Thursday, December 30, 2010

30 December, 1911

Camp 52

A very trying, tiring march, and only 11 miles covered. Tomorrow, I'm going to march half a day, make a depot, and build the 10-feet sledges. The second party is certainly tiring; it remains to be seen how they will manage with the smaller sledge and lighter load. The surface is certainly much worse than it was 50 miles back. We have caught up with Shackleton's dates. Everything would be cheerful if I could persuade myself that the second party were quite fit to go forward.

I hope no-one cuts themselves on the sledge runners tomorrow. That would be awful.

29 December, 1911

Camp 51

It's been a struggle all day over very bad surfaces. The weather looks a little doubtful. The marches are terribly monotonous. One's thoughts wander occasionally to pleasanter scenes and places, but the necessity to keep the course, or some hitch in the surface, quickly brings them back. There have been hours of very steady plodding to day; these are the best part of the business, they mean forgetfulness and advance.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

28 December, 1911

Camp 50

I start cooking again tomorrow morning. We have had a troublesome day but have completed our 13 miles. My unit pulled away easy this morning and stretched out for two hours—the second unit made heavy weather. I changed with Evans and found the second sledge heavy—could keep up, but the team was not swinging with me as my own team swings. Then I changed P.O. Evans for Lashly. We seemed to get on better, but we then came up over a rise with hard sastrugi. At the top we camped for lunch. What was the difficulty? One theory was that some members of the second party were stale. Another that all was due to the bad stepping and want of swing; another that the sledge pulled heavy.

In the afternoon we exchanged sledges, and at first went off well, but getting into soft snow, we found a terrible drag, the second party coming quite easily with our sledge. So the sledge is the cause of the trouble, and talking it out, I found that all is due to want of care.The runners ran excellently, but the structure has been distorted by bad strapping, bad loading, 7c. The party are not done, and I have told them plainly that they must wrestle with the trouble and get it right for themselves. There is no possible reason they should not get along as easily as we do.

Oh, and the fact that they have been manhauling for weeks longer than we have on shorter rations is no excuse. No excuse at all.

27 December, 1911

Camp 49

Damn Bowers. This morning he broke the only hypsometer thermometer. This means we can't measure our altitude. I really let him have it, too.

We got into abominable crevasses this afternoon. Steering the party is no light task. One cannot allow one's thoughts to wander as others do, and when, as this afternoon, one gets amongst disturbances, I find it is very worrying and tiring. I do trust we shall have no more of them. We have not lost sight of the sun since we came on the summit; we should get an extraordinary record of sunshine. It is monotonous work, this; the sledgemeter and theodolite govern the situation.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

26 December, 1911 Boxing Day

Camp 48

We were perhaps a little slow today after the plum pudding, but I think we are getting onto the surface which is likely to continue the rest of the way.

It seems astonishing to be disappointed with a march of 15 miles, when I had contemplated doing little more than 10 with full loads.

We are on the 86th parallel.

I wonder where Amundsen spent his Christmas?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

25 December, 1911 Christmas Day

The wind was strong last night and this morning; a light snowfall in the night; a good deal of drift, subsiding when we started, but still about a foot high. It was fine for a while but then we got amongst crevasses again. Got our ski sticks out, which improved matters, but we had to tack a good deal and several of us went half down. After half an hour of this I looked round and found the second sledge halted some way in rear -- evidently someone had gone into a crevasse. We saw rescue work going on, but had to wait half an hour for the party to come up, and got mighty cold. It appears that Lashly went down very suddenly, nearly dragging the crew with him. The sledge ran on and jammed the span so that the Alpine rope had to be got out and used to pull him to the surface again. He said the crevasse was 50 feet deep and 8 feet across, showing that the word "unfathomable" can rarely be applied. It's his birthday today too - he is 44 and hard as nails. Damned annoying to make us all cold, though.

Camp 47.

I am so replete that I can scarcely type. After sundry luxuries, such as chocolate and raisins at lunch, we started off well, but soon got among crevasses again. I marched on till 7:30. We covered 15 miles.

I knew that supper was going to be a "tightener" and indeed it has been -- we had four courses. The first, pemmican, full whack, with slices of horse meat flavored with onion and curry powder and thickened with biscuit; then an arrowroot, cocoa and biscuit hoosh sweetened; then a plum pudding; then cocoa with raisins; and a finally a dessert of caramels and ginger.

After hte feast it was difficult to move. Wilson and I couldn't finish our share of the plum pudding. This full feeding will keep us wonderfully warm tonight.

This time last year we were stuck in ice at sea! How time flies!

Friday, December 24, 2010

24 December, 1911 Christmas Eve

Camp 46

We are now marching in our wind blouses. The first two hours of the afternoon march went very well. Then the sledges hung a bit, and we plodded on and covered something over 14 miles in the day. The only inconvenience of the wind is the extent to which our faces get iced up. The temperature hovers about zero. We have not struck a crevasse all day, which is a good sign. The sun continues to shine in a cloudless sky, and the wind rises and falls, and about us is a scene of the wildest desolation, but we are a very cheerful party and tomorrow is Christmas Day, with something extra in he hoosh.

I wonder how Peter and Kathleen are spending the day?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

23 December, 1911

Lunch. Started well, but soon came upon bad crevasses and hard waves. We pushed on to the SW, but things went from bad to worse, and we had to haul out to the north, then west. West looks clear for the present, but it is not a very satisfactory direction. The comfort is that we are rising.

Night: Camp 45 Height about 7750

Great vicissitudes of fortune in the afternoon march. Came upon an area with the most extraordinary surface -- narrow crevasses ran in all directions. They were quite invisible, being covered with a thin crust of hardened neve without a sign of a crack in it. We all fell in one after the other, and sometimes two together. We have had many unexpected falls before, but usually through being unable to mark the run of the surface appearances of cracks, or where such cracks are covered with soft snow. How a hard crust can form over a crack is a real puzzle—it seems to argue extremely slow movement.

At 5 pm everything changed. The hard surface gave place to regular sastrugi and our horizon leveled in every direction. We camped with a delightful feeling of security that we had at length reached the summit proper. I am feeling very cheerful about everything tonight. We marched 15 miles.

My determination to keep mounting irrespective of course is fully justified and I shall indeed be surprised is we have any further difficulty with crevasses or steep slopes. To me for the first time our goal seems really in sight. We can pull our loads and pull them much faster and farther than I expected in my most hopeful moments. I only pray for a fair share of good weather. There is a cold wind now as expected, but with good clothes and well fed as we are, we can stick a lot worse than we are getting. I trust this may prove the turning point in our fortunes for which we have waited so patiently.

2 December, 1911

Camp 44 About 7100 feet

Self: 43, Wilson 39, Evans (PO) 37, Oates 32, Bowers 28. Average 36.

This, the third stage of our journey, is opening with good promise. We made our depot this morning, then said an affecting farewell to the returning party, who have taken things very well, dear good fellows that they are. Cherry teared up a little.

We marched 7 hours and covered 10.5 miles. Tomorrow we march longer hours, about 9 I hope. Every day the loads will lighten, and so we ought to make the requisite progress. I think we have climbed 250 feet today, but thought it more on the march. Ahead of us is a stiffish incline and it looks as though there might be pressure behind it. It is very difficult to judge how matters stand, however, in such a confusion of elevations and depressions. This course doesn't work wonders in change of latitude, but I think it is the right track to clear the pressures -- at any rate I shall hold it for the present.

The weather has been beautifully fine all day as it was last night. This morning there was an hour or so of haze due to clouds from the north. Now it is perfectly clear, and we get a fine view of the mountain behind which Wilson has just been sketching.

21 December, 1911

Camp 43 Upper Glacier Depot.
Latitude 85 degrees, 7 minutes. Longitude 163 degrees, 4 minutes. Height" about 8000 feet. Temperature: -2.

We climbed the slope this morning and found a very bad surface on top, as far as crevasses were concerned. We all had falls into them, Atkinson and Teddy Evans going down the length of their harness. Evans had rather a shake up. The rotten ice continued for a long way, though I crossed to and fro towards the land, trying to get on better ground.

At noon the wind came from the north, bringing the inevitable mist up the valley and covering us just as we were in the worst of places. We camped for lunch and were obliged to wait two and a half hours for a clearance. The sun began to struggle though and we were off. We soon got out of the worst crevasses and on to a long snow slope leading on part of Mount Darwin. It was a very long stiff pull up, and I held on till 7:30, when, the other team being some way astern, I camped. We have done a good march, risen to a satisfactory altitude, and reached a good place for our depot.

Tomorrow we start with our fullest summit load, and the first march should show us the possibilities of our achievement. The temperature has dropped below zero, but tonight it is so calm and bright that one feels delightfully warm and comfortable in the tent. Such weather helps greatly in the sorting arrangements, etc, which are going on tonight. For me it is an immense relief to have the indefatigable little Bowers to see to all the detail arrangements of this sort.

I have to write some letters to send back with the returning party. Have told Kathleen that I am exceedingly fit and can go with the best of them, and that we ought to get through. That will cheer her.

I keep thinking she will get these notes in time for Christmas, but of course she won't get them for a good many months yet.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

20 December, 1911

Camp 42. 6500 feet, about.

Just got off our best half march -- 10 miles, 1150 yards, over 2 miles. With an afternoon to follow we should do very well today; the wind has been coming up the valley. Turning my journal seems to have brought luck. I write on one side of the pages, then turn the whole book around and write on the black sides.

