Thursday, December 30, 2010

30 December, 1911

Camp 52

A very trying, tiring march, and only 11 miles covered. Tomorrow, I'm going to march half a day, make a depot, and build the 10-feet sledges. The second party is certainly tiring; it remains to be seen how they will manage with the smaller sledge and lighter load. The surface is certainly much worse than it was 50 miles back. We have caught up with Shackleton's dates. Everything would be cheerful if I could persuade myself that the second party were quite fit to go forward.

I hope no-one cuts themselves on the sledge runners tomorrow. That would be awful.

29 December, 1911

Camp 51

It's been a struggle all day over very bad surfaces. The weather looks a little doubtful. The marches are terribly monotonous. One's thoughts wander occasionally to pleasanter scenes and places, but the necessity to keep the course, or some hitch in the surface, quickly brings them back. There have been hours of very steady plodding to day; these are the best part of the business, they mean forgetfulness and advance.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

28 December, 1911

Camp 50

I start cooking again tomorrow morning. We have had a troublesome day but have completed our 13 miles. My unit pulled away easy this morning and stretched out for two hours—the second unit made heavy weather. I changed with Evans and found the second sledge heavy—could keep up, but the team was not swinging with me as my own team swings. Then I changed P.O. Evans for Lashly. We seemed to get on better, but we then came up over a rise with hard sastrugi. At the top we camped for lunch. What was the difficulty? One theory was that some members of the second party were stale. Another that all was due to the bad stepping and want of swing; another that the sledge pulled heavy.

In the afternoon we exchanged sledges, and at first went off well, but getting into soft snow, we found a terrible drag, the second party coming quite easily with our sledge. So the sledge is the cause of the trouble, and talking it out, I found that all is due to want of care.The runners ran excellently, but the structure has been distorted by bad strapping, bad loading, 7c. The party are not done, and I have told them plainly that they must wrestle with the trouble and get it right for themselves. There is no possible reason they should not get along as easily as we do.

Oh, and the fact that they have been manhauling for weeks longer than we have on shorter rations is no excuse. No excuse at all.

27 December, 1911

Camp 49

Damn Bowers. This morning he broke the only hypsometer thermometer. This means we can't measure our altitude. I really let him have it, too.

We got into abominable crevasses this afternoon. Steering the party is no light task. One cannot allow one's thoughts to wander as others do, and when, as this afternoon, one gets amongst disturbances, I find it is very worrying and tiring. I do trust we shall have no more of them. We have not lost sight of the sun since we came on the summit; we should get an extraordinary record of sunshine. It is monotonous work, this; the sledgemeter and theodolite govern the situation.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

26 December, 1911 Boxing Day

Camp 48

We were perhaps a little slow today after the plum pudding, but I think we are getting onto the surface which is likely to continue the rest of the way.

It seems astonishing to be disappointed with a march of 15 miles, when I had contemplated doing little more than 10 with full loads.

We are on the 86th parallel.

I wonder where Amundsen spent his Christmas?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

25 December, 1911 Christmas Day

The wind was strong last night and this morning; a light snowfall in the night; a good deal of drift, subsiding when we started, but still about a foot high. It was fine for a while but then we got amongst crevasses again. Got our ski sticks out, which improved matters, but we had to tack a good deal and several of us went half down. After half an hour of this I looked round and found the second sledge halted some way in rear -- evidently someone had gone into a crevasse. We saw rescue work going on, but had to wait half an hour for the party to come up, and got mighty cold. It appears that Lashly went down very suddenly, nearly dragging the crew with him. The sledge ran on and jammed the span so that the Alpine rope had to be got out and used to pull him to the surface again. He said the crevasse was 50 feet deep and 8 feet across, showing that the word "unfathomable" can rarely be applied. It's his birthday today too - he is 44 and hard as nails. Damned annoying to make us all cold, though.

Camp 47.

I am so replete that I can scarcely type. After sundry luxuries, such as chocolate and raisins at lunch, we started off well, but soon got among crevasses again. I marched on till 7:30. We covered 15 miles.

I knew that supper was going to be a "tightener" and indeed it has been -- we had four courses. The first, pemmican, full whack, with slices of horse meat flavored with onion and curry powder and thickened with biscuit; then an arrowroot, cocoa and biscuit hoosh sweetened; then a plum pudding; then cocoa with raisins; and a finally a dessert of caramels and ginger.

After hte feast it was difficult to move. Wilson and I couldn't finish our share of the plum pudding. This full feeding will keep us wonderfully warm tonight.

This time last year we were stuck in ice at sea! How time flies!

