Scott 100 Day 61 31st December 1911 : The Experience on the Ice

The Ice Experience. Thinking about the daily grind of life on the march gives an opportunity to consider how hard their lives were. The diaries tell us day by day about the adventure in terms of crevasses, snowdrifts, manhauling and the weather. But most of the journals and books contain a section which describes the other routine of life on the ice. On the march their bodies are burning calories and generating heat but once they stop they can quickly become cold. So once the march ends they move swiftly to erect a tent, collect snow for water and get their small stove into action. It can take a considerable time to melt the snow and warm up the food, pemmican, horsemeat, biscuits and the small amount flavouring and cocoa. While the stove warms up they must secure the sledges, build a cairn (snow mound that helped guide them back) and unpack supplies for the tent. Once in the tent they unroll their sleeping bags to find them frozen. They have fur lined bags which trap the warmth but also trap moisture which then freezes. They must climb into the frozen bags and use their warmth and movement to thaw the bags. They must also tend to any injuries and all of them will suffer from frost bite at some point, apart from Bowers. Then they eat and feel the warmth of the food refresh them. They have carried all the fuel for the stove as well as all food apart from water and it is a small blessing that each meal lightens the load they pull. They then complete any scientific tasks, temperature, weather observations as well as navigation corrections. Before they retire for well earned sleep they complete journals and record some powerful and impressive writing in the most challenging of circumstances. The night was often quite noisy with the wind and when morning came the process was reversed and they steeled themselves for a gruelling days march. The southern pole team are so focussed on their goal that some of the more mundane details are not covered in huge detail. But in other Terra Nova journeys the hardships faced are wonderful described. In ‘The Worst Journey in the World’ Aspley Cheery-Garrard describes some frightening details. The cold is so severe that it causes teeth to crack and any exposure of skin to the cold wind would lead to frostbite. They would sweat under the clothes because of the effort of pulling and then the cold would freeze that moisture next to their skin, constant, ever present cold. Ranulph Fiennes once said that ‘there was no such thing as bad weather only inappropriate clothing’. That may well be true in 2011 but imagine the equipment they had in 1911. Brave men all.

Scott’s Journal 31st December 1911. They now think they are at a height of 9126 feet. The second party depot skis and other equipment which means over 100 pounds less on their sledge. Scott dispatched the other team first and they did not make fast progress although Scott did not catch them before the lunch camp. They have been climbing all day and rose on a steep incline and then another 5 miles later and Scott describes them as ‘wretched slopes which give us the hardest pulling’. Crean and PO Evan’s build the new 10 foot sledges and ‘it is a very remarkable piece of work’. Scott praises the work of PO Evan’s and describes him as ‘the most invaluable asset to our party, to build a sledge under these conditions is a fact for special record’. They loose half a day in making the depot and converting the sledge but they hope to make up the distance by moving forward at a better pace. Apart from the seamen the rest of the party sit in the double tent while the sledge is rebuilt and sitting in the double lined tent seems to make them snugger. Scott ends his entry with, ’10pm – the job of rebuilding is taking longer than I expected but is now almost done. The 10 feet sledges look very handy. We had an extra drink of tea and are now turned into our bags in the double tent (five of us) as warm as toast and just enough light to write with. Did not get to bed till 2am.’

Commentary. The Antarctic continues to fascinate us and yet again today the story of Scott is in a national newspaper, The Guardian. There is something fascinating about this story and I belive the fascination is in the mystery, we don’t really know the full story. Today 5 men hold up in one tent, was this a practice for what was to come ? Scott praises PO Evans as he and Crean build the sledge and Crean is another one of those loyal to Scott who only had warmth and respect for his commander. The creation of a depot, the leaving of the skis and an injury to Evan’s become significant points for writers to dwell on in the years to come. But whatever the current situation and the difficulties they face they are making progress and have plenty of food. Huntford’s book does not describe a man who you could warm to in any way and even Fiennes points out that Scott had a temper and was hard to like. But I can’t help but feel Scott has been poorly treated and only because he died on the trip home and was not able to defend or explain his thinking and decision making. Scott seems lonely and not just because of the burden of a leaders responsibility but perhaps because he is reserved and does not fit well into any of the groupings within the team. Scott cannot join the seamen, such as Crean, as he is an officer but he is not from the powerful families of the time, like Oates. Scott is caught in the chasm of class and his relationship with Wilson, as the man respected by all, is his bridge to people he struggles to relate to. Scott’s legacy was created and destroyed by the work of others and if he had of survived we would have a better understanding of who he was.

About hutpoint

Interested in leadership, teamwork, resistance, perseverence and change. A former senior nurse dedicated to learning from and sharing with other flawed humans.
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