Thursday, December 31, 2009
The clouds lifted and before us lie the Admiralty Range, Mount Sabine being most visible, its peaks touched by snow glinting in the sky. They are still over 100 miles away, but a glorious sight!
Cherry came up all wrapped in his blankets to look, I think Atkinson had woken him.
Someone is running all up and down the ship ringing in the new year with the dinner bell.
It might be midnight, but the sun shines bright, and the fresh bracing air makes being on deck an exhilarating experience.
I wonder what trials the new year will bring, and where I shall be a year from now. In some stark place with the Pole in my hand no doubt!
72 degrees 54 minutes South, 174 degrees 55 minutes East.
We are at last in the Ross Sea, but not at the end of our misfortunes. We had a horrible night.
Very rough seas with swell and wind -- the ponies are suffering terribly. We sought some pack to protect us from the rocking, but it doesn't last long.
What a year. It is a pleasure to write 1910 for the last time.
From our sounding you can see how sharply the continental shelf rises here. But where is Cape Crozier?
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
1111 fathoms! We are at the lip of the continental shelf and out of the pack at last! Twenty godforsaken days we lingered there, eating an astonishing ton of coal for every six miles progress.
How Lady Fortune turns us on her cruel wheel. On every occasion she seems to have decided against us.
Still, while held up we have managed some important scientific work and I have grown strangely attached to the Terra Nova, plucky little ship that she is. Certainly the Nimrod would never have reached the south water had she been caught in such pack. So strike one for us and none for Shackleton so far!
All the while, I have never seen a party of men so anxious to be doing work or so cheerful in doing it. When there is anything to be done, such as making or shortening sail, digging ice from floes for the water supply, or heaving up to the sounding line, it goes without saying that all the afterguard turn out to do it. There is no hesitation and no distinction. It will be the same when it comes to landing stores or doing any other hard manual labour.
the spirit of enterprise is as bright as ever. Every one strives to help every one else, and not a word of complaint or anger has been heard on board. the inner life of our small community is very pleasant to think upon and very wonderful considering the extremely small space in which we are confined.
The attitude of the men (the crew) is equally worthy of admiration. In the forecastle as in the wardroom there is a rush to be first when work is to be done, and the same desire to sacrifice selfish consideration to the success of the expedition. It is very good to be able to write in such high praise of one's companions, and I feel that the possession of such support ought to ensure success.
Fortune would be in a hard mood indeed if it allowed such a combination of knowledge, experience, ability, and enthusiasm to achieve nothing.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Today I wrote in my journals that:
"...the sky is overcast and slight sleety drizzle is falling; the sun has made one or two attempts to break through but without success."
It seems to me that I could have written that sitting at my desk in London in December, just the same.
I used the word "hopefullest" which I fear is not in fact a word. I have, however, run out of words to describe the possibility of hope when in fact what I feel is despair. How much longer can this go on? The new year will soon be upon us and I had wanted to be settled into our new home on land by now so that we may begin our programme of depot-laying journeys during what remains of the summer.
I take comfort in my pipe and tobacco, and read.
Monday, December 28, 2009
Bacon and Drayton,
"And in regions far
Such heroes bring ye forth
As those from whom we came
And plant out name
Under that star
Not known unto our North."
-- To the Virginian Voyage, Drayton
"But be the workemen what they be, let us speake of the worke: that is, the true greatnesse of Kingdom and estates; and the meanes thereof."
-- Francis Bacon
Have raised steam.
The ponies are miserable, especially those under the forecastle. We brought one up for fresh air today, and it is in a most pathetic condition. It's hair is falling out in great clumps and it can barely stand. Have had some tense words with Oates about them. He wants me to use the deck as a sort of exercise yard so they may stretch their legs, but I can't have the boat being rocked to and fro like that.
Two leopard seals were spotted playing in our wake.
Have been enjoying the antics of the Adelie penguins, watching the way they are so graceful when under water. As one looks across the barren stretches of the pack, it is sometimes difficult to realise what teeming life exists immediately beneath its surface.
