Friday, November 26, 2010

26 November, 1911

Camp 22. Lunch camp.

Marched here fairly easily. We now keep a steady pace of 2 miles an hour, very good going. The sky was slightly overcast at start and between two and three it grew very misty. Before we camped we lost sight of the manhaulers, only 300 yards ahead. The sun is piercing the mist. Here at Latitude 81 degrees 35 minutes we are leaving our Middle Barrier Depot, one week for each returning unit.

Looks like more snow. Damn.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

25 November, 1911

Camp 21

Now that it is pretty warm at night it is obviously desirable to work towards day marching. We shall start 2 hours later tonight and again tomorrow night.

Last night we bade farewell to Day and Hooper and set out with the new organization. All started together, the manhaulers Evans, Lashly and Atkinson, going ahead with their gear on the 10 foot sledge. Chinaman and James Pigg next, and the rest some minutes behind.

The sun has been shining all night, but towards midnight light mist clouds arose, half obscuring the leading parties. Land can be dimly discerned nearly ahead. The ponies are slowly tiring but we lighten loads again tomorrow by making another depot.

Meares has just come up to report that Jehu made four feeds for the dogs. He cut up very well and had quite a lot of fat on him. Meares says another pony will carry him to the Glacier. This is very good hearing.

The men are pulling with ski sticks and say they are a great assistance. I think of taking them up the Glacier.

Jehu has certainly come up trumps after all, and Chinaman bids fair to be even more valuable. Only a few more marches to feel safe in getting to our first goal.

24 November, 1911

Camp 20

A gloomy start to our march. The weather's clearing now.

Since our junction with the Motor Party the procedure has been for the manhauling people to go forward just ahead of the crocks, the other party following 2 or 3 hours later. Today we closed less than usual, so that the crocks must have been going very well. However the fiat has already gone forth, and this morning after the march poor old Jehu was led back on the track and shot. Towards the end he was pulling very little and on the whole it is merciful to have ended his life. Chinaman seems to improve and will certainly last a good many days yet. The rest show no signs of flagging and are only moderately hungry. The surface is tiring for walking, as one sinks two or three inches nearly all the time. I feel we ought to get through now.

Day and Hooper leave us tonight.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

23 November, 1911

Camp 19

Getting along. I think the ponies will get through; we are now 150 geographical miles from the Glacier. But it is still rather touch and go. If one or more of the ponies were to go rapidly downhill we might be in queer street. I'm afraid we might get a blizzard. I hope to goodness it is not going to stop one marching; forage won't allow that.

22 November, 1911

Camp 18

Everything much the same.

The ponies thinner but not much weaker. The crocs still going along. Jehu is now called "The Barrier Wonder" and Chinaman "The Thunderbolt." Two days more and they will be well past the spot at which Shackleton killed his first animal.

I wonder what nickname I will earn out of all this?

The weather is glorious and the ponies can make the most of their rest during the warmest hours, but they certainly lose in one way by marching at night. The surface is much easier for the sledges when the sun is warm, and for about three hours before and after midnight the friction noticeably increases.

We break through the crust in places. If the hot sun continues this should improve. One cannot see any reason why the crust should change in the next 100 miles.

It's all pretty much the same every day out here.

21 November, 1911

Camp 17. Lat 80 degrees 35 minutes south.

The surface is decidedly better, and the ponies very steady on the march. None seem overtired, and now it is impossible not to take a hopeful view of the prospect of pulling through. The only circumstance to be feared is a reversion to bad surfaces, and that ought not to happen on this course. We marched to the usual lunch camp and saw a large cairn ahead. Two miles beyond we came on the Motor Party in lat. 80, 32'. We learned that they had been waiting for six days. They all look very fit, but declare themselves to be very hungry. This is interesting as showing conclusively that a ration amply sufficient for the needs of men leading ponies is quite insufficient for men doing hard pulling work; it therefore fully justifies the provision we have made for the Summit work. Even on that I have little doubt we shall soon get hungry. Day looks thin, almost gaunt, but fit. The weather is beautiful—long may it so continue!

