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Scott's Last Expedition

Archive for January, 1911

Tuesday, January 31st 1911

Tuesday, January 31st, 1911

Camp 3. We have everything ready to start – but this afternoon we tried our one pair of snow-shoes on ‘Weary Willy.’ The effect was magical. He strolled around as though walking on hard ground in places where he floundered woefully without them. Oates hasn’t had any faith in these shoes at all, and I thought that even the quietest pony would need to be practised in their use.

Immediately after our experiment I decided that an effort must be made to get more, and within half an hour Meares and Wilson were on their way to the station more than 20 miles away. There is just the chance that the ice may not have gone out, but it is a very poor one I fear. At present it looks as though we might double our distance with the snow-shoes.

Atkinson is better to-day, but not by any means well, so that the delay is in his favour. We cannot start on till the dogs return with or without the shoes. The only other hope for this journey is that the Barrier gets harder farther out, but I feel that the prospect of this is not very bright. In any case it is something to have discovered the possibilities of these shoes.

Low temperature at night for first time. Min. 2.4º. Quite warm in tent.

Monday, January 30th 1911

Monday, January 30th, 1911

Camp 3. Safety Camp. Bearings: Lat. 77.55; Cape Armitage N. 64 W.; Camel’s Hump of Blue Glacier left, extreme; Castle Rock N. 40 W. Called the camp at 7.30. Finally left with ponies at 11.30. There was a good deal to do, which partly accounts for delays, but we shall have to ‘buck up’ with our camp arrangement. Atkinson had his foot lanced and should be well in a couple of days.

I led the lame pony; his leg is not swelled, but I fear he’s developed a permanent defect – there are signs of ring bone and the hoof is split.

A great shock came when we passed the depôted fodder and made for this camp. The ponies sank very deep and only brought on their loads with difficulty, getting pretty hot. The distance was but 1 1/2 miles, but it took more out of them than the rest of the march. We camped and held a council of war after lunch. I unfolded my plan, which is to go forward with five weeks’ food for men and animals: to depÙt a fortnight’s supply after twelve or thirteen days and return here. The loads for ponies thus arranged work out a little over 600 lbs., for the dog teams 700 lbs., both apart from sledges. The ponies ought to do it easily if the surface is good enough for them to walk, which is doubtful – the dogs may have to be lightened – such as it is, it is the best we can do under the circumstances!

This afternoon I went forward on ski to see if the conditions changed. In 2 or 3 miles I could see no improvement.

Bowers, Garrard, and the three men went and dug out the Nimrod tent. They found a cooker and provisions and remains of a hastily abandoned meal. One tent was half full of hard ice, the result of thaw. The Willesden canvas was rotten except some material used for the doors. The floor cloth could not be freed.

The Soldier doesn’t like the idea of fetching up the remainder of the loads to this camp with the ponies. I think we will bring on all we can with the dogs and take the risk of leaving the rest.

The Nimrod camp was evidently made by some relief or ship party, and if that has stood fast for so long there should be little fear for our stuff in a single season. To-morrow we muster stores, build the depot, and pack our sledges.

Sunday, January 29th 1911

Sunday, January 29th, 1911

Camp 2. This morning after breakfast I read prayers. Excellent day. The seven good ponies have made two journeys to the Barrier, covering 18 geographical miles, half with good loads – none of them were at all done. Oates’ pony, a spirited, nervous creature, got away at start when his head was left for a moment and charged through the camp at a gallop; finally his sledge cannoned into another, the swingle tree broke, and he galloped away, kicking furiously at the dangling trace. Oates fetched him when he had quieted down, and we found that nothing had been hurt or broken but the swingle tree.

Gran tried going on ski with his pony. All went well while he was alongside, but when he came up from the back the swish of the ski frightened the beast, who fled faster than his pursuer – that is, the pony and load were going better than the Norwegian on ski.
Gran is doing very well. He has a lazy pony and a good deal of work to get him along, and does it very cheerfully.

The dogs are doing excellently – getting into better condition every day.

They ran the first load 1 mile 1200 yards past the stores on the Barrier, to the spot chosen for ‘Safety Camp,’ the big home depot.

I don’t think that any part of the Barrier is likely to go, but it’s just as well to be prepared for everything, and our camp must deserve its distinctive title of ‘Safety.’
In the afternoon the dogs ran a second load to the same place – covering over 24 geographical miles in the day – an excellent day’s work.

