The South Pole: Northward
Return to Table of Contents of The South Pole: An Account of the Norwegian Antarctic Expedition in the "Fram"
After two days of bustle in getting on board the things we were to take with us, we managed to be ready for sea on the afternoon of January 30. There could scarcely have been anything at that moment that rejoiced us more than just that fact, that we were able at so early a date to set our course northward and thus take the first step on the way to that world which, as we knew, would soon begin to expect news from us, or of us. And yet, I wonder whether there was not a little feeling of melancholy in the midst of all our joy? It can hardly be doubted that such was really the case, although to many this may seem a flat contradiction. But it is not altogether so easy to part from a place that has been one's home for any length of time, even though this home lie in the 79th degree of latitude, more or less buried in snow and ice. We human beings are far too dependent on habit to be able to tear ourselves abruptly from the surroundings with which we have been obliged to be familiar for many months. That outsiders would perhaps pray all the powers of goodness to preserve them from such surroundings, does not counteract the full validity of this rule. To an overwhelming majority of our fellow-men Framheim will certainly appear as one of those spots on our planet where they would least of all wish to find themselves -- a God-forsaken, out-of-the-way hole that could offer nothing but the very climax of desolation, discomfort, and boredom. To us nine, who stood on the gangway ready to leave this place, things appeared somewhat differently. That strong little house, that now lay entirely hidden beneath the snow behind Mount Nelson, had for a whole year been our home, and a thoroughly good and comfortable home it was, where after so many a hard day's work we had found all the rest and quiet we wanted. Through the whole Antarctic winter -- and it is a winter -- those four walls had protected us so well that many a poor wretch in milder latitudes would have envied us with all his heart, if he could have seen us. In conditions so hard that every form of life flies headlong from them, we had lived on at Framheim undisturbed and untroubled, and lived, be it said, not as animals, but as civilized human beings, who had always within their reach most of the good things that are found in a well-ordered home. Darkness and cold reigned outside, and the blizzards no doubt did their best to blot out most traces of our activity, but these enemies never came within the door of our excellent dwelling; there we shared quarters with light and warmth and comfort. What wonder was it that this spot exercised a strong attraction upon each of us at the moment when we were to turn our backs upon it for good? Outside the great world beckoned to us, that is true; and it might have much to offer us that we had had to forego for a long time; but in what awaited us there was certainly a great deal that we would gladly have put off for as long as possible. When everyday life came with its cares and worries, it might well happen that we should look back with regret to our peaceful and untroubled existence at Framheim.
However, this feeling of melancholy was hardly so strong that we could not all get over it comparatively quickly. Judging by the faces, at any rate, one would have thought that joy was the most predominant mood. And why not? It was no use dwelling on the past, however attractive it might seem just then, and as to the future, we had every right to expect the best of it. Who cared to think of coming troubles? No one. Therefore the Fram was dressed with flags from stem to stern, and therefore faces beamed at each other as we said good-bye to our home on the Barrier. We could leave it with the consciousness that the object of our year's stay had been attained, and, after all, this consciousness was of considerably more weight than the thought that we had been so happy there. One thing that in the course of our two years' association on this expedition contributed enormously to making time pass easily and keeping each of us in full vigour was the entire absence of what I may call "dead periods." As soon as one problem was solved, another instantly appeared. No sooner was one goal reached, than the next one beckoned from afar. In this way we always had our hands full, and when that is the case, as everyone knows, time flies quickly. One often hears it asked, How is it possible to make the time pass on such a trip? My good friends, I would answer, if anything caused us worry, it was the thought of how we should find time enough for all we had to do. Perhaps to many this assertion will bear the stamp of improbability; it is, nevertheless, absolutely true. Those who have read this narrative through will, in any case, have received the impression that unemployment was an evil that was utterly unknown in our little community.
