Wednesday, March 31, 2010

31 March, 1911

The sea ice is 6 - 8 inches in places, still not thick enough for us to walk across.

We are good for another week in pretty well every commodity and shall then have to reduce luxuries. But we have plenty of seal meat, blubber, and biscuit, andcan therefore remain for a much longer period if needs be.

Meanwhile the days are growing shorter and the weather colder.

If only we'd been able to set camp in this vicinity and avoided the necessity of a journey over sea ice! It seems as if Fortune is set against us at every turn.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

30 March, 1911

The ice holds south of Hut point, though not thickening rapidly. It seems we are going to be here a while longer. It is trying -- trying -- but we can live, which is something. I should not be greatly surprised if we had to wait till May.

How will this effect our plans for next year? Will it mean that we will be stuck here after our return from the Pole, and miss the ship for certain? Will we have enough supplies laid in place just in case?

Saw two rorquals rising close to Hut Point this morning.

Monday, March 29, 2010

29 March, 1911

The sea ice is still not yet thick enough for us. Walked out quite a bit today to check on it and the winds.

I had another strange dream last night, and woke to find myself sweating. I was lying in the dark; I couldn't move my feet. I kept calling out to Birdie but he wouldn't answer, though I knew he was there. I was lying in my same reindeer bag. I was so very cold.

Where shall I be a year hence? What will I have to say to you then of my dreams and aspirations?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

28 March, 1911

Slowly but surely the sea is freezing over. Still, there are holes and places where it obstinately refuses to freeze.

We are building stabling on the eastern verandah to house more ponies for Spring and Summer operations.

I had the most awful feeling of deja vu this morning with Bill, only it didn't feel like it was a moment that I was repeating but foreseeing. He was praying and looked askance at me in the most haunting fashion. It was extremely spooky and I have avoided him all day since.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

27 March, 1911

I am a firm believer in rough hardy exercise to keep up a man's spirits and fitness. To want to stay indoors enjoying the comforts of a fire seems to me to smack of indolence. Are we not all men here? Do they not know that I am watching them to see who has which strengths I can employ on my Pole journey next spring?

Thankfully, they're not ALL lazybones; several of us went for a brisk walk out to the Gap today to check the ice, and I'm pleased to say a couple of the dogs trotted along with us too.

It is very frustrating to be stuck here. I suppose Amundsen is making his quarters comfortable for the winter, having laid his depots, but without having the dilemma of having to cross sea ice. That is, of course, if his camp hasn't broken off and slipped away into the sea.

Friday, March 26, 2010

26 March, 1911

Walked out today over to the Gap and back by Crater Heights to Arrival Heights. The sea east of Cape Armitage looks pretty well covered over in ice, with some open pools.

Have been thinking fondly of March in England -- the glades of daffodils and crocus, the buds on trees. I wonder if Peter has been gamboling about in dewy grass. If I close my eyes I can hear the birds chirping their merry song.

Then I open them again and realize it's just the sound of the roof dripping.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

25 March, 1911

The damn sea still hasn't frozen despite the cold temperatures.

Water streams down the sides of this hut. At least the cold seems to put a halt to it. Pretty uncomfortable for us though.

I wonder what the rest of the world is up to? I can smell smoke but have no idea where it's coming from. I suppose the newspapers shall tell me once I catch up upon my return to civilization.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

24 March, 1911

Have been looking at our resources as the sea has not yet frozen and we shall have to stay on. We have enough for another 20 days if need be.

I wonder if we shall be passing this way this time next year.

The dripping from the ice packed in the ceiling is very annoying.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

23 March, 1911

Was really worried about our depot party, but they finally showed up. They had terrible weather.

I get the feeling they want me to take this into account in my planning for next year's Pole journey. I'm sticking to my guns though. I don't care what anybody says.

Monday, March 22, 2010

22 March, 1911

It was finally calm again this morning so I took a jaunt up Crater Hill. A sea of stratus clouds hung curtain-like over the Strait -- blue sky east and south of it and the Western Mountains bathed in sunshine, sharp, clear, distinct -- a glorious glimpse of grandeur on which the curtain gradually descended.

That's four g-words in a row. I read somewhere once that alliteration improved one's speech. Thought I'd try it out a bit. Look how onomatopoeic that first part is with the sunshine. Am rather chuffed.

Oooh - I ought to have gotten "golden" in there somehow.

Sometimes when I look about this wild, desolate place I wonder what it will look like a hundred years from now. In 2011 (!) will it be as vast, as empty? Or will there be great cities with houses and shops like the rest of the world?

