Scott's Last Expedition: Southern Journey: The Barrier Stage

Source: Project.gutenberg

Return to Table of Contents of Scott's Last Expedition (e-book)

CHAPTER XVI 
Southern Journey: The Barrier Stage

 

November 1. -- Last night we heard that Jehu had reached Hut Point in about 5 1/2 hours. This morning we got away in detachments -- Michael, Nobby, Chinaman were first to get away about 11 A.M. The little devil Christopher was harnessed with the usual difficulty and started in kicking mood, Oates holding on for all he was worth.

Bones ambled off gently with Crean, and I led Snippets in his wake. Ten minutes after Evans and Snatcher passed at the usual full speed.

The wind blew very strong at the Razor Back and the sky was threatening -- the ponies hate the wind. A mile south of this island Bowers and Victor passed me, leaving me where I best wished to be -- at the tail of the line.

About this place I saw that one of the animals ahead had stopped and was obstinately refusing to go forward again. I had a great fear it was Chinaman, the unknown quantity, but to my relief found it was my old friend 'Nobby' in obstinate mood. As he is very strong and fit the matter was soon adjusted with a little persuasion from Anton behind. Poor little Anton found it difficult to keep the pace with short legs.

Snatcher soon led the party and covered the distance in four hours. Evans said he could see no difference at the end from the start -- the little animal simply romped in. Bones and Christopher arrived almost equally fresh, in fact the latter had been bucking and kicking the whole way. For the present there is no end to his devilment, and the great consideration is how to safeguard Oates. Some quiet ponies should always be near him, a difficult matter to arrange with such varying rates of walking. A little later I came up to a batch, Bowers, Wilson, Cherry, and Wright, and was happy to see Chinaman going very strong. He is not fast, but very steady, and I think should go a long way.

Victor and Michael forged ahead again, and the remaining three of us came in after taking a little under five hours to cover the distance.

We were none too soon, as the weather had been steadily getting worse, and soon after our arrival it was blowing a gale.

 

Thursday, November 2. -- Hut Point. The march teaches a good deal as to the paces of the ponies. It reminded me of a regatta or a somewhat disorganised fleet with ships of very unequal speed. The plan of further advance has now been evolved. We shall start in three parties -- the very slow ponies, the medium paced, and the fliers. Snatcher starting last will probably overtake the leading unit. All this requires a good deal of arranging. We have decided to begin night marching, and shall get away after supper, I hope. The weather is hourly improving, but at this season that does not count for much. At present our ponies are very comfortably stabled. Michael, Chinaman and James Pigg are actually in the hut. Chinaman kept us alive last night by stamping on the floor. Meares and Demetri are here with the dog team, and Ponting with a great photographic outfit. I fear he won't get much chance to get results.

 

Friday, November 3. -- Camp 1. A keen wind with some drift at Hut Point, but we sailed away in detachments. Atkinson's party, Jehu, Chinaman and Jimmy Pigg led off at eight. Just before ten Wilson, Cherry-Garrard and I left. Our ponies marched steadily and well together over the sea ice. The wind dropped a good deal, but the temperature with it, so that the little remaining was very cutting. We found Atkinson at Safety Camp. He had lunched and was just ready to march out again; he reports Chinaman and Jehu tired. Ponting arrived soon after we had camped with Demetri and a small dog team. The cinematograph was up in time to catch the flying rearguard which came along in fine form, Snatcher leading and being stopped every now and again -- a wonderful little beast. Christopher had given the usual trouble when harnessed, but was evidently subdued by the Barrier Surface. However, it was not thought advisable to halt him, and so the party fled through in the wake of the advance guard.

After lunch we packed up and marched on steadily as before. I don't like these midnight lunches, but for man the march that follows is pleasant when, as to-day, the wind falls and the sun steadily increases its heat. The two parties in front of us camped 5 miles beyond Safety Camp, and we reached their camp some half or three-quarters of an hour later. All the ponies are tethered in good order, but most of them are tired -- Chinaman and Jehu very tired. Nearly all are inclined to be off feed, but this is very temporary, I think. We have built walls, but there is no wind and the sun gets warmer every minute.

Mirage. -- Very marked waving effect to east. Small objects greatly exaggerated and showing as dark vertical lines.

1 P.M. -- Feeding time. Woke the party, and Oates served out the rations -- all ponies feeding well. It is a sweltering day, the air breathless, the glare intense -- one loses sight of the fact that the temperature is low (-22°) -- one's mind seeks comparison in hot sunlit streets and scorching pavements, yet six hours ago my thumb was frostbitten. All the inconveniences of frozen footwear and damp clothes and sleeping-bags have vanished entirely.

A petrol tin is near the camp and a note stating that the motor passed at 9 P.M. 28th, going strong -- they have 4 to 5 days' lead and should surely keep it.

'Bones has eaten Christopher's goggles.'

This announcement by Crean, meaning that Bones had demolished the protecting fringe on Christopher's bridle. These fringes promise very well -- Christopher without his is blinking in the hot sun.

 

Saturday, November 4. -- Camp 2. Led march -- started in what I think will now become the settled order. Atkinson went at 8, ours at 10, Bowers, Oates and Co. at 11.15. Just after starting picked up cheerful note and saw cheerful notices saying all well with motors, both going excellently. Day wrote 'Hope to meet in 80° 30' (Lat.).' Poor chap, within 2 miles he must have had to sing a different tale. It appears they had a bad ground on the morning of the 29th. I suppose the surface was bad and everything seemed to be going wrong. They 'dumped' a good deal of petrol and lubricant. Worse was to follow. Some 4 miles out we met a tin pathetically inscribed, 'Big end Day's motor No. 2 cylinder broken.' Half a mile beyond, as I expected, we found the motor, its tracking sledges and all. Notes from Evans and Day told the tale. The only spare had been used for Lashly's machine, and it would have taken a long time to strip Day's engine so that it could run on three cylinders. They had decided to abandon it and push on with the other alone. They had taken the six bags of forage and some odds and ends, besides their petrol and lubricant. So the dream of great help from the machines is at an end! The track of the remaining motor goes steadily forward, but now, of course, I shall expect to see it every hour of the march.

The ponies did pretty well -- a cruel soft surface most of the time, but light loads, of course. Jehu is better than I expected to find him, Chinaman not so well. They are bad crocks both of them.

It was pretty cold during the night, -7° when we camped, with a crisp breeze blowing. The ponies don't like it, but now, as I write, the sun is shining through a white haze, the wind has dropped, and the picketing line is comfortable for the poor beasts.

This, 1 P.M., is the feeding hour -- the animals are not yet on feed, but they are coming on.

The wind vane left here in the spring shows a predominance of wind from the S.W. quarter. Maximum scratching, about S.W. by W.

 

Sunday, November 5. -- Camp 3. 'Corner Camp.' We came over the last lap of the first journey in good order -- ponies doing well in soft surface, but, of course, lightly loaded. To-night will show what we can do with the heavier weights. A very troubled note from Evans (with motor) written on morning of 2nd, saying maximum speed was about 7 miles per day. They have taken on nine bags of forage, but there are three black dots to the south which we can only imagine are the deserted motor with its loaded sledges. The men have gone on as a supporting party, as directed. It is a disappointment. I had hoped better of the machines once they got away on the Barrier Surface.

The appetites of the ponies are very fanciful. They do not like the oil cake, but for the moment seem to take to some fodder left here. However, they are off that again to-day. It is a sad pity they won't eat well now, because later on one can imagine how ravenous they will become. Chinaman and Jehu will not go far I fear.

