Lost in Time. Campbell and his men are established in an ice cave up the coast, Terra Nova is heading back to New Zealand with Teddy Evans and others onboard, Amundsen’s news has reached the world and Atkinson is considering his next steps back at base camp. Out on the ice the blizzard still shakes the tent and the three men are wrapped up in their sleeping bags. No heroic march to One Ton Depot and any chance of rescue must now have vanished from the minds of the men. Letters are being written and some dates being kept but it would be impossible to guarantee they are accurate. Scott had previously lost track of the time and so entries and letters written may be out by one of even more days. This matters a great deal to those who write about this expedition as they try and accurately tell the story of what happened in the tent in these final few days. The general belief is that at this point they are all still alive. The letters serve many purposes and while elements of some are omitted from Scott’s published journal enough books have now been written to surface most of the content. Content aside Crane takes an interesting view on purpose and Scott’s desire for justice, he was not ‘going to die unheard’. So his letters were apologies, confirmation of his own ability and fitness, gratitude to those who had been supportive and perhaps the mending of relationships. Crane’s image of the Scott letters is much more of a man still kicking back, maybe his infamous temper now showed itself in a different way, an inner determination to write, to tell, to secure his truth as his character may already be suspecting that detractors were waiting to feed. Perhaps Scott’s letters needed to be as they were. The clear passing over of destiny to a divine happening that is contained in the writing of Wilson and Bowers is not present in Scott’s words. Crane sums this up as he reviews the letters of Bowers and Wilson, ‘Scott too was preparing himself in a way that trivialises nothing, faith made death easy for Wilson and Bowers’. Scott did not expect an afterlife in which glorious reunions made well the trials and pains of life and death. Scott could not handover the business of the expedition to God and so his letters show a man still leading his expedition, a man who is pushing forward as he had done for months on the march.
Scott’s Journal 26th March 1912. NO ENTRY
Commentary. It is easy to see in the writing of Bowers and Wilson that they were comforted by their faith, although I am not sure that eliminates all fear or pain, not sure it was as neat a package as the writers suggest. Scott still believes he can influence this expedition, still a chance to make it just the way he now wanted it to be. The letters set in place supporters through apology and thanks and they also secure his conviction of a well planned and resourced trip. His courage throughout the trip, and especially at this time, cannot be doubted, although it may be a different bravery to that of Oates, but it was visible through all his flaws. Courage in less dramatic circumstances may be seen as the leader admitting fault and apologising, often not easy to do with integrity during emotional and stressful times. During the whole expedition Scott rarely showed a reflective element that would indicate he was wrong about anything. In modern terms that is poor leadership, but for Scott’s age he probably saw it as his role, to be faultless, without doubt and able to make the tough decisions. His last letters continue in that spirit, he wasn’t too old, the plan was good and the equipment excellent. The blame is not with him but with external forces, although he does take responsibility and admitted to taking risks. A modern leader is expected to be more reflective, open and to function despite their faults, while still making tough decisions. I sense from the letters that this is a man who feels he will not get a fair hearing and so cannot be the type of leader who asks questions such as, ‘what lessons can we learn’ or ‘what could we do better’. Scott is not dying with God at his side but alone with only his actions and decisions for company. His courage at this time may be dependant on his unshakeable belief that other forces played against him. God is mentioned in Scott’s journal as an expressive piece of writing rather than a committment of faith, but there was a mystery force that he mentions repeatedly throughout his journal, a force he cannot control, a force that may have been with others and against him, and a force that is present would mean that the expedition failed despite his best efforts. That force was luck !