Friday, December 24, 2010

24 December, 1911 Christmas Eve

Camp 46

We are now marching in our wind blouses. The first two hours of the afternoon march went very well. Then the sledges hung a bit, and we plodded on and covered something over 14 miles in the day. The only inconvenience of the wind is the extent to which our faces get iced up. The temperature hovers about zero. We have not struck a crevasse all day, which is a good sign. The sun continues to shine in a cloudless sky, and the wind rises and falls, and about us is a scene of the wildest desolation, but we are a very cheerful party and tomorrow is Christmas Day, with something extra in he hoosh.

I wonder how Peter and Kathleen are spending the day?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

23 December, 1911

Lunch. Started well, but soon came upon bad crevasses and hard waves. We pushed on to the SW, but things went from bad to worse, and we had to haul out to the north, then west. West looks clear for the present, but it is not a very satisfactory direction. The comfort is that we are rising.

Night: Camp 45 Height about 7750

Great vicissitudes of fortune in the afternoon march. Came upon an area with the most extraordinary surface -- narrow crevasses ran in all directions. They were quite invisible, being covered with a thin crust of hardened neve without a sign of a crack in it. We all fell in one after the other, and sometimes two together. We have had many unexpected falls before, but usually through being unable to mark the run of the surface appearances of cracks, or where such cracks are covered with soft snow. How a hard crust can form over a crack is a real puzzle—it seems to argue extremely slow movement.

At 5 pm everything changed. The hard surface gave place to regular sastrugi and our horizon leveled in every direction. We camped with a delightful feeling of security that we had at length reached the summit proper. I am feeling very cheerful about everything tonight. We marched 15 miles.

My determination to keep mounting irrespective of course is fully justified and I shall indeed be surprised is we have any further difficulty with crevasses or steep slopes. To me for the first time our goal seems really in sight. We can pull our loads and pull them much faster and farther than I expected in my most hopeful moments. I only pray for a fair share of good weather. There is a cold wind now as expected, but with good clothes and well fed as we are, we can stick a lot worse than we are getting. I trust this may prove the turning point in our fortunes for which we have waited so patiently.

2 December, 1911

Camp 44 About 7100 feet

Self: 43, Wilson 39, Evans (PO) 37, Oates 32, Bowers 28. Average 36.

This, the third stage of our journey, is opening with good promise. We made our depot this morning, then said an affecting farewell to the returning party, who have taken things very well, dear good fellows that they are. Cherry teared up a little.

We marched 7 hours and covered 10.5 miles. Tomorrow we march longer hours, about 9 I hope. Every day the loads will lighten, and so we ought to make the requisite progress. I think we have climbed 250 feet today, but thought it more on the march. Ahead of us is a stiffish incline and it looks as though there might be pressure behind it. It is very difficult to judge how matters stand, however, in such a confusion of elevations and depressions. This course doesn't work wonders in change of latitude, but I think it is the right track to clear the pressures -- at any rate I shall hold it for the present.

The weather has been beautifully fine all day as it was last night. This morning there was an hour or so of haze due to clouds from the north. Now it is perfectly clear, and we get a fine view of the mountain behind which Wilson has just been sketching.

21 December, 1911

Camp 43 Upper Glacier Depot.
Latitude 85 degrees, 7 minutes. Longitude 163 degrees, 4 minutes. Height" about 8000 feet. Temperature: -2.

We climbed the slope this morning and found a very bad surface on top, as far as crevasses were concerned. We all had falls into them, Atkinson and Teddy Evans going down the length of their harness. Evans had rather a shake up. The rotten ice continued for a long way, though I crossed to and fro towards the land, trying to get on better ground.

At noon the wind came from the north, bringing the inevitable mist up the valley and covering us just as we were in the worst of places. We camped for lunch and were obliged to wait two and a half hours for a clearance. The sun began to struggle though and we were off. We soon got out of the worst crevasses and on to a long snow slope leading on part of Mount Darwin. It was a very long stiff pull up, and I held on till 7:30, when, the other team being some way astern, I camped. We have done a good march, risen to a satisfactory altitude, and reached a good place for our depot.

Tomorrow we start with our fullest summit load, and the first march should show us the possibilities of our achievement. The temperature has dropped below zero, but tonight it is so calm and bright that one feels delightfully warm and comfortable in the tent. Such weather helps greatly in the sorting arrangements, etc, which are going on tonight. For me it is an immense relief to have the indefatigable little Bowers to see to all the detail arrangements of this sort.

I have to write some letters to send back with the returning party. Have told Kathleen that I am exceedingly fit and can go with the best of them, and that we ought to get through. That will cheer her.

I keep thinking she will get these notes in time for Christmas, but of course she won't get them for a good many months yet.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

20 December, 1911

Camp 42. 6500 feet, about.

