Friday, May 28, 2010

28 May, 1911

There was quite a bit of excitement last night when the grey pony I led last year and salvaged from the floe fell down in its stall. Their heads are tied by rope to the stall, so it got itself twisted up awfully. Luckily we all roused, and the ropes were cut. He's quite well today and has been out for his usual exercise.

Went out on ski this afternoon around the bay and back across. It didn't feel nearly as cold as the temperature would make it seem. This must be dependent upon wind and humidity. I spoke to Simpson about this, but we cannot measure humidity or precipitation or evaporation due to our particular circumstances in the cold.

Sometimes it's a bit lonely in my den.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

27 May, 1911

How terribly annoying: it's turned unpleasant -- cold and windy. I didn't go out at all.

Bowers gave his lecture on sledging diets this evening. He has shown great courage in undertaking this task, great perseverance in unearthing facts from books, and a considerable practical skill in stringing these facts together. It is a thankless task to search Polar literature for dietary facts and still more difficult to attach due weight to varying statements.

I know: I hate to have to do it myself.

He was very entertaining when it came to describing old-time rations, but not very good as describing the physiological aspect, which is understandable. Still, he went through with it manfully and with a touch of humor much appreciated: he deducted his facts from a "Mr. Joule, a gentleman whose statements he had no reason to doubt."

It was useful to have the discussion afterwards too. Feelings went deepest on the subject of tea versus cocoa concerning stimulation. I am inclined to see much in the favor of tea. Why should not one be mildly stimulated during marching hours?

That Birdie is an absolute treasure. I don't know where I'd be without him.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

26 May, 1911

Calm and clear! Makes a nice change. It's so nice to be able to go outside and stretch one's legs.

Today I searched out some ski and ski sticks and went for a short run over the floe. The surface is good and means we can make sledge journeys on ski when needed.

We are living extraordinarily well. At dinner last night we had some excellent thick seal soup, very much like thick hare soup; this was followed by an equally tasty steak and kidney pie and a fruit jelly. The smell of frying greeted us on awaking this morning, and at breakfast each of us had two of our nutty little Notothenia fish after our bowl of porridge. These little fish have an extraordinarily sweet taste--bread nad butter and marmalade finished the meal. At the midday meal we had bread and butter, cheese, and cake, and tonight I smell mutton being prepared. Under the circumstances it would be difficult to conceive more appetizing repasts or a regime which is less likely to produce scorbutic symptoms. I cannot think we shall get scurvy.

Nelson lectured us ably on the objects of the biologist, and much discussion was had afterwards on the evolution and adaptation of species.

Have been pondering worthy themes of interest. For instance: the way our polar forebears described the mountains as "horrid" or "frightful" when today we consider them loft, grand, and beautiful.

The poetic conception of this natural phenomenon has followed not so much an inherent change of sentiment as the intimacy of wider knowledge and the death of superstitious influence. One is much struck by the importance of realizing limits.

I must remember this.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

25 May, 1911

The wind is extraordinary - it's been blowing a gale from the south with heavy gusts and snow. Am beginning to think Cape Evans not the best place to have made our home, but it's too late now.

I can't even hear myself think.

Monday, May 24, 2010

24 May, 1911

Am writing this on my night watch. I didn't go out today so as to prepare for it.

This evening Atkinson gave an interesting little discourse on parasitology. Blood-sucking worms and the like. In the discussion afterwards Wilson went on about the grouse disease worm, and something about "free living species," which I did not really understand. Then Nelson brought up "degeneration" but when I asked what that was, did not get a satisfactory answer. All terms must be empirical, I suppose.

Must stay awake. Can't nap. There is no moon.

23 May, 1911

Shackleton left quite a bit of stuff here which we shall find useful - enough to afford provision for a party such as ours for about six or eight months if well administered. In case we need it. There's flour, Danish butter, and a fair amount of paraffin.

We brought back a scrap of leather and five hymnbooks, which will improve our Sunday Services. We only had seven between us.

Am writing this from Cape Evans.
Don't tell anyone that I thought Shackleton's stash useful. He is the enemy, after all.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

22 May, 1911

I dreamed last night that mighty forces were indeed trying to tell me something but I didn't have the key to decipher what it was. It seemed very important. I woke up in a cold sweat.

I'm writing this from Cape Royds - Shackleton's old hut. Wilson, Bowers, Atkinson, Evans (PO), Clissold and I came out here with a home-made go-cart fashioned out of steel tubing and bicycle wheels. The wheels worked very well indeed on this sea ice - much better than wooden sledge runners.

