Scott's Last Expedition: Settling In
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Sunday, January 8. -- A day of disaster. I stupidly gave permission for the third motor to be got out this morning. This was done first thing and the motor placed on firm ice. Later Campbell told me one of the men had dropped a leg through crossing a sludgy patch some 200 yards from the ship. I didn't consider it very serious, as I imagined the man had only gone through the surface crust. About 7 A.M. I started for the shore with a single man load, leaving Campbell looking about for the best crossing for the motor. I sent Meares and the dogs over with a can of petrol on arrival. After some twenty minutes he returned to tell me the motor had gone through. Soon after Campbell and Day arrived to confirm the dismal tidings. It appears that getting frightened of the state of affairs Campbell got out a line and attached it to the motor -- then manning the line well he attempted to rush the machine across the weak place. A man on the rope, Wilkinson, suddenly went through to the shoulders, but was immediately hauled out. During the operation the ice under the motor was seen to give, and suddenly it and the motor disappeared. The men kept hold of the rope, but it cut through the ice towards them with an ever increasing strain, obliging one after another to let go. Half a minute later nothing remained but a big hole. Perhaps it was lucky there was no accident to the men, but it's a sad incident for us in any case. It's a big blow to know that one of the two best motors, on which so much time and trouble have been spent, now lies at the bottom of the sea. The actual spot where the motor disappeared was crossed by its fellow motor with a very heavy load as well as by myself with heavy ponies only yesterday.
Meares took Campbell back and returned with the report that the ice in the vicinity of the accident was hourly getting more dangerous.
It was clear that we were practically cut off, certainly as regards heavy transport. Bowers went back again with Meares and managed to ferry over some wind clothes and odds and ends. Since that no communication has been held; the shore party have been working, but the people on board have had a half holiday.
At 6 I went to the ice edge farther to the north. I found a place where the ship could come and be near the heavy ice over which sledging is still possible. I went near the ship and semaphored directions for her to get to this place as soon as she could, using steam if necessary. She is at present wedged in with the pack, and I think Pennell hopes to warp her along when the pack loosens.
Meares and I marked the new trail with kerosene tins before returning. So here we are waiting again till fortune is kinder. Meanwhile the hut proceeds; altogether there are four layers of boarding to go on, two of which are nearing completion; it will be some time before the rest and the insulation is on.
It's a big job getting settled in like this and a tantalising one when one is hoping to do some depot work before the season closes.
We had a keen north wind to-night and a haze, but wind is dropping and sun shining brightly again. To-day seemed to be the hottest we have yet had; after walking across I was perspiring freely, and later as I sat in the sun after lunch one could almost imagine a warm summer day in England.
This is my first night ashore. I'm writing in one of my new domed tents which makes a very comfortable apartment.
Monday, January 9. -- I didn't poke my nose out of my tent till 6.45, and the first object I saw was the ship, which had not previously been in sight from our camp. She was now working her way along the ice edge with some difficulty. I heard afterwards that she had started at 6.15 and she reached the point I marked yesterday at 8.15. After breakfast I went on board and was delighted to find a good solid road right up to the ship. A flag was hoisted immediately for the ponies to come out, and we commenced a good day's work. All day the sledges have been coming to and fro, but most of the pulling work has been done by the ponies: the track is so good that these little animals haul anything from 12 to 18 cwt. Both dogs and men parties have been a useful addition to the haulage -- no party or no single man comes over without a load averaging 300 lbs. per man. The dogs, working five to a team, haul 5 to 6 cwt. and of course they travel much faster than either ponies or men.
In this way we transported a large quantity of miscellaneous stores; first about 3 tons of coal for present use, then 2 1/2 tons of carbide, all the many stores, chimney and ventilators for the hut, all the biologists' gear -- a big pile, the remainder of the physicists' gear and medical stores, and many old cases; in fact a general clear up of everything except the two heavy items of forage and fuel. Later in the day we made a start on the first of these, and got 7 tons ashore before ceasing work. We close with a good day to our credit, marred by an unfortunate incident -- one of the dogs, a good puller, was seen to cough after a journey; he was evidently trying to bring something up -- two minutes later he was dead. Nobody seems to know the reason, but a post-mortem is being held by Atkinson and I suppose the cause of death will be found. We can't afford to lose animals of any sort.
All the ponies except three have now brought loads from the ship. Oates thinks these three are too nervous to work over this slippery surface. However, he tried one of the hardest cases to-night, a very fine pony, and got him in successfully with a big load.
To-morrow we ought to be running some twelve or thirteen of these animals.
Griffith Taylor's bolted on three occasions, the first two times more or less due to his own fault, but the third owing to the stupidity of one of the sailors. Nevertheless a third occasion couldn't be overlooked by his messmates, who made much merriment of the event. It was still funnier when he brought his final load (an exceptionally heavy one) with a set face and ardent pace, vouchsafing not a word to anyone he passed.
