Scott's Last Expedition: The Summit Journey to the Pole

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The Summit Journey to the Pole



On the Flyleaf. -- Ages: Self 43, Wilson 39, Evans (P.O.) 37, Oates 32, Bowers 28. Average 36.


Friday, December 22. -- Camp 44, about 7100 feet. T. -1°. Bar. 22.3. This, the third stage of our journey, is opening with good promise. We made our depot this morning, then said an affecting farewell to the returning party, who have taken things very well, dear good fellows as they are.Note 23

Then we started with our heavy loads about 9.20, I in some trepidation -- quickly dissipated as we went off and up a slope at a smart pace. The second sledge came close behind us, showing that we have weeded the weak spots and made the proper choice for the returning party.

We came along very easily and lunched at 1, when the sledge-meter had to be repaired, and we didn't get off again till 3.20, camping at 6.45. Thus with 7 hours' marching we covered 10 1/2 miles (geo.) (12 stat.).

Obs.: Lat. 85° 13 1/2'; Long. 161° 55'; Var. 175° 46' E.

To-morrow we march longer hours, about 9 I hope. Every day the loads will lighten, and so we ought to make the requisite progress. I think we have climbed about 250 feet to-day, but thought it more on the march. We look down on huge pressure ridges to the south and S.E., and in fact all round except in the direction in which we go, S.W. We seem to be travelling more or less parallel to a ridge which extends from Mt. Darwin. Ahead of us to-night is a stiffish incline and it looks as though there might be pressure behind it. It is very difficult to judge how matters stand, however, in such a confusion of elevations and depressions. This course doesn't work wonders in change of latitude, but I think it is the right track to clear the pressures -- at any rate I shall hold it for the present.

We passed one or two very broad (30 feet) bridged crevasses with the usual gaping sides; they were running pretty well in N. and S. direction. The weather has been beautifully fine all day as it was last night. (Night Temp. -9°.) This morning there was an hour or so of haze due to clouds from the N. Now it is perfectly clear, and we get a fine view of the mountain behind which Wilson has just been sketching.


Saturday, December 23. -- Lunch. Bar. 22.01. Rise 370? Started at 8, steering S.W. Seemed to be rising, and went on well for about 3 hours, then got amongst bad crevasses and hard waves. We pushed on to S.W., but things went from bad to worse, and we had to haul out to the north, then west. West looks clear for the present, but it is not a very satisfactory direction. We have done 8 1/2' (geo.), a good march. (T. -3°. Southerly wind, force 2.) The comfort is that we are rising. On one slope we got a good view of the land and the pressure ridges to the S.E. They seem to be disposed 'en échelon' and gave me the idea of shearing cracks. They seemed to lessen as we ascend. It is rather trying having to march so far to the west, but if we keep rising we must come to the end of the obstacles some time.

Saturday night. -- Camp 45. T. -3°. Bar. 21.61. ?Rise. Height about 7750. Great vicissitudes of fortune in the afternoon march. Started west up a slope -- about the fifth we have mounted in the last two days. On top, another pressure appeared on the left, but less lofty and more snow-covered than that which had troubled us in the morning. There was temptation to try it, and I had been gradually turning in its direction. But I stuck to my principle and turned west up yet another slope. On top of this we got on the most extraordinary surface -- narrow crevasses ran in all directions. They were quite invisible, being covered with a thin crust of hardened névé without a sign of a crack in it. We all fell in one after another and sometimes two together. We have had many unexpected falls before, but usually through being unable to mark the run of the surface appearances of cracks, or where such cracks are covered with soft snow. How a hardened crust can form over a crack is a real puzzle -- it seems to argue extremely slow movement. Dead reckoning, 85° 22' 1'' S., 159° 31' E.

In the broader crevasses this morning we noticed that it was the lower edge of the bridge which was rotten, whereas in all in the glacier the upper edge was open.

Near the narrow crevasses this afternoon we got about 10 minutes on snow which had a hard crust and loose crystals below. It was like breaking through a glass house at each step, but quite suddenly at 5 P.M. everything changed. The hard surface gave place to regular sastrugi and our horizon levelled in every direction. I hung on to the S.W. till 6 P.M., and then camped with a delightful feeling of security that we had at length reached the summit proper. I am feeling very cheerful about everything to-night. We marched 15 miles (geo.) (over 17 stat.) to-day, mounting nearly 800 feet and all in about 8 1/2 hours. My determination to keep mounting irrespective of course is fully justified and I shall be indeed surprised if we have any further difficulties with crevasses or steep slopes. To me for the first time our goal seems really in sight. We can pull our loads and pull them much faster and farther than I expected in my most hopeful moments. I only pray for a fair share of good weather. There is a cold wind now as expected, but with good clothes and well fed as we are, we can stick a lot worse than we are getting. I trust this may prove the turning-point in our fortunes for which we have waited so patiently.


Sunday, December 24. -- Lunch. Bar. 21.48. ?Rise 160 feet. Christmas Eve. 7 1/4 miles geo. due south, and a rise, I think, more than shown by barometer. This in five hours, on the surface which ought to be a sample of what we shall have in the future. With our present clothes it is a fairly heavy plod, but we get over the ground, which is a great thing. A high pressure ridge has appeared on the 'port bow.' It seems isolated, but I shall be glad to lose sight of such disturbances. The wind is continuous from the S.S.E., very searching. We are now marching in our wind blouses and with somewhat more protection on the head.

Bar. 21.41. Camp 46. Rise for day ?about 250 ft. or 300 ft. hypsometer, 8000 ft.