 

Monday, November 6. -- Camp 4. We started in the usual order, arranging so that full loads should be carried if the black dots to the south prove to be the motor. On arrival at these we found our fears confirmed. A note from Evans stated a recurrence of the old trouble. The big end of No. 1 cylinder had cracked, the machine otherwise in good order. Evidently the engines are not fitted for working in this climate, a fact that should be certainly capable of correction. One thing is proved; the system of propulsion is altogether satisfactory. The motor party has proceeded as a man-hauling party as arranged.

With their full loads the ponies did splendidly, even Jehu and Chinaman with loads over 450 lbs. stepped out well and have finished as fit as when they started. Atkinson and Wright both think that these animals are improving.

The better ponies made nothing of their loads, and my own Snippets had over 700 lbs., sledge included. Of course, the surface is greatly improved; it is that over which we came well last year. We are all much cheered by this performance. It shows a hardening up of ponies which have been well trained; even Oates is pleased!

As we came to camp a blizzard threatened, and we built snow walls. One hour after our arrival the wind was pretty strong, but there was not much snow. This state of affairs has continued, but the ponies seem very comfortable. Their new rugs cover them well and the sheltering walls are as high as the animals, so that the wind is practically unfelt behind them. The protection is a direct result of our experience of last year, and it is good to feel that we reaped some reward for that disastrous journey. I am writing late in the day and the wind is still strong. I fear we shall not be able to go on to-night. Christopher gave great trouble again last night -- the four men had great difficulty in getting him into his sledge; this is a nuisance which I fear must be endured for some time to come.

The temperature, -5°, is lower than I like in a blizzard. It feels chilly in the tent, but the ponies don't seem to mind the wind much.

The incidence of this blizzard had certain characters worthy of note: --

Before we started from Corner Camp there was a heavy collection of cloud about Cape Crozier and Mount Terror, and a black line of stratus low on the western slopes of Erebus. With us the sun was shining and it was particularly warm and pleasant. Shortly after we started mist formed about us, waxing and waning in density; a slight southerly breeze sprang up, cumulo-stratus cloud formed overhead with a rather windy appearance (radial E. and W.).

At the first halt (5 miles S.) Atkinson called my attention to a curious phenomenon. Across the face of the low sun the strata of mist could be seen rising rapidly, lines of shadow appearing to be travelling upwards against the light. Presumably this was sun-warmed air. The accumulation of this gradually overspread the sky with a layer of stratus, which, however, never seemed to be very dense; the position of the sun could always be seen. Two or three hours later the wind steadily increased in force, with the usual gusty characteristic. A noticeable fact was that the sky was clear and blue above the southern horizon, and the clouds seemed to be closing down on this from time to time. At intervals since, it has lifted, showing quite an expanse of clear sky. The general appearance is that the disturbance is created by conditions about us, and is rather spreading from north to south than coming up with the wind, and this seems rather typical. On the other hand, this is not a bad snow blizzard; although the wind holds, the land, obscured last night, is now quite clear and the Bluff has no mantle.

[Added in another hand, probably dictated:

Before we felt any air moving, during our A.M. march and the greater part of the previous march, there was dark cloud over Ross Sea off the Barrier, which continued over the Eastern Barrier to the S.E. as a heavy stratus, with here and there an appearance of wind. At the same time, due south of us, dark lines of stratus were appearing, miraged on the horizon, and while we were camping after our A.M. march, these were obscured by banks of white fog (or drift?), and the wind increasing the whole time. My general impression was that the storm came up from the south, but swept round over the eastern part of the Barrier before it became general and included the western part where we were.]

 

Tuesday, November 7. -- Camp 4. The blizzard has continued throughout last night and up to this time of writing, late in the afternoon. Starting mildly, with broken clouds, little snow, and gleams of sunshine, it grew in intensity until this forenoon, when there was heavy snowfall and the sky overspread with low nimbus cloud. In the early afternoon the snow and wind took off, and the wind is dropping now, but the sky looks very lowering and unsettled.

Last night the sky was so broken that I made certain the end of the blow had come. Towards morning the sky overhead and far to the north was quite clear. More cloud obscured the sun to the south and low heavy banks hung over Ross Island. All seemed hopeful, except that I noted with misgiving that the mantle on the Bluff was beginning to form. Two hours later the whole sky was overcast and the blizzard had fully developed.

This Tuesday evening it remains overcast, but one cannot see that the clouds are travelling fast. The Bluff mantle is a wide low bank of stratus not particularly windy in appearance; the wind is falling, but the sky still looks lowering to the south and there is a general appearance of unrest. The temperature has been -10° all day.

The ponies, which had been so comparatively comfortable in the earlier stages, were hit as usual when the snow began to fall.

We have done everything possible to shelter and protect them, but there seems no way of keeping them comfortable when the snow is thick and driving fast. We men are snug and comfortable enough, but it is very evil to lie here and know that the weather is steadily sapping the strength of the beasts on which so much depends. It requires much philosophy to be cheerful on such occasions.

In the midst of the drift this forenoon the dog party came up and camped about a quarter of a mile to leeward. Meares has played too much for safety in catching us so soon, but it is satisfactory to find the dogs will pull the loads and can be driven to face such a wind as we have had. It shows that they ought to be able to help us a good deal.

The tents and sledges are badly drifted up, and the drifts behind the pony walls have been dug out several times. I shall be glad indeed to be on the march again, and oh! for a little sun. The ponies are all quite warm when covered by their rugs. Some of the fine drift snow finds its way under the rugs, and especially under the broad belly straps; this melts and makes the coat wet if allowed to remain. It is not easy to understand at first why the blizzard should have such a withering effect on the poor beasts. I think it is mainly due to the exceeding fineness of the snow particles, which, like finely divided powder, penetrate the hair of the coat and lodge in the inner warmths. Here it melts, and as water carries off the animal heat. Also, no doubt, it harasses the animals by the bombardment of the fine flying particles on tender places such as nostrils, eyes, and to lesser extent ears. In this way it continually bothers them, preventing rest. Of all things the most important for horses is that conditions should be placid whilst they stand tethered.

 

Wednesday, November 8. -- Camp 5. Wind with overcast threatening sky continued to a late hour last night. The question of starting was open for a long time, and many were unfavourable. I decided we must go, and soon after midnight the advance guard got away. To my surprise, when the rugs were stripped from the 'crocks' they appeared quite fresh and fit. Both Jehu and Chinaman had a skittish little run. When their heads were loose Chinaman indulged in a playful buck. All three started with their loads at a brisk pace. It was a great relief to find that they had not suffered at all from the blizzard. They went out six geographical miles, and our section going at a good round pace found them encamped as usual. After they had gone, we waited for the rearguard to come up and joined with them. For the next 5 miles the bunch of seven kept together in fine style, and with wind dropping, sun gaining in power, and ponies going well, the march was a real pleasure. One gained confidence every moment in the animals; they brought along their heavy loads without a hint of tiredness. All take the patches of soft snow with an easy stride, not bothering themselves at all. The majority halt now and again to get a mouthful of snow, but little Christopher goes through with a non-stop run. He gives as much trouble as ever at the start, showing all sorts of ingenious tricks to escape his harness. Yesterday when brought to his knees and held, he lay down, but this served no end, for before he jumped to his feet and dashed off the traces had been fixed and he was in for the 13 miles of steady work. Oates holds like grim death to his bridle until the first freshness is worn off, and this is no little time, for even after 10 miles he seized a slight opportunity to kick up. Some four miles from this camp Evans loosed Snatcher momentarily. The little beast was off at a canter at once and on slippery snow; it was all Evans could do to hold to the bridle. As it was he dashed across the line, somewhat to its danger.

