Deadly Cold. Scott is surprised at the awfulness of the conditions and his entry makes sad reading. Fiennes notes that there may have been renewed hope today, the wind was in their favour and while the temperatures were cold they broke camp and optimistically marched north. The weather forced an early camp and perhaps after a brief moment of hope the return to reality is was even harder for the men. Scott is losing track of the dates and the entries now become sporadic.
Scott’s Journal 14th March 1912. Scott writes, ‘no doubt about the going downhill, but everything going wrong for us. Yesterday we woke to a strong northerly wind with temp. -37°. Couldn’t face it, so remained in camp till 2, then did 5 miles. Wanted to march later, but party feeling the cold badly as the breeze never took off entirely, and as the sun sank the temp. fell. Long time getting supper in dark. This morning started with southerly breeze, set sail and passed another cairn at good speed; half-way, however, the wind shifted to W. by S. or W.S.W., blew through our wind clothes and into our mits. Poor Wilson horribly cold, could not get off ski for some time. Bowers and I practically made camp, and when we got into the tent at last we were all deadly cold. Then temp, now midday down -43° and the wind strong. We must go on, but now the making of every camp must be more difficult and dangerous. It must be near the end, but a pretty merciful end. Poor Oates got it again in the foot. I shudder to think what it will be like to-morrow. It is only with greatest pains rest of us keep off frostbites. No idea there could be temperatures like this at this time of year with such winds. Truly awful outside the tent. Must fight it out to the last biscuit, but can’t reduce rations.’
Commentary. Dates are now confused and those men who can begin to write letters to loved ones and friends. The Terra Nova expedition came after many decades of exploration in the name of Empire and the men knew the importance of their story. They had grown up as their forefathers explored the heartland of Africa and fought foreign wars. The fact that they were writing for publication is clear but Huntford offers the opinion that Scott was actually preparing an alibi. Scott is a complex character, which leader isn’t !, and I am not certain alibi is the right description for what is being written. He is certainly telling the story from his perspective and justifying the decisions he has made but I actually think Scott truly believes what he is writing while alibi implies some manipulation of the events. There are many dimensions to leadership and one of the most important is optimism. These leadership competencies are often not conscious, they are part of the makeup of the leader. This can often provide others with an opportunity to criticise the leader as optimism may appear as unrealistic or artificial expectations, yet leaders often truly see the world like this, there is no malice in it. Scott at his best has shown a belief and optimism that got the expedition of the ground in the first place and overcame every hurdle to achieve what they did. The questions to be asked are if optimism turned into blind arrogance and when Scott became melancholy his optimism may have seemed disingenuous. Optimists will persist when others would give up, will operate with hope rather than fear and see difficulties simply as moments to be managed. The optimistic leader is a genuine and powerful presence, but should come with a warning label and often that role is served by an effective deputy.