Scott's Last Expedition: Awaiting the Crozier Party
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Awaiting the Crozier Party
Friday, June 23 -- Saturday, June 24. -- Two quiet, uneventful days and a complete return to routine.
Sunday, June 25. -- I find I have made no mention of Cherry-Garrard's first number of the revived South Polar Times, presented to me on Midwinter Day.
It is a very good little volume, bound by Day in a really charming cover of carved venesta wood and sealskin. The contributors are anonymous, but I have succeeded in guessing the identity of the greater number.
The Editor has taken a statistical paper of my own on the plans for the Southern Journey and a well-written serious article on the Geological History of our region by Taylor. Except for editorial and meteorological notes the rest is conceived in the lighter vein. The verse is mediocre except perhaps for a quaint play of words in an amusing little skit on the sleeping-bag argument; but an article entitled 'Valhalla' appears to me to be altogether on a different level. It purports to describe the arrival of some of our party at the gates proverbially guarded by St. Peter; the humour is really delicious and nowhere at all forced. In the jokes of a small community it is rare to recognise one which would appeal to an outsider, but some of the happier witticisms of this article seem to me fit for wider circulation than our journal enjoys at present. Above all there is distinct literary merit in it -- a polish which leaves you unable to suggest the betterment of a word anywhere.
I unhesitatingly attribute this effort to Taylor, but Wilson and Garrard make Meares responsible for it. If they are right I shall have to own that my judgment of attributes is very much at fault. I must find out.
A quiet day. Read Church Service as usual; in afternoon walked up the Ramp with Wilson to have a quiet talk before he departs. I wanted to get his ideas as to the scientific work done.
We agreed as to the exceptionally happy organisation of our party.
I took the opportunity to warn Wilson concerning the desirability of complete understanding with Ponting and Taylor with respect to their photographs and records on their return to civilisation.
The weather has been very mysterious of late; on the 23rd and 24th it continuously threatened a blizzard, but now the sky is clearing again with all signs of fine weather.
Monday, June 26. -- With a clear sky it was quite twilighty at noon to-day. Already such signs of day are inspiriting. In the afternoon the wind arose with drift and again the prophets predicted a blizzard. After an hour or two the wind fell and we had a calm, clear evening and night. The blizzards proper seem to be always preceded by an overcast sky in accordance with Simpson's theory.
Taylor gave a most interesting lecture on the physiographic features of the region traversed by his party in the autumn. His mind is very luminous and clear and he treated the subject with a breadth of view which was delightful. The illustrative slides were made from Debenham's photographs, and many of them were quite beautiful. Ponting tells me that Debenham knows quite a lot about photography and goes to work in quite the right way.
The lecture being a précis of Taylor's report there is no need to recapitulate its matter. With the pictures it was startling to realise the very different extent to which tributary glaciers have carved the channels in which they lie. The Canadian Glacier lies dead, but at 'grade' it has cut a very deep channel. The 'double curtain' hangs at an angle of 25°, with practically no channel. Mention was made of the difference of water found in Lake Bonney by me in December 1903 and the Western Party in February 1911. It seems certain that water must go on accumulating in the lake during the two or three summer months, and it is hard to imagine that all can be lost again by the winter's evaporation. If it does, 'evaporation' becomes a matter of primary importance.
There was an excellent picture showing the find of sponges on the Koettlitz Glacier. Heaps of large sponges were found containing corals and some shells, all representative of present-day fauna. How on earth did they get to the place where found? There was a good deal of discussion on the point and no very satisfactory solution offered. Cannot help thinking that there is something in the thought that the glacier may have been weighted down with rubble which finally disengaged itself and allowed the ice to rise. Such speculations are interesting.
Preparations for the start of the Crozier Party are now completed, and the people will have to drag 253 lbs. per man -- a big weight.
Day has made an excellent little blubber lamp for lighting; it has an annular wick and talc chimney; a small circular plate over the wick conducts the heat down and raises the temperature of combustion, so that the result is a clear white flame.
We are certainly within measurable distance of using blubber in the most effective way for both heating and lighting, and this is an advance which is of very high importance to the future of Antarctic Exploration.
Tuesday, June 27. -- The Crozier Party departed this morning in good spirits -- their heavy load was distributed on two 9-feet sledges. Ponting photographed them by flashlight and attempted to get a cinematograph picture by means of a flash candle. But when the candle was ignited it was evident that the light would not be sufficient for the purpose and there was not much surprise when the film proved a failure. The three travellers found they could pull their load fairly easily on the sea ice when the rest of us stood aside for the trial. I'm afraid they will find much more difficulty on the Barrier, but there was nothing now to prevent them starting, and off they went.
With helping contingent I went round the Cape. Taylor and Nelson left at the Razor Back Island and report all well. Simpson, Meares and Gran continued and have not yet returned.
Gran just back on ski; left party at 5 1/4 miles. Says Meares and Simpson are returning on foot. Reports a bad bit of surface between Tent Island and Glacier Tongue. It was well that the party had assistance to cross this.
This winter travel is a new and bold venture, but the right men have gone to attempt it. All good luck go with them.
Bowers reports that present consumption (midwinter) = 4 blocks per day (100 lbs.).
An occasional block is required for the absolute magnetic hut. He reports 8 1/2 tons used since landing.
This is in excess of 4 blocks per day as follows:
8 1/2 tons in 150 days = 127 lbs. per diem.
= 889 lbs. per week, or nearly 8 cwt.
= 20 1/2 tons per year.
Report August 4.
Used to date = 9 tons = 20,160 lbs.
Say 190 days at 106 lbs. per day.
Coal remaining 20 1/2 tons.
Estimate 8 tons to return of ship.
Total estimate for year, 17 tons. We should have 13 or 14 tons for next year.
A FRESH MS. BOOK
Quotations on the Flyleaf
'Where the (Queen's) Law does not carry it is irrational to exact an observance of other and weaker rules.' -- RUDYARD KIPLING.
Confident of his good intentions but doubtful of his fortitude.
'So far as I can venture to offer an opinion on such a matter, the purpose of our being in existence, the highest object that human beings can set before themselves is not the pursuit of any such chimera as the annihilation of the unknown; but it is simply the unwearied endeavour to remove its boundaries a little further from our little sphere of action.' -- HUXLEY.
