Saturday, October 30, 2010

31 October, 1911

The blizzard has blown itself out this morning and this afternoon it has cleared; the sun is shining and the wind dropping. Meares and Ponting are just off to Hut Point. Atkinson and Keohane will probably leave in an hour or so as arranged, and if the weather holds, we shall all get off tomorrow.

So this is the end of the first part of our History!

The future is in the lap of the gods; I can think of nothing left undone to deserve success.

30 October, 1911

We had another beautiful day yesterday, and one began to feel that the summer really had come; but today, after a fine morning, we have a return to blizzard conditions. It is blowing a gale as I write. Yesterday Wilson, Bowers, P.O. Evans and I donned our sledging kit and camped by the bergs for the benefit of Ponting and his cinematograph; he got a series of films which should be about the most interesting of all his collection. I imagine nothing will take so well as these scenes of camp life.

Have a look at a bit of his film. There we are having a laugh over some lunch from the primus. And Nigger the cat makes an appearance!

Meares reports that Evans returned to the Hut to collect a personal bag he left there, and that Lashly's motor  had broken down near Safety Camp; they found the big end smashed up in one cylinder. They repaired it while Evans went on ski to collect his things.

On account of this accident and because some of our hardest worked people were badly hit by the two days' absence helping the machines, I have decided to start a couple of days from now instead of tomorrow.

I hope this doesn't come back to bite me.

28 October, 1911

My poor feet! Strained Achilles tendon.

Last night there was a tremendous row in the stables; Christopher and Chinaman discovered fighting. Gran nearly got kicked. These ponies are getting above themselves with their high feeding. Snippets is still lame and has one leg "a little heated" which is not good news.

All things considered I shall be glad to get away and put our fortune to the test.

27 October, 1911

Yesterday we walked out to Glacier Tongue with gloomy forebodings, but it was a beautifully bright inspiriting day. Seals were about and were frequently mistaken for the motors. They were not where we expected to find them; in fact, they had gotten on further to the floe towards Hut Point. Our spirits went up at once. We marched on and overtook them, passing Simpson and Gran returning to Cape Evans. The engines are working but the cylinders get hot. This results in having to stop and start the engines. We camped ahead of the motors for lunch. Eventually both machines went passed us on to Cape Armitage; we retired to the Hut to find Meares and Dimitri had been busy making it tidy and comfortable. A splendid brick fireplace has been built through the roof that will no doubt last many a year. We spent a most comfortable night

This morning we were out over the floe by 9am. The motors require an awful lot of stopping and starting, but when going at a clip, the men have to run alongside! Providing there is no serious accident, the engine troubles will gradually be got over; of that I feel pretty confident. Every day will see an improvement as it has done to date, every day the men will get greater confidence with larger experience of the machines and conditions.

Lashly is having trouble with his rollers. Why we did not make them as good as new I don't know.

In any case the motor programme is not of vital importance to our plan and it is possible the machines will do little to help us, but already they have vindicated themselves. Even the seamen, who have remained very  skeptical of them are profoundly impressed. Evans said "Lord, sir, I reckon if them things can go on like that you wouldn't want nothing else."

We are now back at Cape Evans and my feet are sore. We did walk over 26 miles however. We stopped for a cup of tea at Razorback Island.

26 October, 1911

Couldn't see the motors yesterday till I walked well out on the South Bay. Though there was a strong wind, I am surprised they haven't got further than Glacier Tongue. Annoyingly the telephone gave no news from Hut Point, evidently something was wrong. After dinner Simpson and Gran started for Hut Point. This morning Simpson has just rung. The motors are having difficulty with the surface. The chains slip on the very light snow covering hard ice.

I have organized a party of eight men including myself to go off and see what can be done to help.

24 October, 1911

Two fine days for a wonder. Yesterday the motors seemed ready to start and all went well out on the floe to give them a "send off." But the inevitable little defects cropped up, and the machines only got as far as the Cape. Day and Lashley spent the afternoon making good these defects in a satisfactory manner.

This morning the engines were set going again, and shortly after 10am a fresh start was made. At first there were a good many stops but on the whole the engines seemed improved. They are not by any means working up to full power yet, so the pace is very slow. The weights seem a good deal heavier than we bargained for.

As I wrote, the machines are about a mile out in the South Bay; both can be seen still under weigh, progressing slowly.

I find myself immensely eager that these tractors should succeed, even though they may not be of great help to our southern advance. A small measure of success will be enough to show their possibilities, their ability to revolutionize Polar transport. It is impossible not to be convinced of their value. Still, the trifling mechanical defects and lack of experience show the risk of cutting out trials. A season of experiment with a small workshop at hand may well be all that stands between success and failure.

