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Scott's Last Expedition

Friday, April 21st 1911

Started homeward at 10.30.

Left Meares in charge of station with Demetri to help with dogs, Lashly and Keohane to look out for ponies, Nelson and Day and Forde to get some idea of the life and experience. Homeward party, therefore:
Self – Bowers – Wilson – Oates – Atkinson – Cherry-Garrard – Crean – Hooper

As usual all hands pulled up Ski slope, which we took without a halt. Lashly and Demetri came nearly to Castle Rock – very cold side wind and some frostbites. We reached the last downward slope about 2.30; at the cliff edge found the cornice gone – heavy wind and drift worse than before, if anything. We bustled things, and after tantalising delays with the rope got Bowers and some others on the floe, then lowered the sledges packed; three men, including Crean and myself, slid down last on the Alpine rope – doubled and taken round an ash stave, so that we were able to unreeve the end and recover the rope – we recovered also most of the old Alpine rope, all except a piece buried in snow on the sea ice and dragged down under the slush, just like the Discovery boats; I could not have supposed this could happen in so short a time.

By the time all stores were on the floe, with swirling drift about us, everyone was really badly cold – one of those moments for quick action. We harnessed and dashed for the shelter of the cliffs; up tents, and hot tea as quick as possible; after this and some shift of foot gear all were much better. Heavy plod over the sea ice, starting at 4.30 – very bad light on the glacier, and we lost our way as usual, stumbling into many crevasses, but finally descended in the old place; by this time sweating much. Crean reported our sledge pulling much more heavily than the other one. Marched on to Little Razor Back Island without halt, our own sledge dragging fearfully. Crean said there was great difference in the sledges, though loads were equal. Bowers politely assented when I voiced this sentiment, but I’m sure he and his party thought it the plea of tired men. However there was nothing like proof, and he readily assented to change sledges. The difference was really extraordinary; we felt the new sledge a featherweight compared with the old, and set up a great pace for the home quarters regardless of how much we perspired. We arrived at the hut (two miles away) ten minutes ahead of the others, who by this time were quite convinced as to the difference in the sledges.

The difference was only marked when pulling over the salt-covered sea ice; on snow the sledges seemed pretty much the same. It is due to the grain of the wood in the runners and is worth looking into.

We all arrived bathed in sweat – our garments were soaked through, and as we took off our wind clothes showers of ice fell on the floor. The accumulation was almost incredible and shows the whole trouble of sledging in cold weather. It would have been very uncomfortable to have camped in the open under such conditions, and assuredly a winter and spring party cannot afford to get so hot if they wish to retain any semblance of comfort.

Our excellent cook had just the right meal prepared for us – an enormous dish of rice and figs, and cocoa in a bucket! The hut party were all very delighted to see us, and the fittings and comforts of the hut are amazing to the newcomers.

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