We will take the Motor Party on for three days, then Day and Hooper will return. We hope Jehu will last three days; he will then be finished in any case and fed to the dogs. It is amusing to see Meares looking eagerly for the chance of a feed for his animals; he has been expecting it daily. On the other hand, Atkinson and Oates are eager to get the poor animal beyond the point at which Shackleton killed his first beast. Reports on Chinaman are very favorable, and it really looks as though the ponies are going to do what is expected of them.

20 November, 1911

Camp 16

The crocks still go. Jehu seems a little better than yesterday, and will certainly go another march. Chinaman reported bad the first half march, but bucked up the second. The dogs found the surface heavy. Tomorrow I propose to relieve them of a forage bag. Victor is getting to look very gaunt. Nobby seems fitter and stronger than when he started; he alone is ready to go all his feed at any time and as much as he can get. The rest feed fairly well, but they are getting a very big strong ration. I am beginning to feel more hopeful about them. Christopher kicked the bow of his sledge in towards the end of the march. He much have a lot left in him though.

Temperature at night -14, now it is +4. A very slight southerly breeze, from which the walls protect the animals well. I feel sure that a long day's rest in the sun is very good for all of them.

I wonder what the men in the other tent talk about.

Friday, November 19, 2010

19 November, 1911

Camp 15

We have struck a really bad surface, sledges pulling well over it, but ponies sinking very deep. The result is about to finish Jehu. He was terribly done on getting in tonight. He may go another march, but not more, I think.

Considering the surface, the other ponies did well. They occasionally sink halfway to the hock. Luckily, the weather now is glorious for resting the animals, which are very placid and quiet in the brilliant sun. Have been taking some photographs, Bowers also.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

18 November, 1911

Camp 14

The ponies are not pulling well. The surface is, if anything, a little worse than yesterday, but I should think about the sort of thing we shall have to expect henceforward. I had a panic that we were carrying too much food and this morning we have discussed the matter and decided we can leave a sack.

We've done the usual 13 geographical miles to make the 15 statute. The temperature was -21 when we camped last night, now it is -3.

The crocks are going on wonderfully. Oates gives Chinaman three days, and Wright says he may go a week. This is slightly inspiriting, but how much better would it have been to have had ten really reliable beasts! It's touch and go whether we scrape up to the Glacier; meanwhile we get along somehow.

At any rate, the bright sunshine makes everything look more hopeful.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

17 November, 1911

Camp 13.

We put in 7.5 miles before lunch. It is early days to wonder whether the little beasts will last; one can only hope they will, but the weakness of breeding and age is showing itself already. The crocks have done wonderfully, so there is really no saying how long or well the fitter animals may go. We had a horribly cold wind on the march. Temp -18, force 3. The sun was shining but it seemed to make little difference. It is still shining brightly, temp now 11 degrees. Behind the pony walls it is wonderfully warm and the animals look as snug as possible.

I have managed to secrete a little curry powder among my belongings to enliven the hoosh. Don't tell anyone.

16 November, 1911

Camp 12.

We are resting. It is -15. The ponies pretty comfortable in rugs and behind good walls. We have reorganized the loads, taking on about 850 lbs with the stronger ponies, 400 odd with the others.

There's not much to report. Bit anxious to get to my pipe.

15 November, 1911

Camp 11

Found One Ton Camp without any difficulty. It's 130 geographical miles form Cape Evans. We are going to give the ponies a day's rest here, then push through at a rate of 13 miles per day. Oates thinks the ponies will get through, but they have lost condition quicker than expected. Considering his usually pessimistic attitude, this must be thought a hopeful view. Personally I am much more hopeful. I think a good many of the beasts are actually in better form than when they started, and that there is no need to be alarmed about the remainder, always excepting the weak ones which we have always regarded with doubt.

Well, we much wait and see how things go.

I hope Evans has built lots of good cairns - he has taken on four boxes of biscuit.

It was a very beautiful day yesterday, bright sun, but as we marched, towards midnight, the sky gradually became overcast; very beautiful halo rings formed around the sun. Four separate rings were very distinct. The spread of stratus cloud overhead was very remarkable. The sky was blue all around the horizon.

