Hot & Cold. In the ‘Worst Journey in the World’ Cherry-Garrard recounts the journal of Bill Lashly who is on his way back to Hutpoint with Teddy Evans and Tom Crean. Lashly confirms that they are successfully following the outward tracks and cairns. Teddy Evan’s is unwell and has loose stools and they blame the pemmican (as will Scotts team). Lashly also reports that it is very hot, too hot for this part of the world, you could take your clothes off if you wanted. For Scott another day of mixed success with the outward track and while his notes describe the loss in terms of miles it must be having an emotional impact on the men. Fiennes states that ‘however well an expedition marks its outward depots there will always be great anguish on the return journey through dangerous terrain, since death awaits any team who fail to find a depot’. The altitude is also having its impact on Scott and his men, they have been working hard on the plateau longer than Shackleton and Amundsen. Barczewski reports that the altitude means that the men are short of oxygen, breathing quicker and using more calories, extra calories not planned for and not being replaced. Barczewski, as with other authors such as Williams, believes this is affecting that larger men more and especially Petty Officer Edgar Evans.
Scott’s Journal 27th January 1912. Minimum temperature today was -19. Scott woke the men late but they still got away in good time. They marched over sastrugi that Scott described as looking ‘storm tossed’. They struggled to follow the outward tracks today and sometimes no clues were present but there was an ‘impression of lines which guided’. Scott recognises the problem as being the zig zag nature of the outward journey as they altered course to avoid obstacles or difficulties. Scott estimates that they lost a mile today due to stopping and searches for track. As the day progressed the sastrugi eased off and the track became easier to follow. A slight wind from the south, clear skies and a slightly higher temperature. With the blizzard conditions over the equipment, tent and clothing can dry properly. The sleeping bags are especially wet and it will take sometime for them to dry but Scott notes that they all still manage to sleep well enough. They are starting to get more hungry and while there are depots on route Scott recognises the tight margins and understands that a full feed will not be possible till they pick up the horsemeat. ‘A long way to go and by jove this is tremendous labour’.
Commentary. So both Scott and Lashly identify a warmer temperature in their respective positions on the ice, however Scott’s is more a relief and not quite the disrobing conditions described by Lashly. Scott and his men are of course feeling the cold more due to their condition and altitude and it is the prolonged hard work at height that may now be causing them difficulties. The impact of the altitude for such a prolonged period is significant and even today scientists at the camp based at the pole are often evacuated suffering from altitude problems. Scott was unaware of such science 100 years ago and this element enters into the list of specifics that his general contingency needed to cover. For Scott this list of events has grown and recognising when increasing change and unpredictable moments are simply part of the event or when they become overwhelming and compromise success is part of the art of leadership. Leaders don’t stop at the first hurdle, the first grumble or the first failure, a leader can always do one more thing to influence the situation. But leaders do need to recognise what is going on the grumbles could be clues and the hurdles are feedback. The plan may not be working because its a poor plan. The leader needs to be alert so that resilience and courage do not become blooded mindedness and fear of loss of status.