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Scott's Last Expedition

Summary of the Pack

We may be said to have entered the pack at 4 P.M. on the 9th in latitude 65 1/2 S. We left it at 1 A.M. on 30th in latitude 71 1/2 S. We have taken twenty days and some odd hours to get through, and covered in a direct line over 370 miles–an average of 18 miles a day. We entered the pack with 342 tons of coal and left with 281 tons; we have, therefore, expended 61 tons in forcing our way through–an average of 6 miles to the ton.

These are not pleasant figures to contemplate, but considering the exceptional conditions experienced I suppose one must conclude that things might have been worse.

9th. Loose streams, steaming.
10th. Close pack.
11th. 6 A.M. close pack, stopped.
12th. 11.30 A.M. started.
13th. 8 A.M. heavy pack, stopped; 8 P.M. out fires.
14th. Fires out.
18th. Noon, heavy pack and leads, steaming
19th. Noon, heavy pack and leads, steaming.
20th. Forenoon, banked fires.
21st. 9 A.M. started. 11 A.M. banked.
22nd. ,, ,,
23rd. Midnight, started.
24th. 7 A.M. stopped
25th. Fires out.
26th. ,, ,,
27th. ,, ,,
28th. 7.30 P.M. steaming.
29th. Steaming.
30th. Steaming.

These columns show that we were steaming for nine out of twenty days. We had two long stops, one of _five_ days and one of _four and a half_ days. On three other occasions we stopped for short intervals without drawing fires.

I have asked Wright to plot the pack with certain symbols on the chart made by Pennell. It promises to give a very graphic representation of our experiences.

‘We hold the record for reaching the northern edge of the pack, whereas three or four times the open Ross Sea has been gained at an earlier date.

‘I can imagine few things more trying to the patience than the long wasted days of waiting. Exasperating as it is to see the tons of coal melting away with the smallest mileage to our credit, one has at least the satisfaction of active fighting and the hope of better fortune. To wait idly is the worst of conditions. You can imagine how often and how restlessly we climbed to the crow’s nest and studied the outlook. And strangely enough there was generally some change to note. A water lead would mysteriously open up a few miles away or the place where it had been would as mysteriously close. Huge icebergs crept silently towards or past us, and continually we were observing these formidable objects with range finder and compass to determine the relative movement, sometimes with misgiving as to our ability to clear them. Under steam the change of conditions was even more marked. Sometimes we would enter a lead of open water and proceed for a mile or two without hindrance; sometimes we would come to big sheets of thin ice which broke easily as our iron-shod prow struck them, and sometimes even a thin sheet would resist all our attempts to break it; sometimes we would push big floes with comparative ease and sometimes a small floe would bar our passage with such obstinacy that one would almost believe it possessed of an evil spirit; sometimes we passed through acres of sludgy sodden ice which hissed as it swept along the side, and sometimes the hissing ceased seemingly without rhyme or reason, and we found our screw churning the sea without any effect.

‘Thus the steaming days passed away in an ever changing environment and are remembered as an unceasing struggle.

‘The ship behaved splendidly–no other ship, not even the _Discovery_, would have come through so well. Certainly the Nimrod would never have reached the south water had she been caught in such pack. As a result I have grown strangely attached to the Terra Nova. As she bumped the floes with mighty shocks, crushing and grinding a way through some, twisting and turning to avoid others, she seemed like a living thing fighting a great fight. If only she had more economical engines she would be suitable in all respects.

‘Once or twice we got among floes which stood 7 or 8 feet above water, with hummocks and pinnacles as high as 25 feet. The ship could have stood no chance had such floes pressed against her, and at first we were a little alarmed in such situations. But familiarity breeds contempt; there never was any pressure in the heavy ice, and I’m inclined to think there never would be.

‘The weather changed frequently during our journey through the pack. The wind blew strong from the west and from the east; the sky was often darkly overcast; we had snowstorms, flaky snow, and even light rain. In all such circumstances we were better placed in the pack than outside of it. The foulest weather could do us little harm. During quite a large percentage of days, however, we had bright sunshine, which, even with the temperature well below freezing, made everything look bright and cheerful. The sun also brought us wonderful cloud effects, marvellously delicate tints of sky, cloud, and ice, such effects as one might travel far to see. In spite of our impatience we would not willingly have missed many of the beautiful scenes which our sojourn in the pack afforded us. Ponting and Wilson have been busy catching these effects, but no art can reproduce such colours as the deep blue of the icebergs.

‘Scientifically we have been able to do something. We have managed to get a line of soundings on our route showing the raising of the bottom from the ocean depths to the shallow water on the continental shelf, and the nature of the bottom. With these soundings we have obtained many interesting observations of the temperature of different layers of water in the sea.

‘Then we have added a great deal to the knowledge of life in the pack from observation of the whales, seals, penguins, birds, and fishes as well as of the pelagic beasts which are caught in tow-nets. Life in one form or another is very plentiful in the pack, and the struggle for existence here as elsewhere is a fascinating subject for study.

‘We have made a systematic study of the ice also, both the bergs and sea ice, and have got a good deal of useful information concerning it. Also Pennell has done a little magnetic work.

‘But of course this slight list of activity in the cause of science is a very poor showing for the time of our numerous experts; many have had to be idle in regard to their own specialities, though none are idle otherwise. All the scientific people keep night watch when they have no special work to do, and I have never seen a party of men so anxious to be doing work or so cheerful in doing it. When there is anything to be done, such as making or shortening sail, digging ice from floes for the water supply, or heaving up the sounding line, it goes without saying that all the afterguard turn out to do it. There is no hesitation and no distinction. It will be the same when it comes to landing stores or doing any other hard manual labour.

‘The spirit of the enterprise is as bright as ever. Every one strives to help every one else, and not a word of complaint or anger has been heard on board. The inner life of our small community is very pleasant to think upon and very wonderful considering the extremely small space in which we are confined.

‘The attitude of the men is equally worthy of admiration. In the forecastle as in the wardroom there is a rush to be first when work is to be done, and the same desire to sacrifice selfish consideration to the success of the expedition. It is very good to be able to write in such high praise of one’s companions, and I feel that the possession of such support ought to ensure success. Fortune would be in a hard mood indeed if it allowed such a combination of knowledge, experience, ability, and enthusiasm to achieve nothing.’

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