Tried out a pair of pony snow-shoes this afternoon on Weary Willie, and the effect was magical! He was able to walk easily in places where before he's floundered woefully. Why didn't we think of this before? Oates is very circumspect about them, but once I discovered that snow-shoes for all the ponies had been left at Cape Evans, I immediately sent Meares and Wilson back the 20 miles to fetch them.
Sunday, January 31, 2010
Tried out a pair of pony snow-shoes this afternoon on Weary Willie, and the effect was magical! He was able to walk easily in places where before he's floundered woefully. Why didn't we think of this before? Oates is very circumspect about them, but once I discovered that snow-shoes for all the ponies had been left at Cape Evans, I immediately sent Meares and Wilson back the 20 miles to fetch them.
There was not a lot we can do in the meantime. I do hope the ice hasn't gone out and that they can both get to and back from Cape Evans to rejoin us.
Atkinson's heel is suppurating, reportedly.
All this bother about feet! I made a crack about Douglas Mawson but no-one appeared to think it very funny. He was offered a place on this expedition but the bugger turned me down! He had terrible trouble with his feet when Shackleton had him on Nimrod. One of his soles actually fell off returning from the Magnetic Pole! I think he had to tie it back on to his foot with a bandage of some sort. I mean the actual sole of his foot, not the sole of his boot.
Some people have no sense of humor.
Saturday, January 30, 2010
Safety Camp, camp 3, at last.
We took a long time getting going this morning; we're going to have to buck up in that department. Atkinson had his foot lanced, and should be better in a few days. It's awful walking on rotten feet -- I hope I never have to!
The ponies went very slowly - sinking in the snow. They were very hot by the time they were done. I held a council of war after lunch and unfolded my plan: to take 5 week's worth of food for man and animals and depot a fortnight's supply after 12 or 13 days then return here. That way, the load for the ponies will work out at around 600lbs, and for the dogs 700lbs, not including the sledges. They should be able to do it if the surface is good, but that is doubtful. Oh well. It's the best we can do under the circumstances.
Shackleton's Nimrod tent proves that food can be left here for a good while without harm, which bodes well for us.
Friday, January 29, 2010
We are finding plenty of seals at rest and play in the water shallows between Camp One and Two.
Keohane's pony has gone lame, which Oates takes a very gloomy view of, but he is not an optimist. Keohane talks to his pony to cheer him on -- he says "Come on, lad; you'll be getting to the Pole." I don't think the Pony is too impressed by the opportunity.
Bowers's pony is weak in the forelegs, and it's only a question of how long he will last. If only these beasts didn't sink so much in the snow! If only there was a way to prevent their hoofs from pushing through the surface so readily! Perhaps they are pulling too much -- 900lbs each, roughly.
Atkinson has a bad heel, so his pony was tied up behind another sledge.
As we reached the Barrier we saw the tops of two tents half buried in the snow -- they are Shackleton's we suppose. A moulting Emperor penguin was sleeping between them. The men stripped the fabric away to see what was inside, and found that though the canvas was rotted, the bamboos were all sound, so we shall use them. They also found a primus stove, which I lighted and found to be in perfect working order. We will take that with us, too. Along with this was a cache of food which has lain there for years: Rowntrees cocoa, Bovril, Brand's extract of beef, sheep's tongues, cheese and biscuits.
They were perfectly preserved and everyone seemed jolly glad to add them to our meager diet, and although it was obvious they delighted in the additional flavors, they made sure to try to hide their glee from me, knowing as they do that I take a very dim view of that Irishman's slovenly ways. I mean, leaving a tent full of food out here like that! What was he thinking! And what was he doing sledging with all that to eat! Cheese! Whatever next!
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Read prayers after breakfast. It's not my cup of tea, particularly, but the men like it and I enjoy the duty.
Ponies and dogs all running well. The dogs went much further than expected and are getting into better condition every day. They took loads all the way to Safety Camp, the place on the Barrier we have designated as being "safe" if and when the sea ice finally goes out. We will store a depot there, and we can rest as long as we like before setting off again.
One can sometimes hear strange sounds when lying in one's sleeping bag on the sea ice. It sounds like the yawning howl one sometimes gets in the bowels of a ship. The endless fathoms of utterly unexplored sea that lie directly below gives one pause and doesn't bear thinking about. What strange and fearsome creatures live there, as yet unseen by man?