Just got off our best half march -- 10 miles, 1150 yards, over 2 miles. With an afternoon to follow we should do very well today; the wind has been coming up the valley. Turning my journal seems to have brought luck. I write on one side of the pages, then turn the whole book around and write on the black sides.

Pulling the sledges in crampons is no difficulty at all. At lunch, Wilson and Bowers walked back 2 miles or so to try to find Bower's broken sledgemeter, without result. During their absence a fog spread about us, carried up the valleys by an easterly wind. We started the afternoon march in this fog very unpleasantly, but later it gradually drifted, and tonight it is very fine and warm.

I have just told off the people to return tomorrow night: Atkinson, Wright, Cherry-Garrard, and Keohane. All are disappointed — poor Wright rather bitterly, I fear. It suspect it has something to do with picking Evans ahead of him. But every time I looked back at his team, I saw Evans pulling hard. Wright won't talk to me. I dreaded this necessity of choosing — nothing could be more heartrending. I calculated our programme to start from 85 degrees 10 minutes with 12 units of food (a unit equalling a week's supplies for four men), and eight men. We ought to be in this position tomorrow night, less one day's food. After all our harassing trouble one cannot be satisfied with such a prospect.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

19 December, 1911

Camp 41.

Things are looking up. Started on good surface, soon came to very annoying criss-cross tracks. In fell into two and have bad bruises on knee and thigh, but we got along all the time until we reached an admirable smooth surface excellent for traveling. We are having a long lunch for angles, photographs, and sketches.

Night: Height about 5800. We stepped off this afternoon at a rate of 2 miles or more per hour, with the very satisfactory result of 17 miles to the good for the day. It has not been a strain, except perhaps for me with my wounds received early in the day. The wind has kept us cool on the march, which has in consequence been pleasanter; we are not in our wet clothes tonight, and have not suffered from the same overpowering thirst as on previous days. Evans and Bowers are busy taking angles, as they have been all day; we shall have material for an excellent chart.

Days like this put heart into one.

18 December, 1911

Camp 40

Lunch nearly 4000 feet above the Barrier. Overcast and snowing this morning as I expected, land showing on starboard hand, so, though it was gloomy and depressing, we could march, and did.

We are stopped for much after 8 miles, and things look quite promising. for the moment. On our right we now have a pretty good view of the Adams Marshall and Wild Mountains and their very curious horizontal stratification.

This morning all our gear was fringed with ice crystals which looked very pretty.


Rough going this afternoon. We are less than 5 days behind Shackleton now. It is snowing again. It is very annoying, but I suppose we must be thankful when we can get our marches off. Still sweating horribly on the march and very thirsty at the halts.

Friday, December 17, 2010

17 December, 1911

Camp 39

Soon after starting we found ourselves in rather a mess; bad pressure ahead and long waves between us and the land. Blue ice showed on the crests of the waves; very soft snow lay in the hollows. We had to cross the waves in places 30 feet from crest to hollow, and we did it by sitting on the sledge and letting her go. Thus we went down with a rush and our impetus carried us some way up the other side; then followed by a fearfully tough drag to rise to the next crest. After two hours of this I saw a larger wave, the crest of which contained hard ice up the glacier; we reached this and got excellent traveling for 2 miles on it.


Height: about 3500 above the Barrier.

After lunch we decided to take the risk of sticking to the center of the glacier, with good result. If we keep up the pace, we gain on Shackleton, and I don't see any reason we shouldn't. For once one can say "Sufficient for the day is the good thereof." Our luck may be on the turn -- I think we deserve it. In spite of the hard work everyone is very fit and cheerful, feeling well fed and eager for more toil. Eyes are much better except poor Wilson's; he has caught a very bad attack. Remembering our trouble on our last Southern journey, I fear he is in for a very bad time.

We got fearfully hot this morning and marched in singlets, which became wringing wet; thus uncovered the sun gets at one's skin, and then the wind, which makes it horribly uncomfortable.

Our lips are very sore. We cover them with the soft silk plaster which seems about the best thing for the purpose.

I'm inclined to think that the summit trouble will be mostly due to the chill falling on sunburned skins. Even now one feels the cold strike directly one stops. We get fearfully thirsty and chip up ice on the march, as well as drinking a great deal of water on halting. Our fuel only just does it, but that is all we want, and we have a bit in hand for the summit.

The pulling this morning was fairly pleasant. We have worn our crampons all day and are delighted with them. P.O. Evans, the inventor of both crampons and ski shoes, is greatly pleased, and certainly we owe him much. The weather is beginning to look dirty again, snow clouds rolling in from the east as usual. I believe it will be overcast tomorrow.

