The Worst Journey in the World/Chapter 5
THE DEPÔT JOURNEY
The dropping of the daylight in the west.
January to March 1911
Imaginative friends of the thirteen men who started from Cape Evans on January 24, 1911, may have thought of them as athletes, trained for some weeks or months to endure the strains which they were to face, sleeping a good nine hours a night, eating carefully regulated meals and doing an allotted task each day under scientific control. They would be far from the mark. For weeks we had turned in at midnight too tired to take off our clothes, and had been lucky if we were allowed to sleep until 5 a.m. We had eaten our meals when we could, and we had worked in the meantime just as hard as it was physically possible to do. If we sat down on a packing-case we went to sleep.
And we finally left the camp in a state of hurry bordering upon panic. Since the ice to the south of us, the road to the Barrier, was being nibbled away by thaw, winds and tides, it was impossible to lead the ponies down from the Cape on to the sea-ice. The open sea was before us and on our right front. It was necessary to lead them up among the lava blocks which lay on the escarpment of Erebus, south-eastwards towards Land's End, and thence to slide them down a steep but rubbly slope to the ice which still remained. As a matter of fact that ice went out the very next day.
During the last two days provisions had been bagged with the utmost despatch; sledges packed; letters scribbled; clothing sorted and rough alterations to it made. Scott was busy, with Bowers' help, making such arrangements as could be suggested for a further year's stay, for which the ship was to order the necessaries. Oates was busy weighing out the pony food for the journey, sorting harness, and generally managing a most unruly mob of ponies. Many were the arguments as to the relative value of a pair of socks or their equivalent weight in tobacco, for we were allowed 12 lbs. of private gear apiece, to consist of everything which we did not habitually wear on our bodies. This included such things as:
- Extra pair of day socks.
- A shirt.
- Tobacco and pipe.
- Notebook for diary and pencil.
- Extra balaclava helmet.
- Extra woollen mitts.
- Housewife containing buttons, needles, darning needles, thread and wool.
- Extra pair of finnesko.
- Big safety-pins with which to hang up our socks.
- And perhaps one small book.
My most vivid recollection of the day we started is the sight of Bowers, out of breath, very hot, and in great pain from a bad knock which he had given his knee against a rock, being led forward by his big pony Uncle Bill, over whom temporarily he had but little control. He had been left behind in the camp, giving last instructions about the storage of cases and management of provisions, and had practically lost himself in trying to follow us over what was then unknown ground. He was wearing all the clothing which was not included in his personal gear, for he did not think it fair to give the pony the extra weight. He had bruised his leg in an ugly way, and for many days he came to me to bandage it. He was afraid that if he let the doctors see it they would forbid him to go forward. He had had no sleep for seventy-two hours.
That first night (January 24) we pitched our inexperienced camp not far from Hut Point. But our first taste of sledging was not without incident. Starting with the ponies only we walked them to Glacier Tongue, where the ice and open water joined, and as we went we watched the ship pass us out in the Strait and moor up to the end of the Tongue. Getting the ponies across the Tongue with its shallow but numerous crevasses and holes was ticklish work, but we tethered them safely off the Terra Nova, which meanwhile was landing dogs, sledges and gear. Then we got some lunch on board. A large lead in the sea-ice to the south of the Tongue necessitated some hours' work in man-hauling all sledges along the back of the Tongue until a way could be found down on to safe ice. We then followed with the ponies. "If a pony falls into one of these holes I shall sit down and cry," said Oates. Within three minutes my pony was wallowing, with only his head and forelegs visible, in a mess of brash and snow, which had concealed a crack in the sea-ice which was obviously not going to remain much longer in its present position. We got lashings round him and hauled him out. Poor Guts! He was fated to drown: but in an hour he appeared to have forgotten all about his mishap, and was pulling his first load towards Hut Point as gallantly as always.
The next day we took further stores from the ship to the camp which had formed. Some of these loads were to be left on the edge of the Barrier when we got there, but for the present we had to relay, that is, take one load forward and come back for another.
On the 26th we sledged back to the ship for our last load, and said good-bye on the sea-ice to those men with whom we had already worked so long, to Campbell and his five companions who were to suffer so much, to cheery Pennell and his ship's company.
Before we left, Scott thanked Pennell and his men "for their splendid work. They have behaved like bricks, and a finer lot of men never sailed in a ship. . . . It was a little sad to say farewell to all these good fellows and Campbell and his men. I do most heartily trust that all will be successful in their ventures, for indeed their unselfishness and their generous high spirit deserve reward. God bless them."
Four of that Depôt party were never to see these men again, and Pennell, Commander of the Queen Mary, went down with his ship in the battle of Jutland.
Two days later, January 28, we sledged our first loads on to the Barrier. By that day we had done nearly ninety miles of relay work, first from the ship at Glacier Tongue to our camp off Hut Point, and then onwards. Those first days of sledging were wonderful! What memories they must have brought to Scott and Wilson when to us, who had never seen them before, these much-discussed landmarks were almost like old friends. As we made our way over the frozen sea every seal-hole was of interest, and every type of wind-swept snow a novelty. The peak of Terror opened out behind the crater of Erebus, and we walked under Castle Rock and Danger Slope until, rounding the promontory, we saw the little jagged Hut Point, and on it the cross placed there to Vince's memory, all unchanged. There was the old Discovery hut and the Bay in which the Discovery lay, and from which she was almost miraculously freed at the last moment, only to be flung upon the shoal which runs out from the Point, where some tins of the old Discovery days lie on the bottom still and glint in the evening sun. And round about the Bay were the Heights of which we had read, Observation Hill, and Crater Hill separated from it by The Gap—through which the wind was streaming; of course it was, for this must be the famous Hut Point wind.
A few hundred more blizzards had swept over it since those days, but it was all just the same, even to Ferrar's little stakes placed across the glacierets to mark their movement, more, even to the footsteps still plainly visible on the slopes.
The ponies were dragging up to 900 lbs. each these days, and though they did not seem to be unduly distressed, two of them soon showed signs of lameness. This caused some anxiety, but the trouble was mended by rest. On the whole, though the surface was hard, I think we were giving them too much weight.
The sea-ice off Hut Point and Observation Hill was already very dangerous, and had we then had the experience and knowledge of sea-ice with which we can now look back, it is probable that we should not have slept so easily upon its surface. Parties travelling to Hut Point and beyond in summer must keep well out from the Point and Cape Armitage. But all haste was being made to transport the necessary stores on to the Barrier surface, where a big home depôt could be made, so far as we could judge, in safety. The pressure ridges in the sea-ice between Cape Armitage and Pram Point, which are formed by the movement of the Barrier, were large, and in some of the hollows countless seals were playing in the water. Judging by the size of these ridges and by the thickness of this ice when it broke up, the ice south of Hut Point was at least two years old.
I well remember the day we took the first of our loads on to the Barrier. I expect we were all a little excited, for to walk upon the Barrier for the first time was indeed an adventure: what kind of surface was it, and how about these beastly crevasses of which we had read so much? Scott was ahead, and so far as we could see there was nothing but the same level of ice all round—when suddenly he was above us, walking up the sloping and quite invisible drift. A minute after and our ponies and sledges were up and over the tide crack, and beneath us soft and yielding snow, very different from the hard wind-swept surface of the frozen sea, which we had just left. Really it was rather prosaic and a tame entrance. But the Barrier is a tricky place, and it takes years to get to know her.
On our outward journey this day Oates did his best to kill a seal. My own tent was promised some kidneys if we were good, and our mouths watered with the prospect of the hoosh before us. The seal had been left for dead, and when on our homeward way we neared the place of his demise Titus went off to carve our dinner from him. The next thing we saw was the seal lolloping straight for his hole, while Oates did his best to stab him. The quarry made off safely not much hurt, for, as we discovered later, a clasp-knife is quite useless to kill a seal. Oates returned with a bad cut, as his hand had slipped down the knife; and it was a long time before he was allowed to forget it.
This Barrier, which we were to know so well, was soft, too soft for the ponies, and apparently flat. Only to our left, some hundreds of yards distant, there were two little snowy mounds. We got out the telescope which we carried, but could make nothing of them. While we held our ponies Scott walked towards them, and soon we saw him brushing away snow and uncovering something dark beneath. They were tents, obviously left by Shackleton or his men when the Nimrod was embarking his Southern party from the Barrier. They were snowed up outside, and iced up inside almost to the caps. Afterwards we dug them out, a good evening's work. The fabric was absolutely rotten, we just tore it down with our hands, but the bamboos and caps were as sound as ever. When we had dug down to the floor-cloth we found everything intact as when it was left. The cooker was there and a primus—Scott lighted it and cooked a meal; we often used it afterwards. And there were Rowntree's cocoa, Bovril, Brand's extract of beef, sheep's tongues, cheese and biscuits—all open to the snow and all quite good. We ate them for several days. There is something impressive in these first meals off food which has been exposed for years.
It was on a Saturday, January 28, that we took our first load a short half-mile on to the Barrier and left it at a place afterwards known as the Fodder Depôt. Two days later we moved our camp 1 mile 1200 yards farther on to the Barrier and here was erected the main depôt, known as Safety Camp. 'Safety' because it was supposed that even if a phenomenal break-up of sea-ice should occur, and take with it part of the Barrier, this place would remain. Subsequent events proved the supposition well founded. This short bit of Barrier sledging gave all of us food for thought, for the surface was appallingly soft, and the poor ponies were sinking deep. It was obvious that no animals could last long under such conditions. But somehow Shackleton had got his four a long way.
There was now no hurry, for there was plenty of food. It was only when we went on from here that we must economize food and travel fast. It was determined to give the ponies a rest while we made the depôt and rearranged sledges, which we did on the following day. We had with us one pair of pony snow-shoes, a circle of wire as a foundation, hooped round with bamboo, and with beckets of the same material. The surface suggested their trial, which was completely successful. The question of snow-shoes had been long and anxiously considered, and shoes for all the ponies were at Cape Evans; but as we had so lately landed from the ship the ponies had not been trained in their use, and they had not been brought.
Scott immediately sent Wilson and Meares with a dog-team to see whether the sea-ice would allow them to reach Cape Evans and bring back shoes for the other ponies. Meanwhile the next morning saw us trying to accustom the animals to wearing snow-shoes by exercising them in the one pair we possessed. But it seemed no use continuing to do this after the dog party came in. They had found the sea-ice gone between Glacier Tongue and Winter Quarters and so were empty-handed. They reported that a crevasse at the edge of the Tongue had opened under the sledge, which had tilted back into the crevasse but had run over it. These Glacier Tongue crevasses are shallow things; Gran fell into one later and walked out of the side of the Tongue on to the sea-ice beyond!
