Not one of us. Being outside of the ‘officer class’ may well have impacted on Evans’ by increasing his isolation and ability to seek solidarity and support when needed. The officers themselves may have not known or understood this relationship or even resented it at a deep and fundamental level. We have already begun to see that Scott’s words are not simply factual reporting of the condition of Evans but that he expresses his disappointment in his resilience, especially his mental fortitude. Smith (in the biography of Oates) described the four officers sitting in the tent being ‘coldly indifferent to the plight of the broken man sitting opposite’. As his physical condition worsened the men became frustrated with Evans’ inability to help with camp chores. If he was isolated by class and rank the fact that he was the first to break down worked only to increase his detachment. Wilson and Scott both recorded comments on their disappointment but the harshest came from Oates, ‘It is an extraordinary thing about Evans, he has lost his guts and behaves like an old woman or worse. He is quite worn out with the work and how he is going to do the off 400 miles we have still to do I don’t know’.
Scott’s journal 6th February 1912. The temperature continues to climb, -15 today. They awoke in the middle of numerous crevasses and with an overcast sky and lots of movement backward and forward to try and find a route through. This again limited their eventual miles northward. At one point they had to retrace their steps for a mile or more, ‘then struck to the west and got on to a confused sea of sastrugi, pulling very hard; we put up the sail, Evans’ nose suffered, Wilson very cold, everything horrid’. They made slow progress and things did improve as the day wore on. The uncertainty on northward progress during the day increased their anxiousness over food, it was running out and they were not sure what the weather would do. Evans is Scott’s concern again and he hopes that, ‘things may mend for him on the glacier, and his wounds get some respite under warmer conditions’. Scott will be glad to leave the plateau and with it taking 27 days to reach the pole and 21 days back it means they spent 48 days in ‘low temperature with almost incessant wind’.
Commentary. Evans, the man chosen for his power, strength and resilience was starting to fall apart and the others are showing their concern for their predicament by some very basic and instinct driven comments. The anxiety is clear in all the men and Scott’s comment on the warmer temperature improving the condition of Evans seems out of touch with reality, even in hindsight. We may have wished for some greater sympathy from the men for Evans but we can offer that to them all as we try and understand what is happening for these men. As we picture a deteriorating Evans we must remember that the others have all suffered greatly and forgive them for this moment when it appears they are turning on the injured and weakest member of the pack. They have all been at altitude for a long time, without food, they are cold and are carrying injuries. It may be that at this stage that they knew Evans was not going to make it and could see that every mile lost caring for him was a risk to their own survival. The comments made in the diaries are by men from a particular time and place in history and they have experienced great hardship, and so forgiveness and understanding are needed at this time for all the men. Forgiveness is a function of leadership, things will go wrong and people will clash, disagree and threaten the success of the task. The first step is to try and understand rather than judge. You will never fully know what others think or desire and whatever these men write in their diaries we can only create our truth from those small pressured moments, we will never fully know what is going on in each mans heart and mind. Leaders accept these limitations and seek understanding of actions in context.