Wednesday, June 28. -- The temperature has been hovering around -30° with a clear sky -- at midday it was exceptionally light, and even two hours after noon I was able to pick my way amongst the boulders of the Ramp. We miss the Crozier Party. Lectures have ceased during its absence, so that our life is very quiet.
Thursday, June 29. -- It seemed rather stuffy in the hut last night -- I found it difficult to sleep, and noticed a good many others in like case. I found the temperature was only 50°, but that the small uptake on the stove pipe was closed. I think it would be good to have a renewal of air at bed time, but don't quite know how to manage this.
It was calm all night and when I left the hut at 8.30. At 9 the wind suddenly rose to 40 m.p.h. and at the same moment the temperature rose 10°. The wind and temperature curves show this sudden simultaneous change more clearly than usual. The curious circumstance is that this blow comes out of a clear sky. This will be disturbing to our theories unless the wind drops again very soon.
The wind fell within an hour almost as suddenly as it had arisen; the temperature followed, only a little more gradually. One may well wonder how such a phenomenon is possible. In the middle of a period of placid calm and out of a clear sky there suddenly rushed upon one this volume of comparatively warm air; it has come and gone like the whirlwind.
Whence comes it and whither goeth?
Went round the bergs after lunch on ski -- splendid surface and quite a good light.
We are now getting good records with the tide gauge after a great deal of trouble. Day has given much of his time to the matter, and after a good deal of discussion has pretty well mastered the principles. We brought a self-recording instrument from New Zealand, but this was passed over to [[Victor L. A. Campbell|Campbell]]. It has not been an easy matter to manufacture one for our own use. The wire from the bottom weight is led through a tube filled with paraffin as in Discovery days, and kept tight by a counter weight after passage through a block on a stanchion rising 6 feet above the floe.
In his first instrument Day arranged for this wire to pass around a pulley, the revolution of which actuated the pen of the recording drum. This should have been successful but for the difficulty of making good mechanical connection between the recorder and the pulley. Backlash caused an unreliable record, and this arrangement had to be abandoned. The motion of the wire was then made to actuate the recorder through a hinged lever, and this arrangement holds, but days and even weeks have been lost in grappling the difficulties of adjustment between the limits of the tide and those of the recording drum; then when all seemed well we found that the floe was not rising uniformly with the water. It is hung up by the beach ice. When we were considering the question of removing the whole apparatus to a more distant point, a fresh crack appeared between it and the shore, and on this 'hinge' the floe seems to be moving more freely.
Friday, June 30, 1911. -- The temperature is steadily falling; we are descending the scale of negative thirties and to-day reached its limit, -39°. Day has manufactured a current vane, a simple arrangement: up to the present he has used this near the Cape. There is little doubt, however, that the water movement is erratic and irregular inside the islands, and I have been anxious to get observations which will indicate the movement in the 'Strait.' I went with him to-day to find a crack which I thought must run to the north from Inaccessible Island. We discovered it about 2 to 2 1/2 miles out and found it to be an ideal place for such work, a fracture in the ice sheet which is constantly opening and therefore always edged with thin ice. Have told Day that I think a bottle weighted so as to give it a small negative buoyancy, and attached to a fine line, should give as good results as his vane and would be much handier. He now proposes to go one better and put an electric light in the bottle.
We found that our loose dogs had been attacking a seal, and then came across a dead seal which had evidently been worried to death some time ago. It appears Demetri saw more seal further to the north, and this afternoon Meares has killed a large one as well as the one which was worried this morning.
It is good to find the seals so close, but very annoying to find that the dogs have discovered their resting-place.
The long spell of fine weather is very satisfactory.
Saturday, July 1, 1911. -- We have designed new ski boots and I think they are going to be a success. My object is to stick to the Huitfeldt binding for sledging if possible. One must wear finnesko on the Barrier, and with finnesko alone a loose binding is necessary. For this we brought 'Finon' bindings, consisting of leather toe straps and thong heel binding. With this arrangement one does not have good control of his ski and stands the chance of a chafe on the 'tendon Achillis.' Owing to the last consideration many had decided to go with toe strap alone as we did in the Discovery. This brought into my mind the possibility of using the iron cross bar and snap heel strap of the Huitfeldt on a suitable overshoe.
Evans, P.O., has arisen well to the occasion as a boot maker, and has just completed a pair of shoes which are very nearly what we require.
The soles have two thicknesses of seal skin cured with alum, stiffened at the foot with a layer of venesta board, and raised at the heel on a block of wood. The upper part is large enough to contain a finnesko and is secured by a simple strap. A shoe weighs 13 oz. against 2 lbs. for a single ski boot -- so that shoe and finnesko together are less weight than a boot.
If we can perfect this arrangement it should be of the greatest use to us.
Wright has been swinging the pendulum in his cavern. Prodigious trouble has been taken to keep the time, and this object has been immensely helped by the telephone communication between the cavern, the transit instrument, and the interior of the hut. The timekeeper is perfectly placed. Wright tells me that his ice platform proves to be five times as solid as the fixed piece of masonry used at Potsdam. The only difficulty is the low temperature, which freezes his breath on the glass window of the protecting dome. I feel sure these gravity results are going to be very good.
The temperature has been hanging in the minus thirties all day with calm and clear sky, but this evening a wind has sprung up without rise of temperature. It is now -32°, with a wind of 25 m.p.h. -- a pretty stiff condition to face outside!
Sunday, July 2. -- There was wind last night, but this morning found a settled calm again, with temperature as usual about -35°. The moon is rising again; it came over the shoulder of Erebus about 5 P.M., in second quarter. It will cross the meridian at night, worse luck, but such days as this will be pleasant even with a low moon; one is very glad to think the Crozier Party are having such a peaceful time.
Sunday routine and nothing much to record.
Monday, July 3. -- Another quiet day, the sky more suspicious in appearance. Thin stratus cloud forming and dissipating overhead, curling stratus clouds over Erebus. Wind at Cape Crozier seemed a possibility.
Our people have been far out on the floe. It is cheerful to see the twinkling light of some worker at a water hole or hear the ring of distant voices or swish of ski.