We have achieved fair organisation to-day. Evans is in charge of the road and periodically goes along searching for bad places and bridging cracks with boards and snow.
Bowers checks every case as it comes on shore and dashes off to the ship to arrange the precedence of different classes of goods. He proves a perfect treasure; there is not a single case he does not know or a single article of any sort which he cannot put his hand on at once.
Rennick and Bruce are working gallantly at the discharge of stores on board.
Williamson and Leese load the sledges and are getting very clever and expeditious. Evans (seaman) is generally superintending the sledging and camp outfit. Forde, Keohane , and Abbott are regularly assisting the carpenter, whilst Day, Lashly, Lillie, and others give intermittent help.
Wilson, Cherry-Garrard, Wright, Griffith Taylor, Debenham, Crean, and Browning have been driving ponies, a task at which I have assisted myself once or twice. There was a report that the ice was getting rotten, but I went over it myself and found it sound throughout. The accident with the motor sledge has made people nervous.
The weather has been very warm and fine on the whole, with occasional gleams of sunshine, but to-night there is a rather chill wind from the south. The hut is progressing famously. In two more working days we ought to have everything necessary on shore.
Tuesday, January 10. -- We have been six days in McMurdo Sound and to-night I can say we are landed. Were it impossible to land another pound we could go on without hitch. Nothing like it has been done before; nothing so expeditious and complete. This morning the main loads were fodder. Sledge after sledge brought the bales, and early in the afternoon the last (except for about a ton stowed with Eastern Party stores) was brought on shore. Some addition to our patent fuel was made in the morning, and later in the afternoon it came in a steady stream. We have more than 12 tons and could make this do if necessity arose.
In addition to this oddments have been arriving all day -- instruments, clothing, and personal effects. Our camp is becoming so perfect in its appointments that I am almost suspicious of some drawback hidden by the summer weather.
The hut is progressing apace, and all agree that it should be the most perfectly comfortable habitation. 'It amply repays the time and attention given to the planning.' The sides have double boarding inside and outside the frames, with a layer of our excellent quilted seaweed insulation between each pair of boardings. The roof has a single matchboarding inside, but on the outside is a matchboarding, then a layer of 2-ply 'ruberoid,' then a layer of quilted seaweed, then a second matchboarding, and finally a cover of 3-ply 'ruberoid.' The first floor is laid, but over this there will be a quilting, a felt layer, a second boarding, and finally linoleum; as the plenteous volcanic sand can be piled well up on every side it is impossible to imagine that draughts can penetrate into the hut from beneath, and it is equally impossible to imagine great loss of heat by contact or radiation in that direction. To add to the wall insulation the south and east sides of the hut are piled high with compressed forage bales, whilst the north side is being prepared as a winter stable for the ponies. The stable will stand between the wall of the hut and a wall built of forage bales, six bales high and two bales thick. This will be roofed with rafters and tarpaulin, as we cannot find enough boarding. We shall have to take care that too much snow does not collect on the roof, otherwise the place should do excellently well.
Some of the ponies are very troublesome, but all except two have been running to-day, and until this evening there were no excitements. After tea Oates suggested leading out the two intractable animals behind other sledges; at the same time he brought out the strong, nervous grey pony. I led one of the supposedly safe ponies, and all went well whilst we made our journey; three loads were safely brought in. But whilst one of the sledges was being unpacked the pony tied to it suddenly got scared. Away he dashed with sledge attached; he made straight for the other ponies, but finding the incubus still fast to him he went in wider circles, galloped over hills and boulders, narrowly missing Ponting and his camera, and finally dashed down hill to camp again pretty exhausted -- oddly enough neither sledge nor pony was much damaged. Then we departed again in the same order. Half-way over the floe my rear pony got his foreleg foul of his halter, then got frightened, tugged at his halter, and lifted the unladen sledge to which he was tied -- then the halter broke and away he went. But by this time the damage was done. My pony snorted wildly and sprang forward as the sledge banged to the ground. I just managed to hold him till Oates came up, then we started again; but he was thoroughly frightened -- all my blandishments failed when he reared and plunged a second time, and I was obliged to let go. He galloped back and the party dejectedly returned. At the camp Evans got hold of the pony, but in a moment it was off again, knocking Evans off his legs. Finally he was captured and led forth once more between Oates and Anton. He remained fairly well on the outward journey, but on the homeward grew restive again; Evans, who was now leading him, called for Anton, and both tried to hold him, but to no purpose -- he dashed off, upset his load, and came back to camp with the sledge. All these troubles arose after he had made three journeys without a hitch and we had come to regard him as a nice, placid, gritty pony. Now I'm afraid it will take a deal of trouble to get him safe again, and we have three very troublesome beasts instead of two. I have written this in some detail to show the unexpected difficulties that arise with these animals, and the impossibility of knowing exactly where one stands. The majority of our animals seem pretty quiet now, but any one of them may break out in this way if things go awry. There is no doubt that the bumping of the sledges close at the heels of the animals is the root of the evil.
