Sunday, February 28, 2010

28 February, 1911

At Safety Camp found everyone very cold and depressed. The animals look in a very sorry condition. Since there is no point waiting here we all packed up for Hut Point. This took forever because some of the sledges were buried under 3 or 4 feet of drift.

About 4 PM the two dog teams got underway. When we got the ponies ready to go and stripped their blankets from them, the ravages of the blizzards upon them became apparent. They are all terribly emaciated, and Weary Willy in particular is in a pitiable condition.

When we started, Weary Willy, who didn't have a load, immediately fell down. We tried to get him up but he was exhausted. Cherry and Crean went on, leaving Oates and Gran with me. We made desperate efforts to save the poor creature, giving him a hot oat mash and got him on his feet again. After a while we were off. But just 500 yards from camp he fell again. We camped there, built a snow wall around him and did all we could to get him back on his feet. Every effort was fruitless. Towards midnight we propped him up as best we could and turned in.

I am writing this before sleep, hoping that he makes it through the night.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

27 February, 1911

Awoke to find it blowing a howling blizzard. Winds blowing force 8 or 9. Absolutely confined to tent at present; to step outside is to be covered with drift in a minute. We managed to get our cooking supplies inside and have a meal.

Am very anxious about the ponies that were sent back: did they find shelter in time?

How frustrating it is to be stuck here without being able to do anything. How shall we spend our time? It is cold. This is poor luck.

I don't suppose Amundsen is sitting in a freezing tent buried up to his eyes in snow.

I shall have a smoke.

Friday, February 26, 2010

26 February, 1911

Marched to Corner Camp, and left six week's supply of provisions, a bag of oats and three-quarters of a bale of fodder. The going is bad; the second party abandoned their skis to come up on foot. Found signs of Bowers's party having been there and five pony walls.

Am anxious to get back, so Cherry, Crean and I started back. Without animals or supplies we were able to make a lot of progress: over 14 miles with just a break for tea. We must be less than 10 miles from Safety Camp now. Pitched our tent at 10PM. It is very dark for cooking.

I shall have to tell people that we are out on business, not picnicking. Except for our tent the camp routine is very slack. It simply won't do.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

25 February, 1911

Had a fine easy march today. Should reach corner camp tomorrow.

About 3 AM last night spotted Oates, Bowers, and the ponies way off in the distance like a mirage. Today came across their tracks and it looks like they only have four ponies. I wonder what has befallen the rest?

Our own pony, James Pigg, limits the length of our marches; the men could go on much further dragging their sledges, but he can't.

With any luck this good weather will hold and we will be able to all get back safe and well. Surely the gods will not throw poor weather and Amundsen in my path? Can any one man have such a large measure of Providence's bounty against him?

There is little else for me think of on the march except for how to proceed. Shall we take up the challenge and abandon our Scientific Programme for the sake of the Pole? What shall our backers say? Do we try to accomplish both, as planned? We are a large contingent, and well stocked with scientists who only came this far for their work. Yet Amundsen has with him only a small party of experienced skiers whose only goal is to beat us to the Pole. How shall history remember us? Either way, the prospect before us is now a very different one, and I shall be looked upon for leadership in this matter. We are Englishmen, after all.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

24 February, 1911

There is only one way out of my predicament and that is to work everybody so hard they don't care to think about it.

We started out very early today in awful conditions -- a thick frost everywhere -- and the going was hard, especially in the afternoon when we switched from ski to foot for comparison. Certainly the skis make it easier to get along.

It's been a horrid day. The temperatures are near zero, hard to see. Now we have the makings of a blizzard, so it will be a beastly night.

The marching is going to be very good for our condition though, and I shall certainly keep people at it. They'll thank me later.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

23 February, 1911

I don't want to talk about it.

Wilson and Meares killed three seals to feed the dogs.

I said I don't want to talk about it.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

22 February, 1911

So.
So.
Where to begin?

We proposed that perhaps Atkinson and Crean had gone to Safety Camp to meet us; since we had taken out shortcut we had come to the Hut by a different route. We set out at once, seeing sledge tracks, and it seemed an interminable slog to get to them. At first, we could only see two normal tents, and not their domed one - but as we drew up close, there it was.

What awaited us was the post.

Every incident of the day pales before the startling contents of the mail bag which Atkinson gave me -- a letter from Campbell setting out his doings and the finding of Amundsen established in the Bay of Whales.

