Friday, August 6, 2010
The day started overcast. Chalky is an excellent adjective to describe the appearance of our outlook when the light is much diffused and shadows poor; the scene is dull and flat.
In the afternoon the sky cleared, the moon over Erebus gave a straw color to the dissipating clouds. The evening air is full of ice crystals.
The Crozier Party show no signs of scurvy. If the preserved foods had tended to promote the disease, the length of time and the severity of conditions would certainly have brought it out. I think we should be safe on the long journey.
Of course, even though I wrote "if" above, I shall not consider the possibility that scurvy is promoted by any other cause.
I have had several little chats with Wilson on the happenings of the journey. He says there is no doubt Cherry felt the conditions most severely, though he was not only without complaint, but continuously anxious to help others.
Apropos, we both conclude that it is the younger people that have the worst time; Gran, our youngest member (23) is a very clear example, and now Cherry-Garrard at 26.
Wilson (39) says he never felt cold less than he does now; I suppose that between 30-40 is the best all-around age. Bowers is a wonder of course. He is 29. When past the forties it is encouraging to remember that Peary was 52!
The sky has continued to wear a disturbed appearance, but so far nothing has come of it. A good deal of light snow has been falling today; a brisk northerly breeze is drifting it along, giving a very strange yet beautiful effect in the north, where the strong red twilight filters through the haze.
Simpson lectured last night on meteorology. It was rather complex. I shan't bore you with it.
Bowers turns out to have been quite the champion; after they lost their tent, he commenced to tie it to his person so that should it blow away again, he'd go with it!
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Looks like a gale is coming on. No two of our blizzards have been preceded by the same weather so it is impossible to predict them. The low temperatures experienced by the Crozier Party have naturally led to speculation about Amundsen and his Norwegians. If they have had as poor weather, they will have had a pretty bad winter and it is difficult to see how his dogs could have survived.
I wonder also about Campbell's party. What of them? I don't even know where they are!
The Crozier Party returned last night after enduring for five weeks the hardest conditions on record. They looked more weather-worn than anyone I have yet seen.
Here they are having some much-needed food.
Their faces are scarred and wrinkled, their eyes dull, their hands whitened and creased with the constant exposure to damp and cold, yet the scars of frostbite are very few.
This morning after a good night's sleep Wilson is thin but his old wiry self; Bowers is much himself; and Cherry is still puffy and worn. It is evident he has suffered most severely.
Bowers has come through the best, all things considered, and I believe he is the hardest traveler that ever undertook a Polar journey, as well as one of the most undaunted...due to his untiring energy and the astonishing physique which enables him to continue to work under conditions which are absolutely paralysing to others. Never was such a sturdy, active, undefeatable little man.
I must bear this in mind for the Pole.
Their story beggars belief. No civilized being has ever encountered such conditions before with only a tent of thin canvas to rely on for shelter. And they nearly lost it in a storm! They certainly would have perished had they not by chance found it.
They reached their destination but were only able to bring three intact penguin eggs back -- the rest crushed or lost. Wilson is disappointed that there were so few in the rookery this season; he had expected many more. The Natural History Museum shall without doubt be profoundly grateful for their efforts; I should like to see the looks on their faces when we deliver such treasure into their hands, knowing as we do what a triumph of human spirit was called upon to procure them!
That men should wander forth in the depth of a Polar night to face the most dismal cold and the fiercest gales in darkness is something new; that they should have persisted in this effort in spite of every adversity for five full weeks is heroic. It makes a tale for our generation which I hope may not be lost in the telling. Already Cherry is referring to it as "The Worst Journey in the World"!
Here are the weights for their sleeping bags, which should give you some idea of the trial they endured. They gather ice from perspiration and breath which freezes solid.
Wilson, reindeer and eiderdown: Starting weight = 17lbs; Final weight = 40lbs
Bowers, reindeer only: Starting weight = 17lbs; Final weight = 33lbs
Cherry, reindeer and eiderdown: Starting weight = 18; Final weight = 45lbs
The tent weighed 35lbs upon starting, and 60lbs on return.
They recorded temperatures of -77 degrees, with -109 degrees of frost!!
Although Wilson says the gear is "excellent," one continues to winder as to the possibilities of fur clothing as made by the Esquimaux, with a sneaking feeling that it may outclass our more civilized garb. For us this can only be a matter of speculation, as it would have been quite impossible to have obtained such articles.
The Norwegians probably have some though.
Lashly took the opportunity to give poor Cherry a haircut while he slept. It was the most tender gesture imaginable.
Monday, August 2, 2010
The month has opened with a very beautiful day. This morning I took a circuitous walk over our land "estate," winding to and fro in gulleys filled with smooth ice patches or loose sandy soil, with a twofold object. I wanted to find the remains of poor Julick (no suck luck) and to test our new crampons. With these I am immensely pleased. They possess every virtue in a footwear designed for marching over smooth ice—lightness, warmth, comfort, and ease in the putting on and off.
The light was especially good today; the sun was directly reflected by a single twisted iridescent cloud in the north, a brilliant and most beautiful object. The air was very still, and it was very pleasant to hear the crisp sounds of our workers abroad. The tones of voices, the swish of ski, the chipping of an ice pick carry or two or three miles on such days—more than once we could hear the notes of some blithe singer—happily signaling the coming of the spring and sun.
This afternoon as I sit in the hut I find it worthy of record that two telephones are in use; one keeping time for Wright, and the other bringing messages from Nelson in his ice hole three-quarters of a mile away. This last connection is made with a bare aluminium wire and earth return, and shows that we should have little difficulty in competing our circuit to Hut Point as is contemplated.
Wish the Crozier Party would make themselves known. It is making me very nervous.
It was overcast today and the light not quite so good, but this is the last day of another month, and August means the sun. One begins to wonder what the Crozier Party is doing. It has been away five weeks.
The ponies are getting buckish. Chinaman squeals and kicks in his stable, Nobby kicks without squealing, but with even more purpose; last night he kicked down part of his stall. The noise of these animals is rather trying at night—one imagines all sorts of dreadful things happening, but when the watchman visits the stables its occupants blink at him with a sleepy air as though hte disturbance could not possibly have been there!
There was a glorious northern sky today; the horizon was clear and the flood of red light illuminated the underside of the broken stratus cloud above, producing very beautiful bands of violet light. Simpson predicts a blizzard within 24 hours—it will be interesting to watch the results.
One of our best sledge dogs, Julick, has disappeared. I am afraid he's been set upon by the others at some distant spot and we shall see nothing more of him but his stiffened carcass when the light returns. Meares doesn't think the others would have attacked him, and that he has fallen into an ice crack or water. Either way, we must be resigned to another loss. It's an awful nuisance.
We seem to have chosen an especially wind-swept spot for our station. Our average wind speeds are 20mph, compared with 12 mph in Discovery days.
Was out for two hours this morning—it was amazingly pleasant to be able to see the inequities of one's path, and the familiar landmarks bathed in violet light. An hour after noon the northern sky was intensely red.