Tuesday, July 4. -- A day of blizzard and adventure.
The wind arose last night, and although the temperature advanced a few degrees it remained at a very low point considering the strength of the wind.
This forenoon it was blowing 40 to 45 m.p.h. with a temperature -25° to -28°. No weather to be in the open.
In the afternoon the wind modified slightly. Taylor and Atkinson went up to the Ramp thermometer screen. After this, entirely without my knowledge, two adventurous spirits, Atkinson and Gran, decided to start off over the floe, making respectively for the north and south Bay thermometers, 'Archibald' and 'Clarence.' This was at 5.30; Gran was back by dinner at 6.45, and it was only later that I learned that he had gone no more than 200 or 300 yards from the land and that it had taken him nearly an hour to get back again.
Atkinson's continued absence passed unnoticed until dinner was nearly over at 7.15, although I had heard that the wind had dropped at the beginning of dinner and that it remained very thick all round, with light snow falling.
Although I felt somewhat annoyed, I had no serious anxiety at this time, and as several members came out of the hut I despatched them short distances to shout and show lanterns and arranged to have a paraffin flare lit on Wind Vane Hill.
Evans, P.O., Crean and Keohane , being anxious for a walk, were sent to the north with a lantern. Whilst this desultory search proceeded the wind sprang up again from the south, but with no great force, and meanwhile the sky showed signs of clearing and the moon appeared dimly through the drifting clouds. With such a guide we momentarily looked for the return of our wanderer, and with his continued absence our anxiety grew. At 9.30 Evans, P.O., and his party returned without news of him, and at last there was no denying the possibility of a serious accident. Between 9.30 and 10 proper search parties were organised, and I give the details to show the thoroughness which I thought necessary to meet the gravity of the situation. I had by this time learnt that Atkinson had left with comparatively light clothing and, still worse, with leather ski boots on his feet; fortunately he had wind clothing.
P.O. Evans was away first with Crean, Keohane , and Demetri, a light sledge, a sleeping-bag, and a flask of brandy. His orders were to search the edge of the land and glacier through the sweep of the Bay to the Barne Glacier and to Cape Barne beyond, then to turn east along an open crack and follow it to Inaccessible Island. Evans (Lieut.), with Nelson, Forde, and Hooper, left shortly after, similarly equipped, to follow the shore of the South Bay in similar fashion, then turn out to the Razor Back and search there. Next Wright, Gran, and Lashly set out for the bergs to look thoroughly about them and from thence pass round and examine Inaccessible Island. After these parties got away, Meares and Debenham started with a lantern to search to and fro over the surface of our promontory. Simpson and Oates went out in a direct line over the Northern floe to the 'Archibald' thermometer, whilst Ponting and Taylor re-examined the tide crack towards the Barne Glacier. Meanwhile Day went to and fro Wind Vane Hill to light at intervals upon its crest bundles of tow well soaked in petrol. At length Clissold and I were left alone in the hut, and as the hours went by I grew ever more alarmed. It was impossible for me to conceive how an able man could have failed to return to the hut before this or by any means found shelter in such clothing in such weather. Atkinson had started for a point a little more than a mile away; at 10.30 he had been five hours away; what conclusion could be drawn? And yet I felt it most difficult to imagine an accident on open floe with no worse pitfall than a shallow crack or steep-sided snow drift. At least I could feel that every spot which was likely to be the scene of such an accident would be searched. Thus 11 o'clock came without change, then 11.30 with its 6 hours of absence. But at 11.45 I heard voices from the Cape, and presently the adventure ended to my extreme relief when Meares and Debenham led our wanderer home. He was badly frostbitten in the hand and less seriously on the face, and though a good deal confused, as men always are on such occasions, he was otherwise well.
His tale is confused, but as far as one can gather he did not go more than a quarter of a mile in the direction of the thermometer screen before he decided to turn back. He then tried to walk with the wind a little on one side on the bearing he had originally observed, and after some time stumbled on an old fish trap hole, which he knew to be 200 yards from the Cape. He made this 200 yards in the direction he supposed correct, and found nothing. In such a situation had he turned east he must have hit the land somewhere close to the hut and so found his way to it. The fact that he did not, but attempted to wander straight on, is clear evidence of the mental condition caused by that situation. There can be no doubt that in a blizzard a man has not only to safeguard the circulation in his limbs, but must struggle with a sluggishness of brain and an absence of reasoning power which is far more likely to undo him.
In fact Atkinson has really no very clear idea of what happened to him after he missed the Cape. He seems to have wandered aimlessly up wind till he hit an island; he walked all round this; says he couldn't see a yard at this time; fell often into the tide crack; finally stopped under the lee of some rocks; here got his hand frostbitten owing to difficulty of getting frozen mit on again, finally got it on; started to dig a hole to wait in. Saw something of the moon and left the island; lost the moon and wanted to go back; could find nothing; finally stumbled on another island, perhaps the same one; waited again, again saw the moon, now clearing; shaped some sort of course by it -- then saw flare on Cape and came on rapidly -- says he shouted to someone on Cape quite close to him, greatly surprised not to get an answer. It is a rambling tale to-night and a half thawed brain. It is impossible to listen to such a tale without appreciating that it has been a close escape or that there would have been no escape had the blizzard continued. The thought that it would return after a short lull was amongst the worst with me during the hours of waiting.
2 A.M. -- The search parties have returned and all is well again, but we must have no more of these very unnecessary escapades. Yet it is impossible not to realise that this bit of experience has done more than all the talking I could have ever accomplished to bring home to our people the dangers of a blizzard.
Wednesday, July 5. -- Atkinson has a bad hand to-day, immense blisters on every finger giving them the appearance of sausages. To-night Ponting has photographed the hand.
As I expected, some amendment of Atkinson's tale as written last night is necessary, partly due to some lack of coherency in the tale as first told and partly a reconsideration of the circumstances by Atkinson himself.
It appears he first hit Inaccessible Island, and got his hand frostbitten before he reached it. It was only on arrival in its lee that he discovered the frostbite. He must have waited there some time, then groped his way to the western end thinking he was near the Ramp. Then wandering away in a swirl of drift to clear some irregularities at the ice foot, he completely lost the island when he could only have been a few yards from it.
