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In the Pack
Sunday, December ll. -- The ice grew closer during the night, and at 6 it seemed hopeless to try and get ahead. The pack here is very regular; the floes about 2 1/2 feet thick and very solid. They are pressed closely together, but being irregular in shape, open spaces frequently occur, generally triangular in shape.
It might be noted that such ice as this occupies much greater space than it originally did when it formed a complete sheet -- hence if the Ross Sea were wholly frozen over in the spring, the total quantity of pack to the north of it when it breaks out must be immense.
This ice looks as though it must have come from the Ross Sea, and yet one is puzzled to account for the absence of pressure.
We have lain tight in the pack all day; the wind from 6 A.M. strong from W. and N.W., with snow; the wind has eased to-night, and for some hours the glass, which fell rapidly last night, has been stationary. I expect the wind will shift soon; pressure on the pack has eased, but so far it has not opened.
This morning Rennick got a sounding at 2015 fathoms from bottom similar to yesterday, with small pieces of basic lava; these two soundings appear to show a great distribution of this volcanic rock by ice. The line was weighed by hand after the soundings. I read Service in the wardroom.
This afternoon all hands have been away on ski over the floes. It is delightful to get the exercise. I'm much pleased with the ski and ski boots -- both are very well adapted to our purposes.
This waiting requires patience, though I suppose it was to be expected at such an early season. It is difficult to know when to try and push on again.
Monday, December 12. -- The pack was a little looser this morning; there was a distinct long swell apparently from N.W. The floes were not apart but barely touching the edges, which were hard pressed yesterday; the wind still holds from N.W., but lighter. Gran, Oates, and Bowers went on ski towards a reported island about which there had been some difference of opinion. I felt certain it was a berg, and it proved to be so; only of a very curious dome shape with very low cliffs all about.
Fires were ordered for 12, and at 11.30 we started steaming with plain sail set. We made, and are making fair progress on the whole, but it is very uneven. We escaped from the heavy floes about us into much thinner pack, then through two water holes, then back to the thinner pack consisting of thin floes of large area fairly easily broken. All went well till we struck heavy floes again, then for half an hour we stopped dead. Then on again, and since alternately bad and good -- that is, thin young floes and hoary older ones, occasionally a pressed up berg, very heavy.
The best news of yesterday was that we drifted 15 miles to the S.E., so that we have not really stopped our progress at all, though it has, of course, been pretty slow.
I really don't know what to think of the pack, or when to hope for open water.
We tried Atkinson's blubber stove this afternoon with great success. The interior of the stove holds a pipe in a single coil pierced with holes on the under side. These holes drip oil on to an asbestos burner. The blubber is placed in a tank suitably built around the chimney; the overflow of oil from this tank leads to the feed pipe in the stove, with a cock to regulate the flow. A very simple device, but as has been shown a very effective one; the stove gives great heat, but, of course, some blubber smell. However, with such stoves in the south one would never lack cooked food or warm hut.
Discussed with Wright the fact that the hummocks on sea ice always yield fresh water. We agreed that the brine must simply run down out of the ice. It will be interesting to bring up a piece of sea ice and watch this process. But the fact itself is interesting as showing that the process producing the hummock is really producing fresh water. It may also be noted as phenomenon which makes all the difference to the ice navigator.Note 5
Truly the getting to our winter quarters is no light task; at first the gales and heavy seas, and now this continuous fight with the pack ice.
8 P.M. -- We are getting on with much bumping and occasional 'hold ups.'
Tuesday, December 13. -- I was up most of the night. Never have I experienced such rapid and complete changes of prospect. Cheetham in the last dog watch was running the ship through sludgy new ice, making with all sail set four or five knots. Bruce, in the first, took over as we got into heavy ice again; but after a severe tussle got through into better conditions. The ice of yesterday loose with sludgy thin floes between. The middle watch found us making for an open lead, the ice around hard and heavy. We got through, and by sticking to the open water and then to some recently frozen pools made good progress. At the end of the middle watch trouble began again, and during this and the first part of the morning we were wrestling with the worst conditions we have met. Heavy hummocked bay ice, the floes standing 7 or 8 feet out of water, and very deep below. It was just such ice as we encountered at King Edward's Land in the Discovery. I have never seen anything more formidable. The last part of the morning watch was spent in a long recently frozen lead or pool, and the ship went well ahead again.
These changes sound tame enough, but they are a great strain on one's nerves -- one is for ever wondering whether one has done right in trying to come down so far east, and having regard to coal, what ought to be done under the circumstances.
In the first watch came many alterations of opinion; time and again it looks as though we ought to stop when it seemed futile to be pushing and pushing without result; then would come a stretch of easy going and the impression that all was going very well with us. The fact of the matter is, it is difficult not to imagine the conditions in which one finds oneself to be more extensive than they are. It is wearing to have to face new conditions every hour. This morning we met at breakfast in great spirits; the ship has been boring along well for two hours, then Cheetham suddenly ran her into a belt of the worst and we were held up immediately. We can push back again, I think, but meanwhile we have taken advantage of the conditions to water ship. These big floes are very handy for that purpose at any rate. Rennick got a sounding 2124 fathoms, similar bottom including volcanic lava.
December 13 (cont.). -- 67° 30' S. 177° 58' W. Made good S. 20 E. 27'. C. Crozier S. 21 W. 644'. -- We got in several tons of ice, then pushed off and slowly and laboriously worked our way to one of the recently frozen pools. It was not easily crossed, but when we came to its junction with the next part to the S.W. (in which direction I proposed to go) we were quite hung up. A little inspection showed that the big floes were tending to close. It seems as though the tenacity of the 6 or 7 inches of recent ice over the pools is enormously increased by lateral pressure. But whatever the cause, we could not budge.
We have decided to put fires out and remain here till the conditions change altogether for the better. It is sheer waste of coal to make further attempts to break through as things are at present.
We have been set to the east during the past days; is it the normal set in the region, or due to the prevalence of westerly winds? Possibly much depends on this as concerns our date of release. It is annoying, but one must contain one's soul in patience and hope for a brighter outlook in a day or two. Meanwhile we shall sound and do as much biological work as is possible.
The pack is a sunless place as a rule; this morning we had bright sunshine for a few hours, but later the sky clouded over from the north again, and now it is snowing dismally. It is calm.
Wednesday, December 14. -- Position, N. 2', W. 1/2'. The pack still close around. From the masthead one can see a few patches of open water in different directions, but the main outlook is the same scene of desolate hummocky pack. The wind has come from the S.W., force 2; we have bright sunshine and good sights. The ship has swung to the wind and the floes around are continually moving. They change their relative positions in a slow, furtive, creeping fashion. The temperature is 35°, the water 29.2° to 29.5°. Under such conditions the thin sludgy ice ought to be weakening all the time; a few inches of such stuff should allow us to push through anywhere.
One realises the awful monotony of a long stay in the pack, such as Nansen and others experienced. One can imagine such days as these lengthening into interminable months and years.
For us there is novelty, and everyone has work to do or makes work, so that there is no keen sense of impatience.
