Commentary. The selection of men to go back and to go forward does appear a little unclear which makes me think we do not know all the possibilities that existed at that moment between all the men. The possible injury to Oates, the capability of PO Evan’s and the decision between the two medics appear to indicate that members of the team were having their own thoughts, considerations and making assessments. I wonder how much of what is written is accurate and how much is written with the reader in mind ? Scott’s letter back with the returning party is certainly the optimistic side of their current position but also has a sense of arrogance and infallibility to it. The equipment is good, the supplies are in order and the plan is unfolding as it was designed, all apart from the weather. Again it could be said that the letter is for a particular audience. If Scott had of succeeded and returned safe such a letter would just add further evidence to his brilliance. Because of the ultimate ending of the trip it now takes on a very different meaning and yet even at this stage Scott is blaming luck and the weather.