Survival. Teddy Evans and Bill Lashly had said goodbye to Tom Crean as he set off to make his remarkable walk to Hutpoint and then to Cape Evans. Evans and Lashly remained in the tent as the days passed and Lashly would look out for the rescue team. Poor weather had prevented Atkinson and Dimitri leaving with the dogs to rescue them but they eventually left and found Evans and Lashly still alive. When the first dog reached the tent Evans describes them entering the tent and ‘licked my hands and face, I put my poor weak hands up and gripped his furry ears. Perhaps to hide my feelings I kissed his old hairy Siberian face with the kiss that was meant for Lashly’. The fed Evans and Lashly and while bad weather delayed the return trip for a while they eventually placed Evans and Lashly on separate sledges and within hours were back at Cape Evans. After the expedition Lashly and Crean would receive the Albert Medal for bravery but back at Cape Evans the state of Teddy Evans sent a shock through the camp, if this is the effect of the returning party what state were the polar party in ?
Scott’s Journal 22nd February 1912. Scott begins his entry with ‘little doubt we are in for a rotten critical time going home, and the lateness of the season may make it really serious’. Weather and surface against them and they are struggling to find the next cairn. Bowers was certain they were in the wrong area and they changed direction, Scott checks the map that night and is sure they are too far East but is sure they can correct their position with some good weather. ‘it’s a gloomy position’. Scott concludes, ‘Meanwhile it is satisfactory to note that such untoward events fail to damp the spirit of the party. To-night we had a pony hoosh so excellent and filling that one feels really strong and vigorous again’.
Commentary. Evans, Lashly and Crean are now back at base camp. While Lashly and Crean are weak they don’t show signs of scurvy while Teddy Evans is in a poor state. Teddy Evans had been on the ice a long time as he left before Scott with the Tractors and when they failed he manhauled long before Scotts team started manhauling. Many of the multi factorial elements that influence success or failure come into play now. Crean and Lashly didn’t have scurvy, why ? what condition were the polar team in ? what options did they have with the dogs who had just been out to rescue Evans ? which men were fit to be part of any rescue attempt ? which men had the ability to drive dogs and navigate ? when should the rescue team leave ? where should they go ? what supplies should they take ? and importantly, what was Scott’s intent ? Did Atkinson, as the officer in charge, have full authority to take the action required to save the polar party or were there other pressures and conflicting thoughts on what was his priority, rescue or plan for exploration next season ? How had Scott prepared his team for these moments ? This is a situation in which decisions need to be made without the ability to confirm with the leader. How the leader shares their vision, anxiety, priority, risk assessment and gives permission for other to act in their absence is critical.