Scott 100 Day 101 10th February 1912 : The Rules of the Game

The Rules of the Game. There are many cited reason as to why there was tension between Scott and Shackleton. One often discussed is that the base camp Shackleton used for his Nimrod trip was regarded as being Scott’s and an agreement between the men had confirmed that. Shackleton’s reason for using it was that changing of circumstances meant promises, regrettable, needed to be broken, Scott saw collusion and betrayal. That same attitude over territory fueled some of the animosity towards Amundsen, he had made his base camp in a position openly declared as an exploration ambition of Scott and the Terra Nova expedition, King Edward VII Land. As a consequence of Amundsen’s base camp the team who were due to explore that area abandoned that ambition and sought out new opportunities. They changed direction and made for the area around Cape Adare. Scott was probably unaware of the exact location of this party as they were landed the previous summer, during depot laying, and the Terra Nova had then headed back to New Zealand. This did mean that others, outside of the expedition, knew the location and Douglas Mawson is reported by Hooper to have been less than pleased with the news. In the same pattern of territorial dispute Mawson claimed that he had openly declared his future intent to explore Cape Adare. Scott’s wife met Mawson in London and found him ‘in a rather bad frame of mind’ as he was convinced Scott had intended to land there all the time. Ironically the same accusation that Scott made of Shackleton. Scott’s wife wrote a letter to her husband and detailed the events, she describes concluding her meeting with Mawson on good terms while telling him he needed to ‘play the game better’.

Scott’s Journal 10th February 1912. They slept well and Scott recorded that he noticed a ‘great change in all faces’. It is warm as they descend the glazier and they had a good morning even though they found themselves in some rough, cracked ice. They had difficulty holding course later in the day and a northerly wind drive snow into their faces. They have two full days of rations left and they cannot be certain of their position Scott believes they are about two marches from the mid glazier depot. But Scott knows that if the weather does not clear they must march blindly or reduce their food.

Commentary. The territorial poaching going on surfaces some fascinating behaviours in the main explorers of the time. They negotiate on territory, make agreements and believe that the failure to live upto such arrangements are due to the person not the situation. This highlights the level of competition between the men but also allows us to see underneath the Victorian / Edwardian gentleman. These are office politics, its just the subject and content are different and as Kathleen Scott described, it is a game. Mawson shares his plans with Scott and he will defend that as an act of good faith. Then Scott steals his position on the ice, an act of betrayal. Amundsen keeps his plans secret, a sly and suspicious act and then lands in Scotts back yard, not the act of a gentleman. Look at any reasonably sized organisation and the same emotions and actions are present. The leader must act with dignity and have integrity, but who judges that, the leader ? Shackleton would argue his landing at Scott’s base was a situational necessity and that it was an act of good leadership under changing circumstances. Good leadership is an extremely contextual action. The tough decisions and actions of a leader may be interpreted very differently if it impacts negatively on some. Leaders need to have the resilience to continue and the mindfulness to adjust. The leader with a strong sense of self awareness will know if his actions are predetermined acts of betrayal of thoughtful responses to changing circumstances.

About hutpoint

Interested in leadership, teamwork, resistance, perseverence and change. A former senior nurse dedicated to learning from and sharing with other flawed humans.
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