Pulling the sledges in crampons is no difficulty at all. At lunch, Wilson and Bowers walked back 2 miles or so to try to find Bower's broken sledgemeter, without result. During their absence a fog spread about us, carried up the valleys by an easterly wind. We started the afternoon march in this fog very unpleasantly, but later it gradually drifted, and tonight it is very fine and warm.

I have just told off the people to return tomorrow night: Atkinson, Wright, Cherry-Garrard, and Keohane. All are disappointed — poor Wright rather bitterly, I fear. It suspect it has something to do with picking Evans ahead of him. But every time I looked back at his team, I saw Evans pulling hard. Wright won't talk to me. I dreaded this necessity of choosing — nothing could be more heartrending. I calculated our programme to start from 85 degrees 10 minutes with 12 units of food (a unit equalling a week's supplies for four men), and eight men. We ought to be in this position tomorrow night, less one day's food. After all our harassing trouble one cannot be satisfied with such a prospect.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

19 December, 1911

Camp 41.

Things are looking up. Started on good surface, soon came to very annoying criss-cross tracks. In fell into two and have bad bruises on knee and thigh, but we got along all the time until we reached an admirable smooth surface excellent for traveling. We are having a long lunch for angles, photographs, and sketches.

Night: Height about 5800. We stepped off this afternoon at a rate of 2 miles or more per hour, with the very satisfactory result of 17 miles to the good for the day. It has not been a strain, except perhaps for me with my wounds received early in the day. The wind has kept us cool on the march, which has in consequence been pleasanter; we are not in our wet clothes tonight, and have not suffered from the same overpowering thirst as on previous days. Evans and Bowers are busy taking angles, as they have been all day; we shall have material for an excellent chart.

Days like this put heart into one.

18 December, 1911

Camp 40

Lunch nearly 4000 feet above the Barrier. Overcast and snowing this morning as I expected, land showing on starboard hand, so, though it was gloomy and depressing, we could march, and did.

We are stopped for much after 8 miles, and things look quite promising. for the moment. On our right we now have a pretty good view of the Adams Marshall and Wild Mountains and their very curious horizontal stratification.

This morning all our gear was fringed with ice crystals which looked very pretty.


Rough going this afternoon. We are less than 5 days behind Shackleton now. It is snowing again. It is very annoying, but I suppose we must be thankful when we can get our marches off. Still sweating horribly on the march and very thirsty at the halts.

Friday, December 17, 2010

17 December, 1911

Camp 39

Soon after starting we found ourselves in rather a mess; bad pressure ahead and long waves between us and the land. Blue ice showed on the crests of the waves; very soft snow lay in the hollows. We had to cross the waves in places 30 feet from crest to hollow, and we did it by sitting on the sledge and letting her go. Thus we went down with a rush and our impetus carried us some way up the other side; then followed by a fearfully tough drag to rise to the next crest. After two hours of this I saw a larger wave, the crest of which contained hard ice up the glacier; we reached this and got excellent traveling for 2 miles on it.


Height: about 3500 above the Barrier.

After lunch we decided to take the risk of sticking to the center of the glacier, with good result. If we keep up the pace, we gain on Shackleton, and I don't see any reason we shouldn't. For once one can say "Sufficient for the day is the good thereof." Our luck may be on the turn -- I think we deserve it. In spite of the hard work everyone is very fit and cheerful, feeling well fed and eager for more toil. Eyes are much better except poor Wilson's; he has caught a very bad attack. Remembering our trouble on our last Southern journey, I fear he is in for a very bad time.

We got fearfully hot this morning and marched in singlets, which became wringing wet; thus uncovered the sun gets at one's skin, and then the wind, which makes it horribly uncomfortable.

Our lips are very sore. We cover them with the soft silk plaster which seems about the best thing for the purpose.

I'm inclined to think that the summit trouble will be mostly due to the chill falling on sunburned skins. Even now one feels the cold strike directly one stops. We get fearfully thirsty and chip up ice on the march, as well as drinking a great deal of water on halting. Our fuel only just does it, but that is all we want, and we have a bit in hand for the summit.

The pulling this morning was fairly pleasant. We have worn our crampons all day and are delighted with them. P.O. Evans, the inventor of both crampons and ski shoes, is greatly pleased, and certainly we owe him much. The weather is beginning to look dirty again, snow clouds rolling in from the east as usual. I believe it will be overcast tomorrow.

16 December, 1911

Camp 38

A gloomy morning, clearing at noon, and ending in a gloriously fine evening. Although constantly anxious in the morning, the light held good for traveling throughout the day, and we have covered 11 miles, altering the aspect of the glacier greatly. But the traveling has been very hard. We started at 7, lunched at 12:15, and marched on till 6:30 -- over ten hours on the march -- the limit of time to be squeezed into one day.

We must push on all we can, for we are now 6 days behind Shackleton, all due to that wretched storm. So far, since we got amongst the disturbances we have not seen such alarming crevasses as I had expected; certainly dogs could have come up as far as this. At present one gets terribly hot and perspiring on the march, and quickly cold when halted, but the sun makes up for all evils. It is very difficult to know what to do about the ski; their weight is considerable and yet under certain circumstances they are extraordinarily useful. Everyone is very satisfied with our summit ration. The party which has been manhauling for so long say they are far less hungry than they used to be. It is good to think the majority will keep up this good feeding all through.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

15 December, 1911

Camp 37
Height about 2500 feet, 84 degrees 8 minutes latitude

Got away at 8; marched til 1, the surface improving and snow cover thinner over blue ice, but the sky overcast, with clouds coming ever lower. Evans' is decidedly the slowest unit, though Bowers' is not much faster. We keep up and overhaul without much difficulty.

At 5:45 we had to stop due to bad weather and lack of light. Our luck is really very bad.

Since supper there are signs of clearing again, but I don;t like the look of things. The weather has been working up from the SE with all the symptoms of our pony-wrecking storm. Pray heaven we are not going to have this wretched snow in the worst part of the glacier to come. The lower part of it is not very interesting, except from an ice point of view. Rock everywhere.

Oh! for fine weather; surely we have had enough of this oppressive gloom.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

14 December, 1911

Camp 36

Indigestion and the soggy condition of my clothes kept me awake for some time last night, and the exceptional exercise gives bad attacks of cramp. Our lips are getting raw and blistered. The eyes of the party are improving, I am glad to say. We are just starting our march with no very hopeful outlook.

I hope this indigestion doesn't cause problems ahead.


Evans set off and went well; when we came up, I offered to take some of his weight but his pride wouldn't allow it. Later we exchanged sledges with Bowers, pulling theirs easily, whist they made quite heavy work with ours. I am afraid Cherry and Keohane are the weakness of that team, though both put their utmost into the traces.

We must have made about 11 miles today. We got fearfully hot on the march, sweated through everything and stripped off jerseys. The result is we are pretty cold and clammy now, but escape from the soft snow and a good march compensate every discomfort. We see more blue ice all the time.

Tonight the sky is overcast and wind has been blowing up the glacier. I think there will be another spell of gloomy weather on the Barrier, so the question is whether this part of the glacier escapes. There are crevasses about 18 inches across outside Bowers's tent and a narrower one outside my own.

Towards the end of the march we were pulling with the greatest of ease. It is splendid to be getting along and to find some adequate return for the work we are putting into the business.

13 December, 1911

Camp 35

A most damnably dismal day. The sledges just sink in this soft snow. We spent three hours to put the 10-feet runners on under the crossbars. There was no delay on account of the slow progress of the other parties.

It wasn't much better after this; the toil was simply awful. We were soaked with perspiration and thoroughly breathless with our efforts. Again and again, the sledge got one runner on harder snow than the other, canted on its side, and refused to move. Evans was reduced to relay work, and Bowers followed him soon after.

We have advanced a bare 4 miles today. We are at 1500 feet; I had pinned my faith on getting better conditions as we rose, but it looks as though things are getting worse instead of better. We can toil on but it is woefully disheartening. I am not at all hungry but pretty thirsty. I find our summit ration is too filling for the present. Two skuas came round camp at lunch, no doubt attracted by our Shambles camp (and all the blood there).

Oh for a beer.

12 December, 1911

Camp 34

We have had a hard day, and during the forenoon it was my team which made the heaviest weather of the work. We got bogged again and again, and do what we would, the sledge dragged like lead. The others were working hard but nothing compared to us. At 2:30 I halted for lunch, pretty well cooked, and there was disclosed the secret of our trouble in a thin film with some hard knots of ice on the runners.

It is evident that what I expected has occurred. The whole of the lower valley is filled with snow from the recent storm, and if we had not had ski we should be hopelessly bogged. On foot one sinks to the knees, and if pulling on a sledge, to halfway between knee and thigh. It would therefore be absolutely impossible to advance  on foot with our loads. Considering all things, we are getting better on ski. A crust is forming over the soft snow. In a week or so I have little doubt it will be strong enough to support sledges and men. At present it carries neither properly. Needless to say the hauling is terrible.

There is a remarkable difference in temperature between day and night - +33 when we started, and with our hard work we were literally soaked through with perspiration. It is now +23. Evans's party kept up much better today; we had their shoes in our tent this morning, and PO Evans put them into shape again.

One would think they'd been doing this pulling for weeks longer than us.

11 December, 1911

Camp 33

A very good day from one point of view; very bad from another.