There is a very thin, light fall of snow crystals. They barely exist a moment when they light upon our equipment. When it is blankly white the sense of oppression is inevitable.

Most of us are using goggles with a light green tint. We find this coloring very grateful to the eyes, and as a rule it is possible to see everything through them even more clearly than with naked vision.

The thermometer I left here last year records a minimum of -73, rather less than expected.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

14 November, 1911

Camp 11

The surface is little improved, but this is a slightly better and more cheerful march. The sun shone out midway, and is not quite bright. It is thoroughly warm, the air breathlessly still, and the ponies resting in great comfort. The new snow is about 4 inches deep; it is painful struggling on through it, though the ponies carry on gallantly enough. Christopher has now been harnessed three time without difficulty. Nearly 12 miles without a stop must be a strain on the rearguard animals. One Ton Camp in only about 7 miles farther. Meanwhile we passed two of Evans's cairns today and one old cairn fro last year, so that we ought to have little difficulty in finding out depot.

It's misty; I had not though these conditions could continue for so long a time in this region. We cannot see land though we are close to the Bluff. Had we been dependent on landmarks we should have fared ill. Evidently a good system of cairns is the best possible traveling arrangement on this great snow plain.

I wonder how long our methods will hold for future generations of travelers. Or if there will ever be any others after us at all.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

13 November, 1911

Camp 10

Another horrible march in terrible light, surface very bad. The ponies came through but they are being tried hard by the conditions. We followed tracks most of the way, neither party seeing the other except towards camping time. The crocks did well, all things considered; Jehu is doing extremely well for him. As we camped the sun came out and the cold chilly conditions of the march passed away, leaving everything calm, peaceful, and pleasant. One Ton Camp is only 17 miles away or so -- but I am anxious about these beasts, very anxious; they are not the ponies they ought to have been , and if they pull through all the thanks will be due to Oates. I trust the weather and surface conditions will improve; both are rank bad at present.

Yes, I know I should have sent Oates to buy better ponies. What was I thinking?

3PM: It has been snowing steadily for some hours, adding to the soft surface accumulation inch upon inch. What can such weather mean? If this should come as an exception, our luck will be truly awful. The camp is very silent and cheerless, signs that things are going awry.

The temperature in the middle of our tent this morning when the sun was shining on it was 50 degrees! Outside it was -10.

Friday, November 12, 2010

12 November, 1911

Camp 9

Our marches are uniformly horrid just at present. The surface remains wretched. A note at the Bluff depot from Evans says he is five days ahead of us, which is good. Atkinson camped a mile beyond this cairn and had a very gloomy account of Chinaman. Said he couldn't last more than a mile or two. The weather was horrid, overcast, gloomy snowy. One's spirits became very low. One longed for a pint of Guinness in the pub. However the crocks set off again. The Soldier thinks Chinaman will last for a good many days yet, and extraordinary confession of hope for him. The temperature is about -10 in the daytime.

I could use a nice pint of Guinness come to think of it.

11 November, 1911

Camp 8

It cleared somewhat just before we marched, but the snow which had fallen in the day remained soft and flocculent on the surface. I like that word, "flocculent." Add to this pits in between hard sastrugi and a worse surface for ponies can hardly be imagined. The crocks had had enough at 9.5 miles. I expected these marches to be difficult but near so bad as today. It is snowing again as we camp. It is difficult to make out what is happening to the weather—it is all part of the general warming up, but I wish the sky would clear.

In spite of the surface, the dogs ran up from the camp before last, over 20 miles, in the night. They are working splendidly so far.

I suppose you're going to ask me why I'm not following Nansen's advice and just using dogs at this point. I know I keep saying how well they are doing. You'll please keep your opinions to yourself.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

10 November, 1911

Well that was short-lived. A very horrible march with a strong head wind during the first 5 miles, then a snowstorm. It was so difficult to steer that we decided to camp. Now that we have settled, the weather is clearing.