It makes one very much aware of one's place in the large scheme of things -- observing the smallest shrimps and fish and seals, penguins, skua and whales, and thinking how one feeds on the other. Beneath the placid ice floes and under the calm water pools the old universal warfare is raging incessantly in the struggle for existence.
Meanwhile, we lay about on deck sunning ourselves and reading. There I am smoking my pipe.
And here are the rest of the officers lazing about!
And the crew posed with an ice anchor and Nigger, of course.
Ponting has been busy today. Here's a view of the crow's nest from decks. You can see two chaps in there, and one out on the mast, if you look closely. He's probably taking them a flask of hot cocoa.
Sunday, December 27, 2009
I expect you're sick to death of my going on about pack ice and the like. I am too. I wrote a lot about it in the journal, more than I ever thought I would, simply because it's been the only thing to report on for what seems like half my life.
I have a better idea of what is rotten in Denmark: I'm afraid the ice-house isn't going on so well as it might. There is some mould on the mutton and the beef is tainted. There is a distinct smell. I ordered the door of it open when the temperature fell below 28 degrees, in an effort to 'harden' the meat, but apparently you need air circulation. When the temperature goes down tonight we shall probably take the beef out of the house and put a wind-sail in to clear the atmosphere. If this does not improve matters we must hang more carcasses in the rigging. That ice-house cost me a fortune, too.
One has to be an expert in so many areas on an expedition such as this. One can't be expected to know everything. Clissold looks at me as though he wishes I'd consulted a food preservation professional before embarking, but really, how would that look? For a Commander of the British Royal Navy to go cap-in-hand to tradesmen for advice? He's just going to have to find a way to make it palatable, that's all. A good curry ought to take care of it.
I have noticed that towards the end of my journal entries I refer to myself in the second-person rather often. To wit:
"One must confess that things might be a great deal worse and there would be little to disturb one if one's release was certain, say in a week's time."
One feels this is appropriate, however, as one has to step away from one's work every now and then to contemplate it with perspective.
Good Lord, that stinks.
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Our position tonight is very cheerless. One can only vaguely comprehend that things are happening far beyond our horizon which directly affect our situation. It is a very, very trying time.
Rennick got a sounding of 1843 fathoms today. Clearly we are still a very long way off the continental shelf. I can't help but think about Davy and Jones, those two ponies we had to haul overboard.
Am feeling extremely despondent, truth is. The men are all cheerful -- what choice to they have? -- but a Captain's job is a lonely one. I want to be able to do something about our situation but am impotent. I lay in my bunk and listen to the swoosh of the ice as it brushes the ship and feel so helpless.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Well, that's better, though I'll feel it in the morning, no doubt. Am hoarse with all the raucous singing -- you never in your life heard such a choir as ours. The navy men know the hymns, and the merchant sailors contribute quite a lusty and lively set of chanties whose content cannot be printed here. Ponting did us proud on the banjo.
The sledging banners were all hung about us and looked very festive.
Dinner was excellent: turtle soup, penguin breast served as an entree with red-currant jelly, asparagus, a great sirloin of roast beef, a plum pudding on fire, mince pies, preserved fruits and crackers, champagne, port and liqueurs. I was toasted and gave a small speech. We opened the small Christmas parcels we'd brought from home. We began at 6 and ended at 7. Thenceforth came 5 whole hours of the aforementioned chorus.
I thought the men ate as we did in the wardroom, but am since told that they turned their nose up at penguin and asked for mutton instead. Luckily, we have plenty hanging from the rigging.
I wonder what tomorrow will bring.
We are 69 degrees 5 minutes South, 178 degrees 30 minutes East. Temperature is 28 degrees F.
We are 69 degrees 5 minutes South, 178 degrees 30 minutes East. Temperature is 28 degrees F.
The scene is altogether too Christmasssy. We are surrounded by ice for miles around. Snowflakes fall and curious groups of penguins approach the ship, attracted no doubt by our wholesome noise. I suppose that to the others they look quaint, having never spent a holiday in these climes before. To me they just look like food. They behave very much like people though, which is worth pondering.