It was determined to start on the following day with five weeks' provisions for men and animals; to go forward for about fourteen days, depôt two weeks' provisions and return. Most unfortunately Atkinson would have to be left behind with Crean to look after him. He had chafed his foot, and the chafe had suppurated. To his great disappointment there was no alternative but to lie up. Luckily we had another tent, and there was the cooker and primus we had dug out of Shackleton's tent. Poor Crean was to spend his spare time in bringing up loads from the Fodder Depôt to Safety Camp and, worse still from his point of view, dig a hole downwards into the Barrier for scientific observations!
We left the following morning, February 2, and marched on a patchy surface for five miles (Camp 4). The temperature was above zero and Scott decided to see whether the surface was not better at night. On the whole, it is problematical whether this is the case—we came to the conclusion later that the ideal surface for pulling a sledge on ski was found at a temperature of about +16°. But there is no doubt whatever that ponies should do their work at night, when the temperature is colder, and rest and sleep when the sun has its greatest altitude and power. And so we camped and turned in to our sleeping-bags at 4 P.M. and marched again soon after midnight, doing five miles before and five miles after lunch: lunch, if you please, being about 1 A.M., and a very good time, for just then the daylight seemed to be thin and bleak and one always felt the cold.
Our road lay eastwards through the Strait, some twenty-five miles in width, which runs between the low, rather uninteresting scarp of White Island to the south, and the beautiful slopes of Erebus and Terror to the north. This part of the Barrier is stagnant, but the main stream in front of us, unchecked by land, flows uninterruptedly northwards towards the Ross Sea. Only where the stream presses against the Bluff, White Island and, most important of all, Cape Crozier, and rubs itself against the nearly stationary ice upon which we were travelling, pressures and rendings take place, forming some nasty crevasses. It was intended to steer nearly east until this line was crossed some distance north of White Island, and then steer due south.
It is most difficult on a large snow surface to say whether it is flat. Certainly there are plenty of big crevasses for several miles in this neighbourhood, though they are generally well covered, and we found only very small ones on this outward journey. I am inclined to think there are also some considerable pressure waves. As we came up to Camp 5 we floundered into a pocket of soft snow in which one pony after another plunged deeper and deeper until they were buried up to their bellies and could move no more. I suppose it was an old crevasse filled with soft snow, or perhaps one of the pressure-ridge hollows which had been recently drifted up. My own pony somehow got through with his sledge to the other side, and every moment I expected the ground to fall below us and a chasm to swallow us up. The others had to be unharnessed and led out. The only set of snow-shoes was then put on to Bowers' big pony and he went back and drew the stranded sledges out. Beyond we pitched our camp.
On February 3–4 we marched for ten miles to Camp 6. In the last five miles we crossed several crevasses, our first; and I heard Oates ask some one what they looked like. "Black as hell," he said, but we saw no more just now, for this march carried us beyond the line of pressure which runs between White Island and Cape Crozier. This halt was called Corner Camp, as we turned here and marched due south. Corner Camp will be heard of again and again in this story: it is thirty miles from Hut Point.
By 4 P.M. it was blowing our first Barrier blizzard. We were to find out afterwards that a Corner Camp blizzard blows nearly as often as a Hut Point wind. The Bluff seems to be the breeding-place for these disturbances, which pour out towards the sea by way of Cape Crozier. Corner Camp is in the direct line between the two.
One summer blizzard is much like another. The temperature, never very low, rises, and you are not cold in the tent. Sometimes a blizzard is a very welcome rest: after weeks of hard pulling, dragging yourself awake each morning, feeling as though you had only just gone to sleep, with the mental strain perhaps which work among crevasses entails, it is most pleasant to be put to bed for two or three days. You may sleep dreamlessly nearly all the time, rousing out for meals, or waking occasionally to hear from the soft warmth of your reindeer bag the deep boom of the tent flapping in the wind, or drowsily you may visit other parts of the world, while the drifting snow purrs against the green tent at your head.
But outside there is raging chaos. It is blowing a full gale: the air is full of falling snow, and the wind drives this along and adds to it the loose snow which is lying on the surface of the Barrier. Fight your way a few steps away from the tent, and it will be gone. Lose your sense of direction and there is nothing to guide you back. Expose your face and hands to the wind, and they will very soon be frost-bitten. And this at midsummer. Imagine the added cold of spring and autumn: the cold and darkness of winter.
The animals suffer most, and during this first blizzard all our ponies were weakened, and two of them became practically useless. It must be remembered that they had stood for five weeks upon a heaving deck; they had been through one very bad gale: the time during which we were unloading the ship was limited, and since that time they had dragged heavy loads the greater part of 200 miles. Nothing was left undone for them which we could manage, but necessarily the Antarctic is a grim place for ponies. I think Scott felt the sufferings of the ponies more than the animals themselves. It was different for the dogs. These fairly warm blizzards were only a rest for them. Snugly curled up in a hole in the snow they allowed themselves to be drifted over. Bieleglas and Vaida, two half brothers who pulled side by side, always insisted upon sharing one hole, and for greater warmth one would lie on the top of the other. At intervals of two hours or so they fraternally changed places.
This blizzard lasted three days.
We now marched nearly due south, the open Barrier in front, Mount Terror and the sea behind, for five days, covering fifty-four miles, when, being now level with the southern extremity of the Bluff, we laid the Bluff Depôt. The bearings of Bluff Depôt, as well as those of Corner Camp, are given in Scott's Last Expedition.
The characteristics of these days were the collapse of two of the ponies, Blücher and Blossom, and the partial collapse of a third, Jimmy Pigg, although the surface hardened, becoming a marbled series of wind-swept ridges and domes in this region. For the rest the new hands were finding out how to keep warm on the Barrier, how to pitch a tent and cook a meal in twenty minutes, and the thousand and one little tips which only experience can teach. But all the care in the world could do little for the poor ponies.
It must be confessed at once that some of these ponies were very poor material, and it must be conceded that Oates who was in charge of them started with a very great handicap. From first to last it was Oates' consummate management, seconded by the care and kindness of the ponies' leaders, which obtained results which often exceeded the most sanguine hopes.
One evening we watched Scott digging crumbly blocks of snow out of the Barrier and building a rough wall, something like a grouse butt, to the south of his pony. In our inmost hearts I fear we viewed these proceedings with distrust, and saw in it but little usefulness,—one little bit of leaky wall in a great plain of snow. But a very little wind (which you must understand comes almost invariably from the south) convinced us from personal experience what a boon these walls could be. Henceforward every night on camping each pony leader built a wall behind his pony while his pemmican was cooking, and came out after supper to finish this wall before he turned in to his sleeping-bag—no small thing when you consider that the warmth of your hours of rest depends largely upon getting into your bag immediately you have eaten your hoosh and cocoa. And not seldom you might hear a voice in your dreams: "Bill! Nobby's kicked his wall down"; and out Bill would go to build it up again.Oates wished to take certain of the ponies as far south as possible on the Depôt journey, and then to kill them and leave the meat there as a depôt of dog food for the Polar Journey. Scott was against this plan. Here at Bluff Depôt he decided to send back the three weakest ponies (Blossom, Blücher and Jimmy Pigg, with their leaders, Lieutenant Evans, Forde and Keohane). They started back the next morning (February 13) while the remainder of the party went forward over a surface which gradually became softer as we left behind the windy region of the Bluff. We now had with us the two teams of dogs, driven by Meares and Wilson, and five ponies.
Scott with 'Nobby.'
Oates with 'Punch.'
Bowers with 'Uncle Bill.'
Gran with 'Weary Willie.'
Cherry-Garrard with 'Guts.'
Scott, Wilson, Meares and myself inhabited one tent, Bowers, Oates and Gran the other. Scott was evolving in his mind means by which ponies should follow one another in a string, the second pony with his leading rein fastened to the back of the sledge of the first and so on, the cavalcade to be managed by two or three men only, instead of one man to lead each pony.
Sunday night (February 12) we started from Bluff Depôt and did seven miles before lunch against a considerable drift and wind. It was pretty cold, and ten minutes after we left our lunch camp with the ponies it was blowing a full blizzard. The dog party had not started, so we camped and slept five in the four-man tent, and it was by no means uncomfortable. Probably this was the time when Scott first thought of taking a five-man party to the Pole. By Monday evening the blizzard was over, the dogs came up, and we did 6½ miles of very heavy going. Gran's pony, Weary Willie, a sluggish and obstinate animal, was far behind, as usual, when we halted our ponies at the camping place. Farther off the dog-teams were coming up. What happened never became clear. Poor Weary, it seems, was in difficulties in a snow-drift: the dogs of one team being very hungry took charge of their sledge and in a moment were on the horse, to all purposes a pack of ravenous wolves. Gran and Weary made a good fight and the dogs were driven off, but Weary came into camp without his sledge, covered with blood and looking very sick.
We halted after doing only ¾ mile more after lunch; for the pony was done, and little wonder. The following day we did 7½ miles with difficulty, both Uncle Bill and Weary Willie going very slowly and stopping frequently. The going was very deep. The ponies were fast giving out, and it was evident that we had much to learn as to their use on the Barrier; they were thin and very hungry; their rations were unsatisfactory; and the autumn temperatures and winds were beyond their strength. We went on one more day in a minus twenty temperature and light airs, and then in latitude 79° 29′ S. it was determined to lay the depôt, which was afterwards known as One Ton, and return. In view of subsequent events it should be realized that this depôt was just a cairn of snow in which were buried food and oil, and over which a flag waved on a bamboo. There is no land visible from One Ton except on a very clear day and it is 130 geographical miles from Hut Point.
We spent a day making up the mound which contained about a ton of provisions, oil, compressed fodder, oats and other necessaries for the forthcoming Polar Journey. Scott was satisfied with the result, and indeed this depôt ensured that we could start southwards for the Pole fully laden from this point.
Here the party was again split into two for the return. Scott was anxious to get such news about the landing of Campbell's party on King Edward VII.'s Land as the ship should have left at Hut Point on her return journey. He decided to take the two dog-teams, the first with himself and Meares, the second with Wilson and myself, and make a quick return, leaving Bowers with Oates and Gran to help him to bring back the five ponies, driving them one behind the other.
The Return of the Pony Party from One Ton Depôt
(From a Letter written by Bowers)
As our loads were so light Titus thought it would be better for the ponies to do their full march in one stretch and so have a longer rest. We, therefore, decided to forgo lunch and have a good meal on camping. The recent trails were fresh enough to follow and so saved us steering by compass, which is very difficult as the needle will only come to rest after you have been standing still for about a minute. That march was extraordinary, the snowy mist hid all distant objects and made all close ones look gigantic. Although we were walking on a flat undulating plain, one could not get away from the impression that the ground was hilly—quite steep in places with deep hollows by the wayside. Suddenly a herd of apparent cattle would appear in the distance, then you would think, 'No, it's a team of dogs broken loose and rushing towards you.' In another moment one would be walking over the black dots of some old horse droppings which had been the cause of the hallucinations. Since then I have often been completely taken in by appearances under certain conditions of light, and the novelty has worn off. Sastrugi are the hard waves formed by wind on a snow surface; these are seldom more than a foot or so in height, and often so obscured as to be imperceptible irregularities. On this occasion they often appeared like immense ridges until you walked over them. After going about 10 miles we spotted a tiny black triangle in the dead white void ahead, it was over a mile away and was the lunch camp of the dogs. We were fairly close before they broke camp and hurriedly packed up. I thought they looked rather sheepish at having been caught up, like the hare and the tortoise again. Still we had been marching very quickly and Scott was delighted to see Weary Willie going so well. They then dashed off, and after completing just over 12 miles we reached Pagoda Cairn where a bale of fodder had been left.