Six hundred yards from this camp there was a bale of forage. Bowers stopped and loaded it on his sledge, bringing his weights to nearly 800 lbs. His pony Victor stepped out again as though nothing had been added. Such incidents are very inspiriting. Of course, the surface is very good; the animals rarely sink to the fetlock joint, and for a good part of the time are borne up on hard snow patches without sinking at all. In passing I mention that there are practically no places where ponies sink to their hocks as described by Shackleton. On the only occasion last year when our ponies sank to their hocks in one soft patch, they were unable to get their loads on at all. The feathering of the fetlock joint is borne up on the snow crust and its upward bend is indicative of the depth of the hole made by the hoof; one sees that an extra inch makes a tremendous difference.

We are picking up last year's cairns with great ease, and all show up very distinctly. This is extremely satisfactory for the homeward march. What with pony walls, camp sites and cairns, our track should be easily followed the whole way. Everyone is as fit as can be. It was wonderfully warm as we camped this morning at 11 o'clock; the wind has dropped completely and the sun shines gloriously. Men and ponies revel in such weather. One devoutly hopes for a good spell of it as we recede from the windy northern region. The dogs came up soon after we had camped, travelling easily.

 

Thursday, November 9. -- Camp 6. Sticking to programme, we are going a little over the 10 miles (geo.) nightly. Atkinson started his party at 11 and went on for 7 miles to escape a cold little night breeze which quickly dropped. He was some time at his lunch camp, so that starting to join the rearguard we came in together the last 2 miles. The experience showed that the slow advance guard ponies are forced out of their place by joining with the others, whilst the fast rearguard is reduced in speed. Obviously it is not an advantage to be together, yet all the ponies are doing well. An amusing incident happened when Wright left his pony to examine his sledgemeter. Chinaman evidently didn't like being left behind and set off at a canter to rejoin the main body. Wright's long legs barely carried him fast enough to stop this fatal stampede, but the ridiculous sight was due to the fact that old Jehu caught the infection and set off at a sprawling canter in Chinaman's wake. As this is the pony we thought scarcely capable of a single march at start, one is agreeably surprised to find him still displaying such commendable spirit. Christopher is troublesome as ever at the start; I fear that signs of tameness will only indicate absence of strength. The dogs followed us so easily over the 10 miles that Meares thought of going on again, but finally decided that the present easy work is best.

Things look hopeful. The weather is beautiful -- temp. -12°, with a bright sun. Some stratus cloud about Discovery and over White Island. The sastrugi about here are very various in direction and the surface a good deal ploughed up, showing that the Bluff influences the wind direction even out as far as this camp. The surface is hard; I take it about as good as we shall get.

There is an annoying little southerly wind blowing now, and this serves to show the beauty of our snow walls. The ponies are standing under their lee in the bright sun as comfortable as can possibly be.

 

Friday, November 10. -- Camp 7. A very horrid march. A strong head wind during the first part -- 5 miles (geo.) -- then a snowstorm. Wright leading found steering so difficult after three miles (geo.) that the party decided to camp. Luckily just before camping he rediscovered Evans' track (motor party) so that, given decent weather, we shall be able to follow this. The ponies did excellently as usual, but the surface is good distinctly. The wind has dropped and the weather is clearing now that we have camped. It is disappointing to miss even 1 1/2 miles.

Christopher was started to-day by a ruse. He was harnessed behind his wall and was in the sledge before he realised. Then he tried to bolt, but Titus hung on.

 

Saturday, November 11. -- Camp 8. It cleared somewhat just before the start of our march, but the snow which had fallen in the day remained soft and flocculent on the surface. Added to this we entered on an area of soft crust between a few scattered hard sastrugi. In pits between these in places the snow lay in sandy heaps. A worse set of conditions for the ponies could scarcely be imagined. Nevertheless they came through pretty well, the strong ones excellently, but the crocks had had enough at 9 1/2 miles. Such a surface makes one anxious in spite of the rapidity with which changes take place. I expected these marches to be a little difficult, but not near so bad as to-day. It is snowing again as we camp, with a slight north-easterly breeze. It is difficult to make out what is happening to the weather -- it is all part of the general warming up, but I wish the sky would clear. In spite of the surface, the dogs ran up from the camp before last, over 20 miles, in the night. They are working splendidly so far.

 

Sunday, November 12. -- Camp 9. Our marches are uniformly horrid just at present. The surface remains wretched, not quite so heavy as yesterday, perhaps, but very near it at times. Five miles out the advance party came straight and true on our last year's Bluff depot marked with a flagstaff. Here following I found a note from Evans, cheerful in tone, dated 7 A.M. 7th inst. He is, therefore, the best part of five days ahead of us, which is good. Atkinson camped a mile beyond this cairn and had a very gloomy account of Chinaman. Said he couldn't last more than a mile or two. The weather was horrid, overcast, gloomy, snowy. One's spirits became very low. However, the crocks set off again, the rearguard came up, passed us in camp, and then on the march about 3 miles on, so that they camped about the same time. The Soldier thinks Chinaman will last for a good many days yet, an extraordinary confession of hope for him. The rest of the animals are as well as can be expected -- Jehu rather better. These weather appearances change every minute. When we camped there was a chill northerly breeze, a black sky, and light falling snow. Now the sky is clearing and the sun shining an hour later. The temperature remains about -10° in the daytime.

 

Monday, November 13. -- Camp 10. Another horrid march in a terrible light, surface very bad. Ponies came through all well, but they are being tried hard by the surface conditions. We followed tracks most of the way, neither party seeing the other except towards camping time. The crocks did well, all repeatedly. Either the whole sky has been clear, or the overhanging cloud has lifted from time to time to show the lower rocks. Had we been dependent on land marks we should have fared ill. Evidently a good system of cairns is the best possible travelling arrangement on this great snow plain. Meares and Demetri up with the dogs as usual very soon after we camped.

This inpouring of warm moist air, which gives rise to this heavy surface deposit at this season, is certainly an interesting meteorological fact, accounting as it does for the very sudden change in Barrier conditions from spring to summer.

 

Wednesday, November 15. -- Camp 12. Found our One Ton Camp without any difficulty [130 geographical miles from Cape Evans]. About 7 or 8 miles. After 5 1/2 miles to lunch camp, Chinaman was pretty tired, but went on again in good form after the rest. All the other ponies made nothing of the march, which, however, was over a distinctly better surface. After a discussion we had decided to give the animals a day's rest here, and then to push forward at the rate of 13 geographical miles a day. Oates thinks the ponies will get through, but that they have lost condition quicker than he expected. Considering his usually pessimistic attitude this must be thought a hopeful view. Personally I am much more hopeful. I think that a good many of the beasts are actually in better form than when they started, and that there is no need to be alarmed about the remainder, always excepting the weak ones which we have always regarded with doubt. Well, we must wait and see how things go.

A note from Evans dated the 9th, stating his party has gone on to 80° 30', carrying four boxes of biscuit. He has done something over 30 miles (geo.) in 2 1/2 days -- exceedingly good going. I only hope he has built lots of good cairns.