Ponting took these photographs of them today.
The mess is gaily decorated with banners of all kinds, and there was full attendance at Service this morning with lusty singing of hymns. In an effort to emulate the Holy Family, Crean's rabbit produced a litter of 17! They are at present warm and snug, tucked away beneath the fodder under the forecastle. I shall harbor no illusions about what will become of them, however.
The men have already had their dinner at midday, with plenty of beer and whiskey. This they celebrated by striking up a very merry band. I can hear a lot of activity all about the ship and there are delightful smells emanating from the galley. I am rather looking forward to the feast to break my dull mood. This inaction gives one black thoughts.
To waste coal or not to waste coal? That is the question. Whether 'tis nobler in the pack to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to light fires against a sea of troubles and, by pushing through, end them. To sail, to stay -- no more -- and by staying we mean to end the heartache and the thousand natural shocks that a ship is heir to -- 'tis a consummation devoutly to be wished. To bank coals, to raise steam -- to raise steam, perchance to push on. Ay, there's the rub, for in pushing on what progress may be made, when we have shuffled off this infernal ice, must give us pause.
Alas, alas! Something is rotten in the Pack.
We are once more stuck fast, and all weight rests on me to decide whether it looks to be longer than 24 hours or less, yet there is no way for me to know. Raising steam from dead boilers is a dead loss of two tons; yet 24 hour's steam uses 2 tons also.
I have a two-ton headache.
I had better try and shift it before the carols.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
What can I tell you. We went on a bit and have now come to a stop again. It is cold out, as one would expect. Once we crossed the Antarctic Circle most aboard lost their taste for deck bathing, except for Bowers, that is. The man is remarkable. He's short, but with a deep barrel chest. He strips off to the buff, tosses a bucket overboard, hauls it up full of sea water, and then pours the lot over himself. He emerges a fiery red all over! Quite bracing, I'll bet.
Here's our Wardroom.
I'm at the head of the table of course.
You can just see Bower's enormous nose and some of his body on the very far left. Look at Gran in his dashing hat glaring at the camera! That's funny, because he otherwise loves to have his picture taken. That's Oates, "The Soldier," standing next to the portrait of His Majesty. Queen Alexandra is on the other side of the door. Cherry looks on from the far right, next to Oates.
The most important member of our illustrious company, however, is our teddy bear, who is present for all occasions of significance. He has perfected his salute, as you can see.
Nigger, the ship's cat, can usually be found skulking about our legs beneath the table waiting to be spoiled with scraps of penguin meat.
We also have on board three rabbits, a pigeon, some squirrels, and a guinea pig which lives in a tobacco container. Hoping the rabbits increase their number for our pies, the squirrels not so much.
Clissold has begun his preparations for our Christmas feast. I, for one, can't wait to tuck in. It's been a rough journey so far and we could all do with a bit of cheering up in the form of rich food, loads of bubbly, good cigars, and games. It's what Christmas is all about, isn't it?
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Not even the report that Atkinson discovered a new tapeworm in the intestines of an Adelie penguin cheers me up. It's only an eighth of an inch long, with a propeller-shaped head.
We are stuck fast in this pack ice and can get nowhere. I have let the fires die out as we cannot go on wasting coal - only 300 tons left in a ship that simply eats coal.
This is simply very bad luck. Fortune has determined to put every obstacle in our way. There can be no other explanation for our predicament. People say yes, but couldn't you have planned better? Let them try I say! It's not all about planning when luck goes against you. You can't plan for misfortune. You can't sit there in your office in London and ask yourself if you'll have enough coal in case you get stuck in pack ice for a month. You can't sit there and think about the possibility of the horses your whole enterprise relies on standing in their own filth for weeks and weeks on end getting weaker and weaker. You can't go, I wonder if we have enough food to feed 60-odd hungry men?
Well, I suppose you can, but we don't do things like that in England. That's not how real men head an expedition. We leave that sort of nonsense to the Norskies.