Will our little Hut still be here?

{picture taken 2007 - Discovery Hut with McMurdo Base behind it}

Sunday, March 21, 2010

21 March, 1911

Well, well, fortune is not being very kind to us. That's fortune's call, I suppose.

What dreadful weather we are having; yet another gale has swathed us in brine and taken out the seal floe.

The ponies are sheltered, but we have had to release most of the dogs. They get so cold in their hindquarters when they get all iced up; hoping that releasing them from their chains will allow them to warm themselves. Some are in very poor shape. I wonder if there's anything to that idea that the dogs will be good servants if you are a good master? We try to be good masters but they always appear to want to do their own thing.

I wonder what we'll be doing a year from now? Back at Cape Evans catching the ship, perhaps. I would certainly hate to be out on the Barrier is the weather is anything like this.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

20 March, 1911

Killed two seals today off Hut Point which will provide meat for us and the dogs and blubber for our stove. Am glad for the exercise because we've had nothing much to do but sit around and eat.

Speaking of which, I wonder what Debenham's cooking up for dinner? Fried seal liver? Seal steaks? Maybe some seal soup. Seal rissoles. Seal stew?

I could murder a curry.

19 March, 1911

Well the small dog with the gangrene died today. Others don't look so well, but we hope they will pull through. The continuous bad weather is awful for them - we try our best to make them comfortable but they insist on sleeping outside in it. Five or six are running loose. I dare not let the stronger dogs loose. Best by far to keep them chained up.

I suppose that Amundsen allows all his dogs to run loose and act like wild animals. I suppose he thinks they are more comfortable that way. I expect the bitches are forever producing litters to replenish his stock. He's probably erected a big tent for them to come and go as they please.

What a fool.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

18 March, 1911

Found a seal on some young ice pressed up against Hut Point and went to go kill it, but it slipped into the water.

What horrid weather we are having: I fear another blizzard will come up tomorrow.

I don't understand how dogs can want to sleep out in the snow. Surely they find it cold? Well, the docked ones must - they have nothing with which to cover their noses, and their private parts much take much abuse from the wind. The one that dropped into the crevasse looks poorly - his wound has turned gangrenous. I suppose some will say we should have shot him right away and used him as food for the other dogs rather than dwindle our precious supplies. Too late now. Best to let him die a slow painful death than be put out of his misery, I think: if there's a God, it is his way, and who are we to interfere?

Awful when it happens to men though. I hope we're never in such a spot.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

17 March, 1911

The sea ice still will not freeze over! It simply refuses to do so so that we can get home!

I have taken to wearing pyjama trousers and will don an extra shirt. So far I have had nothing more than a singlet and jersey under pyjama jacket and a single pair of drawers under wind trousers. A hole in the drawers of ancient date means that one place has had no covering but the wind trousers, yet I have never felt cold about the body. I have been astonished by the warmth felt throughout in light clothing so far.

I am impatient just sitting here. It is ill to sit still and contemplate the ruin which has assailed our transport. The scheme of advance must be very different from that which I first contemplated. Because I am the leader of this expedition I have felt it unnecessary to tell anyone what those plans might have been. The Pole is a long way off, alas!

Bit by bit I am losing all faith in the dogs. They are a complete mystery to me.

Don't ask why I decided to bring an old pair of pyjama trousers with holes in them instead of new ones. A man likes his familiar underthings.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

16 March, 1911

The last Corner Party started out today: E. Evans, Wright, Crean and Forde in one team; Bowers, Cherry-Garrard, Oates, and Atkinson in the other.

The stove has been much improved with extra pipes so that we no longer have to breathe in black smoke. Taylor is quite the funny chappie. Debenham is proving himself a talented cook.

There's not a lot to do. Read, I suppose. Hate to be seen twiddling my thumbs. Not so many eyes about now though, so that's all right.

Monday, March 15, 2010

15 March, 1911

Held a massive seal-killing party today as I want to get as much meat in as possible. We got 11 seals at Pram Point, lunched there, then carried half a ton of the blubber and meat back to camp - it was a stiff pull up the hill.

Tonight we are all worn out and covered with grease. We are manly men indeed - our womenfolk would be appalled to see us thus adorned with the spoils of this necessary barbarism!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

14 March, 1911

Went to to Crater Hill. It's blowing a terrible gale. On the way back down I saw a figure approaching and it was Griffith Taylor!

