Back at One Ton. Today Teddy Evans, Tom Crean and Bill Lashly make it to One Ton Depot, now only 140 miles to go to Hutpoint. But Evan’s is now being cared for by two very tired men and contributing little to the overall effort. Lashly notes today that things are not looking good for the party. In the account by Teddy Evans a description of the two men he is struggling forward with is rich and inspiring. After he passing blood he wrote ‘Crean and Lashly were dreadfully concerned on my behalf and how they nursed me and helped me along no words of mine can properly describe. What men they were’. At some later date Evans faints and he says ‘Crean and Lashly picked me up, and Crean thought I was dead. His hot tears fell on my face and as I came to I gave a weak kind of laugh’. Evans reaches a point where he thought he should be left by the others and states, ‘I vainly tried to persuade them to leave me in my sleeping bag with what food they could spare, but they put me on the sledge, bag and all’.
Scott’s Journal 9th February 1912. They moved along the moraine to the end of Mount Buckley and spent time studying the geology and Wilson discovered a piece of limestone with an impression of vegetation. Some changing decisions on the best route down and in bad light they run into an area of crevasses and get down with some difficulty. The afternoon improved but the sledgemeter was not used and so actual distance is hard to measure. Temperature has increased and so warm on the march and they are all very tired. Scott concludes, ‘It is remarkable to be able to stand outside the tent and sun oneself. Our food satisfies now, but we must march to keep the full ration, and we want rest, yet we shall pull through all right DV, we are by no means worn out’.
Commentary. While Scott concludes today’s entry with a positive note the abbreviation of DV is latin for Deo Volente, meaning God willing. Scott’s journal is often regarded as a great literary work but the words in the written accounts of the others on the expedition say so much more about the men and their struggle. Of course this was the survivors publishing their reworked, expanded and edited version and the diaries of the polar party may have made equally enthralling reading had they survived. So many questions are asked of Scott becuase some key elements of his relationship with the others is not present in his writing, we don’t really know what’s happening to him. The action of Evans to suggest to the others to go on without him allows a comparison to the polar parties struggle. Oates position seemed clear even before the march, the injured man must take the action. There is something in his stance that alludes to the power of hope, denial and reputation. Crean and Lashly can’t leave Teddy Evans even though he made a request to be left. If the right thing to do was for Crean and Lashly to go on then Evans would need to take positive action rather than engage in a passive act, ‘I’m staying’ rather than ‘leave me’. The reputation of civilised men would not permit them to leave a comrade, how could they walk away by choice. There is always a doubt, and a little hope can fuel a large amount of denial. For Crean and Lashly they are proved right, but for Scott the story is different. Did a moment come when decisive action regarding PO Evans or Oates would have made a difference ? What of the reputational impact of leaving a comrade behind so you could survive ? A little hope that things would get better ? A great deal of denial that they could get worse perhaps ? Perhaps for this group of men in their culture and at this moment in history dying together would be preferred over the survival of some. Moments come and can be missed by the leader and the follower, there significance misunderstood. The failure to maximise on a success and move with speed and take risks can often be lost as teams pause in the glory of the moment or through the indecisive leader. As well, knowing when something is not working and having the insight and courage to stop and do something different is a vital leadership ability that can be missed as denial takes hold. Leadership moments arrive at inconvenient and difficult times, that’s way they are moments of significance.