It was a very beautiful day yesterday, bright sun, but as we marched, towards midnight, the sky gradually became overcast; very beautiful halo rings formed around the sun. Four separate rings were very distinct. Wilson descried a fifth -- the orange colour with blue interspace formed very fine contrasts. We now clearly see the corona ring on the snow surface. The spread of stratus cloud overhead was very remarkable. The sky was blue all around the horizon, but overhead a cumulo-stratus grew early; it seemed to be drifting to the south and later to the east. The broken cumulus slowly changed to a uniform stratus, which seems to be thinning as the sun gains power. There is a very thin light fall of snow crystals, but the surface deposit seems to be abating the evaporation for the moment, outpacing the light snowfall. The crystals barely exist a moment when they light on our equipment, so that everything on and about the sledges is drying rapidly. When the sky was clear above the horizon we got a good view of the distant land all around to the west; white patches of mountains to the W.S.W. must be 120 miles distant. During the night we saw Discovery and the Royal Society Range, the first view for many days, but we have not seen Erebus for a week, and in that direction the clouds seem ever to concentrate. It is very interesting to watch the weather phenomena of the Barrier, but one prefers the sunshine to days such as this, when everything is blankly white and a sense of oppression is inevitable.

The temperature fell to -15° last night, with a clear sky; it rose to 0° directly the sky covered and is now just 16° to 20°. Most of us are using goggles with glass of light green tint. We find this colour very grateful to the eyes, and as a rule it is possible to see everything through them even more clearly than with naked vision.

The hard sastrugi are now all from the W.S.W. and our cairns are drifted up by winds from that direction; mostly, though, there has evidently been a range of snow-bearing winds round to south. This observation holds from Corner Camp to this camp, showing that apparently all along the coast the wind comes from the land. The minimum thermometer left here shows -73°, rather less than expected; it has been excellently exposed and evidently not at all drifted up with snow at any time. I cannot find the oats I scattered here -- rather fear the drift has covered them, but other evidences show that the snow deposit has been very small.

 

Thursday, November 16. -- Camp 12. Resting. A stiff little southerly breeze all day, dropping towards evening. The temperature -15°. Ponies pretty comfortable in rugs and behind good walls. We have reorganised the loads, taking on about 580 lbs. with the stronger ponies, 400 odd with the others.

 

Friday, November 17. -- Camp 13. Atkinson started about 8.30. We came on about 11, the whole of the remainder. The lunch camp was 7 1/2 miles. Atkinson left as we came in. He was an hour before us at the final camp, 13 1/4 (geo.) miles. On the whole, and considering the weights, the ponies did very well, but the surface was comparatively good. Christopher showed signs of trouble at start, but was coaxed into position for the traces to be hooked. There was some ice on his runner and he had a very heavy drag, therefore a good deal done on arrival; also his load seems heavier and deader than the others. It is early days to wonder whether the little beasts will last; one can only hope they will, but the weakness of breeding and age is showing itself already.

The crocks have done wonderfully, so there is really no saying how long or well the fitter animals may go. We had a horribly cold wind on the march. Temp. -18°, force 3. The sun was shining but seemed to make little difference. It is still shining brightly, temp. 11°. Behind the pony walls it is wonderfully warm and the animals look as snug as possible.

 

Saturday, November 18. -- Camp 14. The ponies are not pulling well. The surface is, if anything, a little worse than yesterday, but I should think about the sort of thing we shall have to expect henceforward. I had a panic that we were carrying too much food and this morning we have discussed the matter and decided we can leave a sack. We have done the usual 13 miles (geog.) with a few hundred yards to make the 15 statute. The temperature was -21° when we camped last night, now it is -3°. The crocks are going on, very wonderfully. Oates gives Chinaman at least three days, and Wright says he may go for a week. This is slightly inspiriting, but how much better would it have been to have had ten really reliable beasts. It's touch and go whether we scrape up to the Glacier; meanwhile we get along somehow. At any rate the bright sunshine makes everything look more hopeful.

 

Sunday, November 19. -- Camp 15. We have struck a real bad surface, sledges pulling well over it, but ponies sinking very deep. The result is to about finish Jehu. He was terribly done on getting in to-night. He may go another march, but not more, I think. Considering the surface the other ponies did well. The ponies occasionally sink halfway to the hock, little Michael once or twice almost to the hock itself. Luckily the weather now is glorious for resting the animals, which are very placid and quiet in the brilliant sun. The sastrugi are confused, the underlying hard patches appear as before to have been formed by a W.S.W. wind, but there are some surface waves pointing to a recent south-easterly wind. Have been taking some photographs, Bowers also.

 

Monday, November 20. -- Camp 16. The surface a little better. Sastrugi becoming more and more definite from S.E. Struck a few hard patches which made me hopeful of much better things, but these did not last long. The crocks still go. Jehu seems even a little better than yesterday, and will certainly go another march. Chinaman reported bad the first half march, but bucked up the second. The dogs found the surface heavy. To-morrow I propose to relieve them of a forage bag. The sky was slightly overcast during the march, with radiating cirro-stratus S.S.W.-N.N.E. Now very clear and bright again. Temp, at night -14°, now 4°. A very slight southerly breeze, from which the walls protect the animals well. I feel sure that the long day's rest in the sun is very good for all of them.

Our ponies marched very steadily last night. They seem to take the soft crusts and difficult plodding surface more easily. The loss of condition is not so rapid as noticed to One Ton Camp, except perhaps in Victor, who is getting to look very gaunt. Nobby seems fitter and stronger than when he started; he alone is ready to go all his feed at any time and as much more as he can get. The rest feel fairly well, but they are getting a very big strong ration. I am beginning to feel more hopeful about them. Christopher kicked the bow of his sledge in towards the end of the march. He must have a lot left in him though.

 

Tuesday, November 21. -- Camp 17. Lat. 80° 35'. The surface decidedly better and the ponies very steady on the march. None seem overtired, and now it is impossible not to take a hopeful view of their prospect of pulling through. (Temp. -14°, night.) The only circumstance to be feared is a reversion to bad surfaces, and that ought not to happen on this course. We marched to the usual lunch camp and saw a large cairn ahead. Two miles beyond we came on the Motor Party in Lat. 80° 32'. We learned that they had been waiting for six days. They all look very fit, but declare themselves to be very hungry. This is interesting as showing conclusively that a ration amply sufficient for the needs of men leading ponies is quite insufficient for men doing hard pulling work; it therefore fully justifies the provision which we have made for the Summit work. Even on that I have little doubt we shall soon get hungry. Day looks very thin, almost gaunt, but fit. The weather is beautiful -- long may it so continue. (Temp. +6°, 11 A.M.)

It is decided to take on the Motor Party in advance for three days, then Day and Hooper return. We hope Jehu will last three days; he will then be finished in any case and fed to the dogs. It is amusing to see Meares looking eagerly for the chance of a feed for his animals; he has been expecting it daily. On the other hand, Atkinson and Oates are eager to get the poor animal beyond the point at which Shackleton killed his first beast. Reports on Chinaman are very favourable, and it really looks as though the ponies are going to do what is hoped of them.

