Wednesday, September 30, 2009

30 September, 1910

Dreamed of women last night. They were all about, with their softness and womanly smell and laughter, and one was kissing me on the back of my neck. I couldn't see her, but I knew she was beautiful. 

We've been looking out for dolphins and whales to study. Shark, too. 

Bowers says we haven't brought any honey. 

I'm a bit despondent today, to be honest Sometimes I just get this way. The ship is running well; everything is going according to plan; I have no complaints. It's just a nagging feeling. It's the doldrums. Not even my silly novel can drag me out of it. Maybe finding out about the honey set it off, or maybe it was the sirens in my dream. You wake up and there is no woman next to you, no sweetness in your mouth. No hope of any, either. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

29th September, 1910

Dreadful wind. That's the roaring forties for you. Still, even with our auxiliary steam, we can't push ahead as much as I'd like. Pennell says we're in an anti-cyclone. The men remain busy with scientific observations of ocean salinity, atmospheric ionization, and all sorts. The ship is a veritable hive of activity. 

Speaking of hives, I do miss honey. I'd love some slathered on a crumpet right now. With melting butter. I can't expect the cook to make crumpets, but I must remember to ask Bowers if he brought honey. 

Rather enjoying Mrs. Oliphant's book. She was very prolific. 
Mmm. Primrose honey. Just think. 

Monday, September 28, 2009

28th September, 1910

Overdid it a bit last night. My head hurts. 

I'm going to lay in and read The Primrose Path by Mrs. Oliphant. 

Don't tell anyone. 

Sunday, September 27, 2009

27th September, 1910

We've finished shifting the coal at last. It was hard work for all, so tonight we're having a champagne dinner to celebrate. have also given the order to set steam so we can get a move on. 

Am glad we've brought a lot of drink to toast our successes and mark important occasions. While it is imperative that we adhere to the highest standards of discipline and have our wits about us -- therefore, no liquor for anyone during normal operations -- it is essential to have something to look forward to. And nothing enlivens a proper dinner like a drink. Besides, we're Englishmen (well, most of us): that's how we do things. 

Speaking of which, I do hope Taff Evans behaves -- he can get a bit rowdy with liquor in him. That's what comes of being a Welshman, I suppose. He can't help it. He is a good fellow though, was indispensable to me on Discovery. Big chap, burly. Good for hauling. They call him "Rhossilli" after his village. He says it overlooks a wide bay with the ribs of a shipwreck sticking out of the sand. He's got a wife and several children still there. 

Wonder if I should limit the champagne to the officers and just let the rest have grog? They might prefer it. 

Must get someone on the piano too. 

They gave us a good send-off in Cardiff. One either feels as if they love you so much they want you to stay, or all that waving means they can't wait to see you go.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

26th September 1910

There's something very civilizing about a piano. Whatever godforsaken remote corner of the world men go, they are kept true to their character by the regular sounds of those familiar keys. A Sunday Service is rotten to get through without it. I don't know how our forebearers did it - Franklin, Cook, Ross - all of them, without a piano. Imagine.

Of course, we have a gramophone too, which should keep the chaps happy in our little hut. I wonder shall we have dances? Imagine bringing a piano but no-one who could play it. Or a gramophone without any recordings. It only goes to show you how important it is to Be Prepared and to make sure to pack everything you're likely to need. At the very least, that can be said of me. 

Although, Nansen's Furthest North would have been a good addition to our library, come to think of it. 

This is Nansen and Johansen in a kayak up North. Last I heard, Johansen was a drunk. I wonder what he's doing now? Not enough piano, that's his trouble. 

Friday, September 25, 2009

25th September, 1910

The men have been catching albatross as part of our study of marine life. They roll out a line of cobbler's thread which is strong enough to hold the birds, yet light enough to trail behind us in the air. On one end is a bent nail which snags them. 

In my more thoughtful moments I do wonder about the portent of dragging the albatross towards one. Can't possibly be good. 

Ought I to read more Coleridge or less Coleridge on the subject? 

"And I had done a hellish thing,
And it would work 'em woe:
For all averred, I had killed the bird
That made the breeze to blow.
Ah wretch! said they, the bird to slay,
That made the breeze to blow!"

Gosh, I'm thirsty. 

Thursday, September 24, 2009

24 September, 1910

Thinking about ships. Terra Nova means "new earth." I wonder if we'll find any? Odd name for a Dundee Whaler, though. Discovery was a grand vessel; you really felt like you could discover things in her. Victory is a good name. Endeavor, too. My favorites have to be Erebus and Terror, though, James Clark Ross's ships. Imagine captaining the Erebus? He's the son of chaos! The only thing better than that is Terror -- that'll put the fear of God into anyone. Hello natives: I have arrived on your shores in Terror

Francis Crozier was a lucky fellow. We plan to winter at Cape Crozier if we can land there. I wonder if there will ever be anything named after me? 

