Heavy Toiling All Day. As they left Shambles Camp (the large depot of horsemeat) Huntford reports that Scott criticised Bowers for his poor skiing ability. Perhaps an indication of deeper anxiety rather than a critical analysis of technique. Huntford believes they were all poor skiers and that fact alone was costing them distance. While initially they may have been relieved at the removal of the dilemma of a coping with a sick man that relief soon faded. They were not pulling strong, not making the miles needed and now had little body fat as insulation to protect from the cold. Feet, fingers and eyes were starting to suffer, especially for Oates and Wilson. With Crean back at base camp Teddy Evans and Lashly waited in the tent for rescue, Evans writes, ‘then I slept and awoke to find Lashly’s kind face looking down at me. There were few wounded men in the Great War nursed as I was by him’.
Scott’s Journal 21st February 1912. Scott’s full entry for today, ‘Temp. -11°. Gloomy and overcast when we started; a good deal warmer. The marching almost as bad as yesterday. Heavy toiling all day, inspiring gloomiest thoughts at times. Rays of comfort when we picked up tracks and cairns. At lunch we seemed to have missed the way, but an hour or two after we passed the last pony walls, and since, we struck a tent ring, ending the march actually on our old pony-tracks. There is a critical spot here with a long stretch between cairns. If we can tide that over we get on the regular cairn route, and with luck should stick to it; but everything depends on the weather. We never won a march of 8 1/2 miles with greater difficulty, but we can’t go on like this. We are drawing away from the land and perhaps may get better things in a day or two. I devoutly hope so’.
Commentary. The diary entries at this time have be hailed as the narrative of the greatest march ever made. But I am not sure what they are really telling us about Scott and his men. The entires of the others are starting to fade and Scott’s erratic position continues, gloomy thoughts but a rays of comfort at little moments of good fortune and the march described as a win rather than miles lost. For all the commentary on Scott that has come over the years the one thing which remain powerful and strong is his inner drive. His force as a man, his desire to stretch forward, work harder, keep going, it is there to see. It may well have been an outward manifestation of inner demons, as some writers would suggest, but in a moment, at the right time, maybe this is what is required. The different descriptions of leadership are helpful in generating discussion but all leadership is ultimately situational. Scott may not have been the best leader for other moments of this expedition but at this point his determination is vital. The only concern is that it may not be as effective as it could have been because of previous events and disputes. Leaders often delude themselves into thinking that because they have moved on from difficult moments others have as well, they haven’t. They may forget past details and rationalise future opportunities but they won’t forget the feelings and emotion involved in the relationship.