It took us two and a half hours to get here, and on the way we killed an Emperor penguin just off Cape Barne. The bird was in splendid plumage, the breast reflecting the dim northern light like a mirror.

It was fairly dark when we stumbled over the rocks and dropped down to the Hut. Clissold fired up the cooking range, and Wilson and I walked over to Black beach and round back by Blue Lake. The Hut is damn cold. How wonderful would it be if that old rascal has sequestered away a case or two of Whiskey? It would be just like him to have done so. That would warm our poor bones. Can't find any though. Where would he have put it I wonder?

Friday, May 21, 2010

21 May, 1911

I'm not going to bore you with what I did today. I went for a walk; I observed ice formations.

What is really worth noting are the spectacular lights: tonight we had a glorious auroral display-- quite the most brilliant I have seen. At one time the sky from NNW to SSE as high as the zenith was massed with arches, band, and curtains, always in rapid movement. The waving curtains were especially fascinating -- a wave of bright light would start at one end and run along to the other, or a patch of brighter light would spread as if to reinforce the failing light of the curtain.

The green ghostly light seems suddenly to spring to life with rosy blushes. There is infinite suggestion in this phenomenon, and in that lies its charm; the suggestion of life, form, color, and movement never less than evanescent, mysterious -- no reality. It is the language of mystic signs and portents -- the inspiration of the gods -- wholly spiritual -- divine signaling. Remindful of superstition, provocative of imagination.

Might not the inhabitants of some other world (Mars) controlling mighty forces thus surround our globe with fiery symbols, a golden writing which we have not the key to decipher?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

20 May, 1911

It's blowing hard from the south, with some snow and very cold.

Wilson and Bowers went up to the Ramp as usual and found it blowing force 6 or 7 with minus 24 temperature; they got frostbitten. Everyone thought this highly amusing. Such is the misfortune of others in this regard held by our company -- serves you right! they seem to say. Well, Wilson shouldn't go out without headgear on, he knows better. Yet he does it all the time I think it's part of his mortification of the flesh business. He used to do that sort of thing at Cambridge - hair shirt and all that, going without food. He's a pious chap, is Wilson. Don't get it, myself.

19 May, 1911

These games of football are getting better and better as we improve in condition and practice. Can't see much though.

Wright lectured tonight on "Ice Problems." It was OK. He is young and has never done any original work; he was nervous. It was all a bit disconnected, and some things he didn't explain properly. The upshot of it was that we'll have to devote another evening to it. I think I will write the lecture next time. It's not his fault, really; he tries hard -- and having to speak on it has forced him to concentrate on his subject.

Atkinson has a new hole for his fish trap at 15 fathoms that yielded 43 fish yesterday, but today, oddly, there were only two.

I wonder what the explanation for this can be? Did the fish warn the others about the hole? Or did we simply catch them all? Or is Fate set against us?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

18 May, 1911

Yet more excellent football! It's about the only thing we can do in this light. We're a competitive lot.

I think our winter routine very good. I suppose every leader of a party has thought that, since he has the power of altering it. On the other hand, routine in this connection must take into consideration the facilities of work and play afforded by the preliminary preparations for the expedition.

Gosh, that sentence is a mouthful. I must stop doing that.

The busy routine of our party may therefore be excusably held as a subject for self-congratulation.

By which I mean I'm glad we're busy.

Doesn't sound half so good when you say it like that though.

Monday, May 17, 2010

17 May, 1911

I heard a dog barking in the night. He had something wrong with his hind leg - this morning the poor brute was dead. Today Wilson conducted an autopsy but could find nothing wrong. This is the third animal that has died here without apparent cause. He's going to examine the brain tomorrow.

I'm afraid we can place but little reliance on our dog teams and reflect ruefully on the misplaced confidence with which I regarded the provision of our transport. Well, one must suffer for errors of judgment.

I just hope I don't suffer too much.

Oates gave an excellent little lecture on the management of horses. I really should have had him go up to purchase them. He's feeding them chaff and either oats and oil-cake on alternate days, with bran mash in the evenings. We also had a talk on balancing our horses for pulling, and oats was helpful here too in referring to the gymnastic training done by foreigners with their horses.

It's all on those horses. I hope he's got it right.

16 May, 1911

Had a capital game of football in the half-light at noon.

Had a talk about our carbide expenditure with Day; we use carbide to power our acetylene light. We have enough for two years, but I am not making this known, for fear of waste.

