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


Scott's Last Expedition

Archive for October, 1911

Tuesday, October 17th 1911

Wednesday, October 18th, 1911

Things not going very well; with ponies all pretty well. Animals are improving in form rapidly, even Jehu, though I have ceased to count on that animal. To-night the motors were to be taken on to the floe. The drifts make the road very uneven, and the first and best motor overrode its chain; the chain was replaced and the machine proceeded, but just short of the floe was thrust to a steep inclination by a ridge, and the chain again overrode the sprockets; this time by ill fortune Day slipped at the critical moment and without intention jammed the throttle full on. The engine brought up, but there was an ominous trickle of oil under the back axle, and investigation showed that the axle casing (aluminium) had split. The casing has been stripped and brought into the hut; we may be able to do something to it, but time presses. It all goes to show that we want more experience and workshops.

I am secretly convinced that we shall not get much help from the motors, yet nothing has ever happened to them that was unavoidable. A little more care and foresight would make them splendid allies. The trouble is that if they fail, no one will ever believe this.

Meares got back from Corner Camp at 8 A.M. Sunday morning – he got through on the telephone to report in the afternoon. He must have made the pace, which is promising for the dogs. Sixty geographical miles in two days and a night is good going – about as good as can be.

I have had to tell Clissold that he cannot go out with the Motor Party, to his great disappointment. He improves very steadily, however, and I trust will be fit before we leave with the ponies. Hooper replaces him with the motors. I am kept very busy writing and preparing details.

We have had two days of northerly wind, a very unusual occurrence; yesterday it was blowing S.E., force 8, temp. -16º, whilst here the wind was north, force 4, temp. -6º. This continued for some hours – a curious meteorological combination. We are pretty certain of a southerly blizzard to follow, I should think.

Sunday, October 15th 1911

Sunday, October 15th, 1911

Both of our invalids progress favourably. Clissold has had two good nights without the aid of drugs and has recovered his good spirits; pains have departed from his back.

The weather is very decidedly warmer and for the past three days has been fine. The thermometer stands but a degree or two below zero and the air feels delightfully mild. Everything of importance is now ready for our start and the ponies improve daily.

Clissold’s work of cooking has fallen on Hooper and Lashly, and it is satisfactory to find that the various dishes and bread bakings maintain their excellence. It is splendid to have people who refuse to recognise difficulties.

Friday, October 13th 1911

Friday, October 13th, 1911

The past three days have seen a marked improvement in both our invalids. Clissold’s inside has been got into working order after a good deal of difficulty; he improves rapidly in spirits as well as towards immunity from pain. The fiction of his preparation to join the motor sledge party is still kept up, but Atkinson says there is not the smallest chance of his being ready. I shall have to be satisfied if he practically recovers by the time we leave with the ponies.

Forde’s hand took a turn for the better two days ago and he maintains this progress. Atkinson thinks he will be ready to start in ten days’ time, but the hand must be carefully nursed till the weather becomes really summery.

The weather has continued bad till to-day, which has been perfectly beautiful. A fine warm sun all day – so warm that one could sit about outside in the afternoon, and photographic work was a real pleasure.

The ponies have been behaving well, with exceptions. Victor is now quite easy to manage, thanks to Bowers’ patience. Chinaman goes along very steadily and is not going to be the crock we expected. He has a slow pace which may be troublesome, but when the weather is fine that won’t matter if he can get along steadily.

