Queer Street. The balance must have shifted today, hope decreases and reality stares them squarely in the face. The fuel, the low temperatures and Oates’ feet are major blows. Williams comments that feet may not have been his only problem and the wound Oates sustained during the Boer War would have been breaking down. Williams also suspects Oates foot would be gangrene and that the others would be aware that this would only get worse. They are still 100 miles form One Ton Depot. Bowers, Wilson and Scott must now be aware that they are weakening and that energy would need to go into helping Oates, energy they needs to pull and march. In the biography of Wilson, Williams begins to explore what he would have been thinking and preparing. Wilson may not have been able to leave Oates behind and he would not want to damage the chances of Bowers and Scott, he may have been prepared to stay with Oates as Bowers and Scott made for safety. It would be a march for safety and not an attempt to get help, a death sentence for Oates and Wilson. Huntford calls Oates silent suffering ‘mistaken gallantry’ and Smith states that the other were shocked to see his feet and ‘it may well have been the moment when their own survival seemed most in jeopardy’. Smith also questions Scott’s plan of depot positioning, too far apart now they are weak and struggling. Smith also acknowledges that Oates had detested Scott and now his life was at risk due to his poor leadership. When the story is told many writers return to the depot laying summer of last year at this point, reminding readers that Scott and Oates had fallen out over the placing of the One Ton Depot. Scott made the decision to place the depot 30 miles north of where he orignally planned to save the horses. At the time Oates said he may live to regret that decision and now One Ton is 30 miles further away than planned. It is left to Fiennes to think of Oates and the ‘pains of hell’ that he must have gone through as his feet thawed in the tent and then taking over an hour to put his boots on each day. Fiennes has experience of the cold of Antarctica and comments, ‘I realised how lucky I had been for fifty years of comparatively little pain. Broken bones and teeth, torn off digits, frostbite and kidney stones had seemed unpleasant at the time. But those nights in Antarctica, I knew real pain for the first time’.
Scott’s Journal 2nd March 1912. Scott’s full entry for the day, ‘misfortunes rarely come singly. We marched to the (Middle Barrier) depot fairly easily yesterday afternoon, and since that have suffered three distinct blows which have placed us in a bad position. First we found a shortage of oil; with most rigid economy it can scarce carry us to the next depot on this surface (71 miles away). Second, Titus Oates disclosed his feet, the toes showing very bad indeed, evidently bitten by the late temperatures. The third blow came in the night, when the wind, which we had hailed with some joy, brought dark overcast weather. It fell below -40° in the night, and this morning it took 1 1/2 hours to get our foot gear on, but we got away before eight. We lost cairn and tracks together and made as steady as we could N. by W., but have seen nothing. Worse was to come—the surface is simply awful. In spite of strong wind and full sail we have only done 5 1/2 miles. We are in a very queer street since there is no doubt we cannot do the extra marches and feel the cold horribly’.
Commentary. The three events of the day turn the tables. Hindsight seeks a scapegoat and leadership is the business of success. During the Endurance expedition Shackleton takes a huge risk coming down the mountains on South Georgia, he survives and help is dispatched for his stranded men. If his high risk had not come good and he had died his stranded men would also have died. The following inquest would have found flaws in Shackleton’s leadership. How would we remember Scott had he survived ? Now his decision to place One Ton where he did looks loke a mistake, not resolving the issue of fuel loss was a mistake, not having the right clothing and footwear was a mistake, the food was not adequate and the depots were too far apart. Huntford even believes that the temperatures were not outside of the range Scott should have prepared for. The leader needs to understand that mistakes are part of the package and when success comes those are forgotten but when failure arrives hindsight will identify fault, seek to blame and find a scapegoat. For most leaders it will not come down to life or death decisions and mistakes and faults simply become a timeline of experience. Leadership develops through both success and failure and develops even further in a culture where there is no blame for honest endeavour that makes a mistake. Scott was a hero after the Discovery expedition and is seen as a villain in modern review of the Terra Nova trip. Such simply descriptions do not remotely describe the complexity of leadership.