Wednesday, February 3, 2010

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.

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