He seems in this predicament to have clung to the old idea of walking up wind, and it must be considered wholly providential that on this course he next struck Tent Island. It was round this island that he walked, finally digging himself a shelter on its lee side under the impression that it was Inaccessible Island. When the moon appeared he seems to have judged its bearing well, and as he travelled homeward he was much surprised to see the real Inaccessible Island appear on his left. The distance of Tent Island, 4 to 5 miles, partly accounts for the time he took in returning. Everything goes to confirm the fact that he had a very close shave of being lost altogether.
For some time past some of the ponies have had great irritation of the skin. I felt sure it was due to some parasite, though the Soldier thought the food responsible and changed it.
To-day a tiny body louse was revealed under Atkinson's microscope after capture from 'Snatcher's' coat. A dilute solution of carbolic is expected to rid the poor beasts of their pests, but meanwhile one or two of them have rubbed off patches of hair which they can ill afford to spare in this climate. I hope we shall get over the trouble quickly.
The day has been gloriously fine again, with bright moonlight all the afternoon. It was a wondrous sight to see Erebus emerge from soft filmy clouds of mist as though some thin veiling had been withdrawn with infinite delicacy to reveal the pure outline of this moonlit mountain.
Thursday, July 6, continued. -- The temperature has taken a plunge -- to -46° last night. It is now -45°, with a ten-mile breeze from the south. Frostbiting weather!
Went for a short run on foot this forenoon and a longer one on ski this afternoon. The surface is bad after the recent snowfall. A new pair of sealskin overshoes for ski made by Evans seem to be a complete success. He has modified the shape of the toe to fit the ski irons better. I am very pleased with this arrangement.
I find it exceedingly difficult to settle down to solid work just at present and keep putting off the tasks which I have set myself.
The sun has not yet risen a degree of the eleven degrees below our horizon which it was at noon on Midwinter Day, and yet to-day there was a distinct red in the northern sky. Perhaps such sunset colours have something to do with this cold snap.
Friday, July 7. -- The temperature fell to -49° last night -- our record so far, and likely to remain so, one would think. This morning it was fine and calm, temperature -45°. But this afternoon a 30-mile wind sprang up from the S.E., and the temperature only gradually rose to -30°, never passing above that point. I thought it a little too strenuous and so was robbed of my walk.
The dogs' coats are getting pretty thick, and they seem to take matters pretty comfortably. The ponies are better, I think, but I shall be glad when we are sure of having rid them of their pest.
I was the victim of a very curious illusion to-day. On our small heating stove stands a cylindrical ice melter which keeps up the supply of water necessary for the dark room and other scientific instruments. This iron container naturally becomes warm if it is not fed with ice, and it is generally hung around with socks and mits which require drying. I put my hand on the cylindrical vessel this afternoon and withdrew it sharply with the sensation of heat. To verify the impression I repeated the action two or three times, when it became so strong that I loudly warned the owners of the socks, &c., of the peril of burning to which they were exposed. Upon this Meares said, 'But they filled the melter with ice a few minutes ago,' and then, coming over to feel the surface himself, added, 'Why, it's cold, sir.' And indeed so it was. The slightly damp chilled surface of the iron had conveyed to me the impression of excessive heat.
There is nothing intrinsically new in this observation; it has often been noticed that metal surfaces at low temperatures give a sensation of burning to the bare touch, but none the less it is an interesting variant of the common fact.
Apropos. Atkinson is suffering a good deal from his hand: the frostbite was deeper than I thought; fortunately he can now feel all his fingers, though it was twenty-four hours before sensation returned to one of them.
Monday, July 10. -- We have had the worst gale I have ever known in these regions and have not yet done with it.
The wind started at about mid-day on Friday, and increasing in violence reached an average of 60 miles for one hour on Saturday, the gusts at this time exceeding 70 m.p.h. This force of wind, although exceptional, has not been without parallel earlier in the year, but the extraordinary feature of this gale was the long continuance of a very cold temperature. On Friday night the thermometer registered -39°. Throughout Saturday and the greater part of Sunday it did not rise above -35°. Late yesterday it was in the minus twenties, and to-day at length it has risen to zero.
Needless to say no one has been far from the hut. It was my turn for duty on Saturday night, and on the occasions when I had to step out of doors I was struck with the impossibility of enduring such conditions for any length of time. One seemed to be robbed of breath as they burst on one -- the fine snow beat in behind the wind guard, and ten paces against the wind were sufficient to reduce one's face to the verge of frostbite. To clear the anemometer vane it is necessary to go to the other end of the hut and climb a ladder. Twice whilst engaged in this task I had literally to lean against the wind with head bent and face averted and so stagger crab-like on my course. In those two days of really terrible weather our thoughts often turned to absentees at Cape Crozier with the devout hope that they may be safely housed.
They are certain to have been caught by this gale, but I trust before it reached them they had managed to get up some sort of shelter. Sometimes I have imagined them getting much more wind than we do, yet at others it seems difficult to believe that the Emperor penguins have chosen an excessively wind-swept area for their rookery.
To-day with the temperature at zero one can walk about outside without inconvenience in spite of a 50-mile wind. Although I am loath to believe it there must be some measure of acclimatisation, for it is certain we should have felt to-day's wind severely when we first arrived in McMurdo Sound.
Tuesday, July 11. -- Never was such persistent bad weather. To-day the temperature is up to 5° to 7°, the wind 40 to 50 m.p.h., the air thick with snow, and the moon a vague blue. This is the fourth day of gale; if one reflects on the quantity of transported air (nearly 4,000 miles) one gets a conception of the transference which such a gale effects and must conclude that potentially warm upper currents are pouring into our polar area from more temperate sources.
The dogs are very gay and happy in the comparative warmth. I have been going to and fro on the home beach and about the rocky knolls in its environment -- in spite of the wind it was very warm. I dug myself a hole in a drift in the shelter of a large boulder and lay down in it, and covered my legs with loose snow. It was so warm that I could have slept very comfortably.