What we shall do without football once the light goes I hate to think. Last time I wintered here it was on board ship.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

15 May, 1911

It's been blowing hard today. Went for a short walk, which was not pleasant. Wilson gave a lecture on penguins. He went on about dinosaurs.

One of the dogs, Vaida, who used to have a savage temper, has taken to me; I massaged him when his coat was bad, and now he runs up to bury his head in my legs whenever I go out of doors.

It's nice to be loved.

14 May, 1911

Grey and dull in the morning.

I could have written that sentence back home in Chelsea.

Exercised the ponies. Each man has his charge to take for a walk out and about in the dark. The sky cleared at noon, so this afternoon I walked over the North Bay to the ice cliffs—such a very beautiful afternoon and evening—the scene bathed in moonlight, so bright and pure as to be almost golden, a very wonderful scene. At such time the Bay seems strangely homey, especially when the eye rests on our camp with the hut and lighted windows.

I am very much impressed with the extraordinary and general cordiality of the relations that exist amongst our people. I suppose there is friction under the surface though. It is generally thought that the many rubs of such a life as this are quietly and purposely sunk in oblivion. With me there is no need to draw a veil; there is nothing to cover. There are no strained relations in this hut, and nothing more emphatically evident than the universally amicable spirit which is shown on all occasions.

Such a state of affairs would be delightfully surprising under any conditions, but it is much more so when one remembers the diverse assortment of our company.

For example: tonight, Oates, captain in a smart cavalry regiment, has been scrapping over chairs and tables with Debenham, a young student.

It is a triumph to have collected such men.

Had a word or two with Wright about the effects of winter movement in the sea ice. He's inexperienced and needs to know these things if he is to do any work of any use.

The temperature has been down to -23 degrees, the lowest yet recorded here, and doubtless we shall go lower, for I find an extraordinary difference between this season so far, and that of 1902-3.

I wonder what the winter has in store for us?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

13 May, 1911

This morning it was calm and clear save for a light misty veil of ice crystals through which the moon shone with scarce clouded brilliancy, surrounded with bright cruciform halo and white paraselene.

Mock moons with prismatic patches of color appeared in the radiant ring, echoes of the main source of light. Wilson made a charming sketch of the phenomenon:

Worried sick about our Hut Point fellows, I went to Inaccessible Island to get a look at the ice and was reassured that it had not broken up. It was a very steep and tricky climb. I nearly came a cropper at one point and fell off down a cliff. Thankfully I had my ice axe and was able to cling on with it.

Hello - Atkinson's calling me. Everyone's running outside!


That was Meares and our Hut Point team arriving back! We all ran out onto the ice to welcome them in. The dogs are in good shape. The ponies are alright too, thank goodness. Everything seems to depend on these animals.

They got a good number of seals, which are all slaughtered and stored at the Hut. The rest of the supplies have run out. They had to forage food from a depot. (NOTE: must remember to replenish that.) They also found and killed a sea leopard - only the second one we've found in the Sound.

Strangely, none of the men seemed to greatly appreciate the food luxuries they have had tonight. I suppose this is because they have not had to spend a few days in tents between the Hut and here. It seems more and more certain that a very simple fare is all that is needed here -- plenty of seal meat, flour, and fat, with tea, cocoa and sugar; these are the only real requirements for comfortable existence.

Mind you, I couldn't go without a bit of curry powder to liven things up a bit, and heaven knows where I'd be without tobacco for my pipe.

And chocolate of course.

And brandy.

God, I miss a bit of honey.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

12 May, 1911

Wind has been blowing hard all day, 30 - 60 mph.

Debenham gave a lecture tonight on elementary Geology - in preparation for his later lectures. I love Geology as a rule, but I was bored silly. Am worried silly about the Hut Point party being able to return. What if the ice keeps going out in the strait? What if they cannot come back to us, nor us to them? How will they survive the winter? And all because I wanted them to experience a little Polar life. It's on my head and conscience if aught happens to them. I'm sure they curse me underneath their breath. I can't eat and I can't sleep. All I want is sleep.

I can feel a depression coming on.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

11 May, 1911

Lovely game of football this morning before the wind got up.

10 May, 1911

Herbert Ponting

The Hut Point Party does not come. I ventured out well beyond Inacccessible Island till Hut Point and Castle Rock were within sight, out onto the last place the Straight was seen to be open water, and found the ice 9 inches thick. It was very slippery though. Perhaps Meares is waiting till it is 12 inches thick and not so slippery for the horses.