The most troublesome animal is Christopher. He is only a source of amusement as long as there is no accident, but I am always a little anxious that he will kick or bite someone. The curious thing is that he is quiet enough to handle for walking or riding exercise or in the stable, but as soon as a sledge comes into the programme he is seized with a very demon of viciousness, and bites and kicks with every intent to do injury. It seems to be getting harder rather than easier to get him into the traces; the last two turns, he has had to be thrown, as he is unmanageable even on three legs. Oates, Bowers, and Anton gather round the beast and lash up one foreleg, then with his head held on both sides Oates gathers back the traces; quick as lightning the little beast flashes round with heels flying aloft. This goes on till some degree of exhaustion gives the men a better chance. But, as I have mentioned, during the last two days the period has been so prolonged that Oates has had to hasten matters by tying a short line to the other foreleg and throwing the beast when he lashes out. Even when on his knees he continues to struggle, and one of those nimble hind legs may fly out at any time. Once in the sledge and started on three legs all is well and the fourth leg can be released. At least, all has been well until to-day, when quite a comedy was enacted. He was going along quietly with Oates when a dog frightened him: he flung up his head, twitched the rope out of Oates’ hands and dashed away. It was not a question of blind fright, as immediately after gaining freedom he set about most systematically to get rid of his load. At first he gave sudden twists, and in this manner succeeded in dislodging two bales of hay; then he caught sight of other sledges and dashed for them. They could scarcely get out of his way in time; the fell intention was evident all through, to dash his load against some other pony and sledge and so free himself of it. He ran for Bowers two or three times with this design, then made for Keohane, never going off far and dashing inward with teeth bared and heels flying all over the place. By this time people were gathering round, and first one and then another succeeded in clambering on to the sledge as it flew by, till Oates, Bowers, Nelson, and Atkinson were all sitting on it. He tried to rid himself of this human burden as he had of the hay bales, and succeeded in dislodging Atkinson with violence, but the remainder dug their heels into the snow and finally the little brute was tired out. Even then he tried to savage anyone approaching his leading line, and it was some time before Oates could get hold of it. Such is the tale of Christopher. I am exceedingly glad there are not other ponies like him. These capers promise trouble, but I think a little soft snow on the Barrier may effectually cure them.

E.R. Evans and Gran return to-night. We received notice of their departure from Hut Point through the telephone, which also informed us that Meares had departed for his first trip to Corner Camp. Evans says he carried eight bags of forage and that the dogs went away at a great pace.

In spite of the weather Evans has managed to complete his survey to Hut Point. He has evidently been very careful with it and has therefore done a very useful bit of work.

Tuesday, October 10th 1911

Wednesday, October 11th, 1911

Still anxious about Clissold. He has passed two fairly good nights but is barely able to move. He is unnaturally irritable, but I am told this is a symptom of concussion. This morning he asked for food, which is a good sign, and he was anxious to know if his sledging gear was being got ready. In order not to disappoint him he was assured that all would be ready, but there is scarce a slender chance that he can fill his place in the programme.

Meares came from Hut Point yesterday at the front end of a blizzard. Half an hour after his arrival it was as thick as a hedge. He reports another loss – Deek, one of the best pulling dogs, developed the same symptoms which have so unaccountably robbed us before, spent a night in pain, and died in the morning. Wilson thinks the cause is a worm which gets into the blood and thence to the brain. It is trying, but I am past despondency. Things must take their course.

Forde’s fingers improve, but not very rapidly; it is hard to have two sick men after all the care which has been taken.

The weather is very poor – I had hoped for better things this month. So far we have had more days with wind and drift than without. It interferes badly with the ponies’ exercise.

Sunday, October 8th 1911

Tuesday, October 10th, 1911

A very beautiful day. Everyone out and about after Service, all ponies going well. Went to Pressure Ridge with Ponting and took a number of photographs.

So far good, but the afternoon has brought much worry. About five a telephone message from Nelson’s igloo reported that Clissold had fallen from a berg and hurt his back. Bowers organised a sledge party in three minutes, and fortunately Atkinson was on the spot and able to join it. I posted out over the land and found Ponting much distressed and Clissold practically insensible. At this moment the Hut Point ponies were approaching and I ran over to intercept one in case of necessity. But the man# party was on the spot first, and after putting the patient in a sleeping-bag, quickly brought him home to the hut. It appears that Clissold was acting as Ponting’s ‘model’ and that the two had been climbing about the berg to get pictures. As far as I can make out Ponting did his best to keep Clissold in safety by lending him his crampons and ice axe, but the latter seems to have missed his footing after one of his ‘poses’; he slid over a rounded surface of ice for some 12 feet, then dropped 6 feet on to a sharp angle in the wall of the berg.