The first two hours of the afternoon march went very well. Then the sledges hung a bit, and we plodded on and covered something over 14 miles (geo.) in the day. We lost sight of the big pressure ridge, but to-night another smaller one shows fine on the 'port bow,' and the surface is alternately very hard and fairly soft; dips and rises all round. It is evident we are skirting more disturbances, and I sincerely hope it will not mean altering course more to the west. 14 miles in 4 hours is not so bad considering the circumstances. The southerly wind is continuous and not at all pleasant in camp, but on the march it keeps us cool. (T. -3°.) The only inconvenience is the extent to which our faces get iced up. The temperature hovers about zero.

We have not struck a crevasse all day, which is a good sign. The sun continues to shine in a cloudless sky, the wind rises and falls, and about us is a scene of the wildest desolation, but we are a very cheerful party and to-morrow is Christmas Day, with something extra in the hoosh.


Monday, December 25. CHRISTMAS. -- Lunch. Bar. 21.14. Rise 240 feet. The wind was strong last night and this morning; a light snowfall in the night; a good deal of drift, subsiding when we started, but still about a foot high. I thought it might have spoilt the surface, but for the first hour and a half we went along in fine style. Then we started up a rise, and to our annoyance found ourselves amongst crevasses once more -- very hard, smooth névé between high ridges at the edge of crevasses, and therefore very difficult to get foothold to pull the sledges. Got our ski sticks out, which improved matters, but we had to tack a good deal and several of us went half down. After half an hour of this I looked round and found the second sledge halted some way in rear -- evidently someone had gone into a crevasse. We saw the rescue work going on, but had to wait half an hour for the party to come up, and got mighty cold. It appears that Lashly went down very suddenly, nearly dragging the crew with him. The sledge ran on and jammed the span so that the Alpine rope had to be got out and used to pull Lashly to the surface again. Lashly says the crevasse was 50 feet deep and 8 feet across, in form U, showing that the word 'unfathomable' can rarely be applied. Lashly is 44 to-day and as hard as nails. His fall has not even disturbed his equanimity.

After topping the crevasse ridge we got on a better surface and came along fairly well, completing over 7 miles (geo.) just before 1 o'clock. We have risen nearly 250 feet this morning; the wind was strong and therefore trying, mainly because it held the sledge; it is a little lighter now.

Night. Camp No. 47. Bar. 21.18. T. -7°. I am so replete that I can scarcely write. After sundry luxuries, such as chocolate and raisins at lunch, we started off well, but soon got amongst crevasses, huge snowfields roadways running almost in our direction, and across hidden cracks into which we frequently fell. Passing for two miles or so along between two roadways, we came on a huge pit with raised sides. Is this a submerged mountain peak or a swirl in the stream? Getting clear of crevasses and on a slightly down grade, we came along at a swinging pace -- splendid. I marched on till nearly 7.30, when we had covered 15 miles (geo.) (17 1/4 stat.). I knew that supper was to be a 'tightener,' and indeed it has been -- so much that I must leave description till the morning.

Dead reckoning, Lat. 85° 50' S.; Long. 159° 8' 2'' E. Bar. 21.22.

Towards the end of the march we seemed to get into better condition; about us the surface rises and falls on the long slopes of vast mounds or undulations -- no very definite system in their disposition. We camped half-way up a long slope.

In the middle of the afternoon we got another fine view of the land. The Dominion Range ends abruptly as observed, then come two straits and two other masses of land. Similarly north of the wild mountains is another strait and another mass of land. The various straits are undoubtedly overflows, and the masses of land mark the inner fringe of the exposed coastal mountains, the general direction of which seems about S.S.E., from which it appears that one could be much closer to the Pole on the Barrier by continuing on it to the S.S.E. We ought to know more of this when [[Edward Evans|Evans'] observations are plotted.

I must write a word of our supper last night. We had four courses. The first, pemmican, full whack, with slices of horse meat flavoured with onion and curry powder and thickened with biscuit; then an arrowroot, cocoa and biscuit hoosh sweetened; then a plum-pudding; then cocoa with raisins, and finally a dessert of caramels and ginger. After the feast it was difficult to move. Wilson and I couldn't finish our share of plum-pudding. We have all slept splendidly and feel thoroughly warm -- such is the effect of full feeding.


Tuesday, December 26. -- Lunch. Bar. 21.11. Four and three-quarters hours, 6 3/4 miles (geo.). Perhaps a little slow after plum-pudding, but I think we are getting on to the surface which is likely to continue the rest of the way. There are still mild differences of elevation, but generally speaking the plain is flattening out; no doubt we are rising slowly.

Camp 48. Bar. 21.02. The first two hours of the afternoon march went well; then we got on a rough rise and the sledge came badly. Camped at 6.30, sledge coming easier again at the end.

It seems astonishing to be disappointed with a march of 15 (stat.) miles, when I had contemplated doing little more than 10 with full loads.

We are on the 86th parallel. Obs.: 86° 2' S.; 160° 26' E. The temperature has been pretty consistent of late, -10° to -12° at night, -3° in the day. The wind has seemed milder to-day -- it blows anywhere from S.E. to south. I had thought to have done with pressures, but to-night a crevassed slope appears on our right. We shall pass well clear of it, but there may be others. The undulating character of the plain causes a great variety of surface, owing, of course, to the varying angles at which the wind strikes the slopes. We were half an hour late starting this morning, which accounts for some loss of distance, though I should be content to keep up an average of 13' (geo.).


