The truth in the diaries. The discussion on the well being of Oates and the general condition of the other men is, according to Fiennes, speculation. There is no direct reports of limping or conversations about continuing on in the men’s diaries recorded at the time. Is it easy talk many years after the event ?. What is clear though is that there is a strange relationship between the men and their leader. Oates may loath Scott because of several prior disagreements but Scott doesn’t record any such feeling from Oates or any poor feeling from him to Oates. Scott is critical of Teddy Evan’s but the account by Evan’s is generous to all involved. There is a loyalty to Scott from Wilson and Bowers but this doesn’t always result in the right actions being taken. Wilson is a doctor and in a rare criticism some years later by Evan’s, he wonders why there was not a better medical assessment of the men.
Scott’s Journal December 28th 1911. Scotts sledge party made good progress but the second team struggled. One theory was that some of the men in the second team were ‘stale’. Scott swapped places with Teddy Evan’s but this made little difference ans o PO Evan’s and Lashly swapped and a little improvement was noticed. When Scott swapped the entire team over it became clear that the problem was not the men but the sledge. Scott examines the sledge and finds the problem in ‘due to want of care’. The runners were sound but had been distorted by pulling the straps on too tightly and by bad loading. Scott concludes his entry with ‘the party are not done and I have told them plainly that they must wrestle with the trouble and get it right for themselves. There is no possible reason why they should not get along as easy as we do’.
Commentary. I wonder what makes men tell a different story after an event than when writing in diaries and journals in the moment ? Well a huge amount of things I would suggest. Just because there is no mention of Oates limping in anyone’s immediate documentation does not make the subsequent published work untrue. These are men who did not know what would happen to them or their diaries, men fighting the elements, men who knew they needed each other to survive and men with limited time to record, reflect and understand what was happened. The number of omissions from Scotts published diary tells you that editing is part of this overall story. Maybe some of the men were editing as they went, I certainly believe Scott was. Also, as the men started to share stories over the years that followed things came to light that they may have forced to the back of their mind or were unsure what they heard or saw. What is certain to me is that no one account tells the truth they share the individuals perspective, understanding and perhaps their need to tell a story that helps them survive while comrades did not. As the 100 year anniversary of Scott’s death gets closer in 2012 there will be more media attention. Today in The Guardian there is a reminder of their christmas day adventure and news of a new exhibition.