Scott 100 Day 148 29th March 1912 : I do not think I can write anymore

I do not think I can write anymore. The entry is dated the 29th but no one can really be certain of the date Scott wrote these famous words, or the time of death that followed –  but most writers report it as the 29th or 30th. Who died first is not recorded in Scott’s notes and so speculation and debate abound. The common position is that Scott was the last to die. When found he was lying in the middle of Wilson and Bowers and while they were wrapped in their bags Scott had opened his and also opened his clothing. The assumption being that he wished to speed the end. Huntford disagrees and thinks that Bowers was the strongest and would have been last to die. Scott’s final entry is as powerful as his message to the public and ends with a repeat of his previous concerns for the wellbeing of those left behind. Terra Nova arrives in new Zealand, Campbell camps for the winter, Atkinson is preparing for the last of the sun and the most arduous, horrific and courageous march in exploration history ends.

Scott’s Journal 29th March 1912. Scott famously writes, ‘Since the 21st we have had a continuous gale from W.S.W. and S.W. We had fuel to make two cups of tea apiece and bare food for two days on the 20th. Every day we have been ready to start for our depot 11 miles away, but outside the door of the tent it remains a scene of whirling drift. I do not think we can hope for any better things now. We shall stick it out to the end, but we are getting weaker, of course, and the end cannot be far. It seems a pity, but I do not think I can write more. R. SCOTT. For God’s sake look after our people’.

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Scott 100 Day 147 28th March 1912 : Message to the Public

Message to the Public. The most famous letter Scott wrote, when found and returned to England it would be read out in schools throughout the land.

‘The causes of the disaster are not due to faulty organisation, but to misfortune in all risks which had to be undertaken. 1. The loss of pony transport in March 1911 obliged me to start later than I had intended, and obliged the limits of stuff transported to be narrowed. 2. The weather throughout the outward journey, and especially the long gale in 83° S., stopped us. 3. The soft snow in lower reaches of glacier again reduced pace. We fought these untoward events with a will and conquered, but it cut into our provision reserve. Every detail of our food supplies, clothing and depots made on the interior ice-sheet and over that long stretch of 700 miles to the pole and back, worked out to perfection. The advance party would have returned to the glacier in fine form and with surplus of food, but for the astonishing failure of the man whom we had least expected to fail. Edgar Evans was thought the strongest man of the party. The Beardmore Glacier is not difficult in fine weather, but on our return we did not get a single completely fine day; this with a sick companion enormously increased our anxieties. As I have said elsewhere we got into frightfully rough ice and Edgar Evans received a concussion of the brain—he died a natural death, but left us a shaken party with the season unduly advanced. But all the facts above enumerated were as nothing to the surprise which awaited us on the Barrier. I maintain that our arrangements for returning were quite adequate, and that no one in the world would have expected the temperatures and surfaces which we encountered at this time of the year. On the summit in lat. 85° 86° we had -20°,-30°. On the Barrier in lat. 82°, 10,000 feet lower, we had -30° in the day, -47° at night pretty regularly, with continuous head wind during our day marches. It is clear that these circumstances come on very suddenly, and our wreck is certainly due to this sudden advent of severe weather, which does not seem to have any satisfactory cause. I do not think human beings ever came through such a month as we have come through, and we should have got through in spite of the weather but for the sickening of a second companion, Captain Oates, and a shortage of fuel in our depots for which I cannot account, and finally, but for the storm which has fallen on us within 11 miles of the depot at which we hoped to secure our final supplies. Surely misfortune could scarcely have exceeded this last blow. We arrived within 11 miles of our old One Ton Camp with fuel for one last meal and food for two days. For four days we have been unable to leave the tent—the gale howling about us. We are weak, writing is difficult, but for my own sake I do not regret this journey, which has shown that Englishmen can endure hardships, help one another, and meet death with as great a fortitude as ever in the past. We took risks, we knew we took them; things have come out against us, and therefore we have no cause for complaint, but bow to the will of Providence, determined still to do our best to the last. But if we have been willing to give our lives to this enterprise, which is for the honour of our country, I appeal to our countrymen to see that those who depend on us are properly cared for. Had we lived, I should have had a tale to tell of the hardihood, endurance, and courage of my companions which would have stirred the heart of every Englishman. These rough notes and our dead bodies must tell the tale, but surely, surely, a great rich country like ours will see that those who are dependent on us are properly provided for. R. SCOTT.’