Christopher was started today by a ruse. He was harnessed behind his wall and was in the sledge before he realized. Then he tried to bolt, but Oates hung on.

How frustrating it is to miss even 1.5 miles.

9 November, 1911

We are making about 10 geographical miles nightly. The ponies are doing well.

An amusing incident happened when Wright left his pony to examine his sledgemeter. Chinaman evidently didn't like being left behind and set off at a canter to rejoin the main party. Wright's long legs barely carried him fast enough to stop this fatal stampede, but the ridiculous sight was due to the fact that old Jehu caught the infection and set off at a sprawling canter in Chinaman's wake. As this is the pony we thought scarcely capable of a single march at the start, one is agreeably surprised to find him still displaying such commendable spirit.

The dogs follow us so easily over the 10 miles that Meares thought of going on again, but finally decided that the present easy work is best.

Things look hopeful. The weather is beautiful—temp. -12 with a bright sun. There is an annoying little southerly wind blowing now, and this serves to show the beauty of our snow walls. The ponies are standing under their lee in the bright sun as comfortable as can possibly be.

Monday, November 8, 2010

8 November, 1911

Most of the party were against our setting off later last night. I insisted, so just after midnight we got away. The ponies were friskier than I had expected, and managed their march with no trouble at all. One gains confidence every moment in them. Well, Christopher gives as much trouble as ever; Oates has to hang on like grim death lest he kick and take off; he hates being put into the harness. At one point, Bowers loaded 100lbs of forage onto his sledge, and Victor took off as if nothing had been added. Such events are very inspiring.

We are picking up last year's cairns with great ease, all show up very easily. This is extremely satisfactory for our homeward march. What with pony walls, camp sites and cairns, our track should be easily followable the whole way. Everyone is as fit as can be. It was wonderfully warm as we camped this morning at 11o'clock; the wind dropped completely and the sun shines gloriously. Men and ponies revel in such weather. One devoutly hopes for a good spell of it as we recede from the windy northern region.

The dogs came up soon after we had camped, traveling easily.

7 November, 1911

Camp Four, Again

Well, we're still here. The blizzard continues, all last night and I am writing this late in the afternoon.

We have done everything possible to shelter and protect the ponies but there seems no way of doing so when the snow is thick and driving fast. We men are snug and comfortable enough, but it is very evil to lie here and know that the weather is steadily sapping the strength of the beasts on which so much depends. It requires much philosophy to be cheerful on such occasions.

Meares and the dog party have pulled up to within a quarter mile of us. The dogs don't seem to mind the weather at all and still pull well. They should be able to help us a good deal.

The tents and sledges are badly drifted up, the drifts behind the pony walls having been dug out several times. I shall be glad indeed to be on the march again, and oh! for a little sun. Some of the fine drift snow finds its way under the rugs and straps, which melts and makes the ponies' bellies wet. It is not easy to understand at first why the blizzard should have such a withering effect on the poor beasts. I suppose that hte snow catches on the delicate places where they are harnessed, causing misery.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

6 November, 1911

Camp Four

We started in the usual order, arranging that full loads should be carried if the black dots to the south proved to be the motor. On arrival at these we found our fears confirmed. A note from Evans stated the old trouble. The big end of Engine No. 1 cylinder had cracked. Evidently the engines are not fit for working in this climate. The motor party has proceeded as a manhauling unit as arranged. I suppose that they will exhaust themselves long before we who have yet our ponies to haul for us. They are pulling loads of 450 lbs. My pony, Snippets, is pulling over 700 lbs, sledge included. We are all much cheered by this performance.

A blizzard threatened when we made camp so built walls for the ponies. They seem comfortable, though there isn't much snow. The new rugs cover them well. We learned to build high walls last year, so reaped some reward from that disastrous journey.

I write this late in the day, and the wind is so strong I fear we shall not be able to go on tonight. It is -5, lower than I like in a blizzard, and chilly in the tent. I have been observing clouds. It' all one can do.

Friday, November 5, 2010

5 November, 1911

Camp 3, Corner Camp.

