Opium. Previous discussions, even as far back as last summer, had set the extreme responses to the situation they were now faced with. The hypothetical conversation pitching suicide against the burden on the group had become a reality. Wilson was opposed to suicide and Oates had made it clear that he believed a man should take responsibility for removing himself if he became a risk to the others. Today Scott insists that Wilson hands out the opium, now everyone has the means to make real Oates’ opinion. The conversation must have been difficult, but the opium is handed out and then no immediate action is taken. Oates’ hands were bad, and getting worse, Wilson was feeding him and in asking what he should do perhaps he was actually asking for help, but it did not come. March on, was the response and march on he did. Many things could have influenced this, Wilson’s strong condemnation of suicide, Oates’s inability to take the opium without help, the encouragement to march on may have indicated there was still hope and just perhaps they still had a small belief that the dogs may come. Maybe Scott, Wilson and Bowers could have made better progress without Oates, maybe they could have made it. Huntford progresses another thought, Scott was a broken man and returning to the world in failure, this was a burden to great for him to bear. The ridicule from those on the expedition who would come forth and criticise, the response from other explorers, especially Shackleton and the fact that he had already lost a man and so an inquest would be required may have weighed heavily on Scott. Scott had endured the pain of inquests before and perhaps death on the ice was a suitable alternative. Crane supports this with a line which condemns Scott. Crane wrote a new biography of Scott and when asked if Scott had been aware of the tragic consequence of continuing onto the pole would Scott still of forced his way south, Crane replies that he thinks he would.
Scott’s Journal 11th March 1912. Scott begins, ‘Titus Oates is very near the end, one feels. What we or he will do, God only knows. We discussed the matter after breakfast; he is a brave fine fellow and understands the situation, but he practically asked for advice. Nothing could be said but to urge him to march as long as he could. One satisfactory result to the discussion; I practically ordered Wilson to hand over the means of ending our troubles to us, so that anyone of us may know how to do so. Wilson had no choice between doing so and our ransacking the medicine case. We have 30 opium tabloids apiece and he is left with a tube of morphine. So far the tragical side of our story. The sky completely overcast when we started this morning. We could see nothing, lost the tracks, and doubtless have been swaying a good deal since—3.1 miles for the forenoon—terribly heavy dragging—expected it. Know that 6 miles is about the limit of our endurance now, if we get no help from wind or surfaces. We have 7 days’ food and should be about 55 miles from One Ton Camp to-night, 6 × 7 = 42, leaving us 13 miles short of our distance, even if things get no worse. Meanwhile the season rapidly advances.’
Commentary. The emotive power in Scott’s journal is now so different to the early part of this journey, he is writing for publication and perhaps writing as if to be read after his death. Huntford’s and Crane’s leap to the position that death was the preferred option for a tired and demoralised Scott is a huge one to make. Human beings struggle for life and he had a wife and son waiting for him, if Scott was in such a mental state it may be more an indication of the struggle he had endured rather than the future consequences. Fear of past difficulties returning can paralyse a leader. In modern organisations decisions are made and the leader is accountable and that scrutiny can be hard to bear. A common example for modern leaders is the performance management of others. The good leader will include, communicate, share, empower and motivate their team successfully, but occasionally the leader finds a particular individual with whom other actions are required. This individual will have supporters and will usually be in a junior position and this creates a claim and counter claim barrage which can be personally very painful. Leaders who tackle poor performance may find themselves in deeply painful situations. They will come through but a legacy will remain and this may influence future decisions. The consequences of doing the right thing maybe so painful that the leader avoids, hesitates or refuses to address such difficult issues at some future point.