|Scott's crew - on a day without a blizzard|
I have known the story of Captain Scott since I was a boy and I have always been saddened by it. When it was first told to me, I wasn't aware that anyone had begun to question Scott's skills as a leader, or the wisdom of some of the decisions that were made during the journey. Somehow we were meant to praise the efforts of a famous Englishman, battling against impossible odds in an under-funded attempt to reach the South Pole first. Somehow we were being taught that the success of Amundsen's team was due to the way that they had 'cheated' by using dogs to haul their sleighs, whereas Scott's (failed) attempt to use mechanical methods were not considered to constitute cheating. (See this comparison between the two missions.)
A century after the death of Robert Falcon Scott and his crew, I think even the English have the perspective to recognise weaknesses in his leadership skills, and yet still to respect him. In particular I would question his fateful decision to attempt the last stretch to the pole with five team members, even though they had only planned the resources for four. We can still recognise the great qualities of a man who was driven by his passion to succeed and to keep his team happy. At the same time I completely respect his competitor's use of the best equipment and arctic experience available at the time, to succeed and to survive.
|Amundsen successfully reached the South Pole - without 'cheating'.|
I mentioned last year in 'Tears and Heroism' that I do feel a certain empathy with Scott.
One of the things I found that I have in common with Scott was an inability to organise things properly. Yes - I am indulging in another bout of self-deprecation as a dear friend sometimes reminds me. But I fear that I could organise things no better than Scott did.
The other was that he has a tendency towards lacrimosity, both in sad situations and (surprisingly) in happy occasions. He found that it was embarrassing to him and to the other men around him .
Perhaps at the time I had been having a bad day and was feeling less confident about my organisation skills than I am now. Tears in happy moments are still a daily threat though. Thank goodness for the happy moments!
Small note: Don't worry - Something Surprising will continue on schedule tomorrow in spite of the title!