He must have struck his back and head; the latter is contused and he is certainly suffering from slight concussion. He complained of his back before he grew unconscious and groaned a good deal when moved in the hut. He came to about an hour after getting to the hut, and was evidently in a good deal of pain; neither Atkinson nor Wilson thinks there is anything very serious, but he has not yet been properly examined and has had a fearful shock at the least. I still feel very anxious. To-night Atkinson has injected morphia and will watch by his patient.

Troubles rarely come singly, and it occurred to me after Clissold had been brought in that Taylor, who had been bicycling to the Turk’s Head, was overdue. We were relieved to hear that with glasses two figures could be seen approaching in South Bay, but at supper Wright appeared very hot and said that Taylor was exhausted in South Bay – he wanted brandy and hot drink. I thought it best to despatch another relief party, but before they were well round the point Taylor was seen coming over the land. He was fearfully done. He must have pressed on towards his objective long after his reason should have warned him that it was time to turn; with this and a good deal of anxiety about Clissold, the day terminates very unpleasantly.

Saturday, October 7th 1911

Monday, October 9th, 1911

As though to contradict the suggestion of incompetence, friend ‘Jehu’ pulled with a will this morning – he covered 3 1/2 miles without a stop, the surface being much worse than it was two days ago. He was not at all distressed when he stopped. If he goes on like this he comes into practical politics again, and I am arranging to give 10-feet sledges to him and Chinaman instead of 12-feet. Probably they will not do much, but if they go on as at present we shall get something out of them. Long and cheerful conversations with Hut Point and of course an opportunity for the exchange of witticisms. We are told it was blowing and drifting at Hut Point last night, whereas here it was calm and snowing; the wind only reached us this afternoon.

Friday, October 6th 1911

Sunday, October 8th, 1911

With the rise of temperature there has been a slight thaw in the hut; the drips come down the walls and one has found my diary, as its pages show. The drips are already decreasing, and if they represent the whole accumulation of winter moisture it is extraordinarily little, and speaks highly for the design of the hut. There cannot be very much more or the stains would be more significant.

Yesterday I had a good look at Jehu and became convinced that he is useless; he is much too weak to pull a load, and three weeks can make no difference. It is necessary to face the facts and I’ve decided to leave him behind – we must do with nine ponies. Chinaman is rather a doubtful quantity and James Pigg is not a tower of strength, but the other seven are in fine form and must bear the brunt of the work somehow.

If we suffer more loss we shall depend on the motor, and then! … well, one must face the bad as well as the good.

It is some comfort to know that six of the animals at least are in splendid condition – Victor, Snippets, Christopher, Nobby, Bones are as fit as ponies could well be and are naturally strong, well-shaped beasts, whilst little Michael, though not so shapely, is as strong as he will ever be.

To-day Wilson, Oates, Cherry-Garrard, and Crean have gone to Hut Point with their ponies, Oates getting off with Christopher after some difficulty. At 5 o’clock the Hut Point telephone bell suddenly rang (the line was laid by Meares some time ago, but hitherto there has been no communication). In a minute or two we heard a voice, and behold! communication was established. I had quite a talk with Meares and afterwards with Oates. Not a very wonderful fact, perhaps, but it seems wonderful in this primitive land to be talking to one’s fellow beings 15 miles away. Oates told me that the ponies had arrived in fine order, Christopher a little done, but carrying the heaviest load.

If we can keep the telephone going it will be a great boon, especially to Meares later in the season.

The weather is extraordinarily unsettled; the last two days have been fairly fine, but every now and again we get a burst of wind with drift, and to-night it is overcast and very gloomy in appearance.

The photography craze is in full swing. Ponting’s mastery is ever more impressive, and his pupils improve day by day; nearly all of us have produced good negatives. Debenham and Wright are the most promising, but Taylor, Bowers and I are also getting the hang of the tricky exposures.