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
We started at 9:30 this morning, moving a load of fodder 3.75 miles south and then returning for lunch. Then me moved the camp and provisions. It's slow going and I am afraid the sea ice won't hold. I ventured out to Pram Point and found the ice dangerously thin off Cape Armitage.
The rest of the men went to the old Hut to see what they could do about digging it out - we saw cases of biscuit, butter and cocoa there, so will not be short if we have to camp here upon our return, but the snow is packed and solid and it will take a great deal of effort to clear.
The dogs are very tired tonight - 500lbs per sledge with 11 dogs is proving too much. They only get three-quarters of a pound of biscuit a day, which I think is too little. The ponies are good though, and Oates says his could have gone further than they did.
We men are all very tired too. I suppose we could have been in better shape with more sleep before this enormous task.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Aren't we a motley bunch?
After writing all my letters and completing arrangements for the ship, I bid the various parties and men a fond adieu. Pennell had brought the men aft so I could thank them for their splendid work. They have behaved like bricks and a finer lot of fellows never sailed in a ship. It was good to get their hearty send-off.
The Terra Nova carries two parties:
The Eastern Party under Campbell which shall explore King Edward VII Land. He has with him Priestly, Levick, Abbott, Browning, and Dickason.
The First Western Geological Party have sailed on to Butter Point, opposite Cape Evans on the mainland, and consists of Taylor, Debenham, Wright, and Edgar Evans.
A group has gone to Cape Royds on a ten-day photographic excursion, and includes Ponting, assisted by Nelson, Day and Lashly.
Our base at Cape Evans is being held by Simpson, Clissold, Hooper, and Anton.
Meanwhile, our Depot Party includes: Myself, Wilson, Teddy Evans, Bowers, Oates, Meares, Atkinson, Cherry-Garrard, Gran, Keohane, Crean, Forde, and Demitri.
So here we are with out loads. One wonders what the upshot will be. I do hope our 8 ponies come through, I have the utmost confidence in them. It should take us three days to get to complete safety before the sea ice we travel on breaks up.
Ponting got all of our photographs before we set off. I do hate posing for pictures.
Captain Oates, reluctant to have his photograph taken as always.
Monday, January 25, 2010
12 men, 8 ponies, 26 dogs
130 bales compressed fodder = 13,650 lbs
24 cases dog biscuit = 1400 lbs
10 sacks oats = 1600 lbs
TOTAL= 16,650 lbs
Between all the 8 sledges we carry:
Driver's ski and sleeping bags
Cookers and primus instruments
Tanks of biscuit, sacks of oats
Tents and poles, alpine rope, bamboos and spare gear
Oil cans, spirit cans
Food bags, ready provision bags
Picks, shovels, Boxes of tools
Total weights per sledge, average: 570 lbs
Sledge straps and tanks
Cookers and primus
Alpine Rope, lamps, candles
Total average weights per sledges (2 sledges) = 488 lbs
SPARE GEAR PER MAN
2 pairs under socks
2 pairs outer socks
1 pair hair socks
1 pair night socks
1 pyjama jacket
1 pyjama trousers
1 woolen mitts
Books, diaries, tobacco, etc.
Total weight: 12 lbs
Vest and drawers
Two pairs of socks
We were up all night with last minute preparations for our depot laying journey. I want to get at least a ton of supplies out along our route to around 80 degrees. Then it's hunkering down in our hut over Winter waiting until we can begin our big Southern journey in the Spring.
While the party went out with the ponies over the ice, I went to the ship. Lillie is overjoyed at having caught several bucketfuls of cephalodiscus, of which only seven pieces had been previously caught. Here he is earlier in the month with his trawl net.
In the forenoon we skirted the Island, and made for the Glacier Tongue where we were to rendezvous with the rest of the team. I watched their progress with my telescope.
There are big cracks in the ice - one of the ponies sunk through to his head and had to be hauled out with ropes. The poor creature came out looking very weak and miserable and trembling much. The dogs, meanwhile take off at a bolt with their loads and can hardly be stopped! Nevertheless I withhold my opinion of them, am in much doubt as to whether they are going to be a real success. I don't care what Nansen says. I think the ponies are going to be real good. Of course, the great drawback is the ease with which they sink in soft snow; they go through in lots of places where the men scarcely make an impression - they struggle pluckily when they sink, but it is trying to watch them. I suppose this is because they are heavier than either men or dogs. And their fodder adds an extra 105 lbs to each sledge.
