Wednesday, April 28, 2010

28 April, 1911

Amazing aurora tonight. Spent the day at the ice caves on the glacier south of the Cape. Ponting took these lovely photographs with a long exposure.

That's Ponting in his studio in the Hut. Doing something important with chemicals.
Am completely shattered, all that clambering around in the cold. Just want to curl up with a good book in my bunk. Did we bring hot water bottles? Have to ask Birdie.

27 April, 1911

No wind, no wind. Thinking of Coleridge again.

Have been walking about and came across bergs -- they are very beautiful, especially one which is pierced to form a huge arch. It will be interesting to climb around these monsters as the winter proceeds. In the dark.

Have organized a series of lectures for our entertainment and education. We have an extraordinary diversity of talent and training in our people; it would be difficult to imagine a company composed of experiences which differed so completely. We find one hut contains an experience of every country and every clime. What an assemblage of motley knowledge!

I wonder how Amundsen will be spending his winter? Bored to tears, I suspect.

Monday, April 26, 2010

26 April, 1911

Calm. Went for a walk around Cape Evans -- remarkable effects of icicles on the ice foot, formed by the spray of southerly gales.

Here's a picture of the Terra Nova crew letting a pony swim back to the hut at Cape Evans after realizing they don't need it after all. You can see the hut in the background and get an idea how close to open water it is. Debenham took that one.

25 April, 1911

The weather has steadily gotten colder with calm wind so that the Strait has finally frozen over. This means that the Hut Point party can join us soon.

Ponting has been busy taking color photographs of the glorious sunsets but is disappointed with the results; the plates are all spotted. Wilson, meanwhile, has been hard at work with his brush. Everyone is extraordinarily busy; the scientists are preparing their equipment; Oates is working on pony stalls; Evans is out surveying. Cherry is building a stone house for taxidermy with a view to getting hints for making a shelter at Cape Crozier during the winter.

I hope he's able to figure out a way to do it. They'd be in a pickle without shelter in that Godawful place in the dark.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

24 April, 1911

We have instituted a nightwatchman for the purpose of observing the aurora, which to be honest, have been feeble so far. The observer is to look round every hour if there is aught to be seen. He gets cocoa and sardines with bread and butter, which can be made over one of Simpson's Bunsen Burners. I took first shift; the others follow in rotation. The long night hours give one a chance to catch up on small tasks, and the hut remains quite warm after the fires have gone out.

Have allotted ponies for exercise an had to warn people they might not be getting the same beast they have become used to.

In our absence Simpson has been busy preparing observation weather balloons which are heated and released along a very long silk thread. Some experimentation was needed before we determined the optimum number of threads to avoid accidental snapping. It carries an instrument which can then be tracked and retrieved using the thread.

Wilson was very dubious about our lovely hot air balloon on Discovery. He gives this one a wide berth too. He's been busy sketching. He really does have a lovely hand.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

23 April, 1911

Saint George's Day! Here it marks the last day of the sun, and we had a glorious display of golden light over the Barne Glacier.

The long mild twilight which like a silver clasp unites today with yesterday; when morning and evening sit together hand in hand beneath the starless sky of midnight.

I thought that was jolly good, don't you think?

Held Divine Service today but we only have seven hymn books, the rest having been very stupidly taken back to the ship.

I begin to think we are too comfortable in the hut and hope it will not make us slack.

22 April, 1911

The sledging season is at an end. It's good to be back here finally after all the traipsing about out on that cold ice. Today we are enjoying exceptional calm. Oates and the rest are exercising the ponies. I have been sorting my papers and getting ready for winter work. The sun will be gone soon enough and then we'll be plunged into 6 months of darkness.

How wonderful it is to be among my books. Been reading poetry. They do have quite a way of turning a phrase, these chaps.

21 April, 1911

Back at Cape Evans!!

