Thursday, December 10, 2009

10 December, 1910

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.

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