Tonight we are camped 6 miles from the glacier and 2 from Hut Point.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
The ice in North Bay has gone out, and is going out rapidly everywhere. This means we shall have to get going on our depot journey immediately. Thus there has been an intense push to get things ready; both for the depot journey and for the ship, which shall sail with our lists of provisions to bring back to us next year.
I know the men are tired -- they have been scribbling their own personal letters to send back with the ship in between all of their tasks, and catching food and sleep where they can. We raise at 5am.
Bowers has been remarkable, seeing as he has had a necessary hand in both purposes - he knows where everything is and how much of it we have now and how much we can expect to have of it in the future. I don't know what I would do without him. He is looking rather tired though. I wonder if he has slept at all in the past few days?
Here is a photograph of our happy home in its merry disarray of crates of supplies.
Friday, January 22, 2010
The temperature in the hut was 63 degrees this evening! We have had a long busy day diligently sewing clothing. Watching a sailor sew is a thing of beauty.
There's little else to report. We put the Eastern Party ponies aboard ship today. I'm not at all sure they wanted to go.
I am very busy figuring out our plans for depot laying. Every spare moment, it seems, is given to the task. I go to bed exhausted.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
A new berg just before the ship hit.
A very close call today when the Terra Nova swung out from the ice and was grounded. You have no idea how cold the blood runs when one's only means of escape is cut off. I thought of the boat not returning to New Zealand and of having to accommodate 60 people here over winter, and the prospect was terrifying. I sent Evans out in the whaler to see what could be done. Pennell had the crew shift 10 tons of coal aft in a short space of time, and one could see the men running back and forth from one side of the ship to the other to help rock her off. Slowly but surely she eased away. We could hear the cheers from the ship.
It felt so awful just standing there watching it all unfold.
I did my best to maintain my usual cool and calm demeanor, but underneath I was certainly not.
Ponting was on board when all this happened, and managed to get photographs of it all unfolding. Here they are:
Shore party coming to help in the whaler.
The whaler with Erebus in the background.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Now that we have a home, I have been distributing all of our gear. The sledging gear and wintering boots are wonderful. We are delighted with everything. We have felt boots and slippers from Jaeger, plus wind clothes and fur mitts. Tonight we overhauled and served out two pairs of Finnesko (fur boots) to each traveller. At first I thought them too small, but once you work your foot in and warm it up a little it loosens and fits perfectly. I am thinking of using putties to secure our wind trousers to the finnesko.
Our clothing is as good as good. In fact, first and last, running through the whole extent of our outfit, I can say with some pride that there is not a single arrangement which I would have altered.
Atkinson has discovered a new parasite in the intestines of an Emperor penguin.
The pianola has been erected by Rennick. I sense the entire company is looking forward to using it. One cannot be in this vast desolate place without music.
Gran has been putting "record" on the ski runners. It is a mixture of vegetable tar, paraffin, soft soap, and linseed oil, with some patent addition which prevents freezing — this according to Gran. I overheard him referring to it as "sex wax" which is the way of these young vulgar chaps, I suppose. How it could possibly help the skis run I don't know. Between you and me, I think he's just trying to be seen to be busy.
We had some seal rissoles today so extraordinarily well cooked that it was impossible to distinguish them from the best beef rissoles. I played a joke on a few of the men by not telling them. It is the first time I have tasted seal without being aware of its particular flavor. Good old Clissold.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
I had the most extraordinary dream last night. I was marching, and cold, and it seemed as if my whole life were ahead of me and I was reaching for it, yet I couldn't see for blowing snow. I was in a fair panic at not being able to imagine a future, and my heart was like lead in my chest. I woke in a sweat, gasping for breath. It took me a good while to get back to sleep, I can tell you. I wonder what it can mean.
Meanwhile, the hut is becoming the most comfortable dwelling-palce imaginable. We have made unto ourselves a truly seductive home, within the walls of which peace, quiet, and comfort reign supreme.
Such a noble dwelling transcends the word "hut," and we pause to give it a more fitting title only from lack of the appropriate suggestion. What shall we call it?
The word "hut" is misleading. Our residence is really a house of considerable size, in every respect the finest that has ever been erected in the Polar regions; 50 feet long by 25 feet wide and 9 foot to the eaves. As for our wider surroundings it would be difficult to describe their beauty in sufficiently glowing terms. Here is Erebus in all her glory being ignored by some Adelie penguins.
