Blacker Than Ever. Much has been said of Scott’s plan from the equipment, the men, the depots and the rations. As Fiennes tells the story he uses this moment to make the telling point that the temperature has changed everything for Scott. Comparing with others is now meaningless, Shackleton, Amundsen and even Teddy Evans a few weeks before all had difficulties but Scott faced something very different. Fiennes is convinced that this is a ‘rogue year’ in terms of temperature and Scott began hauling across the barrier too late. The conditions were making the runners stick to the surface and the sledge required more and more effort to move the required distance. Fiennes makes the important point in supporting Scott that if he had planned for the worst of every situation he would never had set off at all. Scott did not enter the planning for this trip lightly, he used his experience, modern techniques and meteorological data. Fiennes is convinced that the weather Scott is experiencing is unique and the cause of their difficulty. Huntford takes a different view and believes Shackleton and Amundsen faced difficulties too and that Scott should have been better prepared. But it is this moment of time which will make or break and when the temperature really dropped Amundsen and event Teddy Evans were off the ice.
Scott’s Journal 3rd March 1912. They followed the outward track and made good miles but things became ‘blacker than ever’ as the surface became ‘awful beyond words’. Scott considers that every thing is against them and the pulling was so hard because of the poor surface and the sledge won’t move. Scott concludes. ‘God help us, we can’t keep up this pulling, that is certain. Amongst ourselves we are unendingly cheerful, but what each man feels in his heart I can only guess. Pulling on foot gear in the morning is getter slower and slower, therefore every day more dangerous’.
Commentary. The men are starting to become silent and while Oates may not complain he is withdrawn, perhaps he knows that it is over. But what to do, Wilson had morphine and the tought, if not the conversation, must have existed. But still that small glittering of hope, better weather, rescue, they just needed to keep going. The criticism of Scott will continue but as time goes on it is difficult to say if new evidence, or changes in our understanding of leadership, history and the world Scott lived in, will change our perspective of Scott. Scott may well be viewed more kindly in years to come. The leader should not be reckless but must take risks. If they waited for everything to be ready, for all the resources to be in place and for all the right conditions then nothing would ever move forward, whether it is an expedition or an organisational change. Knowing things are not perfect and that plans change and adapt is part of a leaders constant position. But doing so with due care, preparing the team well, sharing ideas, asking questions and listening to ideas means that the risk is minimised and calculated, yet it remains a risk. Failure will come for the leader, it has to by design. The experience builds a better leader but that maybe a painful construction as lessons come after the event not before.