Pulling for Food. Smith, in his biography of Oates, refers to the method of locating the depots as ‘haphazard’. Scott is called ‘recklessly incompetent’ by Huntford, who uses the fact that they are running out of food and are not sure of the distance to the depot as evidence to support this. The argument does go both ways with Fiennes highlighting the fact that they located all their depots (as did the returning parties) and were only below full rations for a few days throughout the whole journey. Evans is now walking beside the sledge and, as he continues to deteriorate, it is Oates who asks in his diary what action will be needed, ‘If he does not get by tomorrow God knows how we are going to get him home. We could not possibly take him on the sledge’.
Scott’s Journal 15th February 1912. They completed 13 miles today but are running low on food as they near the next depot. They are also unsure of the exact distance from the depot but estimate 20 miles. They have reduced their rations and ‘trust’ they will make the next depot within two days. They are feeling ‘rather done’ and are now ‘pulling for food and not very strong evidently’.
Commentary. So much must have been happening with Evans over the last few days and yet he appears very little in the diaries of the men and Scott’s entry today is a return to the style of older entries with facts present and very little of the daily interactions between the men. But there is also a significant change, Scott highlights that he is unsure on distance, running low on supplies and that the team is not strong. This is Scott exposed in a way not often seen in his previous entries, this is a desperate man. Perhaps his undeclared concerns about the party as a whole and Evans in particular were so dominant that today’s short, factual but desperate entry invites us to ask questions on Scott’s state of mind. As for incompetent and haphazard planning, I almost think the opposite. Scott’s experience on the Discovery and the tested method of depot finding had worked previously for others as well as on the depot laying trips the previous summer. As a good manager Scott was taking the systems that worked previously and applying them with new information on food gained by the winter journey of Wilson, Bowers and Cherry-Garrard. He engaged a competent and precise planning process of distances, amounts, locations, times and variations. Hindsight reveals there are things he did not know, especially about the quality of food needed as well as the quantity as well as the state of the men prior to the march. He was aware of the risks and how men deteriorate on long journeys on the ice, he was also very aware of the effects of scurvy. It is probably Scott’s ability as a manager that has got them this far. But could his ability as a leader get them further ? The good precise plan needs to be implemented and without the right relationships within the team elements of the plan slowly start to unwind. The quality of the horses, the training of the men for travel on ice, the tractors, the dogs, the team spirit, the dealing with unrest and importantly Scotts ability to take feedback. Did Scott the leader create the environment in which others could question his decisions, his judgement and his plan ? How would they be treated if they did question him ? Scott the manager was a precise planner with the information, facts and resources he had. Scott the leader may have been able to get better information, facts and resources.