Here we camped and threw up our walls as quickly as possible to shelter the beasts from the cold wind. Weary was the most annoying, he would deliberately back into his wall and knock the whole structure down. In the case of my own pony, I had to put the wall out of his reach as his aim in life was to eat it, generally beginning at the bottom. He would diligently dislodge a block, and bring down the whole fabric. One cannot be angry with the silly beggars—Titus says a horse has practically no reasoning power, the thing to do is simply to throw up another wall and keep on at it.
The weather cleared during the night, and the next day, February 19, we started off under ideal conditions, the sun was already dipping pretty low, marks easy to pick up, and on this occasion we could plainly see a cairn over seven miles away, raised by the mirage; the only trouble about seeing things so far off is that they take such an awful time to reach. Mirage is a great feature down here and one of the most common of optical phenomena on the Barrier; it is often difficult to persuade oneself that open water does not lie ahead. We passed the scene of Weary Willie's fight with the dogs during the march and also had an amusing argument as to a dark object on the snow ahead. At first we thought it was the dog camp again, but it turned out to be an empty biscuit tin, such is the deceptive nature of the light. Later we sighted our old blizzard camp and decided to utilize the walls again. Weary Willie was decidedly worse and had to be literally jumped along by the pony to which he was attached. Within half a mile of the walls Weary refused to go farther, and after wasting some time in vain efforts to urge him on we had to camp where we were, having only done 10½ miles. This was very sad, but I took hope from the fact that Titus, who is usually pretty pessimistic, had not yet given up hopes of getting him back alive. He had an extra whack of oats at the expense of the other ponies, and my big beast made up for his shortage by hauling the sledge towards him with his tethered leg, and forcing his nose into our precious biscuit tank, out of which he helped himself liberally at our expense. The sledges were now too light to anchor the animals, so we had to peg them down with anything we could and bank them up with snow.
Weary was better the next day (February 20) but we decided at the outset to go no farther than the Bluff Camp where we had left some fodder. This was barely 10 miles off, yet my old animal showed signs of lassitude before the end; there was nothing alarming, however, and we saw the depôt over five miles off which interested the beasts, who see these things and somehow connect them, in the backs of their silly old heads, with food and rest. Weary Willie made a decided improvement, so we camped in high spirits. Captain Scott had asked me if possible to take some theodolite observations for the determination of the position of Bluff Camp. Ours is much farther off and farther beyond the Bluff than the old Discovery Depôt A, which was practically the same position Shackleton used. In both cases, Scott and Shackleton were keeping nearer the coast; now, however, that the Beardmore has been discovered we can aim straight for that, which takes one farther east by at least 15 miles off the Bluff. This is rather an advantage, I think, as close in to this remarkable headland the onward movement of the Barrier arrested by the immovable hills causes a terrific chaos of crevasses off the cliffs at the end. These extend many miles and include some chasms big enough to take the Terra Nova all standing. Needless to remark, one is well clear of this sort of scenery with ponies—hence our course. I was unable to get any observations, unfortunately, as it clouded over almost at once and later in the day started to snow without wind. This often happens before a bliz, and as we were anxious about the ponies to say nothing of our own shortage of biscuit we felt a trifle apprehensive. It was very gloomy when we left camp at midnight, as the midnight sun was already cartwheeling the southern horizon, the first sign of autumn, also the season had undoubtedly broken up, and the sky was covered with low stratus clouds as thick as a hedge. We lost sight of the cairn almost at once and followed the remains of old tracks for a little while till the snowy gloom made it impossible to see them. You will remember that it was at the Bluff Camp that Teddy Evans returned with the three weak ponies, so there were plenty of traces of our march now. Just on four miles from the start I saw a small mound some distance to the west, and struck over there: it was a small cairn without the signs of a camp and rather puzzled me at the time. As I shall mention it later I will call it X for convenience. We then pushed on and I found steering most difficult. In the fuzzy nothingness ahead one could see no point on which to fix the eye, and the compass required standing still to look at it every time. Our sledging compasses are spirit ones, and as steady as a small hand compass could possibly be. You will understand, however, that owing to the proximity of the Magnetic Pole the pull on the needle is chiefly downwards. It is forced into a horizontal position by a balancing weight on the N. side, so it is obvious that its direction power is greatly reduced. On the ship, owing to the vibration of the engines and the motors, we were absolutely unable to steer by the compass at all when off the region of the Magnetic Pole.
On this occasion (February 21) we zig-zagged all over the place—first I went ahead, and Oates said I zig-zagged, then he went ahead, and I understood at once, as it was impossible to walk straight for two consecutive minutes. However, we plodded along with frequent stoppages till the wind came away, and then having determined the direction of that, steered by keeping the snow on our backs. The wind was not strong enough to be unpleasant, and all was well. We legged it into the void for nearly seven miles beyond X Cairn when I suddenly found myself only a few yards away from another cairn. This shows that somehow, without the use of tracks or landmarks, we had marched seven miles without being able to see thirty yards, and had yet hit off the direct track to a T; of course, it was only coincidence, though some people might credit themselves with superlative navigating powers on such evidence. The wind increased, and with the knowledge I now have of blizzards I would camp at once. Then I thought it better to shove on, as the ponies were marching splendidly. The danger lay in the fact that though it is easy enough for you to march with the wind behind, you can't march for ever and you will probably get tired before the wind does. Camping in a stiff breeze is always difficult, to say nothing of a gale; and for three men with five ponies to manage would be wellnigh impossible. Fortunately for us this was not really a blizzard, though it was quite near enough to one. The sky broke later and showed the Bluff and White Island, and then the scurrying clouds of drift would encircle us to break again and come on again.
After having done seventeen miles we got a lull and stopped to camp right away. We were pretty quick about it, and fortunately got the ponies picketed, and tent pitched, before the wind came down on us again. We were pretty hungry by the time the walls were erected. Still we were quite happy, ate everything we could get, except the three lumps of sugar I always kept for old Uncle Bill out of my whack. The little blow blew itself out towards evening and in perfect calm and sunshine I got a splendid set of observations. Erebus and Terror were showing up as clear as a bell and I got a large number of angles for Evans' survey. We started out as usual, and had the most pleasant, as well as the longest, of our return marches on the last day of summer, February 22. We did eighteen miles right off the reel, the sun was brilliant from midnight onwards. He now half immersed himself below the horizon for a short interval once in 24 hours. All old cairns were visible a tremendous distance, six or seven miles at least for big ones. Mount Terror lay straight ahead and looked so clear that it seemed impossible to imagine it 70 miles away. At the end of our march we saw a small cairn beyond our 8th outward camp mound. Nobody would have rigged up another cairn so close without an object, so the thought of a dead horse flashed through my mind at once. Titus was so sure that Blücher would never get back, that he had bet Gran a biscuit on it. I saw the cairn had a fodder bale on the top, and later saw a note made fast to the wire. It was in Teddy Evans' handwriting and to our surprise recorded Blossom's death. Titus was so sure that Blossom would survive Blücher that we started to think back and thus the mystery of X Cairn was clear to me. I was quite certain now that both the ancient ponies had died and that Jimmy Pigg had returned alone. The following day (February 23) was a good marching day also, but a bit cloudy latterly. We did fourteen miles as this evidence of pony failure made us all the more anxious about ours, though really they were going very well. About eight miles on we came to one of Evans' camps and the solitary pony wall told its own tale of the death of the other two. He must have had a miserable return. At eleven miles there were two bales of fodder depôted, we were only 50 miles odd from our destination off Cape Armitage, and had one meal over three days' food. If, therefore, we could average 15 miles a day that would suffice. It was a silly risk in view of blizzards and other possibilities, chiefly our own inexperience. As it was I took it and left the fodder there for next year.
February 24 was another march into impenetrable gloom. Fortunately Corner Camp, though dark enough, was not shaded in mist. I examined it for notes and evidence and found some. The sun set properly now, and had we been farther from home I should have changed to day marching. I have seldom seen such a scene of utter desolation as Corner Camp presented on that gloomy day. The fog then settled down and like people of the mist, we struck off blindly to the N.W. At 3.15 A.M. a light S. breeze came away; I dreaded a blizzard with so little pony food, and already regretted my folly in leaving the fodder. After doing twelve miles we had to camp, as it was impossible even to march straight in the white haze. We made five colossal walls and turned in, hoping for the best. Fortune favours the reckless, as well as the brave, at times, and it did this time, as the blizzard still held off. The signs of one impending were unmistakable notwithstanding. Weary Willie did less well on February 25, and as the surface became heavier, we had to camp after only doing eleven miles.
I thought best in view of the threatening appearance of the weather to have a six hours' rest, and march into Safety Camp the same day, a distance of eight miles. We found to our horror that Gran had dropped the top cap of our primus at the last camp. Cold food stared us in the face!
However, we did manage to melt some snow for a cheering drink by cutting a piece of tin as near the shape of the cap as possible. Our biscuit was finished owing to the ravages of my pony. Before turning in I saw some specks to the N. and skipping my theodolite on its tripod, looked through the telescope and saw two tents and a number of ski stuck up. [This was Scott's man-hauling party together with Jimmy Pigg, going out to Corner Camp.] This we concluded was either a man-hauling, or man and beast party bound for Corner Camp. We overslept and so did not get away till the afternoon. It was still very cloudy and threatening. I found that I had steered considerably to the southward of the right direction in the fog, and it is lucky we met with no crevasses off White Island. Safety Camp at last appeared, and the last four miles seemed interminable. We had given the animals their last feed before starting, not a particle remained, but they stuck it. The surface was very heavy. Once, however, that they had seen the camp they never stopped. I suppose they knew they were nearly home. We marched in about 9.30 P.M. I said 'Thank God' when I looked at the weather, and the empty sledges. The dogs were in camp, also the dome tent [we had some tents shaped like a dome in addition to those we used for sledging], out of which Uncle Bill (the real 'Uncle Bill Wilson') and Meares emerged. We soon had the ponies behind walls and well fed, borrowed their primus for ourselves, and had a square meal of pemmican and biscuit with fids of seal liver in it.
(End of Bowers' Account.)