At the stage where we now found ourselves, with the main object of our enterprise achieved, there might have been reason to expect a certain degree of relaxation of interest. This, however, was not the case. The fact was that what we had done would have no real value until it was brought to the knowledge of mankind, and this communication had to be made with as little loss of time as possible. If anyone was interested in being first in the market it was certainly ourselves. The probability was, no doubt, that we were out in good time; but, in spite of all, it was only a probability. On the other hand, it was absolutely certain that we had a voyage of 2,400 nautical miles to Hobart, which had been selected as our first port of call; and it was almost equally certain that this voyage would be both slow and troublesome. A year before our trip through Ross Sea had turned out almost like a pleasure cruise, but that was in the middle of summer. Now we were in February, and autumn was at hand. As regards the belt of drift-ice, Captain Nilsen thought that would cause us no delay in future. He had discovered a patent and infallible way of getting through! This sounded like a rather bold assertion, but, as will be seen later, he was as good as his word. Our worst troubles would be up in the westerlies, where we should this time be exposed to the unpleasant possibility of having to beat. The difference in longitude between the Bay of Whales and Hobart is nearly fifty degrees. If we could have sailed off this difference in longitude in the latitudes where we then were, and where a degree of longitude is only about thirteen nautical miles, it would all have been done in a twinkling; but the mighty mountain ranges of North Victoria Land were a decisive obstacle. We should first have to follow a northerly course until we had rounded the Antarctic Continent's northern outpost, Cape Adare, and the Balleny Islands to the north of it. Not till then would the way be open for us to work to the west; but then we should be in a region where in all probability the wind would be dead against us, and as to tacking with the Fram -- no, thank you! Every single man on board knew enough of the conditions to be well aware of what awaited us, and it is equally certain that the thoughts of all were centred upon how we might conquer our coming difficulties in the best and quickest way. It was the one great, common object that still bound, and would continue to bind, us all together in our joint efforts.
Among the items of news that we had just received from the outer world was the message that the Australian Antarctic Expedition under Dr. Douglas Mawson would be glad to take over some of our dogs, if we had any to spare. The base of this expedition was Hobart, and as far as that went, this suited us very well. It chanced that we were able to do our esteemed colleague this small service. On leaving the Barrier we could show a pack of thirty-nine dogs, many of which had grown up during our year's stay there; about half had survived the whole trip from Norway, and eleven had been at the South Pole. It had been our intention only to keep a suitable number as the progenitors of a new pack for the approaching voyage in the Arctic Ocean, but Dr. Mawson's request caused us to take all the thirty-nine on board. Of these dogs, if nothing unforeseen happened, we should be able to make over twenty-one to him. When the last load was brought down, there was nothing to do but to pull the dogs over the side, and then we were ready. It was quite curious to see how several of the old veterans seemed at home again on the Fram's deck. Wisting's brave dog, the old Colonel, with his two adjutants, Suggen and Arne, at once took possession of the places where they had stood for so many a long day on the voyage south -- on the starboard side of the mainmast; the two twins, Mylius and Ring, Helmer Hanssen's special favourites, began their games away in the corner of the fore-deck to port, as though nothing had happened. To look at those two merry rascals no one would have thought they had trotted at the head of the whole caravan both to and from the Pole. One solitary dog could be seen stalking about, lonely and reserved, in a continual uneasy search. This was the boss of Bjaaland's team. He was unaffected by any advances; no one could take the place of his fallen comrade and friend, Frithjof, who had long ago found a grave in the stomachs of his companions many hundreds of miles across the Barrier.
No sooner was the last dog helped on board, and the two ice-anchors released, than the engine-room telegraph rang, and the engine was at once set going to keep us from any closer contact with the ice-foot in the Bay of Whales. Our farewell to this snug harbour took almost the form of a leap from one world to another; the fog hung over us as thick as gruel, concealing all the surrounding outlines behind its clammy curtain, as we stood out. After a lapse of three or four hours, it lifted quite suddenly, but astern of us the bank of fog still stood like a wall; behind it the panorama, which we knew would have looked wonderful in clear weather, and which we should so gladly have let our eyes rest upon as long as we could, was entirely concealed.
