Who goes to the Pole ? The breaking of the news that 5 men will go to the pole not 4, and importantly which 5, does not get much of a mention in Scott’s account of the day but he does reflect in later days on these events. Scott does not offer much explanation as to the change from 4 to 5. Just as Wilson was Scott’s mental, emotional and personal support Bowers had become the physical and logistical prop upon which Scott often depended, he saw Bowers as a real asset. Moving from 4 to 5 was a great deal of work as food, fuel and supplies needed to be divided and still ensuring the returning 3 men could make it safely back. Other considerations needed to be taken into account, Bowers had no skis (his were left with the rest of his team) while Scott’s party did and what some believe to be an important oversight was the fact that it would take much longer to cook for 5 than 4 – delaying eating and delaying marching. Evan’s and Lashly had manhauled for the greatest distance of any of the men as the others had lead horses while they pulled sledges and it could be argued they were tired, but Crean had not pulled for as long and was strong. The returning team needed a leader and navigator and Teddy Evan’s supplied that function. Teddy Evan’s returned with letters and more instructions concerning the dogs and the support required for the returning pole party.
Scott’s Journal January 3rd 1912. They are within 150 miles of the pole and Scott decides to reorganise and set his team for the final push. He tells Teddy Evan’s, Crean and Lashly that they are to return tomorrow, ‘they are disappointed but take it well’. Bowers moves into the tent with Scott and they will head for the pole as a 5 man team not 4 and a 3 man team will head back. Scott has calculated a months food for the 5 men ought to see them through. Scott’s progress today on ski was good but those on foot struggled. Scott writes a note to be taken back ‘A last note from a hopeful position. I think it’s going to be all right. We have a fine party going forward and arrangements are going well’.
Commentary. The decision and selection has been discussed and reviewed in book after book and at this point Scott is not aware that Oates and PO Evan’s are injured and he must not have noticed any deterioration in their performance – did he look for it ? The talk of Scott wanting Oates to represent the Army, PO Evan’s to represent ordinary seamen, Wilson to conduct scientific work and Bowers to be power and navigation may be part of the overall decision for Scott. However, Fiennes believes that Scott chose the best party to achieve the goal – that was his focus. Huntford thinks this is further evidence of Scotts arrogance, stubbornness and poor planning, to get to this point and have only two expert navigators in the group, Teddy Evan’s and Bowers, of 8 was not sensible. Earlier in this journey Scott had been in situations where in hindsight he should have turned back and yet at this moment he is ahead of Shackleton with plenty of food. Scott’s eventual failure makes this a questionable decision, success would have made it the right call. Scott’s lack of explanation in his journal open’s up the debate and again the journal is telling the story of fact not of understanding or of his, or anyone elses, emotional state. If Evan’s and Lashly are weak due to their extra manhauling it makes sense for them to return and maybe Scott was more aware of his men’s condition than we realise. To send Oates and PO Evan’s back with them as well would have placed all four injured and weakening men in the same team, he needed a strong man to ensure they made it through and Crean was perfect. Scott may have understood that in sending back Wright and Cherry-Garrard when he did he reduced his options as these were men in good condition. Scott makes his decision but the difference in the records in the journal of the other men on this day to his makes his entry cold and insensitive. Scott again is capable of making decisions but seems to do so in isolation, why no report from Teddy Evan’s on the condition of his men ? why no medical report form Wilson ? Scott took the burden all upon his own shoulders. Leaders need the knowledge, wisdom and experience of those around them to be part of the decision making process, deciding in isolation risks making poor decisions. Leaders should also be able to offer an insight into their thinking to those who are affected by what the decide, Teddy Evan’s, Tom Crean and William Lashly deserved that.