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Scott's Last Expedition

Archive for June, 1911

Friday, June 30th 1911

Friday, June 30th, 1911

The temperature is steadily falling; we are descending the scale of negative thirties and to-day reached its limit, -39º. Day has manufactured a current vane, a simple arrangement: up to the present he has used this near the Cape. There is little doubt, however, that the water movement is erratic and irregular inside the islands, and I have been anxious to get observations which will indicate the movement in the ‘Strait.’ I went with him to-day to find a crack which I thought must run to the north from Inaccessible Island. We discovered it about 2 to 2 1/2 miles out and found it to be an ideal place for such work, a fracture in the ice sheet which is constantly opening and therefore always edged with thin ice. Have told Day that I think a bottle weighted so as to give it a small negative buoyancy, and attached to a fine line, should give as good results as his vane and would be much handier. He now proposes to go one better and put an electric light in the bottle.

We found that our loose dogs had been attacking a seal, and then came across a dead seal which had evidently been worried to death some time ago. It appears Demetri saw more seal further to the north, and this afternoon Meares has killed a large one as well as the one which was worried this morning.

It is good to find the seals so close, but very annoying to find that the dogs have discovered their resting-place.

The long spell of fine weather is very satisfactory.

Thursday, June 29th 1911

Thursday, June 29th, 1911

It seemed rather stuffy in the hut last night – I found it difficult to sleep, and noticed a good many others in like case. I found the temperature was only 50º, but that the small uptake on the stove pipe was closed. I think it would be good to have a renewal of air at bed time, but don’t quite know how to manage this.

It was calm all night and when I left the hut at 8.30. At 9 the wind suddenly rose to 40 m.p.h. and at the same moment the temperature rose 10º. The wind and temperature curves show this sudden simultaneous change more clearly than usual. The curious circumstance is that this blow comes out of a clear sky. This will be disturbing to our theories unless the wind drops again very soon.
The wind fell within an hour almost as suddenly as it had arisen; the temperature followed, only a little more gradually. One may well wonder how such a phenomenon is possible. In the middle of a period of placid calm and out of a clear sky there suddenly rushed upon one this volume of comparatively warm air; it has come and gone like the whirlwind.

Whence comes it and whither goeth?

Went round the bergs after lunch on ski – splendid surface and quite a good light.

We are now getting good records with the tide gauge after a great deal of trouble. Day has given much of his time to the matter, and after a good deal of discussion has pretty well mastered the principles. We brought a self-recording instrument from New Zealand, but this was passed over to Campbell. It has not been an easy matter to manufacture one for our own use. The wire from the bottom weight is led through a tube filled with paraffin as in Discovery days, and kept tight by a counter weight after passage through a block on a stanchion rising 6 feet above the floe.

In his first instrument Day arranged for this wire to pass around a pulley, the revolution of which actuated the pen of the recording drum. This should have been successful but for the difficulty of making good mechanical connection between the recorder and the pulley. Backlash caused an unreliable record, and this arrangement had to be abandoned. The motion of the wire was then made to actuate the recorder through a hinged lever, and this arrangement holds, but days and even weeks have been lost in grappling the difficulties of adjustment between the limits of the tide and those of the recording drum; then when all seemed well we found that the floe was not rising uniformly with the water. It is hung up by the beach ice. When we were considering the question of removing the whole apparatus to a more distant point, a fresh crack appeared between it and the shore, and on this ‘hinge’ the floe seems to be moving more freely.

Wednesday, June 28th 1911

Wednesday, June 28th, 1911

The temperature has been hovering around -30º with a clear sky – at midday it was exceptionally light, and even two hours after noon I was able to pick my way amongst the boulders of the Ramp. We miss the Crozier Party. Lectures have ceased during its absence, so that our life is very quiet.

Tuesday, June 27th 1911

Tuesday, June 27th, 1911

The Crozier Party departed this morning in good spirits – their heavy load was distributed on two 9-feet sledges. Ponting photographed them by flashlight and attempted to get a cinematograph picture by means of a flash candle. But when the candle was ignited it was evident that the light would not be sufficient for the purpose and there was not much surprise when the film proved a failure. The three travellers found they could pull their load fairly easily on the sea ice when the rest of us stood aside for the trial. I’m afraid they will find much more difficulty on the Barrier, but there was nothing now to prevent them starting, and off they went.

With helping contingent I went round the Cape. Taylor and Nelson left at the Razor Back Island and report all well. Simpson, Meares and Gran continued and have not yet returned.

