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Scott's Last Expedition

Archive for February, 1911

Sunday, February 19th 1911

Sunday, February 19th, 1911

Started 10 P.M. Camped 6.30. Nearly 26 miles to our credit. The dogs went very well and the surface became excellent after the first 5 or 6 miles. At the Bluff Camp, No. 11, we picked up Evans’ track and found that he must have made excellent progress. No. 10 Camp was much snowed up: I should imagine our light blizzard was severely felt along this part of the route. We must look out to-morrow for signs of Evans being ‘held up.’

The old tracks show better here than on the softer surface. During this journey both ponies and dogs have had what under ordinary circumstances would have been a good allowance of food, yet both are desperately hungry. Both eat their own excrement. With the ponies it does not seem so horrid, as there must be a good deal of grain, &c., which is not fully digested. It is the worst side of dog driving. All the rest is diverting. The way in which they keep up a steady jog trot for hour after hour is wonderful. Their legs seem steel springs, fatigue unknown – for at the end of a tiring march any unusual incident will arouse them to full vigour. Osman has been restored to leadership. It is curious how these leaders come off and go off, all except old Stareek, who remains as steady as ever.

We are all acting like seasoned sledge travellers now, such is the force of example. Our tent is up and cooker going in the shortest time after halt, and we are able to break camp in exceptionally good time. Cherry-Garrard is cook. He is excellent, and is quickly learning all the tips for looking after himself and his gear.

What a difference such care makes is apparent now, but was more so when he joined the tent with all his footgear iced up, whilst Wilson and I nearly always have dry socks and finnesko to put on. This is only a point amongst many in which experience gives comfort. Every minute spent in keeping one’s gear dry and free of snow is very well repaid.

Saturday, February 18th 1911

Saturday, February 18th, 1911

Camp 12. North 22 miles 1996 yards. I scattered some oats 50 yards east of depôt. The minimum thermometer showed -16º when we left camp: inform Simpson!

The ponies started off well, Gran leading my pony with Weary Willy behind, the Soldier leading his with Cherry’s behind, and Bowers steering course as before with a light sledge.

We started half an hour later, soon overtook the ponies, and luckily picked up a small bag of oats which they had dropped. We went on for 10 3/4 miles and stopped for lunch. After lunch to our astonishment the ponies appeared, going strong. They were making for a camp some miles farther on, and meant to remain there. I’m very glad to have seen them making the pace so well. They don’t propose to stop for lunch at all but to march right through 10 or 12 miles a day. I think they will have little difficulty in increasing this distance.

For the dogs the surface has been bad, and one or another of us on either sledge has been running a good part of the time. But we have covered 23 miles: three marches out. We have four days’ food for them and ought to get in very easily.

As we camp late the temperature is evidently very low and there is a low drift. Conditions are beginning to be severe on the Barrier and I shall be glad to get the ponies into more comfortable quarters.

Moulting penguin
“Moulting penguin”

Moulting penguin
“Moulting penguin”

Friday, February 17th 1911

Friday, February 17th, 1911

Camp 15. Lat. 79º 28 1/2′ S. It clouded over yesterday – the temperature rose and some snow fell. Wind from the south, cold and biting, as we turned out. We started to build the depot. I had intended to go on half a march and return to same camp, leaving Weary Willy to rest, but under the circumstances did not like to take risk.
Stores left in depôt:

Lat. 79º 29′. Depot.
lbs.
245 – 7 weeks’ full provision bags for 1 unit
12 – 2 days’ provision bags for 1 unit
8 – 8 weeks’ tea
31 – 6 weeks’ extra butter
176 – 176 lbs. biscuit (7 weeks full biscuit)
85 – 8 1/2 gallons oil (12 weeks oil for 1 unit)
850 – 5 sacks of oats
424 – 4 bales of fodder
250 – Tank of dog biscuit
100 – 2 cases of biscuit
– –
2181

1 skein white line
1 set breast harness
2 12 ft. sledges
2 pair ski, 1 pair ski sticks
1 Minimum Thermometer
1 tin Rowntree cocoa
1 tin matches

With packing we have landed considerably over a ton of stuff. It is a pity we couldn’t get to 80º, but as it is we shall have a good leg up for next year and can at least feed the ponies full up to this point.