Hard going dragging our loads on ski through crevasses and deep snow. Seaman Evans dropped a leg into one. We built our Lower Glacier Depot.

Ski are the thing, and here are my tiresome fellow-countrymen too prejudiced to have prepared themselves for the event.

Loads of us have snow blindness to some degree. The dogs will go back easily as there is food all along the line.

Wilson found a boulder of very coarse granite, evidently the rock of which the Gateway and neighboring hills are formed.

I am so tired, but keep up with the younger men admirably.

Friday, December 10, 2010

10 December, 1911

Camp 32

There was much rearranging of loads to do from this point forth, so we did not get away before noon. The dogs carried 600 lbs of our weight besides the depot of 200 lbs. The day was gloriously fine and we were soon perspiring.  After the first mile we began to rise, and for some way on the steep slope we held to our ski and kept going. Then we had to take off our ski. The pulling after this was extraordinarily fatiguing. We sank to our knees everywhere, and the sledges sink to the crossbars in soft spots.

Evans's party cannot keep up. Wilson tells me some very alarming news: that Atkinson says Wright is getting played out and Lashly is not so fit as he was owing to the heavy pulling since the blizzard. I have not felt satisfied about this party. The finish of the march clearly showed that something was wrong. They fell a long way behind, had to take off ski, and took nearly half an hour to come up a few hundred yards. True, the surface was awful and growing worse every moment. It is a very serious business if the men are going to crack up. As for myself, I have never felt fitter, and my party can easily hold its own. P.O. Evans, of course, us a tower of strength, but Oates and Wilson are doing splendidly also.

Here where we are camped the snow is worse than I have ever seen it, but we are in a hollow. Hereabouts Shackleton found hard blue ice. It seems an extraordinary difference in fortune, and at every step his luck becomes more evident.

I take the dogs on for half a day tomorrow, then send them home. We are going to be forced to replay our loads if present conditions hold.

There is a strong wind down the glacier tonight.

9 December, 1911

Camp 31, Shambles Camp

We were up at 5:30 this morning, and at 8 got away with the ponies -- a most painful day. The tremendous snowfall of the late storm had made the surface intolerably soft, and after the first hour there was no glide. We pressed on the poor half-rationed animals, but could get none to lead for more than a few minutes. The man-haulers were pressed into service to help matters. P.O. Evans got the last pair of pony snowshoes on Snatcher. Finally the ponies followed him.

We went on all day without lunch. By 8PM we got to what Shackleton called The Gateway. I had hoped to get through it with the ponies still in hand at a very much earlier date, and but for the devastating, we should have been. It has been a most serious blow to us. Things are not yet desperate in only the storm has not hopelessly spoiled the surface. I think the manhaulers have stopped for tea or something, because under ordinary circumstances they would have passed us with ease.

At 8pm the ponies were quite done, one and all. They came on painfully slow, a few hundred yards at a time. They had to be lashed on. Snippets half fell down a crevasse and had to be pulled out. By this time I was hauling ahead, a ridiculously light load, and yet finding the pulling heavy enough.

We camped, and the ponies have been shot.

Poor beasts! It is hard to have to kill them so early. Thanked Titus.

The dogs are going well in spite of the surface, but here again one cannot get the help one would wish. I cannot load the animals heavily on such snow.

The scenery is most impressive; three huge pillars of granite form the right buttress of The Gateway, with a sharp spur of Mount Hope to the left. In spite of some doubt about our outlook, everyone is very cheerful tonight and jokes are flying freely about.

Cherry appears to be reading Dante's Inferno. Charming.

Blood everywhere.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

8 December, 1911

Camp 30. Still.

Hoped against hope for better conditions, to wake to the mournfullest snow and wind as usual. After breakfast, we set about digging out the sledges, no light task. We then shifted our tent sites. All tents had been reduces to the smallest volume by the gradual pressure of the snow. The old sites are deep pits with hollowed-in wet centers. The wind has dropped.

Alas, as I write, the sun has disappeared and snow is again falling. Our case is growing desperate. Evans and his manhaulers tried to pul la load this afternoon; they managed to move a sledge with four people on it, pulling on ski.  Pulling on foot they sank to the knees. The snow is terribly deep. We tried Nobby but he plunged to his belly in it.

Wilson thinks the ponies finished, but Oates thinks they could do another march in spite of the surface, but only if it comes tomorrow. If not, we must kill the ponies tomorrow and get on as best we can with men on ski and dogs. One wonders what dogs can do on such a surface. I much fear they will also prove inadequate. Oh! For fine weather.

Everything disgustingly wet.


The temperature is falling. We might get off tomorrow! The poor ponies look wistfully for the food of which so little remains, yet they are not hungry, as recent savings have resulted from food left in their nosebags. They look wonderfully fit, all things considered.

7 December, 1911

Camp 30, still.

The storm continues and the situation is now serious. One small feed remains for the ponies after today, so that we must either march tomorrow or sacrifice the animals. That is not the worst; with the help of the dogs we could get on, without doubt. The serious part is that we have this morning started our Summit rations—that is to say, the food calculated from the Glacier Depot has been begun. The first supporting party can only go on a fortnight from this date and so forth.

The storm shows no sign of abatement and its character is as unpleasant as ever. The promise of last night died away about 3am, when the temperature and wind rose again, and things reverted to the old conditions. I can find no sign of an end, and all of us agree that it is utterly impossible to move. Resignation to misfortune is the only attitude, but not an easy one to adopt. It seems underserved where plans were well laid and so nearly crowned with a first success.

Evans wants me to kill the ponies to put them out of their misery. I don't want to.

I cannot see that any plan would be altered if it were to do again, the margin for bad weather was ample according to all experience, and this stormy December -- our finest month -- is a thing the most cautious organizer might not have been prepared to encounter. It is very evil to lie here in a wet sleeping bag and think of the pity of it, while things go from bad to worse.

Meares has a bad attack of snow blindness in one eye. He's been in pain for some time. There cannot be good cheer in such weather, but last night one heard laughter.

Midnight. Little or no improvement.

To be here watching the mottled wet green walls of our tent, the glistening wet bamboos, the bedraggled sopping socks and loose articles dangling in the middle, the saddened countenances of my companions -- to hear the everlasting patter of the falling snow and the ceaseless rattle of the fluttering canvas -- to feel the wet clinging dampness of clothes and everything touched, and to know that without there is but a blank wall of white on every side -- these are the physical surroundings.

Add the stress of sighted failure of our whole plan, and anyone must find the circumstances unenviable. But yet, after all, one can go on striving, endeavoring to find a stimulation in the difficulties that arise.

6 December, 1911

Camp 30. Noon.

Miserable, utterly miserable.

We have camped in the "Slough of Despond." The tempest rages with unabated violence.  The temperature has gone to +33, so everything in the tent is soaking. People returning from the outside look exactly as though they have been in a heavy shower of rain. They drip pools on the floorcloth. The snow is steadily climbing about walls, ponies, tents and sledges. The ponies look utterly desolate. Oh! But this is too crushing, and we are only 12 miles from the Glacier. A hopeless feeling descends on one and is hard to fight off. What immense patience is needed for such occasions!


At 5 the skies cleared a bit but it is still overcast. It is not pleasant, but if no worse in the morning we can get away at last. We are very very wet.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

5 December, 1911

Well, it's noon. We awoke this morning to a raging, howling blizzard. We have very fine, powdery snow. After a minute or two in the open one is covered from head to foot. The temperature is high, so that what falls or drives against one sticks. The ponies -- head, tails, legs, and all parts not protected by their rugs--are covered with ice; the animals are standing deep in snow, the sledges are almost covered, and huge drifts above the tents. We have had breakfast, rebuilt the walls, and are now again in our bags. One cannot see the next tent, let alone the land.

What on earth does such weather mean at this time of year? It is more than our share of ill-furtune, I think, but the luck may turn yet. I doubt if any party could travel in such weather even with the wind, certainly no-one could travel against it.

Is there some widespread atmospheric disturbance which will be felt everywhere in this region as a bad season, or are we merely the victims of exceptional local conditions? If the latter, there is food for thought in picturing our small party struggling against adversity in one place whilst others go smilingly forward in the sunshine. (You know who I'm talking about.) How great the element of luck! No foresight -- no procedure -- could have prepared us for this state of affairs. Had we been ten times as experienced or certain of our aim we should not have expected such rebuffs. 11pm.

It has blown hard all day with quite the greatest snowfall I remember. The drifts about the tent are simply huge. There are pools of water on everything, the tents are wet through; water drips from the tent poles and the door, lies on the floor-cloth, soaks the sleeping bags and makes everything pretty wretched. If a cold snap follows before we have had time to dry our things, we shall be mighty uncomfortable. Yet after all it would be humorous enough if it were nit for the seriousness of the delay -- we can't afford that, and it's real hard luck that it should come at such a time.

The wind shows signs of easing down, but the temperature does not fall and the snow is as wet as ever -- not promising signs of abatement. What a shambles.

4 December, 1911

Camp 29, again. 9AM.

Roused the hands at 6, but the weather grew heavy; a glance outside after breakfast showed a white floury blizzard. We have been all been out building fresh walls for the ponies -- an uninviting task, but one which greatly adds to the comfort of the animals, who look sleepy and bored, but not at all cold. The dogs came up with us as we camped last night and the manhaulers arrived this morning as we finished the pony wall. So we are all together again.

