Unknown Factor. Cherry-Garrard writes on this point in the journey, ‘ There was something wrong with this party, more wrong I mean, than was justified by the tremendous journey they had already experienced. Except for the blizzard at the bottom of the Beardmore and the surfaces near the pole it has been little worse than expected. Evans, however, who was considered by Scott to be the strongest man of the part, had already collapsed, and it is admitted that the rest of the party was becoming far from strong. There seems to be an unknown factor here somewhere’. Cherry-Garrard goes on to declare that the weather was not unusual, that they were on full supplies throughout (apart from being trapped in the Cloudmaker ridges of the last few days) and therefore what was this ‘unknown factor’ that was impacting on the men. The quality of the rations and the amount per man become a common theme for Cherry-Garrard and other writers. The men may well have been on the planned full rations but was the plan the right one ? The make up of the rations provided calories but not vitamins and the size of the men (Evans being the biggest) may have meant that equal rations did not provide equal sustenance. The men are all reacting differently to the circumstances and rations which allows any one cause to be challenged and keep the debate alive. But it may simply be time, they are all suffering but the impact is affecting the men unequally.
Scott’s Journal 14th February 1912. The weather had improved and they started late but continue down the Beardmore. Scott ‘luckily’ corrects their direction and selects a good course down. They used crampons to hold grip and put up the sail on the sledge but, ‘the combined efforts produced only slow speed, partly due to the sandy snowdrifts similar to those on summit, partly to our torn sledge runners’. When they stopped for lunch they scrapped and sand papered the sledge runners. This made little difference as they next encountered snow rather than ice. Scott is concerned over progress and the men, ‘There is no getting away from the fact that we are not going strong. Probably none of us’. Evans now had a huge blister on his foot and it is delaying them on the march, Scott writes, ‘sometimes I fear he is going from bad to worse, but I trust he will pick up again when we come to steady work on ski’. They are hungry but is is Scott’s turn to be cook and he is not serving a full ration. They still have 30 miles to go before the next depot and just under 3 days food left. Scott spoke to the men about the delays caused by a ‘slack and slow’ approach to setting camp.
Commentary. My continued questioning on what is written is highlighted again today by two of Scott’s statements. He hopes Evans will pick up when on ski but he must be fully aware of his deterioration and he also ‘fears’ Evans is ‘going from bad to worse’. It is more as if he knows Evans is getting worse and his fear is having to making a decision on how to respond. Alternatively he may not know and may genuinely be hopeful of a slight improvement in his ability to march or that help from Hutpoint will arrive if they can make it onto the barrier. How has the journey, and rations, impacted on Scott, are hid judgements those of the Scott that set off three months ago ? and if Evans doesn’t have to make it all the way back, how far can he get ? Is Scott making bargains in his mind ? When will he have to make a decision rather than simply continue ? In The Longest Winter, Hooper highlights the point when referring to Priestley’s diary, when he put in the phrase ‘if we return alive’ and therefore mentions the possibility of disaster. Hooper asks if this is an insurance policy, an outlet for real worries or a theme within the diary to impact of future readers. What is Scott really trying to tell us, is it that he never gave up on Evans, that he was loyal to his comrade to the end, that if the worst came there could be no reproach on him or was there genuine hope, a strong bond within the team and a sense that no one would be left behind. The use of the word fear is fascinating as along with denial they are some of the most powerful of forces driving decisions. The leader needs to be mindful of fear and denial in their own decision-making and to reflect on the forces that are influencing them. The meaning behind what is written and what is said is not always clear and understanding the forces influencing others is equally as important to the leader.