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Scott's Last Expedition

Archive for March, 1911

Friday, March 31st 1911

Friday, March 31st, 1911

I studied the wind blowing along the ridge yesterday and came to the conclusion that a comparatively thin shaft of air was moving along the ridge from Erebus. On either side of the ridge it seemed to pour down from the ridge itself – there was practically no wind on the sea ice off Pram Point, and to the westward of Hut Point the frost smoke was drifting to the N.W. The temperature ranges about zero. It seems to be almost certain that the perpetual wind is due to the open winter. Meanwhile the sea refuses to freeze over.

Wright pointed out the very critical point which zero temperature represents in the freezing of salt water, being the freezing temperature of concentrated brine – a very few degrees above or below zero would make all the difference to the rate of increase of the ice thickness.

Yesterday the ice was 8 inches in places east of Cape Armitage and 6 inches in our Bay: it was said to be fast to the south of the Glacier Tongue well beyond Turtleback Island and to the north out of the Islands, except for a strip of water immediately north of the Tongue.

We are good for another week in pretty well every commodity and shall then have to reduce luxuries. But we have plenty of seal meat, blubber and biscuit, and can therefore remain for a much longer period if needs be. Meanwhile the days are growing shorter and the weather colder.

Dr Simpson’s Laboratory
“Dr Simpson’s Laboratory”

Simpson’s lab
“Simpson’s lab”

Thursday, March 30th 1911

Thursday, March 30th, 1911

The ice holds south of Hut Point, though not thickening rapidly – yesterday was calm and the same ice conditions seemed to obtain on both sides of the Glacier Tongue. It looks as though the last part of the road to become safe will be the stretch from Hut Point to Turtleback Island. Here the sea seems disinclined to freeze even in calm weather. To-day there is more strong wind from the east. White horse all along under the ridge.

The period of our stay here seems to promise to lengthen. It is trying – trying – but we can live, which is something. I should not be greatly surprised if we had to wait till May. Several skuas were about the camp yesterday. I have seen none to-day.

Two rorquals were rising close to Hut Point this morning – although the ice is nowhere thick it was strange to see them making for the open leads and thin places to blow.

Nelson at work in the ‘lab’
“Nelson at work in the ‘lab’”

Nelson at work in his Laboratory
“Nelson at work in his Laboratory”

Wednesday, March 29th 1911

Wednesday, March 29th, 1911

Mount Erebus and Cloud effect, Faint ring 9.30 am
“Mount Erebus and Cloud effect, Faint ring 9.30 am”

Tuesday, March 28th 1911

Tuesday, March 28th, 1911

Slowly but surely the sea is freezing over. The ice holds and thickens south of Hut Point in spite of strong easterly wind and in spite of isolated water holes which obstinately remain open. It is difficult to account for these – one wonders if the air currents shoot downward on such places; but even so it is strange that they do not gradually diminish in extent. A great deal of ice seems to have remained in and about the northern islets, but it is too far to be sure that there is a continuous sheet.

We are building stabling to accommodate four more ponies under the eastern verandah. When this is complete we shall be able to shelter seven animals, and this should be enough for winter and spring operations.

Cook in the kitchen
“Cook in the kitchen”

Interior of the Stables
“Interior of the Stables”

Monday, March 27th 1911

Monday, March 27th, 1911

Strong easterly wind on ridge to-day rushing down over slopes on western side.

Ice holding south from about Hut Point, but cleared 1/2 to 3/4 mile from shore to northward. Cleared in patches also, I am told, on both sides of Glacier Tongue, which is annoying. A regular local wind. The Barrier edge can be seen clearly all along, showing there is little or no drift. Have been out over the Gap for walk. Glad to say majority of people seem anxious to get exercise, but one or two like the fire better.

The dogs are getting fitter each day, and all save one or two have excellent coats. I was very pleased to find one or two of the animals voluntarily accompanying us on our walk. It is good to see them trotting against a strong drift.

Sunday, March 26th 1911

Sunday, March 26th, 1911

Yesterday morning went along Arrival Heights in very cold wind. Afternoon to east side Observation Hill. As afternoon advanced, wind fell. Glorious evening – absolutely calm, smoke ascending straight. Sea frozen over – looked very much like final freezing, but in night wind came from S.E., producing open water all along shore. Wind continued this morning with drift, slackened in afternoon; walked over Gap and back by Crater Heights to Arrival Heights.

Sea east of Cape Armitage pretty well covered with ice; some open pools – sea off shore west of the Cape frozen in pools, open lanes close to shore as far as Castle Rock. Bays either side of Glacier Tongue look fairly well frozen. Hut still dropping water badly.