It is utterly impossible to push ahead in this weather, and one is at a complete loss to account for it. Well, one must stick it out, that is all, and hope for better things, but it makes me feel a little bitter to contrast such weather with that experienced by our predecessors.

By which I mean why should Shackleton have gotten the good weather we wanted? Why?

Camp 30.

The wind fell in the forenoon. By 1 the sun shone, and by 2 pm we were away. We camped here at 8pm. The land was quite clear throughout the march and the features easily recognized. The mountains are rounded in outline, very massive, with small excrescent peaks and undeveloped "cwms." Ahead of us is the ice-rounded, boulder-strewn Mount Hope and the gateway to the Glacier. We should reach it easily enough on tomorrow's march if we can compass 12 miles. I get the impression the rest rather resent those of us who travel on ski.

The ponies marched splendidly today, crossing the deep snow in the undulations without difficulty. They must be in very much better condition than Shackleton's animals, and indeed there isn't a doubt they would go many miles yet if food allowed. The dogs are simply splendid, but came in wanting food, so we had to sacrifice poor little Michael, who, like the rest, had lots of fat on him. All the tents are consuming pony flesh and thoroughly enjoying it. What we don't eat we give to the dogs. I suppose we ought to depot it, but I can't imagine we'll need it on the return journey.

We have only lost 5 or 6 miles on these two wretched days, but the disturbed condition of the weather makes me anxious with regard to the Glacier, where more than anywhere we shall need fine days. One has a horrid feeling that this is a real bad season. However, sufficient for the stage is the evil thereof. We are practically through with the first stage of our journey.

I wonder what route Amundsen is taking.

3rd December, 1911

Camp 29.

Our luck in weather is preposterous.

I roused the hands at 2:30am, intending to get away at 5. It was thick and snowy, yet we could have gone on; but at breakfast the wind increased, and by 4:30 it was blowing a full gale from the south. The pony wall blew down, huge drifts collected, and the sledges were quickly buried. It was the strongest wind I have known here in summer. We finally left camp at 2pm. A new storm was upon us by 3. The sun went out, snow fell thickly, and marching conditions became horrible. The wind came from all angles, perfectly bewildering.

In spite of all these difficulties, we have managed to get 11.5 miles south and to this camp at 7pm.

Bowers and I on ski passed the manhaulers. I think they are tired of leading. We steered with compass. The whole weather conditions seem thoroughly disturbed, and if they continue so when we are on the Glacier, we shall be very awkwardly placed. It is time luck turned in our favor—we have had all too little of it. Every mile seems to have been hardly won under such conditions.

The ponies did splendidly and the forage is lasting a little better than expected. Victor was found to have quite a lot of fat on him and the others are pretty certain to have more, so that we should have no difficulty whatever regards transport if only the weather was kind.

I wonder if Victor was so fat because Bowers had been sharing his ration with the beast?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

2nd December, 1911

Camp 28 Latitude 83 degrees South

Started under very bad weather conditions. Marched in falling snow and horrid light. The ponies were sinking horribly. I went on ahead on ski and took photographs of them.

It was sad to have to order Victor's end  poor Bowers feels it. I walked up to him and said "I have a decision that will shock you." I think he have him some of his ration, even knowing his end was up. He takes it very hard. Victor was in excellent condition and will provide five feeds for the dogs. We must kill now as forage is so short, but we have reached the 83rd parallel and are practically safe to get through. Tonight the sky is breaking and conditions are generally more promising — it is dreadfully dismal work marching through the blank wall of white, and we should have very great difficulty if we had not a party to go on ahead and show the course.

The dogs are doing splendidly and will take a heavier load from tomorrow. We kill another pony tomorrow night and then shall have three days' food for the other five. Everything looks well if the weather will only give us a chance to see our way to the Glacier.

It was so warm when we camped that the snow melted as it fell, and everything got sopping we. Oates came into my tent yesterday, exchanging with Cherry-Garrard.

One tent: Self, Wilson, Oates, and Keohane. Another tent: Bowers, PO Evans, Cherry and Crean.

Manhaulers: E.R. Evans, Atkinson, Wright and Lashly.

We have all taken to horse meat and are so well fed that hunger isn't thought of. Well, I don't know about the manhauling team. They look a bit hungry.

1st December, 1911

Camp 27

The ponies are tiring pretty rapidly. It's a question of days with all except Nobby. Yet they are outlasting the forage, and tonight against some opinion, I decided Christopher must go. He has been shot. I don't regret seeing him go, either, all the trouble he gave us. Oates had a time of it killing him too. Well, he was his pony. But the first bullet lodged in his head, he bolted, and had to be chased down. An awful business. I better not mention that in my book.

We leave a depot here so no other weight is put on the remaining ponies. Three more marches ought to bring us through. With the seven crocks and dog teams, we must get through I think. The men alone ought not to have heavy loads on the surface, which is extremely trying.

We tried Nobby in snow shoes this morning, and he came along splendidly for about 4 miles, then the wretched affairs racked and had to be taken off. There is no doubt that these shoes are the thing for ponies, and had ours been able to use them from the beginning they would have been very different. I like to think the sight of land has helped the animals, but not much. I've been observing rocks.

I wish I could give you a picture of Christopher, but I'm damned if I can fond one. So here's good old Nobby instead, with Wilson.

November 30, 1911

Camp 26

A very pleasant day for marching, but a bit tiring for the poor animals, which, with the exception of Nobby, are showing signs of failure all around. We were slower by half a mile than yesterday. Except that the loads are light now,and there are still eight animals left, things don't look too pleasant. The surface was much worse today, the ponies sinking to their knees very often.

The dogs are reported as doing very well. They are going to be a great standby no doubt. The land has been veiled in a thin white mist; it appeared at intervals after we camped and I took a couple of photographs. I don't suppose they will come out. I wonder what Ponting is taking pictures of. Penguins and seals, probably.

29 November, 1911

Camp 25 Latitude 82 degrees, 21 minutes

Things much better. The land showed up late yesterday. Our pony goal is 70 miles away. They are tired, but I believe that have five days' work left in them, and some a great deal more. Chinaman made four feeds for the dogs, and I suppose we can count every other pony as a similar asset. It follows that the dogs can be employed, rested and red well on the homeward track. We could really get through now with their help and without much delay, yet every consideration makes it desirable to save the men from heavy hauling as long as possible. So I devoutly hope the 70 miles will come in the present order of things. Snippets and Nobby now walk by themselves, following in the tracks well. Both have a continually cunning eye on their driver, ready to stop the moment he pauses. They eat snow every few minutes. It's a relief not having to lead an animal; such trifles annoy one on these marches, the animal's vagaries, his everlasting attempts to eat his head rope, etc. Yet all these animals are very full of character.

Some day I must write of them and their individualities.

In Bowers' tent they had some of Chinaman's undercut in their hoosh yesterday, and say it was excellent. I am cook for the present. Have been discussing pony snow-shoes. I wish to goodness the animals would wear them — it would save them any amount of labor in such surfaces as this.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

28 November, 1911

Camp 24

The most dismal start imaginable. Thick as a hedge, snow falling and drifting with keen southerly wind. It is lunch and the snow is getting thick again.

When will this wretched blizzard be over?


Second march almost as horrid as the first. Wind blowing strong from the south, shifting to SE as the snowstorms fell on us, when we could see little or nothing, and the driving snow hit us stingingly in the face.

Chinaman has been shot tonight. Plucky little chap, he stuck it out well and leaves the stage but a few days before his fellows. We have only four bags of forage left (each at 30 lbs), but these should give seven marches with all the remaining animals, and we are less than 90 miles from the Glacier. Bowers tells me the barometer was phenomenally low both during this blizzard and the last. This has certainly been the most unexpected and trying summer blizzard yet experienced in this region. I only trust it is over. There is not much to choose between the remaining ponies. Nobby and Bones are the strongest, Victor and Christopher the weakest, but all should get through.

The land doesn't show up yet.

27 November, 1911

Camp 23.

Quite the most trying march we have had. The advance party got away in front, but made heavy weather of it, and we caught them up several times. This threw the ponies out of their regular work and prolonged the march. The second march was even worse. The advance party started on ski but the leafing marks failed altogether, so they had the greatest difficulty keeping the course. We have had awful weather.

It is snowing hard again now, and heaven only knows when it will stop.

If it were not for the bad surface and the bad light, things would not be so bad. It is several days since we had a glimpse of land, which makes conditions especially gloomy. A tired animal makes a tired man, I find, and none of us are very bright now after the day's march, though we have had ample sleep of late.

I could murder a curry and a pint.

Friday, November 26, 2010

26 November, 1911

Camp 22. Lunch camp.

Marched here fairly easily. We now keep a steady pace of 2 miles an hour, very good going. The sky was slightly overcast at start and between two and three it grew very misty. Before we camped we lost sight of the manhaulers, only 300 yards ahead. The sun is piercing the mist. Here at Latitude 81 degrees 35 minutes we are leaving our Middle Barrier Depot, one week for each returning unit.

Looks like more snow. Damn.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

25 November, 1911

Camp 21

Now that it is pretty warm at night it is obviously desirable to work towards day marching. We shall start 2 hours later tonight and again tomorrow night.

Last night we bade farewell to Day and Hooper and set out with the new organization. All started together, the manhaulers Evans, Lashly and Atkinson, going ahead with their gear on the 10 foot sledge. Chinaman and James Pigg next, and the rest some minutes behind.

