Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Leadership & Planning

Albanov's assumption of leadership in In the Land of White Death is distinctly different than the other narratives we've read. At the beginning of his expedition, he was the one to take step up and initiate movement. "Everyone seemed to be waiting for a signal, so I took off my cap and made the sign of the cross. They all did the same, then someone shouted, Hurrah! We all repeated the cry in unison, leaned into our hauling straps, and at that moment our sledges began to move toward the south" (30). The other expeditions we've looked at this semester have had clear leaders -- Blum, Herzog, and Wilcox, for example. As we've discussed, leaders are critical for planning expeditions, making decisions, and ensuring functional group dynamics. Albanov's expedition seems to be poorly planned, however. Before they set out he comments: "Had the lieutenant forgotten that we were about to set offon foot on a daunting trek across drifting ice, in order to search for an unknown landmass, and this under worse conditions than any men who had gone before us?"(20) He was frustrated by the lack of planning and expressed uncertainty about the capabilities of his teammates, for "all of them complained of sore feet [and] not one of them was really fit" (21). This is drastically different from other journeys such as Blum's where she planned out equipment and hand-selected her teammates. Even the expedition itself doesn't have the same seriousness of thought that we've discussed. For example, Albanov says that "physical strength had nothing to do with the makeup of each hauling team; it was based solely on the bonds of friendship" (28) -- this seems almost reckless in the face of unsure survival. Albanov's team's seeming lack of preparation is exemplified through his questioning of the struggles they will face. Early on in his book he wonders if his thoughts are "premonition[s] of some great misfortune that [he] was heading for, with no hope of escape?" (21). By paralleling his anxieties with descriptions of lack of preparation, Albanov foreshadows the challenges to come.

1 comment:

  1. I thought that this aspect of the book is what made it more of an 'adventure" because it highlighted the severity of the unknown factors. It seemed to me that it was not so much a lack of planning, but a lack clarity about what they were planning for. They have never intended to need to cross the ice, so when they decided to, they did everything they could with what little foresight they had. Once they were on the march, it was rarely possible to estimate what they would face on a day to day basis, and so they constantly needed to adapt, which I thought he was particularly good at from a leadership standpoint. This is also what makes this type of adventure so different from mountain climbing, where the next day's route is known ahead of time, and the factors are rather weather or fatigue, and not simply where they are going.