Our Camp 15 is very well marked, I think. Besides the flagstaff and black flag we have piled biscuit boxes, filled and empty, to act as reflectors – secured tea tins to the sledges, which are planted upright in the snow. The depot cairn is more than 6 ft. above the surface, very solid and large; then there are the pony protection walls; altogether it should show up for many miles.

I forgot to mention that looking back on the 15th we saw a cairn built on a camp 12 1/2 miles behind – it was miraged up.

It seems as though some of our party will find spring journeys pretty trying. Oates’ nose is always on the point of being frostbitten; Meares has a refractory toe which gives him much trouble – this is the worst prospect for summit work. I have been wondering how I shall stick the summit again, this cold spell gives ideas. I think I shall be all right, but one must be prepared for a pretty good doing.

E.H. Shackleton’s hut. Feb. 17th 1911.
“E.H. Shackleton’s hut. Feb. 17th 1911.”

E.H. Shackleton’s hut. Feb. 17th 1911.
“E.H. Shackleton’s hut. Feb. 17th 1911.”

Nelson, Day and Lashly in E.H. Shackleton’s hut. Feb. 17th 1911.
“Nelson, Day and Lashly in E.H. Shackleton’s hut. Feb. 17th 1911.”

Nelson, Day and Lashly in E.H. Shackleton’s hut. Feb. 17th 1911.
“Nelson, Day and Lashly in E.H. Shackleton’s hut. Feb. 17th 1911.”

Thursday, February 16th 1911

Thursday, February 16th, 1911

6 miles 1450 yards. 15 Camp. The surface a good deal better, but the ponies running out. Three of the five could go on without difficulty. Bowers’ pony might go on a bit, but Weary Willy is a good deal done up, and to push him further would be to risk him unduly, so to-morrow we turn. The temperature on the march to-night fell to -21º with a brisk S.W. breeze. Bowers started out as usual in his small felt hat, ears uncovered. Luckily I called a halt after a mile and looked at him. His ears were quite white. Cherry and I nursed them back whilst the patient seemed to feel nothing but intense surprise and disgust at the mere fact of possessing such unruly organs. Oates’ nose gave great trouble. I got frostbitten on the cheek lightly, as also did Cherry-Garrard.

Ponting and Lashly with a squid found at Cape Royds. Feb. 16th 1911.
“Ponting and Lashly with a squid found at Cape Royds. Feb. 16th 1911.”

Ponting and Lashly with a squid found at Cape Royds. Feb. 16th 1911.
“Ponting and Lashly with a squid found at Cape Royds. Feb. 16th 1911.”

The Squid found by Ponting and captured by him and Lashly at Cape Royds. Feb. 16th 1911.
“The Squid found by Ponting and captured by him and Lashly at Cape Royds. Feb. 16th 1911.”

The Squid found by Ponting and captured by him and Lashly at Cape Royds. Feb. 16th 1911.
“The Squid found by Ponting and captured by him and Lashly at Cape Royds. Feb. 16th 1911.”

Backdoor Bay. Cape Royds showing sharp line of shadow on Erebus. Feb. 16th 1911.
“Backdoor Bay. Cape Royds showing sharp line of shadow on Erebus. Feb. 16th 1911.”

Backdoor Bay. Cape Royds showing sharp line of shadow on Erebus. Feb. 16th 1911.
“Backdoor Bay. Cape Royds showing sharp line of shadow on Erebus. Feb. 16th 1911.”

Monday, February 15th 1911

Wednesday, February 15th, 1911

14 Camp. 7 miles 775 yards. The surface was wretched to-day, the two drawbacks of yesterday (the thin crusts which let the ponies through and the sandy heaps which hang on the runners) if anything exaggerated.