Wednesday, December 27. -- Lunch. Bar. 21.02. The wind light this morning and the pulling heavy. Everyone sweated, especially the second team, which had great difficulty in keeping up. We have been going up and down, the up grades very tiring, especially when we get amongst sastrugi which jerk the sledge about, but we have done 7 1/4 miles (geo.). A very bad accident this morning. Bowers broke the only hypsometer thermometer. We have nothing to check our two aneroids.

Night camp 49. Bar. 20.82. T. -6.3°. We marched off well after lunch on a soft, snowy surface, then came to slippery hard sastrugi and kept a good pace; but I felt this meant something wrong, and on topping a short rise we were once more in the midst of crevasses and disturbances. For an hour it was dreadfully trying -- had to pick a road, tumbled into crevasses, and got jerked about abominably. At the summit of the ridge we came into another 'pit' or 'whirl,' which seemed the centre of the trouble -- is it a submerged mountain peak? During the last hour and a quarter we pulled out on to soft snow again and moved well. Camped at 6.45, having covered 13 1/3 miles (geo.). Steering the party is no light task. One cannot allow one's thoughts to wander as others do, and when, as this afternoon, one gets amongst disturbances, I find it is very worrying and tiring. I do trust we shall have no more of them. We have not lost sight of the sun since we came on the summit; we should get an extraordinary record of sunshine. It is monotonous work this; the sledgemeter and theodolite govern the situation.


Thursday, December 28. -- Lunch. Bar. 20.77. I start cooking again to-morrow morning. We have had a troublesome day but have completed our 13 miles (geo.). My unit pulled away easy this morning and stretched out for two hours -- the second unit made heavy weather. I changed with Evans and found the second sledge heavy -- could keep up, but the team was not swinging with me as my own team swings. Then I changed P.O. Evans for Lashly. We seemed to get on better, but at the moment the surface changed and we came up over a rise with hard sastrugi. At the top we camped for lunch. What was the difficulty? One theory was that some members of the second party were stale. Another that all was due to the bad stepping and want of swing; another that the sledge pulled heavy. In the afternoon we exchanged sledges, and at first went off well, but getting into soft snow, we found a terrible drag, the second party coming quite easily with our sledge. So the sledge is the cause of the trouble, and talking it out, I found that all is due to want of care. The runners ran excellently, but the structure has been distorted by bad strapping, bad loading, this afternoon and only managed to get 12 miles (geo.). The very hard pulling has occurred on two rises. It appears that the loose snow is blown over the rises and rests in heaps on the north-facing slopes. It is these heaps that cause our worst troubles. The weather looks a little doubtful, a good deal of cirrus cloud in motion over us, radiating E. and W. The wind shifts from S.E. to S.S.W., rising and falling at intervals; it is annoying to the march as it retards the sledges, but it must help the surface, I think, and so hope for better things to-morrow. The marches are terribly monotonous. One's thoughts wander occasionally to pleasanter scenes and places, but the necessity to keep the course, or some hitch in the surface, quickly brings them back. There have been some hours of very steady plodding to-day; these are the best part of the business, they mean forgetfulness and advance.


Saturday, December 30. -- Bar. 20.42. Lunch. Night camp 52. Bar. 20.36. Rise about 150. A very trying, tiring march, and only 11 miles (geo.) covered. Wind from the south to S.E., not quite so strong as usual; the usual clear sky.

We camped on a rise last night, and it was some time before we reached the top this morning. This took it out of us as the second party dropped. I went on 6 l/2 miles (when the second party was some way astern) and lunched. We came on in the afternoon, the other party still dropping, camped at 6.30 -- they at 7.15. We came up another rise with the usual gritty snow towards the end of the march. For us the interval between the two rises, some 8 miles, was steady plodding work which we might keep up for some time. To-morrow I'm going to march half a day, make a depot and build the 10-feet sledges. The second party is certainly tiring; it remains to be seen how they will manage with the smaller sledge and lighter load. The surface is certainly much worse than it was 50 miles back. (T. -10°.) We have caught up Shackleton's dates. Everything would be cheerful if I could persuade myself that the second party were quite fit to go forward.


Sunday, December 31. -- New Year's Eve. 20.17. Height about 9126. T. -10°. Camp 53. Corrected Aneroid. The second party depoted its ski and some other weights equivalent to about 100 lbs. I sent them off first; they marched, but not very fast. We followed and did not catch them before they camped by direction at 1.30. By this time we had covered exactly 7 miles (geo.), and we must have risen a good deal. We rose on a steep incline at the beginning of the march, and topped another at the end, showing a distance of about 5 miles between the wretched slopes which give us the hardest pulling, but as a matter of fact, we have been rising all day.

We had a good full brew of tea and then set to work stripping the sledges. That didn't take long, but the process of building up the 10-feet sledges now in operation in the other tent is a long job. Evans (P.O.) and Crean are tackling it, and it is a very remarkable piece of work. Certainly P.O. Evans is the most invaluable asset to our party. To build a sledge under these conditions is a fact for special record. Evans (Lieut.) has just found the latitude -- 86° 56' S., so that we are pretty near the 87th parallel aimed at for to-night. We lose half a day, but I hope to make that up by going forward at much better speed.

This is to be called the '3 Degree Depot,' and it holds a week's provisions for both units.

There is extraordinarily little mirage up here and the refraction is very small. Except for the seamen we are all sitting in a double tent -- the first time we have put up the inner lining to the tent; it seems to make us much snugger.

10 P.M. -- The job of rebuilding is taking longer than I expected, but is now almost done. The 10-feet sledges look very handy. We had an extra drink of tea and are now turned into our bags in the double tent (five of us) as warm as toast, and just enough light to write or work with. Did not get to bed till 2 A.M.