Held service in hut this morning, read Litany. One skua seen to-day.

Clouds on Mount Erebus
“Clouds on Mount Erebus”

Clouds on Mount Erebus
“Clouds on Mount Erebus”

Cloud and earth shadow on Erebus.
“Cloud and earth shadow on Erebus.”

Cloud effect on Barne Glacier
“Cloud effect on Barne Glacier”

Cloud effect in the Sound
“Cloud effect in the Sound”

Sky effect on the North Bay
“Sky effect on the North Bay”

The waning daylight sun over the Barne Glacier at Midday. Hut in the foreground
“The waning daylight sun over the Barne Glacier at Midday. Hut in the foreground”

Dr Simpson leaving the magnetograph ice-cave
“Dr Simpson leaving the magnetograph ice-cave”

Dr Simpson entering the magnetic hut
“Dr Simpson entering the magnetic hut”

Dr Simpson taking observations on Vane Hill
“Dr Simpson taking observations on Vane Hill”

A Weddell seal at Cape Evans
“A Weddell seal at Cape Evans”

A Weddell seal at Cape Evans. March 26th 1911
“A Weddell seal at Cape Evans. March 26th 1911”

Hooper and Dimitri and a Weddell Seal at Cape Evans. March 1911
“Hooper and Dimitri and a Weddell Seal at Cape Evans. March 1911”

Hooper and Dimitri and a Weddell Seal at Cape Evans. March 1911
“Hooper and Dimitri and a Weddell Seal at Cape Evans. March 1911”

A Weddell seal on West Beach. March 26th 1911
“A Weddell seal on West Beach. March 26th 1911”

A Weddell seal at Cape Evans. March 26th 1911
“A Weddell seal at Cape Evans. March 26th 1911”

A Weddell seal at Cape Evans, March 26th 1911
“A Weddell seal at Cape Evans, March 26th 1911”

Saturday, March 25th 1911

Saturday, March 25th, 1911

We have had two days of surprisingly warm weather, the sky overcast, snow falling, wind only in light airs. Last night the sky was clearing, with a southerly wind, and this morning the sea was open all about us. It is disappointing to find the ice so reluctant to hold; at the same time one supposes that the cooling of the water is proceeding and therefore that each day makes it easier for the ice to form – the sun seems to have lost all power, but I imagine its rays still tend to warm the surface water about the noon hours. It is only a week now to the date which I thought would see us all at Cape Evans.

The warmth of the air has produced a comparatively uncomfortable state of affairs in the hut. The ice on the inner roof is melting fast, dripping on the floor and streaming down the sides. The increasing cold is checking the evil even as I write. Comfort could only be ensured in the hut either by making a clean sweep of all the ceiling ice or by keeping the interior at a critical temperature little above freezing-point.

Nelson and Day’s Bunks, in the Winterquarters Hut
“Nelson and Day’s Bunks, in the Winterquarters Hut”

Nelson and Day’s Bunks, in the Winterquarters Hut
“Nelson and Day’s Bunks, in the Winterquarters Hut”

Interior of Mr Pontings Darkroom (showing his Bed) in the Winterquarters Hut.
“Interior of Mr Pontings Darkroom (showing his Bed) in the Winterquarters Hut.”

Friday, March 24th 1911

Saturday, March 25th, 1911

Skuas still about, a few – very shy – very dark in colour after moulting.

Went along Arrival Heights yesterday with very keen over-ridge wind – it was difficult to get shelter. In the evening it fell calm and has remained all night with temperature up to + 18º. This morning it is snowing with fairly large flakes.

Yesterday for the first time saw the ice foot on the south side of the bay, a wall some 5 or 6 ft. above water and 12 or 14 ft. below; the sea bottom quite clear with the white wall resting on it. This must be typical of the ice foot all along the coast, and the wasting of caves at sea level alone gives the idea of an overhanging mass. Very curious and interesting erosion of surface of the ice foot by waves during recent gale.

The depot party returned yesterday morning. They had thick weather on the outward march and missed the track, finally doing 30 miles between Safety Camp and Corner Camp. They had a hard blow up to force 8 on the night of our gale. Started N.W. and strongest S.S.E.

The sea wants to freeze – a thin coating of ice formed directly the wind dropped; but the high temperature does not tend to thicken it rapidly and the tide makes many an open lead. We have been counting our resources and arranging for another twenty days’ stay.