The sun has been shining all night, but towards midnight light mist clouds arose, half obscuring the leading parties. Land can be dimly discerned nearly ahead. The ponies are slowly tiring but we lighten loads again tomorrow by making another depot.

Meares has just come up to report that Jehu made four feeds for the dogs. He cut up very well and had quite a lot of fat on him. Meares says another pony will carry him to the Glacier. This is very good hearing.

The men are pulling with ski sticks and say they are a great assistance. I think of taking them up the Glacier.

Jehu has certainly come up trumps after all, and Chinaman bids fair to be even more valuable. Only a few more marches to feel safe in getting to our first goal.

24 November, 1911

Camp 20

A gloomy start to our march. The weather's clearing now.

Since our junction with the Motor Party the procedure has been for the manhauling people to go forward just ahead of the crocks, the other party following 2 or 3 hours later. Today we closed less than usual, so that the crocks must have been going very well. However the fiat has already gone forth, and this morning after the march poor old Jehu was led back on the track and shot. Towards the end he was pulling very little and on the whole it is merciful to have ended his life. Chinaman seems to improve and will certainly last a good many days yet. The rest show no signs of flagging and are only moderately hungry. The surface is tiring for walking, as one sinks two or three inches nearly all the time. I feel we ought to get through now.

Day and Hooper leave us tonight.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

23 November, 1911

Camp 19

Getting along. I think the ponies will get through; we are now 150 geographical miles from the Glacier. But it is still rather touch and go. If one or more of the ponies were to go rapidly downhill we might be in queer street. I'm afraid we might get a blizzard. I hope to goodness it is not going to stop one marching; forage won't allow that.

22 November, 1911

Camp 18

Everything much the same.

The ponies thinner but not much weaker. The crocs still going along. Jehu is now called "The Barrier Wonder" and Chinaman "The Thunderbolt." Two days more and they will be well past the spot at which Shackleton killed his first animal.

I wonder what nickname I will earn out of all this?

The weather is glorious and the ponies can make the most of their rest during the warmest hours, but they certainly lose in one way by marching at night. The surface is much easier for the sledges when the sun is warm, and for about three hours before and after midnight the friction noticeably increases.

We break through the crust in places. If the hot sun continues this should improve. One cannot see any reason why the crust should change in the next 100 miles.

It's all pretty much the same every day out here.

21 November, 1911

Camp 17. Lat 80 degrees 35 minutes south.

The surface is decidedly better, and the ponies very steady on the march. None seem overtired, and now it is impossible not to take a hopeful view of the prospect of pulling through. The only circumstance to be feared is a reversion to bad surfaces, and that ought not to happen on this course. We marched to the usual lunch camp and saw a large cairn ahead. Two miles beyond we came on the Motor Party in lat. 80, 32'. We learned that they had been waiting for six days. They all look very fit, but declare themselves to be very hungry. This is interesting as showing conclusively that a ration amply sufficient for the needs of men leading ponies is quite insufficient for men doing hard pulling work; it therefore fully justifies the provision we have made for the Summit work. Even on that I have little doubt we shall soon get hungry. Day looks thin, almost gaunt, but fit. The weather is beautiful—long may it so continue!

We will take the Motor Party on for three days, then Day and Hooper will return. We hope Jehu will last three days; he will then be finished in any case and fed to the dogs. It is amusing to see Meares looking eagerly for the chance of a feed for his animals; he has been expecting it daily. On the other hand, Atkinson and Oates are eager to get the poor animal beyond the point at which Shackleton killed his first beast. Reports on Chinaman are very favorable, and it really looks as though the ponies are going to do what is expected of them.

20 November, 1911

Camp 16

The crocks still go. Jehu seems a little better than yesterday, and will certainly go another march. Chinaman reported bad the first half march, but bucked up the second. The dogs found the surface heavy. Tomorrow I propose to relieve them of a forage bag. Victor is getting to look very gaunt. Nobby seems fitter and stronger than when he started; he alone is ready to go all his feed at any time and as much as he can get. The rest feed fairly well, but they are getting a very big strong ration. I am beginning to feel more hopeful about them. Christopher kicked the bow of his sledge in towards the end of the march. He much have a lot left in him though.

Temperature at night -14, now it is +4. A very slight southerly breeze, from which the walls protect the animals well. I feel sure that a long day's rest in the sun is very good for all of them.

I wonder what the men in the other tent talk about.

Friday, November 19, 2010

19 November, 1911

Camp 15

We have struck a really bad surface, sledges pulling well over it, but ponies sinking very deep. The result is about to finish Jehu. He was terribly done on getting in tonight. He may go another march, but not more, I think.

Considering the surface, the other ponies did well. They occasionally sink halfway to the hock. Luckily, the weather now is glorious for resting the animals, which are very placid and quiet in the brilliant sun. Have been taking some photographs, Bowers also.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

18 November, 1911

Camp 14

The ponies are not pulling well. The surface is, if anything, a little worse than yesterday, but I should think about the sort of thing we shall have to expect henceforward. I had a panic that we were carrying too much food and this morning we have discussed the matter and decided we can leave a sack.

We've done the usual 13 geographical miles to make the 15 statute. The temperature was -21 when we camped last night, now it is -3.

The crocks are going on wonderfully. Oates gives Chinaman three days, and Wright says he may go a week. This is slightly inspiriting, but how much better would it have been to have had ten really reliable beasts! It's touch and go whether we scrape up to the Glacier; meanwhile we get along somehow.

At any rate, the bright sunshine makes everything look more hopeful.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

17 November, 1911

Camp 13.

We put in 7.5 miles before lunch. It is early days to wonder whether the little beasts will last; one can only hope they will, but the weakness of breeding and age is showing itself already. The crocks have done wonderfully, so there is really no saying how long or well the fitter animals may go. We had a horribly cold wind on the march. Temp -18, force 3. The sun was shining but it seemed to make little difference. It is still shining brightly, temp now 11 degrees. Behind the pony walls it is wonderfully warm and the animals look as snug as possible.

I have managed to secrete a little curry powder among my belongings to enliven the hoosh. Don't tell anyone.

16 November, 1911

Camp 12.

We are resting. It is -15. The ponies pretty comfortable in rugs and behind good walls. We have reorganized the loads, taking on about 850 lbs with the stronger ponies, 400 odd with the others.

There's not much to report. Bit anxious to get to my pipe.

15 November, 1911

Camp 11

Found One Ton Camp without any difficulty. It's 130 geographical miles form Cape Evans. We are going to give the ponies a day's rest here, then push through at a rate of 13 miles per day. Oates thinks the ponies will get through, but they have lost condition quicker than expected. Considering his usually pessimistic attitude, this must be thought a hopeful view. Personally I am much more hopeful. I think a good many of the beasts are actually in better form than when they started, and that there is no need to be alarmed about the remainder, always excepting the weak ones which we have always regarded with doubt.

Well, we much wait and see how things go.

I hope Evans has built lots of good cairns - he has taken on four boxes of biscuit.

It was a very beautiful day yesterday, bright sun, but as we marched, towards midnight, the sky gradually became overcast; very beautiful halo rings formed around the sun. Four separate rings were very distinct. The spread of stratus cloud overhead was very remarkable. The sky was blue all around the horizon.

There is a very thin, light fall of snow crystals. They barely exist a moment when they light upon our equipment. When it is blankly white the sense of oppression is inevitable.

Most of us are using goggles with a light green tint. We find this coloring very grateful to the eyes, and as a rule it is possible to see everything through them even more clearly than with naked vision.

The thermometer I left here last year records a minimum of -73, rather less than expected.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

14 November, 1911

Camp 11

The surface is little improved, but this is a slightly better and more cheerful march. The sun shone out midway, and is not quite bright. It is thoroughly warm, the air breathlessly still, and the ponies resting in great comfort. The new snow is about 4 inches deep; it is painful struggling on through it, though the ponies carry on gallantly enough. Christopher has now been harnessed three time without difficulty. Nearly 12 miles without a stop must be a strain on the rearguard animals. One Ton Camp in only about 7 miles farther. Meanwhile we passed two of Evans's cairns today and one old cairn fro last year, so that we ought to have little difficulty in finding out depot.

It's misty; I had not though these conditions could continue for so long a time in this region. We cannot see land though we are close to the Bluff. Had we been dependent on landmarks we should have fared ill. Evidently a good system of cairns is the best possible traveling arrangement on this great snow plain.

I wonder how long our methods will hold for future generations of travelers. Or if there will ever be any others after us at all.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

13 November, 1911

Camp 10

Another horrible march in terrible light, surface very bad. The ponies came through but they are being tried hard by the conditions. We followed tracks most of the way, neither party seeing the other except towards camping time. The crocks did well, all things considered; Jehu is doing extremely well for him. As we camped the sun came out and the cold chilly conditions of the march passed away, leaving everything calm, peaceful, and pleasant. One Ton Camp is only 17 miles away or so -- but I am anxious about these beasts, very anxious; they are not the ponies they ought to have been , and if they pull through all the thanks will be due to Oates. I trust the weather and surface conditions will improve; both are rank bad at present.

Yes, I know I should have sent Oates to buy better ponies. What was I thinking?