The weather has the appearance of breaking. We had a strongish northerly breeze at midday with snow and hail storms, and now the wind has turned to the south and the sky is overcast with threatenings of a blizzard. The floe is cracking and pieces may go out -- if so the ship will have to get up steam again. The hail at noon made the surface very bad for some hours; the men and dogs felt it most.
The dogs are going well, but Meares says he thinks that several are suffering from snow blindness. I never knew a dog get it before, but Day says that Shackleton's dogs suffered from it. The post-mortem on last night's death revealed nothing to account for it. Atkinson didn't examine the brain, and wonders if the cause lay there. There is a certain satisfaction in believing that there is nothing infectious.
Wednesday, January ll. -- A week here to-day -- it seems quite a month, so much has been crammed into a short space of time.
The threatened blizzard materialised at about four o'clock this morning. The wind increased to force six or seven at the ship, and continued to blow, with drift, throughout the forenoon.
Campbell and his sledging party arrived at the Camp at 8.0 A.M. bringing a small load: there seemed little object, but I suppose they like the experience of a march in the blizzard. They started to go back, but the ship being blotted out, turned and gave us their company at breakfast. The day was altogether too bad for outside work, so we turned our attention to the hut interior, with the result that to-night all the matchboarding is completed. The floor linoleum is the only thing that remains to be put down; outside, the roof and ends have to be finished. Then there are several days of odd jobs for the carpenter, and all will be finished. It is a first-rate building in an extraordinarily sheltered spot; whilst the wind was raging at the ship this morning we enjoyed comparative peace. Campbell says there was an extraordinary change as he approached the beach.
I sent two or three people to dig into the hard snow drift behind the camp; they got into solid ice immediately, became interested in the job, and have begun the making of a cave which is to be our larder. Already they have tunnelled 6 or 8 feet in and have begun side channels. In a few days they will have made quite a spacious apartment -- an ideal place to keep our meat store. We had been speculating as to the origin of this solid drift and attached great antiquity to it, but the diggers came to a patch of earth with skua feathers, which rather knocks our theories on the head.
The wind began to drop at midday, and after lunch I went to the ship. I was very glad to learn that she can hold steam at two hours' notice on an expenditure of 13 cwt. The ice anchors had held well during the blow.
As far as I can see the open water extends to an east and west line which is a little short of the glacier tongue.
To-night the wind has dropped altogether and we return to the glorious conditions of a week ago. I trust they may last for a few days at least.
Thursday, January 12. -- Bright sun again all day, but in the afternoon a chill wind from the S.S.W. Again we are reminded of the shelter afforded by our position; to-night the anemometers on Observatory Hill show a 20-mile wind -- down in our valley we only have mild puffs.
Sledging began as usual this morning; seven ponies and the dog teams were hard at it all the forenoon. I ran six journeys with five dogs, driving them in the Siberian fashion for the first time. It was not difficult, but I kept forgetting the Russian words at critical moments: 'Ki' -- 'right'; 'Tchui' -- 'left'; 'Itah' -- 'right ahead'; [here is a blank in memory and in diary] -- 'get along'; 'Paw' -- 'stop.' Even my short experience makes me think that we may have to reorganise this driving to suit our particular requirements. I am inclined for smaller teams and the driver behind the sledge. However, it's early days to decide such matters, and we shall learn much on the depot journey.
Early in the afternoon a message came from the ship to say that all stores had been landed. Nothing remains to be brought but mutton, books and pictures, and the pianola. So at last we really are a self-contained party ready for all emergencies. We are LANDED eight days after our arrival -- a very good record.
The hut could be inhabited at this moment, but probably we shall not begin to live in it for a week. Meanwhile the carpenter will go on steadily fitting up the dark room and various other compartments as well as Simpson's Corner.
The grotto party are making headway into the ice for our larder, but it is slow and very arduous work. However, once made it will be admirable in every way.
To-morrow we begin sending ballast off to the ship; some 30 tons will be sledged off by the ponies. The hut and grotto parties will continue, and the arrangements for the depot journey will be commenced. I discussed these with Bowers this afternoon -- he is a perfect treasure, enters into one's ideas at once, and evidently thoroughly understands the principles of the game.
I have arranged to go to Hut Point with Meares and some dogs to-morrow to test the ice and see how the land lies. As things are at present we ought to have little difficulty in getting the depot party away any time before the end of the month, but the ponies will have to cross the Cape without loads. There is a way down on the south side straight across, and another way round, keeping the land on the north side and getting on ice at the Cape itself. Probably the ship will take the greater part of the loads.
