Injury. Today Scott declares that they would be lucky if they made it back to safety without serious injury. Fiennes tells a story of him being awoken while on an arctic trek and told that he must get to hospital immediately as there was a smell of gangrene in the tent. Unlike Fiennes and modern day explorers Scott had no way of getting any help, they were alone. Wilson carried a medical kit that did contain morphine but if serious injury did occur their medical response would be limited.
Scott’s Journal 2nd February 1912. A good start with strong wind at their back. The gradient became steep and the sledge overran the men and pulled them over. They removed ski and made good progress. Steep slopes in the afternoon and at one point Scott fell and ‘came an awful purler’. He injured his shoulder and now counts three of the five of them as injured as Wilson’s leg is now better, yet Scott’s knows it may get worse again. A significant statement from Scott reveals other concerns when he declares that they ‘shall be lucky to get through without serious injury’. They lost the track a little late in the afternoon as they came across a ‘confused sea of sastrugi’ but they eventually found the return track of the party ahead of them led by Teddy Evans. The extra food is a help but the men are still hungry but they are also starting to notice the weather warming a little as the altitude gets lower. Scott ends his entry with, ‘It is time we were off the summit – pray god another four days will see us pretty well clear of it. Our bags are getting very wet and we ought to have more sleep’.
Commentary. Luck and divine intervention are regular themes that have reappeared in Scott’s writing. I suspect it is more his style and his way of expressing the seriousness of the situation than a true dependence of such intervention. It is a clue to the inner Scott and his growing anxiety that comes and goes as it has done throughout the march. The unlikely chances of getting back without one of them suffering a serious injury is mentioned in today’s journal. This is significant in respect of what is not being said, what would Scott do if someone was injured and could not go on, a broken leg perhaps. Back at the base camp that very question had been discussed by Oates and Wilson and Oates was clear that the duty of the man was to resolve the issue himself rather than risk the lives of his comrades. But what of Scott, what was his thought on such matters, would he know the moment, would he be able to make decisions to sacrifice one to save many ? It is inconceivable that he has not considered the eventuality but what his conclusions were remain a mystery. Most leaders will never find themselves in such dire circumstances but the issue of sacrifice may be part of the tough decisions of leadership. When its easy its easy, but easy is not the domain of leadership.