Winter Closes In. The hardship of the coming winter is closing in on the men and spirits are being crushed by the realisation that the future outcome of the march is no longer in their control. No matter how much effort they put in the dropping temperatures, the surface makes it more like pulling through sand, the pitiful state of their supplies and their worsening physical condition are now beyond their influence. Huntford puts the blame for their current situation squarely with Scott, taking five men to the pole not four and using the dogs more than planned meant that the whole plan was ‘disturbed’. The last return party having to divide food and also there were not enough spare supplies at the depots. At One Ton Depot Cherry-Garrard and Dimitri Gerof waited as the weather closed in on them. They had brought supplies to One Ton but by their understanding of the plan there was enough food for the party and that they would not need the dogs to get them safely home. At Cape Evans the men were preparing for a second winter and wondering what else could be done for the missing parties, Scott’s and Campbell’s. Onboard the Terra Nova at this time was the crew were experiencing their own epic journey to add to the many this expedition has seen. They have been backward and forward up the coast dropping of parties to explore new lands and picking them up again. The ship had navigated through ice floe, storms and blizzards and it had struggled to get through to Campbell. Today was it’s last attempt to get through and it had come close to being trapped in the ice but was at last free of the Antarctic and clear to head for New Zealand for the winter. Amundsen and his men are onboard The Fram and sight land.
Scott’s Journal 6th March 1912. Scott open his journal, ‘we did a little better with help of wind yesterday afternoon, finishing 9 1/2 miles for the day, and 27 miles from depot’. They were late getting up, it took time to get ready, the surface was poor and they lost the tracks but they were pulling for their lives. Commenting on Oates Scott records, ‘poor Oates is unable to pull, sits on the sledge when we are track searching, he is wonderfully plucky, as his feet must be giving him great pain. He makes no complaint, but his spirits only come up in spurts now, and he grows more silent in the tent’. Scott is not confident and notes that only a strong wind and good surface can help them, he concludes, ‘if we were all fit I should have hopes of getting through, but the poor Soldier has become a terrible hindrance, though he does his utmost and suffers much I fear’.
Commentary. It is entries like today that have given Scott’s journal such a powerful and lasting place in exploration literature. His description of the men, the conditions and the awfulness of their predicament draws readers in so much powerfully than the almost routine reports of conditions, temperatures and miles. It will be this impression of Scott and his men which will last. Blame, fault and recrimination about the planning and leadership will need to wait for today a key element of team success has been removed from the party. They no longer have any opportunity to influence the task outcome no matter how hard they pull, the cast is set. The argument against that could be that no matter what the situation a leader always has an opportunity to influence the outcome and that is true to some extent. Depending on the elements of leadership within the team the effort of pulling may vary, morale, cheerfulness, determination and the desire to do more because of the others in the group are all strong motivators. That remains present and maybe that is what got them so far. The leader accepts the difficulty of moments. Moments were the team are included, have choices, can influence the function of the team, can see their efforts being impactful and sense the morale of those around them driving them forward. But also moments when immediacy removes a lot of those options. If the leader invest heavily in the team at moments when they can they create a resilience so that moments of crisis and difficulty still produce the best without surfacing the worst. When teams and leaders do not build up the account of trust, respect and transparency then when the crisis comes and the worst surfaces it looks like, resentment, anger, betrayal, pettiness and lost discretionary effort. The leader can be tempted away from investing of their precious time in the team when things are going well because there are so many other important issues on their agenda. Resist that temptation and continue to build good into better and be prepared as a team for all eventualities, even those your not expecting or ever even envisaged.