We started out this morning at 10:30. I left Meares and Dimitri in charge of the Hut Point station to look after dogs, and Lashly and Keohane to look out for ponies, along with Nelson, Day and Forde so that they could get some idea of the life and experience. They didn't seem altogether thrilled about it, but that's too bad.

The homeward party, therefore, was Self, Wilson, Atkinson, Crean on one sledge, and Bowers, Oates, Cherry, and Hooper on the other.

It was a dreadful haul. There are so many slopes to manage and ropes to climb down on. By the time all the stores were down on the floe, with swirling drift all about us, everyone was really badly cold -- one of those moments for quick action. We dashed for the shelter of the cliffs, threw up tents and had hot tea as soon as possible. It was a heavy plod over the sea ice.

Some of the men were complaining that their sledge was heavier than ours. The only thing was to prove it - so we stopped to see, and do you know what? They were right! We set a great pace for the pull back, and all sweated profusely. Our team pulled in to the hut ten minutes before the others - I do so like winning!

I wonder if the grain of the wood on the runners of the two sledges could account for the difference in ease of pulling? Maybe I'll look into that. I hate whiners.

By the time we got back and pulled our clothes off, great sheets of ice fell from us - our sweat froze on us. We can't get this hot when we sledge in the Spring, or we will be in quite a spot of discomfort.

Clissold had a feast arranged for us -- an enormous dish of rice and figs, and cocoa in a bucket!

The delights and comforts of the Hut are amazing to the newcomers.

Ah - a lovely warm bed tonight....

20 April, 1911

We were all ready to go this morning but then of course it "blizzed." The weather is impossible! The temperatures are very low. It's really very unpleasant out there. The wind blowing around the Cape is absolutely blighting, force 7 and -30 degrees. No ice can form in such weather.

19 April, 1911

At Hut Point. The sea has frozen over 4.5 inches, which tells you how quickly it will go if conditions are right. Spotted three seals so we all dashed out: the livers and blubber from all three were brought back forthwith.

Am making arrangements to start back tomorrow, but at present it is overcast and the wind is coming up from the south.

Damn - the ice has all gone out to sea again.

The ponies were exercised but their coats are not so good as those back at Cape Evans - they are in need of fatty foods.

Me too.

Monday, April 19, 2010

18 April, 1911

back at Hut point. It was heavy going from our camp to here. This sweating in such cold temperatures is a serious drawback. Found all in excellent spirits - they didn't seem to want us much! I wonder why.

They've had very bad weather since we left, with blizzards and temps down to -20. The open water is right up to the point, the wind preventing freezing completely. They are much shorter on blubber than I had expected -- they were only just keeping themselves supplied with a seal killed two days before and one as we arrived.

Back on the drippy floor tonight.

17 April, 1911

Started back for Hut Point with two sledges to relieve the party left behind. We're taking butter, oatmeal, flour, lard and chocolate. Biting wind and overcast skies. We constantly step into cracks and disappear from sight momentarily. Every one of us has frostbitten faces and very cold feet.

We are wet with perspiration and are camping on the Barrier Slope north of Castle Rock. It's nearly -38 degrees.

It's a bit of a shock to the system to be back in a tent after the bunk at Cape Evans.

Cape Evans Impressions

OK, I'm going to say it: In selecting the site for our hut, I must confess a sense of having assumed security without sufficient proof in a case where an error of judgment might have had dire consequences. It was not until I found all safe at the Home Station that I realized how anxious I had been concerning it. In a normal season no thought of its having been in danger would have occurred to me, but since the loss of the ponies and the breaking of the Glacier Tongue I could not rid myself of the fear that misfortune was in the air and that some abnormal swell had swept the beach; gloomy thoughts of the havoc that might have been wrought by such an event would arise in spite of the sound reasons which had originally led me to choose the site of the hut as a safe one.

Hackenschmidt the pony died of no known cause -- Nelson performed a post-mortem but could find nothing. Anton considers his death to have been an act of "cussedness."

