Scott 100 : Conclusion and References

Conclusion and References. I have not been to the South Pole or spent time in Cambridge at the Scott Polar Research Institute looking over primary material. I have been hungry but never starved and I have been cold but only for a short period of time, I am not an explorer, adventurer or even adventurous. But I have been in leadership roles and I have followed leaders. I have wanted to model myself on some leaders I have followed, while others I desire to do the very opposite, I have been in a cohesive team and I been in conflict ridden teams. I am just like most of you.

I have followed Scott’s march from Cape Evans, to the Pole and back to a cold lonely tent just short of life saving supplies. I accept that in examining these last five months I have, on the whole, ignored the life and career Scott had prior to the march. He had been to the Antarctic before onboard Discovery and was a Captain in the Royal Navy. He must have had determination and ambition to get the Terra Nova trip funded, organised and staffed. Scott is a leader, he had proven that before his first step towards the Pole on November 1st 1911. But what sort of leader was Scott and was he a victim of circumstance just as much as those men he commanded. The backdrop of Scotts trek has been a prompt for acknowledging and learning about leadership. I used the texts listed below as my references and I accept that some are stronger in original content than others. It is clear that some books follow the change in Scotts reputation very clearly while others try to find their own way through the vast amount of material. Working at speed to produce the daily posts inevitably meant I made some mistakes, I am happy to acknowledge that and update as and when required. But I have tried to tell the Scott story from the interpretation of those who write on the topic and make the connection to leadership through my own knowledge, understanding and experience. There were some very easy moments and these were usually when Fiennes and Huntford disagreed, which fortunately was often. The more difficult moments were when trying to deal with the support or criticism of Scott towards the end of the journey, even though this story was 100 years ago I felt a little uneasy picking at the bones of the dead.

From the experience of writing this blog and the swiftness required for daily posts I should have an opinion on Scott the leader, but I struggle to define or categorise him. The journal details from Scott and from the other expedition members just don’t seem to tell the whole story, there is something missing. But I don’t think he was the arrogant incompetent described by Huntford or the great leader hard done by in modern times portrayed by Fiennes. Perhaps Scott and his team were more like the leaders and teams we work with every day than we dare imagine. The argument is that we can’t compare his Imperial and class defined culture with our own modern liberal society. But that is only true in the context of the whole drama, within the story there are numerous personal relationships which run smooth at times but are susceptible to the same rivalry and bitterness we expose ourselves to in the modern workplace. There is poor communication, lack of respect, sub groups within the team, disillusionment, low morale, splits, ego and jealousy. Despite these team dynamics great things are achieved, just as there are in complex teams with challenging leaders each and everyday. It is impossible to compare cultures and expectations from 100 years ago with today but in describing Scott and his team I feel certain many people will recognise their behaviours.

I believe Scott was a magnificent planner, he sought detail and precision and recruited Bowers to add to his desire to have everything just so. He drew men to him and had a loyal deputy in Edward Wilson. he also understood the bigger picture of politics, funding and organisation. Scott was also not afraid of hard work and would expect similar enormous effort from his men. It must be remembered that he had to learn to lead and had been in the Navy since he was 13. But he was also temperamental, moody and his high expectations placed people in an anxious position, often uncertain of how to deliver his agenda. He could seem isolated and in pushing forward he would bruise others in the team. Wilson served as a great mediator but I wonder if a stronger more critical, yet supportive, deputy would have helped Scott even more. The team around Scott were just like any other team. They had moments of cohesion and times of competition, there was rivalry, mistrust, slight and outright dislike. Ambition and jealousy were present and while masked in the heroics of a task undertaken for the nation these emotions play a serious part in the final ability of the team to perform. Yet they were isolated, trapped in a hut together for long winters and still collaborated under Scotts leadership to achieve a great deal, not just the attempt on the pole but the scientific work as well. The difference between success or failure can be the slightest breath, it can balance on a second in time or a be squandered unknowingly in a minor insignificant decision taken many years previously. Scott’s leadership style contributed to each of those decisions made months before in England, on the Antarctic coast during the polar winter and on the greatest march in history. But what the combination of style, planning and choice made to the eventual outcome is hard to quantify. All I can say is that I have learned a great deal by reviewing Scott’s five months on the ice and for that I am grateful. Becoming a better leader is a lifelong quest and the only way to improve and develop is never to yield.