Nelson and Lillie were up all night with the current meter; it is not quite satisfactory, but some result has been obtained. They will also get a series of temperatures and samples and use the vertical tow net.
The current is satisfactory. Both days the fixes have been good -- it is best that we should go north and west. I had a great fear that we should be drifted east and so away to regions of permanent pack. If we go on in this direction it can only be a question of time before we are freed.
We have all been away on ski on the large floe to which we anchored this morning. Gran is wonderfully good and gives instruction well. It was hot and garments came off one by one -- the Soldier and Atkinson were stripped to the waist eventually, and have been sliding round the floe for some time in that condition. Nearly everyone has been wearing goggles; the glare is very bad. Ponting tried to get a colour picture, but unfortunately the ice colours are too delicate for this.
To-night Campbell, Evans, and I went out over the floe, and each in turn towed the other two; it was fairly easy work -- that is, to pull 310 to 320 lbs. One could pull it perhaps more easily on foot, yet it would be impossible to pull such a load on a sledge. What a puzzle this pulling of loads is! If one could think that this captivity was soon to end there would be little reason to regret it; it is giving practice with our deep sea gear, and has made everyone keen to learn the proper use of ski.
The swell has increased considerably, but it is impossible to tell from what direction it comes; one can simply note that the ship and brash ice swing to and fro, bumping into the floe.
We opened the ice-house to-day, and found the meat in excellent condition -- most of it still frozen.
Thursday, December 15. -- 66° 23' S. 177° 59' W. Sit. N. 2', E. 5 1/2'. -- In the morning the conditions were unaltered. Went for a ski run before breakfast. It makes a wonderful difference to get the blood circulating by a little exercise.
After breakfast we served out ski to the men of the landing party. They are all very keen to learn, and Gran has been out morning and afternoon giving instruction.
Meares got some of his dogs out and a sledge -- two lots of seven -- those that looked in worst condition (and several are getting very fat) were tried. They were very short of wind -- it is difficult to understand how they can get so fat, as they only get two and a half biscuits a day at the most. The ponies are looking very well on the whole, especially those in the outside stalls.
Rennick got a sounding to-day 1844 fathoms; reversible thermometers were placed close to bottom and 500 fathoms up. We shall get a very good series of temperatures from the bottom up during the wait. Nelson will try to get some more current observations to-night or to-morrow.
It is very trying to find oneself continually drifting north, but one is thankful not to be going east.
To-night it has fallen calm and the floes have decidedly opened; there is a lot of water about the ship, but it does not look to extend far. Meanwhile the brash and thinner floes are melting; everything of that sort must help -- but it's trying to the patience to be delayed like this.
We have seen enough to know that with a north-westerly or westerly wind the floes tend to pack and that they open when it is calm. The question is, will they open more with an easterly or south-easterly wind -- that is the hope.
Signs of open water round and about are certainly increasing rather than diminishing.
Friday, December 16. -- The wind sprang up from the N.E. this morning, bringing snow, thin light hail, and finally rain; it grew very thick and has remained so all day.
Early the floe on which we had done so much ski-ing broke up, and we gathered in our ice anchors, then put on head sail, to which she gradually paid off. With a fair wind we set sail on the foremast, and slowly but surely she pushed the heavy floes aside. At lunch time we entered a long lead of open water, and for nearly half an hour we sailed along comfortably in it. Entering the pack again, we found the floes much lighter and again pushed on slowly. In all we may have made as much as three miles.
I have observed for some time some floes of immense area forming a chain of lakes in this pack, and have been most anxious to discover their thickness. They are most certainly the result of the freezing of comparatively recent pools in the winter pack, and it follows that they must be getting weaker day by day. If one could be certain firstly, that these big areas extend to the south, and, secondly, that the ship could go through them, it would be worth getting up steam. We have arrived at the edge of one of these floes, and the ship will not go through under sail, but I'm sure she would do so under steam. Is this a typical floe? And are there more ahead?
One of the ponies got down this afternoon -- Oates thinks it was probably asleep and fell, but the incident is alarming; the animals are not too strong. On this account this delay is harassing -- otherwise we should not have much to regret.
Saturday, December 17. -- 67° 24'. 177° 34'. Drift for 48 hours S. 82 E. 9.7'. It rained hard and the glass fell rapidly last night with every sign of a coming gale. This morning the wind increased to force 6 from the west with snow. At noon the barograph curve turned up and the wind moderated, the sky gradually clearing.
To-night it is fairly bright and clear; there is a light south-westerly wind. It seems rather as though the great gales of the Westerlies must begin in these latitudes with such mild disturbances as we have just experienced. I think it is the first time I have known rain beyond the Antarctic circle -- it is interesting to speculate on its effect in melting the floes.
We have scarcely moved all day, but bergs which have become quite old friends through the week are on the move, and one has approached and almost circled us. Evidently these bergs are moving about in an irregular fashion, only they must have all travelled a little east in the forty-eight hours as we have done. Another interesting observation to-night is that of the slow passage of a stream of old heavy floes past the ship and the lighter ice in which she is held.
There are signs of water sky to the south, and I'm impatient to be off, but still one feels that waiting may be good policy, and I should certainly contemplate waiting some time longer if it weren't for the ponies.
Everyone is wonderfully cheerful; there is laughter all day long. Nelson finished his series of temperatures and samples to-day with an observation at 1800 metres.
Series of Sea Temperatures
Sunday, December 18. -- In the night it fell calm and the floes opened out. There is more open water between the floes around us, yet not a great deal more.
In general what we have observed on the opening of the pack means a very small increase in the open water spaces, but enough to convey the impression that the floes, instead of wishing to rub shoulders and grind against one another, desire to be apart. They touch lightly where they touch at all -- such a condition makes much difference to the ship in attempts to force her through, as each floe is freer to move on being struck.
If a pack be taken as an area bounded by open water, it is evident that a small increase of the periphery or a small outward movement of the floes will add much to the open water spaces and create a general freedom.
The opening of this pack was reported at 3 A.M., and orders were given to raise steam. The die is cast, and we must now make a determined push for the open southern sea.
There is a considerable swell from the N.W.; it should help us to get along.
Evening. -- Again extraordinary differences of fortune. At first things looked very bad -- it took nearly half an hour to get started, much more than an hour to work away to one of the large area floes to which I have referred; then to my horror the ship refused to look at it. Again by hard fighting we worked away to a crack running across this sheet, and to get through this crack required many stoppages and engine reversals.
Then we had to shoot away south to avoid another unbroken floe of large area, but after we had rounded this things became easier; from 6 o'clock we were almost able to keep a steady course, only occasionally hung up by some thicker floe. The rest of the ice was fairly recent and easily broken. At 7 the leads of recent ice became easier still, and at 8 we entered a long lane of open water. For a time we almost thought we had come to the end of our troubles, and there was much jubilation. But, alas! at the end of the lead we have come again to heavy bay ice. It is undoubtedly this mixture of bay ice which causes the open leads, and I cannot but think that this is the King Edward's Land pack. We are making S.W. as best we can.