The interior of this hut seems palatial, the light resplendent, the comfort luxurious. It was very good to eat in a civilized fashion, to enjoy the first bath in three months, and have contact with dry, clean clothing. Such fleeting hours of comfort (for custom soon banished their delight) are the treasured remembrance of every Polar traveler.

Ponting is an artist in love with his work. His photography studio is a marvel.

In the past few days I have been able to watch the development of fresh arrangements and the improvement of old ones. In this way I have been brought to realize what an extensive and intricate but eminently satisfactory organization I have made myself responsible for.

Friday, April 16, 2010

16th April, 1911

Same wind as yesterday. Am tired of it. At 6 o'clock it dropped, at last.

Have exercised the ponies today and got my first good look at them. I scarcely like to express the mixed feelings with which I am able to regard this remnant.

Sorry I haven't been writing a lot. Been sleeping quite honestly. Don't tell anyone.

15th April, 1911

Weather continuing thoroughly bad. Wind blowing 30 - 40 miles an hour all day. Drift bad and tonight snow is falling.

Want to get back to Hut Point with relief stores. Tonight we sent up a signal flare to inform them of our safe arrival, and an answering flare was seen.

It will be wonderful to get our telephone system up and operating.

14 April, 1911

Good Friday. Very peaceful. Held Divine Service.

It was glorious to sleep in a bunk, and to have a bath, and to be among my books once again.

13 April, 1911

At our home at Cape Evans at last! We set off early with a stiff breeze, desperately cold with frozen clothes, and it was heavy pulling but only two miles. Rounded the point and greatly relieved to see the hut.

Delighted with everything I see in the hut -- Simplson and everyone have done wonders.

Another pony, Hackenschmidt, and one dog are reported dead, which I suppose is to be expected. All the other animals appear in good form. This leaves us with ten ponies to start the winter with.

What horrors we look! Was shocked to see our appearance in the glass. Ponting took our photographs, of course. Just look at us!

Monday, April 12, 2010

12 April, 1911

Wind rose during the night. Raging blizzard this morning. Much alarm about the ice on which we pitched camp. At 3, went around the island with Bowers, and found a little ice platform close under the weather side, so we resolved to shift camp there. Took two very cold hours, but we have much better shelter with sheer cliffs rising straight from the tents.

We only have provisions left for one meal. The wind swirling around is deafening; we cannot hear ourselves speak.

Suddenly found myself with cold feet.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

11 April, 1911

Started from Hut Pint at 9 AM. Party consisted of Self, Bowers, P.O Evans, Taylor, one tent, Evans, Gran, Crean, Debenham, and Wright, second tent.

Left Wilson in charge at Hut Point with Meares, Forde, Keohane, Oates, Atkinson, and Cherry-Garrard. All gave us a pull up the ski slope; it had become a point of honour to take this slope without a "breaker." Personally, I find such an effort trying in the morning, but had to go through with it.

After much trial getting down steep inclines, I decided to push on for Cape Evans, but found at 6:30 that it was too dark to do so. We plodded on til 10, but not able to see anything ahead, we have camped, in not very comfortable circumstances. We are all quite tired and anxious to be home.

10 April, 1911

Intended to make for Cape Evans this morning. Called hands early, but when we were ready for departure after breakfast, the sky became overcast sand snow began to fall. It continued off and on all day, only clearing as the sun set. Just as well: it would have been the worst condition possible for our attempt, as we could not have seen more than 100 yards.

Oh well, try again tomorrow. I wish we'd left a stash of whiskey under this hut as Shackleton did under his hut at Cape Royds. I think I'd be ready to dig that up by now.

It would certainly make me more popular with the men.

Friday, April 9, 2010

9 April, 1911

Blizzard! A huge crack opened in the ice. As soon as we got a north wind the ice moved out. It shows how risky it is to travel on such young ice. It is clear that the ponies shall have to come back at a much later date.

We need the weather to be in our favour for once. Just when we get ahead it seems to pull us back in.