Gran just back on ski; left party at 5 1/4 miles. Says Meares and Simpson are returning on foot. Reports a bad bit of surface between Tent Island and Glacier Tongue. It was well that the party had assistance to cross this.

This winter travel is a new and bold venture, but the right men have gone to attempt it. All good luck go with them.

Coal Consumption
Bowers reports that present consumption (midwinter) = 4 blocks per day (100 lbs.).
An occasional block is required for the absolute magnetic hut. He reports 8 1/2 tons used since landing. This is in excess of 4 blocks per day as follows:

8 1/2 tons in 150 days = 127 lbs. per diem.
= 889 lbs. per week, or nearly 8 cwt.
= 20 1/2 tons per year.

Report August_ 4.

Used to date = 9 tons = 20,160 lbs.

Say 190 days at 106 lbs. per day.

Coal remaining 20 1/2 tons.

Estimate 8 tons to return of ship.

Total estimate for year, 17 tons. We should have 13 or 14 tons for next year.

Lieut Bowers and Mr Cherry-Garrard beside their sledge, just before strating for their Winter journey to Cape Crozier.
“Lieut Bowers and Mr Cherry-Garrard beside their sledge, just before strating for their Winter journey to Cape Crozier.”


Tuesday, June 27th, 1911

Quotations on the Flyleaf
‘Where the (Queen’s) Law does not carry it is irrational to exact an observance of other and weaker rules.’ – RUDYARD KIPLING.

Confident of his good intentions but doubtful of his fortitude.

‘So far as I can venture to offer an opinion on such a matter, the purpose of our being in existence, the highest object that human beings can set before themselves is not the pursuit of any such chimera as the annihilation of the unknown; but it is simply the unwearied endeavour to remove its boundaries a little further from our little sphere of action.’ – HUXLEY.

Monday, June 26th 1911

Monday, June 26th, 1911

With a clear sky it was quite twilighty at noon to-day. Already such signs of day are inspiriting. In the afternoon the wind arose with drift and again the prophets predicted a blizzard. After an hour or two the wind fell and we had a calm, clear evening and night. The blizzards proper seem to be always preceded by an overcast sky in accordance with Simpson’s theory.
Taylor gave a most interesting lecture on the physiographic features of the region traversed by his party in the autumn. His mind is very luminous and clear and he treated the subject with a breadth of view which was delightful. The illustrative slides were made from Debenham’s photographs, and many of them were quite beautiful. Ponting tells me that Debenham knows quite a lot about photography and goes to work in quite the right way.

The lecture being a prècis of Taylor’s report there is no need to recapitulate its matter. With the pictures it was startling to realise the very different extent to which tributary glaciers have carved the channels in which they lie. The Canadian Glacier lies dead, but at ‘grade’ it has cut a very deep channel. The ‘double curtain’ hangs at an angle of 25º, with practically no channel. Mention was made of the difference of water found in Lake Bonney by me in December 1903 and the Western Party in February 1911. It seems certain that water must go on accumulating in the lake during the two or three summer months, and it is hard to imagine that all can be lost again by the winter’s evaporation. If it does, ‘evaporation’ becomes a matter of primary importance.

There was an excellent picture showing the find of sponges on the Koettlitz Glacier. Heaps of large sponges were found containing corals and some shells, all representative of present-day fauna. How on earth did they get to the place where found? There was a good deal of discussion on the point and no very satisfactory solution offered. Cannot help thinking that there is something in the thought that the glacier may have been weighted down with rubble which finally disengaged itself and allowed the ice to rise. Such speculations are interesting.
Preparations for the start of the Crozier Party are now completed, and the people will have to drag 253 lbs. per man – a big weight.

Day has made an excellent little blubber lamp for lighting; it has an annular wick and talc chimney; a small circular plate over the wick conducts the heat down and raises the temperature of combustion, so that the result is a clear white flame.

We are certainly within measurable distance of using blubber in the most effective way for both heating and lighting, and this is an advance which is of very high importance to the future of Antarctic Exploration.

Herbert Ponting making a hole in 4 feet of sea-ice for the purpose of lowering the Fish-trap. June 26th 1911
“Herbert Ponting making a hole in 4 feet of sea-ice for the purpose of lowering the Fish-trap. June 26th 1911”

Sunday, June 25th 1911

Sunday, June 25th, 1911

I find I have made no mention of Cherry-Garrard’s first number of the revived South Polar Times, presented to me on Midwinter Day.