Ponting is the most delighted of men; he declares this is the most beautiful spot he has ever seen and spends all day and most of the night in what he calls "gathering it in" with camera and cinematograph. He has built himself a dark room much to the admiration of all. One wonders if he keeps up this pace how he will not run through his supplies and glass plates and such well before his time here is up.
Meares has become enamored of the gramophone. The Gramophone Company has kindly donated two players; one for the hut and one for the ship. We find we have a splendid selection of records, including hymns and even George Robey and Nellie Melba!
The pianola is being brought in sections, but I'm not at all sure it will be worth the trouble.
Isn't she lovely? How nice it is to have a woman's voice in our new home.
Monday, January 18, 2010
We brought the Terra Nova closer in and she is now 400 yards off the hut in a very sheltered spot. Pennell is truly excellent in his present position—he's invariably cheerful, unceasingly watchful, and continuously ready for emergencies. I have come to possess implicit confidence in him.
Bowers, Simpson and Wright all impress me greatly. But it is hard to specialize praise where everyone is working so indefatigably for the cause. Each man is in his way a treasure.
Clissold the cook has started splendidly, serving seal, penguin and skua, and I can honestly say I have never met these articles of food in such a pleasing guise. This is important because it means the certainty of good health for any number of years.
Still wish we'd bought honey.
You may have noticed that there is no private facility in that diagram of our hut. You will forgive me for not mentioning it, but we go outside. Let's just pretend we don't go at all.
Sunday, January 17, 2010
We took up our abode in the hut today and are simply overwhelmed with its comfort. I suppose this is understandable given the conditions under which we've been living for the last two weeks.
I have instructed Bowers to build a bulkhead of cases which shuts off the officers' space from the men's, as I am quite sure to the satisfaction of both. You can see it on Cherry's diagram. I have the most spacious quarters, of course, and Wilson and Evans are in front of me. There is a dormitory arrangement behind my den with room for five men; this I have allotted to Bowers, Oates, Atkinson, Meares and Cherry-Garrard, all of whom are special friends. They have already made their quarters very habitable. I hear them joking that they are in "the Tenements." Simpson and Wright are with their instruments in their corner. The scientists Day and Nelson are in their lab near the big window. Debenham, Taylor and Gran are next to this; their space is part dorm, part workshop. Ponting is in his darkroom.
It is wonderful to see well everyone works together and with what good cheer they do it. All work is volunteer. Some argue that this allows the lazy to slack off and the bulk of the work to be carried out by those who simply can't say no, but I rather like to see who steps up to the mark. Bowers, for example can be found at almost any time of day and night toiling at something or other. Cherry will do anything you ask of him and looks dead-beat by the end of every day. Gran goes scarce when he might prove useful.
It snowed hard all night, giving us about 4 inches of soft snow. The ice is giving out at the ship and it can't be long til they are able to release anchor and get about to a more sheltered position nearer our camp.
Tonight it is blowing hard. The ponies don't like the wind, but they are standing up to the cold wonderfully and all their sores are healed up.
Saturday, January 16, 2010
Slept very badly and rose late. Meares and I had a good look around and found much less snow than I've ever seen here. We visited all the old landmarks — Vince's cross might have been placed yesterday—the paint was so fresh and the inscription so legible.
We loaded up more asbestos sheeting onto our sledges for Simpson's differential magnetic hut and came back. We arrived at tea-time to find our larder in the grotto completed and stored with mutton and penguins. The hut stove is burning well and the interior of the building already warm and homelike—a day or two and we shall be occupying it.
Took Ponting to see some interesting thaw effects on the ice cliffs east of Camp. here are some penguins running for the ice edge. He seems very taken with their antics.
All the people who had journeyed towards Cape Royds yesterday made it there safely.
It has occurred to me that although the sea ice may freeze in our bays early in march it will be a difficult thing to get ponies across it owing to cliff edges at the side. We must therefore be prepared to be cut off for a longer time than I anticipated. I hope this doesn't have too great a consequence on our plans.
I rather hoped Wilson would be as furious as I when I told him about the pitiful state of our old hut, but he took it in his usual stride and gave me that beatific smile of his that seems to say "calm down old chap." I hate it when he does that.
Lovely one of the Terra Nova anchored off the ice. He took quite a few of these.
Friday, January 15, 2010
I'm so incensed and uncomfortably cold I can barely write.
This was our first day of rest since we landed; I held Divine Service on the beach after the officers and men arrived from the ship. It was quite impressive in the open air. Most of the chaps are taking this opportunity to write their letters home.