The Return of the Dog Party
The history of the dog-teams was eventful. We travelled fast, doing nearly 78 miles in the first three days, by which time we were approaching Corner Camp. The dogs were thin and hungry and we were pushing them each day just so long as they could pull, running ourselves for the most part. Scott determined to cut the corner, that is to miss Corner Camp and cut diagonally across our outward track. It was not expected that this would bring us across any badly crevassed area.
We started on the evening of February 20 in a very bad light. It was coldish, with no wind. After going about three miles I saw a drop in the level of the Barrier which the sledge was just going to run over. I shouted to Wilson to look out, but he had already jumped on to the sledge (for he was running) having seen Stareek put his paws through. It was a nasty crevasse, about twenty feet across with blue holes on both sides. The sledge ran over and immediately on the opposite side was brought up by a large 'haystack' of pressure which we had not seen owing to the light. Meares' team, on our left, never saw any sign of pressure. The light was so bad that we never saw this cairn of ice until we ran into it.
We ran level for another two miles, Meares and Scott on our left. We were evidently crossing many crevasses. Quite suddenly we saw the dogs of their team disappearing, following one another, just like dogs going down a hole after some animal.
"In a moment," wrote Scott, "the whole team were sinking—two by two we lost sight of them, each pair struggling for foothold. Osman the leader exerted all his strength and kept a foothold—it was wonderful to see him. The sledge stopped and we leapt aside. The situation was clear in another moment. We had been actually travelling along the bridge [or snow covering] of a crevasse, the sledge had stopped on it, whilst the dogs hung in their harness in the abyss, suspended between the sledge and the leading dog. Why the sledge and ourselves didn't follow the dogs we shall never know."
We of the other sledge stopped hurriedly, tethered our team and went to their assistance with the Alpine rope. Osman, the big leader, was in great difficulties. He crouched resisting with all his enormous strength the pull of the rope upon which the team hung in their harness in mid air. It was clear that if Osman gave way the sledge and dogs would probably all be lost down the crevasse.
First we pulled the sledge off the crevasse, and drove the tethering peg and driving stick through the cross pieces to hold it firm. Scott and Meares then tried to pull up the rope from Osman's end, while we hung on to the sledge to prevent it slipping down the crevasse. They could not move it an inch. We then put the strain as much as possible on to a peg. Meanwhile two dogs had fallen out of their harness into the crevasse and could be seen lying on a snow-ledge some 65 feet down. Later they curled up and went to sleep. Another dog as he hung managed to get some purchase for his feet on the side of the crevasse, and a free fight took place among several more of them, as they dangled, those that hung highest using the backs of those under them to get a purchase.
"It takes one a little time," wrote Scott, "to make plans under such sudden circumstances, and for some minutes our efforts were rather futile. We could not get an inch on the main trace of the sledge or on the leading rope, which was binding Osman to the snow with a throttling pressure. Then thought became clearer. We unloaded our sledge, putting in safety our sleeping-bags with the tent and cooker. Choking sounds from Osman made it clear that the pressure on him must soon be relieved. I seized the lashing off Meares' sleeping-bag, passed the tent poles across the crevasse, and with Meares managed to get a few inches on the leading line; this freed Osman, whose harness was immediately cut.
"Then securing the Alpine rope to the main trace we tried to haul up together. One dog came up and was unlashed, but by this time the rope had cut so far back at the edge that it was useless to attempt to get more of it. But we could now unbend the sledge, and do that for which we should have aimed from the first, namely, run the sledge across the gap and work from it. We managed to do this, our fingers constantly numbed. Wilson held on to the anchored trace whilst the rest of us laboured at the leader end. The leading rope was very small and I was fearful of its breaking, so Meares was lowered down a foot or two to secure the Alpine rope to the leading end of the trace; this done, the work of rescue proceeded in better order. Two by two we hauled the animals up to the sledge and one by one cut them out of their harness. Strangely the last dogs were the most difficult, as they were close under the lip of the gap, bound in by the snow-covered rope. Finally, with a gasp we got the last poor creature on to firm snow. We had recovered eleven of the thirteen."
The dogs had been dangling for over an hour, and some of them showed signs of internal injuries. Meanwhile the two remaining dogs were lying down the crevasse on a snow-ledge. Scott proposed going down on the Alpine rope to get them; all his instincts of kindness were aroused, as well as the thought of the loss of two of the team. Wilson thought it was a mad idea and very dangerous, and said so, asking however whether he might not go down instead of Scott if anybody had to go. Scott insisted, and we paid down the 90-foot Alpine rope to test the distance. The ledge was about 65 feet below. We lowered Scott, who stood on the ledge while we hauled up the two dogs in turn. They were glad to see him, and little wonder!
But the rescued dogs which were necessarily running about loose on the Barrier, in their mangled harnesses, chose this moment to start a free fight with the other team. With a hurried shout down the crevasse we had to rush off to separate them. Nougis I. had been considerably mauled before this was done—also, incidentally, my heel! But at last we separated them, and hauled Scott to the surface. It was all three of us could do and our fingers were frost-bitten towards the end.
Scott's interest in the incident, apart from the recovery of the dogs, was scientific. Since we were running across the line of cleavage when the dogs went down, it was to be expected that we should be crossing the crevasses at right angles, and not be travelling, as actually happened, parallel to, or along them. While we were getting him up the sixty odd feet to which we had lowered him he kept muttering: "I wonder why this is running the way it is—you expect to find them at right angles," and when down the crevasse he wanted to go off exploring, but we managed to persuade him that the snow-ledge upon which he was standing was utterly unsafe, and indeed we could see the nothingness below through the blue holes in the shelf. Another regret was that we had no thermometer: the temperature of the inside of the Barrier is of great interest and a fairly reliable record of the average temperature throughout the year might have been obtained when so far down into it. Altogether we could congratulate ourselves on a fortunate ending to a nasty business. We expected several more miles of crevasses, and the wind was getting up, driving the surface drift like smoke over the ground, with a very black sky to the south. We pitched the tent, had a good meal and mended the dog harness which had been ruthlessly cut in clearing the dogs. Luckily we found no more crevasses for it was now blowing hard, and rescue work would have been difficult, and we pushed on as far as possible that night, doing eleven miles after lunch, and sixteen for the day. It had been strenuous, for we had been working in or over the crevasse for 2½ hours, and dogs and men were tired out. It cleared and became quite warm as we camped. There was a pleasant air of friendship in the tent that night, rather more than usual. That is generally the result of this kind of business.
We reached Safety Camp next day (February 22) anxious for news of the ship's doings, the landing of Campbell's party, and of the ponies which had been sent back from the Bluff Depôt. Lieutenant Evans, Forde and Keohane, the pony leaders, were there, but only one pony. The other two had died of exhaustion soon after they left us and we had passed the cairns which marked their graves without knowledge. Their story was grim, and they had had a mournful journey back. First Blossom, and then Blücher collapsed, their ends being hastened by the blizzard of February 1.
This crevasse incident, followed by the news of the loss of the ponies, was a blow to Scott, and his mind was also uneasy about Atkinson and Crean, whom we had left here, and who had disappeared leaving no record. Nor was the report from the Terra Nova here, so we judged that the missing men and the report must be at Hut Point. After three or four hours' sleep, and a cup of tea and a biscuit, we started man-hauling with cooker and sleeping-bags: the former because we were to have our good meal at the hut, the latter in case we were hung up. Travelling over the sea-ice as far as the Gap, from which we saw that the open sea reached to Hut Point, we made our way into the hut, and there was a mystery. The accumulations of ice which we found in it were dug away: there was a notice outside dated February 8 saying, "mail for Captain Scott is in bag inside south door." We hunted everywhere, but there was no Atkinson nor Crean, nor mail, nor the things which the ship was to have brought. All kinds of wild theories were advanced. By the presence of a fresh onion and some bread it was clear that the ship's party had been there, but the rest was utterly vague. It was then suggested that we were expected back about this time, and that the missing men had been sledging to Safety Camp round Cape Armitage on the very shaky sea-ice while we passed them as we came through the Gap. Sledge tracks were found leading on to the sea-ice: we started back in doubt. Scott was terribly anxious, we were all tired, and the depôt never seemed to come nearer. It was not until we were some two hundred yards from it that we saw the extra tent. "Thank God!" I heard Scott mutter under his breath, and "I believe you were even more anxious than I was, Bill."
Atkinson had the ship's mail, signed by Campbell. "Every incident of the day," Scott wrote, "pales before the startling contents of the mail-bag which Atkinson gave me—a letter from Campbell setting out his doings and the finding of Amundsen established in the Bay of Whales."Strongly as Scott tries to word this, it quite fails to convey how he felt, and how we all felt more or less, in spite of the warning conveyed in the telegram from Madeira to Melbourne. For an hour or so we were furiously angry, and were possessed with an insane sense that we must go straight to the Bay of Whales and have it out with Amundsen and his men in some undefined fashion or other there and then. Such a mood could not and did not bear a moment's reflection; but it was natural enough. We had just paid the first instalment of the heart-breaking labour of making a path to the Pole; and we felt, however unreasonably, that we had earned the first right of way. Our sense of co-operation and solidarity had been wrought up to an extraordinary pitch; and we had so completely forgotten the spirit of competition that its sudden intrusion jarred frightfully. I do not defend our burst of rage—for such it was—I simply record it as an integral human part of my narrative. It passed harmlessly; and Scott's account proceeds as follows:
"One thing only fixes itself definitely in my mind. The proper, as well as the wiser, course for us is to proceed exactly as though this had not happened. To go forward and do our best for the honour of the country without fear or panic. There is no doubt that Amundsen's plan is a very serious menace to ours. He has a shorter distance to the Pole by 60 miles—I never thought he could have got so many dogs safely to the ice. His plan of running them seems excellent. But, above and beyond all, he can start his journey early in the season—an impossible condition with ponies."
We read that on leaving McMurdo Sound the Terra Nova coasted eastward along the Barrier face, with Campbell and his men who were to be landed on King Edward VII.'s Land if possible. She surveyed the face of the Barrier as she went from Cape Crozier to longitude 170° W., whence she shaped a course direct for Cape Colbeck, which Priestley states in his diary "is only 200 feet high according to our measurement and looks uncommonly like common or garden Barrier."