Obs.: 86° 55' 47'' S.; 165° 5' 48'' E.; Var. 175° 40'E. Morning Bar. 20.08.


Monday, January 1, 1912. -- NEW YEAR'S DAY. Lunch. Bar. 20.04. Roused hands about 7.30 and got away 9.30, Evans' party going ahead on foot. We followed on ski. Very stupidly we had not seen to our ski shoes beforehand, and it took a good half-hour to get them right; Wilson especially had trouble. When we did get away, to our surprise the sledge pulled very easily, and we made fine progress, rapidly gaining on the foot-haulers.

Night camp 54. Bar. 19.98. Risen about 150 feet. Height about 9600 above Barrier. They camped for lunch at 5 1/2 miles and went on easily, completing 11.3 (geo.) by 7.30. We were delayed again at lunch camp, Evans repairing the tent, and I the cooker. We caught the other party more easily in the afternoon and kept alongside them the last quarter of an hour. It was surprising how easily the sledge pulled; we have scarcely exerted ourselves all day.

We have been rising again all day, but the slopes are less accentuated. I had expected trouble with ski and hard patches, but we found none at all. (T. -14°.) The temperature is steadily falling, but it seems to fall with the wind. We are very comfortable in our double tent. Stick of chocolate to celebrate the New Year. The supporting party not in very high spirits, they have not managed matters well for themselves. Prospects seem to get brighter -- only 170 miles to go and plenty of food left.


Tuesday, January 2. -- T. -17°. Camp 55. Height about 9980. At lunch my aneroid reading over scale 12,250, shifted hand to read 10,250. Proposed to enter heights in future with correction as calculated at end of book (minus 340 feet). The foot party went off early, before 8, and marched till 1. Again from 2.35 to 6.30. We started more than half an hour later on each march and caught the others easy. It's been a plod for the foot people and pretty easy going for us, and we have covered 13 miles (geo.).

T. -11°: Obs. 87° 20' 8'' S.; 160° 40' 53'' E.; Var. 180°. The sky is slightly overcast for the first time since we left the glacier; the sun can be seen already through the veil of stratus, and blue sky round the horizon. The sastrugi have all been from the S.E. to-day, and likewise the wind, which has been pretty light. I hope the clouds do not mean wind or bad surface. The latter became poor towards the end of the afternoon. We have not risen much to-day, and the plain seems to be flattening out. Irregularities are best seen by sastrugi. A skua gull visited us on the march this afternoon -- it was evidently curious, kept alighting on the snow ahead, and fluttering a few yards as we approached. It seemed to have had little food -- an extraordinary visitor considering our distance from the sea.


Wednesday, January 3. -- Height: Lunch, 10,110; Night, 10,180. Camp 56. T.-17°. Minimum -18.5°. Within 150 miles of our goal. Last night I decided to reorganise, and this morning told off Teddy Evans, Lashly, and Crean to return. They are disappointed, but take it well. Bowers is to come into our tent, and we proceed as a five man unit to-morrow. We have 5 1/2 units of food -- practically over a month's allowance for five people -- it ought to see us through. We came along well on ski to-day, but the foot-haulers were slow, and so we only got a trifle over 12 miles (geo.). Very anxious to see how we shall manage to-morrow; if we can march well with the full load we shall be practically safe, I take it. The surface was very bad in patches to-day and the wind strong.

'Lat. 87° 32'. A last note from a hopeful position. I think it's going to be all right. We have a fine party going forward and arrangements are all going well.'


Thursday, January 4. -- T. -17°, Lunch T. -16.5°. We were naturally late getting away this morning, the sledge having to be packed and arrangements completed for separation of parties. It is wonderful to see how neatly everything stows on a little sledge, thanks to P.O. Evans. I was anxious to see how we could pull it, and glad to find we went easy enough. Bowers on foot pulls between, but behind, Wilson and myself; he has to keep his own pace and luckily does not throw us out at all.

The second party had followed us in case of accident, but as soon as I was certain we could get along we stopped and said farewell. Teddy Evans is terribly disappointed but has taken it very well and behaved like a man. Poor old Crean wept and even Lashly was affected. I was glad to find their sledge is a mere nothing to them, and thus, no doubt, they will make a quick journey back.Note 24 Since leaving them we have marched on till 1.15 and covered 6.2 miles (geo.). With full marching days we ought to have no difficulty in keeping up our average.

Night camp 57. T. -16°. Height 10,280. -- We started well on the afternoon march, going a good speed for 1 1/2 hours; then we came on a stratum covered with loose sandy snow, and the pulling became very heavy. We managed to get off 12 1/2 miles (geo.) by 7 P.M., but it was very heavy work.

In the afternoon the wind died away, and to-night it is flat calm; the sun so warm that in spite of the temperature we can stand about outside in the greatest comfort. It is amusing to stand thus and remember the constant horrors of our situation as they were painted for us: the sun is melting the snow on the ski, &c. The plateau is now very flat, but we are still ascending slowly. The sastrugi are getting more confused, predominant from the S.E. I wonder what is in store for us. At present everything seems to be going with extraordinary smoothness, and one can scarcely believe that obstacles will not present themselves to make our task more difficult. Perhaps the surface will be the element to trouble us.