Saturday, January 14. -- The completion of our station is approaching with steady progress. The wind was strong from the S.S.E. yesterday morning, sweeping over the camp; the temperature fell to 15°, the sky became overcast. To the south the land outlines were hazy with drift, so my dog tour was abandoned. In the afternoon, with some moderation of conditions, the ballast party went to work, and wrought so well that more than 10 tons were got off before night. The organisation of this work is extremely good. The loose rocks are pulled up, some 30 or 40 feet up the hillside, placed on our heavy rough sledges and rushed down to the floe on a snow track; here they are laden on pony sledges and transported to the ship. I slept on board the ship and found it colder than the camp -- the cabins were below freezing all night and the only warmth existed in the cheery spirit of the company. The cold snap froze the water in the boiler and Williams had to light one of the fires this morning. I shaved and bathed last night (the first time for 10 days) and wrote letters from breakfast till tea time to-day. Meanwhile the ballast team has been going on merrily, and to-night Pennell must have some 26 tons on board.
It was good to return to the camp and see the progress which had been made even during such a short absence. The grotto has been much enlarged and is, in fact, now big enough to hold all our mutton and a considerable quantity of seal and penguin.
Close by Simpson and Wright have made surprising progress in excavating for the differential magnetic hut. They have already gone in 7 feet and, turning a corner, commenced the chamber, which is to be 13 feet × 5 feet. The hard ice of this slope is a godsend and both grottoes will be ideal for their purposes.
The cooking range and stove have been placed in the hut and now chimneys are being constructed; the porch is almost finished as well as the interior; the various carpenters are busy with odd jobs and it will take them some time to fix up the many small fittings that different people require.
I have been making arrangements for the depôt journey, telling off people for ponies and dogs, &c.Note 9
To-morrow is to be our first rest day, but next week everything will be tending towards sledging preparations. I have also been discussing and writing about the provisions of animals to be brought down in the Terra Nova next year.
The wind is very persistent from the S.S.E., rising and falling; to-night it has sprung up again, and is rattling the canvas of the tent.
Some of the ponies are not turning out so well as I expected; they are slow walkers and must inevitably impede the faster ones. Two of the best had been told off for Campbell by Oates, but I must alter the arrangement. 'Then I am not quite sure they are going to stand the cold well, and on this first journey they may have to face pretty severe conditions. Then, of course, there is the danger of losing them on thin ice or by injury sustained in rough places. Although we have fifteen now (two having gone for the Eastern Party) it is not at all certain that we shall have such a number when the main journey is undertaken next season. One can only be careful and hope for the best.'
Sunday, January 15. -- We had decided to observe this day as a 'day of rest,' and so it has been.
At one time or another the majority have employed their spare hours in writing letters.
We rose late, having breakfast at nine. The morning promised well and the day fulfilled the promise: we had bright sunshine and practically no wind.
At 10 A.M. the men and officers streamed over from the ship, and we all assembled on the beach and I read Divine Service, our first Service at the camp and impressive in the open air. After Service I told Campbell that I should have to cancel his two ponies and give him two others. He took it like the gentleman he is, thoroughly appreciating the reason.
He had asked me previously to be allowed to go to Cape Royds over the glacier and I had given permission. After our talk we went together to explore the route, which we expected to find much crevassed. I only intended to go a short way, but on reaching the snow above the uncovered hills of our Cape I found the surface so promising and so free from cracks that I went quite a long way. Eventually I turned, leaving Campbell, Gran, and Nelson roped together and on ski to make their way onward, but not before I felt certain that the route to Cape Royds would be quite easy. As we topped the last rise we saw Taylor and Wright some way ahead on the slope; they had come up by a different route. Evidently they are bound for the same goal.
I returned to camp, and after lunch Meares and I took a sledge and nine dogs over the Cape to the sea ice on the south side and started for Hut Point. We took a little provision and a cooker and our sleeping-bags. Meares had found a way over the Cape which was on snow all the way except about 100 yards. The dogs pulled well, and we went towards the Glacier Tongue at a brisk pace; found much of the ice uncovered. Towards the Glacier Tongue there were some heaps of snow much wind blown. As we rose the glacier we saw the Nimrod depot some way to the right and made for it. We found a good deal of compressed fodder and boxes of maize, but no grain crushed as expected. The open water was practically up to the Glacier Tongue.
We descended by an easy slope 1/4 mile from the end of the Glacier Tongue, but found ourselves cut off by an open crack some 15 feet across and had to get on the glacier again and go some 1/2 mile farther in. We came to a second crack, but avoided it by skirting to the west. From this point we had an easy run without difficulty to Hut Point. There was a small pool of open water and a longish crack off Hut Point. I got my feet very wet crossing the latter. We passed hundreds of seals at the various cracks.
On the arrival at the hut to my chagrin we found it filled with snow. Shackleton reported that the door had been forced by the wind, but that he had made an entrance by the window and found shelter inside -- other members of his party used it for shelter. But they actually went away and left the window (which they had forced) open; as a result, nearly the whole of the interior of the hut is filled with hard icy snow, and it is now impossible to find shelter inside.
Meares and I were able to clamber over the snow to some extent and to examine the neat pile of cases in the middle, but they will take much digging out. We got some asbestos sheeting from the magnetic hut and made the best shelter we could to boil our cocoa.