Wednesday, October 3rd 1911

Wednesday, October 4th, 1911

We have had a very bad weather spell. Friday, the day after we returned, was gloriously fine – it might have been a December day, and an inexperienced visitor might have wondered why on earth we had not started to the South, Saturday supplied a reason; the wind blew cold and cheerless; on Sunday it grew worse, with very thick snow, which continued to fall and drift throughout the whole of Monday. The hut is more drifted up than it has ever been, huge piles of snow behind every heap of boxes, &c., all our paths a foot higher; yet in spite of this the rocks are rather freer of snow. This is due to melting, which is now quite considerable. Wilson tells me the first signs of thaw were seen on the 17th.

Yesterday the weather gradually improved, and to-day has been fine and warm again. One fine day in eight is the record immediately previous to this morning.

E.R. Evans, Debenham, and Gran set off to the Turk’s Head on Friday morning, Evans to take angles and Debenham to geologise; they have been in their tent pretty well all the time since, but have managed to get through some work. Gran returned last night for more provisions and set off again this morning, Taylor going with him for the day. Debenham has just returned for food. He is immensely pleased at having discovered a huge slicken-sided fault in the lavas of the Turk’s Head. This appears to be an unusual occurrence in volcanic rocks, and argues that they are of considerable age. He has taken a heap of photographs and is greatly pleased with all his geological observations. He is building up much evidence to show volcanic disturbance independent of Erebus and perhaps prior to its first upheaval.

Meares has been at Hut Point for more than a week; seals seem to be plentiful there now. Demetri was back with letters on Friday and left on Sunday. He is an excellent boy, full of intelligence.

Ponting has been doing some wonderfully fine cinematograph work. My incursion into photography has brought me in close touch with him and I realise what a very good fellow he is; no pains are too great for him to take to help and instruct others, whilst his enthusiasm for his own work is unlimited.

His results are wonderfully good, and if he is able to carry out the whole of his programme, we shall have a cinematograph and photographic record which will be absolutely new in expeditionary work.

A very serious bit of news to-day. Atkinson says that Jehu is still too weak to pull a load. The pony was bad on the ship and almost died after swimming ashore from the ship – he was one of the ponies returned by Campbell. He has been improving the whole of the winter and Oates has been surprised at the apparent recovery; he looks well and feeds well, though a very weedily built animal compared with the others. I had not expected him to last long, but it will be a bad blow if he fails at the start. I’m afraid there is much pony trouble in store for us.

Oates is having great trouble with Christopher, who didn’t at all appreciate being harnessed on Sunday, and again to-day he broke away and galloped off over the floe.
On such occasions Oates trudges manfully after him, rounds him up to within a few hundred yards of the stable and approaches cautiously; the animal looks at him for a minute or two and canters off over the floe again. When Christopher and indeed both of them have had enough of the game, the pony calmly stops at the stable door. If not too late he is then put into the sledge, but this can only be done by tying up one of his forelegs; when harnessed and after he has hopped along on three legs for a few paces, he is again allowed to use the fourth. He is going to be a trial, but he is a good strong pony and should do yeoman service.

Day is increasingly hopeful about the motors. He is an ingenious person and has been turning up new rollers out of a baulk of oak supplied by Meares, and with Simpson’s small motor as a lathe. The motors _may_ save the situation. I have been busy drawing up instructions and making arrangements for the ship, shore station, and sledge parties in the coming season. There is still much work to be done and much, far too much, writing before me.

Time simply flies and the sun steadily climbs the heavens. Breakfast, lunch, and supper are now all enjoyed by sunlight, whilst the night is no longer dark.

Sunday, October 1st 1911

Monday, October 2nd, 1911

Returned on Thursday from a remarkably pleasant and instructive little spring journey, after an absence of thirteen days from September 15. We covered 152 geographical miles by sledging (175 statute miles) in 10 marching days. It took us 2 1/2 days to reach Butter Point (28 1/2 miles geog.), carrying a part of the Western Party stores which brought our load to 180 lbs. a man. Everything very comfortable; double tent great asset. The 16th: a most glorious day till 4 P.M., then cold southerly wind. We captured many frost-bites. Surface only fairly good; a good many heaps of loose snow which brought sledge up standing. There seems a good deal more snow this side of the Strait; query, less wind.

Bowers insists on doing all camp work; he is a positive wonder. I never met such a sledge traveller.