3PM: It has been snowing steadily for some hours, adding to the soft surface accumulation inch upon inch. What can such weather mean? If this should come as an exception, our luck will be truly awful. The camp is very silent and cheerless, signs that things are going awry.

The temperature in the middle of our tent this morning when the sun was shining on it was 50 degrees! Outside it was -10.

Friday, November 12, 2010

12 November, 1911

Camp 9

Our marches are uniformly horrid just at present. The surface remains wretched. A note at the Bluff depot from Evans says he is five days ahead of us, which is good. Atkinson camped a mile beyond this cairn and had a very gloomy account of Chinaman. Said he couldn't last more than a mile or two. The weather was horrid, overcast, gloomy snowy. One's spirits became very low. One longed for a pint of Guinness in the pub. However the crocks set off again. The Soldier thinks Chinaman will last for a good many days yet, and extraordinary confession of hope for him. The temperature is about -10 in the daytime.

I could use a nice pint of Guinness come to think of it.

11 November, 1911

Camp 8

It cleared somewhat just before we marched, but the snow which had fallen in the day remained soft and flocculent on the surface. I like that word, "flocculent." Add to this pits in between hard sastrugi and a worse surface for ponies can hardly be imagined. The crocks had had enough at 9.5 miles. I expected these marches to be difficult but near so bad as today. It is snowing again as we camp. It is difficult to make out what is happening to the weather—it is all part of the general warming up, but I wish the sky would clear.

In spite of the surface, the dogs ran up from the camp before last, over 20 miles, in the night. They are working splendidly so far.

I suppose you're going to ask me why I'm not following Nansen's advice and just using dogs at this point. I know I keep saying how well they are doing. You'll please keep your opinions to yourself.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

10 November, 1911

Well that was short-lived. A very horrible march with a strong head wind during the first 5 miles, then a snowstorm. It was so difficult to steer that we decided to camp. Now that we have settled, the weather is clearing.

Christopher was started today by a ruse. He was harnessed behind his wall and was in the sledge before he realized. Then he tried to bolt, but Oates hung on.

How frustrating it is to miss even 1.5 miles.

9 November, 1911

We are making about 10 geographical miles nightly. The ponies are doing well.

An amusing incident happened when Wright left his pony to examine his sledgemeter. Chinaman evidently didn't like being left behind and set off at a canter to rejoin the main party. Wright's long legs barely carried him fast enough to stop this fatal stampede, but the ridiculous sight was due to the fact that old Jehu caught the infection and set off at a sprawling canter in Chinaman's wake. As this is the pony we thought scarcely capable of a single march at the start, one is agreeably surprised to find him still displaying such commendable spirit.

The dogs follow us so easily over the 10 miles that Meares thought of going on again, but finally decided that the present easy work is best.

Things look hopeful. The weather is beautiful—temp. -12 with a bright sun. There is an annoying little southerly wind blowing now, and this serves to show the beauty of our snow walls. The ponies are standing under their lee in the bright sun as comfortable as can possibly be.

Monday, November 8, 2010

8 November, 1911

Most of the party were against our setting off later last night. I insisted, so just after midnight we got away. The ponies were friskier than I had expected, and managed their march with no trouble at all. One gains confidence every moment in them. Well, Christopher gives as much trouble as ever; Oates has to hang on like grim death lest he kick and take off; he hates being put into the harness. At one point, Bowers loaded 100lbs of forage onto his sledge, and Victor took off as if nothing had been added. Such events are very inspiring.

We are picking up last year's cairns with great ease, all show up very easily. This is extremely satisfactory for our homeward march. What with pony walls, camp sites and cairns, our track should be easily followable the whole way. Everyone is as fit as can be. It was wonderfully warm as we camped this morning at 11o'clock; the wind dropped completely and the sun shines gloriously. Men and ponies revel in such weather. One devoutly hopes for a good spell of it as we recede from the windy northern region.

The dogs came up soon after we had camped, traveling easily.

7 November, 1911

Camp Four, Again

Well, we're still here. The blizzard continues, all last night and I am writing this late in the afternoon.

We have done everything possible to shelter and protect the ponies but there seems no way of doing so when the snow is thick and driving fast. We men are snug and comfortable enough, but it is very evil to lie here and know that the weather is steadily sapping the strength of the beasts on which so much depends. It requires much philosophy to be cheerful on such occasions.

Meares and the dog party have pulled up to within a quarter mile of us. The dogs don't seem to mind the weather at all and still pull well. They should be able to help us a good deal.

The tents and sledges are badly drifted up, the drifts behind the pony walls having been dug out several times. I shall be glad indeed to be on the march again, and oh! for a little sun. Some of the fine drift snow finds its way under the rugs and straps, which melts and makes the ponies' bellies wet. It is not easy to understand at first why the blizzard should have such a withering effect on the poor beasts. I suppose that hte snow catches on the delicate places where they are harnessed, causing misery.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

6 November, 1911

Camp Four

We started in the usual order, arranging that full loads should be carried if the black dots to the south proved to be the motor. On arrival at these we found our fears confirmed. A note from Evans stated the old trouble. The big end of Engine No. 1 cylinder had cracked. Evidently the engines are not fit for working in this climate. The motor party has proceeded as a manhauling unit as arranged. I suppose that they will exhaust themselves long before we who have yet our ponies to haul for us. They are pulling loads of 450 lbs. My pony, Snippets, is pulling over 700 lbs, sledge included. We are all much cheered by this performance.

A blizzard threatened when we made camp so built walls for the ponies. They seem comfortable, though there isn't much snow. The new rugs cover them well. We learned to build high walls last year, so reaped some reward from that disastrous journey.

I write this late in the day, and the wind is so strong I fear we shall not be able to go on tonight. It is -5, lower than I like in a blizzard, and chilly in the tent. I have been observing clouds. It' all one can do.

Friday, November 5, 2010

5 November, 1911

Camp 3, Corner Camp.

Found a very troubled note from Evans with the motor saying he can only go 7 miles per day. They have taken on nine bags of forage, but I can see three black dots to the south which we can only imagine are the deserted motor with its loaded sledges. The men have gone on as a supporting party, as directed. It is a disappointment. I had hoped better of the machines once they got away on the Barrier surface.

The ponies' appetites are fanciful. They do not like the oil cake, but for the moment seem to take to the fodder left here. They are off it again today, however. It is a sad pity they won't eat well now, because later on one can imagine how ravenous they will become.

Chinaman and Jehu will not go far I fear.

No fireworks for us tonight.

4 November, 1911

Day 4 of our long trek and alas! the dream of great help from the machines is at an end!

It seems that the cylinder of Day's motor broke, and since they had no spares, have had to unload and dump a great deal of things, including of course petrol and lubricant, and have gone on with one motor and one sledge.

I can see their tracks in the snow.

The ponies did pretty well, but it has been a cruel surface most of the time. Jehu is better than I expected to find him, Chinaman not so well. They are bad crocks both of them. It was pretty cold during the night, -7 when we camped, with a crisp breeze blowing. Th ponies don't like it, but now, as I write this, the sun is shining through a white haze, the wind has dropped, and the picketing line is comfortable for the poor beasts. They are not yet on their feed.

Damn shame about those motors.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

3rd November, 1911

Camp One

My party left just before ten this morning: Wilson, Cherry-Garrard and I. Our ponies marched steadily over the sea ice. At Safety Camp we met up with Atkinson and Ponting arrived, set up his cinematograph and just caught the flying rear guard being led by Snatcher in fine form.

After lunch we packed up and marched on steadily as before. I don't like these midnight lunches, but for man the march that follows is pleasant when, as today, the win falls and the sun steadily increases its heat.

We are camped some 5 miles beyond Safety Camp, and all the ponies are tired, Chinaman and Jehu very tired. Nearly all are inclined to be off their feed, but this is temporary we think. We have built walls for them but there is no wind and the sun gets warmer by the minute.

1PM: feeding time. Oates fed the ponies. It is a sweltering day, the air breathless, the glare intense—one loses sight of the fact that the temperature is low (-22)—one's mind seeks comparison in hot sunlit streets and scorching pavements, yet six hours ago my thumb was  frostbitten. All the inconveniences of frozen footwear and damp clothes and sleeping bags have vanished entirely.

Crean announced that bones has eaten Christopher's goggles. Now Christopher is blinking in the hot sun.

Ponting took this shot of Meares and Dimitri at the blubber stove at Hut Point today.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

2nd November, 1911

Our march reminds me of a regatta or a somewhat disorganized fleet with ships of very unequal speed. The plan of further advance has now been evolved. We shall start in three parties — the very slow ponies, the medium paced, and the fliers. Snatcher starting last will probably overtake the leading unit. All this requires a good deal of arranging. We have decided to begin night marching, and shall get away after supper, I hope. The weather is hourly improving, but at this season that does not count for much.

At present the ponies are very comfortably stabled. Michael, Chinaman and James Pigg are actually in the hut. Chinaman kept us alive all night by stamping on the floor.

No doubt this will be their last night under a roof! I hope it's not also mine!

Meares and Dimitri are here with the dog team, and Ponting with a great photographic outfit. I fear he won't get much chance to get results.

Monday, November 1, 2010

1st November, 1911

So this is it! We begin our great journey to the Pole.

This morning we left in detachments: Michael, Nobby and Chinaman were first to get away about 11am. Oates had to hold on to Christopher for all he was worth. Bones ambled off with Crean, I led Snippets in his wake. P.O. Evans and Snatcher passed us not long after.