The same course we had steered when coming in a year before could safely be taken in the opposite direction now we were going out. The outlines of the bay had remained absolutely unchanged during the year that had elapsed. Even the most projecting point of the wall on the west side of the bay, Cape Man's Head, stood serenely in its old place, and it looked as if it was in no particular hurry to remove itself. It will probably stay where it is for many a long day yet, for if any movement of the ice mass is taking place at the inner end of the bay, it is in any case very slight. Only in one respect did the condition of things differ somewhat this year from the preceding. Whereas in 1911 the greater part of the bay was free of sea-ice as early as January 14, in 1912 there was no opening until about fourteen days later. The ice-sheet had stubbornly held on until the fresh north-easterly breeze, that appeared on the very day the southern party returned, had rapidly provided a channel of open water. The breaking up of the ice could not possibly have taken place at a more convenient moment; the breeze in question saved us a great deal, both of time and trouble, as the way to the place where the Fram lay before the ice broke up was about five times as long as the distance we now had to go. This difference of fourteen days in the time of the disappearance of the ice in two summers showed us how lucky we had been to choose that particular year -- 1911 -- for our landing here. The work which we carried out in three weeks in 1911, thanks to the early breaking up of the ice, would certainly have taken us double the time in 1912, and would have caused us far more difficulty and trouble.
The thick fog that, as I have said, lay over the Bay of Whales when we left it, prevented us also from seeing what our friends the Japanese were doing. The Kainan Maru had put to sea in company with the Fram during the gale of January 27, and since that time we had seen nothing of them. Those members of the expedition who had been left behind in a tent on the edge of the Barrier to the north of Framheim had also been very retiring of late. On the day we left the place, one of our own party had an interview with two of the foreigners. Prestrud had gone to fetch the flag that had been set up on Cape Man's Head as a signal to the Fram that all had returned. By the side of the flag a tent had been put up, which was intended as a shelter for a lookout man, in case the Fram had been delayed. When Prestrud came up, he was no doubt rather surprised to find himself face to face with two sons of Nippon, who were engaged in inspecting our tent and its contents, which, however, only consisted of a sleeping-bag and a Primus. The Japanese had opened the conversation with enthusiastic phrases about "nice day" and "plenty ice"; when our man had expressed his absolute agreement on these indisputable facts, he tried to get information on matters of more special interest. The two strangers told him that for the moment they were the only inhabitants of the tent out on the edge of the Barrier. Two of their companions had gone on a tour into the Barrier to make meteorological observations, and were to be away about a week. The Kainan Maru had gone on another cruise in the direction of King Edward Land. As far as they knew, it was intended that the ship should be back before February 10, and that all the members of the expedition should then go on board and sail to the north. Prestrud had invited his two new acquaintances to visit us at Framheim, the sooner the better; they delayed their coming too long, however, for us to be able to wait for them. If they have since been at Framheim, they will at any rate be able to bear witness that we did our best to make things comfortable for any successors.
When the fog lifted, we found ourselves surrounded by open sea, practically free from ice, on all sides. A blue-black sea, with a heavy, dark sky above it, is not usually reckoned among the sights that delight the eye. To our organs of vision it was a real relief to come into surroundings where dark colours predominated. For months we had been staring at a dazzling sea of white, where artificial means had constantly to be employed to protect the eyes against the excessive flood of light. As a rule, it was even necessary to limit the exposure of the pupils to a minimum, and to draw the eyelids together. Now we could once more look on the world with open eyes, literally "without winking "; even such a commonplace thing as this is an experience in one's life. Ross Sea showed itself again on its most favourable side. A cat's paw of south-westerly wind enabled us to use the sails, so that after a lapse of two days we were already about two hundred miles from the Barrier. Modest as this distance may be in itself, when seen on the chart it looked quite imposing in our eyes. It must be remembered that, with the means of transport we had employed on land, it cost us many a hard day's march to cover a distance of two hundred geographical miles.