It is a very good little volume, bound by Day in a really charming cover of carved venesta wood and sealskin. The contributors are anonymous, but I have succeeded in guessing the identity of the greater number.

The Editor has taken a statistical paper of my own on the plans for the Southern Journey and a well-written serious article on the Geological History of our region by Taylor. Except for editorial and meteorological notes the rest is conceived in the lighter vein. The verse is mediocre except perhaps for a quaint play of words in an amusing little skit on the sleeping-bag argument; but an article entitled ‘Valhalla’ appears to me to be altogether on a different level. It purports to describe the arrival of some of our party at the gates proverbially guarded by St. Peter; the humour is really delicious and nowhere at all forced. In the jokes of a small community it is rare to recognise one which would appeal to an outsider, but some of the happier witticisms of this article seem to me fit for wider circulation than our journal enjoys at present. Above all there is distinct literary merit in it – a polish which leaves you unable to suggest the betterment of a word anywhere.

I unhesitatingly attribute this effort to Taylor, but Wilson and Garrard make Meares responsible for it. If they are right I shall have to own that my judgment of attributes is very much at fault. I must find out.

A quiet day. Read Church Service as usual; in afternoon walked up the Ramp with Wilson to have a quiet talk before he departs. I wanted to get his ideas as to the scientific work done.

We agreed as to the exceptionally happy organisation of our party.

I took the opportunity to warn Wilson concerning the desirability of complete understanding with Ponting and Taylor with respect to their photographs and records on their return to civilisation.

The weather has been very mysterious of late; on the 23rd and 24th it continuously threatened a blizzard, but now the sky is clearing again with all signs of fine weather.

Friday, June 23rd, Saturday, June 24th 1911

Saturday, June 24th, 1911

Two quiet, uneventful days and a complete return to routine.

Dr Atkinson, Lieut. Bowers and Mr Cherry-Garrard cutting up pemmican.
“Dr Atkinson, Lieut. Bowers and Mr Cherry-Garrard cutting up pemmican.”

Thursday, June 22nd 1911. MIDWINTER.

Thursday, June 22nd, 1911

The sun reached its maximum depression at about 2.30 P.M. on the 22nd, Greenwich Mean Time: this is 2.30 A.M. on the 23rd according to the local time of the 180th meridian which we are keeping. Dinner to-night is therefore the meal which is nearest the sun’s critical change of course, and has been observed with all the festivity customary at Xmas at home.

At tea we broached an enormous Buzzard cake, with much gratitude to its provider, Cherry-Garrard. In preparation for the evening our ‘Union Jacks’ and sledge flags were hung about the large table, which itself was laid with glass and a plentiful supply of champagne bottles instead of the customary mugs and enamel lime juice jugs. At seven o’clock we sat down to an extravagant bill of fare as compared with our usual simple diet.

Beginning on seal soup, by common consent the best decoction that our cook produces, we went on to roast beef with Yorkshire pudding, fried potatoes and Brussels sprouts. Then followed a flaming plum-pudding and excellent mince pies, and thereafter a dainty savoury of anchovy and cod’s roe. A wondrous attractive meal even in so far as judged by our simple lights, but with its garnishments a positive feast, for withal the table was strewn with dishes of burnt almonds, crystallised fruits, chocolates and such toothsome kickshaws, whilst the unstinted supply of champagne which accompanied the courses was succeeded by a noble array of liqueur bottles from which choice could be made in the drinking of toasts.

I screwed myself up to a little speech which drew attention to the nature of the celebration as a half-way mark not only in our winter but in the plans of the Expedition as originally published. (I fear there are some who don’t realise how rapidly time passes and who have barely begun work which by this time ought to be in full swing.)

We had come through a summer season and half a winter,and had before us half a winter and a second summer. We ought to know how we stood in every respect; we did know how we stood in regard to stores and transport, and I especially thanked the officer in charge of stores and the custodians of the animals. I said that as regards the future, chance must play a part, but that experience showed me that it would have been impossible to have chosen people more fitted to support me in the enterprise to the South than those who were to start in that direction in the spring. I thanked them all for having put their shoulders to the wheel and given me this confidence.
We drank to the Success of the Expedition.

Then everyone was called on to speak, starting on my left and working round the table; the result was very characteristic of the various individuals – one seemed to know so well the style of utterance to which each would commit himself.

Needless to say, all were entirely modest and brief; unexpectedly, all had exceedingly kind things to say of me – in fact I was obliged to request the omission of compliments at an early stage. Nevertheless it was gratifying to have a really genuine recognition of my attitude towards the scientific workers of the Expedition, and I felt very warmly towards all these kind, good fellows for expressing it.

