Tuesday, December 1, 2009

2 December, 1910

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.

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