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Scott's Last Expedition

Tuesday, February 21st 1911

New Camp about 12 miles from Safety Camp. 15 1/2 miles. We made a start as usual about 10 P.M. The light was good at first, but rapidly grew worse till we could see little of the surface. The dogs showed signs of wearying. About an hour and a half after starting we came on mistily outlined pressure ridges. We were running by the sledges. Suddenly Wilson shouted ‘Hold on to the sledge,’ and I saw him slip a leg into a crevasse. I jumped to the sledge, but saw nothing. Five minutes after, as the teams were trotting side by side, the middle dogs of our team disappeared. In a moment the whole team were sinking – two by two we lost sight of them, each pair struggling for foothold. Osman the leader exerted all his great strength and kept a foothold – it was wonderful to see him. The sledge stopped and we leapt aside. The situation was clear in another moment. We had been actually travelling along the bridge of a crevasse, the sledge had stopped on it, whilst the dogs hung in their harness in the abyss, suspended between the sledge and the leading dog. Why the sledge and ourselves didn’t follow the dogs we shall never know. I think a fraction of a pound of added weight must have taken us down. As soon as we grasped the position, we hauled the sledge clear of the bridge and anchored it. Then we peered into the depths of the crack. The dogs were howling dismally, suspended in all sorts of fantastic positions and evidently terribly frightened. Two had dropped out of their harness, and we could see them indistinctly on a snow bridge far below. The rope at either end of the chain had bitten deep into the snow at the side of the crevasse, and with the weight below, it was impossible to move it. By this time Wilson and Cherry-Garrard, who had seen the accident, had come to our assistance. At first things looked very bad for our poor team, and I saw little prospect of rescuing them. I had luckily inquired about the Alpine rope before starting the march, and now Cherry-Garrard hurriedly brought this most essential aid. It takes one a little time to make plans under such sudden circumstances, and for some minutes our efforts were rather futile. We could get not an inch on the main trace of the sledge or on the leading rope, which was binding Osman to the snow with a throttling pressure. Then thought became clearer. We unloaded our sledge, putting in safety our sleeping-bags with the tent and cooker. Choking sounds from Osman made it clear that the pressure on him must soon be relieved. I seized the lashing off Meares’ sleeping-bag, passed the tent poles across the crevasse, and with Meares managed to get a few inches on the leading line; this freed Osman, whose harness was immediately cut.
Then securing the Alpine rope to the main trace we tried to haul up together. One dog came up and was unlashed, but by this time the rope had cut so far back at the edge that it was useless to attempt to get more of it. But we could now unbend the sledge and do that for which we should have aimed from the first, namely, run the sledge across the gap and work from it. We managed to do this, our fingers constantly numbed. Wilson held on to the anchored trace whilst the rest of us laboured at the leader end. The leading rope was very small and I was fearful of its breaking, so Meares was lowered down a foot or two to secure the Alpine rope to the leading end of the trace; this done, the work of rescue proceeded in better order. Two by two we hauled the animals up to the sledge and one by one cut them out of their harness. Strangely the last dogs were the most difficult, as they were close under the lip of the gap, bound in by the snow-covered rope. Finally, with a gasp we got the last poor creature on to firm snow. We had recovered eleven of the thirteen.
Then I wondered if the last two could not be got, and we paid down the Alpine rope to see if it was long enough to reach the snow bridge on which they were coiled. The rope is 90 feet, and the amount remaining showed that the depth of the bridge was about 65 feet. I made a bowline and the others lowered me down. The bridge was firm and I got hold of both dogs, which were hauled up in turn to the surface. Then I heard dim shouts and howls above. Some of the rescued animals had wandered to the second sledge, and a big fight was in progress. All my rope-tenders had to leave to separate the combatants; but they soon returned, and with some effort I was hauled to the surface.
All is well that ends well, and certainly this was a most surprisingly happy ending to a very serious episode. We felt we must have refreshment, so camped and had a meal, congratulating ourselves on a really miraculous escape. If the sledge had gone down Meares and I _must_ have been badly injured, if not killed outright. The dogs are wonderful, but have had a terrible shaking – three of them are passing blood and have more or less serious internal injuries. Many were held up by a thin thong round the stomach, writhing madly to get free. One dog better placed in its harness stretched its legs full before and behind and just managed to claw either side of the gap – it had continued attempts to climb throughout, giving vent to terrified howls. Two of the animals hanging together had been fighting at intervals when they swung into any position which allowed them to bite one another. The crevasse for the time being was an inferno, and the time must have been all too terribly long for the wretched creatures. It was twenty minutes past three when we had completed the rescue work, and the accident must have happened before one-thirty. Some of the animals must have been dangling for over an hour. I had a good opportunity of examining the crack.
The section seemed such as I have shown. It narrowed towards the east and widened slightly towards the west. In this direction there were curious curved splinters; below the snow bridge on which I stood the opening continued, but narrowing, so that I think one could not have fallen many more feet without being wedged. Twice I have owed safety to a snow bridge, and it seems to me that the chance of finding some obstruction or some saving fault in the crevasse is a good one, but I am far from thinking that such a chance can be relied upon, and it would be an awful situation to fall beyond the limits of the Alpine rope.
We went on after lunch, and very soon got into soft snow and regular surface where crevasses are most unlikely to occur. We have pushed on with difficulty, for the dogs are badly cooked and the surface tries them. We are all pretty done, but luckily the weather favours us. A sharp storm from the south has been succeeded by ideal sunshine which is flooding the tent as I write. It is the calmest, warmest day we have had since we started sledging. We are only about 12 miles from Safety Camp, and I trust we shall push on without accident to-morrow, but I am anxious about some of the dogs. We shall be lucky indeed if all recover.
My companions to-day were excellent; Wilson and Cherry-Garrard if anything the most intelligently and readily helpful.
I begin to think that there is no avoiding the line of cracks running from the Bluff to Cape Crozier, but my hope is that the danger does not extend beyond a mile or two, and that the cracks are narrower on the pony road to Corner Camp. If eight ponies can cross without accident I do not think there can be great danger. Certainly we must rigidly adhere to this course on all future journeys. We must try and plot out the danger line. [14] I begin to be a little anxious about the returning ponies.
I rather think the dogs are being underfed – they have weakened badly in the last few days – more than such work ought to entail. Now they are absolutely ravenous.
Meares has very dry feet. Whilst we others perspire freely and our skin remains pink and soft his gets horny and scaly. He amused us greatly to-night by scraping them. The sound suggested the whittling of a hard wood block and the action was curiously like an attempt to shape the feet to fit the finnesko!