Evans and I took a load out on foot over the pressure ridge. The camp load alone remains to be taken to the Barrier. Once we get to Safety Camp we can stay as long as we like before starting our journey. It is only when we start that we must travel fast.
Most of the day it has been overcast, but to-night it has cleared again. There is very little wind. The temperatures of late have been ranging from 9º at night to 24º in the day. Very easy circumstances for sledging.

Saturday, January 28th 1911

Saturday, January 28th, 1911

Camp 2. The ponies went back for the last load at Camp 1, and I walked south to find a way round the great pressure ridge. The sea ice south is covered with confused irregular sastrugi well remembered from Discovery days. The pressure ridge is new. The broken ice of the ridge ended east of the spot I approached and the pressure was seen only in a huge domed wave, the hollow of which on my left was surrounded with a countless number of seals – these lay about sleeping or apparently gambolling in the shallow water. I imagine the old ice in this hollow has gone well under and that the seals have a pool above it which may be warmer on such a bright day.

It was evident that the ponies could be brought round by this route, and I returned to camp to hear that one of the ponies (Keohane’s) had gone lame. The Soldier took a gloomy view of the situation, but he is not an optimist. It looks as though a tendon had been strained, but it is not at all certain. Bowers’ pony is also weak in the forelegs, but we knew this before: it is only a question of how long he will last. The pity is that he is an excellently strong pony otherwise. Atkinson has a bad heel and laid up all day – his pony was tied behind another sledge, and went well, a very hopeful sign.

In the afternoon I led the ponies out 2 3/4 miles south to the crossing of the pressure ridge, then east 1 1/4 till we struck the barrier edge and ascended it. Going about 1/2 mile in we dumped the loads – the ponies sank deep just before the loads were dropped, but it looked as though the softness was due to some rise in the surface.
We saw a dark object a quarter of a mile north as we reached the Barrier. I walked over and found it to be the tops of two tents more than half buried – Shackleton’s tents we suppose. A moulting Emperor penguin was sleeping between them. The canvas on one tent seemed intact, but half stripped from the other.

The ponies pulled splendidly to-day, as also the dogs, but we have decided to load both lightly from now on, to march them easily, and to keep as much life as possible in them. There is much to be learnt as to their powers of performance.

Keohane says ‘Come on, lad, you’ll be getting to the Pole’ by way of cheering his animal – all the party is cheerful, there never were a better set of people.

Friday, January 27th 1911

Friday, January 27th, 1911

Camp 2. Started at 9.30 and moved a load of fodder 3 3/4 miles south – returned to camp to lunch – then shifted camp and provisions. Our weights are now divided into three loads: two of food for ponies, one of men’s provisions with some ponies’ food. It is slow work, but we retreat slowly but surely from the chance of going out on the sea ice.

We are camped about a mile south of C. Armitage. After camping I went to the east till abreast of Pram Point, finding the ice dangerously thin off C. Armitage. It is evident we must make a considerable dÈtour to avoid danger. The rest of the party went to the Discovery hut to see what could be done towards digging it out. The report is unfavourable, as I expected. The drift inside has become very solid – it would take weeks of work to clear it. A great deal of biscuit and some butter, cocoa, &c., was seen, so that we need not have any anxiety about provisions if delayed in returning to Cape Evans.

The dogs are very tired to-night. I have definitely handed the control of the second team to Wilson. He was very eager to have it and will do well I’m sure – but certainly also the dogs will not pull heavy loads – 500 pounds proved a back-breaking load for 11 dogs to-day – they brought it at a snail’s pace. Meares has estimated to give them two-thirds of a pound of biscuit a day. I have felt sure he will find this too little.

The ponies are doing excellently. Their loads run up to 800 and 900 lbs. and they make very light of them. Oates said he could have gone on for some time to-night.

Thursday, January 26th 1911

Thursday, January 26th, 1911

Yesterday I went to the ship with a dog team. All went well till the dogs caught sight of a whale breeching in the 30 ft. lead and promptly made for it! It was all we could do to stop them before we reached the water.

Spent the day writing letters and completing arrangements for the ship—a brisk northerly breeze sprang up in the night and the ship bumped against the glacier until the pack came in as protection from the swell. Ponies and dogs arrived about 1 P.M., and at 5 we all went out for the final start.

