Tuesday, January 5, 2010

5 January, 1911

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.

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