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.

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