Nilsen had marked on the chart the limits of the belt of drift-ice during the three passages the Fram had already made. The supposition that an available opening is always to be found in the neighbourhood of the 150th meridian appears to be confirmed. The slight changes in the position of the channel were only caused, according to Nilsen's experiences, by variations in the direction of the wind. He had found that it always answered his purpose to turn and try to windward, if the pack showed signs of being close. This mode of procedure naturally had the effect of making the course somewhat crooked, but to make up for this it had always resulted in his finding open water. On this trip we reached the edge of the pack-ice belt three days after leaving the Barrier. The position of the belt proved to be very nearly the same as on previous passages. After we had held our course for some hours, however, the ice became so thick that it looked badly for our further progress. Now was the time to try Nilsen's method: the wind, which, by the way, was quite light, came about due west, and accordingly the helm was put to starboard and the bow turned to the west. For a good while we even steered true south, but it proved that this fairly long turn had not been made in vain; after we had worked our way to windward for a few hours, we found openings in numbers. If we had held our course as we began, it is not at all impossible that we should have been delayed for a long time, with a free passage a few miles away.
After having accomplished this first long turn, we escaped having to make any more in future. The ice continued slack, and on February 6 the rapidly increasing swell told us that we had done with the Antarctic drift-ice for good. I doubt if we saw a single seal during our passage through the ice-belt this time; and if we had seen any, we should scarcely have allowed the time for shooting them. There was plenty of good food both for men and dogs this time, without our having recourse to seal-beef. For the dogs we had brought all our remaining store of the excellent dogs' pemmican, and that was not a little. Besides this, we had a good lot of dried fish. They had fish and pemmican on alternate days. On this diet the animals kept in such splendid condition that, when on arrival at Hobart they had shed most of their rough winter coats, they looked as if they had been in clover for a year.
For the nine of us who had just joined the ship, our comrades on board had brought all the way from Buenos Aires several fat pigs, that were now living in luxury in their pen on the after-deck; in addition to these, three fine sheep's carcasses hung in the workroom. It need scarcely be said that we were fully capable of appreciating these unexpected luxuries. Seal-beef, no doubt, had done excellent service, but this did not prevent roast mutton and pork being a welcome change, especially as they came as a complete surprise. I hardly think one of us had counted on the possibility of getting fresh meat before we were back again in civilization.
On her arrival at the Bay of Whales there were eleven men on board the Fram, all included. Instead of Kutschin and Nödtvedt, who had gone home from Buenos Aires while the ship was there in the autumn of 1911, three new men were engaged -- namely, Halvorsen, Olsen and Steller; the two first-named were from Bergen; Steller was a German, who had lived for several years in Norway, and talked Norwegian like a native.
All three were remarkably efficient and friendly men; it was a pleasure to have any dealings with them. I venture to think that they, too, found themselves at home in our company; they were really only engaged until the Fram called at the first port, but they stayed on board all the way to Buenos Aires, and will certainly go with us farther still.
When the shore party came on board, Lieutenant Prestrud took up his old position as first officer; the others began duty at once. All told, we were now twenty men on board, and after the Fram had sailed for a year rather short-handed, she could now be said to have a full crew again. On this voyage we had no special work outside the usual sea routine, and so long as the weather was fair, we had thus a comparatively quiet life on board. But the hours of watch on deck passed quickly enough, I expect; there was material in plenty for many a long chat now. If we, who came from land, showed a high degree of curiosity about what had been going on in the world, the sea-party were at least as eager to have full information of every detail of our year-long stay on the Barrier. One must almost have experienced something similar oneself to be able to form an idea of the hail of questions that is showered upon one on such an occasion. What we land-lubbers had to relate has been given in outline in the preceding chapters. Of the news we heard from outside, perhaps nothing interested us so much as the story of how the change in the plan of the expedition had been received at home and abroad.