Friday, January 5. -- Camp 58. Height: morning, 10,430; night, 10,320. T. -14.8°. Obs. 87° 57', 159° 13'. Minimum T. -23.5; T. -21°. A dreadfully trying day. Light wind from the N.N.W. bringing detached cloud and constant fall of ice crystals. The surface, in consequence, as bad as could be after the first hour. We started at 8.15, marched solidly till 1.15, covering 7.4 miles (geo.), and again in the afternoon we plugged on; by 7 P.M. we had done 12 l/2 miles (geo.), the hardest we have yet done on the plateau. The sastrugi seemed to increase as we advanced and they have changed direction from S.W. to S. by W. In the afternoon a good deal of confusing cross sastrugi, and to-night a very rough surface with evidences of hard southerly wind. Luckily the sledge shows no signs of capisizing yet. We sigh for a breeze to sweep the hard snow, but to-night the outlook is not promising better things. However, we are very close to the 88th parallel, little more than 120 miles from the Pole, only a march from Shackleton's final camp, and in a general way 'getting on.'

We go little over a mile and a quarter an hour now -- it is a big strain as the shadows creep slowly round from our right through ahead to our left. What lots of things we think of on these monotonous marches! What castles one builds now hopefully that the Pole is ours. Bowers took sights to-day and will take them every third day. We feel the cold very little, the great comfort of our situation is the excellent drying effect of the sun. Our socks and finnesko are almost dry each morning. Cooking for five takes a seriously longer time than cooking for four; perhaps half an hour on the whole day. It is an item I had not considered when re-organising.


Saturday, January 6. -- Height 10,470. T. -22.3°. Obstacles arising -- last night we got amongst sastrugi -- they increased in height this morning and now we are in the midst of a sea of fish-hook waves well remembered from our Northern experience. We took off our ski after the first 1 1/2 hours and pulled on foot. It is terribly heavy in places, and, to add to our trouble, every sastrugus is covered with a beard of sharp branching crystals. We have covered 6 1/2 miles, but we cannot keep up our average if this sort of surface continues. There is no wind.

Camp 59. Lat. 88° 7'. Height 10,430-10,510. Rise of barometer? T.-22.5°. Minimum -25.8°. Morning. Fearfully hard pull again, and when we had marched about an hour we discovered that a sleeping-bag had fallen off the sledge. We had to go back and carry it on. It cost us over an hour and disorganised our party. We have only covered 10 1/2 miles (geo.) and it's been about the hardest pull we've had. We think of leaving our ski here, mainly because of risk of breakage. Over the sastrugi it is all up and down hill, and the covering of ice crystals prevents the sledge from gliding even on the down-grade. The sastrugi, I fear, have come to stay, and we must be prepared for heavy marching, but in two days I hope to lighten loads with a depot. We are south of Shackleton's last camp, so, I suppose, have made the most southerly camp.


Sunday, January 7. -- Height 10,560. Lunch. Temp. -21.3°. The vicissitudes of this work are bewildering. Last night we decided to leave our ski on account of the sastrugi. This morning we marched out a mile in 40 min. and the sastrugi gradually disappeared. I kept debating the ski question and at this point stopped, and after discussion we went back and fetched the ski; it cost us 1 1/2 hours nearly. Marching again, I found to my horror we could scarcely move the sledge on ski; the first hour was awful owing to the wretched coating of loose sandy snow. However, we persisted, and towards the latter end of our tiring march we began to make better progress, but the work is still awfully heavy. I must stick to the ski after this.

Afternoon. Camp 60°. T. -23°. Height 10,570. Obs.: Lat. 88° 18' 40'' S.; Long. 157° 21' E.; Var. 179° 15' W. Very heavy pulling still, but did 5 miles (geo.) in over four hours.

This is the shortest march we have made on the summit, but there is excuse. Still, there is no doubt if things remained as they are we could not keep up the strain of such marching for long. Things, however, luckily will not remain as they are. To-morrow we depot a week's provision, lightening altogether about 100 lbs. This afternoon the welcome southerly wind returned and is now blowing force 2 to 3. I cannot but think it will improve the surface.

The sastrugi are very much diminished, and those from the south seem to be overpowering those from the S.E. Cloud travelled rapidly over from the south this afternoon, and the surface was covered with sandy crystals; these were not so bad as the 'bearded' sastrugi, and oddly enough the wind and drift only gradually obliterate these striking formations. We have scarcely risen at all to-day, and the plain looks very flat. It doesn't look as though there were more rises ahead, and one could not wish for a better surface if only the crystal deposit would disappear or harden up. I am awfully glad we have hung on to the ski; hard as the marching is, it is far less tiring on ski. Bowers has a heavy time on foot, but nothing seems to tire him. Evans has a nasty cut on his hand (sledge-making). I hope it won't give trouble. Our food continues to amply satisfy. What luck to have hit on such an excellent ration. We really are an excellently found party.


Monday, January 8. -- Camp 60. Noon. T. -19.8°. Min. for night -25°. Our first summit blizzard. We might just have started after breakfast, but the wind seemed obviously on the increase, and so has proved. The sun has not been obscured, but snow is evidently falling as well as drifting. The sun seems to be getting a little brighter as the wind increases. The whole phenomenon is very like a Barrier blizzard, only there is much less snow, as one would expect, and at present less wind, which is somewhat of a surprise.

Evans' hand was dressed this morning, and the rest ought to be good for it. I am not sure it will not do us all good as we lie so very comfortably, warmly clothed in our comfortable bags, within our double-walled tent. However, we do not want more than a day's delay at most, both on account of lost time and food and the snow accumulation of ice. (Night T. -13.5°.) It has grown much thicker during the day, from time to time obscuring the sun for the first time. The temperature is low for a blizzard, but we are very comfortable in our double tent and the cold snow is not sticky and not easily carried into the tent, so that the sleeping-bags remain in good condition. (T. -3°.) The glass is rising slightly. I hope we shall be able to start in the morning, but fear that a disturbance of this sort may last longer than our local storm.