I told Campbell about replacing his two ponies and he took it like a gentleman. We explored the route to Cape Royds and to my surprise found it far less crevassed than expected; I went on quite a way before turning back to leave Campbell, Gran and Nelson roped together on ski.
After lunch Meares and I commenced on our journey out to Hut Point over the sea ice. We took nine dogs, a little provision, a cooker and our sleeping bags. The dogs were brisk and soon we were at Glacier Tongue. We saw Shackleton's Nimrod depot and found there a good deal of compressed fodder and boxes of maize, but no grain crusher as expected. We skirted some very large cracks, and at every one were plenty of seal.
Once we arrived at my beloved hut -- where we had spent such good times during the Discovery expedition ten years ago -- to my great chagrin we found it filled with snow!!!!
Shackleton reported that he'd had to break into a window because the door was stuck. They all stayed there -- members of the Nimrod crew had written their names upon the boards!!! But they actually went away and left the window open; as a result, nearly the whole of the interior of the hut is filled with hard icy snow, and it is impossible to find shelter inside.
Meares and I were able to clamber over the snow to some extent and examine the neat pile of cases in the middle, but they will take much digging out.
We got some asbestos sheeting from the magnetic hut and made the best shelter we could to boil our cocoa.
There is something too depressing in finding the old hut in such a desolate condition. I was so looking forward to seeing all the old landmarks intact. To have to camp outside like this amid confused debris and to feel that all the old comfort and cheer had departed is dreadfully heartrending.
I am terribly depressed.
It is difficult to conceive the absolutely selfish frame of mind that can perpetrate a deed like this. It seems a fundamental expression of civilised human sentiment that men who come to such places as this should leave what comfort they can to welcome those who follow, and finding that such a simple duty has been barbarously neglected by our immediate predecessors disgusts me horribly.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Got back this morning to find the grotto much enlarged and Simpson's magnetic hut coming on splendidly. It's been windy all day from the SSE.
Am going to have to switch out the two ponies I assigned to Campbell for the Eastern Party now that I have had some experience with them and can evaluate which are fair and which are slow.
I cannot write much as there is work to do and I have already spent a great deal of time with pen in hand today writing letters. I feel like ever the accountant, even here.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
The snow and wind came up and I had to abandon my plans for a dog sledge trip out to Hut Point. Instead, I went to the ship and slept there. It is much colder than on land, the cabins all below freezing. Nevertheless, I shaved and bathed for the first time in 10 days, which felt wonderful and has returned to me the aspect of a leader as opposed to lackey!
There is much to discuss with the crew regarding preparations for their return trip. A good 10 tons of ballast - loose rock - was loaded today.
I must spend all day tomorrow writing my letters to send home.
Hopefully, the next time I shall sleep aboard the Terra Nova will be as the first man to set foot upon the most desolate place known to man, racing to get the news out to the world!
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Finally! We got a note from the ship today that almost everything is landed. All we have left is some mutton, books, pictures and the pianola! We shall wait til the hut is finished before moving in. Now begins the work of loading 30 tons of ballast onto the ship for its return to New Zealand. The ponies and dogs haven't finished their work yet!
Took the dogs out today in Siberian formation but feel rather useless as I kept forgetting all the commands in Russian at critical moments.
Have been discussing the upcoming depot journey with Bowers. He really is a treasure -- enters into one's ideas at once, and evidently thoroughly understands the principles of the game.
Tomorrow I shall take Meares and the dogs over to Hut Point to see if the ice is good.
What's Russian for hurry-up? Wish there was someone who spoke the damn language with us.
Monday, January 11, 2010
The blizzard arrived as expected and we weren't able to make any journeys today. Instead, all hands turned to help Davies with the interior of our hut; tonight all the match-boarding is complete, and the floor linoleum is all that remains to be put down.
I sent two or three chaps out to dig a cave out of some solid ice behind the hut for use as our larder. We presumed the ice to be very ancient, but came across skua feathers buried inside it, so we're wrong on that score.
I went out to the ship after the blizzard abated so see how they were doing. The good weather seems to have returned, and I trust that it may last for a few days at least.
Looking forward to moving inside the hut. Can't wait to assemble all my books and photos around me.
Sunday, January 10, 2010
After today I can say at last we are well and truly landed. Just as well, because the weather looks about to turn. All day long we brought in fodder, which has been stacked up against one wall of the hut to help insulate it. Patent fuel was also unloaded, 12 tons of it.