There was something too depressing in finding the old hut in such a desolate condition. I had had so much interest in seeing all the old landmarks and the huts apparently intact. To camp outside and feel that all the old comfort and cheer had departed, was dreadfully heartrending. I went to bed thoroughly depressed. It stems a fundamental expression of civilised human sentiment that men who come to such places as this should leave what comfort they can to welcome those who follow.
Monday, January 16. -- We slept badly till the morning and, therefore, late. After breakfast we went up the hills; there was a keen S.E. breeze, but the sun shone and my spirits revived. There was very much less snow everywhere than I had ever seen. The ski run was completely cut through in two places, the Gap and Observation Hill almost bare, a great bare slope on the side of Arrival Heights, and on top of Crater Heights an immense bare table-land. How delighted we should have been to see it like this in the old days! The pond was thawed and the confervae green in fresh water. The hole which we had dug in the mound in the pond was still there, as Meares discovered by falling into it up to his waist and getting very wet.
On the south side we could see the Pressure Ridges beyond Pram Point as of old -- Horseshoe Bay calm and unpressed -- the sea ice pressed on Pram Point and along the Gap ice foot, and a new ridge running around C. Armitage about 2 miles off. We saw Ferrar's old thermometer tubes standing out of the snow slope as though they'd been placed yesterday. Vince's cross might have been placed yesterday -- the paint was so fresh and the inscription so legible.
The flagstaff was down, the stays having carried away, but in five minutes it could be put up again. We loaded some asbestos sheeting from the old magnetic hut on our sledges for Simpson, and by standing 1/4 mile off Hut Point got a clear run to Glacier Tongue. I had hoped to get across the wide crack by going west, but found that it ran for a great distance and had to get on the glacier at the place at which we had left it. We got to camp about teatime. I found our larder in the grotto completed and stored with mutton and penguins -- the temperature inside has never been above 27°, so that it ought to be a fine place for our winter store. Simpson has almost completed the differential magnetic cave next door. The hut stove was burning well and the interior of the building already warm and homelike -- a day or two and we shall be occupying it.
I took Ponting out to see some interesting thaw effects on the ice cliffs east of the Camp. I noted that the ice layers were pressing out over thin dirt bands as though the latter made the cleavage lines over which the strata slid.
It has occurred to me that although the sea ice may freeze in our bays early in March it will be a difficult thing to get ponies across it owing to the cliff edges at the side. We must therefore be prepared to be cut off for a longer time than I anticipated. I heard that all the people who journeyed towards C. Royds yesterday reached their destination in safety. Campbell, Levick, and Priestley had just departed when I returned.Note 10
Tuesday, January 17. -- We took up our abode in the hut to-day and are simply overwhelmed with its comfort. After breakfast this morning I found Bowers making cubicles as I had arranged, but I soon saw these would not fit in, so instructed him to build a bulkhead of cases which shuts off the officers' space from the men's, I am quite sure to the satisfaction of both. The space between my bulkhead and the men's I allotted to five: Bowers, Oates, Atkinson, Meares, and Cherry-Garrard. These five are all special friends and have already made their dormitory very habitable. Simpson and Wright are near the instruments in their corner. Next come Day and Nelson in a space which includes the latter's 'Lab.' near the big window; next to this is a space for three -- Debenham, Taylor, and Gran; they also have already made their space part dormitory and part workshop.
It is fine to see the way everyone sets to work to put things straight; in a day or two the hut will become the most comfortable of houses, and in a week or so the whole station, instruments, routine, men and animals, &c., will be in working order.
It is really wonderful to realise the amount of work which has been got through of late.
It will be a fortnight to-morrow since we arrived in McMurdo Sound, and here we are absolutely settled down and ready to start on our depôt journey directly the ponies have had a proper chance to recover from the effects of the voyage. I had no idea we should be so expeditious.
It snowed hard all last night; there were about three or four inches of soft snow over the camp this morning and Simpson tells me some six inches out by the ship. The camp looks very white. During the day it has been blowing very hard from the south, with a great deal of drift. Here in this camp as usual we do not feel it much, but we see the anemometer racing on the hill and the snow clouds sweeping past the ship. The floe is breaking between the point and the ship, though curiously it remains fast on a direct route to the ship. Now the open water runs parallel to our ship road and only a few hundred yards south of it. Yesterday the whaler was rowed in close to the camp, and if the ship had steam up she could steam round to within a few hundred yards of us. The big wedge of ice to which the ship is holding on the outskirts of the Bay can have very little grip to keep it in and must inevitably go out very soon. I hope this may result in the ship finding a more sheltered and secure position close to us.
A big iceberg sailed past the ship this afternoon. Atkinson declares it was the end of the Cape Barne Glacier. I hope they will know in the ship, as it would be interesting to witness the birth of a glacier in this region.
It is clearing to-night, but still blowing hard. The ponies don't like the wind, but they are all standing the cold wonderfully and all their sores are healed up.