It is quite impossible to speak too highly of my companions. Each fulfils his office to the party; Wilson, first as doctor, ever on the lookout to alleviate the small pains and troubles incidental to the work, now as cook, quick, careful and dexterous, ever thinking of some fresh expedient to help the camp life; tough as steel on the traces, never wavering from start to finish.

Evans, a giant worker with a really remarkable headpiece. It is only now I realise how much has been due to him. Our ski shoes and crampons have been absolutely indispensable, and if the original ideas were not his, the details of manufacture and design and the good workmanship are his alone. He is responsible for every sledge, every sledge fitting, tents, sleeping-bags, harness, and when one cannot recall a single expression of dissatisfaction with any one of these items, it shows what an invaluable assistant he has been. Now, besides superintending the putting up of the tent, he thinks out and arranges the packing of the sledge; it is extraordinary how neatly and handily everything is stowed, and how much study has been given to preserving the suppleness and good running qualities of the machine. On the Barrier, before the ponies were killed, he was ever roaming round, correcting faults of stowage.

Little Bowers remains a marvel -- he is thoroughly enjoying himself. I leave all the provision arrangement in his hands, and at all times he knows exactly how we stand, or how each returning party should fare. It has been a complicated business to redistribute stores at various stages of re-organisation, but not one single mistake has been made. In addition to the stores, he keeps the most thorough and conscientious meteorological record, and to this he now adds the duty of observer and photographer. Nothing comes amiss to him, and no work is too hard. It is a difficulty to get him into the tent; he seems quite oblivious of the cold, and he lies coiled in his bag writing and working out sights long after the others are asleep.

Of these three it is a matter for thought and congratulation that each is sufficiently suited for his own work, but would not be capable of doing that of the others as well as it is done. Each is invaluable. Oates had his invaluable period with the ponies; now he is a foot slogger and goes hard the whole time, does his share of camp work, and stands the hardship as well as any of us. I would not like to be without him either. So our five people are perhaps as happily selected as it is possible to imagine.


Tuesday, January 9. -- Camp 61. RECORD. Lat. 88° 25'. Height 10,270 ft. Bar. risen I think. T. -4°. Still blowing, and drifting when we got to breakfast, but signs of taking off. The wind had gradually shifted from south to E.S.E. After lunch we were able to break camp in a bad light, but on a good surface. We made a very steady afternoon march, covering 6 1/2, miles (geo.). This should place us in Lat. 88° 25', beyond the record of Shackleton's walk. All is new ahead. The barometer has risen since the blizzard, and it looks as though we were on a level plateau, not to rise much further.

Obs.: Long. 159° 17' 45'' E.; Var. 179° 55' W.; Min. Temp. -7.2°.

More curiously the temperature continued to rise after the blow and now, at -4°, it seems quite warm. The sun has only shown very indistinctly all the afternoon, although brighter now. Clouds are still drifting over from the east. The marching is growing terribly monotonous, but one cannot grumble as long as the distance can be kept up. It can, I think, if we leave a depot, but a very annoying thing has happened. Bowers' watch has suddenly dropped 26 minutes; it may have stopped from being frozen outside his pocket, or he may have inadvertently touched the hands. Any way it makes one more chary of leaving stores on this great plain, especially as the blizzard tended to drift up our tracks. We could only just see the back track when we started, but the light was extremely poor.


Wednesday, January 10. -- Camp 62. T. -11°. Last depot 88° 29' S.; 159° 33' E.; Var. 180°. Terrible hard march in the morning; only covered 5.1 miles (geo.). Decided to leave depot at lunch camp. Built cairn and left one week's food together with sundry articles of clothing. We are down as close as we can go in the latter. We go forward with eighteen days' food. Yesterday I should have said certain to see us through, but now the surface is beyond words, and if it continues we shall have the greatest difficulty to keep our march long enough. The surface is quite covered with sandy snow, and when the sun shines it is terrible. During the early part of the afternoon it was overcast, and we started our lightened sledge with a good swing, but during the last two hours the sun cast shadows again, and the work was distressingly hard. We have covered only 10.8 miles (geo.).

Only 85 miles (geo.) from the Pole, but it's going to be a stiff pull both ways apparently; still we do make progress, which is something. To-night the sky is overcast, the temperature (-11°) much higher than I anticipated; it is very difficult to imagine what is happening to the weather. The sastrugi grow more and more confused, running from S. to E. Very difficult steering in uncertain light and with rapidly moving clouds. The clouds don't seem to come from anywhere, form and disperse without visible reason. The surface seems to be growing softer. The meteorological conditions seem to point to an area of variable light winds, and that plot will thicken as we advance.


Thursday, January 11. -- Lunch. Height 10,540. T. -15° 8'. It was heavy pulling from the beginning to-day, but for the first two and a half hours we could keep the sledge moving; then the sun came out (it had been overcast and snowing with light south-easterly breeze) and the rest of the forenoon was agonising. I never had such pulling; all the time the sledge rasps and creaks. We have covered 6 miles, but at fearful cost to ourselves.

Night camp 63. Height 10,530. Temp. -16.3°. Minimum -25.8°. Another hard grind in the afternoon and five miles added. About 74 miles from the Pole -- can we keep this up for seven days? It takes it out of us like anything. None of us ever had such hard work before. Cloud has been coming and going overhead all day, drifting from the S.E., but continually altering shape. Snow crystals falling all the time; a very light S. breeze at start soon dying away. The sun so bright and warm to-night that it is almost impossible to imagine a minus temperature. The snow seems to get softer as we advance; the sastrugi, though sometimes high and undercut, are not hard -- no crusts, except yesterday the surface subsided once, as on the Barrier. It seems pretty certain there is no steady wind here. Our chance still holds good if we can put the work in, but it's a terribly trying time.