Ponting at work in darkroom. March 24th 1911
“Ponting at work in darkroom. March 24th 1911”


Interior of darkroom. March 24th 1911
“Interior of darkroom. March 24th 1911”

Interior of darkroom. March 24th 1911
“Interior of darkroom. March 24th 1911”

Interior of darkroom. March 24th 1911
“Interior of darkroom. March 24th 1911”

Interior of darkroom - the sink. March 24th 1911
“Interior of darkroom – the sink. March 24th 1911”

Thursday, March 23rd, 1911

Thursday, March 23rd, 1911

No signs of depot party, which to-night will have been a week absent. On Tuesday afternoon we went up to the Big Boulder above Ski slope. The geologists were interested, and we others learnt something of olivines, green in crystal form or oxidized to bright red, granites or granulites or quartzites, hornblende and feldspars, ferrous and ferric oxides of lava acid, basic, plutonic, igneous, eruptive – schists, basalts &c. All such things I must get clearer in my mind.

Tuesday afternoon a cold S.E. wind commenced and blew all night.

Yesterday morning it was calm and I went up Crater Hill. The sea of stratus cloud hung curtain-like over the Strait – blue sky east and south of it and the Western Mountains bathed in sunshine, sharp, clear, distinct, a glorious glimpse of grandeur on which the curtain gradually descended. In the morning it looked as though great pieces of Barrier were drifting out. From the hill one found these to be but small fragments which the late gale had dislodged, leaving in places a blue wall very easily distinguished from the general white of the older fractures. The old floe and a good extent of new ice had remained fast in Pram Point Bay. Great numbers of seals up as usual. The temperature was up to +20º at noon. In the afternoon a very chill wind from the east, temperature rapidly dropping till zero in the evening. The Strait obstinately refuses to freeze.

We are scoring another success in the manufacture of blubber lamps, which relieves anxiety as to lighting as the hours of darkness increase.

The young ice in Pram Point Bay is already being pressed up.

Tuesday, March 21st, 1911

Tuesday, March 21st, 1911

The wind returned to the south at 8 last night. It gradually increased in force until 2 A.M., when it was blowing from the S.S.W., force 9 to 10. The sea was breaking constantly and heavily on the ice foot. The spray carried right over the Point – covering all things and raining on the roof of the hut. Poor Vince’s cross, some 30 feet above the water, was enveloped in it.

Of course the dogs had a very poor time, and we went and released two or three, getting covered in spray during the operation – our wind clothes very wet.

This is the third gale from the south since our arrival here. Any one of these would have rendered the Bay impossible for a ship, and therefore it is extraordinary that we should have entirely escaped such a blow when the Discovery was in it in 1902.

The effects of this gale are evident and show that it is a most unusual occurrence. The rippled snow surface of the ice foot is furrowed in all directions and covered with briny deposit – a condition we have never seen before. The ice foot at the S.W. corner of the bay is broken down, bare rock appearing for the first time.

The sledges, magnetic huts, and in fact every exposed object on the Point are thickly covered with brine. Our seal floe has gone, so it is good-bye to seals on this side for some time.

The dogs are the main sufferers by this continuance of phenomenally terrible weather. At least four are in a bad state; some six or seven others are by no means fit and well, but oddly enough some ten or a dozen animals are as fit as they can be. Whether constitutionally harder or whether better fitted by nature or chance to protect themselves it is impossible to say – Osman, Czigane, Krisravitsa, Hohol, and some others are in first-rate condition, whilst Lappa is better than he has ever been before.

It is so impossible to keep the dogs comfortable in the traces and so laborious to be continually attempting it, that we have decided to let the majority run loose. It will be wonderful if we can avoid one or two murders, but on the other hand probably more would die if we kept them in leash.

We shall try and keep the quarrelsome dogs chained up.

The main trouble that seems to come on the poor wretches is the icing up of their hindquarters; once the ice gets thoroughly into the coat the hind legs get half paralysed with cold. The hope is that the animals will free themselves of this by running about.

Well, well, fortune is not being very kind to us. This month will have sad memories. Still I suppose things might be worse; the ponies are well housed and are doing exceedingly well, though we have slightly increased their food allowance.

Yesterday afternoon we climbed Observation Hill to see some examples of spheroidal weathering – Wilson knew of them and guided. The geologists state that they indicate a columnar structure, the tops of the columns being weathered out.

The specimens we saw were very perfect. Had some interesting instruction in geology in the evening. I should not regret a stay here with our two geologists if only the weather would allow us to get about.

This morning the wind moderated and went to the S.E.; the sea naturally fell quickly. The temperature this morning was + 17º; minimum +11º. But now the wind is increasing from the S.E. and it is momentarily getting colder.