The Last Day of Hope. Its is so cold, a cold that Fiennes believes very few people have ever experienced. It is not simply the feeling of cold but the impact of sustained exposure to such conditions that is the telling difference. Body temperature lower than normal, no body fat left to insulate and the bodies inability to warm peripheral areas such as hands and feet seriously compromised. Previously the marching may have provided warmth but this may no longer be the case. Their bodies are failing, bit by bit, inch by inch. They have made the miles they need and according to Scott’s plans the miles per day are not that great in comparison to the distances previously covered. But they are not the same men they were. They are low on fuel but have food and today’s conditions for sledging seem good. The reality of their situation does not escape any of them but hope has been present throughout and is a powerful driving force. The conditions may improve, dogs from Cape Evans may arrive and fuel may be good at the next depot. Today there is hope. The balance between reality and hope is about to swing dramatically.
Scott’s Journal 1st March 1912. Scott’s full entry for the day, ‘Very cold last night—minimum -41.5°. Cold start to march, too, as usual now. Got away at 8 and have marched within sight of depot; flag something under 3 miles away. We did 11 1/2 yesterday and marched 6 this morning. Heavy dragging yesterday and very heavy this morning. Apart from sledging considerations the weather is wonderful. Cloudless days and nights and the wind trifling. Worse luck, the light airs come from the north and keep us horribly cold. For this lunch hour the exception has come. There is a bright and comparatively warm sun. All our gear is out drying’.
Commentary. Hope is an expression used throughout all the men’s diaries. It is such an influential force but is it always a power for good ? Does hope keep you going or mask the reality of the situation ? When Pandora opened the box and let evil into the world one thing remained at the bottom, hope. I have often thought what that element of the Greek myth is saying, is hope an evil that didn’t escape with the other evils or is it the antidote to pain, suffering and adversity ? Hope is a complex force that I don’t quite understand but I can’t imagine a world without it but hoping for the future is one thing and doing for the future another. Imagine being that cold and still having to think, plan act and lead, some power and force must be driving them on. Patience and character must have been pushed to the limit. Scott’s journal continues to return to the good spirit in the camp and if that is true it is an amazing testament to these men. If this was a modern expedition there would be a video and some of those monologues to camera, describing emotion, tension and relationships. All we now have is the meteorological records of Bowers and Scott’s journal. What is not being recorded at this moment must be hugely fascinating. But there is also an element of respect, these are men fighting for their lives and just as the dying soldier asks his comrade to tell his wife he loves her, these men are creating a message for their loved ones. I belive Scott understands this very well and he is protecting their legacy. Leaders often want to gather the team for open, honest, truthful disclosures that would bond the team and improve performance. These sessions are noble and correct but the relationship between the team is forged in a different place and is not always the story told on team away days. Nobody tells the whole truth, accept that. The story of Scott and his team is certainly not fully disclosed and we will never know what happened on the ice 100 years ago. This is true for all leaders, you will never know it all, never have the full truth but you must function in that complex place, that is leadership. Take risks in your relationships, share with those you work with, listen to the truths that are not yours and make mistakes. Somewhere in all that complexity something better will emerge.