One thing only fixes itself definitely in my mind. The proper, as well as the wiser, course for us is to proceed exactly as though this had not happened. To go forward and do our best for the honour of the country without fear or panic.

There is no doubt Amundsen's plan is a very serious menace to ours. He has a shorter distance to the Pole by 60 miles -- I never thought he could have got so many dogs safely to the ice. His plan for running them seems excellent. But above all he can start his journey early in the season -- an impossible condition with ponies.

In truth I had blotted that damn Norwegian from my mind after his telegram. What else was there to do? But this is a very serious development, unique, I should think in the annals of history: two parties trying for the same goal. Here I am with two dead ponies and a set of half-strangled, starving dogs. Amundsen has a 116 dogs and ten of these are bitches; they have already been breeding successfully on the Fram. We have but a fraction of this, and one bitch who has thus far proved inhospitable to reproduction. I am told that every man aboard the Fram has his own berth! And that they have with them fresh potatoes from Norway still! And that, not requiring coal but petrol, their reserves are still plentiful even after not having stopped to re-fuel since Madeira!! The Fram, apparently, shall be undertaking a circumnavigation of the Earth taking soundings while her master tries to forestall me at the Pole.

Damn and damn.

The men got their tempers up pretty fiercely, I must say. Here we are, having just risked life and limb to set our first depots, only to find we have dreadful competition so close at hand! Some of them wanted to sail for the Bay of Whales and give him what-for.

My God, did Nansen know?

Meanwhile, having found his proposed territory already taken and not feeling it seemly to set up camp next door, so to speak, Campbell has decided to venture further to Queen Victoria Land instead, and will have dropped off the two ponies I had given him for that purpose, having now no need of them.

Just my rotten, rotten luck. Providence is a cruel mistress and has it out for me, alas.


22 February, 1911 (Part One)

Met up with Evans's party, delighted to find them hale and well but Alas! with only one pony still alive of the three they took. James Pigg he is, and has been working very light loads and fed well to keep him going. But Blossom failed first, followed by Blucher. We must have passed their bodies snowed up along the way and not noticed. It seems their end was horrible, as they were much done in by the blizzards. Oates had reckoned that these two, the oldest, were the least likely to survive, and I hear he had bets that Blucher would go first.

All that trouble to save them at One Ton Depot for this.

The dogs are emaciated; it is clear they are not getting enough food. We much start with a serious plan for feeding them next year -- biscuit is simply not enough. They are ravenous at the end of each day's labor.

Bill, Cherry, Meares and I went on to Hut Point anxious to get news, but were most puzzled by what we found there: the hut itself had been cleared of snow and was habitable; a sign on the door said there was mail for me inside, but though we looked and looked, there was none. Just an onion and some bread which showed that some of our party had been there recently. Was most troubled by having no sign of Crean and Atkinson -- no note, nothing. Had left them here and Crean had brought up a lot of fodder and buried some seal livers -- I am terribly worried about them. Why no note?

Am most troubled.

21 February, 1911

Heck of a day. Feel like I spent half of it down a massive crack in the ice -- though in truth it was only an hour or so.

Came up against a crevasse that swallowed 13 dogs and nearly dragged the sledge in with it. Osman, leading, struggled with all his might not to follow them in, clinging to the rim for his life.

There was a good deal of commotion while we figured out what to do -- Wilson and Cherry were absolutely level-headed and a great help. We secured the sledge with a stake, unloaded our sleeping bags, tent and stove so that if disaster struck those wouldn't be lost, then relieved poor Osman by cutting him free of his harness. Two of the dogs were lying on a snow shelf 65 feet down, the rest dangling by their harness. The ones nearer the top were pushing madly at those beneath them for purchase against the slick sides of the ice. Slowly we managed to get them up, and cut them free. Wilson thought I was mad, but I simply had to get down there to bring up those two remaining beasts. Down I went on the Alpine rope, and brought them up. By the end of it we were all pretty much done in, with frostbitten hands. I wish I'd had a thermometer down there to measure the ice that far down. They left me dangling for a while when the rescued dogs got into a fight.

We had some lunch, then set off again. The dogs were in a state though, with a few passing blood from internal injuries; some of them had hung there writhing against thin ropes for over an hour. We are quite jovial in the tent tonight, glad to have our lives, I suppose.