Wednesday, January 18. -- The ship had a poor time last night; steam was ordered, but the floe began breaking up fast at 1 A.M., and the rest of the night was passed in struggling with ice anchors; steam was reported ready just as the ship broke adrift. In the morning she secured to the ice edge on the same line as before but a few hundred yards nearer. After getting things going at the hut, I walked over and suggested that Pennell should come round the corner close in shore. The ice anchors were tripped and we steamed slowly in, making fast to the floe within 200 yards of the ice foot and 400 yards of the hut.
For the present the position is extraordinarily comfortable. With a southerly blow she would simply bind on to the ice, receiving great shelter from the end of the Cape. With a northerly blow she might turn rather close to the shore, where the soundings run to 3 fathoms, but behind such a stretch of ice she could scarcely get a sea or swell without warning. It looks a wonderfully comfortable little nook, but, of course, one can be certain of nothing in this place; one knows from experience how deceptive the appearance of security may be. Pennell is truly excellent in his present position -- he's invariably cheerful, unceasingly watchful, and continuously ready for emergencies. I have come to possess implicit confidence in him.
The temperature fell to 4° last night, with a keen S.S.E. breeze; it was very unpleasant outside after breakfast. Later in the forenoon the wind dropped and the sun shone forth. This afternoon it fell almost calm, but the sky clouded over again and now there is a gentle warm southerly breeze with light falling snow and an overcast sky. Rather significant of a blizzard if we had not had such a lot of wind lately. The position of the ship makes the casual transport that still proceeds very easy, but the ice is rather thin at the edge. In the hut all is marching towards the utmost comfort.
Bowers has completed a storeroom on the south side, an excellent place to keep our travelling provisions. Every day he conceives or carries out some plan to benefit the camp. Simpson and Wright are worthy of all admiration: they have been unceasingly active in getting things to the fore and I think will be ready for routine work much earlier than was anticipated. But, indeed, it is hard to specialise praise where everyone is working so indefatigably for the cause.
Each man in his way is a treasure.
Clissold the cook has started splendidly, has served seal, penguin, and skua now, and I can honestly say that I have never met these articles of food in such a pleasing guise; 'this point is of the greatest practical importance, as it means the certainty of good health for any number of years.' Hooper was landed to-day, much to his joy. He got to work at once, and will be a splendid help, freeing the scientific people of all dirty work. Anton and Demetri are both most anxious to help on all occasions; they are excellent boys.
Thursday, January 19. -- The hut is becoming the most comfortable dwelling-place imaginable. We have made unto ourselves a truly seductive home, within the walls of which peace, quiet, and comfort reign supreme.
Such a noble dwelling transcends the word 'hut,' and we pause to give it a more fitting title only from lack of the appropriate suggestion. What shall we call it?
'The word "hut" is misleading. Our residence is really a house of considerable size, in every respect the finest that has ever been erected in the Polar regions; 50 ft. long by 25 wide and 9 ft. to the eaves.
'If you can picture our house nestling below this small hill on a long stretch of black sand, with many tons of provision cases ranged in neat blocks in front of it and the sea lapping the icefoot below, you will have some idea of our immediate vicinity. As for our wider surroundings it would be difficult to describe their beauty in sufficiently glowing terms. Cape Evans is one of the many spurs of Erebus and the one that stands closest under the mountain, so that always towering above us we have the grand snowy peak with its smoking summit. North and south of us are deep bays, beyond which great glaciers come rippling over the lower slopes to thrust high blue-walled snouts into the sea. The sea is blue before us, dotted with shining bergs or ice floes, whilst far over the Sound, yet so bold and magnificent as to appear near, stand the beautiful Western Mountains with their numerous lofty peaks, their deep glacial valley and clear cut scarps, a vision of mountain scenery that can have few rivals.
'Ponting is the most delighted of men; he declares this is the most beautiful spot he has ever seen and spends all day and most of the night in what he calls "gathering it in" with camera and cinematograph.'
The wind has been boisterous all day, to advantage after the last snow fall, as it has been drifting the loose snow along and hardening the surfaces. The horses don't like it, naturally, but it wouldn't do to pamper them so soon before our journey. I think the hardening process must be good for animals though not for men; nature replies to it in the former by growing a thick coat with wonderful promptitude. It seems to me that the shaggy coats of our ponies are already improving. The dogs seem to feel the cold little so far, but they are not so exposed.
A milder situation might be found for the ponies if only we could picket them off the snow.
Henry R. Bowers has completed his southern storeroom and brought the wing across the porch on the windward side, connecting the roofing with that of the porch. The improvement is enormous and will make the greatest difference to those who dwell near the door.
The carpenter has been setting up standards and roof beams for the stables, which will be completed in a few days. Internal affairs have been straightening out as rapidly as before, and every hour seems to add some new touch for the better.
This morning I overhauled all the fur sleeping-bags and found them in splendid order -- on the whole the skins are excellent. Since that I have been trying to work out sledge details, but my head doesn't seem half as clear on the subject as it ought to be.
