Scott 100 Day 107 16th February 1912 : Trivial Excuse

Trivial Excuse. Scott records that Evans is getting worse and that the march was stopped on some ‘trivial excuse’. Williams, in the biography of Wilson, details it as Evans collapsing with giddiness and sickness and he could not walk and so camp was made early. Huntford recalls the history of the relationship within this group. Scott was blind to any weakness in Evans even after discussions with Teddy Evans long before the march and Wilson’s assessment of his deeper weaknesses. There was suspicion in the group about Scott’s choice of the team and the accusation of favouritism is surfaced by Huntford. The group needed combined strength and cohesion and the decisions and actions of the past may be hindering that process. Huntford also states that Oates, Bowers and Wilson disliked Evans and that Scott had very little sympathy for his men and expected ‘silence in adversity’. The commentary on the relationship of Evans with the team cover his social, mental and physical position. Evans is a big man on the same rations as the others who was carrying an injury and not getting the right food balance to aid his recovery. He was also more dependent on reaching the pole for his future fame, fortune and security and therefore his disappointment was greater than the others. His social class and status had isolated him and created a barrier between the men. His mental capacity for the task is questioned and linked to his deterioration over the last few weeks. More generous writers offer his diet, scurvy, his hands failure to heal and a head injury caused by a fall as the reasons behind his physical and mental state.

Scott’s Journal 16th February 1912. Scott’s entry for the day, ‘A rather trying position. Evans has nearly broken down in brain, we think. He is absolutely changed from his normal self-reliant self. This morning and this afternoon he stopped the march on some trivial excuse. We are on short rations with not very short food; spin out till to-morrow night. We cannot be more than 10 or 12 miles from the depot, but the weather is all against us. After lunch we were enveloped in a snow sheet, land just looming. Memory should hold the events of a very troublesome march with more troubles ahead. Perhaps all will be well if we can get to our depot to-morrow fairly early, but it is anxious work with the sick man. But it’s no use meeting troubles half way, and our sleep is all too short to write more’.

Commentary. ‘It’s no use meeting troubles half way’, what did Scott mean ? They make an early camp with little food and uncertainty on the distance to the next depot, Scott needs to meet this moment full on, is he ready for that ? His entry is short in length and even shorter on options he is considering, but he must have been contemplating his position. A man of his naval and polar experience must have been able to understand the situation they were in. Huntford uses the deterioration of Evans to look again at Scotts team selection, was this the right team or a team of Scotts favourites ? PO Evans had been with Scott on The Discovery expedition and Scott had a fixed notion of his strength, ability and worth. The team dynamics that are studied in great depth about Scott are not unique, the same is done for Amundsen, Campbell and Shackleton. It is Scott’s selection of the team that is surfaced here. The leader must put energy, committment, thought, resource and, often the hardest commodity, time into the selection of the team. Making mistakes in selection can mean the difference between success and failure. Are team members selected as individuals or as complementary elements ? What is the important balance of ability, character, loyalty, courage, ambition, determination and robustness. Was Scott selecting for the success of the pole trip, for personal popularity, for blind loyalty, for a political balance or for future credibility. There is not much evidence on how some of these decisions were made, and some were forced on Scott. But in Wilson he had a loyal comrade who would buffer his behavioural excess and had proven scientific, medical and polar ability, in Bowers he selected for accuracy, precision and relentlessness and Evans for power and strength, to be the engine and the practical fixer of kit and equipment. The selection of Wilson perhaps showed his self awareness, he may have known he needed Wilson to keep him in check. The selection of Oates is less convincing for me, it is said it was the desire to have both navy and army represented at the pole but that would indicate selection for political reasons. Scott could have swapped Oates and Bowers and stuck with the four man plan, why keep Oates ? Oates had stood upto Scott in the past and there was not a great relationship between the men, maybe Scott accepted that the challenge from Oates was good and he needed some questioning voices in the camp. It maybe that Scott wanted Oates close as there was an anxiety of him becoming disruptive or maybe Scott was envious of Oates, his background and his presence. Team selection is complex but vitally important and depending on how the leader meets this challenge it will create a secret life within the team, one they may know nothing about but that will have a real and significant influence on performance.

About hutpoint

Interested in leadership, teamwork, resistance, perseverence and change. A former senior nurse dedicated to learning from and sharing with other flawed humans.
This entry was posted in bowers, evans, oates, scott, Uncategorized, wilson and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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