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Scott's Last Expedition

Tuesday, February 14th 1911

13 Camp. 7 miles 650 yards. A disappointing day: the weather had cleared, the night was fine though cold, temperature well below zero with a keen S.W. breeze. Soon after the start we struck very bad surface conditions. The ponies sank lower than their hocks frequently and the soft patches of snow left by the blizzard lay in sandy heaps, making great friction for the runners. We struggled on, but found Gran with Weary Willy dropping to the rear. I consulted Oates as to distance and he cheerfully proposed 15 miles for the day! This piqued me somewhat and I marched till the sledge meter showed 6 1/2 miles. By this time Weary Willy had dropped about three-quarters of a mile and the dog teams were approaching. Suddenly we heard much barking in the distance, and later it was evident that something had gone wrong. Oates and then I hurried back. I met Meares, who told me the dogs of his team had got out of hand and attacked Weary Willy when they saw him fall. Finally they had been beaten off and W.W. was being led without his sledge. W.W. had been much bitten, but luckily I think not seriously: he appears to have made a gallant fight, and bit and shook some of the dogs with his teeth. Gran did his best, breaking his ski stick. Meares broke his dog stick – one way and another the dogs must have had a rocky time, yet they seemed to bear charmed lives when their blood is up, as apparently not one of them has been injured.

After lunch four of us went back and dragged up the load. It taught us the nature of the surface more than many hours of pony leading!! The incident is deplorable and the blame widespread. I find W.W.’s load was much heavier than that of the other ponies.
I blame myself for not supervising these matters more effectively and for allowing W.W. to get so far behind.

We started off again after lunch, but when we had done two-thirds of a mile, W.W.’s condition made it advisable to halt. He has been given a hot feed, a large snow wall, and some extra sacking – the day promises to be quiet and warm for him, and one can only hope that these measures will put him right again. But the whole thing is very annoying.

Memo. – Arrangements for ponies.
1. Hot bran or oat mashes.
2. Clippers for breaking wires of bales.
3. Pickets for horses.
4. Lighter ponies to take 10 ft. sledges?

The surface is so crusty and friable that the question of snow-shoes again becomes of great importance.

All the sastrugi are from S.W. by S. to S.W. and all the wind that we have experienced in this region – there cannot be a doubt that the wind sweeps up the coast at all seasons.

A point has arisen as to the deposition. David called the crusts seasonal. This must be wrong; they mark blizzards, but after each blizzard fresh crusts are formed only over the patchy heaps left by the blizzard. A blizzard seems to leave heaps which cover anything from one-sixth to one-third of the whole surface – such heaps presumably turn hollows into mounds with fresh hollows between – these are filled in turn by ensuing blizzards. If this is so, the only way to get at the seasonal deposition would be to average the heaps deposited and multiply this by the number of blizzards in the year.

Group of young penguins. Cape Royds. Feb. 14th 1911.
“Group of young penguins. Cape Royds. Feb. 14th 1911.”

Group of young penguins. Cape Royds. Feb. 14th 1911.
“Group of young penguins. Cape Royds. Feb. 14th 1911.”

Group of young penguins. Cape Royds. Feb. 14th 1911.
“Group of young penguins. Cape Royds. Feb. 14th 1911.”

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