It seems that his party all got back safely and had fine weather. I don't think he's discovered very much, though.

It's been a long time since I gave you any pictures, so here are two: Above we have Stanley Weyman's My Lady Rotha, a gripping tale of the Thirty Year's War set in 1632, and here below we have one of Wilson's charming drawings of seals which no doubt he killed and skinned soon after and which we ate for dinner.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

13 March, 1911

There's not much we can do with the blizzard raging outside, so we have turned our attention to various internal arrangements. Nothing is done without a great amount of advice received from all quarters, and consequently things are pretty well done.

I suppose you're going to think that I'm going to pay attention to this and utilize it myself as a good model for planning. I'm not.

We all reek of blubber smoke. We have grown accustomed to it, but imagine that ourselves and our clothes will be given a wide berth when we return to Cape Evans. I do hope we brought laundry soap.

Friday, March 12, 2010

12 March, 1911

Dreadful blizzard outside. The blubber stove is choking out smoke and we are all as black as sweeps and very smelly.

Been reading the Girl's Own Paper. Everyone wants it, but seeing as I'm Captain, I get it. It's one of the perks of the job. I must say, it is full of very useful advice.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

11 March, 1911

The sledge party came in this evening. they had very cold temperatures, but enjoyed their pull on ski. Have heard good things about Gran, whom I still think altogether lazy and too sensitive to the cold.

Life in the hut is much improved, but if things go too fast there will be all too little to think about and give occupation in the hut. Thawed out some old magazines and books left here from Discovery days a decade ago. Muchargument is settled with the Times Atlas and Who's Who. Also of use are Contemporary Reviews, the Family Herald, and Girl's Own Paper. I do not know why an all-male expedition had this on them. We have part of a copy of Stanley Weyman's My Lady Rotha, but the end is missing.

The roof, which is packed with blue ice, drips like mad in the evenings when the stove is going. It gets quite muggy in here. Overnight, when the stove is idle, great stalactites form.

I don't know what to make of these cold temperatures out on the Barrier. How will this effect our plans for the Pole? I have decided to ignore them.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

10 March, 1911

Hope the sledge party is alright. Went out to Pram Point and half way to Castle Rock but could see no sign of them.

The Hut is getting more comfortable. It's only really cold in the morning.

Off to fetch more blubber.

When you go out to kill seals, you need to take a big stick, a bayonet, and a flensing knife and steel. First you knock it on the nose with the stick, then you stab it with the bayonet. Once it's dead you cut off the skin with the blubber attached, then the meat is cut from the skeleton and entrails cleaned out. The liver is carefully excised. Then everything is left to freeze in the snow. The carcass can be chopped up with an axe and fed to the dogs. Nothing wasted.

9 March, 1911

Not much to say, really. Went with Wilson to Castle Rock to see if there was any way of getting to Cape Evans. No chance, I'm afraid.

It is splendid to see the way in which everyone is learning the ropes, and the resource which is being shown. Wilson as usual leads in the making of useful suggestions and in generally providing for our wants. He is a tower of strength in checking the ill-usage of clothes -- what I have come to regard as the greatest danger with Englishmen.

As I'm sure you will agree.

Monday, March 8, 2010

8 March, 1911

I must say, thus hut is something of a boon. When we built it in 1902 I rather thought it a white elephant and only of possible use to a stranded party for survival. But here we are in something like that very position, and very thankful for it indeed! We have even raided the old rubbish heap for useful items with which to make ourselves comfortable. We have 40 crates of biscuit, and seals to keep us going. It doesn't bear thinking about our chances without them.

Meanwhile we continue to make improvements to the living quarters and insulation.

Cape Evans may be on this same island and only 15 miles away, yet getting to it is impossible until the sea ice between us freezes over again. The route by land would take us past Erebus's deeply crevassed slopes and ice falls, which is very dangerous indeed, if possible at all.

So here we wait for nature to serve our needs. I am worried that these conditions which could have calved off such an enormous part of the Glacier Tongue (on which Campbell had depoted fodder!) have washed away our winter quarters at Cape Evans, which lies only feet from the water's edge.

We are having fine weather at least, which has given us the chance to dry out our things.

Sent Bowers, Evans, meares, Keohane, Atkinson and Gran off to retrieve the stores rescued from the floe last week. We helped them up the hill and could see them finally making camp about 12 miles away.