The ponies are in fine form. Atkinson and Keohane have turned cooks and are doing a splendid job. This morning Meares announced his return from Corner Camp, indicating that all the stores are out there now.

On the whole, things look hopeful.

11pm. Motors reported off Razorback Island, nearly 3 miles out! Come, come!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

23 October, 1911

I'm in a writing mood today. I wrote to Kathleen. Here's what I said.

I don't know what to think of Amundsen's chances. If he gets to the Pole, it must be before we do, as he is bound to travel fast with dogs and pretty certain to start early. On this account I decided at a very early date to act exactly as I should have done had he not existed. Any attempt to race must have wrecked my plan, besides which it doesn't appear the sort of thing one is out for.

It is the work that counts, not the applause that follows.

I told her what I thought of some of our chaps. Bill, of course, is the finest character I ever met. He's clearly the most popular member of our party.

Bowers is all and more than I ever expected of him, a positive treasure, absolutely trustworthy and prodigiously energetic. He is the hardest man among us, and that is saying a good deal. Nothing seems to hurt his tough little body and certainly no hardship daunts his spirit. He has indefatigable zeal, is unselfish, and has inexhaustible good humor. He is highly intelligent and has an exceptional memory for details. He is in truth an indispensable assistant to me in every work detail concerning the management and organization of our sledging work and a delightful companion on the march.

Wright is a great success, has taken to sledging like a duck to water.

The Soldier is very popular with all.

Cherry goes out of his way to help others.

Evans, on the other hand, shows an extraordinary lack of initiative outside his own work.

Edgar Evans has proved a useful member of our party, looking after our sledges and equipment with a fertility of resource which is astonishing.

Crean is happy to do anything and go anywhere. He and Evans are best of friends. Lashley is his old self in every respect, working to the limit, quiet, abstemious, determined.

The study of individual character is a pleasant pastime in such a mixed community of thoroughly nice people, and the study of relationships and interactions is fascinating -- men of the most diverse upbringing and experience are really pals with one another, and the subjects which would be delicate ground of discussion between acquaintances are just those which are most freely used in jest.

Monday, October 25, 2010

22 October, 1911

Meares telephoned that he is setting out for his second journey to Corner Camp without Czigane, the dog. It had a mysterious ailment for which he was given a laxative.

The telephone is a marvelous addition to our operation. I can't imagine how we got by without it. I suppose one day we will be able to do away with the wires altogether! Imagine!

In the transport department, in spite of all the care I have taken to make the details of my plan clear by lucid explanation, I find that Bowers is the only man on whom I can thoroughly rely to carry out the work without mistake, with its arrays of figures. For the practical consistent work of pony training Oates is especially capable, and his heart is very much in the business.

Here's poor Clissold and his dog team before his accident.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

21 October, 1911

Day and Lashly are both hopeful of the machines, and they really ought to do something after all the trouble that has been taken.

Yes, I know that the motors themselves can't help it but it does seem sometimes as though they have a will of their own, a damned malicious one.

The wretched state of the weather has prevented the transport of emergency stores to Hut Point. These are for the returning depots and to provision the Discovery hut in case the Terra Nova does not arrive.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

20 October, 1911

Day has fixed the motor axle, so the party can prepare for their departure. Loads are being hauled out onto the sea ice ready to be arranged.

Meares and Dimitri have left for Hut Point, though the weather is very bad. When the animals can't be exercised, we have to cut their rations which is annoying, as we need to be getting them conditioned.

Come to think of it, the men need to be conditioned too. Oh well, too late now, I suppose.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

19 October, 1911

I'm back, at last! Had a damnable time getting this old thing working again, and have had to rely on paper journal and pen.

Yesterday a blizzard broke upon us, the air thick with snow. We took the motors out for a test run on the floe but everything went wrong with them. I am secretly convinced we shall not get much help from them, yet nothing has happened to then that was unavoidable. A little more care and foresight would make them splendid allies. The trouble is that if they fail, no one will ever believe this.

I suppose that hindsight could have ensured that we brought with us the right fuel and spare parts.

Poor old Clissold, our cook, is greatly disappointed that he cannot go with the motor party on the Southern Journey. He took the most frightful fall while posing for Ponting and suffered quite a concussion. It was a stupid risk and we all suffer from it. Hooper and Lashley have taken over his duties in the kitchen and their work is well enough. It is splendid to have people who refuse to recognize difficulties.