A little earlier Pennell had the men aft and I thanked them for their splendid work. They have behaved like bricks and a finer lot of fellows never sailed in a ship. It was good to get their hearty send off. Before we could get away Ponting had his half-hour photographing us, the ponies and the dog teams—I hope he will have made a good thing of it. It was a little sad to say farewell to all these good fellows and Campbell and his men. I do most heartily trust that all will be successful in their ventures, for indeed their unselfishness and their generous high spirit deserves reward. God bless them.

So here we are with all our loads. One wonders what the upshot will be. It will take three days to transport the loads to complete safety; the break up of the sea ice ought not to catch us before that. The wind is from the S.E. again to-night.

Capt. Scott: just before leaving for the Southern journey. Jan. 26th 1911.
“Capt. Scott: just before leaving for the Southern journey. Jan. 26th 1911.”

Capt. Scott: just before leaving for the Southern journey. Jan. 26th 1911.
“Capt. Scott: just before leaving for the Southern journey. Jan. 26th 1911.”

Captain Scott and the Southern Party. Mount Erebus in Background. January 26th 1911
“Captain Scott and the Southern Party. Mount Erebus in Background. January 26th 1911”

Captain Scott and the Southern Party. Mount Erebus in Background. January 26th 1911
“Captain Scott and the Southern Party. Mount Erebus in Background. January 26th 1911”

Captain Scott and the Southern Party. Mount Erebus in Background. January 26th 1911
“Captain Scott and the Southern Party. Mount Erebus in Background. January 26th 1911”

Mr H.G. Ponting making a hole in four feet of sea ice for lowering the fish trap. January 26th 1911
“Mr H.G. Ponting making a hole in four feet of sea ice for lowering the fish trap. January 26th 1911”

Captain Oates. January 26th 1911
“Captain Oates. January 26th 1911”

Captain Scott
“Captain Scott”

Tuesday, January 24th 1911

Tuesday, January 24th, 1911

People were busy in the hut all last night – we got away at 9 A.M. A boat from the Terra Nova fetched the Western Party and myself as the ponies were led out of the camp. Meares and Wilson went ahead of the ponies to test the track. On board the ship I was taken in to see Lillie’s catch of sea animals. It was wonderful, quantities of sponges, isopods, pentapods, large shrimps, corals, &c., &c. – but the piéce de rèsistance was the capture of several buckets full of cephalodiscus of which only seven pieces had been previously caught. Lillie is immensely pleased, feeling that it alone repays the whole enterprise.

In the forenoon we skirted the Island, getting 30 and 40 fathoms of water north and west of Inaccessible Island. With a telescope we could see the string of ponies steadily progressing over the sea ice past the Razor Back Islands. As soon as we saw them well advanced we steamed on to the Glacier Tongue. The open water extended just round the corner and the ship made fast in the narrow angle made by the sea ice with the glacier, her port side flush with the surface of the latter. I walked over to meet the ponies whilst Campbell went to investigate a broad crack in the sea ice on the Southern Road. The ponies were got on to the Tongue without much difficulty, then across the glacier, and picketed on the sea ice close to the ship. Meanwhile Campbell informed me that the big crack was 30 feet across: it was evident we must get past it on the glacier, and I asked Campbell to peg out a road clear of cracks. Oates reported the ponies ready to start again after tea, and they were led along Campbell’s road, their loads having already been taken on the floe – all went well until the animals got down on the floe level and Oates led across an old snowed-up crack. His and the next pony got across, but the third made a jump at the edge and sank to its stomach in the middle. It couldn’t move, and with such struggles as it made it sank deeper till only its head and forelegs showed above the slush. With some trouble we got ropes on these, and hauling together pulled the poor creature out looking very weak and miserable and trembling much.

We led the other ponies round farther to the west and eventually got all out on the floe, gave them a small feed, and started them off with their loads. The dogs meanwhile gave some excitement. Starting on hard ice with a light load nothing could hold them, and they dashed off over everything – it seemed wonderful that we all reached the floe in safety. Wilson and I drive one team, whilst Evans and Meares drive the other. I withhold my opinion of the dogs in much doubt as to whether they are going to be a real success – but the ponies are going to be real good. They work with such extraordinary steadiness, stepping out briskly and cheerfully, following in each other’s tracks. The great drawback is the ease with which they sink in soft snow: they go through in lots of places where the men scarcely make an impression – they struggle pluckily when they sink, but it is trying to watch them. We came with the loads noted below and one bale of fodder (105 lbs.) added to each sledge. We are camped 6 miles from the glacier and 2 from Hut Point – a cold east wind; to-night the temperature 19º.