I ought to mention that after Wilson advised me strongly against risking myself to save those dogs, he volunteered to do the job himself. I'm telling you this, but don't think I will mention it in my book. A leader has to lead, after all.

Hopefully we shall not come up against too many more cracks like that. Perhaps some shall criticize me for taking this shortcut knowing full well that it posed more hazard for crevasses in my haste to get back.

I wonder what the next few days will bring. And what news from the rest of our party.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

we covered 29 miles today. It was very cold at first, but suddenly the wind changed and the temperature rose til it was almost sultry! I think the weather must be MADE here, as opposed to coming in from elsewhere. The sky was a wonderful display of pink clouds against steely skies, with the sun circling low on the horizon.

The dogs are by no means played out - they settled into the most wonderful trotting rhythm and I spent a good deal of time trotting alongside them, so shall sleep tonight.

I wonder how I shall write up this experience. Shall I describe the dogs' performance as splendidly as they have appeared, or shall I bury it in favor of the ponies which I have set my store by?

I wonder how Evans's ponies have fared - Oates didn't think they'd make it back - and what news awaits us at the Hut.

Friday, February 19, 2010

19 February, 1911

We did nearly 26 miles today, the surface getting much better after 5 or 6 miles.

The dogs and ponies have had good amounts of food on this journey, yet both are desperately hungry. I wonder why? Both eat their own excrement. With the ponies, it doesn't seem so horrid, as there must be a good deal of grain etc., which is not fully digested. It is the worst side of dog driving.

The way in which they keep up a steady trot for hour upon hour is wonderful. Their legs are like steel springs, fatigue unknown.

Osman has been restored to leader. Stareek remains as steady as ever.

Still, I think ponies are the way to go, and not dogs. Despite all the evidence to the contrary.

We are all acting like seasoned sledge travelers now. Our tent is up and the cooker going in short order. Cherry is cook. He is doing a much better job of looking after his gear now, allowing his socks and finnesko to dry properly during the night.

What a good little crew we are. Much thought on these individuals for the Polar Journey next spring.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

18 February, 1911

Camp 12. We have come 22 miles, 1996 yards back north. Much easier without the ton of stuff we left behind!

The pony party started off first: Gran leading my pony with Weary Willy behind, Oates leading his with Cherry's pony behind, and Bowers steering course with a light sledge.

Wilson, Meares, Cherry and I set off with the dogs. We were most surprised to see them not stopping for lunch! They must have made up their minds to march straight through. No doubt Oates is feeling his oats in this regard, and like to do things differently from me. I daresay he's having a fine time of it.

The dogs we are running are finding the surface bad. The weather is worsening and I shall be very glad to be off the barrier and into more comfortable quarters. It's very cold out here.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

17 February, 1911

One Ton Depot
Latitude 79 degrees, 29 minutes

We have been hard at work making the depot today. It is a six-foot high cairn of snow with a few sledges planted upright beside it and a tall bamboo with a flag on top. We planted biscuit tins on it too to reflect the sun. It should be able to be seen for miles around. Well, our lives will depend on it anyhow.

In it we have left:

lbs
245 7 week's full provision bags for 1 unit
12 2 day's provision bags for 1 unit
8 8 week's tea
31 6 week's extra butter
176 lbs biscuit (7 week's full biscuit)
85 8.5 gallons oil (12 weeks oil for 1 unit)
850 5 sacks of oats
424 4 bales of fodder
250 Tank of dog biscuit
100 2 cases biscuit
-----
2181 lbs

Also: 1 skein white line, 1 set breast harness, 2 12-foot sledges, 2 pair of ski, 1 pair of ski sticks, 1 Minimum Thermometer, 1 tin Rowntree cocoa, 1 tin matches.

It seems as though some of our party will find spring journeys pretty trying. Oates's nose is always on the point of being frost-bitten, and Meares has a refractory toe which gives him much trouble. We are in for a pretty good doing.

Just thinking: just over half of this weight we dragged and which wore out our horses consists of food for the horses. And the only reason we are turning back is due to the horses.

Hmm. I can't start second-guessing myself at this point.



16 February, 1911

Camp 15

The ponies are absolutely running out now. Only three of the five could go on without difficulty. Weary Willie is in fact a good deal done up, and to push him further would be to risk him unduly, so tomorrow we turn back.