Friday, January 12. -- Camp 64. T. -17.5°. Lat. 88° 57'. Another heavy march with snow getting softer all the time. Sun very bright, calm at start; first two hours terribly slow. Lunch, 4 3/4 hours, 5.6 miles geo.; Sight Lat. 88° 52'. Afternoon, 4 hours, 5.1 miles -- total 10.7.

In the afternoon we seemed to be going better; clouds spread over from the west with light chill wind and for a few brief minutes we tasted the delight of having the sledge following free. Alas! in a few minutes it was worse than ever, in spite of the sun's eclipse. However, the short experience was salutary. I had got to fear that we were weakening badly in our pulling; those few minutes showed me that we only want a good surface to get along as merrily as of old. With the surface as it is, one gets horribly sick of the monotony and can easily imagine oneself getting played out, were it not that at the lunch and night camps one so quickly forgets all one's troubles and bucks up for a fresh effort. It is an effort to keep up the double figures, but if we can do so for another four marches we ought to get through. It is going to be a close thing.

At camping to-night everyone was chilled and we guessed a cold snap, but to our surprise the actual temperature was higher than last night, when we could dawdle in the sun. It is most unaccountable why we should suddenly feel the cold in this manner; partly the exhaustion of the march, but partly some damp quality in the air, I think. Little Bowers is wonderful; in spite of my protest he would take sights after we had camped to-night, after marching in the soft snow all day where we have been comparatively restful on ski.

Night position. -- Lat. 88° 57' 25'' S.; Long. 160° 21' E.; Var. 179° 49' W. Minimum T. -23.5°.

Only 63 miles (geo.) from the Pole to-night. We ought to do the trick, but oh! for a better surface. It is quite evident this is a comparatively windless area. The sastrugi are few and far between, and all soft. I should imagine occasional blizzards sweep up from the S.E., but none with violence. We have deep tracks in the snow, which is soft as deep as you like to dig down.


Saturday, January 13. -- Lunch Height 10,390. Barometer low? lunch Lat. 89° 3' 18''. Started on some soft snow, very heavy dragging and went slow. We could have supposed nothing but that such conditions would last from now onward, but to our surprise, after two hours we came on a sea of sastrugi, all lying from S. to E., predominant E.S.E. Have had a cold little wind from S.E. and S.S.E., where the sky is overcast. Have done 5.6 miles and are now over the 89th parallel.

Night camp 65. -- Height 10,270. T. -22.5°, Minimum -23.5°. Lat. 89° 9'S. very nearly. We started very well in the afternoon. Thought we were going to make a real good march, but after the first two hours surface crystals became as sandy as ever. Still we did 5.6 miles geo., giving over 11 for the day. Well, another day with double figures and a bit over. The chance holds.

It looks as though we were descending slightly; sastrugi remain as in forenoon. It is wearisome work this tugging and straining to advance a light sledge. Still, we get along. I did manage to get my thoughts off the work for a time to-day, which is very restful. We should be in a poor way without our ski, though Bowers manages to struggle through the soft snow without tiring his short legs.

Only 51 miles from the Pole to-night. If we don't get to it we shall be d -- -- d close. There is a little southerly breeze to-night; I devoutly hope it may increase in force. The alternation of soft snow and sastrugi seem to suggest that the coastal mountains are not so very far away.


Sunday, January 14. -- Camp 66. Lunch T. -18°, Night T. -15°. Sun showing mistily through overcast sky all day. Bright southerly wind with very low drift. In consequence the surface was a little better, and we came along very steadily 6.3 miles in the morning and 5.5 in the afternoon, but the steering was awfully difficult and trying; very often I could see nothing, and Bowers on my shoulders directed me. Under such circumstances it is an immense help to be pulling on ski. To-night it is looking very thick. The sun can barely be distinguished, the temperature has risen, and there are serious indications of a blizzard. I trust they will not come to anything; there are practically no signs of heavy wind here, so that even if it blows a little we may be able to march. Meanwhile we are less than 40 miles from the Pole.

Again we noticed the cold; at lunch to-day (Obs.: Lat. 89° 20' 53'' S.) all our feet were cold, but this was mainly due to the bald state of our finnesko. I put some grease under the bare skin and found it made all the difference. Oates seems to be feeling the cold and fatigue more than the rest of us, but we are all very fit. It is a critical time, but we ought to pull through. The barometer has fallen very considerably and we cannot tell whether due to ascent of plateau or change of weather. Oh! for a few fine days! So close it seems and only the weather to baulk us.


Monday, January 15. -- Lunch camp, Height 9,950. Last depot. During the night the air cleared entirely and the sun shone in a perfectly clear sky. The light wind had dropped and the temperature fallen to -25°, minimum -27°. I guessed this meant a hard pull, and guessed right. The surface was terrible, but for 4 3/4 hours yielded 6 miles (geo.). We were all pretty well done at camping, and here we leave our last depot -- only four days' food and a sundry or two. The load is now very light, but I fear that the friction will not be greatly reduced.

Night, January 15. -- Height 9920. T. -25°. The sledge came surprisingly lightly after lunch -- something from loss of weight, something, I think, from stowage, and, most of all perhaps, as a result of tea. Anyhow we made a capital afternoon march of 6.3 miles, bringing the total for the day to over 12 (12.3). The sastrugi again very confused, but mostly S.E. quadrant; the heaviest now almost east, so that the sledge continually bumps over ridges. The wind is from the W.N.W. chiefly, but the weather remains fine and there are no sastrugi from that direction.