Monday, December 21, 2009
Sitting here twiddling our thumbs going nowhere.
Luckily, Wilson has been out sketching and doing wonderful watercolors of the surrounding pack and bergs. He tried to capture some penguins out on the ice today by singing to them, and up they waddled quite happily until he stopped singing, and then all ran away!
Every now and then one can hear the strains of music coming up from below decks where one of the crew has fashioned a crude instrument out of a tin can and soldered an arm on it to hold string. Gran was quite impressed!
I do hope we have some decent piano players among us. We have several hundred recordings to play upon the gramophone. I'll have to get the Caruso out. That'll teach whoever it is warbling chanteys down there!
What a voice.
What a moustache.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
At noon we were 68 degrees, 41 minutes South, 179 degrees, 28 minutes West. Made good pace in the night, but today are help up yet again, and have banked fires. Bowers reported a floe 12 miles wide during the middle watch. This evening we have a force 6 wind knocking us about. We can see promising dark skies ahead which indicate open water, but we are still far off, I fear.
One of the ways we raised funds for the expedition was to offer sponsorship to schools for naming rights to our ponies, dogs, sledges, tents, and sleeping bags.
The ponies are:
Of course, we have already lost the two who died as a result of our first storm, but I can't recall if they were Davy, Jones, or Cuts. I must ask Oates.
We thus have two "Uncle Bills" on ship, which might prove confusing. Am sincerely hoping "Bones" and "Weary Willie" do not live up to their names. Much rides upon them.
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Keeping the Captain's Log is a lonely business. I am required to make note of our position and the various particulars of our maneuvers and major events, and so forth -- but what a merely technical account reveals is really nothing like the reality of sailing in these conditions. It cannot portray, for example, how desperately nervous I am about our prospects.
Have made copious notes about the kind of pack ice we are in, describing the bergs. Have Asked Pennell to make a map of the pack. We know so little about it, where it comes from, how it travels, under what conditions it forms and breaks up.
This evening felt a little smug at the thought of being proved right in insisting we push on despite Evans suggesting twice that we stop. If indeed we break through, I will have won a major victory in the confidence of the men.
Saw first Emperor penguin today, and sea leopards. Also saw one of Wilson's new whales with a sabre dorsal fin I estimated to be 4 feet high.
Listed the officer's nicknames in the journal today. Men confined in close quarters always develop nicknames. Here it is:
Wilson: Uncle Bill
Simpson: Sunny Jim
Campbell: The Mate
Taylor: Griff and Keir Hardy
Nelson: Marie and Bronte
Oates: Titus, Soldier, "Farmer Hayseed"
Levick: Toffarino, Old Sport
Mears, Day, Gran and Bruce don't appear to have nicknames.
I am known as "The Owner." At least it's not a girl's name.
Friday, December 18, 2009
We discovered this fish -- a new species, I think -- Notothenia -- when we overturned an ice floe and it popped up on the underside.
We have been stopping and starting all day trying to forge our way through the pack. Made good headway for a while in open leads, and are now hung up again in heavy bay ice.
Wrote this in my Journal, obviously about the ice, but re-reading it just now, it reminded me instead of women at parties.
In general what we have observed on the opening of the pack means a very small increase in the open water spaces, but enough to convey the impression that the floes, instead of wishing to rub shoulders and grind against one another, desire to be apart. They touch lightly where they touch at all--such a condition makes much difference to the ship in attempts to force her through, as each floe is freer to move on being struck.
Thinking of Katherine, and how she will miss Peter's Christmas. Thinking too, about Ory Wilson and Hilda Evans, missing their husbands at this special time of year. We offer a toast to wives and girlfriends at dinner.
Happy with that fish, though. At least it's something.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
We've been having rain! I've never known rain beyond the Antarctic Circle before. Let's hope it helps to melt this ice. We have been drifting for 48 hours now.