I wonder if London is sunny today. If the daffodils are out and the birds are singing.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

8 April, 1911

Have decided today that since there was nothing much to do, I would write up a sketch of life here at Hut Point. I'm rather pleased with it; there is detail about our everyday activities and routines, with emphasis on what a jolly healthy life it is we lead. Fresh air, exercise, conversation, eating seal liver every day, and a good hour of smoking afterwards. Men who like the company of men can be very content with a life such as this.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

7 April, 1911

Went north over the ice with Atkinson, Bowers, Taylor, and Cherry. Taylor, the fool, tried thin ice and fell in. He managed to pull himself out with his ice-axe while we were running to help him. He was quite shaken, and walked back with Cherry. The rest of us walked on.

Saw quite a few fish frozen in the ice -- even a large one caught in the act of swallowing a small one. It looks like both are caught when one is chasing the other.

I suppose that could be said of my adversary and I .

We prepare to go back tomorrow. We have achieved such great comfort here that one is half sorry to leave -- it is a fine healthy existence with many hours spent in the open and generally some interesting object for our walks abroad. The hill climbing gives excellent exercise -- we shall miss much of it at Cape Evans. I am anxious to get back though, and see how our hut has withstood the shocks of northerly winds. I am plagued by the thought that the gales have damaged it.

I suppose it is a perfect existence if one doesn't count greenery, women, vegetables and fruits and warmth.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

6 April, 1911

Decided at supper to arrange programme for shift to Cape Evans -- men and dogs to go on the 9th, ponies the 10th. All subject to good weather, of course.

The young ice looks to be 3.5 inches thick. Not great, but we are running very low on supplies here.

5 April, 1911

The dogs are doing week, with the exception of Deek.

The weather seems to be improving, with brilliant sun. Went out to check the ice. The new ice and the old ice slides against itself, and as it does so it creates the most remarkable sounds, a medley of high-pitched but tuneful notes—one might imagine small birds chirping in a wood. The ice sings, we say.

Click on this to listen to it:

4 April, 1911

Bless Wilson. The dear chap tried his hand at cooking -- a total disaster. He fried seal meat in penguin blubber (not the most palatable substance) and the lot tasted like cod liver oil. A few hardy souls did him the honor of actually eating it, but most of us had to bow out.

This is the Emperor that Cherry rather blanched at the prospect of skinning. It weighed easily 90 lbs.

The Hut reeks of penguin. Oh how we dream of our mother's kitchen tables, of staples and delicacies alike, served to us by knowing and loving hands.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

3 April, 1911

Went out to Castle Rock with Taylor - no-one else came out, as it has been steadily getting windier and snowier and colder. Looks like the ice is thickening. The skuas are going.

I must say, I'm looking forward to getting back to Cape Evans and all my books. I have quite exhausted the small library here. These darker evenings also make one pine for a little nip of whiskey to take the edge off. Am running low on tobacco for my pipe. We shall have to get a move on soon, because I shan't know what I shall do without the comfort of that, at least.

Friday, April 2, 2010

2nd April, 1911

Went round Cape Armitage to Pram Point on sea ice for first time yesterday afternoon. Ice solid everywhere except off the Cape where there are numerous open pools.

Killed an Emperor penguin.

Came back over the hill: glorious sunset, brilliant crimson clouds in west. Wind finally dropping for first time in three days. Amazing aurora in the night, a bright band of light passing within 10 degrees of the zenith with two waving spirals at the summit.

Ice all the way to Cape Evans now, but it is still too thin to cross safely. A few more days should see to that.

1st April, 1911

We killed a seal!

Other than that, no excitement. The wind is the same today as yesterday. The open water not reduced by a square yard.

I'm feeling impatient.

No-one played any April Fools pranks at all. I can't very well do it, but I was rather hoping for some excitement.

Going to tuck in early and dream of England. If you know what I mean.

* * *

OK, Who put that fish in my sleeping bag? Very funny.