Bowers’ pony refused work at intervals for the first time. His hind legs sink very deep. Weary Willy is decidedly better. The Soldier takes a gloomy view of everything, but I’ve come to see that this is a characteristic of him. In spite of it he pays every attention to the weaker horses.

We had frequent halts on the march, but managed 4 miles before lunch and 3 1/2 after.

The temperature was -15º at the lunch camp. It was cold sitting in the tent waiting for the ponies to rest. The thermometer is now -7º, but there is a bright sun and no wind, which makes the air feel quite comfortable: one’s socks and finnesko dry well. Our provision allowance is working out very well. In fact all is well with us except the condition of the ponies. The more I see of the matter the more certain I am that we must save all the ponies to get better value out of them next year. It would have been ridiculous to have worked some out this year as the Soldier wished. Even now I feel we went too far with the first three.

One thing is certain. A good snow-shoe would be worth its weight in gold on this surface, and if we can get something really practical we ought to greatly increase our distances next year.

Mems. – Storage of biscuit next year, lashing cases on sledges.
Look into sledgemeter.
Picket lines for ponies.
Food tanks to be size required.
Two sledges altered to take steel runners.
Stowage of pony food. Enough sacks for ready bags.

Ice showing in morainic cones on Green Lake. Cape Royds. Feb. 15th 1911.
“Ice showing in morainic cones on Green Lake. Cape Royds. Feb. 15th 1911.”

Cloud effect at Cape Royds and berg. Feb. 15th 1911.
“Cloud effect at Cape Royds and berg. Feb. 15th 1911.”

Cape Royds. Looking north. Feb. 15th 1911.
“Cape Royds. Looking north. Feb. 15th 1911.”

Cape Royds. Looking south. Feb. 15th 1911.
“Cape Royds. Looking south. Feb. 15th 1911.”

Day and Nelson on Clear Lake. Cape Royds. Jan. 15th 1911.
“Day and Nelson on Clear Lake. Cape Royds. Jan. 15th 1911.”

Day and Nelson on Clear Lake. Cape Royds. Jan. 15th 1911.
“Day and Nelson on Clear Lake. Cape Royds. Jan. 15th 1911.”

Day and Nelson on Clear Lake. Cape Royds. Jan. 15th 1911.
“Day and Nelson on Clear Lake. Cape Royds. Jan. 15th 1911.”

Dogs and skier
“Dogs and skier”

Dogs on leads
“Dogs on leads”

Dogs and skiers
“Dogs and skiers”

Tuesday, February 14th 1911

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.”

Monday, February 13th 1911

Monday, February 13th, 1911

No. 12 Camp. 9 miles 150 yds. The wind got up from the south with drift before we started yesterday – all appearance of a blizzard. But we got away at 12.30 and marched through drift for 7 miles. It was exceedingly cold at first. Just at starting the sky cleared in the wonderfully rapid fashion usual in these regions. We saw that our camp had the southern edge of the base rock of the Bluff in line with Mt. Discovery, and White Island well clear of the eastern slope of Mt. Erebus. A fairly easy alignment to pick up.

At lunch time the sky lightened up and the drift temporarily ceased. I thought we were going to get in a good march, but on starting again the drift came thicker than ever and soon the course grew wild. We went on for 2 miles and then I decided to camp. So here we are with a full blizzard blowing. I told Wilson I should camp if it grew thick, and hope he and Meares have stopped where they were. They saw Evans start back from No. 11 Camp before leaving. I trust they have got in something of a march before stopping. This continuous bad weather is exceedingly trying, but our own ponies are quite comfortable this time, I’m glad to say. We have built them extensive snow walls behind which they seem to get quite comfortable shelter. We are five in a tent yet fairly comfortable.

Our ponies’ coats are certainly getting thicker and I see no reason why we shouldn’t get to the 80th parallel if only the weather would give us a chance.