I hope that decision won't come back to haunt me -- Oates feels it will and is most adamant in showing me he thinks so.

The temperature on our march tonight was -21 with a brisk SW breeze. Bowers started out as usual with just his small felt hat, ears uncovered. Luckily I called a halt after a mile and looked at him. His ears were quite white. Cherry and I nursed them back whilst the patient seemed to feel nothing but intense surprise and disgust at the mere fact of possessing such unruly organs. Oates's nose gave great trouble. I got frostbitten on the right cheek lightly, as also did Cherry-Garrard.

Tried to march in light woollen mits to great discomfort.

15 February, 1911

Camp 14

The surface is wretched today. Bowers's pony refused to work at intervals, though Weary Willie is much recovered form his trauma.

I like to call Oates The Soldier because he represents the Army among us Navy men.

He and I have had some serious words about our intentions for them. He thinks we ought to work them to death -- take them as far as they will go to get us to the 80th parallel, then shoot them and depot the meat for food. As far as he's concerned, they are just about done and sees no use in trying to save them.

I feel that we ought to save as many ponies as possible for use next year, so ought to treat them carefully. I cannot abide cruelty to animals, and simply flogging them out is just that. If this means we shan't make our goal to depot one ton of supplies at at 80 degrees south, then so be it. We will simply have to plan for that.

The Soldier feels this is a grave mistake and says I'll regret it. He comes very close to insubordination, no doubt a feature of his being a gentleman in civilian life and having bought his way aboard the expedition, as if that gave him rights. Well, he's got another think coming. I'm in charge here, and I'll have it my way or not at all.

Still he does seem to take a gloomy view of everything, but that's just his character. He does pay every attention to the weaker ponies despite his lack of optimism.

The more I see of the matter the more certain I am that using the ponies next year is the key to our success. One thing is certain. A good snow shoe would be worth its weight in gold on this surface, and if we can get something really practical we ought to greatly increase our distances next year.

I tell you what, though. Five men to a tent isn't half as bad as I thought it would be. Something to consider.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

14 February, 1911

Darn it all. The surface is very bad the going is very hard. The ponies sink in the soft spots left by the recent blizzards. I consulted Oates as to how far we could go today and he cheerfully replied 15 miles which rather piqued me. Gran, leading Weary Willie was incredibly slow, so much so that he was dropped back a good three-quarters of a mile by the time we camped for lunch. There was a clearly a disturbance as the dogs came up so Oates and I went back to see what happened. The pony had floundered and when he fell, hte hungry dogs broke free with their sledge and set upon him like a pack of wolves. There was quite a melee, with Gran breaking a ski stick and Meares breaking a dog stick, but they managed to pull them apart. Weary Willy was quite badly mauled and we brought him in to camp covered in blood. None of the dogs were injured. We have him a hot meal, extra blankets and built him a good wall for shelter in the hopes that he'll recover. After lunch four of us had to go back to drag his sledge and I was most annoyed; this pony was carrying more weight than the rest. I blame myself for not supervising more closely and for allowing them to get so far behind.

I am too tired to even dream of Kathleen on this, Saint Valentine's Day.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

13 February, 1911

Camp 12

Quite hard going this morning, cold and a slog in the morning, and although it cleared a bit after lunch, we are now sitting here, five to a tent, with a full blizzard blowing outside. I do not know exactly where some of our party are camped, but hope they got shelter up before it became too tough. We have built large walls behind our ponies to help them. their coats are getting thicker; I see no reason we shouldn't get to the 80th parallel is only the weather would give us a chance.

Bowers is wonderful. He wears no headgear in the night but for a common green felt hat kept on with a chin stay affording no cover whatsoever for the ears, while the rest of us are happy for our thick balaclavas and wind helmets. I have never seen anyone so unaffected by the cold. Tonight he remained outside for an hour pottering about camp performing small jobs while the rest of us were tucked up in our tents.

Cherry-Garrard, too, is remarkable, because without his glasses he is practically as blind as a bat, and the conditions make it very hard for him to see through them, yet you would never guess it. Still, despite these many inconveniences, he manages to do more than his share of camp work.

It is pretty clear to me that these two young fellows are good stuff.

Friday, February 12, 2010

12 February, 1911

Camp 11: Bluff Camp

We made 10 miles and depoted one bale of fodder. The surface is decidedly worse. The ponies sink deeply. Blossom practically had to be dragged the last mile.

