Robert F. Scott

I waited a whole week for one specific TV program.
Hey, TV isn’t always bad.
British TV, especially.
Anyway, it was a program about Robert Falcon Scott – the great British explorer who led the Terra Nova expedition to the South Pole in 1911.

The program’s reenactment of the true events was based on Scott’s personal diary and letters to his wife, and on the other expedition team members’ letters and diaries –  Edgar Evans, Lawrence Oates, Edward Wilson, and Henry Bowers.

I watched in owe of these men.
Not only because of their courage.
Not only because of their stoicism.
But also because of the language with which they had expressed their innermost thoughts, beliefs, values, in their letters.

And it is in the language and expressions where one can seek judgement about the character of a society, of its people.
Because an expression through language is not a dress or a suit that we can take off if it doesn’t look nice or wears out.
An expression through language is our identity and our fingerprints.
Every adjective and every noun is a line carved into our skin;
under our eyes;
on our lips.
The way we express ourselves is the way we think and see the world.
A whole society of thinking and expressing themselves in a certain way reflects the time and understanding of that society; their principles; their values; their goals.
Expressing their thoughts and beliefs in the letters, while enduring a slow and freezing death, is a testament to R. Scott and his men that they can only walk equally among kings.

I took a few notes while watching the program a second time.
Because these will be a few more things I’d like to teach my kids.

1). The men’s belief in God amazed me.

Wilson’s last letter to his wife: “Don’t be unhappy. All is for the best. We are playing a good part and great scheme arranged by God himself and all is well. My own dear wife, good bye to the present. I do not cease to pray for you to the last.”

2). Their friendship, endurance, and selflessness – tested in the harshest of places – affected me deeply.

(During the expedition to the South Pole, Oates’s feet caught gangrene. On their way back to the depot, Oates’s situation worsened. His feet were practically frozen. He suggested to be left behind, but the team refused. Oates believed he was slowing everybody down, so he decided to resolve the problem his own way.)

Oates (and his last words): “I’m just going outside and it may be some time.”
Scott (in his diary): “He went out in the blizzard and we have not seen him since.”

3). Their loyalty to each other, to a goal, to honour their country and its people, transformed me.

(The support team found Scott and his men in their tent, dead, just 20 miles off the main depot. They had nearly made it. Unfortunately, exhaustion, no food left, and extremely bad weather prevented them from reaching their safe destination.)

Gerard (describing in his diary how they found the dead bodies in the tent): “Scott had thrown back the flap of his bag and his left hand was stretched over Wilson, his lifelong friend.” 

Gerard (from his diary, on the burial of his friends): “Atkinson read the lesson from the burial service from Corinthians (the burial took place where the tent was found). Perhaps it has never been read in a more magnificent cathedral and under more impressive circumstances, for it is a grave for which kings must envy”.

All these quotes are just examples of these men’s expressions through language which can only testify for a great culture and great men.
How do we express our thoughts today?
How are our kids going to express themselves tomorrow?
Will they express strong faith, courage, loyalty, and selflessness?
I can only hope that my kids will – by learning through stories like the ones of Robert Scott and his men.

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