Luck. Oates was pleased to find his old pipe today, he had inadvertently dropped it near the spot that Crean, Lashly and Evans had started to head back to Hutpoint. It was the smallest piece of luck and it is to be hoped it brought some good humour and comfort to the party from the difficulty of their position. At this point Oates was deteriorating and Wilson observed that his big toe was turning black and his face was ‘dead yellow’, all signs of frostbite. PO Evans was also in a bad way and his hands were in a terrible state.
Scott’s Journal 28th January 1912. A another hard day but with variable conditions in terms of surface and support wind, 16 miles completed today. They have had problems with the barometer for some time and now are not quite sure on height or even if they are going up or downhill as they are getting different readings from the outward journey. They are now 43 miles for the next depot with enough food for the next 6 days. They camp close to a previous camp and are close to the point at which Lashly, Crean and Teddy Evans turned back. They found some items they had dropped on route and then came across Oates pipe lying very obviously on the snow. Tracks easy to follow today and they create a good ridge and a slight shadow that can be seen ahead for half a mile. With good weather Scott believes they will make the depot with no problems. Scott records they are getting hungry and the lunch meal seems inadequate. Scott notices their physical condition and states that they are all getting thin, especially PO Evans. Scott ends the entry with, ‘none of us are feeling worked out. I doubt we could drag heavy loads, but we can keep going well with our light one. We talk of food a good deal more, and shall be glad to open out on it’.
Commentary. Luck is something Scott has refered to often in his journal, needing it or being without it. Luck in such expeditions is commented on in a peculiar way, Scott didn’t have any while Amundsen had a great deal but most seemed to have been saved for Shackleton and his 1914 Endurance trip. Intelligence and hard work alone will not bring success in the task, it may be unfair but is undoubtably true. A missing factor is leadership and if the individual is a ‘lucky leader’ then success is assured. The unexplained phenomenon of luck may well be part of a leaders armoury along with courage, honesty, resilience, relentlessness and many more. Perhaps luck is just the coming together of factors such as timing, environment and people. There are occasions when getting all three right would be beyond the greatest of leaders and if those three elements combine to create luck then Scott was certainly without any on this trip. It could also be said that Scott had the same luck as Amundsen and Shackleton but maybe he just pushed his too far.