 

Wednesday, November 22. -- Camp 18. Everything much the same. The ponies thinner but not much weaker. The crocks still going along. Jehu is now called 'The Barrier Wonder' and Chinaman 'The Thunderbolt.' Two days more and they will be well past the spot at which Shackleton killed his first animal. Nobby keeps his pre-eminence of condition and has now the heaviest load by some 50 lbs.; most of the others are under 500 lbs. load, and I hope will be eased further yet. The dogs are in good form still, and came up well with their loads this morning (night temp. -14°). It looks as though we ought to get through to the Glacier without great difficulty. The weather is glorious and the ponies can make the most of their rest during the warmest hours, but they certainly lose in one way by marching at night. The surface is much easier for the sledges when the sun is warm, and for about three hours before and after midnight the friction noticeably increases. It is just a question whether this extra weight on the loads is compensated by the resting temperature. We are quite steady on the march now, and though not fast yet get through with few stops. The animals seem to be getting accustomed to the steady, heavy plod and take the deep places less fussily. There is rather an increased condition of false crust, that is, a crust which appears firm till the whole weight of the animal is put upon it, when it suddenly gives some three or four inches. This is very trying for the poor beasts. There are also more patches in which the men sink, so that walking is getting more troublesome, but, speaking broadly, the crusts are not comparatively bad and the surface is rather better than it was. If the hot sun continues this should still further improve. One cannot see any reason why the crust should change in the next 100 miles. (Temp. + 2°.)

The land is visible along the western horizon in patches. Bowers points out a continuous dark band. Is this the dolerite sill?

 

Thursday, November 23. -- Camp 19. Getting along. I think the ponies will get through; we are now 150 geographical miles from the Glacier. But it is still rather touch and go. If one or more ponies were to go rapidly down hill we might be in queer street. The surface is much the same I think; before lunch there seemed to be a marked improvement, and after lunch the ponies marched much better, so that one supposed a betterment of the friction. It is banking up to the south (T. +9°) and I'm afraid we may get a blizzard. I hope to goodness it is not going to stop one marching; forage won't allow that.

 

Friday, November 24. -- Camp 20. There was a cold wind changing from south to S.E. and overcast sky all day yesterday. A gloomy start to our march, but the cloud rapidly lifted, bands of clear sky broke through from east to west, and the remnants of cloud dissipated. Now the sun is very bright and warm. We did the usual march very easily over a fairly good surface, the ponies now quite steady and regular. Since the junction with the Motor Party the procedure has been for the man-hauling people to go forward just ahead of the crocks, the other party following 2 or 3 hours later. To-day we closed less than usual, so that the crocks must have been going very well. However, the fiat had already gone forth, and this morning after the march poor old Jehu was led back on the track and shot. After our doubts as to his reaching Hut Point, it is wonderful to think that he has actually got eight marches beyond our last year limit and could have gone more. However, towards the end he was pulling very little, and on the whole it is merciful to have ended his life. Chinaman seems to improve and will certainly last a good many days yet. The rest show no signs of flagging and are only moderately hungry. The surface is tiring for walking, as one sinks two or three inches nearly all the time. I feel we ought to get through now. Day and Hooper leave us to-night.

 

Saturday, November 25. -- Camp 21. The surface during the first march was very heavy owing to a liberal coating of ice crystals; it improved during the second march becoming quite good towards the end (T.-2°). Now that it is pretty warm at night it is obviously desirable to work towards day marching. We shall start 2 hours later to-night and again to-morrow night.

Last night we bade farewell to Day and Hooper and set out with the new organisation (T.-8°). All started together, the man-haulers, Evans, Lashly, and Atkinson, going ahead with their gear on the 10-ft. sledge. Chinaman and James Pigg next, and the rest some ten minutes behind. We reached the lunch camp together and started therefrom in the same order, the two crocks somewhat behind, but not more than 300 yards at the finish, so we all got into camp very satisfactorily together. The men said the first march was extremely heavy (T.-(-2°).

The sun has been shining all night, but towards midnight light mist clouds arose, half obscuring the leading parties. Land can be dimly discerned nearly ahead. The ponies are slowly tiring, but we lighten loads again to-morrow by making another depôt. Meares has just come up to report that Jehu made four feeds for the dogs. He cut up very well and had quite a lot of fat on him. Meares says another pony will carry him to the Glacier. This is very good hearing. The men are pulling with ski sticks and say that they are a great assistance. I think of taking them up the Glacier. Jehu has certainly come up trumps after all, and Chinaman bids fair to be even more valuable. Only a few more marches to feel safe in getting to our first goal.

 

Sunday, November 26. -- Camp 22. Lunch camp. Marched here fairly easily, comparatively good surface. Started at 1 A.M. (midnight, local time). We now keep a steady pace of 2 miles an hour, very good going. The sky was slightly overcast at start and between two and three it grew very misty. Before we camped we lost sight of the men-haulers only 300 yards ahead. The sun is piercing the mist. Here in Lat. 81° 35' we are leaving our 'Middle Barrier Depôt,' one week for each re unit as at Mount Hooper.

Camp 22. -- Snow began falling during the second march; it is blowing from the W.S.W., force 2 to 3, with snow pattering on the tent, a kind of summery blizzard that reminds one of April showers at home. The ponies came well on the second march and we shall start 2 hours later again to-morrow, i.e. at 3 A.M. (T.+13°). From this it will be a very short step to day routine when the time comes for man-hauling. The sastrugi seem to be gradually coming more to the south and a little more confused; now and again they are crossed with hard westerly sastrugi. The walking is tiring for the men, one's feet sinking 2 or 3 inches at each step. Chinaman and Jimmy Pigg kept up splendidly with the other ponies. It is always rather dismal work walking over the great snow plain when sky and surface merge in one pall of dead whiteness, but it is cheering to be in such good company with everything going on steadily and well. The dogs came up as we camped. Meares says the best surface he has had yet.

 

Monday, November 27. -- Camp 23. (T. +8°, 12 P.M.; +2°, 3 A.M.; +13°, 11 A.M.; +17°, 3 P.M.) Quite the most trying march we have had. The surface very poor at start. The advance party got away in front but made heavy weather of it, and we caught them up several times. This threw the ponies out of their regular work and prolonged the march. It grew overcast again, although after a summery blizzard all yesterday there was promise of better things. Starting at 3 A.M. we did not get to lunch camp much before 9. The second march was even worse. The advance party started on ski, the leading marks failed altogether, and they had the greatest difficulty in keeping a course. At the midcairn building halt the snow suddenly came down heavily, with a rise of temperature, and the ski became hopelessly clogged (bad fahrer, as the Norwegians say). At this time the surface was unspeakably heavy for pulling, but in a few minutes a south wind sprang up and a beneficial result was immediately felt. Pulling on foot, the advance had even greater difficulty in going straight until the last half mile, when the sky broke slightly. We got off our march, but under the most harassing circumstances and with the animals very tired. It is snowing hard again now, and heaven only knows when it will stop.

If it were not for the surface and bad light, things would not be so bad. There are few sastrugi and little deep snow. For the most part men and ponies sink to a hard crust some 3 or 4 inches beneath the soft upper snow. Tiring for the men, but in itself more even, and therefore less tiring for the animals. Meares just come up and reporting very bad surface. We shall start 1 hour later to-morrow, i.e. at 4 A.M., making 5 hours' delay on the conditions of three days ago. Our forage supply necessitates that we should plug on the 13 (geographical) miles daily under all conditions, so that we can only hope for better things. It is several days since we had a glimpse of land, which makes conditions especially gloomy. A tired animal makes a tired man, I find, and none of us are very bright now after the day's march, though we have had ample sleep of late.