Am thoroughly enjoying Around The World On A Wheel. What an adventure! Here's what Fraser says of leaving London:
"We were going to strange lands. We had been told we were rash and foolish and mad, and we were hastening our deaths. We didn't believe it."
I should think not! Marvellous stuff. I thoroughly recommend it. Ask your local bookseller for a copy.
There's really nothing to do. I would be bored to tears if it wasn't for reading. Wilson keeps saying "are you sure there's nothing I can do to help with any of the planning," and "are you sure all the equipment is perfectly in order," which is beginning to get on my nerves. I do not like being second-guessed.
Here's the intrepid author with his companions and their mighty metal steeds:
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
If only it were possible to view the ice ahead of us from above, so that we may see whether any clear passage lies there. The crow's nest is simply not high enough. How nice it would be to have a balloon, as we did on Discovery, that we could lift a man up in to view our surroundings. But alas, no balloon, and no firm ground to light her from. Imagine being so high one could view the entire continent at once! It defies the imagination.
Always the decision whether or not to start fires. Getting the boiler going uses two whole tons of coal to bring up steam. Sometimes I despair that we shall find ourselves wintering here at sea, using all our precious fuel, and only having enough to get back to New Zealand in the Spring.
It's as if the ice has a mind of its own and is dead set against us.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
There's nothing more invigorating to the system and which make you feel more like a man than going for a ski before breakfast, as I did this morning. Plus, it gives one an enormous appetite! After breakfast, we doled out ski to the landing party, because they shall need to be able to ski when we land a few short weeks hence. I am glad for this chance for Gran to teach them beforehand. I would not do to have to land all the ship's stores using ski with men who have never had their feet in them. Mind you, there's something to be said for "learning on the job," as it were.
Meares took two dog teams out on the ice with sledges to help get them into condition, too, as several have grown very fat. It's hard to know how this happens since all they get to eat per days is two and a half dry biscuits.
We are continually drifting north, which is trying, but at least we're not drifting east. That would be a disaster.
I've found myself using the word "trying" rather too much of late. I must try not to.
Monday, December 14, 2009
Have spent much of the day out on the ice. We might as well make use of it while we are stuck here. It's 35 degrees, so not too bad.
Had a bit of a practice pulling weights -- Campbell, Evans and I took turns with one pulling the combined weight of the other two. It was easy enough. Gran is giving others skiing lessons. He is only a young chap, but already has the distinction of having instructed the Queen of Norway!
Oates and Atkinson have become genuine bosom buddies; they have been working up a sweat on the ice and have had to strip right down to their trousers.
We're all in snow goggles as the glare is exceptionally bright.
It is a relief to have something to do. I can't imagine how horribly depressing it is to be trapped in the pack like this for months and years, such as Nansen was. At least we have plenty of reading material: After I'm done with this I'm going to begin "Round The World On A Wheel," by J. Foster Fraser. It seems apt.
Posted by Micki Myers at 11:35 AM
Sunday, December 13, 2009
I am so tired I can barely keep my eyes open. Was up all night with the watch as we switched back and forward from pushing through ice and open leads, then coming up against solid ice and able to go nowhere. Everyone second-guessing me, I fear.
One feels tremendously the weight of the lives of these men under these conditions, where my decision alone consumes coal, and without coal, we all die. The mental anguish alone is exhausting.
So to conserve fuel we have cut fires and are stopped until better conditions prevail. It is what it is.
Have kicked Wilson out of our cabin for a bit so that I can catch some sleep.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Progress is slow. We are continually up against thick and thin ice, finding the occasional lead, but mostly going nowhere. At least there is drift to count on; we made 15 miles SE by this method alone. You're never really rooted to one spot at sea, whether you think you're moving or not; even when jammed fast in the ice, the ice, as a whole, moves, carrying you with it. This is how Nansen was able to achieve such success in the Fram. Of course the Fram was built to rise up out of the ice; we are not.
Gran, Oates and Bowers were out on the ice on ski. Ponting tells me that in recent years, ski have become very popular among winter-sporters in Switzerland. There's no accounting for what some people think of as fun. Ponting, meanwhile, has been out photographing whales coming up for air and was much caught off guard by a Blue Whale breaching right next to him!
