Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge » Scott's Last Expedition skip to primary navigation skip to content


Scott's Last Expedition

Tuesday, August 22nd 1911

I am renewing study of glacier problems; the face of the ice cliff 300 yards east of the homestead is full of enigmas. Yesterday evening Ponting gave us a lecture on his Indian travels. He is very frank in acknowledging his debt to guide-books for information, nevertheless he tells his story well and his slides are wonderful. In personal reminiscence he is distinctly dramatic – he thrilled us a good deal last night with a vivid description of a sunrise in the sacred city of Benares. In the first dim light the waiting, praying multitude of bathers, the wonderful ritual and its incessant performance; then, as the sun approaches, the hush – the effect of thousands of worshippers waiting in silence – a silence to be felt. Finally, as the first rays appear, the swelling roar of a single word from tens of thousands of throats: ‘Ambah!’ It was artistic to follow this picture of life with the gruesome horrors of the ghat. This impressionist style of lecturing is very attractive and must essentially cover a great deal of ground. So we saw Jeypore, Udaipore, Darjeeling, and a confusing number of places – temples, monuments and tombs in profusion, with remarkable pictures of the wonderful Taj Mahal – horses, elephants, alligators, wild boars, and flamingoes – warriors, fakirs, and nautch girls – an impression here and an impression there.
It is worth remembering how attractive this style can be – in lecturing one is inclined to give too much attention to connecting links which join one episode to another. A lecture need not be a connected story; perhaps it is better it should not be.

It was my night on duty last night and I watched the oncoming of a blizzard with exceptional beginnings. The sky became very gradually overcast between 1 and 4 A.M. About 2.30 the temperature rose on a steep grade from -20º to -3º; the barometer was falling, rapidly for these regions. Soon after 4 the wind came with a rush, but without snow or drift. For a time it was more gusty than has ever yet been recorded even in this region. In one gust the wind rose from 4 to 68 m.p.h. and fell again to 20 m.p.h. within a minute; another reached 80 m.p.h., but not from such a low point of origin. The effect in the hut was curious; for a space all would be quiet, then a shattering blast would descend with a clatter and rattle past ventilator and chimneys, so sudden, so threatening, that it was comforting to remember the solid structure of our building. The suction of such a gust is so heavy that even the heavy snow-covered roof of the stable, completely sheltered on the lee side of the main building, is violently shaken – one could well imagine the plight of our adventurers at C. Crozier when their roof was destroyed. The snow which came at 6 lessened the gustiness and brought the ordinary phenomena of a blizzard. It is blowing hard to-day, with broken windy clouds and roving bodies of drift. A wild day for the return of the sun. Had it been fine to-day we should have seen the sun for the first time; yesterday it shone on the lower foothills to the west, but to-day we see nothing but gilded drift clouds. Yet it is grand to have daylight rushing at one.

Comments are closed.