Scott’s Journal 28th March 1912. NO ENTRY

Commentary. This letter is not an inquiry report or a submission to an investigation but its starts by declaring what the cause of the disaster were. Not Scott and not the plan but misfortune is the element that impacted on the expedition with such devastating results. This letter of explanation puts the emotions of the reader right in the heart of the adventure. It inspires, motivates and evokes such feeling that the details of the story get carried forward before rational thought dissects the facts. Powerful stories help the leader share their values and their understanding of the world. They open the leader to exploration, allowing others to connect, believe and follow. Stories are great ways to use experience to aid learning and can be more engaging than a simple listing of facts. Stories also help the listener understand the present and share a vision of the future. But stories need to come with a warning sign, no leader should use stories to manipulate or camouflage the truth, time will see the truth surface and the leader exposed. The challenge for leaders telling stories is that they appeal to the subjective nature within us, we connect to the tale. Yet are world is geared to accept the objective, logical and rational and struggles with numerous subjective ideas of what it should be. Scott’s letter is a powerful story that connects to us emotionally and it carries reason and explanation into our consciousness. Over time the truth became the letter and the letter told the truth, until someone questioned. When the questions came, was the equipment right, did they have enough food, was the weather really so bad, whose fault was it that the horses were of poor quality and so on, the facts started to betray the letter. If the reasons given were not totally true, perhaps other things needed questioning. Then the character starts to be questioned and Scott’s reference to Oates and Evan as slowing them down looks rather mean if Scott had made mistakes elsewhere. When the questions came the fall was all the greater and just maybe it was because the writing placed Scott on such a pedestal. Scott may well have believed the story he told and it is the letter of a dying man and so criticism feels harsh. But the lesson is that stories are powerful and so with great stories comes great responsibility.

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Scott 100 Day 146 27th March 1912 : Others

Others. Scott, Wilson and Bowers remain in the tent, there is no mention of when they died or who died first but Scott still has unfinished letters to write and it will still be a few days before his final entry. No food, no fuel, no energy and alone wrapped in their sleeping bags, drifting and dreaming. But what of the others, Atkinson at Cape Evans and Campbell sheltering in his ice cave. Terra Nova is only a few days away from land but all they will be able to share with the world is that Scott was last seen going strong on the plateau. Today Atkinson and Keohane set out from base camp to try and meet the returning party. The temperature was low and the two men man hauled onto the barrier. They made it just past Corner Camp Depot when they decided to turn back and arrived back at camp on April 1st. Cherry-Garrard reports Atkinson as stating that ‘in my own mind I was morally certain that the party had perished’. Over the next few weeks a few further trips were made to see if they support Campbell but by the end of April they had left supplies and communication equipment at Hutpoint and made for Cape Evans. Now the task of these men was to prepare for winter and to think about what to do when the sun came back. Campbell and his men had killed seal and added this to their stores and had built their ice cave. Terra Nova was not coming back and they needed to survive the winter as a first priority. The ice cave was cramped but had separate areas for sleeping and food. They couldn’t stand upright and after a short while they and the cave were saturated with blubber from the stove. Campbell insisted they exercise in the cave as best they could and kept a discipline and routine in place, including sunday worship. The weather outside was terrible, heavy snow and strong winds but both Atkinson and Campbell safely led their teams through an Antarctic winter. Once the sun came back they needed to decide what to do next !