Still, I wish they would come.

Ponting entertained us all with a lecture on Burma illustrated with fine slides. He has rather florid language, but I suppose this is part of the artistic temperament. It was F-this and F-that; I rather think he got carried away with being able to hold the floor, and forgot that Officers were present. I don't doubt the men minded though. Bowers and Simpson chipped in with reminisces, since they have been there too. We ended up with quite an education on the land of pagodas, with interesting statements made about religion, art, and education, as well as the people's philosophic idleness. It reminds one of how far we've come.

So a real success.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

9 May, 1911

The talk went much better than I expected. Everyone seems to be quite anxious to know what we're doing. And no-one disagreed with me about the dogs!

Cherry's been experimenting with stone huts and blubber fires all with a view to prolonging the winter journey to Cape Crozier. All that practice will come in handy, I'm sure.

The Strait has been frozen over for a week, and still no sign of our Hut Point party. Perhaps they are waiting for the moon, which will be bright in a day or two.

Debenham's been sharing some of the photographs from the his Party - with Wright and Taylor's these will make an extremely interesting series; the ice forms in the region of the Koettlitz glacier are unique. Splendid, aren't they?

Saturday, May 8, 2010

8 May, 1911

Tonight is my turn to give a lecture; I'm going to announce my plans for the Pole Journey. I've got it all planned out; the stages and distances; the times, the number of men, the sledges, the provisions for coming and going, the route. I know everyone's been curious as to what we'll be doing and who will be involved.

The plan will be to follow Shackleton's route, but with greater help from motor sledges and ponies in the early stages, we'll have a head start, thereby eclipsing his effort without fear of running out of supplies.

I don't trust the dogs at all, despite what Nansen says.

I'm pondering whether to ask everyone for their input to get a consensus on the method, because that will seem like I'm open to suggestion, and will be good for morale. But my mind is made up.

I can hear them setting up. I better go out and do this. Wish me luck.

7 May, 1911

After I wrote yesterday we all had another game of football in the fading light. It felt good to run about and work up a sweat. It did make me tired for night watch duty though. Sat there thinking about our Hut Point party; one wonders why they don't come. Am quite worried about them.

We sent another ballon up, and when the instrument was recovered from the bay it gave us some good readings of the upper air temperature. Atkinson and Crean put out a fish trap and have been having much success with it; we had fish for breakfast! Atkinson has also found many new parasites in the fish, so that should keep him busy for a while.

Clissold is still producing food novelties; tonight we had galantine of seal -- it was excellent.

Am really tired; can't wait to get some sleep tonight.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

6 May, 1911

Taylor gave us a lecture yesterday evening which I found fascinating. I really should have been a geologist. His subject: Modern Physiography.

But "a sailor's life for you, my boy" said my father and thus here I am.

I stayed up really late last night re-writing all my notes from the lecture, so woke rather late today. Have had my nose to the grindstone ever since to make up for it, can't be seen to be slacking. That wouldn't do at all, not after I went on and on about how hard everyone is working.

5 May, 1911

You do not want to know about the wind or the temperature, so instead I will describe life here a bit for you.

It is delightful to contemplate the amount of work which is to be done at the station. No one is idle--all hands are full, and one cannot doubt that the labor will be productive of remarkable result.

That sound a bit wordy doesn't it?

...the labor will produce remarkable results. That's better.

I do not think there can be any life quite so demonstrative of character as that which we had on these expeditions. One sees a remarkable reassortment of values. Under ordinary conditions it is so easy to carry a point with a little bounce; self-assertion is a mask which covers many a weakness. As a rule we have neither the time nor the desire to look beneath it, and so it is that commonly we accept people on their own valuation. Here the outward show is nothing, it is the inward purpose that counts. So the 'gods' dwindle and the humble supplant them. Pretense is useless.

Goodness, I do go on. I suppose what I'm saying is that the quieter among us are the most strong; that the most demonstrative have in fact the least to say. The meek shall inherit the earth and all that.

Bowers, for example: to his practical genius is owed much of the smooth working of our station. He has a natural method in line with which all arrangements fall, so that expenditure is easily and exactly adjusted to supply, and I have the inestimable advantage of knowing the length of time which each of our possessions will last us and the assurance that there can be no waste. Active mind and body were never more happily blended. It is a restless activity, admitting no idle moments and ever budding into new forms.

Cherry-Garrard is another of the open-air, self-effacing, quiet workers; his whole heart is in the life, with profound eagerness to help everyone.