Bowers is wonderful. Throughout the night he has worn no head-gear but a common green felt hat kept on with a chin stay and affording no cover whatever for the ears. His face and ears remain bright red. The rest of us were glad to have thick Balaclavas and wind helmets. I have never seen anyone so unaffected by the cold. To-night he remained outside a full hour after the rest of us had got into the tent. He was simply pottering about the camp doing small jobs to the sledges, &c. Cherry-Garrard is remarkable because of his eyes. He can only see through glasses and has to wrestle with all sorts of inconveniences in consequence. Yet one could never guess it – for he manages somehow to do more than his share of the work.

A corner of the Penguinry at Cape Royds. Feb. 13th 1911.
“A corner of the Penguinry at Cape Royds. Feb. 13th 1911.”

A corner of the Penguinry at Cape Royds. Feb. 13th 1911.
“A corner of the Penguinry at Cape Royds. Feb. 13th 1911.”

A corner of the Penguinry at Cape Royds. Feb. 13th 1911.
“A corner of the Penguinry at Cape Royds. Feb. 13th 1911.”

A corner of the Penguinry at Cape Royds. Feb. 13th 1911.
“A corner of the Penguinry at Cape Royds. Feb. 13th 1911.”

Penguins, and a berg at Cape Royds. Feb. 13th 1911.
“Penguins, and a berg at Cape Royds. Feb. 13th 1911.”

Penguins, and a berg at Cape Royds. Feb. 13th 1911.
“Penguins, and a berg at Cape Royds. Feb. 13th 1911.”

Sunday, February 12th 1911

Sunday, February 12th, 1911

No. 11 Camp. 10 miles. Depot one Bale of Fodder. Variation 150 E. South True = N. 30 E. by compass. The surface is getting decidedly worse. The ponies sink quite deep every now and again. We marched 6 1/4 miles before lunch, Blossom dropping considerably behind. He lagged more on the second march and we halted at 9 miles. Evans said he might be dragged for another mile and we went on for that distance and camped.

The sky was overcast: very dark and snowy looking in the south – very difficult to steer a course. Mt. Discovery is in line with the south end of the Bluff from the camp and we are near the 79th parallel. We must get exact bearings for this is to be called the ‘Bluff Camp’ and should play an important part in the future. Bearings: Bluff 36º 13′; Black Island Rht. Ex. I have decided to send E. Evans, Forde, and Keohane back with the three weakest ponies which they have been leading. The remaining five ponies which have been improving in condition will go on for a few days at least, and we must see how near we can come to the 80th parallel.

To-night we have been making all the necessary arrangements for this plan. Cherry-Garrard is to come into our tent.

Saturday, February 11th 1911

Saturday, February 11th, 1911

No. 10 Camp. Bearings: Lat. 78º 47′. Bluff S. 79 W.; Left extreme Bluff 65º; Bluff A White Island near Sound. 11 miles. Covered 6 and 5 miles between halts. The surface has got a good deal softer. In the next two marches we should know more certainly, but it looks as though the conditions to the south will not be so good as those we have had hitherto.

Blossom, Evans’ pony, has very small hoofs and found the going very bad. It is less a question of load than one of walking, and there is no doubt that some form of snow-shoe would help greatly. The question is, what form?

All the ponies were a little done when we stopped, but the weather is favourable for a good rest; there is no doubt this night marching is the best policy.

Even the dogs found the surface more difficult to-day, but they are pulling very well. Meares has deposed Osman in favour of Rabchick, as the former was getting either very disobedient or very deaf. The change appears excellent. Rabchick leads most obediently.

Mem. for next year. A stout male bamboo shod with a spike to sound for crevasses.

Packing a sledge at top of moraine for trip to Shackleton’s. Feb. 11th 1911.
“Packing a sledge at top of moraine for trip to Shackleton’s. Feb. 11th 1911.”

Packing a sledge at top of moraine for trip to Shackleton’s. Feb. 11th 1911.
“Packing a sledge at top of moraine for trip to Shackleton’s. Feb. 11th 1911.”