Come to think of it, Fram is a really good name too. Wonder how Amundsen's getting on with his plans for the North? Forward is always a good way to go. 

Nansen loved that ship. It was built with a rounded hull to resist crushing by pack ice. 

Terra Nova leaks everywhere. We'll be lucky if we get to any land at all, new or not. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

23 September, 1910

This novel isn't exactly what I expected, but I can't put it down. Who will Sir Willoughby marry? Laetitia or Clara? 

I know I must concentrate on drafting up these provisions lists for our first season's sledging journeys, as we really need to know what supplies will be necessary to take on in New Zealand. All the men know is that I'm cooped up in my cabin all day, presumably working on it, but most of the time I'm lying on my bunk reading this book. I try, I really do. But sitting there in front of all those facts and figures and lists makes my head spin. 

Wonder what's for dinner. I'm starving. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

22 September, 1910

Have got everyone shifting coal below decks. It's in bricks, so it's easier to pick up and toss about. But as you use it up, you have to re-distribute it about the ship so that you don't lean to one side. Also, we have to clear space to make room for the coal we take on in New Zealand, which has to be loaded through the main hatch. Dirty work, but no-one seems to be complaining. 

No-one seems particularly impressed by my reading material. Perhaps Plutarch is too obvious a choice. I will read George Meredith's The Egoist instead. That will give them something to think about.

Monday, September 21, 2009

21 September, 1910 Ile St. Paul!

If you draw a line between the tip of South Africa and the bottom of Australia across the southern Indian Ocean, about halfway you will see a tiny couple of islands, one of which is St. Paul. It's just about the only speck of land on this part of the globe, and has always been used as a sort of marker for ships to turn north if they want to go up to India. 

Tried to land. All hands on deck to bring in sail, but by 5am the winds were beastly, making it impossible for us to make the tiny harbor in the crater of the volcano there. Blink and you'll miss it. All very much disappointed. Saw nothing special in the way of birds as we sailed past. 

So it's on to the Antipodes we go. 

St. Paul is one of those godforsaken places claimed by the French. Why, one wonders. What can possibly be the point. Maybe they'll use it one day as a penal colony. That's their sort of thing, isn't it? Find a place as far from your own country as possible, then send your prisoners there to live out their wretched days on some sun-baked, insect-filled patch of land.

At least I can be proud to say we British would never do something like that. 

Sunday, September 20, 2009

20 September, 1910

Hoping to land at an atoll shortly, St Paul Island, to do some scientific work. Bit of a remote spot. It's a tiny place - 1 mile by 2 miles wide, with a circular harbor formed by the extinct volcano's crater in the middle. Perhaps there will be penguins. 

Sometimes it's warm enough to sit on the deck and read. People always go on and on about Shackleton's love of poetry and about how he could recite it for hours on end and about how he wrote his own poetry and blah blah bah. As if that made him a better man. Well, I like poetry too, but no-one says that about me. Made sure to bring plenty of books. The ratings like that potboiler stuff. But I made sure to stock the wardroom shelves with literature for the men. 

So it is with bemusement that when I look around me I see most of them reading well-thumbed copies of smut from below decks. I, myself, shall set an example by cracking the spine of Plutarch's Lives of Illustrious Men when I go out today. See if any of them play follow-my-leader.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

19th September, 1910

One of the most advantageous things about the Antarctic, of course, is that one doesn't get sick there. You're not going to to catch a cold. There's no dirt. Still, that doesn't mean that we shan't stay clean. A weekly wash will do us all good. I hope we've brought enough soap; this has to last all of us three years: 

36 bars of Sunlight Soap #3
48 bars of Velvet Skin Soap
3 Bars Lifebouy Soap
2 Packets of Monkey Brand Soap
6 tablets of Captain brand Sea Water Soap. 

Very assuring that Lifebouy soap can kill Typhoid, Cholera and Diptheria microorganisms in minutes. One does rather wonder why it can be that in this day and age so many people fall victim to such diseases. Go out and buy some soap. 

Friday, September 18, 2009

18th September, 1910

Latitude 39 degrees, 20 minutes
Longtitude 66 degrees, 9 minutes East

What a long way we are from home. I understand why Kathleen wanted to come along, but don't know how she can leave the baby at home for so long. We've both missed his first birthday. 

I wonder what mischief she's up to with Wilson and the other wives. For some reason she's always getting into spats with the wives. Some women are like that, though —they just can't get along. Thank God women don't come on expeditions; it would be a disaster. I can't imagine anything worse than having females around to get on your nerves. At least with men you know where you are. 

Well, I'll see her in Melbourne. Hope she doesn't make a scene when we dock. 