Scott’s Journal 27th March 1912. NO ENTRY

Commentary. The main effort of the writers of this expedition seems to focus on Scott but Campbell and Atkinson both faced challenging leadership moments. Cherry-Garrard spends time in his writing supporting the decisions of Atkinson while Huntford sees Atkinson as a medic unprepared and incapable. Campbell’s ability to think through situations and take the greatest care saw the Terra Nova land more supplies for unseen events, these stores would be vital for their survival. Campbell is described as cautious and forward thinking. Yet according to Hooper Campbell had a difficult relationship with others in the party. Add into this Oates’ dislike for most officers who commanded him, Amundsen’s falling out with a senior member of his team, disgruntlement within the ranks of officers and men and even Shackelton’s disagreement with men in his own team means that the business of leadership is not quite the glorious position often portrayed. Why would anyone want to be a leader ? Perhaps the difficulty with leadership is not the delivery but the expectation. Leadership now comes with such expectation and comes with measures and competencies that make it beyond most of us. It has always been thus, perfect leadership was beyond Scott, Shackleton and Amundsen and it is beyond you. Forgive yourself. Now take away the pressure to be perfect or to function in teams without tensions and disagreements and you may manage to thrive rather than be paralysed. What if getting things wrong as a leader is not a mistake but a byproduct of getting things right and that having difficult conversations is a byproduct of having successful relationships. Of course my theory fails at the first hurdle when someone describes the perfect leader they have worked for and the constantly happy team they were part of. I’m still waiting for that day. The challenge is not to eliminate flaws, it just doesn’t happen that easily. The challenge is to learn to live with them, yours and theirs, and still be great.

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Scott 100 Day 145 26th March 1912 : Lost in Time

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 !

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Scott 100 Day 144 25th March 1912: Letters to the Establishment

Letters to the Establishment. Another day with no formal journal entry but Scott has continued to write and further letters are sent securing his gratitude and his legend, even writing to his friend and author J.M.Barrie. Some of the letters end and then later have additions made as the circumstances of the march change. The text below is from Scott’s journal and actions from the letters have been removed. According to Crane the section omitted from the letter to Barrie contained the following lines, ‘it hurt me grievously when you partially withdrew your friendship or seemed to do so – I want to tell you that I never gave you cause’.

Scott to Sir J.M. Barrie – We are pegging out in a very comfortless spot. Hoping this letter may be found and sent to you, I write a word of farewell. … More practically I want you to help my widow and my boy—your godson. We are showing that Englishmen can still die with a bold spirit, fighting it out to the end. It will be known that we have accomplished our object in reaching the Pole, and that we have done everything possible, even to sacrificing ourselves in order to save sick companions. I think this makes an example for Englishmen of the future, and that the country ought to help those who are left behind to mourn us. I leave my poor girl and your godson, Wilson leaves a widow, and Edgar Evans also a widow in humble circumstances. Do what you can to get their claims recognised. Goodbye. I am not at all afraid of the end, but sad to miss many a humble pleasure which I had planned for the future on our long marches. I may not have proved a great explorer, but we have done the greatest march ever made and come very near to great success. Goodbye, my dear friend, Yours ever, R. SCOTT. We are in a desperate state, feet frozen, no fuel and a long way from food, but it would do your heart good to be in our tent, to hear our songs and the cheery conversation as to what we will do when we get to Hut Point. We are very near the end, but have not and will not lose our good cheer. We have four days of storm in our tent and nowhere’s food or fuel. We did intend to finish ourselves when things proved like this, but we have decided to die naturally in the track. As a dying man, my dear friend, be good to my wife and child. Give the boy a chance in life if the State won’t do it. He ought to have good stuff in him. … I never met a man in my life whom I admired and loved more than you, but I never could show you how much your friendship meant to me, for you had much to give and I nothing.

Scott to Right Hon. Sir Edgar Speyer – I hope this may reach you. I fear we must go and that it leaves the Expedition in a bad muddle. But we have been to the Pole and we shall die like gentlemen. I regret only for the women we leave behind. I thank you a thousand times for your help and support and your generous kindness. If this diary is found it will show how we stuck by dying companions and fought the thing out well to the end. I think this will show that the Spirit of pluck and power to endure has not passed out of our race …Wilson, the best fellow that ever stepped, has sacrificed himself again and again to the sick men of the party … I write to many friends hoping the letters will reach them some time after we are found next year. We very nearly came through, and it’s a pity to have missed it, but lately I have felt that we have overshot our mark. No one is to blame and I hope no attempt will be made to suggest that we have lacked support. Good-bye to you and your dear kind wife. Yours ever sincerely, R. SCOTT.