We had dark skies and strong winds, which the ponies hate. Bowers and Victor passed me at Razorback, leaving me where I best wished to be - the tail of the line. It took us a little under five hours to get in to Hut Point, and none too soon; it is now blowing a gale.

I shall miss our old homestead at Cape Evans. I left photographs of Kathleen up on the walls instead of bringing them. I'll see her again in the Autumn when we return.

The photograph above is everyone but Clissold. And Ponting, of course. 

Saturday, October 30, 2010

31 October, 1911

The blizzard has blown itself out this morning and this afternoon it has cleared; the sun is shining and the wind dropping. Meares and Ponting are just off to Hut Point. Atkinson and Keohane will probably leave in an hour or so as arranged, and if the weather holds, we shall all get off tomorrow.

So this is the end of the first part of our History!

The future is in the lap of the gods; I can think of nothing left undone to deserve success.

30 October, 1911

We had another beautiful day yesterday, and one began to feel that the summer really had come; but today, after a fine morning, we have a return to blizzard conditions. It is blowing a gale as I write. Yesterday Wilson, Bowers, P.O. Evans and I donned our sledging kit and camped by the bergs for the benefit of Ponting and his cinematograph; he got a series of films which should be about the most interesting of all his collection. I imagine nothing will take so well as these scenes of camp life.

Have a look at a bit of his film. There we are having a laugh over some lunch from the primus. And Nigger the cat makes an appearance!

Meares reports that Evans returned to the Hut to collect a personal bag he left there, and that Lashly's motor  had broken down near Safety Camp; they found the big end smashed up in one cylinder. They repaired it while Evans went on ski to collect his things.

On account of this accident and because some of our hardest worked people were badly hit by the two days' absence helping the machines, I have decided to start a couple of days from now instead of tomorrow.

I hope this doesn't come back to bite me.

28 October, 1911

My poor feet! Strained Achilles tendon.

Last night there was a tremendous row in the stables; Christopher and Chinaman discovered fighting. Gran nearly got kicked. These ponies are getting above themselves with their high feeding. Snippets is still lame and has one leg "a little heated" which is not good news.

All things considered I shall be glad to get away and put our fortune to the test.

27 October, 1911

Yesterday we walked out to Glacier Tongue with gloomy forebodings, but it was a beautifully bright inspiriting day. Seals were about and were frequently mistaken for the motors. They were not where we expected to find them; in fact, they had gotten on further to the floe towards Hut Point. Our spirits went up at once. We marched on and overtook them, passing Simpson and Gran returning to Cape Evans. The engines are working but the cylinders get hot. This results in having to stop and start the engines. We camped ahead of the motors for lunch. Eventually both machines went passed us on to Cape Armitage; we retired to the Hut to find Meares and Dimitri had been busy making it tidy and comfortable. A splendid brick fireplace has been built through the roof that will no doubt last many a year. We spent a most comfortable night

This morning we were out over the floe by 9am. The motors require an awful lot of stopping and starting, but when going at a clip, the men have to run alongside! Providing there is no serious accident, the engine troubles will gradually be got over; of that I feel pretty confident. Every day will see an improvement as it has done to date, every day the men will get greater confidence with larger experience of the machines and conditions.

Lashly is having trouble with his rollers. Why we did not make them as good as new I don't know.

In any case the motor programme is not of vital importance to our plan and it is possible the machines will do little to help us, but already they have vindicated themselves. Even the seamen, who have remained very  skeptical of them are profoundly impressed. Evans said "Lord, sir, I reckon if them things can go on like that you wouldn't want nothing else."

We are now back at Cape Evans and my feet are sore. We did walk over 26 miles however. We stopped for a cup of tea at Razorback Island.

26 October, 1911

Couldn't see the motors yesterday till I walked well out on the South Bay. Though there was a strong wind, I am surprised they haven't got further than Glacier Tongue. Annoyingly the telephone gave no news from Hut Point, evidently something was wrong. After dinner Simpson and Gran started for Hut Point. This morning Simpson has just rung. The motors are having difficulty with the surface. The chains slip on the very light snow covering hard ice.

I have organized a party of eight men including myself to go off and see what can be done to help.

24 October, 1911

Two fine days for a wonder. Yesterday the motors seemed ready to start and all went well out on the floe to give them a "send off." But the inevitable little defects cropped up, and the machines only got as far as the Cape. Day and Lashley spent the afternoon making good these defects in a satisfactory manner.

This morning the engines were set going again, and shortly after 10am a fresh start was made. At first there were a good many stops but on the whole the engines seemed improved. They are not by any means working up to full power yet, so the pace is very slow. The weights seem a good deal heavier than we bargained for.

As I wrote, the machines are about a mile out in the South Bay; both can be seen still under weigh, progressing slowly.

I find myself immensely eager that these tractors should succeed, even though they may not be of great help to our southern advance. A small measure of success will be enough to show their possibilities, their ability to revolutionize Polar transport. It is impossible not to be convinced of their value. Still, the trifling mechanical defects and lack of experience show the risk of cutting out trials. A season of experiment with a small workshop at hand may well be all that stands between success and failure.

The ponies are in fine form. Atkinson and Keohane have turned cooks and are doing a splendid job. This morning Meares announced his return from Corner Camp, indicating that all the stores are out there now.

On the whole, things look hopeful.

11pm. Motors reported off Razorback Island, nearly 3 miles out! Come, come!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

23 October, 1911

I'm in a writing mood today. I wrote to Kathleen. Here's what I said.

I don't know what to think of Amundsen's chances. If he gets to the Pole, it must be before we do, as he is bound to travel fast with dogs and pretty certain to start early. On this account I decided at a very early date to act exactly as I should have done had he not existed. Any attempt to race must have wrecked my plan, besides which it doesn't appear the sort of thing one is out for.

It is the work that counts, not the applause that follows.

I told her what I thought of some of our chaps. Bill, of course, is the finest character I ever met. He's clearly the most popular member of our party.

Bowers is all and more than I ever expected of him, a positive treasure, absolutely trustworthy and prodigiously energetic. He is the hardest man among us, and that is saying a good deal. Nothing seems to hurt his tough little body and certainly no hardship daunts his spirit. He has indefatigable zeal, is unselfish, and has inexhaustible good humor. He is highly intelligent and has an exceptional memory for details. He is in truth an indispensable assistant to me in every work detail concerning the management and organization of our sledging work and a delightful companion on the march.

Wright is a great success, has taken to sledging like a duck to water.

The Soldier is very popular with all.

Cherry goes out of his way to help others.

Evans, on the other hand, shows an extraordinary lack of initiative outside his own work.

Edgar Evans has proved a useful member of our party, looking after our sledges and equipment with a fertility of resource which is astonishing.

Crean is happy to do anything and go anywhere. He and Evans are best of friends. Lashley is his old self in every respect, working to the limit, quiet, abstemious, determined.

The study of individual character is a pleasant pastime in such a mixed community of thoroughly nice people, and the study of relationships and interactions is fascinating -- men of the most diverse upbringing and experience are really pals with one another, and the subjects which would be delicate ground of discussion between acquaintances are just those which are most freely used in jest.

Monday, October 25, 2010

22 October, 1911

Meares telephoned that he is setting out for his second journey to Corner Camp without Czigane, the dog. It had a mysterious ailment for which he was given a laxative.

The telephone is a marvelous addition to our operation. I can't imagine how we got by without it. I suppose one day we will be able to do away with the wires altogether! Imagine!

In the transport department, in spite of all the care I have taken to make the details of my plan clear by lucid explanation, I find that Bowers is the only man on whom I can thoroughly rely to carry out the work without mistake, with its arrays of figures. For the practical consistent work of pony training Oates is especially capable, and his heart is very much in the business.

Here's poor Clissold and his dog team before his accident.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

21 October, 1911

Day and Lashly are both hopeful of the machines, and they really ought to do something after all the trouble that has been taken.

Yes, I know that the motors themselves can't help it but it does seem sometimes as though they have a will of their own, a damned malicious one.

The wretched state of the weather has prevented the transport of emergency stores to Hut Point. These are for the returning depots and to provision the Discovery hut in case the Terra Nova does not arrive.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

20 October, 1911

Day has fixed the motor axle, so the party can prepare for their departure. Loads are being hauled out onto the sea ice ready to be arranged.

Meares and Dimitri have left for Hut Point, though the weather is very bad. When the animals can't be exercised, we have to cut their rations which is annoying, as we need to be getting them conditioned.

Come to think of it, the men need to be conditioned too. Oh well, too late now, I suppose.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

19 October, 1911

I'm back, at last! Had a damnable time getting this old thing working again, and have had to rely on paper journal and pen.

Yesterday a blizzard broke upon us, the air thick with snow. We took the motors out for a test run on the floe but everything went wrong with them. I am secretly convinced we shall not get much help from them, yet nothing has happened to then that was unavoidable. A little more care and foresight would make them splendid allies. The trouble is that if they fail, no one will ever believe this.

I suppose that hindsight could have ensured that we brought with us the right fuel and spare parts.

Poor old Clissold, our cook, is greatly disappointed that he cannot go with the motor party on the Southern Journey. He took the most frightful fall while posing for Ponting and suffered quite a concussion. It was a stupid risk and we all suffer from it. Hooper and Lashley have taken over his duties in the kitchen and their work is well enough. It is splendid to have people who refuse to recognize difficulties.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

18 August, 1911

Atkinson lectured on Scurvy last night. He spoke clearly and slowly, and the disease is anything but precise. He gave a little summary of its history and the remedies long in use in the Navy.