It must have been at least a week before there was any noticeable ebb in the flood of questions and answers. That week went by quickly; perhaps more quickly than we really cared for, since it proved that the Fram was not really able to keep pace with time. The weather remained quite well behaved, but not exactly in the way we wished. We had reckoned that the south-easterly and easterly winds, so frequent around Framheim, would also show themselves out in Ross Sea, but they entirely forgot to do so. We had little wind, and when there was any, it was, as a rule, a slant from the north, always enough to delay our honest old ship. It was impossible to take any observations for the first eight days, the sky was continuously overcast. If one occasionally asked the skipper about her position, he usually replied that the only thing that could be said for certain was that we were in Ross Sea. On February 7, however, according to a fairly good noon observation, we were well to the north of Cape Adare, and therefore beyond the limits of the Antarctic Continent. On the way northward we passed Cape Adare at a distance hardly greater than could have been covered with a good day's sailing; but our desire of making this detour had to give way to the chief consideration -- northward, northward as quickly as possible.
There is usually plenty of wind in the neighbourhood of bold promontories, and Cape Adare is no exception in this respect; it is well known as a centre of bad weather. Nor did we slip by without getting a taste of this; but it could not have been more welcome, as it happened that the wind was going the same way as ourselves. Two days of fresh south-east wind took us comparatively quickly past the Balleny Islands, and on February 9 we could congratulate ourselves on being well out of the south frigid zone. It was with joy that we had crossed the Antarctic Circle over a year ago, going south; perhaps we rejoiced no less at crossing it this time in the opposite direction.
In the bustle of getting away from our winter-quarters there had been no time for any celebration of the fortunate reunion of the land and sea parties. As this occasion for festivity had been let slip, we had to look out for another, and we agreed that the day of our passage from the frigid to the temperate zone afforded a very good excuse. The pre-arranged part of the programme was extremely simple: an extra cup of coffee, duly accompanied by punch and cigars, and some music on the gramophone. Our worthy gramophone could not offer anything that had the interest of novelty to us nine who had wintered at Framheim: we knew the whole repertoire pretty well by heart; but the well-known melodies awakened memories of many a pleasant Saturday evening around the toddy table in our cosy winter home down at the head of the Bay of Whales -- memories which we need not be ashamed of recalling. On board the Fram gramophone music had not been heard since Christmas Eve, 1910, and the members of the sea party were glad enough to encore more than one number.
Outside the limits of the programme we were treated to an extra number by a singer, who imitated the gramophone in utilizing a big megaphone, to make up for the deficiencies of his voice -- according to his own statement. He hid behind the curtain of Captain Nilsen's cabin, and through the megaphone came a ditty intended to describe life on the Barrier from its humorous side. It was completely successful, and we again had a laugh that did us good. Performances of this kind, of course, only have a value to those who have taken part in or are acquainted with the events to which they refer. In case any outsider may be interested in seeing what our entertainment was like, a few of the verses are given here.
It must be remarked that the author composed his production in the supposition that we should be able to meet by Christmas, and he therefore proposed that for the moment we should imagine ourselves to be celebrating that festival. We made no difficulty about acceding to his request:
Well, here we are assembled to jollity once more, Some from off the ocean and the rest from off the shore. A year has passed since last we met and all are safe and sound, Then let us banish all our cares and join our hands all round. Christmas, happy Christmas! let us pass the flowing bowl, Fill your glasses all, and let's make "Sails" a wee bit full. For all I'll say is this -- that it's in his country's cause; If he staggers just a little, it is in his country's cause.
Now you sailor boys shall hear about the time we have gone through: The winter -- well, it wasn't long, we had so much to do. There was digging snow, and sleeping -- you can bet we're good at that -- And eating, too -- no wonder that we're all a little fat. We had hot cakes for our breakfast and "hermetik" each day, Mutton pies, ragouts and curries, for that is Lindström's way. But all I'll say is this -- that 'twas in our country's cause, If we stuffed ourselves with dainties, it was in our country's cause.
September came and off we went -- that trip was pretty tough; Our compasses all went on strike, they thought it cold enough. The brandy in the Captain's flask froze to a lump of ice; We all agreed, both men and dogs, such weather wasn't nice. So back we went to Framheim to thaw our heels and toes; It could not be quite healthy when our feet and fingers froze. But all I say is this -- that 'twas in our country's cause, And we did not mind a frost-bite when 'twas in our country's cause.