I have fixed the 25th as the date for our departure. |Evans is to get all the sledges and gear ready whilst Bowers superintends the filling of provision bags.
Griffith Taylor and his companions have been seeking advice as to their Western trip. Wilson, dear chap, has been doing his best to coach them.
Ponting has fitted up his own dark room -- doing the carpentering work with extraordinary speed and to everyone's admiration. To-night he made a window in the dark room in an hour or so.
Meares has become enamoured of the gramophone. We find we have a splendid selection of records. The pianola is being brought in sections, but I'm not at all sure it will be worth the trouble. Oates goes steadily on with the ponies -- he is perfectly excellent and untiring in his devotion to the animals.
Day and Nelson, having given much thought to the proper fitting up of their corner, have now begun work. There seems to be little doubt that these ingenious people will make the most of their allotted space.
I have done quite a lot of thinking over the autumn journeys and a lot remains to be done, mainly on account of the prospect of being cut off from our winter quarters; for this reason we must have a great deal of food for animals and men.
Friday, January 20. -- Our house has assumed great proportions. Bowers' annexe is finished, roof and all thoroughly snow tight; an excellent place for spare clothing, furs, and ready use stores, and its extension affording complete protection to the entrance porch of the hut. The stables are nearly finished -- a thoroughly stout well-roofed lean-to on the north side. Nelson has a small extension on the east side and Simpson a prearranged projection on the S.E. corner, so that on all sides the main building has thrown out limbs. Simpson has almost completed his ice cavern, light-tight lining, niches, floor and all. Wright and Forde have almost completed the absolute hut, a patchwork building for which the framework only was brought -- but it will be very well adapted for our needs.
Gran has been putting 'record' on the ski runners. Record is a mixture of vegetable tar, paraffin, soft soap, and linseed oil, with some patent addition which prevents freezing -- this according to Gran.
P.O. Evans and Crean have been preparing sledges; Evans shows himself wonderfully capable, and I haven't a doubt as to the working of the sledges he has fitted up.
We have been serving out some sledging gear and wintering boots. We are delighted with everything. First the felt boots and felt slippers made by Jaeger and then summer wind clothes and fur mits -- nothing could be better than these articles. Finally to-night we have overhauled and served out two pairs of finnesko (fur boots) to each traveller. They are excellent in quality. At first I thought they seemed small, but a stiffness due to cold and dryness misled me -- a little stretching and all was well. They are very good indeed. I have an idea to use putties to secure our wind trousers to the finnesko. But indeed the whole time we are thinking of devices to make our travelling work easier.
'We have now tried most of our stores, and so far we have not found a single article that is not perfectly excellent in quality and preservation. We are well repaid for all the trouble which was taken in selecting the food list and the firms from which the various articles could best be obtained, and we are showering blessings on Mr. Wyatt's head for so strictly safeguarding our interests in these particulars.
'Our clothing is as good as good. In fact first and last, running through the whole extent of our outfit, I can say with some pride that there is not a single arrangement which I would have had altered.'
An Emperor penguin was found on the Cape well advanced in moult, a good specimen skin. Atkinson found cysts formed by a tapeworm in the intestines. It seems clear that this parasite is not transferred from another host, and that its history is unlike that of any other known tapeworm -- in fact, Atkinson scores a discovery in parasitology of no little importance.
The wind has turned to the north to-night and is blowing quite fresh. I don't much like the position of the ship as the ice is breaking away all the time. The sky is quite clear and I don't think the wind often lasts long under such conditions.
The pianola has been erected by Rennick. He is a good fellow and one feels for him much at such a time -- it must be rather dreadful for him to be returning when he remembers that he was once practically one of the shore party.Note 11 The pianola has been his special care, and it shows well that he should give so much pains in putting it right for us.
Day has been explaining the manner in which he hopes to be able to cope with the motor sledge difficulty. He is hopeful of getting things right, but I fear it won't do to place more reliance on the machines.
Everything looks hopeful for the depot journey if only we can get our stores and ponies past the Glacier Tongue.
We had some seal rissoles to-day so extraordinarily well cooked that it was impossible to distinguish them from the best beef rissoles. I told two of the party they were beef, and they made no comment till I enlightened them after they had eaten two each. It is the first time I have tasted seal without being aware of its particular flavour. But even its own flavour is acceptable in our cook's hands -- he really is excellent.
Saturday, January 21. -- My anxiety for the ship was not unfounded. Fearing a little trouble I went out of the hut in the middle of the night and saw at once that she was having a bad time -- the ice was breaking with a northerly swell and the wind increasing, with the ship on dead lee shore; luckily the ice anchors had been put well in on the floe and some still held. Pennell was getting up steam and his men struggling to replace the anchors.
We got out the men and gave some help. At 6 steam was up, and I was right glad to see the ship back out to windward, leaving us to recover anchors and hawsers.
She stood away to the west, and almost immediately after a large berg drove in and grounded in the place she had occupied.