16 December, 1911

Camp 38

A gloomy morning, clearing at noon, and ending in a gloriously fine evening. Although constantly anxious in the morning, the light held good for traveling throughout the day, and we have covered 11 miles, altering the aspect of the glacier greatly. But the traveling has been very hard. We started at 7, lunched at 12:15, and marched on till 6:30 -- over ten hours on the march -- the limit of time to be squeezed into one day.

We must push on all we can, for we are now 6 days behind Shackleton, all due to that wretched storm. So far, since we got amongst the disturbances we have not seen such alarming crevasses as I had expected; certainly dogs could have come up as far as this. At present one gets terribly hot and perspiring on the march, and quickly cold when halted, but the sun makes up for all evils. It is very difficult to know what to do about the ski; their weight is considerable and yet under certain circumstances they are extraordinarily useful. Everyone is very satisfied with our summit ration. The party which has been manhauling for so long say they are far less hungry than they used to be. It is good to think the majority will keep up this good feeding all through.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

15 December, 1911

Camp 37
Height about 2500 feet, 84 degrees 8 minutes latitude

Got away at 8; marched til 1, the surface improving and snow cover thinner over blue ice, but the sky overcast, with clouds coming ever lower. Evans' is decidedly the slowest unit, though Bowers' is not much faster. We keep up and overhaul without much difficulty.

At 5:45 we had to stop due to bad weather and lack of light. Our luck is really very bad.

Since supper there are signs of clearing again, but I don;t like the look of things. The weather has been working up from the SE with all the symptoms of our pony-wrecking storm. Pray heaven we are not going to have this wretched snow in the worst part of the glacier to come. The lower part of it is not very interesting, except from an ice point of view. Rock everywhere.

Oh! for fine weather; surely we have had enough of this oppressive gloom.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

14 December, 1911

Camp 36

Indigestion and the soggy condition of my clothes kept me awake for some time last night, and the exceptional exercise gives bad attacks of cramp. Our lips are getting raw and blistered. The eyes of the party are improving, I am glad to say. We are just starting our march with no very hopeful outlook.

I hope this indigestion doesn't cause problems ahead.


Evans set off and went well; when we came up, I offered to take some of his weight but his pride wouldn't allow it. Later we exchanged sledges with Bowers, pulling theirs easily, whist they made quite heavy work with ours. I am afraid Cherry and Keohane are the weakness of that team, though both put their utmost into the traces.

We must have made about 11 miles today. We got fearfully hot on the march, sweated through everything and stripped off jerseys. The result is we are pretty cold and clammy now, but escape from the soft snow and a good march compensate every discomfort. We see more blue ice all the time.

Tonight the sky is overcast and wind has been blowing up the glacier. I think there will be another spell of gloomy weather on the Barrier, so the question is whether this part of the glacier escapes. There are crevasses about 18 inches across outside Bowers's tent and a narrower one outside my own.

Towards the end of the march we were pulling with the greatest of ease. It is splendid to be getting along and to find some adequate return for the work we are putting into the business.

13 December, 1911

Camp 35

A most damnably dismal day. The sledges just sink in this soft snow. We spent three hours to put the 10-feet runners on under the crossbars. There was no delay on account of the slow progress of the other parties.

It wasn't much better after this; the toil was simply awful. We were soaked with perspiration and thoroughly breathless with our efforts. Again and again, the sledge got one runner on harder snow than the other, canted on its side, and refused to move. Evans was reduced to relay work, and Bowers followed him soon after.

We have advanced a bare 4 miles today. We are at 1500 feet; I had pinned my faith on getting better conditions as we rose, but it looks as though things are getting worse instead of better. We can toil on but it is woefully disheartening. I am not at all hungry but pretty thirsty. I find our summit ration is too filling for the present. Two skuas came round camp at lunch, no doubt attracted by our Shambles camp (and all the blood there).

Oh for a beer.

12 December, 1911

Camp 34

We have had a hard day, and during the forenoon it was my team which made the heaviest weather of the work. We got bogged again and again, and do what we would, the sledge dragged like lead. The others were working hard but nothing compared to us. At 2:30 I halted for lunch, pretty well cooked, and there was disclosed the secret of our trouble in a thin film with some hard knots of ice on the runners.

It is evident that what I expected has occurred. The whole of the lower valley is filled with snow from the recent storm, and if we had not had ski we should be hopelessly bogged. On foot one sinks to the knees, and if pulling on a sledge, to halfway between knee and thigh. It would therefore be absolutely impossible to advance  on foot with our loads. Considering all things, we are getting better on ski. A crust is forming over the soft snow. In a week or so I have little doubt it will be strong enough to support sledges and men. At present it carries neither properly. Needless to say the hauling is terrible.