Atkinson lit the blubber stove which we shall rely on for heat. The fat drips down onto an asbestos plate and the run off is collected. Good warmth, but horrid smell.
I just want to go to sleep.
Friday, December 11, 2009
Well, we're well and truly stuck here -- no leads, the ice pressed in all around us.
We have taken the opportunity to get a bit of exercise by trying out our skis on the floes. The skis and boots are very good, but Tryggve Gran has his work cut out for him, I fear, by the looks of the limbs akimbo. The men are very grudging about the possibility of ski, preferring instead to rely on their own two feet. It all seems so Scandinavian, somehow, and not at all English.
The skis are long and thin, solid wood. They are heavy, and one's legs do get awfully tired heaving them about. Still, at this point in our journey it does well to get acquainted with them as we shall need to use them on our sledge journeys.
I hope we get in enough practice before we begin.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Ice, ice, everywhere and not a drop to drink...
Actually, that's not at all true: we brought on 8 tons of freshwater from a hummocky floe during the night. We pulled alongside, dug in our ice-anchors, and men dug into the side of it with axes so that big chunks fell on deck. This was then condensed with a jet of steam in tanks. Used a lot of coal, but we need drinking water.
It doesn't feel like night when the sun only just dips below the horizon -- stayed up on deck til midnight watching it. Here is what I wrote in my Journal:
"The scene was incomparable. The northern sky was gloriously rosy and reflected in the calm sea between the ice, which varied from burnished copper to salmon pink; bergs and pack to the north had a pale greenish hue with deep purple shadows, the sky shaded to saffron and pale green."
Am in a bit of a quandary as regards a decision I made based on what I thought was the best evidence; that is, to enter the pack ice at 178 degrees west. I studied the records of previous voyages and it seemed right. However, we have encountered worse conditions than any ship has had before. The pack ice that we have to traverse before entering the Ross Sea changes according to prevailing conditions and consists of both new ice and old ice that has cleaved off the continent the previous year. When it warms up slightly, the new ice melts, leaving bergs of hard, old ice. We follow "leads" -- stretches of open water that open up in the ice -- as and when they appear, or just try to crush through smaller areas of pack ice. Either way, we are pretty much stalled, and have to be guided by the sky; clear sky often indicates clear water, so we aim for that. There's some about 20 miles away, but 20 miles is a lot under these conditions.
Wilson has been shooting birds for study. Bowers goes out in the pram to collect them from the water. It is remarkable how the sound of the shot doesn't warn them off, but what do they know of the danger? The men have also been having much fun causing a commotion among Adelie penguins by tossing a potato over deck and watching them scramble to examine it. They are the most adorable creatures. Don't taste so good, though.
Ponting has been much out and about with his cinematograph.
Tonight we have had the livers of four crab-eater seals we saw and shot -- they were delicious.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Here's Ponting cinematographing the pack ice in quite a precarious position levered out over the deck!
Today we have been passing quite spectacular tabular icebergs that have broken off from the ice shelf -- they are enormous flat-topped slabs hundreds of yards in length and 60 - 80 feet high with horizontal bands of ice weaving through them. Absolutely spectacular. Ponting is beside himself with joy, saying he's seen nothing like it. The colors are beautiful when the sun pours through the clouds. More whales and plenty of sea birds, snow petrels and Cape pigeon and the like.
We are at about the 66th parallel I should think. I am surprised to meet ice so far north so early and don't know what it forebodes. In any case I am glad for the calm seas as it provides much needed relief for the ponies. The men are all jolly and singing shanties up a storm.Here's another one that should give you some idea of our surroundings. One feels every now and then a sharp bump as the ship's prow hits the ice. If it becomes thick I shall be obliged to put the fires out as we can't waste coal going nowhere.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Did you know we get through half a ton of coal a week just for cooking? We are many mouths and hungry fellows all.
