Loyalty and Blame. Scott criticises Teddy Evan’s more than anyone else and when Scott suspects that the second team are not pulling well it is Evan’s he replaces and thus sending a message to all on how he regards Evan’s. Scott’s first thought was that any poor performance was due to men not equipment. The swap of the teams between the two sledges with the same results proved it was the equipment but Scott still laid the blame on the care of the equipment on the men. No time was given and no understanding sought. In the recorded account by Evan’s the criticism is accepted and owned by Evan’s with no criticism of Scott. Bower’s broke the thermometer two days ago and while Scott recorded the account he failed to mention the more emotional side of his response. Bower’s had also let his watch stop – the accuracy of the time is vital for their navigation – and Scott was furious and it was clear for all to see. Bower’s was loyal to Scott and commented that he was disappointed to get ‘into the dirt tub with one’s leader at this juncture’. The description in the men’s diaries ranges from some contempt for Scott to protecting him, many of the men remained loyal even when they are treated poorly.
Scott’s Journal 29th December 1911. They are now travelling through the worst surface they have experienced and pulling sledges is hard work. Scott is concerned that it will be difficult to keep up the speed on surfaces this bad. Both sledges now keep up with each other after the rigid loading and bad pacing problems had been sorted. They only manage 12 miles as heaps of snow resting on the surface make pulling difficult. Scott is worried about the weather ahead and hopes for better progress tomorrow. Scott notes that ‘the marches are terribly monotonous. ones thoughts wander to pleasanter scenes and places but the necessity to keep the course, or some hitch in the surface, quickly brings them back’. When the marching is steady Scott sees these as ‘the best part of the business, they mean forgetfulness and advance’.
Commentary. The time of Scott’s trip meant that his story and legend grew with no real understanding of what actually happened on the expedition. Now we have time to assess it is easy to criticise, in fact it is natural as they failed to return from the pole, they died and so the whole trip became focussed on their sacrifice. That natural tendency to find blame and cause after a failure must find an easy resting place in Scott. Perhaps to easy. Scott may have made numerous mistakes and it does appear his character was not the warmest but he was an Edwardian gentleman following particular rules of society and expectations of the military service he belonged to. Bowers and Wilson were loyal and Crean, who survived and was an old hand from the Discovery expedition has respect for Scott. When things do not go as planned or expected we need to look with wiser eyes than simply finding a person to blame. Just as we need to do that now in looking at the whole story of Scott I think Scott might have done himself some favours if he had taken that approach to Evan’s and Bowers. I am also fascinated by his last entry today, he focussed on the good march, the steady plod and the forgetfulness it brings. I wonder if the forgetfulness he refers to is the constant lonely and heavy load of leadership ?