I have been amused and pleased lately in observing the manners and customs of the persons in charge of our stores; quite a number of secret caches exist in which articles of value are hidden from public knowledge so that they may escape use until a real necessity arises. The policy of every storekeeper is to have something up his sleeve for a rainy day. For instance, Evans (P.O.), after thoroughly examining the purpose of some individual who is pleading for a piece of canvas, will admit that he may have a small piece somewhere which could be used for it, when, as a matter of fact, he possesses quite a number of rolls of that material.
Tools, metal material, leather, straps and dozens of items are administered with the same spirit of jealous guardianship by Day, Lashly, Oates and Meares, while our main storekeeper Bowers even affects to bemoan imaginary shortages. Such parsimony is the best guarantee that we are prepared to face any serious call.
Wednesday, July 12. -- All night and to-day wild gusts of wind shaking the hut; long, ragged, twisted wind-cloud in the middle heights. A watery moon shining through a filmy cirrostratus -- the outlook wonderfully desolate with its ghostly illumination and patchy clouds of flying snow drift. It would be hardly possible for a tearing, raging wind to make itself more visible. At Wind Vane Hill the anemometer has registered 68 miles between 9 and 10 A.M. -- a record. The gusts at the hut frequently exceed 70 m.p.h. -- luckily the temperature is up to 5°, so that there is no hardship for the workers outside.
Thursday, July 13. -- The wind continued to blow throughout the night, with squalls of even greater violence than before; a new record was created by a gust of 77 m.p.h. shown by the anemometer.
The snow is so hard blown that only the fiercest gusts raise the drifting particles -- it is interesting to note the balance of nature whereby one evil is eliminated by the excess of another.
For an hour after lunch yesterday the gale showed signs of moderation and the ponies had a short walk over the floe. Out for exercise at this time I was obliged to lean against the wind, my light overall clothes flapping wildly and almost dragged from me; later when the wind rose again it was quite an effort to stagger back to the hut against it.
This morning the gale still rages, but the sky is much clearer; the only definite clouds are those which hang to the southward of Erebus summit, but the moon, though bright, still exhibits a watery appearance, showing that there is still a thin stratus above us.
The work goes on very steadily -- the men are making crampons and ski boots of the new style. Evans is constructing plans of the Dry Valley and Koettlitz Glacier with the help of the Western Party. The physicists are busy always, Meares is making dog harness, Oates ridding the ponies of their parasites, and Ponting printing from his negatives.
Science cannot be served by 'dilettante' methods, but demands a mind spurred by ambition or the satisfaction of ideals.
Our most popular game for evening recreation is chess; so many players have developed that our two sets of chessmen are inadequate.
Friday, July 14. -- We have had a horrible fright and are not yet out of the wood.
At noon yesterday one of the best ponies, 'Bones,' suddenly went off his feed -- soon after it was evident that he was distressed and there could be no doubt that he was suffering from colic. Oates called my attention to it, but we were neither much alarmed, remembering the speedy recovery of 'Jimmy Pigg' under similar circumstances. Later the pony was sent out for exercise with Crean. I passed him twice and seemed to gather that things were well, but Crean afterwards told me that he had had considerable trouble. Every few minutes the poor beast had been seized with a spasm of pain, had first dashed forward as though to escape it and then endeavoured to lie down. Crean had had much difficulty in keeping him in, and on his legs, for he is a powerful beast. When he returned to the stable he was evidently worse, and Oates and Anton patiently dragged a sack to and fro under his stomach. Every now and again he attempted to lie down, and Oates eventually thought it wiser to let him do so. Once down, his head gradually drooped until he lay at length, every now and again twitching very horribly with the pain and from time to time raising his head and even scrambling to his legs when it grew intense. I don't think I ever realised before how pathetic a horse could be under such conditions; no sound escapes him, his misery can only be indicated by those distressing spasms and by dumb movements of the head turned with a patient expression always suggestive of appeal. Although alarmed by this time, remembering the care with which the animals are being fed I could not picture anything but a passing indisposition. But as hour after hour passed without improvement, it was impossible not to realise that the poor beast was dangerously ill. Oates administered an opium pill and later on a second, sacks were heated in the oven and placed on the poor beast; beyond this nothing could be done except to watch -- Oates and Crean never left the patient. As the evening wore on I visited the stable again and again, but only to hear the same tale -- no improvement. Towards midnight I felt very downcast. It is so very certain that we cannot afford to lose a single pony -- the margin of safety has already been far overstepped, we are reduced to face the circumstance that we must keep all the animals alive or greatly risk failure.
So far everything has gone so well with them that my fears of a loss had been lulled in a growing hope that all would be well -- therefore at midnight, when poor 'Bones' had continued in pain for twelve hours and showed little sign of improvement, I felt my fleeting sense of security rudely shattered.
It was shortly after midnight when I was told that the animal seemed a little easier. At 2.30 I was again in the stable and found the improvement had been maintained; the horse still lay on its side with outstretched head, but the spasms had ceased, its eye looked less distressed, and its ears pricked to occasional noises. As I stood looking it suddenly raised its head and rose without effort to its legs; then in a moment, as though some bad dream had passed, it began to nose at some hay and at its neighbour. Within three minutes it had drunk a bucket of water and had started to feed.
I went to bed at 3 with much relief. At noon to-day the immediate cause of the trouble and an indication that there is still risk were disclosed in a small ball of semi-fermented hay covered with mucus and containing tape worms; so far not very serious, but unfortunately attached to this mass was a strip of the lining of the intestine.
Atkinson, from a humanly comparative point of view, does not think this is serious if great care is taken with the food for a week or so, and so one can hope for the best.
Meanwhile we have had much discussion as to the first cause of the difficulty. The circumstances possibly contributing are as follows: fermentation of the hay, insufficiency of water, overheated stable, a chill from exercise after the gale -- I think all these may have had a bearing on the case. It can scarcely be coincidence that the two ponies which have suffered so far are those which are nearest the stove end of the stable. In future the stove will be used more sparingly, a large ventilating hole is to be made near it and an allowance of water is to be added to the snow hitherto given to the animals. In the food line we can only exercise such precautions as are possible, but one way or another we ought to be able to prevent any more danger of this description.
Saturday, July 15. -- There was strong wind with snow this morning and the wind remained keen and cold in the afternoon, but to-night it has fallen calm with a promising clear sky outlook. Have been up the Ramp, clambering about in my sealskin overshoes, which seem extraordinarily satisfactory.