There's nothing at all to look at, just waves. Endless waves. How odd it is to be a sailor and spend all day doing a desk doing paperwork.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

17th September, 1910

I must say, all the men get along splendidly and are in good spirits. It is so very important for there not to be squabbling and dissent among the ranks. This young Cherry fellow is bright-eyed and bushy-tailed; volunteers for everything. 

Birdie Bowers is also proving to be a real find: endless energy and a good head for organization. Funny, because he doesn't look the type to be very good at anything. He's very short, for one thing. And all that red hair! 

I wonder what that chap who took all of our measurements on the docks would make of it. He had some theory about how the color of one one's hair, skin and eyes made you a leader of men. I'd be interested to find out his conclusions when we return. 

Of course, Bowers has a lot to say about anyone with different coloring than us. Still, you have to give a man his due; he's had to work among them. All that time in India and the Gulf must account for something. Mind you, he hates the Irish and Russians and the Italians and the Portugese and the Spanish and the French, of course. And Asiatics. The Germans he will tolerate solely because they produced Martin Luther. Other than that, he calls them "sausage-eaters." 

Speaking of which, there goes the bell. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

16th September, 1910

 It's become clear to me that the Terra Nova is no Discovery. Everything breaks; the men are "black as Kaffirs" Bowers said (he's so funny) from shoveling coal and pumping bilge; the waves toss her about like nobody's business; and we're all very cramped. We're going to have to get work done in New Zealand if she's to survive the south. 

Nevertheless, the men are all good sports about it. Teddy Evans showed off one of his party tricks after dinner last night: lifting men clear off the ground by their belts with his teeth! There was much giggling among the ranks. Oates seemed to enjoy it. One has to allow the men to have their fun, but one is not allowed to participate, of course. 

One would rather have liked to, though. 

Oh! Bowers informs me that he's packed three dozen tin-openers, which will be more than one each for the shore party, so no worries there. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

15th September, 1910

Have begun to figure out what everything weighs and weekly allowances of food and fuel for the base camp and our sledging journeys. I must say, it's rather fun to do these daily ration lists--two lumps of sugar here, a spoonful of jam there. It's very important not to eat too much when out on the ice. A man can't drag a sledge in the snow if he's got a full belly. When we're at base camp though, we'll eat like kings. Actually, we'll eat just like we do at home, which is how every proper Englishman should eat. Three square a day with a nice dessert after supper. 

Was a bit worried about the hundreds of cases of tinned food that form the bulk of our provisions after so many of them were found to be rotten and mis-labelled when inspected at the docks. Everyone knows that scurvy's caused by tins that have gone off. Well, I'll instruct Clissold not to feed us any that look dodgy--are frothing at the seams, etc. And to check contents before use: imagine pouring a can of turtle soup into a pie instead of cherry filling! 

I can't think of a more perfect way of preserving and transporting food than the invention of the tin can. Using lead to solder them shut was genius. Makes them quite heavy, but SO much easier to get into. 

*NOTE TO SELF: remember to ask Bowers if he packed any tin-openers*

Monday, September 14, 2009

September 14, 1910

Fine weather at last, so you'd think everyone would be happy, but no. The Terra Nova rolls too much in the swell -- here we -- and when it does, it's crash this and yelp that and the bell rings bringing everyone out to see if it's the cook calling us in for grub. Invariably, it's not. 

At night, sometimes one can hear the piano stowed below clang out unholy tunes as it rocks back and forth. Did we bring spare strings for it? It would be a disaster if anything broke. Fortunately, the motor sledges are lashed tight, so we won't have any problem with those. 

Someone really ought to invent a way for chess pieces to stay where you put them on the board. 

There goes the bell again. I'm absolutely starving. 

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sept 13, 1910: En route to New Zealand

My publisher has provided me with this laptop and encouraged me to "blog" about the expedition. Says it will get people interested and allow them to follow along etc etc. I've only just figured out how to turn the thing on, to be honest. Had to get one of the ratings to help me. Chap seemed to know his way around the buttons and whatnot. 

It's been windy since we left the Cape -- terrible sudden gale today, nearly knocked men off the rigging. Good to be aboard, finally, and in charge. The lads seem to have gotten on alright without me. They play this game called "Furl" which involves madly ripping each other's clothes off. Seems harmless and not remotely homoerotic at all. I don't join in of course, though it looks like good fun. Thank goodness the women have gone on separately with Wilson. 

Couple of new chaps joined us in South Africa, the paying ones. Oates and Cherry-Garrard. Not sure how much use they'll be. The one's got a limp and the other can't see further than his own nose. Maybe I can put him to work writing or something. 

I have a very good feeling about this mission. Fate is on our side this time. We are going to be the first men at the Pole, I just know it.