The sun came up and warmed us then a little day by day; Five men went out again and toiled along the southern way. This time they conquered snow and ice, and all the world may hear That Norway's flag flies at the Pole. Now, boys, a ringing cheer For him who led them forward through the mountains and the plain, Up to the goal they aimed at, and safely back again. But all I'll say is this -- that 'twas in his country's cause; If he went through and won the Pole, 'twas in his country's cause.
It could soon be noticed, in one way and another, that we had reached latitudes where existence took a very different aspect from what we had been accustomed to south of the 66th parallel. One welcome change was the rise in temperature; the mercury now climbed well above freezing-point, and those individuals on board who were still more or less clad in skins, shed the last remnants of their Polar garb for a lighter and more convenient costume. Those who waited longest before making the change were the ones who belonged to the shore party. The numerous people who imagine that a long stay in the Polar regions makes a man less susceptible of cold than other mortals are completely mistaken. The direct opposite is more likely to be the case. A man who stays some time in a place where the everyday temperature is down in the fifties below zero, or more than that, will not trouble himself greatly about the cold, so long as he has good and serviceable skin clothing. Let the same man, rigged out in civilized clothes, be suddenly put down in the streets of Christiania on a winter day, with thirty or thirty-five degrees of frost, and the poor fellow's teeth will chatter till they fall out of his mouth. The fact is, that on a Polar trip one defends oneself effectively against the cold; when one comes back, and has to go about with the protection afforded by an overcoat, a stiff collar, and a hard hat -- well, then one feels it.
A less welcome consequence of the difference in latitude was the darkening of the nights. It may be admitted that continual daylight would be unpleasant in the long run ashore, but aboard ship an everlasting day would certainly be preferred, if such a thing could be had. Even if we might now consider that we had done with the principal mass of Antarctic ice, we still had to reckon with its disagreeable outposts -- the icebergs. It has already been remarked that a practised look-out man can see the blink of one of the larger bergs a long way off in the dark, but when it is a question of one of the smaller masses of ice, of which only an inconsiderable part rises above the surface, there is no such brightness, and therefore no warning. A little lump like this is just as dangerous as a big berg; you run the same risks in a possible collision of knocking a hole in the bows or carrying away the rigging. In these transitional regions, where the temperature of the water is always very low, the thermometer is a very doubtful guide.
The waters in which we were sailing are not yet so well known as to exclude the possibility of meeting with land. Captain Colbeck, who commanded one of the relief ships sent south during Scott's first expedition, came quite unexpectedly upon a little island to the east of Cape Adare; this island was afterwards named after Captain Scott. When Captain Colbeck made his discovery, he was about on the course that has usually been taken by ships whose destination was within the limits of Ross Sea. There is still a possibility that in going out of one's course, voluntarily or involuntarily, one may find more groups of islands in that part.
On the current charts of the South Pacific there are marked several archipelagoes and islands, the position of which is not a little doubtful. One of these -- Emerald Island -- is charted as lying almost directly in the course we had to follow to reach Hobart. Captain Davis, who took Shackleton's ship, the Nimrod, home to England in 1909, sailed, however, right over the point where Emerald Island should be found according to the chart without seeing anything of it. If it exists at all, it is, at any rate, incorrectly charted. In order to avoid its vicinity, and still more in order to get as far as possible to the west before we came into the westerly belt proper, we pressed on as much as we could for one hard week, or perhaps nearer two; but a continual north-west wind seemed for a long time to leave us only two disagreeable possibilities, either of drifting to the eastward, or of finding ourselves down in the drift-ice to the north of Wilkes Land.