Here they met heavy pack, and were forced to return without finding any place where the cliff was low enough to allow Campbell and his five men to land. They coasted back, making for an inlet known as Balloon Bight. Priestley tells the story:
"February 1, 1911. Our trip has not been without outcome after all, and all our doubts about wintering here or in South Victoria Land have been settled in a startling fashion. About ten o'clock we steamed into a deep bay in the Barrier which proved to be Shackleton's Bay of Whales, and our observations in the last expedition [Shackleton's] have been wonderfully upheld. Our present sights and angles Pennell tells me are almost a duplicate of those that we got. Every one has always been doubtful about the Bay of Whales we reported, but now the matter has been set at rest finally. There is no doubt now that Balloon Bight and the neighbouring bay marked on the Discovery's chart have become merged into one, and further, that since that period the resulting bight has broken back considerably more: indeed it seems to have altered a good deal on its western border since our visit to it in 1908. Otherwise it is the same, the same deceptive caves and shadows having from a distance the appearance of rock exposures, the same pressure-ridged cliffs, the same undulations behind, the same expanse of sea-ice and even the same crowds of whales. I hope that before we leave we shall find it possible to survey the bight, but that depends on the weather. It was satisfactory to find all our observations coming right and everybody backing up Shackleton, and I turned in last night feeling quite cheerful and believing that there would be a really good chance of the Eastern Party finding a home on the Barrier here—our last chance of surveying King Edward's Land.
"However, man proposes but God disposes, and I was waked up by Lillie at one o'clock this morning by the astounding news that there was a ship in the bay at anchor to the sea-ice. All was confusion on board for a few minutes, everybody rushing up on deck with cameras and clothes.
"It was no false alarm, there she was within a few yards of us, and what is more, those of us who had read Nansen's books recognized the Fram.
"She is rigged with fore and aft sails and as she has petrol engines she has no funnel. Soon afterwards the men forward declared that they sighted a hut on the Barrier, and the more excited declared that there was a party coming out to meet us. Campbell, Levick, and myself were therefore lowered over the side of the ship while she was being made fast, and set off on ski towards the dark spot we could see. This proved to be only an abandoned depôt and we returned to the ship, where Campbell, who in his anxiety to be the first to meet them had left us beginners far behind, had opened up conversation with the night watchman.
"He informed us that there were only three men on board and that the remainder of them were settling Amundsen in winter quarters about as far from the depôt as the depôt was from the ship. Amundsen is coming to visit the Fram to-morrow, and we are staying long enough to allow Pennell and Campbell to interview him. They reached the pack about January 6 and were through it by the 12th, so they did not have as bad a time as we did. They inform us that Amundsen does not intend to make his descent on the Pole until next year. This is encouraging as it means a fair race for the next summer, though the news we are bringing to them will keep the Western [Main] Party on tenterhooks of excitement all the winter.
"Our plans have of course been decided for us. We cannot according to etiquette trench on their winter quarters, but must return to McMurdo Sound and then go off towards Robertson Bay and settle ourselves as best we can. While we are waiting events we have not been by any means idle. Rennick got a sounding, 180 fathoms, and the crew have killed three seals, including one beautiful silver crab-eater, Lillie has secured water samples at 50, 100, 150, and 170 fathoms and has had a haul with the plankton net, and Williams is endeavouring to fit up the trawl for a haul to-morrow if we get time and appropriate weather. I got a roll of films and gave the roll to Drake to take home and get developed in Christchurch. There are photographs of the Fram, of the Fram and Terra Nova together, of their depôt, and of the ice-cliffs and the sea-ice which is decidedly overcut, the thick snow having been removed in places by the swell until a ledge several yards wide is lying just submerged.
"It has been calm all the night with the snow falling at intervals.
"February 4, 1911. I was waked at seven o'clock this morning by Levick demanding the loan of my camera. It appears that Amundsen, Johansen and six men had arrived at the Fram this morning at about 6.30 A.M., and had come over to interview Campbell and Pennell. Campbell, Pennell and Levick then went back to breakfast with them and stayed until nearly noon when they returned telling us to expect Amundsen, Nilsen, the first lieutenant of the Fram who is taking her back after landing the party, and a young lieutenant whose name none of us caught, to lunch. After lunch a party of officers and men went to see the rest of the Norwegians, see over the ship, and say good-bye. I did not go and was able to show Lieut. Jensen over the ship in the meantime. About three o'clock we let go the ice anchor and parted from the Fram, steaming along the ice very slowly in order to dredge from 190 to 300 fathoms. The haul was successful, about two bucketsful of the muddy bottom being secured, and a still more valuable catch from the biological point of view were two long crinoids, about a couple of feet in length and in fairly perfect condition, which had become attached to the outside of the net.
"We are now standing along the Barrier continuing our survey to the bight we first struck, after which we sail to Cape Evans, stay a day there and then make up North to try and effect a lodgment on the coast beyond Cape Adare.
"During the morning Browning and I examined the ice-face forming the eastern face of the bight. We found it to be made of clear ice of grain from a quarter to three-eighths of an inch in size and full of bubbles.
"On the way there I took a couple of photographs of some of Amundsen's dogs, and when we were there I got a few of crevasses and caves in the Barrier face.
"Well! we have left the Norwegians and our thoughts are full, too full, of them at present. The impression they have left with me is that of a set of men of distinctive personality, hard, and evidently inured to hardship, good goers and pleasant and good-humoured. All these qualities combine to make them very dangerous rivals, but even did one want not to, one cannot help liking them individually in spite of the rivalry.
"One thing I have particularly noticed is the way in which they are refraining from getting information from us which might be useful to them. We have news which will make the Western Party as uneasy as ourselves and the world will watch with interest a race for the Pole next year, a race which may go any way, and may be decided by luck or by dogged energy and perseverance on either side.
"The Norwegians are in dangerous winter quarters, for the ice is breaking out rapidly from the Bay of Whales which they believe to be Borchgrevink's Bight, and they are camped directly in front of a distinct line of weakness. On the other hand if they get through the winter safely (and they are aware of their danger), they have unlimited dogs, the energy of a nation as northern as ourselves, and experience with snow-travelling that could be beaten by no collection of men in the world.
"There remains the Beardmore Glacier. Can their dogs face it, and if so, who will get there first. One thing I feel and that is that our Southern Party will go far before they permit themselves to be beaten by any one, and I think that two parties are very likely to reach the Pole next year, but God only knows which will get there first.
"A few of the things we learnt about the Norwegians are as follows:
"The engines of the Fram occupy only half the size of our wardroom, the petrol tanks have not needed replenishment since they left Norway, and their propeller can be lifted by three men. They kept fresh potatoes from Norway to the Barrier. (Some of them must surely be renegade Irishmen.) They have each a separate cabin 'tween-decks in the Fram, and are very comfortable. They are using for transporting their stores to the hut, eight teams of five dogs each, working every alternate day.
"They intend to use for the Polar Journey teams of ten dogs, each team working one day out of two. Their dogs stop at a whistle, and if they make a break they can be stopped by overturning the sledge, empty or full as the case may be. They are nine in the shore party and ten in the ship. Their ship is going back to Buenos Ayres with Nilsen in charge and during the winter is to encircle the world, sounding all the way.
"They are not starting on the dash South this year and do not yet know whether they will lay depôts this year. They have 116 dogs and ten of these are bitches, so that they can rear pups, and have done so very successfully on the way out. The Fram acts like a cork in the sea; she rolls tremendously but does not ship water, and during the voyage they have had the dogs running loose about the decks. There is a lot more miscellaneous information, but I may remember it more coherently a little later when the main impressions of the rencontre are a little more faint."
It will be seen that Priestley missed three points. First, he was left with a conventional but very erroneous impression of Amundsen as a blunt Norwegian sailor, not in the least an intellectual. Second, he thought Amundsen had camped on the ice and not on terra firma. Third, he thought Amundsen was going to the Pole by the old route over the Beardmore. The truth was that Amundsen was an explorer of the markedly intellectual type, rather Jewish than Scandinavian, who had proved his sagacity by discovering solid footing for the winter by pure judgment. For the moment, let it be confessed, we all underrated Amundsen, and could not shake off the feeling that he had stolen a march on us.
Back to McMurdo Sound, and the news left at Hut Point. Then the two ponies which had been allotted to Campbell were swum ashore at Cape Evans, since he thought that now they would be of more use to Scott than to himself. Subsequent events proved the extreme usefulness of this unselfish act. The Terra Nova would steam north and try and land Campbell's party on the extreme northern shores of Queen Victoria Land. At the same time there was so little coal left that it might be necessary to go straight back to New Zealand. Campbell regretted not being able to see Scott, supposing that the altered circumstances caused Scott to wish to rearrange his parties, and also because Amundsen had asked Campbell to land his party at the Bay of Whales, giving him the area to the east to explore, and Campbell did not wish to accept before getting Scott's permission.
As we know now coal ran so short that it came to an alternative of dumping Campbell, his men and gear hastily on the beach at Cape Adare, or taking them back to New Zealand. As one member of the crew said: "Exploring is all very well in its way, but it is a thing which can be very easily overdone." The ship was as ready to get rid of them as they were to get rid of the ship. They were landed, working to their waists in the surf, and the ship got safely back to New Zealand.
Scott decided that the period of waiting until the pony party arrived from One Ton should be employed in sledging stores out to Corner Camp. But the dog-teams were done, "the dogs are thin as rakes; they are ravenous and very tired. I feel this should not be, and that it is evident that they are underfed. The ration must be increased next year and we must have some properly-thought-out diet. The biscuit alone is not good enough." In addition, several dogs were feeling the effects of injuries due to the crevasse incident. There remained the men and the one pony which had survived out of the three sent back from Bluff Depôt, namely Jimmy Pigg.
The party started on Friday, February 24, marching by day. It consisted of Scott, Crean and myself with one sledge and tent, Lieutenant Evans, Atkinson and Forde with a second sledge and tent, and Keohane leading James Pigg. On the second night out we saw the pony party pass us in the distance on their way to Safety Camp. At Corner Camp Scott decided to leave Lieutenant Evans' party to come in with the pony more slowly, and himself to push on with Crean and myself at top speed for Safety Camp. We made a forced march well into the night, doing twenty-six miles for the day, and camped some ten miles from Safety Camp, where the pony party must by this time have arrived.
The events which followed were disastrous, and the steps which led to a catastrophe which entailed the loss of much of our best transport, and only by a miracle did not lead to the loss of several lives, were complicated. At this moment, the night of February 26, there were three parties on the Barrier. Behind Scott was Lieutenant Evans' party and the pony, James Pigg. Scott himself was camped within easy marching distance of Safety Camp with Crean and myself. At Safety Camp were the two dog-teams with Wilson and Meares, while the pony party from One Ton Depôt had just arrived with five ponies which were for the most part thin, hungry and worn. Between Safety Camp and Hut Point lay the frozen sea, which might or might not break up this year, but we knew from our observations a few days before that the ice was in a shaky condition. At that time the ice sheet extended some seven miles to the north of Hut Point. The season was fast closing in: temperatures of fifty or sixty degrees of frost had been common for the last fortnight, and this was bad for the ponies. We had been unfortunate in having several severe blizzards, and it was already clear that it was these autumn blizzards more than cold temperatures and soft surfaces which the ponies could not endure. Scott was most anxious to get the animals into such shelter as we could make for them at Hut Point.
