Yet. Scott comments in his journal today that no one is ‘despondent yet’ but he had also previously noted that he was unsure what each man felt in his heart. The fact that Wilson and Oates have stopped filling in their diaries and that Bowers was simply recording meteorological information in his leaves us with only Scott’s words. Huntford continues to state that the conditions were not unusual and at this point also adds that he believes they were suffering from scurvy at this stage. Fiennes holds his argument that these temperatures and conditions were extreme, a freak. Huntford calls on the experience of other expeditions while Fiennes has historical meteorological patterns to back his position. Today the temperature rises a little and late yesterday, over 100 miles away, Cherry-Garrard and Dimitri arrive at One Ton Depot. Cherry-Garrard makes an interesting point that the temperature was -24 and these were their first cold days, ‘but it was nothing to worry about for us and was certainly not colder than one would have ordinarily have expected at this time of year’. Cherry-Garrard was pleased that he had not missed the polar party and therefore missed out of the provisions they had brought. The dogs that had brought Cherry-Garrard to One Ton were starting to suffer and were losing their coats. They set up camp at One Ton but today noticed a sudden drop in temperature to -34. Cherry-Garrard thought this was a temporary cold snap, ‘there was no reason to suppose these were normal March conditions’. Huntford makes another point at this point in the story, he sees Scotts comments on the ‘determined cheerfulness’ of Bowers and Wilson as an indication that Scott has ‘collapsed as a leader’ and that Wilson had in fact taken over.
Scott’s Journal 4th March 1912. Scott begins his entry, ‘things looking very black indeed. As usual we forgot our trouble last night, got into our bags, slept splendidly on good hoosh, woke and had another, and started marching’. But they ran into terrible surfaces for pulling. Scott suspects that the surface under the fine crystals would have made an excellent surface for pulling a few weeks ago. They are conserving fuel and still have 42 miles ahead of them before they reach the next depot. Scott knows they are ‘in a very tight place indeed, but none of us despondent yet, or at least we preserve every semblance of good cheer’. The temperature is a little warmer at -20 but they fear the cold will return and Scott comments, ‘I fear that Oates at least will weather such an event very poorly. Providence to our aid! We can expect little from man now except the possibility of extra food at the next depot. It will be real bad if we get there and find the same shortage of oil. Shall we get there? Such a short distance it would have appeared to us on the summit! I don’t know what I should do if Wilson and Bowers weren’t so determinedly cheerful over things’.
Commentary. In the circumstances that the four men find themselves in what is the role of leader ? They all share the same goal, they have very little influence over resources, the direction of travel is set and the environment is out of their control. The big decision required would be if any action is to be taken on Oates. If any thought or acts were discussed and shared they were not shared with the outside world. Scott’s significant role now is an unstopple, relentless and motivating role model. He must be up out of his sleeping bag, first to greet them in the morning, inspiring when it comes to the toil of the day and grateful for the effort and spirit that the men put into their duty. In a small group it would be easy to notice if these elements of the leaders function were not present. Others in the team may duplicate these leadership functions but the pressure to consistently deliver was with Scott. If this was the only relationship between leader and team you could see why Huntford interpreted Scotts comments on Bowers and Wilson the way he did. Those relationships are more complex and need greater consideration. The role of leader is this case maybe clear but acts of leadership and teamwork can be seen in all elements of the party. Bowers and Wilson may remain cheerful because of Scott not despite him as often insinuated. Scott had some level of self awareness and knew the role that Wilson played in interpreting him to the men. Scott knew that Bowers was strong and relentless and that he was also well liked by all. Wilson was also the caring ear of the group, the man the others would confide in. Scott may well have picked people to support him because he was well aware of his abilities and his weaknesses. This leader and this team are not a simply diagnostic exercise for us, there are more complex interactions, relationships and emotions present, and always have been. What this comment from Scott offers the modern leader is the consideration of support. Who in the team aids the leader, gives them support, is low maintainance when others are high, is relentless, cheerful and compassionate ? Who plays the role of the emotional rock and who allows others to share their frustrations, often of the leader ? As there is no perfect leader there is no perfect team, complex relationships exist and require constant care and attention.