Have decided to send E. Evans, Forde and Keohane back with the three weakest ponies, which they have been leading. The remaining five ponies shall come on with us for a few days at least. We shall try to get as close to the 80th parallel as we can.

Cherry-Garrard has come into our tent.

I think Evans is much displeased with my decision as he feels that he is being slighted. I shall not have a second-in-command make a break for it however, and lead to the Pole, under any circumstances, and I know he has ambitions. I suppose he feels that he is being looked over in favor of younger, more inexperienced men, and I suppose he's right.

11 February, 1911

Camp 10

The snow is soft and the ponies are having a hard time of it. Snow shoes would help enormously. Blossom, E. Evans's pony, has small hoofs and found the going very bad.

Meares replaced Osman with Rabchick, who has taken up his charge most willingly.

Note to Self: A stout male bamboo shod with a spike to sound for crevasses.

And completely exhausted. Am going to turn in and dream of England.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

10 February, 1911

Camp 9.

On we plod.

This is our day: we turn out of our sleeping bags at 9PM. Somewhere around 11:30 I give a shout to Oates to ask how things are, and he usually says they are ready. Soon after, figures are busy taking down tents and packing sledges and getting harness on ponies and packing feed for the break. The animals are taken off their picket one by one and brought to the sledges in formation. It is a cold business and one gets resentful of tardiness. Someone is slow wrapping up their tent or tending to their animal while the more prompt among us stand there in the cold. The ponies turn their heads away from the wind. When we are ready one says "All right, Bowers, go ahead" and he leads off. Finnesko do not provide much of a foothold, so there is quite a bit of slipping and sliding at first. Marching is warmer work and within ten minutes we are settle into a rhythm. Bowers keeps a steady rhythm until our first half-march break when I pull out my whistle and he pulls off to the left to set up camp. Within minutes the animals are picketed and covered, at their feed, while tents are up and cookers going. Meanwhile the dog drivers time their faster passage to meet up with us at this point and we all eat our lunch.

We make our final camp about 8 o'clock and build our walls for ponies. Within an hour and a half we are tucked up in our sleeping bags.

Most warmth is kept by getting into one's bag as soon as possible after eating, the warming effects of the hot food helping as much as possible.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

9 February, 1911

Made a decent might march of 11 miles to bring up to Camp 8.

The ponies are holding out. We think the cause for their discomfort is the comparative thinness of their coats -- they have not had a chance to grow thicker ones yet. It was minus 6 degrees last night but warmer in the sun when we stop.

Forde's "Misery" is improving slightly and is very keen on it's feed, though it's fate is much in doubt.

I have taken to building a snow barrier behind my pony when he is picketed at night to give him some shelter from the southern wind at night. The others, seeing my example, have followed suit.

No crevasses today. This doesn't mean we shall not face them tomorrow, however.

Nothing like a yawning hole that reaches down to eternity to keep you on your toes.

Monday, February 8, 2010

8 February, 1911

Camp 7
Bearings: Lat 78 degrees 13 minutes.

Last night we marched 10 miles, 200 yards.

The state of the ponies troubles me greatly: it is clear they were much shaken by the blizzard. They all look listless, and two or three are visibly thinner than before. Forde's little pony Bl├╝cher is by far the worst off of the lot; we reduced his loads until at the end Forde had to drag his own sledge and lead him in. The poor thing is a miserable scarecrow and never ought to have been brought -- it is the same pony that did so badly in the ship.

Today it is fine and bright. We are giving a good deal of extra food to the animals in the hopes that they will pick up again, but they cannot stand any more blizzards in their present state.

I'm afraid we shall not get very far, but at all hazards we must keep the greater number of ponies alive. The success of our entire expedition depends upon them.

The dogs are in fine form; the blizzard has only been a pleasant rest for them.

Still, I am convinced, despite all evidence to the contrary, that ponies and not dogs are the way to go.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

7 February, 1911

Corner Camp

Every now and then it looks like the skies might be clearing but then the winds come back. We were able to get to do some camp work earlier -- digging the sledges out and making the ponies more comfortable -- but that is all.

One begins to feel that fortune is altogether too hard on us.

The next week is going to be rough, but right now, it looks promising for a night march.