 

Tuesday, November 28. -- Camp 24. The most dismal start imaginable. Thick as a hedge, snow falling and drifting with keen southerly wind. The men pulled out at 3.15 with Chinaman and James Pigg. We followed at 4.20, just catching the party at the lunch camp at 8.30. Things got better half way; the sky showed signs of clearing and the steering improved. Now, at lunch, it is getting thick again. When will the wretched blizzard be over? The walking is better for ponies, worse for men; there is nearly everywhere a hard crust some 3 to 6 inches down. Towards the end of the march we crossed a succession of high hard south-easterly sastrugi, widely dispersed. I don't know what to make of these.

Second march almost as horrid as the first. Wind blowing strong from the south, shifting to S.E. as the snowstorms fell on us, when we could see little or nothing, and the driving snow hit us stingingly in the face. The general impression of all this dirty weather is that it spreads in from the S.E. We started at 4 A.M., and I think I shall stick to that custom for the present. These last four marches have been fought for, but completed without hitch, and, though we camped in a snowstorm, there is a more promising look in the sky, and if only for a time the wind has dropped and the sun shines brightly, dispelling some of the gloomy results of the distressing marching.

Chinaman, 'The Thunderbolt,' has been shot to-night. Plucky little chap, he has stuck it out well and leaves the stage but a few days before his fellows. We have only four bags of forage (each one 30 lbs.) left, but these should give seven marches with all the remaining animals, and we are less than 90 miles from the Glacier. Bowers tells me that the barometer was phenomenally low both during this blizzard and the last. This has certainly been the most unexpected and trying summer blizzard yet experienced in this region. I only trust it is over. There is not much to choose between the remaining ponies. Nobby and Bones are the strongest, Victor and Christopher the weakest, but all should get through. The land doesn't show up yet.

 

Wednesday, November 29. -- Camp 25. Lat. 82° 21'. Things much better. The land showed up late yesterday; Mount Markham, a magnificent triple peak, appearing wonderfully close, Cape Lyttelton and Cape Goldie. We did our march in good time, leaving about 4.20, and getting into this camp at 1.15. About 7 1/2 hours on the march. I suppose our speed throughout averages 2 stat. miles an hour.

The land showed hazily on the march, at times looking remarkably near. Sheety white snowy stratus cloud hung about overhead during the first march, but now the sky is clearing, the sun very warm and bright. Land shows up almost ahead now, our pony goal less than 70 miles away. The ponies are tired, but I believe all have five days' work left in them, and some a great deal more. Chinaman made four feeds for the dogs, and I suppose we can count every other pony as a similar asset. It follows that the dogs can be employed, rested, and fed well on the homeward track. We could really get though now with their help and without much delay, yet every consideration makes it desirable to save the men from heavy hauling as long as possible. So I devoutly hope the 70 miles will come in the present order of things. Snippets and Nobby now walk by themselves, following in the tracks well. Both have a continually cunning eye on their driver, ready to stop the moment he pauses. They eat snow every few minutes. It's a relief not having to lead an animal; such trifles annoy one on these marches, the animal's vagaries, his everlasting attempts to eat his head rope, &c. Yet all these animals are very full of character. Some day I must write of them and their individualities.

The men-haulers started 1 1/2 hours before us and got here a good hour ahead, travelling easily throughout. Such is the surface with the sun on it, justifying my decision to work towards day marching. Evans has suggested the word 'glide' for the quality of surface indicated. 'Surface' is more comprehensive, and includes the crusts and liability to sink in them. From this point of view the surface is distinctly bad. The ponies plough deep all the time, and the men most of the time. The sastrugi are rather more clearly S.E.; this would be from winds sweeping along the coast. We have a recurrence of 'sinking crusts' -- areas which give way with a report. There has been little of this since we left One Ton Camp until yesterday and to-day, when it is again very marked. Certainly the open Barrier conditions are different from those near the coast. Altogether things look much better and everyone is in excellent spirits. Meares has been measuring the holes made by ponies' hooves and finds an average of about 8 inches since we left One Ton Camp. He finds many holes a foot deep. This gives a good indication of the nature of the work. In Bowers' tent they had some of Chinaman's undercut in their hoosh yesterday, and say it was excellent. I am cook for the present. Have been discussing pony snowshoes. I wish to goodness the animals would wear them -- it would save them any amount of labour in such surfaces as this.

 

Thursday, November 30. -- Camp 26. A very pleasant day for marching, but a very tiring march for the poor animals, which, with the exception of Nobby, are showing signs of failure all round. We were slower by half an hour or more than yesterday. Except that the loads are light now and there are still eight animals left, things don't look too pleasant, but we should be less than 60 miles from our first point of aim. The surface was much worse to-day, the ponies sinking to their knees very often. There were a few harder patches towards the end of the march. In spite of the sun there was not much 'glide' on the snow. The dogs are reported as doing very well. They are going to be a great standby, no doubt. The land has been veiled in thin white mist; it appeared at intervals after we camped and I had taken a couple of photographs.

 

Friday, December 1. -- Camp 27. Lat. 82° 47'. The ponies are tiring pretty rapidly. It is a question of days with all except Nobby. Yet they are outlasting the forage, and to-night against some opinion I decided Christopher must go. He has been shot; less regret goes with him than the others, in remembrance of all the trouble he gave at the outset, and the unsatisfactory way he has gone of late. Here we leave a depôt[1] so that no extra weight is brought on the other ponies; in fact there is a slight diminution. Three more marches ought to bring us through. With the seven crocks and the dog teams we must get through I think. The men alone ought not to have heavy loads on the surface, which is extremely trying.

Nobby was tried in snowshoes this morning, and came along splendidly on them for about four miles, then the wretched affairs racked and had to be taken off. There is no doubt that these snowshoes are the thing for ponies, and had ours been able to use them from the beginning they would have been very different in appearance at this moment. I think the sight of land has helped the animals, but not much. We started in bright warm sunshine and with the mountains wonderfully clear on our right hand, but towards the end of the march clouds worked up from the east and a thin broken cumulo-stratus now overspreads the sky, leaving the land still visible but dull. A fine glacier descends from Mount Longstaff. It has cut very deep and the walls stand at an angle of at least 50°. Otherwise, although there are many cwms on the lower ranges, the mountains themselves seem little carved. They are rounded massive structures. A cliff of light yellow-brown rock appears opposite us, flanked with black or dark brown rock, which also appears under the lighter colour. One would be glad to know what nature of rock these represent. There is a good deal of exposed rock on the next range also.

 

Saturday, December 2. -- Camp 28. Lat. 83°. Started under very bad weather conditions. The stratus spreading over from the S.E. last night meant mischief, and all day we marched in falling snow with a horrible light. The ponies went poorly on the first march, when there was little or no wind and a high temperature. They were sinking deep on a wretched surface. I suggested to Oates that he should have a roving commission to watch the animals, but he much preferred to lead one, so I handed over Snippets very willingly and went on ski myself. It was very easy work for me and I took several photographs of the ponies plunging along -- the light very strong at 3 (Watkins actinometer). The ponies did much better on the second march, both surface and glide improved; I went ahead and found myself obliged to take a very steady pace to keep the lead, so we arrived in camp in flourishing condition. Sad to have to order Victor's end -- poor Bowers feels it. He is in excellent condition and will provide five feeds for the dogs. (Temp. + 17°.) We must kill now as the forage is so short, but we have reached the 83rd parallel and are practically safe to get through. To-night the sky is breaking and conditions generally more promising -- it is dreadfully dismal work marching through the blank wall of white, and we should have very great difficulty if we had not a party to go ahead and show the course. The dogs are doing splendidly and will take a heavier load from to-morrow. We kill another pony to-morrow night if we get our march off, and shall then have nearly three days' food for the other five. In fact everything looks well if the weather will only give us a chance to see our way to the Glacier. Wild, in his Diary of Shackleton's Journey, remarks on December 15, that it is the first day for a month that he could not record splendid weather. With us a fine day has been the exception so far. However, we have not lost a march yet. It was so warm when we camped that the snow melted as it fell, and everything got sopping wet. Oates came into my tent yesterday, exchanging with Cherry-Garrard.

