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Scott's Last Expedition

Friday, July 7th 1911

The temperature fell to -49º last night – our record so far, and likely to remain so, one would think. This morning it was fine and calm, temperature -45º. But this afternoon a 30-mile wind sprang up from the S.E., and the temperature only gradually rose to -30º, never passing above that point. I thought it a little too strenuous and so was robbed of my walk.

The dogs’ coats are getting pretty thick, and they seem to take matters pretty comfortably. The ponies are better, I think, but I shall be glad when we are sure of having rid them of their pest.

I was the victim of a very curious illusion to-day. On our small heating stove stands a cylindrical ice melter which keeps up the supply of water necessary for the dark room and other scientific instruments. This iron container naturally becomes warm if it is not fed with ice, and it is generally hung around with socks and mits which require drying. I put my hand on the cylindrical vessel this afternoon and withdrew it sharply with the sensation of heat. To verify the impression I repeated the action two or three times, when it became so strong that I loudly warned the owners of the socks, &c., of the peril of burning to which they were exposed. Upon this Meares said, ‘But they filled the melter with ice a few minutes ago,’ and then, coming over to feel the surface himself, added, ‘Why, it’s cold, sir.’ And indeed so it was. The slightly damp chilled surface of the iron had conveyed to me the impression of excessive heat.

There is nothing intrinsically new in this observation; it has often been noticed that metal surfaces at low temperatures give a sensation of burning to the bare touch, but none the less it is an interesting variant of the common fact.

Apropos. Atkinson is suffering a good deal from his hand: the frostbite was deeper than I thought; fortunately he can now feel all his fingers, though it was twenty-four hours before sensation returned to one of them.

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