Scott to Vice Admiral Sir Francis Charles Bridgeman – I fear we have shipped up; a close shave; I am writing a few letters which I hope will be delivered some day. I want to thank you for the friendship you gave me of late years, and to tell you how extraordinarily pleasant I found it to serve under you. I want to tell you that I was not too old for this job. It was the younger men that went under first… After all we are setting a good example to our countrymen, if not by getting into a tight place, by facing it like men when we were there. We could have come through had we neglected the sick. Good-bye, and good-bye to dear Lady Bridgeman. Yours ever, R. SCOTT. Excuse writing—it is -40°, and has been for nigh a month.

Scott to Vice Admiral Sir George Le Clearc Egerton – I fear we have shot our bolt—but we have been to Pole and done the longest journey on record. I hope these letters may find their destination some day. Subsidiary reasons of our failure to return are due to the sickness of different members of the party, but the real thing that has stopped us is the awful weather and unexpected cold towards the end of the journey. This traverse of the Barrier has been quite three times as severe as any experience we had on the summit. There is no accounting for it, but the result has thrown out my calculations, and here we are little more than 100 miles from the base and petering out. Good-bye. Please see my widow is looked after as far as Admiralty is concerned. R. SCOTT. My kindest regards to Lady Egerton. I can never forget all your kindness.

Scott to Mr.J.J.Kinsey in Christchurch – I’m afraid we are pretty well done—four days of blizzard just as we were getting to the last depot. My thoughts have been with you often. You have been a brick. You will pull the expedition through, I’m sure. My thoughts are for my wife and boy. Will you do what you can for them if the country won’t. I want the boy to have a good chance in the world, but you know the circumstances well enough. If I knew the wife and boy were in safe keeping I should have little regret in leaving the world, for I feel that the country need not be ashamed of us—our journey has been the biggest on record, and nothing but the most exceptional hard luck at the end would have caused us to fail to return. We have been to the S. pole as we set out. God bless you and dear Mrs. Kinsey. It is good to remember you and your kindness. Your friend, R. SCOTT.

Scott’s Journal 25th March 1912. NO ENTRY

Commentary. The letters to loved ones and to the family of the men he died with must have been a comfort, I am sure that was the intent. The men must have been in agony but express a painless comfort in the cold, shared with men of spirit and cheer. What the truth was in that tent will never be known. Scott’s further letters to the establishment now secure in the memory of those with influence and power the legend of the expedition. Scott will be criticised over the coming years for his poor leadership yet his understanding that he still had an ability to reach out to the whole world was clear. From an isolated tent in the middle of a desolated and lost position Scott shows he is fully aware of his ability to influence the future. Before the expedition set sail Scott needed to be able to work at levels of society and government which were arguably above his station and rank, yet he managed this well enough to get the Terra Nova supplied and to recruit men. Throughout this period he understood the powerful relationship with the media and this continued right to the end. Much of what has been written about Scott shows someone a little uncomfortable in certain circles, a man riddled with self-doubt and a man whose reputation with others was variable. For such a character to lead upwards, as Scott obviously did, must have required determination, resilience, intellect and courage. Leading upwards is not simply managing those above you in the hierarchy it involves making the connections required to influence and advance the task. That means spending time outside of the place you feel most comfortable, it means doing things that are not always you at your best and it requires a courage to do what others may hesitate to do. Leadership may not always look like the popular image of the charismatic individual walking through the team with lightness and confidence. It may be lonely, frightening and mixed with as much failure and rejection as success and adoration. Whatever else is said of Scott it is clear this man is not average, meritocracy does not get an under resourced expedition through the politics of the age and to the bottom of the world. Scott is also a man grateful to those who have showed support and kindness and in much of what he writes he is saying what all leaders need to say more often, thank you.

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Scott 100 Day 143 24th March 1912 : Wives and Mothers

Wives and Mothers. Scott makes no entry for the next few days, instead his writing energy goes into letters. The other men write letters to loved ones as their lives slowly ebb away.