Autumn Party to start January 25, 1911

12 men, 8 ponies, 26 dogs.

First load estimated 5385 lbs., including 14 weeks’ food and fuel for men – taken to Cache No. 1.

Ship transports following to Glacier Tongue:
130 Bales compressed fodder 13,650
24 Cases dog biscuit 1,400
10 Sacks of oats 1,600 ?
– – –

Teams return to ship to transport this load to Cache No. 1. Dog teams also take on 500 lbs. of biscuit from Hut Point.

Pony Sledges
On all sledges Sledge with straps and tank 52
Pony furniture 25
Driver’s ski and sleeping-bag, &c. 40
Nos. 1 & 5 Cooker and primus instruments 40
Tank containing biscuit 172
Sack of oats 160
Tent and poles 28
Alpine rope 5
1 oil can and spirit can 15
– –
Nos. 2 & 6 Oil 100
Tank contents: food bags 285
Ready provision bag 63
2 picks 20
– –
Nos. 3 & 7 Oil 100
Tank contents: biscuit 196
Sack of oats 160
2 shovels 9
– –
Nos. 4 & 8 Box with tools, &c. 35
Cookers, &c. 105
Tank contents food bags 252
Sack of oats 160
3 long bamboos and spare gear 15
– –
Spare Gear per Man
2 pairs under socks
2 pairs outer socks
1 pair hair socks
1 pair night socks
1 pyjama jacket
1 pyjama trousers
1 woollen mits
2 finnesko
Skein = 10 lbs.
Books, diaries, tobacco, &c. 2 ,,
12 lbs.

Vest and drawers
Woollen shirt
Wind Suit
Two pairs socks
Ski boots.

No. 1.
Sledge straps and tanks 54
Drivers’ ski and bags 80
Cooker primus and instruments 50
Tank contents: biscuit 221
Alpine rope 5
Lamps and candles 4
2 shovels 9
Ready provision bag 63
Sledge meter 2
– –
No. 2.

Sledge straps and tanks 54
Drivers’ ski and bags 80
Tank contents: food bags 324
Tent and poles 33
– –

10-ft. sledge: men’s harness, extra tent.

Interest in the trawl catch. Jan. 24th 1911.
“Interest in the trawl catch. Jan. 24th 1911.”

Interest in the trawl catch. Jan. 24th 1911.
“Interest in the trawl catch. Jan. 24th 1911.”

Lilley (sic) and Levick examing trawl catch. Jan. 24th 1911.
“Lilley (sic) and Levick examing trawl catch. Jan. 24th 1911.”

Lilley (sic) and Levick examing trawl catch. Jan. 24th 1911.
“Lilley (sic) and Levick examing trawl catch. Jan. 24th 1911.”

Monday, January 23rd 1911

Monday, January 23rd, 1911

Placid conditions last for a very short time in these regions. I got up at 5 this morning to find the weather calm and beautiful, but to my astonishment an opening lane of water between the land and the ice in the bay. The latter was going out in a solid mass.

The ship discovered it easily, got up her ice anchors, sent a boat ashore, and put out to sea to dredge. We went on with our preparations, but soon Meares brought word that the ice in the south bay was going in an equally rapid fashion. This proved an exaggeration, but an immense piece of floe had separated from the land. Meares and I walked till we came to the first ice. Luckily we found that it extends for some 2 miles along the rock of our Cape, and we discovered a possible way to lead ponies down to it. It was plain that only the ponies could go by it – no loads.
Since that everything has been rushed – and a wonderful day’s work has resulted; we have got all the forage and food sledges and equipment off to the ship – the dogs will follow in an hour, I hope, with pony harness, &c., that is everything to do with our depÙt party, except the ponies.

As at present arranged they are to cross the Cape and try to get over the Southern Road [8] to-morrow morning. One breathes a prayer that the Road holds for the few remaining hours. It goes in one place between a berg in open water and a large pool of the glacier face – it may be weak in that part, and at any moment the narrow isthmus may break away. We are doing it on a very narrow margin.

If all is well I go to the ship to-morrow morning after the ponies have started, and then to Glacier Tongue.

Getting camp in order. Erebus (and Colman’s). Jan 23rd 1911.
“Getting camp in order. Erebus (and Colman’s). Jan 23rd 1911.”

Piling stores near hut. Colman flour. Jan. 23rd 1911.
“Piling stores near hut. Colman flour. Jan. 23rd 1911.”

