A Lifetime. Fiennes studied the diaries of the Norwegians returning from the pole and they report a difference in terms of rations, health and weather. They are well provisioned and have fresh meat when they eat one of their dogs and they also note that the conditions were ‘ideal sledging’ and that there was ‘beautiful weather’ and ‘eight days of sunshine’. How different the conditions one month later when Scott arrives and the summer is already starting to turn. Fiennes also comments on another difference, Amundsen left very little apart from the achievement of pole priority, few photographs, no maps and little information for others to use – it would all need repeating. Scott, on the other hand, left such a wealth of science it was many years after the expedition before it was all analysed. The end of the journey back is equally as diverse, and in more ways then the obvious life or death of the parties. The Norwegians arrived back and had such good supplies and were ahead of their timetable that they over ate and left food on route, some even put on weight during the trip to the pole and back. Scott was behind his agenda, in colder weather, manhauling, low on supplies and there bodies were injured and starved of the input they needed. For Scott, Bowers, Evans, Wilson and Oates the journey home would now be ‘march or die’ as they desperately reached out for every depot on route. The pole is lower than the plateau that they had been marching on for the last few days and snow had drifted over their tracks make the starting back hard. Wilson gives a report on Evans who has frostbitten fingers and nose and Scott starts to worry over his condition. Things are deteriorating quickly and not just physically. Huntford notes that Scott had been broken by defeat and that the others had noticed.
Scott’s Journal 19th January 1912. They pass the original black flag that told them the Norwegians had made it to the pole first. They take the flag staff to help make their sail. They break off the backward track of the Norwegians and are now following their own path back to base. The surface is undulating more than when they came out and the minimum temperature for the day has been -25. Progress is mixed and they have moments of getting along fine and then they struggle on the surface, even with the lighter load. It is a warmer more pleasant march but they feel the cold even more when they stop. They pick up their cairns easily but Scott believes that the march will be ‘dreadfully tiring and monotonous’.
Commentary. What has been very interesting over the last few days is that there has been little news or celebration concerning the 100th anniversary of Scott reaching the south pole, although there have been some (Telegraph). I suspect there will be more on the anniversary of his death almost as if that was his achievement. Perhaps that explains more about how he was perceived at the time and in the following 100 years than anything else. In 1985 there was a TV mini series made out of Huntford’s book (there are numerous clips on You Tube). There are a few liberties taken but interesting all the same, Scott breaks down at the pole, Oates doesn’t speak those emortal lines, Bowers doesn’t collect his skis and there is a strange conversation between Amundsen and Cook at the end. Cook tells Amundsen that he is not responsible for Scott’s death, ‘it’s what the British do so well’ he says ‘dying’.