Bowers to his Mother – We have had a terrible journey back… When man’s extremity is reached God’s help may put things right – although the end will be painless enough for myself I would so like to come through for your dear sake. It is splendid to pass however with such companions… oh how I do feel for you when you hear all. You will know that for me the end was peaceful as it is only sleep in the cold. Your ever loving son to the end of this life and the next where God shall wipe away all tears from our eyes.

Wilson  to his Wife – Don’t be unhappy – all is for the best. We are playing a good part in a great scheme arranged by God himself, and all is well… I should have liked to write to Mother and Dad and all at home, but is has been impossible. We will all meet after and death ahs no terrors… I leave you in absolute faith and happy belief that if God wishes you to wait long without me it will be for some good purpose. All is for the best to those that love God, and oh my Ory, we have both loved Him with all our lives. All is well. … We have struggled to the end and we have nothing to regret. Our whole record is clean. An Scott’s diary gives the account… The Barrier has beaten us – though we got to the pole. I feel so happy now in having got time to write to you… Dad’s little compass and Mothers little comb and looking glass are in my pocket. Your little testament and prayer book will be in my hand or in my breast pocket when the end comes.

Scott to his Wife – I wasn’t a very good husband, I hope I shall be a good memory certainly the end is nothing for you to be ashamed of and I like to think that the boy will have a good start in parentage of which he may be proud. Dear it is not easy to write because of the cold — 40 degrees below zero and nothing but the shelter of our tent — you know I have loved you, you know my thoughts must have constantly dwelt on you and oh dear me you must know that quite the worst aspect of this situation is the thought that I shall not see you again — The inevitable must be faced — you urged me to be leader of this party and I know you felt it would be dangerous — I’ve taken my place throughout, haven’t I? God bless you my own darling I shall try and write more later — I go on across the back pages.
Since writing the above we have got to within 11 miles of our depot with one hot meal and two days cold food and we should have got through but have been held for four days by a frightful storm — I think the best chance has gone we have decided not to kill ourselves but to fight it to the last for that depot but in the fighting there is a painless end so don’t worry. I have written letters on odd pages of this book — will you manage to get them sent? You see I am anxious for you and the boy’s future — make the boy interested in natural history if you can, it is better than games — they encourage it at some schools — I know you will keep him out in the open air — try and make him believe in a God, it is comforting. Oh my dear my dear what dreams I have had of his future and yet oh my girl I know you will face it stoically — your portrait and the boy’s will be found in my breast and the one in the little red Morocco case given by Lady Baxter — There is a piece of the Union flag I put up at the South Pole in my private kit bag together with Amundsen’s black flag and other trifles — give a small piece of the Union flag to the King and a small piece to Queen Alexandra and keep the rest a poor trophy for you! — What lots and lots I could tell you of this journey. How much better it has been than lounging in comfort at home — what tales you would have for the boy but oh what a price to pay — to forfeit the sight of your dear dear face — Dear you will be good to the old mother. I write her a little line in this book. Also keep in with Ettie and the others— oh but you’ll put on a strong face for the world — only don’t be too proud to accept help for the boys sake — he ought to have a fine career and do something in the world. I haven’t time to write to Sir Clements — tell him I thought much of him and never regretted him putting me in command of the Discovery.

Scott to Mrs Bowers (mother) – I am afraid this will reach you after one of the heaviest blows of your life. I write when we are very near the end of our journey, and I am finishing it in company with two gallant, noble gentlemen. One of these is your son. He had come to be one of my closest and soundest friends, and I appreciate his wonderful upright nature, his ability and energy. As the troubles have thickened his dauntless spirit ever shone brighter and he has remained cheerful, hopeful, and indomitable to the end. The ways of Providence are inscrutable, but there must be some reason why such a young, vigorous and promising life is taken. My whole heart goes out in pity for you. Yours, R. SCOTT. To the end he has talked of you and his sisters. One sees what a happy home he must have had and perhaps it is well to look back on nothing but happiness. He remains unselfish, self-reliant and splendidly hopeful to the end, believing in God’s mercy to you.

