Summit Rations. The journey to Cape Crozier last winter, The Worst Journey march, taught Scott and Wilson a great deal about the rations needed for polar manhauling. Williams gives a good explanation of the rations in ‘With Scott in the Antarctic’. They consisted of butter, pemmican, biscuit, cocoa, sugar and tea. These provided about 4500 calories per day. It is thought they were using near 7000 calories a day when the pulling was at its most difficult. So they are burning off more calories than are being replaced, body fat would be used up and then muscle. They were also short on nutrients and at risk of scurvy. They were working at altitude and were breathing hard just to get a good oxygen intake. The effect of the wind and increasing cold on men who were losing body fat and were exhausted starts to impact. The effort required to haul these sledges must have been immense.
Scott’s journal 7th January 1912. Because of the sastrugi Scott decided to leave skis behind but shortly after setting off the surface improved and they went back for them. This delayed them by over an hour. When they set off with ski it was hard going due to loose snow but progress improved and Scott decided he must now stick with ski’s. Today was the shortest march on the summit ‘but there is excuse’ he states. Scott knows they cannot carry on as they are and is looking forward to making another depot tomorrow and shedding a further 100 pounds. The wind made a welcome return blowing in a southerly direction. The surface looks good towards the end of the day although Scott wishes the crystal deposit would disappear or harden up. Scott is pleased to be on ski, even though it is hard work, it is better than foot and he acknowledges that ‘Bowers has a heavy time on foot but nothing seems to tire him’. Scott is made aware of the cut to Evan’s hand and hopes it won’t give any trouble. Scott concludes his entry, ‘Our food continues to amply satisfy. What luck to have hit on such an excellent ration. We really are an excellently found party’.
Commentary. The decision with the ski shows that Scott is still unsure of the trade off between ski and foot and it helps a little in understanding why he asked Teddy Evan’s and his team to leave their’s behind. It doesn’t explain why they brought an expert on ski with him on the expedition (Tryggve Gran) and he is back at base camp after minimal involvement with training the men. Scott is not as critical of himself or others as previously and I again can’t help wonder what Scott would have recorded if it had been Teddy Evan’s who had decided to leave the skis behind. Leaders need to acknowledge their mistakes and I can’t help but think that if Scott had a few more humble moments in his diary his legacy may have been very different. What if he had just recorded in his journal, ‘made a mistake with the ski’s and we turned back to collect them, I explained to the men and they were very supportive and understanding’. I see this openness as strong leadership but Scott, in 1912, may have seen through a very different perspective, or was it really that Scott was as closed and as arrogant as Huntford would have us believe ?