What an exasperating game this is! -- one cannot tell what is going to happen in the next half or even quarter of an hour. At one moment everything looks flourishing, the next one begins to doubt if it is possible to get through.
New Fish. -- Just at the end of the open lead to-night we capsized a small floe and thereby jerked a fish out on top of another one. We stopped and picked it up, finding it a beautiful silver grey, genus Notothenia -- I think a new species.
Snow squalls have been passing at intervals -- the wind continues in the N.W. It is comparatively warm.
We saw the first full-grown Emperor penguin to-night.
Monday, December 19. -- On the whole, in spite of many bumps, we made good progress during the night, but the morning (present) outlook is the worst we've had. We seem to be in the midst of a terribly heavy screwed pack; it stretches in all directions as far as the eye can see, and the prospects are alarming from all points of view. I have decided to push west -- anything to get out of these terribly heavy floes. Great patience is the only panacea for our ill case. It is bad luck.
We first got amongst the very thick floes at 1 A.M., and jammed through some of the most monstrous I have ever seen. The pressure ridges rose 24 feet above the surface -- the ice must have extended at least 30 feet below. The blows given us gave the impression of irresistible solidity. Later in the night we passed out of this into long lanes of water and some of thin brash ice, hence the progress made. I'm afraid we have strained our rudder; it is stiff in one direction. We are in difficult circumstances altogether. This morning we have brilliant sunshine and no wind.
Noon 67° 54.5' S., 178° 28' W. Made good S. 34 W. 37'; C. Crozier 606'. Fog has spread up from the south with a very light southerly breeze.
There has been another change of conditions, but I scarcely know whether to call it for the better or the worse. There are fewer heavy old floes; on the other hand, the one year's floes, tremendously screwed and doubtless including old floes in their mass, have now enormously increased in area.
A floe which we have just passed must have been a mile across -- this argues lack of swell and from that one might judge the open water to be very far. We made progress in a fairly good direction this morning, but the outlook is bad again -- the ice seems to be closing. Again patience, we must go on steadily working through.
5.30. -- We passed two immense bergs in the afternoon watch, the first of an irregular tabular form. The stratified surface had clearly faulted. I suggest that an uneven bottom to such a berg giving unequal buoyancy to parts causes this faulting. The second berg was domed, having a twin peak. These bergs are still a puzzle. I rather cling to my original idea that they become domed when stranded and isolated.
These two bergs had left long tracks of open water in the pack. We came through these making nearly 3 knots, but, alas! only in a direction which carried us a little east of south. It was difficult to get from one tract to another, but the tracts themselves were quite clear of ice. I noticed with rather a sinking that the floes on either side of us were assuming gigantic areas; one or two could not have been less than 2 or 3 miles across. It seemed to point to very distant open water.
But an observation which gave greater satisfaction was a steady reduction in the thickness of the floes. At first they were still much pressed up and screwed. One saw lines and heaps of pressure dotted over the surface of the larger floes, but it was evident from the upturned slopes that the floes had been thin when these disturbances took place.
At about 4.30 we came to a group of six or seven low tabular bergs some 15 or 20 feet in height. It was such as these that we saw in King Edward's Land, and they might very well come from that region. Three of these were beautifully uniform, with flat tops and straight perpendicular sides, and others had overhanging cornices, and some sloped towards the edges.
No more open water was reported on the other side of the bergs, and one wondered what would come next. The conditions have proved a pleasing surprise. There are still large floes on either side of us, but they are not much hummocked; there are pools of water on their surface, and the lanes between are filled with light brash and only an occasional heavy floe. The difference is wonderful. The heavy floes and gigantic pressure ice struck one most alarmingly -- it seemed impossible that the ship could win her way through them, and led one to imagine all sorts of possibilities, such as remaining to be drifted north and freed later in the season, and the contrast now that the ice all around is little more than 2 or 3 feet thick is an immense relief. It seems like release from a horrid captivity. Evans has twice suggested stopping and waiting to-day, and on three occasions I have felt my own decision trembling in the balance. If this condition holds I need not say how glad we shall be that we doggedly pushed on in spite of the apparently hopeless outlook.
In any case, if it holds or not, it will be a great relief to feel that there is this plain of negotiable ice behind one.
Saw two sea leopards this evening, one in the water making short, lazy dives under the floes. It had a beautiful sinuous movement.
I have asked Pennell to prepare a map of the pack; it ought to give some idea of the origin of the various forms of floes, and their general drift. I am much inclined to think that most of the pressure ridges are formed by the passage of bergs through the comparatively young ice. I imagine that when the sea freezes very solid it carries bergs with it, but obviously the enormous mass of a berg would need a great deal of stopping. In support of this view I notice that most of the pressure ridges are formed by pieces of a sheet which did not exceed one or two feet in thickness -- also it seems that the screwed ice which we have passed has occurred mostly in the regions of bergs. On one side of the tabular berg passed yesterday pressure was heaped to a height of 15 feet -- it was like a ship's bow wave on a large scale. Yesterday there were many bergs and much pressure; last night no bergs and practically no pressure; this morning few bergs and comparatively little pressure. It goes to show that the unconfined pack of these seas would not be likely to give a ship a severe squeeze.
Saw a young Emperor this morning, and whilst trying to capture it one of Wilson's new whales with the sabre dorsal fin rose close to the ship. I estimated this fin to be 4 feet high.
It is pretty to see the snow petrel and Antarctic petrel diving on to the upturned and flooded floes. The wash of water sweeps the Euphausia across such submerged ice. The Antarctic petrel has a pretty crouching attitude.
Notes On Nickname
Tuesday, December 20. -- Noon 68° 41' S., 179° 28' W. Made good S. 36 W. 58; C. Crozier S. 20 W. 563'. -- The good conditions held up to midnight last night; we went from lead to lead with only occasional small difficulties. At 9 o'clock we passed along the western edge of a big stream of very heavy bay ice -- such ice as would come out late in the season from the inner reaches and bays of Victoria Sound, where the snows drift deeply. For a moment one imagined a return to our bad conditions, but we passed this heavy stuff in an hour and came again to the former condition, making our way in leads between floes of great area.
Bowers reported a floe of 12 square miles in the middle watch. We made very fair progress during the night, and an excellent run in the morning watch. Before eight a moderate breeze sprang up from the west and the ice began to close. We have worked our way a mile or two on since, but with much difficulty, so that we have now decided to bank fires and wait for the ice to open again; meanwhile we shall sound and get a haul with tow nets. I'm afraid we are still a long way from the open water; the floes are large, and where we have stopped they seem to be such as must have been formed early last winter. The signs of pressure have increased again. Bergs were very scarce last night, but there are several around us to-day. One has a number of big humps on top. It is curious to think how these big blocks became perched so high. I imagine the berg must have been calved from a region of hard pressure ridges. [Later] This is a mistake -- on closer inspection it is quite clear that the berg has tilted and that a great part of the upper strata, probably 20 feet deep, has slipped off, leaving the humps as islands on top.