Camp 67. Lunch obs.: Lat. 89° 26' 57''; Lat. dead reckoning, 89° 33' 15'' S.; Long. 160° 56' 45'' E.; Var. 179° E.

It is wonderful to think that two long marches would land us at the Pole. We left our depot to-day with nine days' provisions, so that it ought to be a certain thing now, and the only appalling possibility the sight of the Norwegian flag forestalling ours. Little Bowers continues his indefatigable efforts to get good sights, and it is wonderful how he works them up in his sleeping-bag in our congested tent. (Minimum for night -27.5°.) Only 27 miles from the Pole. We ought to do it now.


Tuesday, January 16. -- Camp 68. Height 9760. T. -23.5°. The worst has happened, or nearly the worst. We marched well in the morning and covered 7 1/2 miles. Noon sight showed us in Lat. 89° 42' S., and we started off in high spirits in the afternoon, feeling that to-morrow would see us at our destination. About the second hour of the March Bowers' sharp eyes detected what he thought was a cairn; he was uneasy about it, but argued that it must be a sastrugus. Half an hour later he detected a black speck ahead. Soon we knew that this could not be a natural snow feature. We marched on, found that it was a black flag tied to a sledge bearer; near by the remains of a camp; sledge tracks and ski tracks going and coming and the clear trace of dogs' paws -- many dogs. This told us the whole story. The Norwegians have forestalled us and are first at the Pole. It is a terrible disappointment, and I am very sorry for my loyal companions. Many thoughts come and much discussion have we had. To-morrow we must march on to the Pole and then hasten home with all the speed we can compass. All the day dreams must go; it will be a wearisome return. We are descending in altitude -- certainly also the Norwegians found an easy way up.


Wednesday, January 17. -- Camp 69. T. -22° at start. Night -21°. The Pole. Yes, but under very different circumstances from those expected. We have had a horrible day -- add to our disappointment a head wind 4 to 5, with a temperature -22°, and companions labouring on with cold feet and hands.

We started at 7.30, none of us having slept much after the shock of our discovery. We followed the Norwegian sledge tracks for some way; as far as we make out there are only two men. In about three miles we passed two small cairns. Then the weather overcast, and the tracks being increasingly drifted up and obviously going too far to the west, we decided to make straight for the Pole according to our calculations. At 12.30 Evans had such cold hands we camped for lunch -- an excellent 'week-end one.' We had marched 7.4 miles. Lat. sight gave 89° 53' 37''. We started out and did 6 1/2 miles due south. To-night little Bowers is laying himself out to get sights in terrible difficult circumstances; the wind is blowing hard, T. -21°, and there is that curious damp, cold feeling in the air which chills one to the bone in no time. We have been descending again, I think, but there looks to be a rise ahead; otherwise there is very little that is different from the awful monotony of past days. Great God! this is an awful place and terrible enough for us to have laboured to it without the reward of priority. Well, it is something to have got here, and the wind may be our friend to-morrow. We have had a fat Polar hoosh in spite of our chagrin, and feel comfortable inside -- added a small stick of chocolate and the queer taste of a cigarette brought by Wilson. Now for the run home and a desperate struggle. I wonder if we can do it.


Thursday morning, January 18. -- Decided after summing up all observations that we were 3.5 miles away from the Pole -- one mile beyond it and 3 to the right. More or less in this direction Bowers saw a cairn or tent.

We have just arrived at this tent, 2 miles from our camp, therefore about 1 1/2 miles from the Pole. In the tent we find a record of five Norwegians having been here, as follows:

Roald Amundsen
Olav Olavson Bjaaland
Hilmer Hanssen
Sverre H. Hassel
Oscar Wisting.
             16 Dec. 1911.

The tent is fine -- a small compact affair supported by a single bamboo. A note from Amundsen, which I keep, asks me to forward a letter to King Haakon!

The following articles have been left in the tent: 3 half bags of reindeer containing a miscellaneous assortment of mits and sleeping socks, very various in description, a sextant, a Norwegian artificial horizon and a hypsometer without boiling-point thermometers, a sextant and hypsometer of English make.

Left a note to say I had visited the tent with companions. Bowers photographing and Wilson sketching. Since lunch we have marched 6.2 miles S.S.E. by compass (i.e. northwards). Sights at lunch gave us 1/2 to 3/4 of a mile from the Pole, so we call it the Pole Camp. (Temp. Lunch -21°.) We built a cairn, put up our poor slighted Union Jack, and photographed ourselves -- mighty cold work all of it -- less than 1/2 a mile south we saw stuck up an old underrunner of a sledge. This we commandeered as a yard for a floorcloth sail. I imagine it was intended to mark the exact spot of the Pole as near as the Norwegians could fix it. (Height 9500.) A note attached talked of the tent as being 2 miles from the Pole. Wilson keeps the note. There is no doubt that our predecessors have made thoroughly sure of their mark and fully carried out their programme. I think the Pole is about 9500 feet in height; this is remarkable, considering that in Lat. 88° we were about 10,500. We carried the Union Jack about 3/4 of a mile north with us and left it on a piece of stick as near as we could fix it. I fancy the Norwegians arrived at the Pole on the 15th Dec. and left on the 17th, ahead of a date quoted by me in London as ideal, viz. Dec. 22. It looks as though the Norwegian party expected colder weather on the summit than they got; it could scarcely be otherwise from Shackleton's account. Well, we have turned our back now on the goal of our ambition and must face our 800 miles of solid dragging -- and good-bye to most of the daydreams!



(2009). Scott's Last Expedition: The Summit Journey to the Pole. Retrieved from


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