Wednesday, August 4, 2010
2nd August, 1911
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.