Scott to Mrs Wilson (Wife) – If this letter reaches you Bill and I will have gone out together. We are very near it now and I should like you to know how splendid he was at the end—everlastingly cheerful and ready to sacrifice himself for others, never a word of blame to me for leading him into this mess. He is not suffering, luckily, at least only minor discomforts. His eyes have a comfortable blue look of hope and his mind is peaceful with the satisfaction of his faith in regarding himself as part of the great scheme of the Almighty. I can do no more to comfort you than to tell you that he died as he lived, a brave, true man—the best of comrades and staunchest of friends. My whole heart goes out to you in pity, Yours, R. SCOTT

Scott’s Journal 24th March 1912. NO ENTRY

Commentary. In our modern world leaders communicate through shortened text, abbreviations, email and so many other mediums, all of which turn communicate into a function without beauty. The written words that flow from the men in the final days of the expedition are some of the most memorable and powerful ever written. As a leader you can make a massive impact by thinking through a piece of communication or meaningful gesture. A hand written note, thoughtful in word and tone will be treasured. Be mindful of communication and that it can say more than simply the words on the page.

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Scott 100 Day 142 23rd March 1912 : Near the end

Near the end. The proposed journey to One Ton Depot by Bowers and Wilson never took place and neither did the ‘die in our tracks’ march. The three men are now camped 11 miles from One Ton. They would not move forward from this point, they would now remain wrapped in their sleeping bags. Why they decided to stay in the tent and not perish in their tracks is a question explored by many of the polar authors and, as with so much of the story of this expedition, the words of Scott alone don’t answer all the questions being asked. The gap is usually filled with guesswork, some with related evidence or previous examples and some seem to appear completely randomly. For example Fiennes states that if the weather had given even the slightest chance and Bowers was fit he may have gone on alone to One Ton. While loyal to Scott Bowers was capable of breaking that strong connection with Scott if the situation called for it and Fiennes gives an example from the previous summer of such an occasion. Huntford offers the image of Scott persuading Bowers and Wilson to lie down and die with him in the tent, this way their journals and letters would be found as dying on the march would greatly reduce the chance of their bodies being found. Scott does mention that he is hopeful that his journal will be found so their story can be told, there does not seem to be any evidence to suggest that this was the rationale for staying put. Stay put they did. They now have no fuel, hardly any food and therefore very little water. There would be no need to venture outside and the three men would hold up in their sleeping bags writing their final words.

Scott’s Journal 23rd March 1912. Scott writes, ‘blizzard bad as ever—Wilson and Bowers unable to start—tomorrow last chance—no fuel and only one or two of food left—must be near the end. Have decided it shall be natural—we shall march for the depot with or without our effects and die in our tracks.’

Commentary. It is quite easy to understand why the telling of this story creates such differing opinions. Because they died on the ice the only evidence of what happened is contained in letters and journals. Experience from other adventures, and especially that of the Great War, alerts writers to a sense that the gritty reality may be somewhat different to letters to loved ones and personal diaries that are written for publication. But it is the extreme of discussion which is fascinating about those who write about this expedition. Staying in the tent 11 miles from One Ton Depot brings a significant clash between Fiennes and Huntford. Fiennes is convinced the weather and their weakening condition has forced them to halt at this point while Huntford pounces on his belief that Scott was an incompetent who had ‘bungled’ the expedition, was dying in the snow when he could have reached One Ton if he had listened to others and placed it further south, he was a poor leader who had brought the disaster on himself and will now suffer ‘retribution for his sins’. In the middle of this is Scott who has gone from hero to villan over the last 100 years. The lesson for leaders is clear, be careful of evaluation. When things are going well and praise is heaped on you from everywhere be mindful and remember that really, your not that good. Equally, when the world falls upon you, when every remark is a hurtful criticism remember that really, your not that bad. Perhaps Fiennes and Huntford are both correct and whatever the truth is Scott is certainly a complex character leading a challenging expedition with a diverse team in almost lab conditions. A wonderful study of teamwork and leadership.

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