When one spends hour upon hour in one's sleeping bag one's thoughts often drift to the comforts of home, naturally, especially in that half-sleep that one often falls into. And when I say comforts of home, I mean our lady-folk, for those of us who are married. I mean the comforts provided by our wives. You know what I mean. It's not easy to manage the results. I have no idea what the unmarried men think of.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

6 February, 1911

Corner Camp, 6PM

We are still here, hunkered down against this unceasing blizzard. It is howling all about us, though very cozy in the tent, as it is not particularly cold. I think this spot must get the worst of the wind coming off Cape Crozier. It is awful to have to go outside, but obviously on occasion we must. I get the feeling the men would rather do their business where possible into some container in the tent, but this will not do; we are not animals, and no-one dare ask for fear of seeming too delicate to face the snow.

The dogs are perfectly content, curled under their tails (if they have them) in their snow burrows, and rather think they are having a holiday. The ponies must be in a wretched state, given that they withstood standing in a boat for 5 weeks, endured a nearly fatal gale and have since we landed been at it non-stop dragging heavy loads -- they must have done at least 200 miles alone.

So we eat and sleep, eat and sleep -- and it's surprising how much sleep can be put in.

Friday, February 5, 2010

5 February, 1911

Still at Corner Camp. The blizzard has lasted 24 hours so far. It blows very hard and out tent is being put to the test. One imagines it cannot continue long as at present, but remembers our proximity to Cape Crozier and the length of the blizzards recorded in that region. I do not know why I keep referring to myself in the third person.

Meanwhile, we sleep and eat and wonder at how the other tents are getting by. There is a rumor that Bowers's pony has eaten one of it's putties!

Two minutes outside the tent and one is turned white. Naturally, one does have to go outside a couple of times per day to do one's business. It's hell out there.

I am enjoying my pipe. If one ignores the howling wind, one can pretend one is beside one's fireplace enjoying civilized after-dinner conversation.

I wonder how long we'll be stuck here? The ponies must be absolutely miserable.




Thursday, February 4, 2010

4 February, 1911

Camp Six. 8AM.

We covered 10 miles last night. We had good moonlight and soft surfaces gave way to hard ones, which was easier on the ponies. The sky looks threatening to the south; I think we're in for a blizzard.

Camp 6. 8PM.

It is blowing a blizzard. Nothing to do but lie here.

The deep, dreamless sleep that follows the long march and the satisfying supper.

The surface crust which breaks with a snap and sinks with a snap, startling men and animals.

A dog must be either eating , asleep, or interested. His eagerness to snatch at interest, to chain his attention to something, is almost pathetic. The monotony of marching kills him.

This is the fearfullest difficulty for the dog driver on a snow plain without leading marks or objects in sight. The dog is almost human in its demand for living interest, yet fatally less than human in its ability to foresee.

The dog lives for the day, the hour, even the moment. The human being can live and support discomfort for a future.

I wonder if Amundsen has dogs, and how many. I wonder where he might be.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

3rd February, 1911 (part two)

6PM. I cannot believe I slept for nine hours. My tent-mates are still slumbering.

Two of Meare's white dogs have been trained to attack strangers, which is most inconvenient. I was almost taken down today.

Hunger and fear are the only realities in a dog's life: an empty stomach makes a fierce dog. There is something almost alarming in the sudden fierce display of natural instinct in a tame creature. Instinct becomes a blind, unreasoning, relentless passion. It is as well one is resigned to the sacrifice of animal life in the effort to advance such human projects as this.

Of course, one feels more easily disposed to slaughter when one has been on the receiving end of those teeth.

My companions stir: I must away.

3rd February, 1911 (part one)

Roused the camp at 10PM to begin out first night march. Set up temporary camp to feed us and the animals at 3:30 AM, then started again at 5AM and marched til 7AM. In all we covered 9 miles. The surfaces were fine until towards the end when Bowers, who was leading, suddenly plunged into soft snow, followed by several others. Soon, three of the ponies were also struggling. I brought out that one set of snow-shoes, and put them on Bowers's pony -- a complete triumph! At first he walked awkwardly, for a few minutes only, then once he was harnessed to his load was able to get over all those places he'd sunk earlier!

If only we had all our snow-shoes! It is trying to feel that so great a help to our work has been left behind at the station. It is pathetic to see the ponies floundering so in these soft patches. They heave and struggle, jumping forward with both forefeet, bringing the sledge behind them in jerks. They stand there engulfed in snow, panting, or fall, and lie there trembling with exhaustion.