It looks as though we must exercise patience again; progress is more difficult than in the worst of our experiences yesterday, but the outlook is very much brighter. This morning there were many dark shades of open water sky to the south; the westerly wind ruffling the water makes these cloud shadows very dark.
The barometer has been very steady for several days and we ought to have fine weather: this morning a lot of low cloud came from the S.W., at one time low enough to become fog -- the clouds are rising and dissipating, and we have almost a clear blue sky with sunshine.
Evening. -- The wind has gone from west to W.S.W. and still blows nearly force 6. We are lying very comfortably alongside a floe with open water to windward for 200 or 300 yards. The sky has been clear most of the day, fragments of low stratus occasionally hurry across the sky and a light cirrus is moving with some speed. Evidently it is blowing hard in the upper current. The ice has closed -- I trust it will open well when the wind lets up. There is a lot of open water behind us. The berg described this morning has been circling round us, passing within 800 yards; the bearing and distance have altered so un-uniformly that it is evident that the differential movement between the surface water and the berg-driving layers (from 100 to 200 metres down) is very irregular. We had several hours on the floe practising ski running, and thus got some welcome exercise. Coal is now the great anxiety -- we are making terrible inroads on our supply -- we have come 240 miles since we first entered the pack streams.
The sounding to-day gave 1804 fathoms -- the water bottle didn't work, but temperatures were got at 1300 and bottom.
The temperature was down to 20° last night and kept 2 or 3 degrees below freezing all day.
The surface for ski-ing to-day was very good.
Wednesday, December 21. -- The wind was still strong this morning, but had shifted to the south-west. With an overcast sky it was very cold and raw. The sun is now peeping through, the wind lessening and the weather conditions generally improving. During the night we had been drifting towards two large bergs, and about breakfast time we were becoming uncomfortably close to one of them -- the big floes were binding down on one another, but there seemed to be open water to the S.E., if we could work out in that direction.
(Note. -- All directions of wind are given 'true' in this book.)
Noon Position. -- 68° 25' S., 179° 11' W. Made good S. 26 E. 2.5'. Set of current N., 32 E. 9.4'. Made good 24 hours -- N. 40 E. 8'. We got the steam up and about 9 A.M. commenced to push through. Once or twice we have spent nearly twenty minutes pushing through bad places, but it looks as though we are getting to easier water. It's distressing to have the pack so tight, and the bergs make it impossible to lie comfortably still for any length of time.
Ponting has made some beautiful photographs and Wilson some charming pictures of the pack and bergs; certainly our voyage will be well illustrated. We find quite a lot of sketching talent. Day, Taylor, Debenham, and Wright all contribute to the elaborate record of the bergs and ice features met with.
5 P.M. -- The wind has settled to a moderate gale from S.W. We went 2 1/2 miles this morning, then became jammed again. The effort has taken us well clear of the threatening bergs. Some others to leeward now are a long way off, but they are there and to leeward, robbing our position of its full measure of security. Oh! but it's mighty trying to be delayed and delayed like this, and coal going all the time -- also we are drifting N. and E. -- the pack has carried us 9' N. and 6' E. It really is very distressing. I don't like letting fires go out with these bergs about.
Wilson went over the floe to capture some penguins and lay flat on the surface. We saw the birds run up to him, then turn within a few feet and rush away again. He says that they came towards him when he was singing, and ran away again when he stopped. They were all one year birds, and seemed exceptionally shy; they appear to be attracted to the ship by a fearful curiosity.Note 7
A chain of bergs must form a great obstruction to a field of pack ice, largely preventing its drift and forming lanes of open water. Taken in conjunction with the effect of bergs in forming pressure ridges, it follows that bergs have a great influence on the movement as well as the nature of pack.
Thursday, December 22. -- Noon 68° 26' 2'' S., 197° 8' 5'' W. Sit. N. 5 E. 8.5'. -- No change. The wind still steady from the S.W., with a clear sky and even barometer. It looks as though it might last any time. This is sheer bad luck. We have let the fires die out; there are bergs to leeward and we must take our chance of clearing them -- we cannot go on wasting coal.
There is not a vestige of swell, and with the wind in this direction there certainly ought to be if the open water was reasonably close. No, it looks as though we'd struck a streak of real bad luck; that fortune has determined to put every difficulty in our path. We have less than 300 tons of coal left in a ship that simply eats coal. It's alarming -- and then there are the ponies going steadily down hill in condition. The only encouragement is the persistence of open water to the east and south-east to south; big lanes of open water can be seen in that position, but we cannot get to them in this pressed up pack.
Atkinson has discovered a new tapeworm in the intestines of the Adélie penguin -- a very tiny worm one-eighth of an inch in length with a propeller-shaped head.
A crumb of comfort comes on finding that we have not drifted to the eastward appreciably.
Friday, December 23. -- The wind fell light at about ten last night and the ship swung round. Sail was set on the fore, and she pushed a few hundred yards to the north, but soon became jammed again. This brought us dead to windward of and close to a large berg with the wind steadily increasing. Not a very pleasant position, but also not one that caused much alarm. We set all sail, and with this help the ship slowly carried the pack round, pivoting on the berg until, as the pressure relieved, she slid out into the open water close to the berg. Here it was possible to 'wear ship,' and we saw a fair prospect of getting away to the east and afterwards south. Following the leads up we made excellent progress during the morning watch, and early in the forenoon turned south, and then south-west.
We had made 8 1/2' S. 22 E. and about 5' S.S.W. by 1 P.M., and could see a long lead of water to the south, cut off only by a broad strip of floe with many water holes in it: a composite floe. There was just a chance of getting through, but we have stuck half-way, advance and retreat equally impossible under sail alone. Steam has been ordered but will not be ready till near midnight. Shall we be out of the pack by Christmas Eve?
The floes to-day have been larger but thin and very sodden. There are extensive water pools showing in patches on the surface, and one notes some that run in line as though extending from cracks; also here and there close water-free cracks can be seen. Such floes might well be termed 'composite' floes, since they evidently consist of old floes which have been frozen together -- the junction being concealed by more recent snow falls.
A month ago it would probably have been difficult to detect inequalities or differences in the nature of the parts of the floes, but now the younger ice has become waterlogged and is melting rapidly, hence the pools.
I am inclined to think that nearly all the large floes as well as many of the smaller ones are 'composite,' and this would seem to show that the cementing of two floes does not necessarily mean a line of weakness, provided the difference in the thickness of the cemented floes is not too great; of course, young ice or even a single season's sea ice cannot become firmly attached to the thick old bay floes, and hence one finds these isolated even at this season of the year.
Very little can happen in the personal affairs of our company in this comparatively dull time, but it is good to see the steady progress that proceeds unconsciously in cementing the happy relationship that exists between the members of the party. Never could there have been a greater freedom from quarrels and trouble of all sorts. I have not heard a harsh word or seen a black look. A spirit of tolerance and good humour pervades the whole community, and it is glorious to realise that men can live under conditions of hardship, monotony, and danger in such bountiful good comradeship.
