Scott 100 Day 110 19th February 1912 : Lateness of the Season

Lateness of the Season. At the same time as Scott and his men had been watching their companion die another drama was being played out on the ice. Teddy Evans. Lashly and Crean reach the end, they cannot go further as a group and must decide what to do. Evans is suffering so much that a decision is made that Crean would go on alone while Lashly cared for Evans and awaited rescue. The lonely march of Crean is another incredible journey within this incredible expedition. Crean covers the thirty five miles and makes it to Hutpoint. A rescue team is sent for Evans and Lashly, Atkinson, as the doctor, and Dimitri driving the dogs. After some delays they get Evans back and over time return him to health. The arrival back of the last returning party generated more questions than it answered. Did Scott get to the pole ? where they first ? What of Amundsen ? there was no way of knowing. Fiennes states that Gran was pleased that they were on ski but when he saw the state of the men became concerned. One question raised couldn’t be left to fate, what should they do to help the polar party ? The other group on the ice, Victor Campbell and his five companions were further up the coastline after exploring uncharted territory. They have been waiting to be picked up by the ship for a few days now and it is starting to dawn on them that the ship may not make it through the ice. The season was coming to an end and winter would be here soon.

Scott’s Journal 19th February 1912. The temperature fell to -17 today and they were late setting off as they rearranged their equipment and loaded up a new sledge they picked up at the depot. The surface was very bad and was covered with soft snow making progress slow. Scott is aware that they will need a better surface for the sledge to slide easily but he is concerned that things will not change quickly. Scott concludes, ‘we have struggled out 4.6 miles in a short day over a really terrible surface—it has been like pulling over desert sand, not the least glide in the world. If this goes on we shall have a bad time, but I sincerely trust it is only the result of this windless area close to the coast and that, as we are making steadily outwards, we shall shortly escape it. It is perhaps premature to be anxious about covering distance. In all other respects things are improving. We have our sleeping-bags spread on the sledge and they are drying, but, above all, we have our full measure of food again. To-night we had a sort of stew fry of pemmican and horseflesh, and voted it the best hoosh we had ever had on a sledge journey. The absence of poor Evans is a help to the commissariat, but if he had been here in a fit state we might have got along faster. I wonder what is in store for us, with some little alarm at the lateness of the season’.

Commentary. The question being asked at Hutpoint and Cape Evans is, what to do next ? The answer to this question will be hindered or aided by the amount of preparation done before hand by Scott. What did those who were left know off the overall situation and ambition of their leader ? were they clear about their roles and responsibilities ? did they feel they had a freedom to act or were they constrained by enforced boundaries that were now out of context. Scott was a meticulous planner and a naval officer, hard details of fact would be present and a clear chain of command apparent. But that might not be all that is needed. Scott currently finds himself in a good position in terms of time and location, the plan is working. But what cost has been paid to get to this point ? Other elements impact on the best plans and team structures. The argument over ration size and food quality will continue for as long as this story is told, as will the state of the weather, was it extreme or should it have been within the boundaries of possible antarctic conditions ? The fascinating aspect of the story at this point is not what is happening on the ice, the variation of possibility for them is limited, but what decisions are made at Cape Evans ? The balance for the leader between sharing understanding with the team and being directive in their instruction is complex and shifting continuously. The notion of total openness and transparency is noble but does not speak to the reality or complexity of moving politics, shifting alliances or crisis moments. Equally the authoritative, restricting and isolated position of simple instruction removes debate, innovation and discretionary effort. Leadership is the seeking of the balance. The balance that exists in this team will be tested over the next few days.

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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