Sunday, February 21, 2010
22 February, 1911
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.