There is a remarkable difference in temperature between day and night - +33 when we started, and with our hard work we were literally soaked through with perspiration. It is now +23. Evans's party kept up much better today; we had their shoes in our tent this morning, and PO Evans put them into shape again.

One would think they'd been doing this pulling for weeks longer than us.

11 December, 1911

Camp 33

A very good day from one point of view; very bad from another.

Hard going dragging our loads on ski through crevasses and deep snow. Seaman Evans dropped a leg into one. We built our Lower Glacier Depot.

Ski are the thing, and here are my tiresome fellow-countrymen too prejudiced to have prepared themselves for the event.

Loads of us have snow blindness to some degree. The dogs will go back easily as there is food all along the line.

Wilson found a boulder of very coarse granite, evidently the rock of which the Gateway and neighboring hills are formed.

I am so tired, but keep up with the younger men admirably.

Friday, December 10, 2010

10 December, 1911

Camp 32

There was much rearranging of loads to do from this point forth, so we did not get away before noon. The dogs carried 600 lbs of our weight besides the depot of 200 lbs. The day was gloriously fine and we were soon perspiring.  After the first mile we began to rise, and for some way on the steep slope we held to our ski and kept going. Then we had to take off our ski. The pulling after this was extraordinarily fatiguing. We sank to our knees everywhere, and the sledges sink to the crossbars in soft spots.

Evans's party cannot keep up. Wilson tells me some very alarming news: that Atkinson says Wright is getting played out and Lashly is not so fit as he was owing to the heavy pulling since the blizzard. I have not felt satisfied about this party. The finish of the march clearly showed that something was wrong. They fell a long way behind, had to take off ski, and took nearly half an hour to come up a few hundred yards. True, the surface was awful and growing worse every moment. It is a very serious business if the men are going to crack up. As for myself, I have never felt fitter, and my party can easily hold its own. P.O. Evans, of course, us a tower of strength, but Oates and Wilson are doing splendidly also.

Here where we are camped the snow is worse than I have ever seen it, but we are in a hollow. Hereabouts Shackleton found hard blue ice. It seems an extraordinary difference in fortune, and at every step his luck becomes more evident.

I take the dogs on for half a day tomorrow, then send them home. We are going to be forced to replay our loads if present conditions hold.

There is a strong wind down the glacier tonight.

9 December, 1911

Camp 31, Shambles Camp

We were up at 5:30 this morning, and at 8 got away with the ponies -- a most painful day. The tremendous snowfall of the late storm had made the surface intolerably soft, and after the first hour there was no glide. We pressed on the poor half-rationed animals, but could get none to lead for more than a few minutes. The man-haulers were pressed into service to help matters. P.O. Evans got the last pair of pony snowshoes on Snatcher. Finally the ponies followed him.

We went on all day without lunch. By 8PM we got to what Shackleton called The Gateway. I had hoped to get through it with the ponies still in hand at a very much earlier date, and but for the devastating, we should have been. It has been a most serious blow to us. Things are not yet desperate in only the storm has not hopelessly spoiled the surface. I think the manhaulers have stopped for tea or something, because under ordinary circumstances they would have passed us with ease.

At 8pm the ponies were quite done, one and all. They came on painfully slow, a few hundred yards at a time. They had to be lashed on. Snippets half fell down a crevasse and had to be pulled out. By this time I was hauling ahead, a ridiculously light load, and yet finding the pulling heavy enough.

We camped, and the ponies have been shot.

Poor beasts! It is hard to have to kill them so early. Thanked Titus.

The dogs are going well in spite of the surface, but here again one cannot get the help one would wish. I cannot load the animals heavily on such snow.

The scenery is most impressive; three huge pillars of granite form the right buttress of The Gateway, with a sharp spur of Mount Hope to the left. In spite of some doubt about our outlook, everyone is very cheerful tonight and jokes are flying freely about.

Cherry appears to be reading Dante's Inferno. Charming.

Blood everywhere.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

8 December, 1911

Camp 30. Still.

Hoped against hope for better conditions, to wake to the mournfullest snow and wind as usual. After breakfast, we set about digging out the sledges, no light task. We then shifted our tent sites. All tents had been reduces to the smallest volume by the gradual pressure of the snow. The old sites are deep pits with hollowed-in wet centers. The wind has dropped.

Alas, as I write, the sun has disappeared and snow is again falling. Our case is growing desperate. Evans and his manhaulers tried to pul la load this afternoon; they managed to move a sledge with four people on it, pulling on ski.  Pulling on foot they sank to the knees. The snow is terribly deep. We tried Nobby but he plunged to his belly in it.