The ponies are giving us trouble, a few of them very skittish and bolting for it on occasion with sledges bouncing wildly behind. We think some of the dogs have snow blindness. Atkinson's autopsy revealed no infection, which is a relief, and he thinks the fault lies with the brain, which was left unexamined.
Our hut is thought to be a success all around. It is 50 feet long by 25 feet wide, with several alternating layers of boarding, quilted seaweed and rubberoid. All of the vents and pipes are fitted with dampers so the warm air stays in. There is plenty of black volcanic sand to heap against the walls on the outside to prevent drafts. Davies, our "Chippy Chap" has done a splendid job and is helped apace by many eager hands.
The officers and scientific staff are housed separately from the men by a large bulkhead of cases containing items which would freeze and crack if left outside; glasses and wine. They have their own mess table. It is important that the hut run as a ship, and that everyone know their place.
I am quite cheery.
Saturday, January 9, 2010
The first thing I saw this morning when I poked my nose out of the tent was the ship! She had not previously been visible from shore.
It has been a very productive day, with men, ponies and dogs running back and forth with supplies. Each man drags not less than 300lbs.
Sadly, we lost one of the dogs, which coughed and died after returning with a load. Atkinson is performing an autopsy on him to see what the cause might be.
Bowers proves a perfect treasure; there is not a single case he does not know or a single article of any sort which he cannot put his hand on at once.
The hut is progressing famously. We should be fully unloaded in a few more days.
It's warm. It's good to be busy watching our little outpost of the Empire rise and shine.
Friday, January 8, 2010
A day of disaster.
I am writing this in one of our new domed tents on my first night ashore.
Despite the soft ice and the fact that one man had been reported to have sunk his leg through earlier, I stupidly gave permission for the third motor sledge to be unloaded. Campbell had a line tied to it, but the ice gave and it started sinking, the rope cutting through like a cheese wire until all hands had to let go. One chap went through completely and had to be hauled out. In half a minute all that was left was a big hole and our precious motor now lies many fathoms underwater. Perhaps it was lucky there was no accident to the men, but it's a sad incident for us in any case.
I suppose that sounds rather begrudging, given that lives could so easily have been lost. But I spent an enormous share of the expedition's funds on those motors, and for naught.
That's the fateful motor being unloaded, above.
I hauled heavy loads right across that same patch yesterday. It just shows you how fast conditions can change. Now we are cut off from the ship, and I have semaphored for Pennell to bring her around to moor at a hardier point that we marked with kerosene tins.
So here we are waiting again till fortune is kinder.
Today seemed to be the hottest we have yet had; after walking across I was perspiring freely, and later as I sat in the sun after lunch one could almost imagine a warm summer day in England.
Frankly I'd rather be there right now. I wonder if I shall ever lie down to sleep in a proper bed again.
Thursday, January 7, 2010
We continue to load out stores apace, each team making several journeys back and forth to the ship every day. The ponies are freshening up -- a number of incidents of them nearly running away! Oates is splendid with them--I do not know what we should do without him. The dog teams are doing their share, too.
I am wondering how we shall stable the ponies in winter. Oates thinks I should have already given this some thought before we set sail, but my view is that you cross some bridges as you come to them and not before.
A whole host of other ills beside snow-bindness have come upon us. Sore faces and lips, blistered feet, cuts and abrasions; there are few without some troublesome ailment, but, of course, such things are 'part of the business.' The soles of my feet are infernally sore.
Ponting had another narrow escape. He goes off with a small sledge loaded with his photography equipment to take pictures of interesting features, and all of a sudden he started going through the ice! he scrambled as best he could and came out on more solid surface without having drowned. He remarked he was perspiring very freely!
Looking back it is easy to see that we were terribly incautious in our treatment of this decaying ice. As the summer progresses, the ice breaks up and melts. Where the day before one area was thick and hard, it is now slushy and soft. One forgets one is walking on the sea.
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
We've been trading off ponies as we continue to land stores from the ship, taking them the 1.5 miles there and back on several trips each day. I was astonished at the strength of the beasts I handled.
The dogs don't do as well, but they don't take as kindly to the warm weather. They are quite exhausted after each run.
The motor sledges are working well, but not very well. This sounds like a contradiction, I know. I fear they shan't be as much use as their cost warrants. From a distance over the ice they sound exactly like threshing machines. This is a sound every rural boy knows by heart, and no doubt will be as familiar to many a generation hence as it is to me.