Found that the blubber stove was using too much of our precious firewood, so we adjusted it to only use a bit to start then run on blubber alone. We have also started cooking with blubber and find biscuit fried in it to be delicious.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

7 March, 1911

We are in every respect absolutely comfortable, though cold, in the Hut. There is unlimited biscuit and unlimited seal meat.We have heaps of cocoa, coffee, and tea, and a sufficiency of sugar and salt. In addition we have a small store of luxuries: chocolate, raisins, oatmeal, sardines, and jams, which will serve to vary the fare. One way or another we shall manage to be very comfortable during our stay here.

Am quite beside myself with a full stomach. Must not get indigestion.
I bet Amundsen doesn't have chocolate or raisins. And jam.

Actually, I bet he does.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

6 March, 1911

Lots of back and forth today; went up and collected in the last of the sledges, men and ponies. At the Hut we have thrown up a wall to partition off living quarters and are starting on a brick blubber stove for improve ventilation. We also brought in asbestos sheets for insulation.

It is good to have all of us safely under one roof again.

Asbestos is really an extraordinary boon. I can imagine it being of much use in buildings as a fire retardant for years to come. I am very glad we have great load of it here to use. Does make you choke a bit when handled roughly, though - it is very friable. Still, I'd rather have that than breathe in all that blubber smoke!

Friday, March 5, 2010

5 March, 1911

Evans came down to help us get up to a camp under Castle Rock. Oates led the pony. After lunch, Atkinson and Gran appeared. Our crampons are flimsy and could use much improvement.

I sent Gran to Safety Camp for sugar and chocolate, though some will say he volunteered. I just think he wanted to show off by whipping down the enormous slope we'd spent all morning slogging up on his ski in a matter of seconds. The men all admired him greatly. I suppose it will make one popular to offer to fetch chocolate. He certainly knows when to step up to do his share to great effect.

Then seven of us marched on to Hut Point. This involved some exciting downhill sledge work which elicited some whoops and hollers from the men who had not yet had a chance to experience the reverse of all our pushing.

The Hut is in comparative order, so we are sleeping here. Bill and Meares met us black as sweeps! The cause for this was that they had a blubber stove going without any chimney - the Hut was filled with smoke. Bowers was so sick with it he couldn't eat his meal!

We shall stay here a while.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

4 March, 1911

Marching up the hill to camp under Castle Rock today.

I always associate this time of year with Spring: daffodils, crocus, the chirp of birds flitting through the air making nests. Here, though, it means autumn, though without any of the signs one is used to from nature, just darker evenings and lower temperatures.

Am looking forward to sleeping in a bed again, under a roof. I know it is by far preferable to enjoy the rough cold and that I must embrace it, but still, one is at times wistful of comfort.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

3rd March, 1911

It took us four hours to trudge just three miles this morning. The notes left at Safety Camp for Evans are not there. Also, the camp we hastily abandoned when we first came up on all this trouble days ago is wiped clean: nothing there either. Just sledge tracks and a set of pony hoofprints leading inland.

After pitching camp at Pram Point, Evans and his party approached. They are all in good condition. They returned to their camp later on, taking one of our sledges.

We are all pretty exhausted with the events of the last few days.

So far, one of our motor sledges and three of our ponies dropped into the sea. Not counting the ones we lost on the voyage out. We can't keep this up or we'll look like right fools.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

2nd March, 1911

Turned everyone out at 8:30 AM to find that our three ponies out on the ice had floated away. It was a sad moment. As we were eating breakfast, Bowers spotted them about a mile away through his binoculars, so we packed and went off at once to see if we couldn't save them.

I thought I found a spot they could get up on the Barrier edge, but the others, who had rushed out onto the ice, tried to jump Punch across a crack to another floe, and the poor beast fell in. They tried and tried to pull him out to no avail—he was suffering terribly, and Oates had to end it for him with a pick-axe. It was a very sorry scene.

I ordered Bowers to leave the ponies, reckoning that I'd rather lose them than the men on this tricky ice, but he's stubborn and pretended not to hear me. He rushed Nobby at a jump, but the animal refused. Still, he wouldn't give up, and succeeded eventually. Oates took the opportunity to rush his pony too. Then we had to work our way along the Barrier edge to find a place to bring them up. Bowers hopped about 40 floes to bring them close to the spot.

Suddenly, where their ice was jambed, a pod of killer whales appeared in a stretch of open water, spooking the horses. Uncle Bill flailed sideways making his jump and ended up in the water. I rushed Nobby up onto the Barrier to safety while Bowers and Oates struggled with the panicked horse. Why the whales didn't leap up to eat him I don't know. They tied a rope around his feet and dragged him up into the floe, but he was done and wouldn't get up. When he did he kept slipping into the water again.