The next morning, February 27, we woke to a regular cold autumn blizzard—very thick, wind force 9 and temperature about minus twenty. This was disheartening, and indeed with our six worn ponies still on the Barrier the outlook for them was discouraging. The blizzard came to an end the next morning. Scott must take up the first part of that day's story:
"Packed up at 6 A.M. and marched into Safety Camp. Found every one very cold and depressed. Wilson and Meares had had continuous bad weather since we left, Bowers and Oates since their arrival. The blizzard had raged for two days. The animals looked in a sorry condition, but all were alive. The wind blew keen and cold from the east. There could be no advantage in waiting here, and soon all arrangements were made for a general shift to Hut Point. Packing took a long time. The snowfall had been prodigious, and parts of the sledges were 3 or 4 feet under drift. About 4 o'clock the two dog-teams got safely away. Then the pony party prepared to go. As the cloths were stript from the ponies the ravages of the blizzard became evident. The animals, without exception, were terribly emaciated, and Weary Willie was in a pitiable condition.
"The plan was for the ponies to follow the dog tracks, our small party to start last and get in front of the ponies on the sea-ice. I was very anxious about the sea-ice passage owing to the spread of the water holes."
The two dog-teams left with Meares and Wilson some time before the ponies, and for the moment they go out of this story.
Bowers' pony, Uncle Bill, was ready first, and he started with him. We got three more ponies harnessed, Punch, Nobby and Guts, and tried to harness Weary Willie, but when we attempted to lead him forward he immediately fell down.
Scott rapidly reorganized. He sent Crean and me forward with the three better ponies to join Bowers, now waiting a mile ahead. Oates and Gran he kept with himself, to try and help the sick pony. His diary tells how "we made desperate efforts to save the poor creature, got him once more on his legs, gave him a hot oat mash. Then, after a wait of an hour, Oates led him off, and we packed the sledge and followed on ski; 500 yards from the camp the poor creature fell again and I felt it was the last effort. We camped, built a snow wall round him, and did all we possibly could to get him on his feet. Every effort was fruitless, though the poor thing made pitiful struggles. Towards midnight we propped him up as comfortably as we could and went to bed.
"Wednesday, March 1. A.M. Our pony died in the night. It is hard to have got him back so far only for this. It is clear that these blizzards are terrible for the poor animals. Their coats are not good, but even with the best of coats it is certain they would lose condition badly if caught in one, and we cannot afford to lose condition at the beginning of a journey. It makes a late start necessary for next year.
"Well, we have done our best and bought our experience at a heavy cost. Now every effort must be bent on saving the remaining animals."
A letter from Bowers home, which certainly does not overstate the adventures of himself and the two men sent forward to join him, is probably the best description of the incidents which followed. It will be remembered that Crean and I with three ponies were sent from Safety Camp to join him: he was already leading one pony. Night was beginning to fall, and the light was bad, but from the edge of the Barrier the two dog-teams could still be seen as black dots in the distance towards Cape Armitage.
"On the night of February 28 I led off with my pony and was surprised at the delay in the others leaving—knowing nothing of Weary's collapse. Over the edge of the Barrier I went, and at the bottom of the snow incline awaited the others. To my surprise Cherry and Crean appeared with Punch, Nobby and Guts in a string, and then I heard the reason for Oates and Scott not having come on. My orders were to push on to Hut Point over the sea-ice without delay, and to follow the dogs; previously I had been told to camp on the sea-ice only in case of the beasts being unable to go on. We had four pretty heavy sledges, as we were taking six weeks' man food and oil to the hut, as well as a lot of gear from the depôt, and pony food, etc. Unfortunately the dogs misunderstood their orders and, instead of piloting us, dashed off on their own. We saw them like specks in the distance in the direction of the old seal crack. Having crossed this they wheeled to the right in the direction of Cape Armitage and disappeared into a black indefinite mist, which seemed to pervade everything in that direction. We heard afterwards that in a mile or two they came to some alarming signs and, turning, made for the Gap where they got up on to the land about midnight.
"I plugged on in their tracks, till we came to the seal crack which was an old pressure-ridge running many miles S.W. from Pram Point. We considered the ice behind this crack—over which we had just come—fast ice; it was older ice than that beyond, as it had undoubtedly frozen over first. Having crossed the crack we streaked on for Cape Armitage. The animals were going badly, owing to the effects of the blizzard, and frequent stoppages were necessary. On coming to some shaky ice we headed farther west as there were always some bad places off the cape, and I thought it better to make a good circuit. Crean, who had been over the ice recently, told me it was all right farther round. However, about a mile farther on I began to have misgivings; the cracks became too frequent to be pleasant, and although the ice was from five to ten feet thick, one does not like to see water squelching between them, as we did later. It spells motion, and motion on sea-ice means breakage. I shoved on in the hope of getting on better ice round the cape, but at last came a moving crack, and that decided me to turn back. We could see nothing owing to the black mist, everything looked solid as ever, but I knew enough to mistrust moving ice, however solid it seemed. It was a beastly march back: dark, gloomy and depressing. The beasts got more and more down in their spirits and stopped so frequently that I thought we would never reach the seal crack. I said to Cherry, however, that I would take no risks, and camp well over the other side on the old sound ice if we could get there. This we managed to do eventually. Here there was soft snow, whereas on the sea side of the crack it was hard: that is the reason we lost the dogs' tracks at once on crossing. Even over this crack I thought it best to march as far in as possible. We got well into the bay, as far as our exhausted ponies would drag, before I camped and threw up the walls, fed the beasts, and retired to feed ourselves. We had only the primus with the missing cap and it took over 1½ hours to heat up the water; however, we had a cup of pemmican. It was very dark, and I mistook a small bag of curry powder for the cocoa bag, and made cocoa with that, mixed with sugar; Crean drank his right down before discovering anything was wrong. It was 2 P.M. before we were ready to turn in. I went out and saw everything quiet: the mist still hung to the west, but you could see a good mile and all was still. The sky was very dark over the Strait though, the unmistakable sign of open water. I turned in. Two and a half hours later I awoke, hearing a noise. Both my companions were snoring, I thought it was that and was on the point of turning in again having seen that it was only 4.30, when I heard the noise again. I thought—'my pony is at the oats!' and went out.
"I cannot describe either the scene or my feelings. I must leave those to your imagination. We were in the middle of a floating pack of broken-up ice. The tops of the hills were visible, but all below was thin mist and as far as the eye could see there was nothing solid; it was all broken up, and heaving up and down with the swell. Long black tongues of water were everywhere. The floe on which we were had split right under our picketing line, and cut poor Guts' wall in half. Guts himself had gone, and a dark streak of water alone showed the place where the ice had opened under him. The two sledges securing the other end of the line were on the next floe and had been pulled right to the edge. Our camp was on a floe not more than 30 yards across. I shouted to Cherry and Crean, and rushed out in my socks to save the two sledges; the two floes were touching farther on and I dragged them to this place and got them on to our floe. At that moment our own floe split in two, but we were all together on one piece. I then got my finnesko on, remarking that we had been in a few tight places, but this was about the limit. I have been told since that I was quixotic not to leave everything and make for safety. You will understand, however, that I never for one moment considered the abandonment of anything.
"We packed up camp and harnessed up our ponies in remarkably quick time. When ready to move I had to decide which way to go. Obviously towards Cape Armitage was impossible, and to the eastward also, as the wind was from that direction, and we were already floating west towards the open sound. Our only hope lay to the south, and thither I went. We found the ponies would jump the intervals well. At least Punch would and the other two would follow him. My idea was never to separate, but to get everything on to one floe at a time, and then wait till it touched or nearly touched another in the right direction, and then jump the ponies over and drag the four sledges across ourselves. In this way we made slow, but sure progress. While one was acting all was well, the waiting for a lead to close was the worst trial. Sometimes it would take 10 minutes or more, but there was so much motion in the ice that sooner or later bump you would go against another piece, and then it was up and over. Sometimes they split, sometimes they bounced back so quickly that only one horse could get over, and then we had to wait again. We had to make frequent detours and were moving west all the time with the pack, still we were getting south, too.
"Very little was said. Crean like most bluejackets behaved as if he had done this sort of thing often before. Cherry, the practical, after an hour or two dug out some chocolate and biscuit, during one of our enforced waits, and distributed it. I felt at that time that food was the last thing on earth I wanted, and put it in my pocket; in less than half an hour, though, I had eaten the lot. The ponies behaved as well as my companions, and jumped the floes in great style. After getting them on a new floe we simply left them, and there they stood chewing at each others' head ropes or harness till we were over with the sledges and ready to take them on again. Their implicit trust in us was touching to behold. A 12-feet sledge makes an excellent bridge if an opening is too wide to jump. After some hours we saw fast ice ahead, and thanked God for it. Meanwhile a further unpleasantness occurred in the arrival of a host of the terrible 'killer' whales. These were reaping a harvest of seal in the broken-up ice, and cruised among the floes with their immense black fins sticking up, and blowing with a terrific roar. The Killer is scientifically known as the Orca, and, though far smaller than the sperm and other large whales, is a much more dangerous animal. He is armed with a huge iron jaw and great blunt socket teeth. Killers act in concert, too, and, as you may remember, nearly got Ponting when we were unloading the ship, by pressing up the thin ice from beneath and splitting it in all directions.
"It took us over six hours to get close to the fast ice, which proved to be the Barrier, some immense chunks of which we actually saw break off and join the pack. Close in, the motion was less owing to the jambing up of the ice somewhere farther west. We had only just cleared the Strait in time though, as all the ice in the centre, released beyond Cape Armitage, headed off into the middle of the Strait, and thence to the Ross Sea. Our spirits rose as we neared the Barrier edge, and I made for a big sloping floe which I expected would be touching; at any rate I anticipated no difficulty. We rushed up the slope towards safety, and were little prepared for the scene that met our eyes at the top. All along the Barrier face a broad lane of water from thirty to forty feet wide extended. This was filled with smashed-up brash ice, which was heaving up and down to the swell like the contents of a cauldron. Killers were cruising there with fiendish activity, and the Barrier edge was a sheer cliff of ice on the other side fifteen to twenty feet high. It was a case of so near and yet so far. Suddenly our great sloping floe calved in two, so we beat a hasty retreat. I selected a sound-looking floe just clear of this turmoil, that was at least ten feet thick, and fairly rounded, with a flat surface. Here we collected everything and having done all that man could do, we fed the beasts and took counsel.
"Cherry and Crean both volunteered to do anything, in the spirit they had shown right through. It appeared of first necessity to communicate with Captain Scott. I guessed his anxiety on our behalf, and, as we could do nothing more, we wanted help of some sort. It occurred to me that a man working up to windward along the Barrier face might happen upon a floe touching [the Barrier]. It was obviously impossible to take ponies up there anywhere, but an active man might wait his opportunity. Going to windward, too, he could always retreat on to'our floe, as the ice was being pushed together in our direction. The next consideration was, whom to send. To go myself was out of the question. The problem was whether to send one, or both, my companions. As my object was to save the animals and gear, it appeared to me that one man remaining would be helpless in the event of the floe splitting up, as he would be busy saving himself. I therefore decided to send one only. This would have to be Crean, as Cherry, who wears glasses, could not see so well. Both volunteered, but as I say, I thought out all the pros and cons and sent Crean, knowing that, at the worst, he could get back to us at any time. I sent a note to Captain Scott, and, stuffing Crean's pockets with food, we saw him depart.
