Monday, January 4, 2010

4 January, 1911

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.

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