The lists now: Self, Wilson, Oates, and Keohane . Bowers, P.O. Evans, Cherry and Crean.

Man-haulers: E. R. Evans, Atkinson, Wright, and Lashly. We have all taken to horse meat and are so well fed that hunger isn't thought of.

 

Sunday, December 3. -- Camp 29. Our luck in weather is preposterous. I roused the hands at 2.30 A.M., intending to get away at 5. It was thick and snowy, yet we could have got on; but at breakfast the wind increased, and by 4.30 it was blowing a full gale from the south. The pony wall blew down, huge drifts collected, and the sledges were quickly buried. It was the strongest wind I have known here in summer. At 11 it began to take off. At 12.30 we got up and had lunch and got ready to start. The land appeared, the clouds broke, and by 1.30 we were in bright sunshine. We were off at 2 P.M., the land showing all round, and, but for some cloud to the S.E., everything promising. At 2.15 I saw the south-easterly cloud spreading up; it blotted out the land 30 miles away at 2.30 and was on us before 3. The sun went out, snow fell thickly, and marching conditions became horrible. The wind increased from the S.E., changed to S.W., where it hung for a time, and suddenly shifted to W.N.W. and then N.N.W., from which direction it is now blowing with falling and drifting snow. The changes of conditions are inconceivably rapid, perfectly bewildering. In spite of all these difficulties we have managed to get 11 1/2 miles south and to this camp at 7 P.M.-the conditions of marching simply horrible.

The man-haulers led out 6 miles (geo.) and then camped. I think they had had enough of leading. We passed them, Bowers and I ahead on ski. We steered with compass, the drifting snow across our ski, and occasional glimpse of south-easterly sastrugi under them, till the sun showed dimly for the last hour or so. The whole weather conditions seem thoroughly disturbed, and if they continue so when we are on the Glacier, we shall be very awkwardly placed. It is really time the luck turned in our favour -- we have had all too little of it. Every mile seems to have been hardly won under such conditions. The ponies did splendidly and the forage is lasting a little better than expected. Victor was found to have quite a lot of fat on him and the others are pretty certain to have more, so that vwe should have no difficulty whatever as regards transport if only the weather was kind.

 

Monday, December 4. -- Camp 29, 9 A.M. I roused the party at 6. During the night the wind had changed from N.N.W. to S.S.E.; it was not strong, but the sun was obscured and the sky looked heavy; patches of land could be faintly seen and we thought that at any rate we could get on, but during breakfast the wind suddenly increased in force and afterwards a glance outside was sufficient to show a regular white floury blizzard. We have all been out building fresh walls for the ponies -- an uninviting task, but one which greatly adds to the comfort of the animals, who look sleepy and bored, but not at all cold. The dogs came up with us as we camped last night arid the man-haulers arrived this morning as we finished the pony wall. So we are all together again. The latter had great difficulty in following our tracks, and say they could not have steered a course without them. It is utterly impossible to push ahead in this weather, and one is at a complete loss to account for it. The barometer rose from 29.4 to 29.9 last night, a phenomenal rise. Evidently there is very great disturbance of atmospheric conditions. Well, one must stick it out, that is all, and hope for better things, but it makes me feel a little bitter to contrast such weather with that experienced by our predecessors.

Camp 30. -- The wind fell in the forenoon, at 12.30 the sky began to clear, by 1 the sun shone, by 2 P.M. we were away, and by 8 P.M. camped here with 13 miles to the good. The land was quite clear throughout the march and the features easily recognised. There are several uncharted glaciers of large dimensions, a confluence of three under Mount Reid. The mountains are rounded in outline, very massive, with small excrescent peaks and undeveloped 'cwms' (T. + 18°). The cwms are very fine in the lower foot-hills and the glaciers have carved deep channels between walls at very high angles; one or two peaks on the foot-hills stand bare and almost perpendicular, probably granite; we should know later. Ahead of us is the ice-rounded, boulder-strewn Mount Hope and the gateway to the Glacier. We should reach it easily enough on to-morrow's march if we can compass 12 miles. The ponies marched splendidly to-day, crossing the deep snow in the undulations without difficulty. They must be in very much better condition than Shackleton's animals, and indeed there isn't a doubt they would go many miles yet if food allowed. The dogs are simply splendid, but came in wanting food, so we had to sacrifice poor little Michael, who, like the rest, had lots of fat on him. All the tents are consuming pony flesh and thoroughly enjoying it.

We have only lost 5 or 6 miles on these two wretched days, but the disturbed condition of the weather makes me anxious with regard to the Glacier, where more than anywhere we shall need fine days. One has a horrid feeling that this is a real bad season. However, sufficient for the day is the evil thereof. We are practically through with the first stage of our journey. Looking from the last camp towards the S.S.E., where the farthest land can be seen, it seemed more than probable that a very high latitude could be reached on the Barrier, and if Amundsen journeying that way has a stroke of luck, he may well find his summit journey reduced to 100 miles or so. In any case it is a fascinating direction for next year's work if only fresh transport arrives. The dips between undulations seem to be about 12 to 15 feet. To-night we get puffs of wind from the gateway, which for the moment looks uninviting.

 

Four Days' Delay

 

Tuesday, December 5. -- Camp 30. Noon. We awoke this morning to a raging, howling blizzard. The blows we have had hitherto have lacked the very fine powdery snow -- that especial feature of the blizzard. To-day we have it fully developed. After a minute or two in the open one is covered from head to foot. The temperature is high, so that what falls or drives against one sticks. The ponies -- head, tails, legs, and all parts not protected by their rugs -- are covered with ice; the animals are standing deep in snow, the sledges are almost covered, and huge drifts above the tents. We have had breakfast, rebuilt the walls, and are now again in our bags. One cannot see the next tent, let alone the land. What on earth does such weather mean at this time of year? It is more than our share of ill-fortune, I think, but the luck may turn yet. I doubt if any party could travel in such weather even with the wind, certainly no one could travel against it.

Is there some widespread atmospheric disturbance which will be felt everywhere in this region as a bad season, or are we merely the victims of exceptional local conditions? If the latter, there is food for thought in picturing our small party struggling against adversity in one place whilst others go smilingly forward in the sunshine. How great may be the element of luck! No foresight -- no procedure -- could have prepared us for this state of affairs. Had we been ten times as experienced or certain of our aim we should not have expected such rebuffs.

11 P.M. -- It has blown hard all day with quite the greatest snowfall I remember. The drifts about the tents are simply huge. The temperature was + 27° this forenoon, and rose to +31° in the afternoon, at which time the snow melted as it fell on anything but the snow, and, as a consequence, there are pools of water on everything, the tents are wet through, also the wind clothes, night boots, &c.; water drips from the tent poles and door, lies on the floorcloth, soaks the sleeping-bags, and makes everything pretty wretched. If a cold snap follows before we have had time to dry our things, we shall be mighty uncomfortable. Yet after all it would be humorous enough if it were not for the seriousness of delay -- we can't afford that, and it's real hard luck that it should come at such a time. The wind shows signs of easing down, but the temperature does not fall and the snow is as wet as ever -- not promising signs of abatement.