We are not going as fast as I could like, and the headwind we are fighting doesn't help. I am worried about fuel. Had to furl all sail today as we battle out way South.
Am awfully tired today -- up all night unable to sleep thinking about the animals, wondering if they are sentinent beings like people and whether they will remember this dreadful voyage. Animals are awfully sensitive about places where they've been injured and I wouldn't want them giving us a hard time due to traumatic memories. They are soaked and the ship's rolling makes it hard for them to stand 24 hours a day. Not enough room for them to lie down. That's OK; horses sleep standing. I wonder if they dream. I wonder what they dream of.
All our hopes are pinned upon the ponies. I still think dogs useless when it comes to polar work and general survival. They have recovered from their dousing during the gale remarkably well though. They went from death's door to right as rain in a single day.
Have been watching blue whales from the deck. They are the biggest creatures ever to have lived. And I feel quite the smallest.
Monday, December 7, 2009
This afternoon, both the air and sea temperature were 34 degrees, which means the ice isn't far off. We are at Latitude 61, only 5 degrees off the Circle.
Proposed our photographer, Ponting, to lead the Western Geological Party, as he has a lot of experience traveling, but Griffith Taylor was most upset by this. We talked it all out and Ponting was quite happy to relinquish his spot to the satisfaction of all. He's a good chap. He's out and about on deck getting pictures of the skua and albatross.
34 degrees might sound chilly but it's the warmest we'll all be for years.
Everyone is very cheerful despite their gear being soaked with the ponies' effluent, which leaked badly after the gale. Their stalls are directly above the men's mess. Add to this misery, the lack of light and fresh air down there, and the impossibility of getting wet woollens dry. It is remarkable there hasn't been mutiny so soon into our venture. You can't imagine the smell.
At dinner we had reports of our first ice: Evans confirmed a berg far to the west as the sun burst through the clouds. All very excited.
One thinks often of Cook, skirting these waters not knowing what lies beyond, thinking himself the last man who will ever sail here.
Sunday, December 6, 2009
We have been discussing landing at Cape Crozier and are very excited by the thought. It will be advantageous in that we can start straight South without having to cross Barrier crevasses; our other parties shall not be cut off from us; and we can study both the geology of Terror and the Emperor penguin embryology, as they have a large rookery there.
The only problem we might encounter is in landing the stores as there is no good place to berth the ship and unload safely -- and there is quite a climb to suitable ground for our hut.
Wilson very much wants to get among the Emperors, but fears the smell will be too strong for comfort. Cherry says it's likely to be too windy.
We are on course and all is well. There is much singing.
Saturday, December 5, 2009
Weather improving -- barometer steady. So much depends on fine weather. December is generally a good month in the Ross Sea, and the animals could really use a break from the endless tossing.
Someone once said that starting off by discussing the weather is showing off. The thing is, I'm English, and that's just how we begin things. It is THE subject at sea. I often sit here composing my thoughts to put down in the Journal and on here, and setting the tone with the weather just feels natural, somehow. Besides, I don't know you, and that's by far the best way to open a conversation with a stranger, when one absolutely has to--at a party, say--because everyone's got an opinion on it.
Wilson has been much embedded in his Bible of late; I think our recent brush with death has brought things close to home for him. He carries it absolutely everywhere with him--it was a gift from his mother as a boy and is practically falling apart. In any case, he does have a go at me for being such a stick about religion, so today I wrote in my Journals that "I pray there may be no more gales," and "I devoutly wish" the swell "would vanish altogether." That should satisfy the critics.
Friday, December 4, 2009
Everyone's pretty near done in with making reparations after the gale--catching sleep, cleaning out living quarters, helping to re-stow coal and petrol, mending lashings, etc. Mostly we're all still wet, since it is not easy to dry clothing and bedding. Everything smells pretty awful.
