Scott 100 Day 138 19th March 1912 : Will the trouble spread

Will the trouble spread. These few days are littered with moments of significance. Oates has died and in that act immortalised himself and arguably the expedition. Scott, Bowers and Wilson struggled on and perhaps still had the smallest hope of a miracle, maybe the dogs would reach them ? But back at Cape Evans the man in charge, Atkinson, had more on his plate than just Scott. Several experienced and notable men were heading back to New Zealand on the Terra Nova and another six men were also isolated on the ice, what could be done to rescue Campbell ? After discussion it was decided that no rescue attempt could be mounted for Campbell, they had supplies and there were existing depots along the coast. To set out now could mean the parties miss each other and more men are lost on the ice. Campbell would need to make it back to Cape Evans or survive the winter. With a clear decision on the action concerning Campbell Atkinson considered what, if anything, to do about Scott. They agreed that he and Keohane would head out in the coming days and travel beyond Corner Camp searching for the polar party. On the ice the polar party were huddled in their tent, low on food and fuel and still short of One Ton Depot. Campbell and his men moved into the ice cave they had constructed and with their supplies and the seals they had killed. They made ready to spend the winter in that cold snow hole.

Scott’s Journal 19th March 1912. Scott writes, ‘we camped with difficulty last night, and were dreadfully cold till after our supper of cold pemmican and biscuit and a half a pannikin of cocoa cooked over the spirit. Then, contrary to expectation, we got warm and all slept well. To-day we started in the usual dragging manner. Sledge dreadfully heavy. We are 15 1/2 miles from the depot and ought to get there in three days. What progress! We have two days’ food but barely a day’s fuel. All our feet are getting bad—Wilson’s best, my right foot worst, left all right. There is no chance to nurse one’s feet till we can get hot food into us. Amputation is the least I can hope for now, but will the trouble spread? That is the serious question. The weather doesn’t give us a chance—the wind from N. to N.W. and -40° temp, to-day.’

Commentary. As with the Discovery expedition the scientific achievements of The Terra Nova will be significant. At Cape Evans, and in the surrounding area the work of science went on. I am sure Atkinson had not wished to be in the position he now finds himself, in charge of a major expedition with numerous elements starting to unravel. He had to keep the scientific group happy and busy, prepare Cape Evans for the oncoming Antarctic winter, bed in new animals and personnel that had arrived on Terra Nova, decide how to respond to Campbell and carry an anxiety over Scott’s team. These would have been an immense challenge for any of the leaders within the expedition who may have had cause to imagine themselves facing such tests. Leaders like Teddy Evans and Victor Campbell may have prepared themselves for action and decision-making in such conditions but I suspect Atkinson saw himself rather far down the pecking order. Hierarchy has more of a role than simply the movement of instructions, tasks and questions up and down in order to serve the organisational aim by commanding resource discipline. One of the other functions is to control and pace progression, there is a path to the top and everyone within the structure knows the formal and informal rules that prevail. Often talented leaders can move swiftly up the structure and break many of those deeply rooted and understood norms. While this may be rationalised as the natural order of talent rising, it can create a disturbance and also a backlash. The promoted leader is heartily congratulated by all but quickly finds that the team just doesn’t seem to function as it did or should. Unmentioned but deeply held perceptions wrap around the teams ability to function at a high level, how did they get the job ? it should have been me in that post, their ambitious, working for the good of the team didn’t do me any good, they seem to have favourites and they won’t be here long. Atkinson found himself catapulted into his role by default but the leader who takes on greater responsibility and leaps ahead quickly by choice should note the risks as well as the rewards.

About hutpoint

Interested in leadership, teamwork, resistance, perseverence and change. A former senior nurse dedicated to learning from and sharing with other flawed humans.
This entry was posted in bowers, evans, oates, scott, Uncategorized, wilson and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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