Keohane 's rhyme!

The snow is all melting and everything's afloat,
If this goes on much longer we shall have to turn the tent upside down and use it as a boat.

 

Wednesday, December 6. -- Camp 30. Noon. Miserable, utterly miserable. We have camped in the 'Slough of Despond.' The tempest rages with unabated violence. The temperature has gone to 33°; everything in the tent is soaking. People returning from the outside look exactly as though they had been in a heavy shower of rain. They drip pools on the floorcloth. The snow is steadily climbing higher about walls, ponies, tents, and sledges. The ponies look utterly desolate. Oh! but this is too crushing, and we are only 12 miles from the Glacier. A hopeless feeling descends on one and is hard to fight off. What immense patience is needed for such occasions!

11 P.M. -- At 5 there came signs of a break at last, and now one can see the land, but the sky is still overcast and there is a lot of snow about. The wind also remains fairly strong and the temperature high. It is not pleasant, but if no worse in the morning we can get on at last. We are very, very wet.

 

Thursday, December 7. -- Camp 30. The storm continues and the situation is now serious. One small feed remains for the ponies after to-day, so that we must either march to-morrow or sacrifice the animals. That is not the worst; with the help of the dogs we could get on, without doubt. The serious part is that we have this morning started our summer rations, that is to say, the food calculated from the Glacier depot has been begun. The first supporting party can only go on a fortnight from this date and so forth. The storm shows no sign of abatement and its character is as unpleasant as ever. The promise of last night died away about 3 A.M., when the temperature and wind rose again, and things reverted to the old conditions. I can find no sign of an end, and all of us agree that it is utterly impossible to move. Resignation to misfortune is the only attitude, but not an easy one to adopt. It seems undeserved where plans were well laid and so nearly crowned with a first success. I cannot see that any plan would be altered if it were to do again, the margin for bad weather was ample according to all experience, and this stormy December -- our finest month -- is a thing that the most cautious organiser might not have been prepared to encounter. It is very evil to lie here in a wet sleeping-bag and think of the pity of it, whilst with no break in the overcast sky things go steadily from bad to worse (T. 32°). Meares has a bad attack of snow blindness in one eye. I hope this rest will help him, but he says it has been painful for a long time. There cannot be good cheer in the camp in such weather, but it is ready to break out again. In the brief spell of hope last night one heard laughter.

Midnight. Little or no improvement. The barometer is rising -- perhaps there is hope in that. Surely few situations could be more exasperating than this of forced inactivity when every day and indeed one hour counts. To be here watching the mottled wet green walls of our tent, the glistening wet bamboos, the bedraggled sopping socks and loose articles dangling in the middle, the saddened countenances of my companions -- to hear the everlasting patter of the falling snow and the ceaseless rattle of the fluttering canvas -- to feel the wet clinging dampness of clothes and everything touched, and to know that without there is but a blank wall of white on every side -- these are the physical surroundings. Add the stress of sighted failure of our whole plan, and anyone must find the circumstances unenviable. But yet, after all, one can go on striving, endeavouring to find a stimulation in the difficulties that arise.

 

Friday, December 8. -- Camp 30. Hoped against hope for better conditions, to wake to the mournfullest snow and wind as usual. We had breakfast at 10, and at noon the wind dropped. We set about digging out the sledges, no light task. We then shifted our tent sites. All tents had been reduced to the smallest volume by the gradual pressure of snow. The old sites are deep pits with hollowed-in wet centres. The re-setting of the tent has at least given us comfort, especially since the wind has dropped. About 4 the sky showed signs of breaking, the sun and a few patches of land could be dimly discerned. The wind shifted in light airs and a little hope revived. Alas! as I write the sun has disappeared and snow is again falling.

Our case is growing desperate. Evans and his man-haulers tried to pull a load this afternoon. They managed to move a sledge with four people on it, pulling in ski. Pulling on foot they sank to the knees. The snow all about us is terribly deep. We tried Nobby and he plunged to his belly in it. Wilson thinks the ponies finished,Note 21 but Oates thinks they will get another march in spite of the surface, if it comes to-morrow. If it should not, we must kill the ponies to-morrow and get on as best we can with the men on ski and the dogs. But one wonders what the dogs can do on such a surface. I much fear they also will prove inadequate. Oh! for fine weather, if only to the Glacier. The temperature remains 33°, and everything is disgustingly wet.

11 P.M. -- The wind has gone to the north, the sky is really breaking at last, the sun showing less sparingly, and the land appearing out of the haze. The temperature has fallen to 26°, and the water nuisance is already bating. With so fair a promise of improvement it would be too cruel to have to face bad weather to-morrow. There is good cheer in the camp to-night in the prospect of action. The poor ponies look wistfully for the food of which so very little remains, yet they are not hungry, as recent savings have resulted from food left in their nosebags. They look wonderfully fit, all things considered. Everything looks more hopeful to-night, but nothing can recall four lost days.

 

Saturday, December 9. -- Camp 31. I turned out two or three times in the night to find the weather slowly improving; at 5.30 we all got up, and at 8 got away with the ponies -- a most painful day. The tremendous snowfall of the late storm had made the surface intolerably soft, and after the first hour there was no glide. We pressed on the poor half-rationed animals, but could get none to lead for more than a few minutes; following, the animals would do fairly well. It looked as we could never make headway; the man-haulers were pressed into the service to aid matters. Bowers and Cherry-Garrard went ahead with one 10-foot sledge, -- thus most painfully we made about a mile. The situation was saved by P.O. Evans, who put the last pair of snowshoes on Snatcher. From this he went on without much pressing, the other ponies followed, and one by one were worn out in the second place. We went on all day without lunch. Three or four miles (T. 23°) found us engulfed in pressures, but free from difficulty except the awful softness of the snow. By 8 P.M. we had reached within a mile or so of the slope ascending to the gap which Shackleton called the Gateway.Note 22 I had hoped to be through the Gateway with the ponies still in hand at a very much earlier date and, but for the devastating storm, we should have been. It has been a most serious blow to us, but things are not yet desperate, if only the storm has not hopelessly spoilt the surface. The man-haulers are not up yet, in spite of their light load. I think they have stopped for tea, or something, but under ordinary conditions they would have passed us with ease.

At 8 P.M. the ponies were quite done, one and all. They came on painfully slowly a few hundred yards at a time. By this time I was hauling ahead, a ridiculously light load, and yet finding the pulling heavy enough. We camped, and the ponies have been shot[2]. Poor beasts! they have done wonderfully well considering the terrible circumstances under which they worked, but yet it is hard to have to kill them so early. The dogs are going well in spite of the surface, but here again one cannot get the help one would wish. (T. 19°.) I cannot load the animals heavily on such snow. The scenery is most impressive; three huge pillars of granite form the right buttress of the Gateway, and a sharp spur of Mount Hope the left. The land is much more snow covered than when we saw it before the storm. In spite of some doubt in our outlook, everyone is very cheerful to-night and jokes are flying freely around.

 

  1. ^ The Southern Barrier Depôt.

  2. ^Camp 31 received the name of Shambles Camp.

 

Glossary

Citation

(2009). Scott's Last Expedition: Southern Journey: The Barrier Stage. Retrieved from http://www.eoearth.org/view/article/51cbeed87896bb431f69aa78

0 Comments

To add a comment, please Log In.