Oates' whole heart is in the ponies. He is really devoted to their care, and I believe will produce them in the best possible form for the sledging season.

And Wilson, of course, my old friend, is an invaluable asset, always ready and willing to give advice and assistance to others at all times; his sound judgment is appreciated and he's therefore a constant referee.

Solid chaps, all.
I wonder what they think of me.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

4 May, 1911

Enjoyed another game of footie today. The men are very keen -- Atkinson is by far the best player, but Hooper, P.O. Evans, and Crean are also quite good. Gran could be good too if he wasn't so lazy.

Am very anxious about getting our men back from the Hut, mainly on account of the two ponies we have there. The calm weather should have given them plenty of opportunity to collect blubber, but one never knows.

They're calling me out for another game.

3rd May, 1911

Another calm day, very beautiful and clear. Wilson and Bowers took some of the dogs out on sledges. I walked out over ice to North Bay. The newest leads hold ice 4 inches thick. I enjoy these walks, and when I sit to write I find myself often noting details of the weather. I don't know whether this is because I feel it is my duty to record such things or more a compulsion of being English. It feels terribly important to put the weather into words, even, if i look back over my notes, they tend to be the same dull words endlessly repeated. Somehow they seem unique at the time.

Tonight Simpson gave his inaugural lecture: "Coronas, Halos, Rainbows, and Auroras." I thought it fascinating and took many notes, like a schoolboy! Wilson looked over to see what I was so madly scribbling, but shook his head: he despairs of my handwriting and always has. Well, I can read it: that's what counts.

2nd May, 1911

Was playing football outside the hut this afternoon. Luckily for my side a southerly wind came up which helped us by a score of three goals.

Sadly the same wind revealed an ominous lead in the ice which appeared to extend a long way South. I am getting anxious to have our Hut Point party back, and worry that now the Glacier Tongue has gone, the sea simply won't freeze.

The men seemed to enjoy the game. Got to keep them fit.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

1st May, 1911

Calm. Sent up a balloon this morning, but it only went up a mile before the instrument was detached by slow match. In the afternoon Bowers and I went out to collect it.

Bill gave us our first lecture: on Antarctic Flying Birds. Very interesting it was, too.

OK, it wasn't; it was deathly boring, but I couldn't tell him that. The most attractive point raised was that of pigmentation. There are so many questions one can ask about why certain birds have certain coloring. Does white or dark coloring help reserve heat or radiate it? I am reminded of our lengthy discussions of Mr. Darwin's work on the Discovery trip. He'd love it here.

Will he be giving his second lecture on Antarctic Non-Flying Birds? And if so, can't he just call them penguins? I had a nip or two from my flask, I will allow. Had to.

I don't suppose the bird's coloring can teach us anything about what colors our stuff should be. Not that there's a lot we can do about it. Jaeger makes its clothes in the colors it makes them in. Tent canvas is green. That's just how it comes. I wonder what color Amundsen's tents are? I don't suppose he's given it any thought at all. He probably would have found Bill's lecture fascinating. I've heard rumors of his dream to take to wing one day. Ha ha ha.

OK, really need to lay off the whiskey.

30th April, 1911

Tonight we have been having a naming session: we are able to assign names according to tradition and the general rules, to all the small land features around us. What fun we have had with suggestions! Luckily, the bawdy ones came and went. There is much jolly fun to be had with so many cones and boulders and lumps and bumps. She is a lovely if cold continent, Antarctica.

After church went up Wind Vane Hill with Wilson. He misses Ory terribly and takes great solace in these long and punishing walks. I don't think the naming session helped him any though. He looked quite stricken, the poor chap.

The view is magnificent from up there on a clear day such as this, when there is still some daylight -- or rather twilight.

The storm pushed the ice out again so our poor people are still stuck at Hut Point.

All this talk of peaks and valleys. Think I'll turn in early tonight.

29 April, 1911

Went to Inaccessible Island with Wilson. The island is 540 feet high, and from the summit one has an excellent view of our surroundings and the ice in the Strait. As we reached the summit, we saw a storm approaching from the South; it had blotted out the Bluff, and we watched it covering Black Island, then Hut Point and Castle Rock. By the time we started homeward it was upon us, making a harsh chatter as it struck the high rocks and sweeping along the drift on the floe.

The blow seems to have passed over tonight, and the sky is clear again, but I much fear the ice has gone out in the Strait. There is an ominous black look to the westward.

I like being out with Bill. Just us two.