We spent the day measuring our provisions and fixing up clothing arrangements for our journey; a good deal of progress has been made.
In the afternoon the ship returned to the northern ice edge; the wind was still strong (about N. 30 W.) and loose ice all along the edge -- our people went out with the ice anchors and I saw the ship pass west again. Then as I went out on the floe came the report that she was ashore. I ran out to the Cape with Evans and saw that the report was only too true. She looked to be firmly fixed and in a very uncomfortable position. It looked as though she had been trying to get round the Cape, and therefore I argued she must have been going a good pace as the drift was making rapidly to the south. Later Pennell told me he had been trying to look behind the berg and had been going astern some time before he struck.
My heart sank when I looked at her and I sent Evans off in the whaler to sound, recovered the ice anchors again, set the people to work, and walked disconsolately back to the Cape to watch.
Visions of the ship failing to return to New Zealand and of sixty people waiting here arose in my mind with sickening pertinacity, and the only consolation I could draw from such imaginations was the determination that the southern work should go on as before -- meanwhile the least ill possible seemed to be an extensive lightening of the ship with boats as the tide was evidently high when she struck -- a terribly depressing prospect.
Some three or four of us watched it gloomily from the shore whilst all was bustle on board, the men shifting cargo aft. Pennell tells me they shifted 10 tons in a very short time.
The first ray of hope came when by careful watching one could see that the ship was turning very slowly, then one saw the men running from side to side and knew that an attempt was being made to roll her off. The rolling produced a more rapid turning movement at first and then she seemed to hang again. But only for a short time; the engines had been going astern all the time and presently a slight movement became apparent. But we only knew she was getting clear when we heard cheers on board and more cheers from the whaler.
Then she gathered stern way and was clear. The relief was enormous.
The wind dropped as she came off, and she is now securely moored off the northern ice edge, where I hope the greater number of her people are finding rest. For here and now I must record the splendid manner in which these men are working. I find it difficult to express my admiration for the manner in which the ship is handled and worked under these very trying circumstances.
From Pennell down there is not an officer or man who has not done his job nobly during the past weeks, and it will be a glorious thing to remember the unselfish loyal help they are giving us.
Pennell has been over to tell me all about it to-night; I think I like him more every day.
Campbell and his party returned late this afternoon -- I have not heard details.
Meares and Oates went to the Glacier Tongue and satisfied themselves that the ice is good. It only has to remain another three days, and it would be poor luck if it failed in that time.
Sunday, January 22. -- A quiet day with little to record.
The ship lies peacefully in the bay; a brisk northerly breeze in the forenoon died to light airs in the evening -- it is warm enough, the temperature in the hut was 63° this evening. We have had a long busy day at clothing -- everyone sewing away diligently. The Eastern Party ponies were put on board the ship this morning.
Monday, January 23. -- Placid conditions last for a very short time in these regions. I got up at 5 this morning to find the weather calm and beautiful, but to my astonishment an opening lane of water between the land and the ice in the bay. The latter was going out in a solid mass.
The ship discovered it easily, got up her ice anchors, sent a boat ashore, and put out to sea to dredge. We went on with our preparations, but soon Meares brought word that the ice in the south bay was going in an equally rapid fashion. This proved an exaggeration, but an immense piece of floe had separated from the land. Meares and I walked till we came to the first ice. Luckily we found that it extends for some 2 miles along the rock of our Cape, and we discovered a possible way to lead ponies down to it. It was plain that only the ponies could go by it -- no loads.
Since that everything has been rushed -- and a wonderful day's work has resulted; we have got all the forage and food sledges and equipment off to the ship -- the dogs will follow in an hour, I hope, with pony harness, &c., that is everything to do with our depôt party, except the ponies.
As at present arranged they are to cross the Cape and try to get over the Southern Road to-morrow morning. One breathes a prayer that the Road holds for the few remaining hours. It goes in one place between a berg in open water and a large pool of the glacier face -- it may be weak in that part, and at any moment the narrow isthmus may break away. We are doing it on a very narrow margin.
If all is well I go to the ship to-morrow morning after the ponies have started, and then to Glacier Tongue.
- ^Here were the meteorological instruments.
- ^Cape Evans, which lay on the S. side of the new hut.
- ^ The Southern Road was the one feasible line of communication between the new station at C. Evans and the Discovery hut at Hut Point, for the rugged mountains and crevassed ice slopes of Ross Island forbade a passage by land. The 'road' afforded level going below the cliffs of the ice-foot, except where disturbed by the descending glacier, and there it was necessary to cross the body of the glacier itself. It consisted of the more enduring ice in the bays and the sea-ice along the coast, which only stayed fast for the season.
Thus it was of the utmost importance to get safely over the precarious part of the 'road' before the seasonal going-out of the sea-ice. To wait until all the ice should go out and enable the ship to sail to Hut Point would have meant long uncertainty and delay. As it happened, the Road broke up the day after the party had gone by.