Preparations are now being made for Christmas festivities. It is curious to think that we have already passed the longest day in the southern year.
Saw a whale this morning -- estimated 25 to 30 feet. Wilson thinks a new species. Find Adélie penguins in batches of twenty or so. Do not remember having seen so many together in the pack.
After midnight, December 23. -- Steam was reported ready at 11 P.M. After some pushing to and fro we wriggled out of our ice prison and followed a lead to opener waters.
We have come into a region where the open water exceeds the ice; the former lies in great irregular pools 3 or 4 miles or more across and connecting with many leads. The latter, and the fact is puzzling, still contain floes of enormous dimensions; we have just passed one which is at least 2 miles in diameter. In such a scattered sea we cannot go direct, but often have to make longish detours; but on the whole in calm water and with a favouring wind we make good progress. With the sea even as open as we find it here it is astonishing to find the floes so large, and clearly there cannot be a southerly swell. The floes have water pools as described this afternoon, and none average more than 2 feet in thickness. We have two or three bergs in sight.
Saturday, December 24, Christmas Eve. -- 69° 1' S., 178° 29' W. S. 22 E. 29'; C. Crozier 551'. Alas! alas! at 7 A.M. this morning we were brought up with a solid sheet of pack extending in all directions, save that from which we had come. I must honestly own that I turned in at three thinking we had come to the end of our troubles; I had a suspicion of anxiety when I thought of the size of the floes, but I didn't for a moment suspect we should get into thick pack again behind those great sheets of open water.
All went well till four, when the white wall again appeared ahead -- at five all leads ended and we entered the pack; at seven we were close up to an immense composite floe, about as big as any we've seen. She wouldn't skirt the edge of this and she wouldn't go through it. There was nothing to do but to stop and bank fires. How do we stand? -- Any day or hour the floes may open up, leaving a road to further open water to the south, but there is no guarantee that one would not be hung up again and again in this manner as long as these great floes exist. In a fortnight's time the floes will have crumbled somewhat, and in many places the ship will be able to penetrate them.
What to do under these circumstances calls for the most difficult decision.
If one lets fires out it means a dead loss of over 2 tons, when the boiler has to be heated again. But this 2 tons would only cover a day under banked fires, so that for anything longer than twenty-four hours it is economy to put the fires out. At each stoppage one is called upon to decide whether it is to be for more or less than twenty-four hours.
Last night we got some five or six hours of good going ahead -- but it has to be remembered that this costs 2 tons of coal in addition to that expended in doing the distance.
If one waits one probably drifts north -- in all other respects conditions ought to be improving, except that the southern edge of the pack will be steadly augmenting.
Rough Summary of Current in Pack
S. 48 E. 12'?
N. by W. 3 to 5
N. 20 W. 2'
N.W. by W. 0-2
N. 2 E. 5.2'
apparently little current
N. 32 E. 9.4
N.W. to W.S.W. 4 to 6
N. 5 E. 8.5
West 4 to 5
The above seems to show that the drift is generally with the wind. We have had a predominance of westerly winds in a region where a predominance of easterly might be expected.
Now that we have an easterly, what will be the result?
Sunday, December 25, Christmas Day. -- Dead reckoning 69° 5' S., 178° 30' E. The night before last I had bright hopes that this Christmas Day would see us in open water. The scene is altogether too Christmassy. Ice surrounds us, low nimbus clouds intermittently discharging light snow flakes obscure the sky, here and there small pools of open water throw shafts of black shadow on to the cloud -- this black predominates in the direction from whence we have come, elsewhere the white haze of ice blink is pervading.
We are captured. We do practically nothing under sail to push through, and could do little under steam, and at each step forward the possibility of advance seems to lessen.
The wind which has persisted from the west for so long fell light last night, and to-day comes from the N.E. by N., a steady breeze from 2 to 3 in force. Since one must have hope, ours is pinned to the possible effect of a continuance of easterly wind. Again the call is for patience and again patience. Here at least we seem to enjoy full security. The ice is so thin that it could not hurt by pressure -- there are no bergs within reasonable distance -- indeed the thinness of the ice is one of the most tantalising conditions. In spite of the unpropitious prospect everyone on board is cheerful and one foresees a merry dinner to-night.
The mess is gaily decorated with our various banners. There was full attendance at the Service this morning and a lusty singing of hymns.
Should we now try to go east or west?
I have been trying to go west because the majority of tracks lie that side and no one has encountered such hard conditions as ours -- otherwise there is nothing to point to this direction, and all through the last week the prospect to the west has seemed less promising than in other directions; in spite of orders to steer to the S.W. when possible it has been impossible to push in that direction.
An event of Christmas was the production of a family by Crean's rabbit. She gave birth to 17, it is said, and Crean has given away 22!
I don't know what will become of the parent or family; at present they are warm and snug enough, tucked away in the fodder under the forecastle.
Midnight. -- To-night the air is thick with falling snow; the temperature 28°. It is cold and slushy without.
A merry evening has just concluded. We had an excellent dinner: tomato soup, penguin breast stewed as an entrée, roast beef, plum-pudding, and mince pies, asparagus, champagne, port and liqueurs -- a festive menu. Dinner began at 6 and ended at 7. For five hours the company has been sitting round the table singing lustily; we haven't much talent, but everyone has contributed more or less, 'and the choruses are deafening. It is rather a surprising circumstance that such an unmusical party should be so keen on singing. On Xmas night it was kept up till 1 A.M., and no work is done without a chanty. I don't know if you have ever heard sea chanties being sung. The merchant sailors have quite a repertoire, and invariably call on it when getting up anchor or hoisting sails. Often as not they are sung in a flat and throaty style, but the effect when a number of men break into the chorus is generally inspiriting.'
The men had dinner at midday -- much the same fare, but with beer and some whisky to drink. They seem to have enjoyed themselves much. Evidently the men's deck contains a very merry band.
There are three groups of penguins roosting on the floes quite close to the ship. I made the total number of birds 39. We could easily capture these birds, and so it is evident that food can always be obtained in the pack.
To-night I noticed a skua gull settle on an upturned block of ice at the edge of the floe on which several penguins were preparing for rest. It is a fact that the latter held a noisy confabulation with the skua as subject -- then they advanced as a body towards it; within a few paces the foremost penguin halted and turned, and then the others pushed him on towards the skua. One after another they jibbed at being first to approach their enemy, and it was only with much chattering and mutual support that they gradually edged towards him.
They couldn't reach him as he was perched on a block, but when they got quite close the skua, who up to that time had appeared quite unconcerned, flapped away a few yards and settled close on the other side of the group of penguins. The latter turned and repeated their former tactics until the skua finally flapped away altogether. It really was extraordinarily interesting to watch the timorous protesting movements of the penguins. The frame of mind producing every action could be so easily imagined and put into human sentiments.
On the other side of the ship part of another group of penguins were quarrelling for the possession of a small pressure block which offered only the most insecure foothold. The scrambling antics to secure the point of vantage, the ousting of the bird in possession, and the incontinent loss of balance and position as each bird reached the summit of his ambition was almost as entertaining as the episode of the skua. Truly these little creatures afford much amusement.