Oates thinks a good few of the ponies have got worms and we are considering means of ridding them. 'Bones' seems to be getting on well, though not yet quite so buckish as he was before his trouble. A good big ventilator has been fitted in the stable. It is not easy to get over the alarm of Thursday night -- the situation is altogether too critical.
Sunday, July 16. -- Another slight alarm this morning. The pony 'China' went off his feed at breakfast time and lay down twice. He was up and well again in half an hour; but what on earth is it that is disturbing these poor beasts?
Usual Sunday routine. Quiet day except for a good deal of wind off and on. The Crozier Party must be having a wretched time.
Monday, July 17. -- The weather still very unsettled -- the wind comes up with a rush to fade in an hour or two. Clouds chase over the sky in similar fashion: the moon has dipped during daylight hours, and so one way and another there is little to attract one out of doors.
Yet we are only nine days off the 'light value' of the day when we left off football -- I hope we shall be able to recommence the game in that time.
I am glad that the light is coming for more than one reason. The gale and consequent inaction not only affected the ponies, Ponting is not very fit as a consequence -- his nervous temperament is of the quality to take this wintering experience badly -- Atkinson has some difficulty in persuading him to take exercise -- he managed only by dragging him out to his own work, digging holes in the ice. Taylor is another backslider in the exercise line and is not looking well. If we can get these people to run about at football all will be well. Anyway the return of the light should cure all ailments physical and mental.
Tuesday, July 18. -- A very brilliant red sky at noon to-day and enough light to see one's way about.
This fleeting hour of light is very pleasant, but of course dependent on a clear sky, very rare. Went round the outer berg in the afternoon; it was all I could do to keep up with 'Snatcher' on the homeward round -- speaking well for his walking powers.
Wednesday, July 19. -- Again calm and pleasant. The temperature is gradually falling down to -35°. Went out to the old working crack north of Inaccessible Island -- Nelson and Evans had had great difficulty in rescuing their sounding sledge, which had been left near here before the gale. The course of events is not very clear, but it looks as though the gale pressed up the crack, raising broken pieces of the thin ice formed after recent opening movements. These raised pieces had become nuclei of heavy snow drifts, which in turn weighing down the floe had allowed water to flow in over the sledge level. It is surprising to find such a big disturbance from what appears to be a simple cause. This crack is now joined, and the contraction is taking on a new one which has opened much nearer to us and seems to run to C. Barne.
We have noticed a very curious appearance of heavenly bodies when setting in a north-westerly direction. About the time of midwinter the moon observed in this position appeared in a much distorted shape of blood red colour. It might have been a red flare or distant bonfire, but could not have been guessed for the moon. Yesterday the planet Venus appeared under similar circumstances as a ship's side-light or Japanese lantern. In both cases there was a flickering in the light and a change of colour from deep orange yellow to blood red, but the latter was dominant.
Thursday, July 20, Friday 21, Saturday 22. -- There is very little to record -- the horses are going on well, all are in good form, at least for the moment. They drink a good deal of water in the morning.
Saturday, July 22, continued. -- This and the better ventilation of the stable make for improvement we think -- perhaps the increase of salt allowance is also beneficial.
To-day we have another raging blizzard -- the wind running up to 72 m.p.h. in gusts -- one way and another the Crozier Party must have had a pretty poor time. I am thankful to remember that the light will be coming on apace now.
Monday, July 24. -- The blizzard continued throughout yesterday (Sunday), in the evening reaching a record force of 82 m.p.h. The vane of our anemometer is somewhat sheltered: Simpson finds the hill readings 20 per cent. higher. Hence in such gusts as this the free wind must reach nearly 100 m.p.h. -- a hurricane force. To-day Nelson found that his sounding sledge had been turned over. We passed a quiet Sunday with the usual Service to break the week-day routine. During my night watch last night I could observe the rapid falling of the wind, which on dying away left a still atmosphere almost oppressively warm at 7°. The temperature has remained comparatively high to-day. I went to see the crack at which soundings were taken a week ago -- then it was several feet open with thin ice between -- now it is pressed up into a sharp ridge 3 to 4 feet high: the edge pressed up shows an 18 inch thickness -- this is of course an effect of the warm weather.
Tuesday, July 25, Wednesday, July 26. -- There is really very little to be recorded in these days, life proceeds very calmly if somewhat monotonously. Everyone seems fit, there is no sign of depression. To all outward appearance the ponies are in better form than they have ever been; the same may be said of the dogs with one or two exceptions.
The light comes on apace. To-day (Wednesday) it was very beautiful at noon: the air was very clear and the detail of the Western Mountains was revealed in infinitely delicate contrasts of light.
Thursday, July 27, Friday, July 28. -- Calmer days: the sky rosier: the light visibly advancing. We have never suffered from low spirits, so that the presence of day raises us above a normal cheerfulness to the realm of high spirits.
The light, merry humour of our company has never been eclipsed, the good-natured, kindly chaff has never ceased since those early days of enthusiasm which inspired them -- they have survived the winter days of stress and already renew themselves with the coming of spring. If pessimistic moments had foreseen the growth of rifts in the bond forged by these amenities, they stand prophetically falsified; there is no longer room for doubt that we shall come to our work with a unity of purpose and a disposition for mutual support which have never been equalled in these paths of activity. Such a spirit should tide us [over] all minor difficulties. It is a good omen.
Saturday, July 29, Sunday, July 30. -- Two quiet days, temperature low in the minus thirties -- an occasional rush of wind lasting for but a few minutes.
One of our best sledge dogs, 'Julick,' has disappeared. I'm afraid he's been set on by the others at some distant spot and we shall see nothing more but his stiffened carcass when the light returns. Meares thinks the others would not have attacked him and imagines he has fallen into the water in some seal hole or crack. In either case I'm afraid we must be resigned to another loss. It's an awful nuisance.
