Sunday, February 21, 2010

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.

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