At this point, the Barrier itself started breaking up, which meant they had to come up immediately. Evidently they had a bit of an argument about what to do. Then I saw Oates pointing to a spot and poor Bowers struck with the axe. They clambered up to meet me trailing blood—it was quite horrible. He said he'd rather have done that then let him starve or be taken by the whales.

We took brave Nobby back to our old camp, the only pony to survive of the five we had at One Ton Depot. Bowers is extremely cut about about it. Oates told me he never wants to have to kill an animal with a pick-axe again, and I don't blame him: I certainly couldn't do it.

Monday, March 1, 2010

1st March, 1911

Weary Willy died in the night. All our efforts in vain! It is clear that the condition of the ponies will not stand up to these blizzards, and that they need time for their coats to come in. This absolutely necessitates a late start for the next year.

We have bought our experience at hard cost. Now, every effort must be made to save the remaining ponies.

Sent Bowers, Crean and Cherry out with four ponies - Guts, Nobby, Punch and Uncle Bill.


Oates, Gran and I turned out early, only to see great black mirages on the horizon. At least, they seemed like mirages at first, but alas! They turned out to be what I most feared - long black stretches of open water: the Barrier has started to break up! As we neared our depot, we could see that the sea ice was full of broken pieces of the Barrier edge. We made our way on til I could be sure of a safe spot, and set up tent. I wanted to warn Evans and his party. I sent Gran out with a note.

Meanwhile, after going over our situation with Oates, I spotted two figures coming towards us - Wilson and Meares, as it turns out, with the dog teams. They were surprised to see us, having seen ponies out on the sea ice, and thought it was we. We made them cocoa, as they had started off without breakfast. Just after this, Wilson saw a figure coming towards us from the west - it was Crean, exhausted and almost incoherent, telling us that disaster had befallen his team.

What had happened was this: Having come up against this broken ice yesterday, they had set up camp, only to be awoken in the middle of the night by noises. Bowers went out thinking his pony had gotten into his oats again only to discover a pool of water where Guts had been! The ice they were on had split off entirely and was floating out to sea! They dashed about to pack up their kit, Bowers rushing out to save the two sledges in just his stocking feet, and over the next several hours had leaped from floe to floe as one bumped up alongside the other, leading the ponies across, then going back for the sledges. Eventually, they came up against a part of the Barrier where it was possible for a man to climb up and seek help: though both he and Cherry volunteered, Crean was chosen to go. Cherry, after all, has such bad eyesight. Bowers wouldn't think of coming up, and saving himself. All the while, great killer whales were hunting and thrashing about them, lunging up just yards from where they stood, on a feeding frenzy to get at the seals imperiled by the break-up of the ice. This is where he left them.

Immediately, I sent Gran back to Hut point with Meares and Wilson, to warn Evans's party. I took Crean and Oates on to see if we could catch sight of Bowers and Cherry and the ponies. Good Lord, how I cursed myself for pushing them on, and was plagued mightily by the thought that I might be responsible for their deaths.

To my great joy we saw them. With the aid of our Alpine rope, we got both men to safety, and set up camp a good half mile inland where we could be pretty certain the ice was still safe. Bowers was terribly anxious about leaving his ponies out on the ice, but what could we do? There was no way to get them up the 15-20 feet sheer cliff of the Barrier. We left them well-fed, and there they stood.

Upon reaching them, Bowers said to me "What about the ponies and the sledges?" and I replied that I didn't give a damn about them. "It's you I want," I called down, "and I'm going to see you safe here up on the Barrier before I do anything else." Once they were up, having used both sledges as ladders - I told them "My dear chaps, you can't think how glad I am to see you safe—Cherry likewise." Bowers, being the plucky sod he is, was determined to get the sledges, so I let him.

Bowers and I took a walk down to the edge to see how the ponies were faring and could see that by this point (3AM) they had drifted out a long way. He tried to cheer me up by reminding me that Campbell wouldn't be needing his ponies now, which gave us two more. I told him that they were out only chance, as I had no confidence in the motor sledges, having seen how badly they handled when unloading the ship.

I fear I must have been drained of reason when I shared a confidence with him, that as far as the Pole is concerned at this point I have very little hope.

I have now ordered everyone rest, as we got no sleep last night, and everyone's been in great shock. Who knows what tomorrow will bring.