Stacking patent fuel. Jan. 23rd 1911.
“Stacking patent fuel. Jan. 23rd 1911.”

Sunday, January 22nd 1911

Sunday, January 22nd, 1911

A quiet day with little to record.

The ship lies peacefully in the bay; a brisk northerly breeze in the forenoon died to light airs in the evening – it is warm enough, the temperature in the hut was 63º this evening. We have had a long busy day at clothing – everyone sewing away diligently. The Eastern Party ponies were put on board the ship this morning.

Saturday, January 21st 1911

Saturday, January 21st, 1911

My anxiety for the ship was not unfounded. Fearing a little trouble I went out of the hut in the middle of the night and saw at once that she was having a bad time – the ice was breaking with a northerly swell and the wind increasing, with the ship on dead lee shore; luckily the ice anchors had been put well in on the floe and some still held. Pennell was getting up steam and his men struggling to replace the anchors.

We got out the men and gave some help. At 6 steam was up, and I was right glad to see the ship back out to windward, leaving us to recover anchors and hawsers.

She stood away to the west, and almost immediately after a large berg drove in and grounded in the place she had occupied.

We spent the day measuring our provisions and fixing up clothing arrangements for our journey; a good deal of progress has been made.

In the afternoon the ship returned to the northern ice edge; the wind was still strong (about N. 30 W.) and loose ice all along the edge – our people went out with the ice anchors and I saw the ship pass west again. Then as I went out on the floe came the report that she was ashore. I ran out to the Cape with Evans and saw that the report was only too true. She looked to be firmly fixed and in a very uncomfortable position. It looked as though she had been trying to get round the Cape, and therefore I argued she must have been going a good pace as the drift was making rapidly to the south. Later Pennell told me he had been trying to look behind the berg and had been going astern some time before he struck.

My heart sank when I looked at her and I sent Evans off in the whaler to sound, recovered the ice anchors again, set the people to work, and walked disconsolately back to the Cape to watch.

Visions of the ship failing to return to New Zealand and of sixty people waiting here arose in my mind with sickening pertinacity, and the only consolation I could draw from such imaginations was the determination that the southern work should go on as before – meanwhile the least ill possible seemed to be an extensive lightening of the ship with boats as the tide was evidently high when she struck – a terribly depressing prospect.

Some three or four of us watched it gloomily from the shore whilst all was bustle on board, the men shifting cargo aft. Pennell tells me they shifted 10 tons in a very short time.

The first ray of hope came when by careful watching one could see that the ship was turning very slowly, then one saw the men running from side to side and knew that an attempt was being made to roll her off. The rolling produced a more rapid turning movement at first and then she seemed to hang again. But only for a short time; the engines had been going astern all the time and presently a slight movement became apparent. But we only knew she was getting clear when we heard cheers on board and more cheers from the whaler.

Then she gathered stern way and was clear. The relief was enormous.

The wind dropped as she came off, and she is now securely moored off the northern ice edge, where I hope the greater number of her people are finding rest. For here and now I must record the splendid manner in which these men are working. I find it difficult to express my admiration for the manner in which the ship is handled and worked under these very trying circumstances.

From Pennell down there is not an officer or man who has not done his job nobly during the past weeks, and it will be a glorious thing to remember the unselfish loyal help they are giving us.

Pennell has been over to tell me all about it to-night; I think I like him more every day.

Campbell and his party returned late this afternoon – I have not heard details.

Meares and Oates went to the Glacier Tongue and satisfied themselves that the ice is good. It only has to remain another three days, and it would be poor luck if it failed in that time.

Erebus and stranded berg. Made just when ship struck. Jan. 20th 1911.
“Erebus and stranded berg. Made just when ship struck. Jan. 20th 1911.”

Erebus and berg just as we floated off. 4.45 p.m. Jan. 20th 1911.
“Erebus and berg just as we floated off. 4.45 p.m. Jan. 20th 1911.”

Berg aground near Cape Evans. Boat coming off. Terra Nova aground. Jan. 20th 1911.
“Berg aground near Cape Evans. Boat coming off. Terra Nova aground. Jan. 20th 1911.”

Stranded berg and boat coming off. Jan. 20th 1911.
“Stranded berg and boat coming off. Jan. 20th 1911.”

Erebus and whaling boat in foreground. Jan. 20th 1911.
“Erebus and whaling boat in foreground. Jan. 20th 1911.”