Monday, December 26. -- Obs. 69° 9' S., 178° 13' W. Made good 48 hours, S. 35 E. 10'. -- The position to-night is very cheerless. All hope that this easterly wind will open the pack seems to have vanished. We are surrounded with compacted floes of immense area. Openings appear between these floes and we slide crab-like from one to another with long delays between. It is difficult to keep hope alive. There are streaks of water sky over open leads to the north, but everywhere to the south we have the uniform white sky. The day has been overcast and the wind force 3 to 5 from the E.N.E. -- snow has fallen from time to time. There could scarcely be a more dreary prospect for the eye to rest upon.
As I lay in my bunk last night I seemed to note a measured crush on the brash ice, and to-day first it was reported that the floes had become smaller, and then we seemed to note a sort of measured send alongside the ship. There may be a long low swell, but it is not helping us apparently; to-night the floes around are indisputably as large as ever and I see little sign of their breaking or becoming less tightly locked.
It is a very, very trying time.
We have managed to make 2 or 3 miles in a S.W. (?) direction under sail by alternately throwing her aback, then filling sail and pressing through the narrow leads; probably this will scarcely make up for our drift. It's all very disheartening. The bright side is that everyone is prepared to exert himself to the utmost -- however poor the result of our labours may show.
Rennick got a sounding again to-day, 1843 fathoms.
One is much struck by our inability to find a cause for the periodic opening and closing of the floes. One wonders whether there is a reason to be found in tidal movement. In general, however, it seems to show that our conditions are governed by remote causes. Somewhere well north or south of us the wind may be blowing in some other direction, tending to press up or release pressure; then again such sheets of open water as those through which we passed to the north afford space into which bodies of pack can be pushed. The exasperating uncertainty of one's mind in such captivity is due to ignorance of its cause and inability to predict the effect of changes of wind. One can only vaguely comprehend that things are happening far beyond our horizon which directly affect our situation.
Tuesday, December 27. -- Dead reckoning 69° 12' S., 178° 18' W. We made nearly 2 miles in the first watch -- half push, half drift. Then the ship was again held up. In the middle the ice was close around, even pressing on us, and we didn't move a yard. The wind steadily increased and has been blowing a moderate gale, shifting in direction to E.S.E. We are reduced to lower topsails.
In the morning watch we began to move again, the ice opening out with the usual astonishing absence of reason. We have made a mile or two in a westerly direction in the same manner as yesterday. The floes seem a little smaller, but our outlook is very limited; there is a thick haze, and the only fact that can be known is that there are pools of water at intervals for a mile or two in the direction in which we go.
We commence to move between two floes, make 200 or 300 yards, and are then brought up bows on to a large lump. This may mean a wait of anything from ten minutes to half an hour, whilst the ship swings round, falls away, and drifts to leeward. When clear she forges ahead again and the operation is repeated. Occasionally when she can get a little way on she cracks the obstacle and slowly passes through it. There is a distinct swell -- very long, very low. I counted the period as about nine seconds. Everyone says the ice is breaking up. I have not seen any distinct evidence myself, but Wilson saw a large floe which had recently cracked into four pieces in such a position that the ship could not have caused it. The breaking up of the big floes is certainly a hopeful sign.
'I have written quite a lot about the pack ice when under ordinary conditions I should have passed it with few words. But you will scarcely be surprised when I tell you what an obstacle we have found it on this occasion.'
I was thinking during the gale last night that our position might be a great deal worse than it is. We were lying amongst the floes perfectly peacefully whilst the wind howled through the rigging. One felt quite free from anxiety as to the ship, the sails, the bergs or ice pressures. One calmly went below and slept in the greatest comfort. One thought of the ponies, but after all, horses have been carried for all time in small ships, and often enough for very long voyages. The Eastern Party will certainly benefit by any delay we may make; for them the later they get to King Edward's Land the better. The depot journey of the Western Party will be curtailed, but even so if we can get landed in January there should be time for a good deal of work. One must confess that things might be a great deal worse and there would be little to disturb one if one's release was certain, say in a week's time.
I'm afraid the ice-house is not going on so well as it might. There is some mould on the mutton and the beef is tainted. There is a distinct smell. The house has been opened by order when the temperature has fallen below 28°. I thought the effect would be to 'harden up' the meat, but apparently we need air circulation. When the temperature goes down to-night we shall probably take the beef out of the house and put a wind sail in to clear the atmosphere. If this does not improve matters we must hang more carcasses in the rigging.
Later, 6 P.M. -- The wind has backed from S.E. to E.S.E. and the swell is going down -- this seems to argue open water in the first but not in the second direction and that the course we pursue is a good one on the whole.
The sky is clearing but the wind still gusty, force 4 to 7; the ice has frozen a little and we've made no progress since noon.
9 P.M. -- One of the ponies went down to-night. He has been down before. It may mean nothing; on the other hand it is not a circumstance of good omen.
Otherwise there is nothing further to record, and I close this volume of my Journal under circumstances which cannot be considered cheerful.
A FRESH MS. BOOK. 1910-11.
[On the Flyleaf]
'And in regions far
Such heroes bring ye forth
As those from whom we came
And plant our name
Under that star
Not known unto our North.'
'To the Virginian Voyage.'
'But be the workemen what they may be, let us speake of the worke; that is, the true greatnesse of Kingdom and estates; and the meanes thereof.'
Still in the Ice
Wednesday, December 28, 1910. -- Obs. Noon, 69° 17' S., 179° 42' W. Made good since 26th S. 74 W. 31'; C. Crozier S. 22 W. 530'. The gale has abated. The sky began to clear in the middle watch; now we have bright, cheerful, warm sunshine (temp. 28°). The wind lulled in the middle watch and has fallen to force 2 to 3. We made 1 1/2 miles in the middle and have added nearly a mile since. This movement has brought us amongst floes of decidedly smaller area and the pack has loosened considerably. A visit to the crow's nest shows great improvement in the conditions. There is ice on all sides, but a large percentage of the floes is quite thin and even the heavier ice appears breakable. It is only possible to be certain of conditions for three miles or so -- the limit of observation from the crow's nest; but as far as this limit there is no doubt the ship could work through with ease. Beyond there are vague signs of open water in the southern sky. We have pushed and drifted south and west during the gale and are now near the 180th meridian again. It seems impossible that we can be far from the southern limit of the pack.
On strength of these observations we have decided to raise steam. I trust this effort will carry us through.
The pony which fell last night has now been brought out into the open. The poor beast is in a miserable condition, very thin, very weak on the hind legs, and suffering from a most irritating skin affection which is causing its hair to fall out in great quantities. I think a day or so in the open will help matters; one or two of the other ponies under the forecastle are also in poor condition, but none so bad as this one. Oates is unremitting in his attention and care of the animals, but I don't think he quite realises that whilst in the pack the ship must remain steady and that, therefore, a certain limited scope for movement and exercise is afForded by the open deck on which the sick animal now stands.