Those weeks were a very severe trial of patience to the many on board who were burning with eagerness to get ashore with our news, and perhaps to hear some in return. When the first three weeks of February were past, we were not much more than half-way; with anything like favourable conditions we ought to have arrived by that time. The optimists always consoled us by saying that sooner or later there would be a change for the better, and at last it came. A good spell of favourable wind took us at a bound well to the windward both of the doubtful Emerald Island and of the authentic Macquarie group to the north of it. It may be mentioned in passing, that at the time we went by, the most southerly wireless telegraphy station in the world was located on one of the Macquarie Islands. The installation belonged to Dr. Mawson's Antarctic expedition. Dr. Mawson also took with him apparatus for installing a station on the Antarctic Continent itself, but, so far as is known, no connection was accomplished the first year.
During this fortunate run we had come so far to the west that our course to Hobart was rapidly approaching true north. On the other hand, we should have liked to be able to take advantage of the prevailing winds, -- the westerlies. These vary little from one year to another, and we found them much the same as we had been accustomed to before: frequent, stiff breezes from the north-west, which generally held for about twelve hours, and then veered to west or south-west. So long as the north-wester was blowing, there was nothing to do but to lie to with shortened sail; when the change of wind came, we made a few hours' progress in the right direction. In this way we crept step by step northward to our destination. It was slow enough, no doubt; but every day the line of our course on the chart grew a little longer, and towards the end of February the distance between us and the southern point of Tasmania had shrunk to very modest dimensions.
With the constant heavy westerly swell, the Fram, light as she now was, surpassed herself in rolling, and that is indeed saying a great deal. This rolling brought us a little damage to the rigging, the gaff of the mainsail breaking; however, that affair did not stop us long. The broken spar was quickly replaced by a spare gaff.
Our hopes of arriving before the end of February came to naught, and a quarter of March went by before our voyage was at an end.
On the afternoon of March 4, we had our first glimpse of land; but, as the weather was by no means clear and we had not been able to determine our longitude with certainty for two days, we were uncertain which point of Tasmania we had before us. To explain the situation, a short description of the coast-line is necessary. The southern angle of Tasmania runs out in three promontories; off the easternmost of these, and only divided from it by a very narrow channel, lies a steep and apparently inaccessible island, called Tasman Island. It is, however, accessible, for on the top of it -- 900 feet above the sea -- stands a lighthouse. The middle promontory is called Tasman Head, and between this and the eastern one we have Storm Bay, which forms the approach to Hobart; there, then, lay our course. The question was, which of the three heads we had sighted. This was difficult, or rather impossible, to decide, so indistinct was the outline of the land in the misty air; it was also entirely unknown to us, as not one of us had ever before been in this corner of the world. When darkness came on, a heavy rain set in, and without being able to see anything at all, we lay there feeling our way all night. With the appearance of daylight a fresh south-west wind came and swept away most of the rain, so that we could again make out the land. We decided that what we saw was the middle promontory, Tasman Head, and gaily set our course into Storm Bay -- as we thought. With the rapidly strengthening breeze we went spinningly, and the possibility of reaching Hobart in a few hours began to appear as a dead certainty. With this comfortable feeling we had just sat down to the breakfast table in the fore-saloon, when the door was pulled open with what seemed unnecessary violence, and the face of the officer of the watch appeared in the doorway. "We're on the wrong side of the head," was the sinister message, and the face disappeared. Good-bye to our pleasant plans, good-bye to our breakfast! All hands went on deck at once, and it was seen only too well that the melancholy information was correct. We had made a mistake in the thick rain. The wind, that had now increased to a stiff breeze, had chased the rain-clouds from the tops of the hills, and on the point we had taken for Tasman Head, we now saw the lighthouse. It was therefore Tasman Island, and instead of being in Storm Bay, we were out in the open Pacific, far to leeward of the infamous headland.
