Returned on Thursday from a remarkably pleasant and instructive little spring journey, after an absence of thirteen days from September 15. We covered 152 geographical miles by sledging (175 statute miles) in 10 marching days. It took us 2 1/2 days to reach Butter Point (28 1/2 miles geog.), carrying a part of the Western Party stores which brought our load to 180 lbs. a man. Everything very comfortable; double tent great asset. The 16th: a most glorious day till 4 P.M., then cold southerly wind. We captured many frost-bites. Surface only fairly good; a good many heaps of loose snow which brought sledge up standing. There seems a good deal more snow this side of the Strait; query, less wind.
Bowers insists on doing all camp work; he is a positive wonder. I never met such a sledge traveller.
The sastrugi all across the strait have been across, the main S. by E. and the other E.S.E., but these are a great study here; the hard snow is striated with long wavy lines crossed with lighter wavy lines. It gives a sort of herringbone effect.
After depositing this extra load we proceeded up the Ferrar Glacier; curious low ice foot on left, no tide crack, sea ice very thinly covered with snow. We are getting delightfully fit. Bowers treasure all round, Evans much the same. Simpson learning fast. Find the camp life suits me well except the turning out at night! three times last night. We were trying nose nips and face guards, marching head to wind all day.
We reached Cathedral Rocks on the 19th. Here we found the stakes placed by Wright across the glacier, and spent the remainder of the day and the whole of the 20th in plotting their position accurately. (Very cold wind down glacier increasing. In spite of this Bowers wrestled with theodolite. He is really wonderful. I have never seen anyone who could go on so long with bare fingers. My own fingers went every few moments.)We saw that there had been movement and roughly measured it as about 30 feet. (The old Ferrar Glacier is more lively than we thought.) After plotting the figures it turns out that the movement varies from 24 to 32 feet at different stakes – this is 7 1/2 months. This is an extremely important observation, the first made on the movement of the coastal glaciers; it is more than I expected to find, but small enough to show that the idea of comparative stagnation was correct. Bowers and I exposed a number of plates and films in the glacier which have turned out very well, auguring well for the management of the camera on the Southern journey.
On the 21st we came down the glacier and camped at the northern end of the foot. (There appeared to be a storm in the Strait; cumulus cloud over Erebus and the whalebacks. Very stormy look over Lister occasionally and drift from peaks; but all smiling in our Happy Valley. Evidently this is a very favoured spot.) From thence we jogged up the coast on the following days, dipping into New Harbour and climbing the moraine, taking angles and collecting rock specimens. At Cape Bernacchi we found a quantity of pure quartz _in situ_, and in it veins of copper ore. I got a specimen with two or three large lumps of copper included. This is the first find of minerals suggestive of the possibility of working.
The next day we sighted a long, low ice wall, and took it at first for a long glacier tongue stretching seaward from the land. As we approached we saw a dark mark on it. Suddenly it dawned on us that the tongue was detached from the land, and we turned towards it half recognising familiar features. As we got close we saw similarity to our old Erebus Glacier Tongue, and finally caught sight of a flag on it, and suddenly realised that it might be the piece broken off our old Erebus Glacier Tongue. Sure enough it was; we camped near the outer end, and climbing on to it soon found the depot of fodder left by Campbell and the line of stakes planted to guide our ponies in the autumn. So here firmly anchored was the huge piece broken from the Glacier Tongue in March, a huge tract about 2 miles long, which has turned through half a circle, so that the old western end is now towards the east. Considering the many cracks in the ice mass it is most astonishing that it should have remained intact throughout its sea voyage.
At one time it was suggested that the hut should be placed on this Tongue. What an adventurous voyage the occupants would have had! The Tongue which was 5 miles south of C. Evans is now 40 miles W.N.W. of it.
From the Glacier Tongue we still pushed north. We reached Dunlop Island on the 24th just before the fog descended on us, and got a view along the stretch of coast to the north which turns at this point.
Dunlop Island has undoubtedly been under the sea. We found regular terrace beaches with rounded waterworn stones all over it; its height is 65 feet. After visiting the island it was easy for us to trace the same terrace formation on the coast; in one place we found waterworn stones over 100 feet above sea-level. Nearly all these stones are erratic and, unlike ordinary beach pebbles, the under sides which lie buried have remained angular.
Unlike the region of the Ferrar Glacier and New Harbour, the coast to the north of C. Bernacchi runs on in a succession of rounded bays fringed with low ice walls. At the headlands and in irregular spots the gneissic base rock and portions of moraines lie exposed, offering a succession of interesting spots for a visit in search of geological specimens. Behind this fringe there is a long undulating plateau of snow rounding down to the coast; behind this again are a succession of mountain ranges with deep-cut valleys between. As far as we went, these valleys seem to radiate from the region of the summit reached at the head of the Ferrar Glacier.