If we can get through the ice in the coming effort we may get all the ponies through safely, but there would be no great cause for surprise if we lost two or three more.
These animals are now the great consideration, balanced as they are against the coal expenditure.
This morning a number of penguins were diving for food around and under the ship. It is the first time they have come so close to the ship in the pack, and there can be little doubt that the absence of motion of the propeller has made them bold.
The Adélie penguin on land or ice is almost wholly ludicrous. Whether sleeping, quarrelling, or playing, whether curious, frightened, or angry, its interest is continuously humorous, but the Adélie penguin in the water is another thing; as it darts to and fro a fathom or two below the surface, as it leaps porpoise-like into the air or swims skimmingly over the rippling surface of a pool, it excites nothing but admiration. Its speed probably appears greater than it is, but the ability to twist and turn and the general control of movement is both beautiful and wonderful.
As one looks across the barren stretches of the pack, it is sometimes difficult to realise what teeming life exists immediately beneath its surface.
A tow-net is filled with diatoms in a very short space of time, showing that the floating plant life is many times richer than that of temperate or tropic seas. These diatoms mostly consist of three or four well-known species. Feeding on these diatoms are countless thousands of small shrimps (Euphausia); they can be seen swimming at the edge of every floe and washing about on the overturned pieces. In turn they afford food for creatures great and small: the crab-eater or white seal, the penguins, the Antarctic and snowy petrel, and an unknown number of fish.
These fish must be plentiful, as shown by our capture of one on an overturned floe and the report of several seen two days ago by some men leaning over the counter of the ship. These all exclaimed together, and on inquiry all agreed that they had seen half a dozen or more a foot or so in length swimming away under a floe. Seals and penguins capture these fish, as also, doubtless, the skuas and the petrels.
Coming to the larger mammals, one occasionally sees the long lithe sea leopard, formidably armed with ferocious teeth and doubtless containing a penguin or two and perhaps a young crab-eating seal. The killer whale (Orca gladiator), unappeasably voracious, devouring or attempting to devour every smaller animal, is less common in the pack but numerous on the coasts. Finally, we have the great browsing whales of various species, from the vast blue whale (Balænoptera Sibbaldi), the largest mammal of all time, to the smaller and less common bottle-nose and such species as have not yet been named. Great numbers of these huge animals are seen, and one realises what a demand they must make on their food supply and therefore how immense a supply of small sea beasts these seas must contain. Beneath the placid ice floes and under the calm water pools the old universal warfare is raging incessantly in the struggle for existence.
Both morning and afternoon we have had brilliant sunshine, and this afternoon all the after-guard lay about on the deck sunning themselves. A happy, care-free group.
10 P.M. -- We made our start at eight, and so far things look well. We have found the ice comparatively thin, the floes 2 to 3 feet in thickness except where hummocked; amongst them are large sheets from 6 inches to 1 foot in thickness as well as fairly numerous water pools. The ship has pushed on well, covering at least 3 miles an hour, though occasionally almost stopped by a group of hummocked floes. The sky is overcast: stratus clouds come over from the N.N.E. with wind in the same direction soon after we started. This may be an advantage, as the sails give great assistance and the officer of the watch has an easier time when the sun is not shining directly in his eyes. As I write the pack looks a little closer; I hope to heavens it is not generally closing up again -- no sign of open water to the south. Alas!
12 P.M. -- Saw two sea leopards playing in the wake.
Thursday, December 29. -- No sights. At last the change for which I have been so eagerly looking has arrived and we are steaming amongst floes of small area evidently broken by swell, and with edges abraded by contact. The transition was almost sudden. We made very good progress during the night with one or two checks and one or two slices of luck in the way of open water. In one pool we ran clear for an hour, capturing 6 good miles.
This morning we were running through large continuous sheets of ice from 6 inches to 1 foot in thickness, with occasional water holes and groups of heavier floes. This forenoon it is the same tale, except that the sheets of thin ice are broken into comparatively regular figures, none more than 30 yards across. It is the hopefullest sign of the approach to the open sea that I have seen.
The wind remains in the north helping us, the sky is overcast and slight sleety drizzle is falling; the sun has made one or two attempts to break through but without success.
Last night we had a good example of the phenomenon called 'Glazed Frost.' The ship everywhere, on every fibre of rope as well as on her more solid parts, was covered with a thin sheet of ice caused by a fall of light super-cooled rain. The effect was pretty and interesting.
Our passage through the pack has been comparatively uninteresting from the zoologist's point of view, as we have seen so little of the rarer species of animals or of birds in exceptional plumage. We passed dozens of crab-eaters, but have seen no Ross seals nor have we been able to kill a sea leopard. To-day we see very few penguins. I'm afraid there can be no observations to give us our position.
Release after Twenty Days in the Pack
Friday, December 30. -- Obs. 72° 17' S. 177° 9' E. Made good in 48 hours, S. 19 W. 190'; C. Crozier S. 21 W. 334'. We are out of the pack at length and at last; one breathes again and hopes that it will be possible to carry out the main part of our programme, but the coal will need tender nursing.
Yesterday afternoon it became darkly overcast with falling snow. The barometer fell on a very steep gradient and the wind increased to force 6 from the E.N.E. In the evening the snow fell heavily and the glass still galloped down. In any other part of the world one would have felt certain of a coming gale. But here by experience we know that the barometer gives little indication of wind.
Throughout the afternoon and evening the water holes became more frequent and we came along at a fine speed. At the end of the first watch we were passing through occasional streams of ice; the wind had shifted to north and the barometer had ceased to fall. In the middle watch the snow held up, and soon after -- 1 A.M. -- Bowers steered through the last ice stream.
At six this morning we were well in the open sea, the sky thick and overcast with occasional patches of fog. We passed one small berg on the starboard hand with a group of Antarctic petrels on one side and a group of snow petrels on the other. It is evident that these birds rely on sea and swell to cast their food up on ice ledges -- only a few find sustenance in the pack where, though food is plentiful, it is not so easily come by. A flight of Antarctic petrel accompanied the ship for some distance, wheeling to and fro about her rather than following in the wake as do the more northerly sea birds.
It is [good] to escape from the captivity of the pack and to feel that a few days will see us at Cape Crozier, but it is sad to remember the terrible inroad which the fight of the last fortnight has made on our coal supply.
2 P.M. -- The wind failed in the forenoon. Sails were clewed up, and at eleven we stopped to sound. The sounding showed 1111 fathoms -- we appear to be on the edge of the continental shelf. Nelson got some samples and temperatures.
The sun is bursting through the misty sky and warming the air. The snowstorm had covered the ropes with an icy sheet -- this is now peeling off and falling with a clatter to the deck, from which the moist slush is rapidly evaporating. In a few hours the ship will be dry -- much to our satisfaction; it is very wretched when, as last night, there is slippery wet snow underfoot and on every object one touches.
Our run has exceeded our reckoning by much. I feel confident that our speed during the last two days had been greatly under-estimated and so it has proved. We ought to be off C. Crozier on New Year's Day.