There was nothing to be done but to beat and attempt to work our way back to windward, although we knew it would be practically labour in vain. The breeze increased to a gale, and instead of making any headway we had every prospect of drifting well to leeward; that was the usual result of trying to beat with the Fram. Rather annoyed though we were, we set to work to do what could be done, and with every square foot of canvas set the Fram pitched on her way close-hauled. To begin with, it looked as if we held our own more or less, but as the distance from land increased and the wind got more force, our bearings soon showed us that we were going the way the hen kicks. About midday we went about and stood in towards land again; immediately after came a violent squall which tore the outer jib to ribbons; with that we were also obliged to take in the mainsail, otherwise it would pretty soon have been caught aback, and there would have been further damage to the rigging. With the remaining sails any further attempt was useless; there was nothing left but to get as close under the lee of the land as we could and try with the help of the engine to hold our own till the weather moderated. How it blew that afternoon! One gust after another came dancing down the slopes of the hills, and tore at the rigging till the whole vessel shook. The feeling on board was, as might be expected, somewhat sultry, and found an outlet in various expressions the reverse of gentle. Wind, weather, fate, and life in general were inveighed against, but this availed little. The peninsula that separated us from Storm Bay still lay there firm and immovable, and the gale went on as if it was in no hurry to let us get round. The whole day went by, and the greater part of the night, without any change taking place. Not till the morning of the 6th did our prospects begin to improve. The wind became lighter and went more to the south; that was, of course, the way we had to go, but by hugging the shore, where we had perfectly smooth water, we succeeded in working our way down to Tasman Island before darkness fell. The night brought a calm, and that gave us our chance. The engine worked furiously, and a slight favourable current contributed to set us on our way. By dawn on the 7th we were far up Storm Bay and could at last consider ourselves masters of the situation.
It was a sunny day, and our faces shone in rivalry with the sun; all trace of the last two days' annoyances had vanished. And soon the Fram, too, began to shine. The white paint on deck had a thorough overhauling with soap and water in strong solution. The Ripolin was again as fresh as when new. When this had been seen to, the outward appearance of the men also began to undergo a striking change. The Iceland jackets and "blanket costumes" from Horten gave way to "shore clothes" of the most varied cut, hauled out after a two years' rest; razors and scissors had made a rich harvest, and sailmaker Rönne's fashionable Burberry caps figured on most heads. Even Lindström, who up to date had held the position among the land party of being its heaviest, fattest, and blackest member, showed unmistakable signs of having been in close contact with water.
Meanwhile we were nearing a pilot station, and a bustling little motor launch swung alongside. "Want a pilot, captain?" One positively started at the sound of the first new human voice. Communication with the outer world was again established. The pilot -- a brisk, good-humoured old man -- looked about him in surprise when he came up on to our deck. "I should never have imagined things were so clean and bright on board a Polar ship," he said; "nor should I have thought from the look of you that you had come from Antarctica. You look as if you had had nothing but a good time." We could assure him of that, but as to the rest, it was not our intention just yet to allow ourselves to be pumped, and the old man could see that. He had no objection to our pumping him, though he had no very great store of news to give us. He had heard nothing of the Terra Nova; on the other hand, he was able to tell us that Dr. Mawson's ship, the Aurora, commanded by Captain Davis, might be expected at Hobart any day. They had been looking out for the Fram since the beginning of February, and had given us up long ago. That was a surprise, anyhow.
Our guest evidently had no desire to make the acquaintance of our cuisine; at any rate, he very energetically declined our invitation to breakfast. Presumably he was afraid of being treated to dog's flesh or similar original dishes. On the other hand, he showed great appreciation of our Norwegian tobacco. He had his handbag pretty nearly full when he left us.
Hobart Town lies on the bank of the Derwent River, which runs into Storm Bay. The surroundings are beautiful, and the soil evidently extremely fertile; but woods and fields were almost burnt up on our arrival; a prolonged drought had prevailed, and made an end of all green things. To our eyes it was, however, an unmixed delight to look upon meadows and woods, even if their colours were not absolutely fresh. We were not very difficult to please on that score.
The harbour of Hobart is an almost ideal one, large and remarkably well protected. As we approached the town, the usual procession of harbour-master, doctor, and Custom-house officers came aboard. The doctor soon saw that there was no work for his department, and the Custom-house officers were easily convinced that we had no contraband goods. The anchor was dropped, and we were free to land. I took my cablegrams, and accompanied the harbour-master ashore.
This is a chapter from The South Pole (e-book).
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