Wilson thinks the ponies finished, but Oates thinks they could do another march in spite of the surface, but only if it comes tomorrow. If not, we must kill the ponies tomorrow and get on as best we can with men on ski and dogs. One wonders what dogs can do on such a surface. I much fear they will also prove inadequate. Oh! For fine weather.

Everything disgustingly wet.


The temperature is falling. We might get off tomorrow! The poor ponies look wistfully for the food of which so little remains, yet they are not hungry, as recent savings have resulted from food left in their nosebags. They look wonderfully fit, all things considered.

7 December, 1911

Camp 30, still.

The storm continues and the situation is now serious. One small feed remains for the ponies after today, so that we must either march tomorrow or sacrifice the animals. That is not the worst; with the help of the dogs we could get on, without doubt. The serious part is that we have this morning started our Summit rations—that is to say, the food calculated from the Glacier Depot has been begun. The first supporting party can only go on a fortnight from this date and so forth.

The storm shows no sign of abatement and its character is as unpleasant as ever. The promise of last night died away about 3am, when the temperature and wind rose again, and things reverted to the old conditions. I can find no sign of an end, and all of us agree that it is utterly impossible to move. Resignation to misfortune is the only attitude, but not an easy one to adopt. It seems underserved where plans were well laid and so nearly crowned with a first success.

Evans wants me to kill the ponies to put them out of their misery. I don't want to.

I cannot see that any plan would be altered if it were to do again, the margin for bad weather was ample according to all experience, and this stormy December -- our finest month -- is a thing the most cautious organizer might not have been prepared to encounter. It is very evil to lie here in a wet sleeping bag and think of the pity of it, while things go from bad to worse.

Meares has a bad attack of snow blindness in one eye. He's been in pain for some time. There cannot be good cheer in such weather, but last night one heard laughter.

Midnight. Little or no improvement.

To be here watching the mottled wet green walls of our tent, the glistening wet bamboos, the bedraggled sopping socks and loose articles dangling in the middle, the saddened countenances of my companions -- to hear the everlasting patter of the falling snow and the ceaseless rattle of the fluttering canvas -- to feel the wet clinging dampness of clothes and everything touched, and to know that without there is but a blank wall of white on every side -- these are the physical surroundings.

Add the stress of sighted failure of our whole plan, and anyone must find the circumstances unenviable. But yet, after all, one can go on striving, endeavoring to find a stimulation in the difficulties that arise.

6 December, 1911

Camp 30. Noon.

Miserable, utterly miserable.

We have camped in the "Slough of Despond." The tempest rages with unabated violence.  The temperature has gone to +33, so everything in the tent is soaking. People returning from the outside look exactly as though they have been in a heavy shower of rain. They drip pools on the floorcloth. The snow is steadily climbing about walls, ponies, tents and sledges. The ponies look utterly desolate. Oh! But this is too crushing, and we are only 12 miles from the Glacier. A hopeless feeling descends on one and is hard to fight off. What immense patience is needed for such occasions!


At 5 the skies cleared a bit but it is still overcast. It is not pleasant, but if no worse in the morning we can get away at last. We are very very wet.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

5 December, 1911

Well, it's noon. We awoke this morning to a raging, howling blizzard. We have very fine, powdery snow. After a minute or two in the open one is covered from head to foot. The temperature is high, so that what falls or drives against one sticks. The ponies -- head, tails, legs, and all parts not protected by their rugs--are covered with ice; the animals are standing deep in snow, the sledges are almost covered, and huge drifts above the tents. We have had breakfast, rebuilt the walls, and are now again in our bags. One cannot see the next tent, let alone the land.

What on earth does such weather mean at this time of year? It is more than our share of ill-furtune, I think, but the luck may turn yet. I doubt if any party could travel in such weather even with the wind, certainly no-one could travel against it.

Is there some widespread atmospheric disturbance which will be felt everywhere in this region as a bad season, or are we merely the victims of exceptional local conditions? If the latter, there is food for thought in picturing our small party struggling against adversity in one place whilst others go smilingly forward in the sunshine. (You know who I'm talking about.) How great the element of luck! No foresight -- no procedure -- could have prepared us for this state of affairs. Had we been ten times as experienced or certain of our aim we should not have expected such rebuffs. 11pm.

It has blown hard all day with quite the greatest snowfall I remember. The drifts about the tent are simply huge. There are pools of water on everything, the tents are wet through; water drips from the tent poles and the door, lies on the floor-cloth, soaks the sleeping bags and makes everything pretty wretched. If a cold snap follows before we have had time to dry our things, we shall be mighty uncomfortable. Yet after all it would be humorous enough if it were nit for the seriousness of the delay -- we can't afford that, and it's real hard luck that it should come at such a time.