I am concerned about wear on the wooden sledge runners over this hard ice. Wilson is trying an experiment of wrapping his with a seal skin he flensed for the task.
The man parties have done very well indeed, often hauling over 24 miles a day all told. Everyone declares that the ski sticks greatly help pulling; it is surprising that we never thought of using them before.
Some of the men are suffering from snow blindness.
Ponko has been cinematographing skua gulls on their nests. Here are a mother and her week-old chick.
I learned an enormous lesson today: ignore the orca gladiator at your peril.
I had heard weird stories of these beasts, but had never associated serious danger with them. A pack of eight nearly had Ponting for dinner this afternoon. Spying easy prey -- two of our dogs chained to a lead on the ice near the ship -- they sidled up to the ice edge to get a good look. Ponting rushed in with his camera, but they disappeared. Suddenly, all eight of them smashed through the ice underneath him in a joint effort to capsize them all. It was nearly three feet thick! My God, but he had to hop and skip back to safety from one bit of ice to another as their terrible heads soared up 6 feet between the cracks spouting and gnashing their awful teeth. "That was about the nearest squeak I ever saw!" I told him when he reached me standing by a sledge. His Antarctic adventure nearly came to an end before it had begun!
Here's one diving beneath the ice.
It is clear that they are endowed with singular intelligence, and in future we shall treat that intelligence with every respect.
We unloaded more supplies today as the entire company worked tirelessly. The remainder of the hut woodwork, all the petrol, paraffin and oil of all descriptions, a quantity of oats for the ponies and many odds and ends. The motor sledges are working well.
Once he was recovered, Ponting made a visit to a nearby upturned and embedded floe where a grotto had formed of immense beauty. he persuaded me to take a look, and I'm glad I did. The colors change as the light alters through the day. He photographed Wright and Taylor standing in its mouth, with the Terra Nova moored in the distance, perfectly framed. I'm sure that once he returns to London, these will be among his most praised photographs of our expedition.
He also had a fine time photographing Erebus behind us, with her steamy draft billowing. She is a live volcano, and if one looks over her lip, one can see the red hot lava gurgling below. if only we could harness that heat for our own ends! Alas!
I have spent altogether far too much time going through my books looking up and noting everything I can find about these Killer Whales. The men think I'm doing important work, I suppose. All this excitement makes one very sleepy, however, and it is late now for writing.
Monday, January 4, 2010
I am writing before turning in after not having slept for 48 hours.
At last we have a home! It has been christened Cape Evans after our second in command, and it already boasts a small village living on its shores consisting of a large green tent housing the hut-building party, the dogs, Demitri and Meares to look after the dogs, the ponies, picketed in a line on the snow, Oates and Anton in a tent of their own to look after them, eight day's food and supplies for the men, food and forage for the animals, most of the timber for our hut, and two motor sledges.
There is snoring all around me as weary men rest after 17 hour's straight of unloading the ship and hauling large loads 1.5 miles to the shore over the sea ice where the Terra Nova is moored and back. I reckon each party made about ten round trips today.
We sailed around to Cape Royds and saw Shackleton's old hut, but the sea ice prevented us from going further. After a council was held on our options, we decided to head back for a spot we had named "The Skuary" in the Discovery days (now named Cape Evans). The beach consists of a kind of course sand of volcanic agglomerate from Mount Erebus, which sits in all her glory behind us. It is a good spot, flanked by hills, with snow for fresh water. Importantly, we should not be cut off from the Barrier by too great an obstacle, as the ice on either side of the glacier tongue which separates us from Cape Armitage can be scouted for firmness when required.
After many frowns fortune has treated us to the kindest smile–for twenty-four hours we have had a calm with brilliant sunshine. Such weather in such a place comes nearer to satisfying my ideal of perfection than any condition that I have ever experienced. The warm glow of the sun with the keen invigorating cold of the air forms a combination which is inexpressibly health-giving and satisfying to me, whilst the golden light on this wonderful scene of mountain and ice satisfies every claim of scenic magnificence. No words of mine can convey the impressiveness of the wonderful panorama displayed to our eyes. Ponting is enraptured and uses expressions which in anyone else and alluding to any other subject might be deemed extravagant.
I'm glad he's bucked up because he was dreadfully down in the mouth about my not letting him take a boat out to see the penguins at Cape Crozier. He muttered on about having come a third of the way around the globe especially to see the Great Ice Barrier of which I had told him much about in London and now he was being whisked away from it without the chance to ply his trade etc etc.