Gran went to C. Royds to-day. I asked him to report on the open water, and so he went on past the Cape. As far as I can gather he got half-way to C. Bird before he came to thin ice; for at least 5 or 6 miles past C. Royds the ice is old and covered with wind-swept snow. This is very unexpected. In the Discovery first year the ice continually broke back to the Glacier Tongue: in the second year it must have gone out to C. Royds very early in the spring if it did not go out in the winter, and in the Nimrod year it was rarely fast beyond C. Royds. It is very strange, especially as this has been the windiest year recorded so far. Simpson says the average has exceeded 20 m.p.h. since the instruments were set up, and this figure has for comparison 9 and 12 m.p.h. for the two Discovery years. There remains a possibility that we have chosen an especially wind-swept spot for our station. Yet I can scarcely believe that there is generally more wind here than at Hut Point.
I was out for two hours this morning -- it was amazingly pleasant to be able to see the inequalities of one's path, and the familiar landmarks bathed in violet light. An hour after noon the northern sky was intensely red.
Monday, July 31. -- It was overcast to-day and the light not quite so good, but this is the last day of another month, and August means the sun.
One begins to wonder what the Crozier Party is doing. It has been away five weeks.
The ponies are getting buckish. Chinaman squeals and kicks in the stable, Nobby kicks without squealing, but with even more purpose -- last night he knocked down a part of his stall. The noise of these animals is rather trying at night -- one imagines all sorts of dreadful things happening, but when the watchman visits the stables its occupants blink at him with a sleepy air as though the disturbance could not possibly have been there!
There was a glorious northern sky to-day; the horizon was clear and the flood of red light illuminated the under side of the broken stratus cloud above, producing very beautiful bands of violet light. Simpson predicts a blizzard within twenty-four hours -- we are interested to watch results.
Tuesday, August 1. -- The month has opened with a very beautiful day. This morning I took a circuitous walk over our land 'estate,' winding to and fro in gulleys filled with smooth ice patches or loose sandy soil, with a twofold object. I thought I might find the remains of poor Julick -- in this I was unsuccessful; but I wished further to test our new crampons, and with these I am immensely pleased -- they possess every virtue in a footwear designed for marching over smooth ice -- lightness, warmth, comfort, and ease in the putting on and off.
The light was especially good to-day; the sun was directly reflected by a single twisted iridescent cloud in the north, a brilliant and most beautiful object. The air was still, and it was very pleasant to hear the crisp sounds of our workers abroad. The tones of voices, the swish of ski or the chipping of an ice pick carry two or three miles on such days -- more than once to-day we could hear the notes of some blithe singer -- happily signalling the coming of the spring and the sun.
This afternoon as I sit in the hut I find it worthy of record that two telephones are in use: the one keeping time for Wright who works at the transit instrument, and the other bringing messages from Nelson at his ice hole three-quarters of a mile away. This last connection is made with a bare aluminium wire and earth return, and shows that we should have little difficulty in completing our circuit to Hut Point as is contemplated.
Account of the Winter Journey
Wednesday, August 2. -- The Crozier Party returned last night after enduring for five weeks the hardest conditions on record. They looked more weather-worn than anyone I have yet seen. Their faces were scarred and wrinkled, their eyes dull, their hands whitened and creased with the constant exposure to damp and cold, yet the scars of frostbite were very few and this evil had never seriously assailed them. The main part of their afflictions arose, and very obviously arose, from sheer lack of sleep, and to-day after a night's rest our travellers are very different in appearance and mental capacity.
The story of a very wonderful performance must be told by the actors. It is for me now to give but an outline of the journey and to note more particularly the effects of the strain which they have imposed on themselves and the lessons which their experiences teach for our future guidance.
Wilson is very thin, but this morning very much his keen, wiry self -- Bowers is quite himself to-day. Cherry-Garrard is slightly puffy in the face and still looks worn. It is evident that he has suffered most severely -- but Wilson tells me that his spirit never wavered for a moment. Bowers has come through best, all things considered, and I believe he is the hardest traveller that ever undertook a Polar journey, as well as one of the most undaunted; more by hint than direct statement I gather his value to the party, his untiring energy and the astonishing physique which enables him to continue to work under conditions which are absolutely paralysing to others. Never was such a sturdy, active, undefeatable little man.
So far as one can gather, the story of this journey in brief is much as follows: The party reached the Barrier two days after leaving C. Evans, still pulling their full load of 250 lbs. per man; the snow surface then changed completely and grew worse and worse as they advanced. For one day they struggled on as before, covering 4 miles, but from this onward they were forced to relay, and found the half load heavier than the whole one had been on the sea ice. Meanwhile the temperature had been falling, and now for more than a week the thermometer fell below -60°. On one night the minimum showed -71°, and on the next -77°, 109° of frost. Although in this truly fearful cold the air was comparatively still, every now and again little puffs of wind came eddying across the snow plain with blighting effect. No civilised being has ever encountered such conditions before with only a tent of thin canvas to rely on for shelter. We have been looking up the records to-day and find that Amundsen on a journey to the N. magnetic pole in March encountered temperatures similar in degree and recorded a minimum of 79°; but he was with Esquimaux who built him an igloo shelter nightly; he had a good measure of daylight; the temperatures given are probably 'unscreened' from radiation, and finally, he turned homeward and regained his ship after five days' absence. Our party went outward and remained absent for five weeks.
It took the best part of a fortnight to cross the coldest region, and then rounding C. Mackay they entered the wind-swept area. Blizzard followed blizzard, the sky was constantly overcast and they staggered on in a light which was little better than complete darkness; sometimes they found themselves high on the slopes of Terror on the left of their track, and sometimes diving into the pressure ridges on the right amidst crevasses and confused ice disturbance. Reaching the foothills near C. Crozier, they ascended 800 feet, then packed their belongings over a moraine ridge and started to build a hut. It took three days to build the stone walls and complete the roof with the canvas brought for the purpose. Then at last they could attend to the object of the journey.
The scant twilight at midday was so short that they must start in the dark and be prepared for the risk of missing their way in returning without light. On the first day in which they set forth under these conditions it took them two hours to reach the pressure ridges, and to clamber over them roped together occupied nearly the same time; finally they reached a place above the rookery where they could hear the birds squawking, but from which they were quite unable to find a way down. The poor light was failing and they returned to camp. Starting again on the following day they wound their way through frightful ice disturbances under the high basalt cliffs; in places the rock overhung, and at one spot they had to creep through a small channel hollowed in the ice. At last they reached the sea ice, but now the light was so far spent they were obliged to rush everything. Instead of the 2000 or 3000 nesting birds which had been seen here in Discovery days, they could now only count about 100; they hastily killed and skinned three to get blubber for their stove, and collecting six eggs, three of which alone survived, they dashed for camp.