The wind shows signs of easing down, but the temperature does not fall and the snow is as wet as ever -- not promising signs of abatement. What a shambles.

4 December, 1911

Camp 29, again. 9AM.

Roused the hands at 6, but the weather grew heavy; a glance outside after breakfast showed a white floury blizzard. We have been all been out building fresh walls for the ponies -- an uninviting task, but one which greatly adds to the comfort of the animals, who look sleepy and bored, but not at all cold. The dogs came up with us as we camped last night and the manhaulers arrived this morning as we finished the pony wall. So we are all together again.

It is utterly impossible to push ahead in this weather, and one is at a complete loss to account for it. Well, one must stick it out, that is all, and hope for better things, but it makes me feel a little bitter to contrast such weather with that experienced by our predecessors.

By which I mean why should Shackleton have gotten the good weather we wanted? Why?

Camp 30.

The wind fell in the forenoon. By 1 the sun shone, and by 2 pm we were away. We camped here at 8pm. The land was quite clear throughout the march and the features easily recognized. The mountains are rounded in outline, very massive, with small excrescent peaks and undeveloped "cwms." Ahead of us is the ice-rounded, boulder-strewn Mount Hope and the gateway to the Glacier. We should reach it easily enough on tomorrow's march if we can compass 12 miles. I get the impression the rest rather resent those of us who travel on ski.

The ponies marched splendidly today, crossing the deep snow in the undulations without difficulty. They must be in very much better condition than Shackleton's animals, and indeed there isn't a doubt they would go many miles yet if food allowed. The dogs are simply splendid, but came in wanting food, so we had to sacrifice poor little Michael, who, like the rest, had lots of fat on him. All the tents are consuming pony flesh and thoroughly enjoying it. What we don't eat we give to the dogs. I suppose we ought to depot it, but I can't imagine we'll need it on the return journey.

We have only lost 5 or 6 miles on these two wretched days, but the disturbed condition of the weather makes me anxious with regard to the Glacier, where more than anywhere we shall need fine days. One has a horrid feeling that this is a real bad season. However, sufficient for the stage is the evil thereof. We are practically through with the first stage of our journey.

I wonder what route Amundsen is taking.

3rd December, 1911

Camp 29.

Our luck in weather is preposterous.

I roused the hands at 2:30am, intending to get away at 5. It was thick and snowy, yet we could have gone on; but at breakfast the wind increased, and by 4:30 it was blowing a full gale from the south. The pony wall blew down, huge drifts collected, and the sledges were quickly buried. It was the strongest wind I have known here in summer. We finally left camp at 2pm. A new storm was upon us by 3. The sun went out, snow fell thickly, and marching conditions became horrible. The wind came from all angles, perfectly bewildering.

In spite of all these difficulties, we have managed to get 11.5 miles south and to this camp at 7pm.

Bowers and I on ski passed the manhaulers. I think they are tired of leading. We steered with compass. The whole weather conditions seem thoroughly disturbed, and if they continue so when we are on the Glacier, we shall be very awkwardly placed. It is time luck turned in our favor—we have had all too little of it. Every mile seems to have been hardly won under such conditions.

The ponies did splendidly and the forage is lasting a little better than expected. Victor was found to have quite a lot of fat on him and the others are pretty certain to have more, so that we should have no difficulty whatever regards transport if only the weather was kind.

I wonder if Victor was so fat because Bowers had been sharing his ration with the beast?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

2nd December, 1911

Camp 28 Latitude 83 degrees South

Started under very bad weather conditions. Marched in falling snow and horrid light. The ponies were sinking horribly. I went on ahead on ski and took photographs of them.

It was sad to have to order Victor's end  poor Bowers feels it. I walked up to him and said "I have a decision that will shock you." I think he have him some of his ration, even knowing his end was up. He takes it very hard. Victor was in excellent condition and will provide five feeds for the dogs. We must kill now as forage is so short, but we have reached the 83rd parallel and are practically safe to get through. Tonight the sky is breaking and conditions are generally more promising — it is dreadfully dismal work marching through the blank wall of white, and we should have very great difficulty if we had not a party to go on ahead and show the course.

The dogs are doing splendidly and will take a heavier load from tomorrow. We kill another pony tomorrow night and then shall have three days' food for the other five. Everything looks well if the weather will only give us a chance to see our way to the Glacier.

It was so warm when we camped that the snow melted as it fell, and everything got sopping we. Oates came into my tent yesterday, exchanging with Cherry-Garrard.

One tent: Self, Wilson, Oates, and Keohane. Another tent: Bowers, PO Evans, Cherry and Crean.