Day, Nelson and Lashly staking out the Barne Glacier. Feb. 11th 1911.
“Day, Nelson and Lashly staking out the Barne Glacier. Feb. 11th 1911.”

Cape Royds from glacier between Capes Barne and Royds. Feb. 11th 1911.
“Cape Royds from glacier between Capes Barne and Royds. Feb. 11th 1911.”

Friday, February 10th 1911

Friday, February 10th, 1911

No. 9 Camp. 12 miles 200 yards. Cold march, very chilly wind, overcast sky, difficult to see surface or course.

Noticed sledges, ponies, &c., cast shadows all round.

Surface very good and animals did splendidly.

We came over some undulations during the early part of the march, but the last part appeared quite flat. I think I remember observing the same fact on our former trip.

The wind veers and backs from S. to W. and even to N., coming in gusts. The sastrugi are distinctly S.S.W. There isn’t a shadow of doubt that the prevailing wind is along the coast, taking the curve of the deep bay south of the Bluff.

The question now is: Shall we by going due southward keep this hard surface? If so, we should have little difficulty in reaching the Beardmore Glacier next year.

We turn out of our sleeping-bags about 9 P.M. Somewhere about 11.30 I shout to the Soldier ‘How are things?’ There is a response suggesting readiness, and soon after figures are busy amongst sledges and ponies. It is chilling work for the fingers and not too warm for the feet. The rugs come off the animals, the harness is put on, tents and camp equipment are loaded on the sledges, nosebags filled for the next halt; one by one the animals are taken off the picketing rope and yoked to the sledge. Oates watches his animal warily, reluctant to keep such a nervous creature standing in the traces. If one is prompt one feels impatient and fretful whilst watching one’s more tardy fellows. Wilson and Meares hang about ready to help with odds and ends. Still we wait: the picketing lines must be gathered up, a few pony putties need adjustment, a party has been slow striking their tent. With numbed fingers on our horse’s bridle and the animal striving to turn its head from the wind one feels resentful. At last all is ready. One says ‘All right, Bowers, go ahead,’ and Birdie leads his big animal forward, starting, as he continues, at a steady pace. The horses have got cold and at the word they are off, the Soldier’s and one or two others with a rush. Finnesko give poor foothold on the slippery sastrugi, and for a minute or two drivers have some difficulty in maintaining the pace on their feet. Movement is warming, and in ten minutes the column has settled itself to steady marching.

The pace is still brisk, the light bad, and at intervals one or another of us suddenly steps on a slippery patch and falls prone. These are the only real incidents of the march – for the rest it passes with a steady tramp and slight variation of formation. The weaker ponies drop a bit but not far, so that they are soon up in line again when the first halt is made. We have come to a single halt in each half march. Last night it was too cold to stop long and a very few minutes found us on the go again.
As the end of the half march approaches I get out my whistle. Then at a shrill blast Bowers wheels slightly to the left, his tent mates lead still farther out to get the distance for the picket lines; Oates and I stop behind Bowers and Evans, the two other sledges of our squad behind the two other of Bowers’. So we are drawn up in camp formation. The picket lines are run across at right angles to the line of advance and secured to the two sledges at each end. In a few minutes ponies are on the lines covered, tents up again and cookers going.

Meanwhile the dog drivers, after a long cold wait at the old camp, have packed the last sledge and come trotting along our tracks. They try to time their arrival in the new camp immediately after our own and generally succeed well. The mid march halt runs into an hour to an hour and a half, and at the end we pack up and tramp forth again. We generally make our final camp about 8 o’clock, and within an hour and a half most of us are in our sleeping-bags. Such is at present the daily routine. At the long halt we do our best for our animals by building snow walls and improving their rugs, &c.

Telephoto of Mt. Lister. Feb. 10th 1911.
“Telephoto of Mt. Lister. Feb. 10th 1911.”

Telephoto of Mt. Lister. Feb. 10th 1911
“Telephoto of Mt. Lister. Feb. 10th 1911”