The first thing we did upon securing ourselves to the ice edge was unload two of the motor sledges, which Day and Nelson had up and running in no time. They hold great promise.
Next came the ponies, persuaded by Oates with all his might into the box rigged to a pulley on the yardarm, or simply lifted into it by the sailors. I cannot express my relief when the whole seventeen were safely picketed on the floe. Poor brutes, how they must have enjoyed their first roll, and how glad they must be to have freedom to scratch themselves! It is evident all have suffered from skin irritation -- one can imagine the horror of suffering from such an ill for weeks without being able to get at the part that itched.
The dogs are having a field day with the penguins, who, having never known a predator on land, approach them curiously and meet their end. There is a spring, a squawk, a horrid red patch on the snow, and the incident is closed. Nothing can stop these silly birds. The skuas like it though, as it's an easy meal for them.
Shackleton lost four of his ponies within a month because he'd picketed them in such a place they could eat sand. I expect they liked the salt on them.
I have to turn in -- can hardly keep my eyes open. I hope to dream happily now that Fortune smiles on us at last.
Sunday, January 3, 2010
We finally made land -- almost! Came up to Cape Crozier in the swell, and observed the great ice barrier as it meets the sea -- you can see it here as that long line of white - unchanged since we were here in the Discovery. Mount Terror rises behind it. From the crow's nest we could see over the top of the barrier, which rises 60 feet above water to the slopes beyond.
We put out a whaler and rowed about to try to find a good landing spot. The afterguard were very keen and displaced the boat's crew, taking the oars themselves! Oates, Atkinson and Cherry-Garrard enjoying themselves mightily. There is probably good anchorage behind some of the bergs, but none of these afford shelter for landing on the beach, on which the sea breaks incessantly; it would have taken weeks to land the ordinary stores, and heaven knows how we could have got the ponies and motor sledges ashore. Reluctantly and sadly I have had to abandon my cherished plan -- it is a thousand pities.
The penguin rookery looks very much alive. We observed Emperor chicks shedding their down, a stage never before seen. Vast rookeries of Adelies huddle together. Another curious sight was the feet and tails of two chicks and the flipper of an adult bird projecting from the ice on the underside of a jammed floe; they had evidently been frozen in above and were being washed out under the floe.
One is very much reminded of the legacy of Francis Crozier when looking out at this cape named after him and the volcano he named after his vessel, the HMS Terror. Isn't it beautiful?
That was fifty years ago, not long before I was born. He was lost during Franklin's disastrous voyage to find the Northwest Passage.
Which brings me to Amundsen: where can he be? Clearly, he's not here. What if we sail around to McMurdo Sound and find him moored there? I don't know what I should do.
All hope of making our home at Cape Crozier abandoned, we set out on a running survey of the barrier as we moved on. Saw lots of killer whales idly diving off the penguin rookery, watching for their lunch to jump in.
We head off to Cape Royds, to see Shackleton's old hut.
Ponting's been very busy indeed with his camera and cinematograph, filming the coast as we pass. I shall be interested to see if it looks as beautiful on the screen as it does in real life.
Saturday, January 2, 2010
The goal is in sight! Sighted Mount Erebus at 8:30 pm, 115 miles off.
What a glorious night and day it has been -- constant sunshine, so several of us resumed the habit of deck bathing, sloshing buckets of sea water over ourselves and scrubbing with salt soap. The water was cold, of course, but it was quite pleasant to dry oneself in the sun.
I wonder what the ladies would make of such a sight!
Wilson spotted and sketched a new white-stomached whale, and Ponko's been out and about with his camera.
All sail is set, and we make steady progress now. Hoping to land at Cape Crozier tomorrow.
Friday, January 1, 2010
A new year! I wonder what our wives and families are doing today. How odd it must be for them not to know where on earth we are; mind you, I have no idea where K is either. We're both at sea.
We press on, finally, an enormous relief. Oates reports that the ponies are taking the ship's motion well.
I tremble to think what work we have ahead of us this year, but if Fortune smiles upon us we shall be victorious in our quest and will have attained another beautiful white feather in England's cap before it's through.
And I shan't have to go back to sea, and my fortune will be made and my place assured in posterity, and Kathleen happy, and Amundsen thwarted and Shackleton beaten and all will be right with the world.
I feel a bit itchy. It's been a while since many of us have bathed. Excepting Bowers, of course. Ought to bring the new year in with a wash and a shave, I suppose.