He described the symptoms in some detail. Mental depression, debility, syncope, livid patches, spongy gums, lesions, swellings, and so on to things that are worse. He thinks it is due to increased acidity in the blood, after Sir Almroth Wright's theories.

The diagnosis does not bring us much closer to a remedy. Atkinson holds that the first cause is tainted food, but also damp, cold, over-exertion, bad air, bad light, in fact every condition exceptional to normal existence. In terms of diet, fresh vegetables are the best curatives-- the lecturer was doubtful of fresh meat, but admitted its possibility in the polar climate; lime juice only useful if regularly taken.

Wilson is slow to accept his theories, putting it all down to "non proven." His remarks were extremely sound and practical as usual. He proved the value of fresh meat in the polar regions.

Scurvy seems very far away from us this time, yet after our Discovery experience, one feels that no trouble can be too great or no precaution too small to be adopted to keep it at bay.

It is certain we shall not have the disease here, but one cannot foresee equally certain avoidance in the southern journey to come. All one can do is take every possible precaution.

I pity the Norwegians with their dreary white plain of Barrier Island behind and and uninviting stretch of sea ice in front. With no landmarks, nothing to guide if the light fails, it is probably that they venture but a short distance from their hut.

17 August, 1911

The weather has been extremely kind to us of late; we haven't a single grumble against it. The temperature hovers pretty much at about -35, there is very little wind and the sky is clear and bright. In such weather one sees well for more than three hours before and after noon, the landscape unfolds itself, and the sky colors are always delicate and beautiful. At noon today there was bright sunlight on the tops of the Western Peaks and on the summit and steam of Erebus - of late vapour cloud of Erebus has been exceptionally heavy and fantastic in form.

The wretched Lassie has killed every one of her litter. She is mother for the first time, and possible that accounts for it. When the poor little mites were alive she constantly left them, and when taken back she either trod on them or lay on them, till not one was left alive. It is extremely annoying.

Everyone is busier than ever. It is good to see so much work going on.

15 August, 1911

The acetylene has failed! Thus I am writing by daylight. This is a novelty!

Lassie gave birth to six or seven puppies last night - we are keeping them as warm and quiet as possible in the stable.

It is very pleasant to note the excellent relations which our young Russians have established with other folk; they both work very hard, Anton having the most to do. Demetri is the more intelligent and begins to talk English fairly well. Both are on the best terms with their messmates, and it was amusing last night to see little Anton jamming a felt hat over P.O. Evans' head in high good humor.

Wright lectured on Radium last night. Seems it might have some application as a curative power.

14 August, 1911

We have had two delightfully calm days since the storm passed through. We have taken the opportunity to exercise the ponies when there are a few hours of light at midday. Clissold has taken two of the dogs in hand and drove them out to Cape Royds yesterday with 100lbs of biscuit; they did well, considering Meares had written them off.

We had a splendidly successful balloon  ascent yesterday. Nelson and Atkinson are doing good work.

My afternoon walk has become a great pleasure; everything is beautiful in this half light and the northern sky grows redder as the light wanes.

11 August, 1911

I wish I could tell you the story Oates ended his lecture with last night! It was very funny indeed but quite unprintable so you'll never know.

The blizzard we expected came in the night; it is still blowing hard.

My thought creep much back to the temperate climes of England, where the midsummer must be lovely.

10 August, 1911

The Soldier is going to give his lecture tonight on Horse Management.

I suppose he shall address our concerns regarding picketing and snow blindness.

I don't feel much like writing lately.

Friday, August 6, 2010

6 August, 1911

The day started overcast. Chalky is an excellent adjective to describe the appearance of our outlook when the light is much diffused and shadows poor; the scene is dull and flat.
In the afternoon the sky cleared, the moon over Erebus gave a straw color to the dissipating clouds. The evening air is full of ice crystals.

The Crozier Party show no signs of scurvy. If the preserved foods had tended to promote the disease, the length of time and the severity of conditions would certainly have brought it out. I think we should be safe on the long journey.

Of course, even though I wrote "if" above, I shall not consider the possibility that scurvy is promoted by any other cause.

I have had several little chats with Wilson on the happenings of the journey. He says there is no doubt Cherry felt the conditions most severely, though he was not only without complaint, but continuously anxious to help others.

Apropos, we both conclude that it is the younger people that have the worst time; Gran, our youngest member (23) is a very clear example, and now Cherry-Garrard at 26.

Wilson (39) says he never felt cold less than he does now; I suppose that between 30-40 is the best all-around age. Bowers is a wonder of course. He is 29. When past the forties it is encouraging to remember that Peary was 52!

5 August, 1911

The sky has continued to wear a disturbed appearance, but so far nothing has come of it. A good deal of light snow has been falling today; a brisk northerly breeze is drifting it along, giving a very strange yet beautiful effect in the north, where the strong red twilight filters through the haze.

Simpson lectured last night on meteorology. It was rather complex. I shan't bore you with it.

Bowers turns out to have been quite the champion; after they lost their tent, he commenced to tie it to his person so that should it blow away again, he'd go with it!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

3rd August, 1911

Looks like a gale is coming on. No two of our blizzards have been preceded by the same weather so it is impossible to predict them. The low temperatures experienced by the Crozier Party have naturally led to speculation about Amundsen and his Norwegians. If they have had as poor weather, they will have had a pretty bad winter and it is difficult to see how his dogs could have survived.

I wonder also about Campbell's party. What of them? I don't even know where they are!

2nd August, 1911

The Crozier Party returned last night after enduring for five weeks the hardest conditions on record. They looked more weather-worn than anyone I have yet seen.

Here they are having some much-needed food.

Their faces are scarred and wrinkled, their eyes dull, their hands whitened and creased with the constant exposure to damp and cold, yet the scars of frostbite are very few.

This morning after a good night's sleep Wilson is thin but his old wiry self; Bowers is much himself; and Cherry is still puffy and worn. It is evident he has suffered most severely.

Bowers has come through the best, all things considered, and I believe he is the hardest traveler that ever undertook a Polar journey, as well as one of the most undaunted...due to his untiring energy and the astonishing physique which enables him to continue to work under conditions which are absolutely paralysing to others. Never was such a sturdy, active, undefeatable little man.

I must bear this in mind for the Pole.

Their story beggars belief. No civilized being has ever encountered such conditions before with only a tent of thin canvas to rely on for shelter. And they nearly lost it in a storm! They certainly would have perished had they not by chance found it.

They reached their destination but were only able to bring three intact penguin eggs back -- the rest crushed or lost. Wilson is disappointed that there were so few in the rookery this season; he had expected many more. The Natural History Museum shall without doubt be profoundly grateful for their efforts; I should like to see the looks on their faces when we deliver such treasure into their hands, knowing as we do what a triumph of human spirit was called upon to procure them!

That men should wander forth in the depth of a Polar night to face the most dismal cold and the fiercest gales in darkness is something new; that they should have persisted in this effort in spite of every adversity for five full weeks is heroic. It makes a tale for our generation which I hope may not be lost in the telling. Already Cherry is referring to it as "The Worst Journey in the World"!

Here are the weights for their sleeping bags, which should give you some idea of the trial they endured. They gather ice from perspiration and breath which freezes solid.

Wilson, reindeer and eiderdown: Starting weight = 17lbs; Final weight = 40lbs
Bowers, reindeer only: Starting weight = 17lbs; Final weight = 33lbs
Cherry, reindeer and eiderdown: Starting weight = 18; Final weight = 45lbs

The tent weighed 35lbs upon starting, and 60lbs on return.

They recorded temperatures of -77 degrees, with -109 degrees of frost!!

Although Wilson says the gear is "excellent," one continues to winder as to the possibilities of fur clothing as made by the Esquimaux, with a sneaking feeling that it may outclass our more civilized garb. For us this can only be a matter of speculation, as it would have been quite impossible to have obtained such articles.

The Norwegians probably have some though.

Lashly took the opportunity to give poor Cherry a haircut while he slept. It was the most tender gesture imaginable.

Monday, August 2, 2010

1st August, 1911

The month has opened with a very beautiful day. This morning I took a circuitous walk over our land "estate," winding to and fro in gulleys filled with smooth ice patches or loose sandy soil, with a twofold object. I wanted to find the remains of poor Julick (no suck luck) and to test our new crampons. With these I am immensely pleased. They possess every virtue in a footwear designed for marching over smooth ice—lightness, warmth, comfort, and ease in the putting on and off.

The light was especially good today; the sun was directly reflected by a single twisted iridescent cloud in the north, a brilliant and most beautiful object. The air was very still, and it was very pleasant to hear the crisp sounds of our workers abroad. The tones of voices, the swish of ski, the chipping of an ice pick carry or two or three miles on such days—more than once we could hear the notes of some blithe singer—happily signaling the coming of the spring and sun.

This afternoon as I sit in the hut I find it worthy of record that two telephones are in use; one keeping time for Wright, and the other bringing messages from Nelson in his ice hole three-quarters of a mile away. This last connection is made with a bare aluminium wire and earth return, and shows that we should have little difficulty in competing our circuit to Hut Point as is contemplated.

Wish the Crozier Party would make themselves known. It is making me very nervous.