"Practical Cherry suggested pitching the tent as a mark of our whereabouts, and having done this I mounted the theodolite to watch Crean through the telescope. The rise and fall of the floe made this difficult, especially as a number of Emperor penguins came up and looked just like men in the distance. Fortunately the sunlight cleared the frost smoke, and as it fell calm our westerly motion began to decrease. The swell started to go down. Outside us in the centre of the Strait all the ice had gone out, and open water remained. We were one of a line of loose floes floating near the Barrier edge. Crean was hours moving to and fro before I had the satisfaction of seeing him up on the Barrier. I said: 'Thank God one of us is out of the wood, anyhow.'
"It was not a pleasant day that Cherry and I spent all alone there, knowing as we did that it only wanted a zephyr from the south to send us irretrievably out to sea; still there is satisfaction in knowing that one has done one's utmost, and I felt that having been delivered so wonderfully so far, the same Hand would not forsake us at the last.
"We gave the ponies all they could eat that day. The Killers were too interested in us to be pleasant. They had a habit of bobbing up and down perpendicularly, so as to see over the edge of a floe, in looking for seals. The huge black and yellow heads with sickening pig eyes only a few yards from us at times, and always around us, are among the most disconcerting recollections I have of that day. The immense fins were bad enough, but when they started a perpendicular dodge they were positively beastly. As the day wore on skua gulls, looking upon us as certain carrion, settled down comfortably near us to await developments. The swell, however, was getting less and less and it resolved itself into a question of speed, as to whether the wind or Captain Scott would reach us first.
"Crean had got up into the Barrier at great risks to himself as I gathered afterwards from his very modest account. He had reached Captain Scott some time after his [Scott's] meeting with Wilson. I heard that at the time Captain Scott was very angry with me for not abandoning everything and getting away safely myself. For my own part I must say that the abandoning of the ponies was the one thing that had never entered my head. It was a long way round, but at 7 P.M. he arrived at the edge of the Barrier opposite us with Oates and Crean. Everything was still, and Cherry and I could have got on safe ice at any time during the last half hour by using the sledge as a ladder. A big overturned fragment had jambed in the lane, between a high floe and the Barrier edge, and, there being no wind, it remained there. However, there was the consideration of the ponies, so we waited.
"Scott, instead of blowing me up, was too relieved at our safety to be anything but pleased. I said: 'What about the ponies and the sledges?' He said: 'I don't care a damn about the ponies and sledges. It's you I want, and I am going to see you safe here up on the Barrier before I do anything else.' Cherry and I had got everything ready, so, dragging up two sledges, we dumped the gear off them, and using them as ladders, one down from the berg on to the buffer piece of ice, and the other up to the top of the Barrier, we got up without difficulty. Captain Scott was so pleased, that I realized the feeling he must have had all day. He had been blaming himself for our deaths, and here we were very much alive. He said: 'My dear chaps, you can't think how glad I am to see you safe—Cherry likewise.'
"I was all for saving the beasts and sledges, however, so he let us go back and haul the sledges on to the nearest floe. We did this one by one and brought the ponies along, while Titus dug down a slope from the Barrier edge in the hope of getting the ponies up it. Scott knew more about ice than any of us, and realizing the danger we didn't, still wanted to abandon things. I fought for my point tooth and nail, and got him to concede one article and then another, and still the ice did not move till we had thrown and hauled up every article on to the Barrier except the two ladders and the ponies.
"To my intense disappointment at this juncture the ice started to move again. Titus had been digging down a road in the Barrier edge, and I hoped to dig down a similar slope from the floe, the snow thus shovelled down would go over the blue ice chunk, cover up the slippery ice and level it up. It would have taken hours, but was the only chance of getting the animals up. We dug like fury until Captain Scott peremptorily ordered us up. I ran up on the floe and took the nosebags off the ponies before we got on to the Barrier, and hauled the sledges up. It was only just in time. There was the faintest south-easterly air, but, like a black snake, the lane of water stretched between the ponies and ourselves. It widened almost imperceptibly, 2 feet, 6 feet, 10 feet, 20 feet, and, sick as we were about the ponies, we were glad to be on the safe side of that.
"We dragged the sledges in a little way, and, leaving them, pitched the two tents half a mile farther in, for bits of the Barrier were continually calving. While supper (it was about 3 A.M.) was being cooked, Scott and I walked down again. The wind had gone to the east, and all the ice was under weigh. A lane 70 feet wide extended along the Barrier edge, and Killers were chasing up and down it like racehorses. Our three unfortunate beasts were some way out, sailing parallel to the Barrier. We returned, and if ever one could feel miserable I did then. My feelings were nothing to what poor Captain Scott had had to endure that day. I at once broached the hopeful side of the subject, remarking that, with the two Campbell had left, we had ten ponies at Winter quarters. He said, however, that he had no confidence whatever in the motors after the way their rollers had become messed up unloading the ship. He had had his confidence in the dogs much shaken on the return journey, and now he had lost the most solid asset—the best of his pony transport. He said: 'Of course we shall have a run for our money next season, but as far as the Pole is concerned I have but very little hope.' We had a mournful meal, but after the others turned in I went down again, and by striking across diagonally came abreast of the ponies' floe, over a mile away. They were moving west fast, but they saw me, and remained huddled together not the least disturbed, or doubting that we would bring them their breakfast nosebags as usual in the morning. Poor trustful creatures! If I could have done it then, I would gladly have killed them rather than picture them starving on that floe out on the Ross Sea, or eaten by the exultant Killers that cruised around.
"After breakfast Captain Scott sent me to bring up the sledges. It was dead calm again. Hope always springs, so I took his pair of glasses and looked west from the Barrier edge. Nearly all the ice had gone, but a medley of floes had been hurled up against a long point of Barrier much farther west. To my delight I saw three green specks on one of these—the pony rugs—and all four of us legged it back to the tent to tell Captain Scott. We were soon off over the Barrier. It was a long way, but we had a tent and some food. Crean had a bad day of snow-blindness, and could see absolutely nothing. So, on arrival at the place, we pitched the tent and left him there. The ponies were in a much worse place than the day before, but the ice was still there, and some floes actually touched the Barrier.
"After our recent experience Captain Scott would only let us go on condition that as soon as he gave the order we were to drop everything and run for the Barrier. I was in a feverish hurry, and with Titus and Cherry selected a possible route over about six floes, and some low brash ice. The hardest jump was the first one, but it was nothing to what they had done the day before, so we put Punch at it. Why he hung fire I cannot think, but he did, at the very edge, and the next moment was in the water. I will draw a veil over our struggle to get the plucky little pony out. We could not manage it, and Titus had at last to put an end to his struggles with a pick.
"There was now my pony and Nobby. We abandoned that route, while Captain Scott looked out another and longer one by going right out on the sea-floes. This we decided on, if we could get the animals off their present floe, which necessitated a good jump on any side. Captain Scott said he would have no repetition of Punch's misfortune if he could help it. He would rather kill them on the floe. Anyhow, we rushed old Nobby at the jump, but he refused. It seemed no good, but I rushed him at it again and again. Scott was for killing them [it should be remembered that this ice, with the men on it, might drift away from the Barrier at any moment, and then there might be no further chance of saving the men] but I was not, and, pretending not to hear him, I rushed the old beast again. He cleared it beautifully, and Titus, seizing the opportunity, ran my pony at it with similar success. We then returned to the Barrier and worked along westward till a suitable place for getting up was found. There Scott and Cherry started digging a road, while Titus and I went out via the sea-ice to get the ponies. We had an empty sledge as a bridge or ladder, in case of emergency, and had to negotiate about forty floes to reach the animals. It was pretty easy going, though, and we brought them along with great success as far as the two nearest floes. At this place the ice was jambed.
"Nobby cleared the last jump splendidly, when suddenly in the open water pond on one side a school of over a dozen of the terrible whales arose. This must have flurried my horse just as he was jumping, as instead of going straight he jumped [sideways] and just missed the floe with his hind legs. It was another horrible situation, but Scott rushed Nobby up on the Barrier, while Titus, Cherry and I struggled with poor old Uncle Bill. Why the whales did not come under the ice and attack him I cannot say—perhaps they were full of seal, perhaps they were so engaged in looking at us on the top of the floe that they forgot to look below; anyhow, we got him safely as far as [the bottom of the Barrier cliff], pulling him through the thin ice towards a low patch of brash.
"Captain Scott was afraid of something happening to us with those devilish whales so close, and was for abandoning the horse right away. I had no eyes or ears for anything but the horse just then, and getting on to the thin brash ice got the Alpine rope fast to each of the pony's forefeet. Crean was too blind to do anything but hold the rescued horse on the Barrier, but the other four of us pulled might and main till we got the old horse out and lying on his side. The brash ice was so thin that, had a 'Killer' come up then he would have scattered it, and the lot of us into the water like chaff. I was sick with disappointment when I found that my horse could not rise. Titus said: 'He's done; we shall never get him up alive.' The cold water and shock on top of all his recent troubles, had been too much for the undefeated old sportsman. In vain I tried to get him to his feet; three times he tried and then fell over backwards into the water again. At that moment a new danger arose. The whole piece of Barrier itself started to subside.
"It had evidently been broken before, and the tide was doing the rest. We were ordered up and it certainly was all too necessary; still Titus and I hung over the old Uncle Bill's head. I said: 'I can't leave him to be eaten alive by those whales.' There was a pick lying up on the floe. Titus said: 'I shall be sick if I have to kill another horse like I did the last.' I had no intention that anybody should kill my own horse but myself, and getting the pick I struck where Titus told me. I made sure of my job before we ran up and jumped the opening in the Barrier, carrying a blood-stained pick-axe instead of leading the pony I had almost considered safe.
"We returned to our old camp that night (March 2) with Nobby, the only one saved of the five that left One Ton Depôt. I was fearfully cut up about my pony and Punch, but it was better than last night; we knew they would not have to starve and that all their troubles were now at an end. Before supper I went for a walk along the Barrier with Scott, and the next day we started back. We left one tent, two sledges and a lot of gear as Nobby could only pull two light sledges, and we could not pull an excessive weight on that bad surface. As it was we had over 800 lbs. on the sledge when we left. It was a glaring day with the surface soft and sandy, a combination of unpleasant circumstances. It took five hours to drag as far as the place we had originally gone down on to the sea-ice from the Barrier.