Summary of Marches Made on the Depôt Journey
Distances in Geographical Miles. Variation 152 E.

Summary of Marches Made on the Depôt Journey
Distances in Geographical Miles. Variation 152 E.

m. yds.
Safety No. 3 to 4 E. 4 2000
S. 64 E. 4 500
4 to 5 S. 77 E. 1 312 9.359
S. 60 E. 3 1575
5 to 6 S. 48 E. 10 270 Var. 149 1/2 E.
Corner 6 to 7 S. 10 145
7 to 8 S. ? 11 198
8 to 9 S. 12 325
9 to 10 S. 11 118
Bluff Camp 10 to 11 S. 10 226 Var. 152 1/2 E.
11 to 12 S. 9 150
12 to 13 S. 7 650
13 to 14 S. 7 Bowers 775
14 to 15 S. 8 1450
– – – –
111 610
Return 17th-18th 15 to 12 N. 22 1994
18th-19th 12 to midway between 9 & 10 N. 48 1825
19th-20th Lunch 8 Camp N. 65 1720
19th-20th 7 Camp N. 77 1820
20th-21st N. 30 to 35 W. 93 950
21st-22nd Safety Camp N. & W. 107 1125
Day, Nelson and Lashly and sledge on Barne Glacier. Feb. 21st 1911.
“Day, Nelson and Lashly and sledge on Barne Glacier. Feb. 21st 1911.”

Day, Nelson and Lashly and sledge on Barne Glacier. Feb. 21st 1911.
“Day, Nelson and Lashly and sledge on Barne Glacier. Feb. 21st 1911.”

W. from Barne Glacier to cape Barne. Feb. 21st 1911.
“W. from Barne Glacier to cape Barne. Feb. 21st 1911.”

Day, Nelson and Lashly probing a crevasse on Barne Glacier. Feb. 21st 1911.
“Day, Nelson and Lashly probing a crevasse on Barne Glacier. Feb. 21st 1911.”

Day, Nelson and Lashly probing a crevasse on Barne Glacier. Feb. 21st 1911.
“Day, Nelson and Lashly probing a crevasse on Barne Glacier. Feb. 21st 1911.”

Day, Nelson and Lashly among Crevasses on Barne Glacier. Feb. 21st 1911.
“Day, Nelson and Lashly among Crevasses on Barne Glacier. Feb. 21st 1911.”

Day, Nelson and Lashly among Crevasses on Barne Glacier. Feb. 21st 1911.
“Day, Nelson and Lashly among Crevasses on Barne Glacier. Feb. 21st 1911.”

Sastrugi on Barne Glacier. Feb. 21st 1911.
“Sastrugi on Barne Glacier. Feb. 21st 1911.”

Sastrugi on Barne Glacier. Feb. 21st 1911
“Sastrugi on Barne Glacier. Feb. 21st 1911”

Sastrugi on Barne Glacier. Feb. 21st 1911
“Sastrugi on Barne Glacier. Feb. 21st 1911”

Sastrugi on Barne Glacier. Feb. 21st 1911
“Sastrugi on Barne Glacier. Feb. 21st 1911”

Sastrugi on Barne Glacier. Feb. 21st 1911
“Sastrugi on Barne Glacier. Feb. 21st 1911”

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