That photograph of me at the top of the page: I don't really look like that, you know. I did once, but that was years ago. I'm afraid age has caught up with me in less than flattering ways. I'll never understand what Kathleen sees in me since she enjoyed the company of so many other handsome chaps her own age. She wouldn't let me wear a hat in the sunshine for fear of my losing my hair -- "I won't have a bald husband," she said-- but I'm afraid that sunshine or not it's going. It's curious because in so many other ways she cares not a whit for appearances, whereas I care more than I suppose I ought.
I don't know why I'm fretting so -- perhaps it's the anti-climax of having been under such enormous stress the last few days. I would dearly love to sleep, but can't be seen to be slacking off while the men work so hard around me.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Here's Osman, who was washed clear overboard yesterday and then swept back on. He was in a very poor way but has been lying in hay all morning and has much recovered. We have had to nurse several of the dogs back from death's door.
Have just come in from helping to haul the two dead ponies up and out through the forecastle skylight. Quite a messy business as they are dead weight.
Campbell and Bowers have been re-listing everything stowed on deck to see what we've lost. So far, 10 tons of coal, 65 gallons of petrol, and a case of biologist's spirit have gone. Not as bad as I thought. The ship's bulwarks sustained some damage. The icehouse is fine.
The wind has died down and we are back on course, the fires having been re-lit now that the bilges are dry enough. Hard work got the pumps cleared and working again, thank goodness. Evans was quite remarkable wriggling over the coal and down the pump shaft to repair it. Bowers assisted him. It seems to me that Bowers was everywhere at once during our trial--and had a leading hand in every rescue effort. He is absolutely invaluable and I shall recommend him for reward once our expedition's done. I asked him how he was managing this morning when he came up from below, and he told me "even under its worst conditions this earth is a good place to live in."
I do not know where we shall be if another gale comes upon us. Several of the man have confessed to me today that they too believed we were all dead, though no-one showed it yesterday.
Though I will not record this in my Log, I must confess that the storm itself was not the cause for our near demise. The decks are so overloaded that most of the water came through between the planks. If any one of them had broken, I would not be here to write this now.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
You cannot know what this last 24 hours has been like for us, sixty-odd souls tossed about in Nature's fury as if to remind us our lives were worth nothing and she could take us all in an instant at any time she chose. I am still shaken--badly shaken, if you want to know--and am exhausted less with the effects of a lack of sleep than the press of adrenaline and sheer terror that has been my constant companion and which still hugs my shoulders as if it were my new best friend.
Here's Dante's Upper Circles of Hell; Cherry says we are in the second circle reserved for carnal sinners, floundering in these godforsaken seas. I heard Priestly mention Dante too, come to think of it. There are few better-suited analogies for what we have all been though.
The storm hit upon us and at times we estimated the waves to be 35 feet high--almost the highest ever recorded by James Clark Ross, and about the limit of what a vessel can bear. At times she dipped so far we were submerged to our waists in green water. Quietly I may tell you that there were times she listed so far I knew there was no way we could recover and were surely dead. And yet--
I kept it from the men, especially the scientists who are not used to sea life, who needn't have suffered, but I did put it to Bowers at one point, for he above all else could see our situation. "What do you think?" I asked him. He is a plucky soul who said we weren't dead yet, but just then Oates reported another pony dead, and Bowers's optimism felt thin indeed.
God, the animals. You can't imagine. The ponies in their stalls unable to stand, being thrown from side to side. One of them we found hung. The dogs, who are lashed to the decks have barely survived. We've lost some. Osman was washed clear overboard but a wave brought him back.
Lashings have broken, sending cases and sacks of coal flying. Bowers was after the loose petrol stores for the motors, but I told him it didn't matter, which seemed to bother him more than anything else, I can't imagine why. The loose coal and dust has choked the pumps and formed a sludge that has stopped them right up. We are baling in shifts. The men are singing as loudly as they can to take their minds off the work and are to a man naked as the day they were born, being submerged, most of them, to their chests. I wonder if they know they are literally pumping for their lives.
They look like they are in Hell already and wished they'd at least had a chance at misbehaving before they got there. At least we are as wet as we can get--it hides what the body does when it thinks the end is nigh.
One would think the Fates line up against us.