On The Ice Today. At this time the dogs with Mears and Dimitri have made it back to camp (Jan 4th) but the returning party of Cherry-Garrard, Keohane, Wright and Atkinson are still making their way back and will be at base camp in 6 more days (Jan 26th). The three man returning party of Evan’s, Crean and Lashly are struggling and will not make it back until February 22nd. Amundsen is still on the ice as well and will arrive back at his base on Jan 26th – the same day as Atkinson’s party. Mears was a great help to all the returning parties he would build up the Cairns to aid the navigation home. The dogs had done superb work and had gone out further than planned and although they had horsemeat the return journey was not well supplied and at times very difficult. When they arrived back at Hutpoint the dogs were not in a fit state to take further supplies back to One Ton Depot, they needed to rest. The dogs were late back and so a manhauling party was sent out to restock the depot, it included Day and Hooper who had only just returned from the southern trip before setting out again. But One Ton was resupplied – the important overall objective.
Dogs and sled – Picture from Wikimedia Commons
Scott Journal 20th January 1912. They start well in the morning despite a poor surface and come across the next depot with another 4 days of food. The next depot is 55 miles away and may be a 7 day march. The sail and wind is a great help at the start but they run into snowdrifts and the snow is sticking to the skis. By the end of the day they have completed 18 miles and the temperature is -18. They are expecting a hard pull tomorrow and Scott is concerned for Bowers. He still does not have his skis and Scott notes, ‘he must find these long marches very trying with short legs, but he is an undefeated little sportsman’. Scott is also becoming aware that Oates is feeling the cold and is becoming fatigued. ‘It is blowing pretty hard tonight but with a good march we have earned one good hoosh and are very comfortable in the tent. It is everything now to keep up a good marching pace. I trust we shall be able to do so and catch the ship’.
Commentary. Scott’s journal continues to register the precise details of temperature, altitude and position but also his concern for the others remains clear. It is though a record of concern rather than action and doesn’t mention much about the trauma of defeat, the morale of the men and importantly what is Scott doing about any of it. Back at the base camp (Hutpoint / Cape Evans) it seems clear that through their common sense or deep understanding of the logistics of the plan the base team there were capable of imagining a series of circumstances that may be occurring on the ice. They were adapting the plan as situations changed. It is also clear that the returning parties had a very good understanding of the supply situation. They knew how much to take and how much would be required for those following them. Scott is often accused of poor planning and an isolated nature. At this time his men knew and understood the situation, was this Scotts planning, Scott’s communication or their ability in isolation of the leader ? It may be that Scott’s planning is not poor but it does seem complex, detailed and precise. Of course there is a requirement for such plans on such dangerous expeditions but complex and precise may not be the best type of plan if communication with the leader is difficult and numerous unknown changes are predicted. How flexible was the plan and how much permission did they have to be flexible with the plan ? This now shows up as the parties return, they all bring slightly confusing instructions concerning the dogs, don’t risk them, save them for next season, bring them out to replenish supplies and bring them out to support the returning party. Scott has clearly stated that he was in no way dependent upon the dogs for safe return home. When the leader is not present the team need to know elements of principle, priority and purpose in order to be able to take in a changing situation and make the right choice. I wonder how the team coped without Scott, how free were they to adapt the plan ? How fearful were they of challenging Scott ? What had Scott done to prepare his team to make decisions without him ?