Goodbye. Today Amundsen saw the last of the supplies they wanted to take back loaded onto the Fram, they closed the door of the hut and set sail. Thirty nine dogs had survived and these were taken home. Huntford says that some of the dogs went to join the next Antarctic expedition by Douglas Mawson. Amundsen’s main aim was to get to the pole and while this was achieved it was not the only contribution he made to the Antarctic. Amundsen is often seen as single-minded in his attempt, but his men also explored the area of the Antarctic around their camp and specifically Kind Edward VII land. As Amundsen is leaving Teddy Evans, Lashly and Crean come across their next depot and are concerned to find that the cans are short of oil. They cannot explain why but take enough for their needs while still leaving sufficient for Scott and his men. Lashly and Evans have now been on the ice for over 100 days as they set off with the tractors some days before Scott left Cape Evans back in November.
Scott’s journal 30th January 1912. Good progress in terms of distance as they march 19 miles today. The temperature has dropped and was -25 when they stopped for lunch. The track ahead is clear, the weather fine and they should reach the next depot tomorrow. The health of the men continues to suffer. Scott reports that Wilson has strained a tendon in his leg and two fingernails have fallen of Evans hand. Wilson is still ‘full of pluck’ but Scott is further concerned that not only is Evans deteriorating physically but that ‘he shows sign of losing heart’. Scott states he is surprised at this change from Evans and that ‘he hasn’t been cheerful since the accident’. Scott concludes his entry with an assessment that they, ‘can get along with bad fingers bit it will be a mighty serious thing if Wilson’s leg doesn’t improve’.
Commentary. In Scott’s original notes he stated that he was disappointed in Evans when he records that he seemed to be losing heart, another omitted piece in the published work. The low amount of oil will become another of the talking points of the expedition. Some cans seem full while others clearly are not, and yet the seal is unbroken. The investigation afterwards seems to lay the blame on the seal allowing the fuel to evaporate out. At some depots members of the team say they can smell oil on the other supplies as they dig out. It seems the cans buried deeper and staying cold stayed in good shape. It was those at the top of the depot, near the heat of the sun that appear to have allowed fuel to evaporate. Nobody in the team was aware of this phenomenon. Sometimes all the planning, knowledge and evidence in the world cannot protect against the consequences of the new phenomenon. Contingency is there for such unknowns but even ‘margins for error’ have a limit. The question to ask is, had this happened before ? There had been trips to the polar regions before and fuel had been previously stored in depots, what was different this time ? It can often be the small changes, those that may not even register that have the largest unintended consequence. When a system is functioning well you can often forget why so many checks, balances and processes have been put in place. The individual and organisational memory forget the rationale and the original problem. Then comes the temptation to change, to reduce, make more efficient and cheaper, all worthy aims but the leader needs to be mindful of the unintended consequence. Nothing occurs without its happening having an effect somewhere in the system, solving one problem may simply create new challenges. It is also the duty of the leader to take the time to understand the activity and function of the team and system. They may not be an expert in each element of the whole process or plan but their role is to ask good questions of the expertise available to them.