Stage 3. Scott sees the march to the pole as being in three main stages, The Ice Barrier from Hutpoint to the Beardmore, climbing the Beardmore Glacier and then finally across the Ice Plateau to the pole. They have now completed stage 1 and 2 and stage 3 begins. While Atkinson and Cherry-Garrard are now on the way home with Wright and Keohane this will not be their last contribution to the story. The returning party now dumped the supplies they had brought up the glacier and returned down and back across the ice barrier, a journey of 584 miles. They would make it back to Cape Evan’s on January 28th 1912 with some enteritis and scurvy but on the whole well.
Scotts Journal December 22nd 1911. They finish the depot at the top of the Glacier and say farewell to the 4 returning members of the party, ‘who have taken things very well, dear good fellows as they are’. They set out well and made good progress Scott comments on the good pace the two sledges make, even with heavy loads and this shows that they ‘have weeded the weak spots and made the proper choice for the returning party’. There are large ridges around the men in every direction except south and although now on the plateau there is still a slight incline to pull up. They crossed some very wide bridged crevasses, some 30 feet across. The weather has been good all day and Wilson has time to sketch the clear mountains they can see behind them.
Commentary. The party that made it back to Cape Evan’s on January 28th also brought further verbal orders and instructions for the dogs to help and support the returning polar party. These were only one of several orders concerning the dogs and future activity, later writers would refer to this confusion as an indication of poor leadership. I think that’s just too simple and doesn’t stand much examination. The situation was changing and the party were facing unknown tests and challenges, flexibility of orders was to be expected. What could perhaps have been much improved was the shared understanding of what the aim of the remaining party was, the big picture ! Scott seems to have kept much to himself and if the team back at Cape Evan’s had spent time discussing options and possibilities with Scott then they would have a clearer understanding as to his intent. The lack of clarity in one specific order is diminished if the wider understanding of intent is present. Scott continues to justify himself as he did in yesterday’s letter. He is making good progress and so that is his evidence that he sent back the correct people or has he put it, the weak. It seems to be that Scott maybe more self-aware than he has been given credit for. Perhaps he does know his weaknesses and in these defenses is justifying his decision making, planning and overall leadership.