8 P.M. -- Our calm soon came to an end, the breeze at 3 P.M. coming strong from the S.S.W., dead in our teeth -- a regular southern blizzard. We are creeping along a bare 2 knots. I begin to wonder if fortune will ever turn her wheel. On every possible occasion she seems to have decided against us. Of course, the ponies are feeling the motion as we pitch in a short, sharp sea -- it's damnable for them and disgusting for us.
Summary of the Pack
We may be said to have entered the pack at 4 P.M. on the 9th in latitude 65 1/2 S. We left it at 1 A.M. on 30th in latitude 71 1/2 S. We have taken twenty days and some odd hours to get through, and covered in a direct line over 370 miles -- an average of 18 miles a day. We entered the pack with 342 tons of coal and left with 281 tons; we have, therefore, expended 61 tons in forcing our way through -- an average of 6 miles to the ton.
These are not pleasant figures to contemplate, but considering the exceptional conditions experienced I suppose one must conclude that things might have been worse.
9th. Loose streams, steaming.
19th. Noon, heavy pack and leads, steaming.
10th. Close pack.
20th. Forenoon, banked fires.
11th. 6 A.M. close pack, stopped.
21st. 9 A.M. started. 11 A.M. banked.
12th. 11.30 A.M. started.
22nd. ,, ,,
13th. 8 A.M. heavy pack, stopped; 8 P.M. out fires.
23rd. Midnight, started.
14th. Fires out.
24th. 7 A.M. stopped
25th. Fires out.
26th. ,, ,,
27th. ,, ,,
18th. Noon, heavy pack and leads, steaming
28th. 7.30 P.M. steaming.
These columns show that we were steaming for nine out of twenty days. We had two long stops, one of five days and one of four and a half days. On three other occasions we stopped for short intervals without drawing fires.
I have asked Wright to plot the pack with certain symbols on the chart made by Pennell. It promises to give a very graphic representation of our experiences.
'We hold the record for reaching the northern edge of the pack, whereas three or four times the open Ross Sea has been gained at an earlier date.
'I can imagine few things more trying to the patience than the long wasted days of waiting. Exasperating as it is to see the tons of coal melting away with the smallest mileage to our credit, one has at least the satisfaction of active fighting and the hope of better fortune. To wait idly is the worst of conditions. You can imagine how often and how restlessly we climbed to the crow's nest and studied the outlook. And strangely enough there was generally some change to note. A water lead would mysteriously open up a few miles away or the place where it had been would as mysteriously close. Huge icebergs crept silently towards or past us, and continually we were observing these formidable objects with range finder and compass to determine the relative movement, sometimes with misgiving as to our ability to clear them. Under steam the change of conditions was even more marked. Sometimes we would enter a lead of open water and proceed for a mile or two without hindrance; sometimes we would come to big sheets of thin ice which broke easily as our iron-shod prow struck them, and sometimes even a thin sheet would resist all our attempts to break it; sometimes we would push big floes with comparative ease and sometimes a small floe would bar our passage with such obstinacy that one would almost believe it possessed of an evil spirit; sometimes we passed through acres of sludgy sodden ice which hissed as it swept along the side, and sometimes the hissing ceased seemingly without rhyme or reason, and we found our screw churning the sea without any effect.
'Thus the steaming days passed away in an ever changing environment and are remembered as an unceasing struggle.
'The ship behaved splendidly -- no other ship, not even the Discovery, would have come through so well. Certainly the Nimrod would never have reached the south water had she been caught in such pack. As a result I have grown strangely attached to the Terra Nova. As she bumped the floes with mighty shocks, crushing and grinding a way through some, twisting and turning to avoid others, she seemed like a living thing fighting a great fight. If only she had more economical engines she would be suitable in all respects.
'Once or twice we got among floes which stood 7 or 8 feet above water, with hummocks and pinnacles as high as 25 feet. The ship could have stood no chance had such floes pressed against her, and at first we were a little alarmed in such situations. But familiarity breeds contempt; there never was any pressure in the heavy ice, and I'm inclined to think there never would be.
'The weather changed frequently during our journey through the pack. The wind blew strong from the west and from the east; the sky was often darkly overcast; we had snowstorms, flaky snow, and even light rain. In all such circumstances we were better placed in the pack than outside of it. The foulest weather could do us little harm. During quite a large percentage of days, however, we had bright sunshine, which, even with the temperature well below freezing, made everything look bright and cheerful. The sun also brought us wonderful cloud effects, marvellously delicate tints of sky, cloud, and ice, such effects as one might travel far to see. In spite of our impatience we would not willingly have missed many of the beautiful scenes which our sojourn in the pack afforded us. Ponting and Wilson have been busy catching these effects, but no art can reproduce such colours as the deep blue of the icebergs.
'Scientifically we have been able to do something. We have managed to get a line of soundings on our route showing the raising of the bottom from the ocean depths to the shallow water on the continental shelf, and the nature of the bottom. With these soundings we have obtained many interesting observations of the temperature of different layers of water in the sea.
'Then we have added a great deal to the knowledge of life in the pack from observation of the whales, seals, penguins, birds, and fishes as well as of the pelagic beasts which are caught in tow-nets. Life in one form or another is very plentiful in the pack, and the struggle for existence here as elsewhere is a fascinating subject for study.
'We have made a systematic study of the ice also, both the bergs and sea ice, and have got a good deal of useful information concerning it. Also Pennell has done a little magnetic work.
'But of course this slight list of activity in the cause of science is a very poor showing for the time of our numerous experts; many have had to be idle in regard to their own specialities, though none are idle otherwise. All the scientific people keep night watch when they have no special work to do, and I have never seen a party of men so anxious to be doing work or so cheerful in doing it. When there is anything to be done, such as making or shortening sail, digging ice from floes for the water supply, or heaving up the sounding line, it goes without saying that all the afterguard turn out to do it. There is no hesitation and no distinction. It will be the same when it comes to landing stores or doing any other hard manual labour.
'The spirit of the enterprise is as bright as ever. Every one strives to help every one else, and not a word of complaint or anger has been heard on board. The inner life of our small community is very pleasant to think upon and very wonderful considering the extremely small space in which we are confined.
'The attitude of the men is equally worthy of admiration. In the forecastle as in the wardroom there is a rush to be first when work is to be done, and the same desire to sacrifice selfish consideration to the success of the expedition. It is very good to be able to write in such high praise of one's companions, and I feel that the possession of such support ought to ensure success. Fortune would be in a hard mood indeed if it allowed such a combination of knowledge, experience, ability, and enthusiasm to achieve nothing.'
- ^Captain Oates' nickname.
- ^A species of shrimp on which the seabirds feed.
- ^The party headed by Lieutenant Campbell, which, being unable to disembark on King Edward's Land, was ultimately taken by the Terra Nova to the north part of Victoria Land, and so came to be known as the Northern Party. The Western Party here mentioned includes all who had their base at Cape Evans: the depots to be laid were for the subsequent expedition to the Pole.
This is a chapter from Scott’s Last Expedition (e-book).
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