Footgear. Scott remarks that it is taking a long time to put their footgear on, Smith believes it is now taking over an hour just to complete this task. Their feet are cold and Oates is hiding his worsening condition. The mention of the men’s individual condition has disappeared again from Scott’s notes but Oates is struggling. Smith believes gangrene had set in and it would only be a matter of time before Oates would need to share this with the others. Smith describes Oates as keeping, ‘up the pretense of fitness and pulling his weight and maintaining a stoic silence over his waning health. But the pain from his gangrenous feet must have been intense. They had been wet for over 4 months and in temperatures of -40F they were now like blocks of ice’. Wilson could do little to help and in Teddy Evans account Oates asks Wilson what he should do, the reply was ‘slog on just slog on’. Wilson spent time caring for Oates and numerous writers state clearly that Wilson would be strong enough to remain principled, he would not leave his companion. Scott describes Wilson as having ‘self sacrificing devotion’ when caring for Oates. Scott, Bowers and Wilson are struggling to pull and the thought that Oates would crumble soon and be an addition to their toil must have alarmed them all. Scott and his party continue north, Cherry-Garrard is heading south, Campbell is stranded and preparing for the winter and other smaller groups from the expedition continue the work of exploration and science. But others are now on the ice, a team from Japan and from Germany have arrived as has the Australian Douglas Mawson. The only team to have left is Amundsen who is getting closer to the mainland aboard The Fram.
Scott’s Journal 28th February 1912. The temperature went below -49 last night and Scott has increased rations. When they set off on their march the temperature was -32. They took longer to prepare for the march and everyone has cold feet. Scott concludes his entry with, ‘things must be critical till we reach the depot, and the more I think of matters, the more I anticipate their remaining so after that event. Only 24 1/2 miles from the depot. The sun shines brightly, but there is little warmth in it. There is no doubt the middle of the Barrier is a pretty awful locality. Splendid pony hoosh sent us to bed and sleep happily after a horrid day, wind continuing; did 11 1/2 miles. Temp. not quite so low, but expect we are in for cold night.’
Commentary. Huntford adds another thought on the difficulties Scott is encountering. The depots have been spaced out on the outward journey with horses and they are manahuling back. They needed to be closer together and contain more supplies. This is countered by the basic idea of the depots, they needed to be spaced at such a distance that the men could haul enough supplies to sustain them inbetween. Cherry-Garrard states that on only a few days on the glacier did the party have low food supplies. Was the food the right type, right amount, and had Scott solved the known problem of fuel loss from his cans are different questions. The asking of good questions when trying to explore any critical events are vital for the leader. Interpreting facts and events to match an underlying narrative is an often used technique. We want the world to match our interpretation of it rather than adjust our perspective in light of the events before us. I believe Huntford uses this technique and interprets a fact, the distance between depots, to support his notion that Scott is a poor planner and incompetent. This hides the truth and more importantly does not allow the right questions to be asked. Scott’s planning of distances and positioning of depots may well have been excellent considering the previous decisions he had taken that the food was good and of the right amount. If you persist in asking better questions a clearer truth may emerge, or maybe simply another, even better, question. It could be argued that with what Scott knew about food and manhauling he had made good decisions. Good decisions on food and therefore precise planning followed. But better questions follow on and Scott should have been in a constant state of questioning, what don’t I know about food that others know ? what are the Norwegians doing ? have I learned all the lessons I could have from The Discovery trip ? Have I been diligent in asking questions of my team ? have my team being asking questions of me ? There may well be mileage in some of Huntfords criticism of Scott but swipes like this just seem to simple to hold much credence. The leader should create an environment in which questions flow up and down the team structure allowing better decisions to be made. Had Scott created this or was there anxiety in questioning, nervousness in new thinking, rigidness in communication and fear of the leaders response ? These are better questions !