If good will and happy fellowship count towards success, very surely shall we deserve to succeed. It was matter for comment, much applauded, that there had not been a single disagreement between any two members of our party from the beginning. By the end of dinner a very cheerful spirit prevailed, and the room was cleared for Ponting and his lantern, whilst the gramophone gave forth its most lively airs.

When the table was upended, its legs removed, and chairs arranged in rows, we had quite a roomy lecture hall. Ponting had cleverly chosen this opportunity to display a series of slides made from his own local negatives. I have never so fully realised his work as on seeing these beautiful pictures; they so easily outclass anything of their kind previously taken in these regions. Our audience cheered vociferously.

After this show the table was restored for snapdragon, and a brew of milk punch was prepared in which we drank the health of Campbell’s party and of our good friends in the Terra Nova. Then the table was again removed and a set of lancers formed.

By this time the effect of stimulating liquid refreshment on men so long accustomed to a simple life became apparent. Our biologist had retired to bed, the silent Soldier bubbled with humour and insisted on dancing with Anton. Evans, P.O., was imparting confidences in heavy whispers. Pat’ Keohane had grown intensely Irish and desirous of political argument, whilst Clissold sat with a constant expansive smile and punctuated the babble of conversation with an occasional ‘Whoop’ of delight or disjointed witticism. Other bright-eyed individuals merely reached the capacity to enjoy that which under ordinary circumstances might have passed without evoking a smile.

In the midst of the revelry Bowers suddenly appeared, followed by some satellites bearing an enormous Christmas Tree whose branches bore flaming candles, gaudy crackers, and little presents for all. The presents, I learnt, had been prepared with kindly thought by Miss Souper (Mrs. Wilson’s sister) and the tree had been made by Bowers of pieces of stick and string with coloured paper to clothe its branches; the whole erection was remarkably creditable and the distribution of the presents caused much amusement.

Whilst revelry was the order of the day within our hut, the elements without seemed desirous of celebrating the occasion with equal emphasis and greater decorum. The eastern sky was massed with swaying auroral light, the most vivid and beautiful display that I had ever seen – fold on fold the arches and curtains of vibrating luminosity rose and spread across the sky, to slowly fade and yet again spring to glowing life.

The brighter light seemed to flow, now to mass itself in wreathing folds in one quarter, from which lustrous streamers shot upward, and anon to run in waves through the system of some dimmer figure as if to infuse new life within it.
It is impossible to witness such a beautiful phenomenon without a sense of awe, and yet this sentiment is not inspired by its brilliancy but rather by its delicacy in light and colour, its transparency, and above all by its tremulous evanescence of form. There is no glittering splendour to dazzle the eye, as has been too often described; rather the appeal is to the imagination by the suggestion of something wholly spiritual, something instinct with a fluttering ethereal life, serenely confident yet restlessly mobile.

One wonders why history does not tell us of ‘aurora’ worshippers, so easily could the phenomenon be considered the manifestation of ‘god’ or ‘demon.’ To the little silent group which stood at gaze before such enchantment it seemed profane to return to the mental and physical atmosphere of our house. Finally when I stepped within, I was glad to find that there had been a general movement bedwards, and in the next half-hour the last of the roysterers had succumbed to slumber.

Thus, except for a few bad heads in the morning, ended the High Festival of Midwinter.

There is little to be said for the artificial uplifting of animal spirits, yet few could take great exception to so rare an outburst in a long run of quiet days.

After all we celebrated the birth of a season which for weal or woe must be numbered amongst the greatest in our lives.

Midwinter Day Dinner at Winterquarters Hut. June 22nd 1911
“Midwinter Day Dinner at Winterquarters Hut. June 22nd 1911”

Midwinter Day Dinner at Winterquarters Hut. June 22nd 1911
“Midwinter Day Dinner at Winterquarters Hut. June 22nd 1911”

Midwinter Day Tree. June 22nd 1911
“Midwinter Day Tree. June 22nd 1911”

Wednesday, June 21st 1911

Wednesday, June 21st, 1911

The temperature low again, falling to -36º. A curious hazy look in the sky, very little wind. The cold is bringing some minor troubles with the clockwork instruments in the open and with the acetylene gas plant – no insuperable difficulties. Went for a ski run round the bergs; found it very dark and uninteresting.

The temperature remained low during night and Taylor reported a very fine display of Aurora.