"Evans and his party should now have arrived from Corner Camp, and as Captain Scott wanted to see if they had left a note at Safety Camp, I walked up there while the tea was being brewed. It was about 1¼ miles away, and I found traces of the party in the snow, but no note. It fed me up to see the walls so recently occupied by our ponies, and I was glad to leave. The afternoon march was interminable; it seemed as if we would never reach the coast. At last we came to the Pram Point Pressure Ridges where the Barrier joins the peninsula to eastward of Cape Armitage. They are waves of ice up to 20 feet in height running along parallel to each other with a valley in between each, and are only crevassed badly at the outer end as far as we have seen, though there are smaller crevasses right along. We camped in one of these valleys about 9.30 P.M.; I was thoroughly tired, so I think was everybody else. We were about a mile from the ice edge; and the problem was where to get Nobby up the precipitous slopes. This was solved by the arrival of Evans, Atkinson, Forde and Keohane about midnight. They had seen us coming in from the heights, and had come down for news. Teddy Evans had arrived the day before, and, being warned off the Barrier edge by a note left by Captain Scott, had made for the land with his party, and one horse Jimmy Pigg. He had found a good way up a mile or so farther east, almost under Castle Rock. He had walked to Hut Point with Atkinson the next day and heard of the loss of Cherry, myself and the animals from Bill Wilson and Meares who had been left there to look after their teams. I hadn't seen Atkinson for quite a while when we met this time."The next day we relayed the sledges up the slope which was about 700 feet high rising from a small bay. It was so steep that the pony could only be led up and we had to put on crampons to grip the ice. These are merely a sole of leather with light metal plates for foot and heel containing spikes. [These were altered afterwards.] They have leather beckets and a lanyard rove off for making them fast over the finnesko. It took us all the morning to get everything up to the top and then it started to blow. The camp was wonderfully sheltered. Jimmy Pigg and Nobby were reunited after many weeks, and to show their friendliness the former bit the latter in the back of the neck as a first introduction. Atkinson had gone to Hut Point to reassure Uncle Bill as to our safety and arrived again with Gran just as we got the last load up. There was no sugar at the hut except what the dogs had brought in, so Gran, who was quite fresh, volunteered to get a couple of bags from the depôt at Safety Camp, which could plainly be seen out on the Barrier. We all went to the edge of the slope to see him go down it on ski. He did it splendidly and must have been going with the speed of an express train down the incline, as he was on the Barrier in an incredibly short time compared to the hours we had dragged up the same slope with the loads. Teddy, Titus and Keohane were left Page:The Worst Journey in the World volume 1.djvu/244 Page:The Worst Journey in the World volume 1.djvu/245 Page:The Worst Journey in the World volume 1.djvu/246 Page:The Worst Journey in the World volume 1.djvu/247 Page:The Worst Journey in the World volume 1.djvu/248 Page:The Worst Journey in the World volume 1.djvu/249 Page:The Worst Journey in the World volume 1.djvu/250 Page:The Worst Journey in the World volume 1.djvu/251 Page:The Worst Journey in the World volume 1.djvu/253 Page:The Worst Journey in the World volume 1.djvu/254 Page:The Worst Journey in the World volume 1.djvu/255 Page:The Worst Journey in the World volume 1.djvu/256 Page:The Worst Journey in the World volume 1.djvu/257 -inventors; they generally gave some light, though not a brilliant one. There were more ambitious attempts than blubber. The worst of these perhaps was produced by Oates. Somebody found some carbide and Oates immediately schemed to light the hut with acetylene. I think he was the only person who did not view the preparation with ill-concealed nervousness. However, Wilson took the situation into his tactful hands. For several days Oates and Wilson were deep in the acetylene plant scheme and then, apparently without reason, it was found that it could not be done. It was a successful piece of strategy which no woman could have bettered.
Bowers, Wilson, Atkinson and I were on Crater Hill one morning when we espied a sledge party approaching from the direction of Castle Rock. As we expected, this was the Geological party, consisting of Griffith Taylor, Wright, Debenham and Seaman Evans, home from the Western Mountains. They entirely failed to recognize in our black faces the men whom they had last seen from the ship at Glacier Tongue. I hope their story will be told by Debenham. For days their doings were the topic of conversation. Both numerically and intellectually they were an addition to our party, which now numbered sixteen. Taylor especially is seldom at a loss for conversation and his remarks are generally original, if sometimes crude. Most of us were glad to listen when the discussions in which he was a leading figure raged round the blubber stove. Scott and Wilson were always in the thick of it, and the others chimed in as their interest, knowledge and experience led. Rash statements on questions of fact were always dangerous, for our small community contained so many specialists that errors were soon exposed. At the same time there were few parts of the world that one or other of us had not visited at least once. Later, when we came to our own limited quarters, books of reference were constantly in demand to settle disputes. Such books as the Times Atlas, a good encyclopaedia and even a Latin Dictionary are invaluable to such expeditions for this purpose. To them I would add Who's Who.
From odd corners we unearthed some Contemporary Reviews, the Girls' Own Paper and the Family Herald, all of ten years ago! We also found encased in ice an incomplete copy of Stanley Weyman's My Lady Rotha; it was carefully thawed out and read by everybody, and the excitement was increased by the fact that the end of the book was missing.
"Who's going to cook?" was one of the last queries each night, and two men would volunteer. It is not great fun lighting an ordinary coal fire on a cold winter's morning, but lighting the blubber fire at Hut Point when the metal frosted your fingers and the frozen blubber had to be induced to drip was a far more arduous task. The water was converted from its icy state and, by that time, the stove was getting hot, in inverse proportion to your temper. Seal liver fry and cocoa with unlimited Discovery Cabin biscuits were the standard dish for breakfast, and when it was ready a sustained cry of 'hoosh' brought the sleepers from their bags, wiping reindeer hairs from their eyes. I think I was responsible for the greatest breakfast failure when I fried some biscuits and sardines (we only had one tin). Leaving the biscuits in the frying pan, the lid of a cooker, after taking it from the fire, they went on cooking and became as charcoal. This meal was known as 'the burnt-offering.' On April 1 Bowers prepared to make a fool of two of us by putting chaff in our pannikins and covering the top only with seal meat. The plan turned back upon the maker, for he had not enough left to make up the deficiency, and, as I found out many weeks afterwards, surreptitiously gave up his own hoosh to the April fools and went without himself. Of such are the small incidents which afforded real amusement and even live in the memory as outstanding features of our existence.Breakfast done, there was a general clean-up. One seized the apology for a broom which existed: day foot-gear, finnesko, hair socks, ordinary socks and puttees, took the place of fleecy sleeping-socks and fur-lined sleeping-boots: lunch cooks began to make their preparations: ice was fetched for water: a frozen chunk of red seal meat Page:The Worst Journey in the World volume 1.djvu/262 Page:The Worst Journey in the World volume 1.djvu/263 Page:The Worst Journey in the World volume 1.djvu/264 Page:The Worst Journey in the World volume 1.djvu/265 Page:The Worst Journey in the World volume 1.djvu/266 Page:The Worst Journey in the World volume 1.djvu/267 Page:The Worst Journey in the World volume 1.djvu/268 Page:The Worst Journey in the World volume 1.djvu/269 Page:The Worst Journey in the World volume 1.djvu/272 Page:The Worst Journey in the World volume 1.djvu/273 Page:The Worst Journey in the World volume 1.djvu/274 froze nearly five inches by Wednesday mid-day, when we got three more seal. Scott was evidently thinking that on Thursday, when we were to start, we might go by the sea-ice all the way — when suddenly with no warning it silently floated out to sea."
The following two teams travelled to Cape Evans via the Hutton Cliffs on April 21: 1st team Scott, Wilson, Atkinson, Crean; 2nd team Bowers, Oates, Cherry-Garrard, Hooper. It was blowing hard, as usual, at the Hutton Cliffs, and we got rather frost-bitten when lowering the sledges on to the sea-ice. The sun was leaving us for the next four months, but luckily the light just lasted for this operation, though not for the subsequent meal which we hastily ate under the cliffs, nor for the crossing of Glacier Tongue. Bowers wrote home:"I had the lighter team and, knowing what a flier Captain Scott is I took care to have the new sledge myself. Our weights were nothing and the difference was only in the sledge runners, but it made all the difference to us that day. Scott fairly legged it, as I expected, and we came along gaily behind him. He could not understand it when the pace began to tell more on his heavy team than on us. After lowering down the sledges over the cliffs we recovered the rope we had left in the first place, and then struck out over the sea-ice. Then our good runners told so much that I owned up to mine being the better sledge, and offered to give them one of my team. This was declined, but after we crossed the Tongue Captain Scott said he would like to change sledges at the Little Razorback. At any time over this stretch we could have runaway from his team, and once they got our sledge they started that game on us. We expected it, and never had I stepped out so hard before. We had been marching hard for nearly 12 hours and now we had two miles' spurt to do, and we should have stuck it, bad runners and all, had we had smooth ice. As it was we struck a belt of rough ice, and in the dark we all stumbled and I went down a whack, that nearly knocked me out. This was not noticed fortunately, and still we hung on to the end of their sledge while I turned hot and cold and sick and went through the various symptoms before I got my equilibrium back, which I fortunately did while legging it at full speed. They started to go ahead soon after that though, and we could not hold our own, although we were close to the cape. I had the same thing happen again after another fall, but we stuck it round the cape and arrived only about 50 yards behind. I have never felt so done, and so was my team. Of course we need not have raced, but we did, and I would do the same thing every time. Titus produced a mug of brandy he had sharked from the ship and we all lapped it up with avidity. The other team were just about laid out, too, so I don't think there was much to be said either way."
Two days later the sun appeared for the last time for four months.
Looking back I realized two things. That sledging, at any rate in summer and autumn, was a much less terrible ordeal than my imagination had painted it, and that those Hut Point days would prove some of the happiest in my life. Just enough to eat and keep us warm, no more — no frills nor trimmings: there is many a worse and more elaborate life. The necessaries of civilization were luxuries to us: and as Priestley found under circumstances compared to which our life at Hut Point was a Sunday School treat, the luxuries of civilization satisfy only those wants which they themselves create.
- Scott's Last Expedition, vol. i. pp. 180–81.
- Scott's Last Expedition, vol. i. pp. 187–188. Scott started for the Pole on November 1, 1911. Amundsen started on September 8, 1911, but had to turn back owing to low temperatures; he started again on October 19.
- Priestley's diary.
- Scott's Last Expedition, vol. i. p. 185.
- See p. 123.
- Scott's Last Expedition, vol. i. pp. 190–191.
- Scott's Last Expedition, vol. i. pp. 191–192.
- Wilson camped with the two dog-teams on the land, and in the morning saw us floating on the ice-floes through his field-glasses. He made his way along the peninsula until he could descend on to the Barrier, where he joined Scott.
- I think he was stiff after standing so many hours.—A. C.-G.
- My own diary.
- Bowers' letter.