It is possible the birds are deserting this rookery, but it is also possible that this early date found only a small minority of the birds which will be collected at a later one. The eggs, which have not yet been examined, should throw light on this point. Wilson observed yet another proof of the strength of the nursing instinct in these birds. In searching for eggs both he and Bowers picked up rounded pieces of ice which these ridiculous creatures had been cherishing with fond hope.
The light had failed entirely by the time the party were clear of the pressure ridges on their return, and it was only by good luck they regained their camp.
That night a blizzard commenced, increasing in fury from moment to moment. They now found that the place chosen for the hut for shelter was worse than useless. They had far better have built in the open, for the fierce wind, instead of striking them directly, was deflected on to them in furious whirling gusts. Heavy blocks of snow and rock placed on the roof were whirled away and the canvas ballooned up, tearing and straining at its securings -- its disappearance could only be a question of time. They had erected their tent with some valuables inside close to the hut; it had been well spread and more than amply secured with snow and boulders, but one terrific gust tore it up and whirled it away. Inside the hut they waited for the roof to vanish, wondering what they could do if it went, and vainly endeavouring to make it secure. After fourteen hours it went, as they were trying to pin down one corner. The smother of snow was on them, and they could only dive for their sleeping-bags with a gasp. Bowers put his head out once and said, 'We're all right,' in as near his ordinary tones as he could compass. The others replied 'Yes, we're all right,' and all were silent for a night and half a day whilst the wind howled on; the snow entered every chink and crevasse of the sleeping-bags, and the occupants shivered and wondered how it would all end.
This gale was the same (July 23) in which we registered our maximum wind force, and it seems probable that it fell on C. Crozier even more violently than on us.
The wind fell at noon the following day; the forlorn travellers crept from their icy nests, made shift to spread their floor-cloth overhead, and lit their primus. They tasted their first food for forty-eight hours and began to plan a means to build a shelter on the homeward route. They decided that they must dig a large pit nightly and cover it as best they could with their floorcloth. But now fortune befriended them; a search to the north revealed the tent lying amongst boulders a quarter of a mile away, and, strange to relate, practically uninjured, a fine testimonial for the material used in its construction. On the following day they started homeward, and immediately another blizzard fell on them, holding them prisoners for two days. By this time the miserable condition of their effects was beyond description. The sleeping-bags were far too stiff to be rolled up, in fact they were so hard frozen that attempts to bend them actually split the skins; the eiderdown bags inside Wilson's and C.-G.'s reindeer covers served but to fitfully stop the gaps made by such rents. All socks, finnesko, and mits had long been coated with ice; placed in breast pockets or inside vests at night they did not even show signs of thawing, much less of drying. It sometimes took C.-G. three-quarters of an hour to get into his sleeping-bag, so flat did it freeze and so difficult was it to open. It is scarcely possible to realise the horrible discomforts of the forlorn travellers as they plodded back across the Barrier with the temperature again constantly below -60°. In this fashion they reached Hut Point and on the following night our home quarters.
Wilson is disappointed at seeing so little of the penguins, but to me and to everyone who has remained here the result of this effort is the appeal it makes to our imagination as one of the most gallant stories in Polar History. That men should wander forth in the depth of a Polar night to face the most dismal cold and the fiercest gales in darkness is something new; that they should have persisted in this effort in spite of every adversity for five full weeks is heroic. It makes a tale for our generation which I hope may not be lost in the telling.
Moreover the material results are by no means despicable. We shall know now when that extraordinary bird the Emperor penguin lays its eggs, and under what conditions; but even if our information remains meagre concerning its embryology, our party has shown the nature of the conditions which exist on the Great Barrier in winter. Hitherto we have only imagined their severity; now we have proof, and a positive light is thrown on the local climatology of our Strait.
Experience of Sledging Rations and Equipment
For our future sledge work several points have been most satisfactorily settled. The party went on a very simple food ration in different and extreme proportions; they took pemmican, butter, biscuit and tea only. After a short experience they found that Wilson, who had arranged for the greatest quantity of fat, had too much of it, and C.-G., who had gone for biscuit, had more than he could eat. A middle course was struck which gave a general proportion agreeable to all, and at the same time suited the total quantities of the various articles carried. In this way we have arrived at a simple and suitable ration for the inland plateau. The only change suggested is the addition of cocoa for the evening meal. The party contented themselves with hot water, deeming that tea might rob them of their slender chance of sleep.
On sleeping-bags little new can be said -- the eiderdown bag may be a useful addition for a short time on a spring journey, but they soon get iced up.
Bowers did not use an eiderdown bag throughout, and in some miraculous manner he managed to turn his reindeer bag two or three times during the journey. The following are the weights of sleeping-bags before and after:
Wilson, reindeer and eiderdown
This gives some idea of the ice collected.
The double tent has been reported an immense success. It weighed about 35 lbs. at starting and 60 lbs. on return: the ice mainly collected on the inner tent.
The crampons are much praised, except by Bowers, who has an eccentric attachment to our older form. We have discovered a hundred details of clothes, mits, and footwear: there seems no solution to the difficulties which attach to these articles in extreme cold; all Wilson can say, speaking broadly, is 'the gear is excellent, excellent.' One continues to wonder as to the possibilities of fur clothing as made by the Esquimaux, with a sneaking feeling that it may outclass our more civilised garb. For us this can only be a matter of speculation, as it would have been quite impossible to have obtained such articles. With the exception of this radically different alternative, I feel sure we are as near perfection as experience can direct.
At any rate we can now hold that our system of clothing has come through a severer test than any other, fur included.
Effect of Journey. -- Wilson lost 3 1/2 lbs.; Bowers lost 2 1/2 lbs.; C.-Garrard lost 1 lb.
- ^Captain Scott's judgment was not at fault.
- ^I.e. a crack which leaves the ice free to move with the movements of the sea beneath.
- ^ This was the gale that tore away the roofing of their hut, and left them with only their sleeping-bags for shelter. See p. 365.