Manhaulers: E.R. Evans, Atkinson, Wright and Lashly.

We have all taken to horse meat and are so well fed that hunger isn't thought of. Well, I don't know about the manhauling team. They look a bit hungry.

1st December, 1911

Camp 27

The ponies are tiring pretty rapidly. It's a question of days with all except Nobby. Yet they are outlasting the forage, and tonight against some opinion, I decided Christopher must go. He has been shot. I don't regret seeing him go, either, all the trouble he gave us. Oates had a time of it killing him too. Well, he was his pony. But the first bullet lodged in his head, he bolted, and had to be chased down. An awful business. I better not mention that in my book.

We leave a depot here so no other weight is put on the remaining ponies. Three more marches ought to bring us through. With the seven crocks and dog teams, we must get through I think. The men alone ought not to have heavy loads on the surface, which is extremely trying.

We tried Nobby in snow shoes this morning, and he came along splendidly for about 4 miles, then the wretched affairs racked and had to be taken off. There is no doubt that these shoes are the thing for ponies, and had ours been able to use them from the beginning they would have been very different. I like to think the sight of land has helped the animals, but not much. I've been observing rocks.

I wish I could give you a picture of Christopher, but I'm damned if I can fond one. So here's good old Nobby instead, with Wilson.

November 30, 1911

Camp 26

A very pleasant day for marching, but a bit tiring for the poor animals, which, with the exception of Nobby, are showing signs of failure all around. We were slower by half a mile than yesterday. Except that the loads are light now,and there are still eight animals left, things don't look too pleasant. The surface was much worse today, the ponies sinking to their knees very often.

The dogs are reported as doing very well. They are going to be a great standby no doubt. The land has been veiled in a thin white mist; it appeared at intervals after we camped and I took a couple of photographs. I don't suppose they will come out. I wonder what Ponting is taking pictures of. Penguins and seals, probably.

29 November, 1911

Camp 25 Latitude 82 degrees, 21 minutes

Things much better. The land showed up late yesterday. Our pony goal is 70 miles away. They are tired, but I believe that have five days' work left in them, and some a great deal more. Chinaman made four feeds for the dogs, and I suppose we can count every other pony as a similar asset. It follows that the dogs can be employed, rested and red well on the homeward track. We could really get through now with their help and without much delay, yet every consideration makes it desirable to save the men from heavy hauling as long as possible. So I devoutly hope the 70 miles will come in the present order of things. Snippets and Nobby now walk by themselves, following in the tracks well. Both have a continually cunning eye on their driver, ready to stop the moment he pauses. They eat snow every few minutes. It's a relief not having to lead an animal; such trifles annoy one on these marches, the animal's vagaries, his everlasting attempts to eat his head rope, etc. Yet all these animals are very full of character.

Some day I must write of them and their individualities.

In Bowers' tent they had some of Chinaman's undercut in their hoosh yesterday, and say it was excellent. I am cook for the present. Have been discussing pony snow-shoes. I wish to goodness the animals would wear them — it would save them any amount of labor in such surfaces as this.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

28 November, 1911

Camp 24

The most dismal start imaginable. Thick as a hedge, snow falling and drifting with keen southerly wind. It is lunch and the snow is getting thick again.

When will this wretched blizzard be over?


Second march almost as horrid as the first. Wind blowing strong from the south, shifting to SE as the snowstorms fell on us, when we could see little or nothing, and the driving snow hit us stingingly in the face.

Chinaman has been shot tonight. Plucky little chap, he stuck it out well and leaves the stage but a few days before his fellows. We have only four bags of forage left (each at 30 lbs), but these should give seven marches with all the remaining animals, and we are less than 90 miles from the Glacier. Bowers tells me the barometer was phenomenally low both during this blizzard and the last. This has certainly been the most unexpected and trying summer blizzard yet experienced in this region. I only trust it is over. There is not much to choose between the remaining ponies. Nobby and Bones are the strongest, Victor and Christopher the weakest, but all should get through.

The land doesn't show up yet.

27 November, 1911

Camp 23.

Quite the most trying march we have had. The advance party got away in front, but made heavy weather of it, and we caught them up several times. This threw the ponies out of their regular work and prolonged the march. The second march was even worse. The advance party started on ski but the leafing marks failed altogether, so they had the greatest difficulty keeping the course. We have had awful weather.

It is snowing hard again now, and heaven only knows when it will stop.

If it were not for the bad surface and the bad light, things would not be so bad. It is several days since we had a glimpse of land, which makes conditions especially gloomy. A tired animal makes a tired man, I find, and none of us are very bright now after the day's march, though we have had ample sleep of late.

I could murder a curry and a pint.