As one approaches the coast, the ‘tablecloth’ of snow in the foreground cuts off more and more of the inland peaks, and even at a distance it is impossible to get a good view of the inland valleys. To explore these over the ice cap is one of the objects of the Western Party.
So far, I never imagined a spring journey could be so pleasant.
On the afternoon of the 24th we turned back, and covering nearly eleven miles, camped inside the Glacier Tongue. After noon on the 25th we made a direct course for C. Evans, and in the evening camped well out in the Sound. Bowers got angles from our lunch camp and I took a photographic panorama, which is a good deal over exposed.
We only got 2 1/2 miles on the 26th when a heavy blizzard descended on us. We went on against it, the first time I have ever attempted to march into a blizzard; it was quite possible, but progress very slow owing to wind resistance. Decided to camp after we had done two miles. Quite a job getting up the tent, but we managed to do so, and get everything inside clear of snow with the help of much sweeping.
With care and extra fuel we have managed to get through the snowy part of the blizzard with less accumulation of snow than I ever remember, and so everywhere all round experience is helping us. It continued to blow hard throughout the 27th, and the 28th proved the most unpleasant day of the trip. We started facing a very keen, frostbiting wind. Although this slowly increased in force, we pushed doggedly on, halting now and again to bring our frozen features round. It was 2 o’clock before we could find a decent site for a lunch camp under a pressure ridge. The fatigue of the prolonged march told on Simpson, whose whole face was frostbitten at one time – it is still much blistered. It came on to drift as we sat in our tent, and again we were weather-bound. At 3 the drift ceased, and we marched on, wind as bad as ever; then I saw an ominous yellow fuzzy appearance on the southern ridges of Erebus, and knew that another snowstorm approached. Foolishly hoping it would pass us by I kept on until Inaccessible Island was suddenly blotted out. Then we rushed for a camp site, but the blizzard was on us. In the driving snow we found it impossible to set up the inner tent, and were obliged to unbend it. It was a long job getting the outer tent set, but thanks to Evans and Bowers it was done at last. We had to risk frostbitten fingers and hang on to the tent with all our energy: got it secured inch by inch, and not such a bad speed all things considered. We had some cocoa and waited. At 9 P.M. the snow drift again took off, and we were now so snowed up, we decided to push on in spite of the wind.
We arrived in at 1.15 A.M., pretty well done. The wind never let up for an instant; the temperature remained about -16º, and the 21 statute miles which we marched in the day must be remembered amongst the most strenuous in my memory.
Except for the last few days, we enjoyed a degree of comfort which I had not imagined impossible on a spring journey. The temperature was not particularly high, at the mouth of the Ferrar it was -40º, and it varied between -15º and -40º throughout. Of course this is much higher than it would be on the Barrier, but it does not in itself promise much comfort. The amelioration of such conditions we owe to experience. We used one-third more than the summer allowance of fuel. This, with our double tent, allowed a cosy hour after breakfast and supper in which we could dry our socks, &c., and put them on in comfort. We shifted our footgear immediately after the camp was pitched, and by this means kept our feet glowingly warm throughout the night. Nearly all the time we carried our sleeping-bags open on the sledges. Although the sun does not appear to have much effect, I believe this device is of great benefit even in the coldest weather – certainly by this means our bags were kept much freer of moisture than they would have been had they been rolled up in the daytime. The inner tent gets a good deal of ice on it, and I don’t see any easy way to prevent this.
The journey enables me to advise the Geological Party on their best route to Granite Harbour: this is along the shore, where for the main part the protection of a chain of grounded bergs has preserved the ice from all pressure. Outside these, and occasionally reaching to the headlands, there is a good deal of pressed up ice of this season, together with the latest of the old broken pack. Travelling through this is difficult, as we found on our return journey. Beyond this belt we passed through irregular patches where the ice, freezing at later intervals in the season, has been much screwed. The whole shows the general tendency of the ice to pack along the coast.
The objects of our little journey were satisfactorily accomplished, but the greatest source of pleasure to me is to realise that I have such men as Bowers and P.O. Evans for the Southern journey. I do not think that harder men or better sledge travellers ever took the trail. Bowers is a little wonder. I realised all that he must have done for the C. Crozier Party in their far severer experience.
In spite of the late hour of our return everyone was soon afoot, and I learned the news at once. E.R. Evans, Gran, and Forde had returned from the Corner Camp journey the day after we left. They were away six nights, four spent on the Barrier under very severe conditions – the minimum for one night registered -73º.
I am glad to find that Corner Camp showed up well; in fact, in more than one place remains of last year’s pony walls were seen. This removes all anxiety as to the chance of finding the One Ton Camp.
On this journey Forde got his hand badly frostbitten. I am annoyed at this, as it argues want of care; moreover there is a good chance that the tip of one of the fingers will be lost, and if this happens or if the hand is slow in recovery, Forde cannot take part in the Western Party. I have no one to replace him.
E.R. Evans looks remarkably well, as also Gran.
The ponies look very well and all are reported to be very buckish.