What extraordinary uncertainties this work exhibits! Every day some new fact comes to light—some new obstacle which threatens the gravest obstruction. I suppose this is the reason which makes the game so well playing.

I'm lying here unable to sleep. It takes some getting used to, this night-marching.

The more I think of our sledging outfit the more certain I am that we have arrived at something near a perfect equipment for civilised man under such conditions. The border line between necessity and luxury is vague enough. Suppose, for example, we were in a grim struggle for existence and were forced to drop everything but the barest necessities; the most we could save would be 375lbs, or half of one of the ten sledge loads. That's only a twentieth of the total weight carried. So it is without guilt that I enjoy my reading and my pipe.

We have 32oz or food a day, which is more than enough. I remember ho hard it was back in 1903 when we were on 26oz for five weeks, and it nearly did us in. The main thing to remember is that the men should be kept in prime condition so long as the animals are pulling their loads.

I could go on and on, but I suppose I must try to sleep.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

2nd February, 1911

Am writing this in the tent waiting for night to fall. Of course, this being Antarctic summer, it doesn't get dark. What we're waiting for is for the temperatures to drop -- minus six, last night -- so we can begin marching the ponies then instead of the daytime when it is too warm for them. Better they rest during the warmth of the sun than build up a froth of heat.

The trouble for us chaps though is that it is almost impossible to sleep until we get used to the switch.

Left Atkinson behind with Crean. I feel sorry for them both, but Crean most of all. Atkinson is a damn fool for not having told us about the state of his foot sooner. Crean, meanwhile, has the ignomy of looking after him and fetching fodder instead of making this historic march. Meanwhile, I am handling Atkinson's pony.

I inquired after out one set of snow-shoes only to find they had been left behind. And after they had proved so useful! It does make me wonder if someone's not trying to sabotage our efforts. Gran volunteered to ski back to fetch them, which was very good of him. Oates will not use two poles when he skis, insisting on using only one, like some glaciated gondolier.

I thought I might as well do something useful while I'm lying here so wrote this:

The seductive folds of the sleeping-bag.

The hiss of the primus and the fragrant steam of the cooker issuing from the tent ventilator.

The small green tent and the great white road.

The whine of a dog and the neigh of our steeds.

The driving cloud of powdered snow.

The crunch of footsteps which break the surface crust.

The wind blown furrows.

The blue arch beneath the smoky cloud.

The crisp ring of the ponies’ hoofs and the swish of the following sledge.

The droning conversation of the march as driver encourages or chides his horse.

The patter of dog pads.

The gentle flutter of our canvas shelter.

Its deep booming sound under the full force of a blizzard.

The drift snow like finest flour penetrating every hole and corner – flickering up beneath one’s head covering, pricking sharply as a sand blast.

The sun with blurred image peeping shyly through the wreathing drift giving pale shadowless light.

The eternal silence of the great white desert. Cloudy columns of snow drift advancing from the south, pale yellow wraiths, heralding the coming storm, blotting out one by one the sharp-cut lines of the land.

The blizzard, Nature’s protest – the crevasse, Nature’s pitfall – that grim trap for the unwary – no hunter could conceal his snare so perfectly – the light rippled snow bridge gives no hint or sign of the hidden danger, its position unguessable till man or beast is floundering, clawing and struggling for foothold on the brink.

The vast silence broken only by the mellow sounds of the marching column.





Monday, February 1, 2010

1st February, 1911

A day of comparative inactivity and some disappointment. Wilson and Meares returned at noon reporting that the ice is out and therefore passage to Cape Evans is impossible. We shall have to proceed with just the one pair of snow-shoes.

Atkinson's foot isn't getting any better and he shan't be able to walk on it for some days. I must leave him here, and have asked Crean to stay with him. He can fetch loads of fodder from the last camp and dig a big hole in the Barrier ice for observations. That'll keep him busy while playing nursemaid.

I sent Gran to the Discovery Hut with our last mail. The Terra Nova will pick it up and take it back to New Zealand for us. He was gone 4 hours in ski, and as the wind had sprung up I was most anxious to get him back.

The good news, I suppose, is that our food allowance seems to be very ample, and if we go on as at present we shall thrive amazingly.