The Survivors. Edward Atkinson stayed in the Navy and served at Gallipoli and The Somme. He was awarded several medals and mentioned in dispatches. He was torpedoed and while injured continued to treat others. Victor Campbell served as a Navy Officer during the campaign in The Dardanelles, he emigrated to Newfoundland and married a Norwegian wife. Tom Crean joined Shackleton on board The Endurance. When the ship was trapped in the ice and crushed Tom Crean traveled with Shackleton all the way back to South Georgia making an epic South Atlantic boat journey and crossing the islands mountains. He retired to Ireland and opened a pub which is still there today called ‘The South Pole Inn’. Teddy Evans commanded ships during the war with great distinction. He became a Labour peer and married a Norwegian. Demetri Gerof returned home to mine for gold while Tyggve Gran became a fighter pilot in the war, he was the last survivor of the expedition to die. Bill Lashly fought in the Navy and his ship was sunk , he survived and worked as a customs official in Cardiff.  Cecil Meares joined the Royal Flying Corp and eventually retired to Canada. Apsley Cherry-Garrard saw action on the western front and after the war managed his wealthy estate. He was encouraged to write ‘The Worst Journey In The World’ by his friend George Bernard Shaw. It is said he would forever wonder if he could have done more to save his friends.

I completed this blog by reading the day’s entry in Scott’s journal on the corresponding day one hundred years later, I then relating Scott’s telling to the work of others and finally offered my own commentary. I have enjoyed and learned a great deal from the exercise and below are the books I used to support the daily posts. If anyone only had time to read one book on the adventure of the Terra Nova my recommendation would be ‘The Worst Journey In The World’ by Apsley Cherry -Garrard.

(the version of Scott’s journal I used for the daily entry)

Max Jones (2006) Captain Scott’s Last Expedition – Oxford World’s Classic

Ranulph Fiennes (2003) Captain Scott : Hodder & Stoughton

Roland Huntford (1979) Scott And Amundsen : Their Race To The South Pole : Abacus

Isobel Williams (2008) With Scott In The Antarctic : Edward Wilson, Explorer, Naturalist, Artist : The History Press

Stephanie Barczewski (2007) Antarctic Destinies, Scott, Shackleton And The Changing Face Of Heroism : Hambledon Continuum

Isobel Williams (2012) Captain Scott’s Invaluable Assistant Edgar Evans : The History Press

Edward R G R Evans (reprint 2006) South With Scott : The Echo Library

Michael Smith (2000) An Unsung Hero Tom Crean Antarctic Survivor : The Collins Press

David Crane (2006) Scott Of The Antarctic The Definitive Biography : Harper Press

Apsley Cherry-Garrard (1922) The Worst Journey In The World : Pimlico

Meredith Hooper (2011) The Longest Winter, Scott’s Other Heroes : John Murray

Michael Smith (2002) I Am Just Going Outside, Captain Oates – Antarctic Tragedy : Spellmount

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.

2 Responses to Scott 100 : Conclusion and References

  1. Anne Strathie says:

    I’ve just found your blog on Scott, and have enjoyed reading it. My new biography on Birdie Bowers has just been published – Birdie Bowers: Captain Scott’s Marvel (The History Press) – it includes some unpublished material and analysis of Bowers’ journals, which you might enjoy. before completing the book, I travelled to Antarctica and my respect for all those men reflects having, albeit briefly, experienced that wonderful but unpredictable environment. Anne Strathie

    • hutpoint says:

      Dear Anne

      Thank you for your comments. Your book flashed up on my reccomendations several months ago pre publication and is now with me. Congratulations on completing that process – an act of leadership in itself. I am turning my blog into a leadership text for my role in the NHS Staff College and I wonder if you would be interested in getting involved. When we run modules we complete with a group meal followed by speaker. Would you be interested in coming to talk to senior NHS staff on Birdie. If you are we could talk further and discuss details. Thanks again and take care.


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