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Scott's Last Expedition

Thursday, December 1st, 1910

The month opens well on the whole. During the night the wind increased; we worked up to 8, to 9, and to 9.5 knots. Stiff wind from N.W. and confused sea. Awoke to much motion.

The ship a queer and not altogether cheerful sight under the circumstances.

Below one knows all space is packed as tight as human skill can devise – and on deck! Under the forecastle fifteen ponies close side by side, seven one side, eight the other, heads together and groom between – swaying, swaying continually to the plunging, irregular motion.

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One takes a look through a hole in the bulkhead and sees a row of heads with sad, patient eyes come swinging up together from the starboard side, whilst those on the port swing back; then up come the port heads, whilst the starboard recede. It seems a terrible ordeal for these poor beasts to stand this day after day for weeks together, and indeed though they continue to feed well the strain quickly drags down their weight and condition; but nevertheless the trial cannot be gauged from human standards. There are horses which never lie down, and all horses can sleep standing; anatomically they possess a ligament in each leg which takes their weight without strain. Even our poor animals will get rest and sleep in spite of the violent motion. Some 4 or 5 tons of fodder and the ever watchful Anton take up the remainder of the forecastle space. Anton is suffering badly from sea-sickness, but last night he smoked a cigar. He smoked a little, then had an interval of evacuation, and back to his cigar whilst he rubbed his stomach and remarked to Oates ‘no good’ – gallant little Anton!

There are four ponies outside the forecastle and to leeward of the fore hatch, and on the whole, perhaps, with shielding tarpaulins, they have a rather better time than their comrades. Just behind the ice-house and on either side of the main hatch are two enormous packing-cases containing motor sledges, each 16 x 5 x 4; mounted as they are several inches above the deck they take a formidable amount of space. A third sledge stands across the break of the poop in the space hitherto occupied by the after winch. All these cases are covered with stout tarpaulin and lashed with heavy chain and rope lashings, so that they may be absolutely secure.

The petrol for these sledges is contained in tins and drums protected in stout wooden packing-cases which are ranged across the deck immediately in front of the poop and abreast the motor sledges. The quantity is 2 1/2 tons and the space occupied considerable.

Round and about these packing-cases, stretching from the galley forward to the wheel aft, the deck is stacked with coal bags forming our deck cargo of coal, now rapidly diminishing.

We left Port Chalmers with 462 tons of coal on board, rather a greater quantity than I had hoped for, and yet the load mark was 3 inches above the water. The ship was over 2 feet by the stern, but this will soon be remedied.

Upon the coal sacks, upon and between the motor sledges and upon the ice-house are grouped the dogs, thirty-three in all. They must perforce be chained up and they are given what shelter is afforded on deck, but their position is not enviable. The seas continually break on the weather bulwarks and scatter clouds of heavy spray over the backs of all who must venture into, the waist of the ship. The dogs sit with their tails to this invading water, their coats wet and dripping. It is a pathetic attitude, deeply significant of cold and misery; occasionally some poor beast emits a long pathetic whine. The group forms a picture of wretched dejection; such a life is truly hard for these poor creatures.

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We manage somehow to find a seat for everyone at our cabin table, although the wardroom contains twenty-four officers. There are generally one or two on watch, which eases matters, but it is a squash. Our meals are simple enough, but it is really remarkable to see the manner in which our two stewards, Hooper and Neald, provide for all requirements, washing up, tidying cabin, and making themselves generally useful in the cheerfullest manner.

With such a large number of hands on board, allowing nine seamen in each watch, the ship is easily worked, and Meares and Oates have their appointed assistants to help them in custody of dogs and ponies, but on such a night as the last with the prospect of dirty weather, the ‘after guard’ of volunteers is awake and exhibiting its delightful enthusiasm in the cause of safety and comfort–some are ready to lend a hand if there is difficulty with ponies and dogs, others in shortening or trimming sails, and others again in keeping the bunkers filled with the deck coal.

I think Priestley is the most seriously incapacitated by sea-sickness–others who might be as bad have had some experience of the ship and her movement. Ponting cannot face meals but sticks to his work; on the way to Port Chalmers I am told that he posed several groups before the cinematograph, though obliged repeatedly to retire to the ship’s side. Yesterday he was developing plates with the developing dish in one hand and an ordinary basin in the other!

We have run 190 miles to-day: a good start, but inconvenient in one respect–we have been making for Campbell Island, but early this morning it became evident that our rapid progress would bring us to the Island in the middle of the night, instead of to-morrow, as I had anticipated. The delay of waiting for daylight would not be advisable under the circumstances, so we gave up this item of our programme.

Later in the day the wind has veered to the westward, heading us slightly. I trust it will not go further round; we are now more than a point to eastward of our course to the ice, and three points to leeward of that to Campbell Island, so that we should not have fetched the Island anyhow.

2 Responses to “Thursday, December 1st, 1910”

  1. David B. says:

    Great to see the photos along with the text.

  2. Eddie K says:

    Photographs are great. Very well done.

    Great project. Thanks to the people who thought and are working on it The logistics of the expedition is unbelievable