Found a very troubled note from Evans with the motor saying he can only go 7 miles per day. They have taken on nine bags of forage, but I can see three black dots to the south which we can only imagine are the deserted motor with its loaded sledges. The men have gone on as a supporting party, as directed. It is a disappointment. I had hoped better of the machines once they got away on the Barrier surface.

The ponies' appetites are fanciful. They do not like the oil cake, but for the moment seem to take to the fodder left here. They are off it again today, however. It is a sad pity they won't eat well now, because later on one can imagine how ravenous they will become.

Chinaman and Jehu will not go far I fear.

No fireworks for us tonight.

4 November, 1911

Day 4 of our long trek and alas! the dream of great help from the machines is at an end!

It seems that the cylinder of Day's motor broke, and since they had no spares, have had to unload and dump a great deal of things, including of course petrol and lubricant, and have gone on with one motor and one sledge.

I can see their tracks in the snow.

The ponies did pretty well, but it has been a cruel surface most of the time. Jehu is better than I expected to find him, Chinaman not so well. They are bad crocks both of them. It was pretty cold during the night, -7 when we camped, with a crisp breeze blowing. Th ponies don't like it, but now, as I write this, the sun is shining through a white haze, the wind has dropped, and the picketing line is comfortable for the poor beasts. They are not yet on their feed.

Damn shame about those motors.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

3rd November, 1911

Camp One

My party left just before ten this morning: Wilson, Cherry-Garrard and I. Our ponies marched steadily over the sea ice. At Safety Camp we met up with Atkinson and Ponting arrived, set up his cinematograph and just caught the flying rear guard being led by Snatcher in fine form.

After lunch we packed up and marched on steadily as before. I don't like these midnight lunches, but for man the march that follows is pleasant when, as today, the win falls and the sun steadily increases its heat.

We are camped some 5 miles beyond Safety Camp, and all the ponies are tired, Chinaman and Jehu very tired. Nearly all are inclined to be off their feed, but this is temporary we think. We have built walls for them but there is no wind and the sun gets warmer by the minute.

1PM: feeding time. Oates fed the ponies. It is a sweltering day, the air breathless, the glare intense—one loses sight of the fact that the temperature is low (-22)—one's mind seeks comparison in hot sunlit streets and scorching pavements, yet six hours ago my thumb was  frostbitten. All the inconveniences of frozen footwear and damp clothes and sleeping bags have vanished entirely.

Crean announced that bones has eaten Christopher's goggles. Now Christopher is blinking in the hot sun.

Ponting took this shot of Meares and Dimitri at the blubber stove at Hut Point today.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

2nd November, 1911

Our march reminds me of a regatta or a somewhat disorganized fleet with ships of very unequal speed. The plan of further advance has now been evolved. We shall start in three parties — the very slow ponies, the medium paced, and the fliers. Snatcher starting last will probably overtake the leading unit. All this requires a good deal of arranging. We have decided to begin night marching, and shall get away after supper, I hope. The weather is hourly improving, but at this season that does not count for much.

At present the ponies are very comfortably stabled. Michael, Chinaman and James Pigg are actually in the hut. Chinaman kept us alive all night by stamping on the floor.

No doubt this will be their last night under a roof! I hope it's not also mine!

Meares and Dimitri are here with the dog team, and Ponting with a great photographic outfit. I fear he won't get much chance to get results.

Monday, November 1, 2010

1st November, 1911

So this is it! We begin our great journey to the Pole.

This morning we left in detachments: Michael, Nobby and Chinaman were first to get away about 11am. Oates had to hold on to Christopher for all he was worth. Bones ambled off with Crean, I led Snippets in his wake. P.O. Evans and Snatcher passed us not long after.

We had dark skies and strong winds, which the ponies hate. Bowers and Victor passed me at Razorback, leaving me where I best wished to be - the tail of the line. It took us a little under five hours to get in to Hut Point, and none too soon; it is now blowing a gale.

I shall miss our old homestead at Cape Evans. I left photographs of Kathleen up on the walls instead of bringing them. I'll see her again in the Autumn when we return.

The photograph above is everyone but Clissold. And Ponting, of course.