The sastrugi all across the strait have been across, the main S. by E. and the other E.S.E., but these are a great study here; the hard snow is striated with long wavy lines crossed with lighter wavy lines. It gives a sort of herringbone effect.

After depositing this extra load we proceeded up the Ferrar Glacier; curious low ice foot on left, no tide crack, sea ice very thinly covered with snow. We are getting delightfully fit. Bowers treasure all round, Evans much the same. Simpson learning fast. Find the camp life suits me well except the turning out at night! three times last night. We were trying nose nips and face guards, marching head to wind all day.

We reached Cathedral Rocks on the 19th. Here we found the stakes placed by Wright across the glacier, and spent the remainder of the day and the whole of the 20th in plotting their position accurately. (Very cold wind down glacier increasing. In spite of this Bowers wrestled with theodolite. He is really wonderful. I have never seen anyone who could go on so long with bare fingers. My own fingers went every few moments.)We saw that there had been movement and roughly measured it as about 30 feet. (The old Ferrar Glacier is more lively than we thought.) After plotting the figures it turns out that the movement varies from 24 to 32 feet at different stakes – this is 7 1/2 months. This is an extremely important observation, the first made on the movement of the coastal glaciers; it is more than I expected to find, but small enough to show that the idea of comparative stagnation was correct. Bowers and I exposed a number of plates and films in the glacier which have turned out very well, auguring well for the management of the camera on the Southern journey.

On the 21st we came down the glacier and camped at the northern end of the foot. (There appeared to be a storm in the Strait; cumulus cloud over Erebus and the whalebacks. Very stormy look over Lister occasionally and drift from peaks; but all smiling in our Happy Valley. Evidently this is a very favoured spot.) From thence we jogged up the coast on the following days, dipping into New Harbour and climbing the moraine, taking angles and collecting rock specimens. At Cape Bernacchi we found a quantity of pure quartz _in situ_, and in it veins of copper ore. I got a specimen with two or three large lumps of copper included. This is the first find of minerals suggestive of the possibility of working.

The next day we sighted a long, low ice wall, and took it at first for a long glacier tongue stretching seaward from the land. As we approached we saw a dark mark on it. Suddenly it dawned on us that the tongue was detached from the land, and we turned towards it half recognising familiar features. As we got close we saw similarity to our old Erebus Glacier Tongue, and finally caught sight of a flag on it, and suddenly realised that it might be the piece broken off our old Erebus Glacier Tongue. Sure enough it was; we camped near the outer end, and climbing on to it soon found the depot of fodder left by Campbell and the line of stakes planted to guide our ponies in the autumn. So here firmly anchored was the huge piece broken from the Glacier Tongue in March, a huge tract about 2 miles long, which has turned through half a circle, so that the old western end is now towards the east. Considering the many cracks in the ice mass it is most astonishing that it should have remained intact throughout its sea voyage.

At one time it was suggested that the hut should be placed on this Tongue. What an adventurous voyage the occupants would have had! The Tongue which was 5 miles south of C. Evans is now 40 miles W.N.W. of it.

From the Glacier Tongue we still pushed north. We reached Dunlop Island on the 24th just before the fog descended on us, and got a view along the stretch of coast to the north which turns at this point.

Dunlop Island has undoubtedly been under the sea. We found regular terrace beaches with rounded waterworn stones all over it; its height is 65 feet. After visiting the island it was easy for us to trace the same terrace formation on the coast; in one place we found waterworn stones over 100 feet above sea-level. Nearly all these stones are erratic and, unlike ordinary beach pebbles, the under sides which lie buried have remained angular.
Unlike the region of the Ferrar Glacier and New Harbour, the coast to the north of C. Bernacchi runs on in a succession of rounded bays fringed with low ice walls. At the headlands and in irregular spots the gneissic base rock and portions of moraines lie exposed, offering a succession of interesting spots for a visit in search of geological specimens. Behind this fringe there is a long undulating plateau of snow rounding down to the coast; behind this again are a succession of mountain ranges with deep-cut valleys between. As far as we went, these valleys seem to radiate from the region of the summit reached at the head of the Ferrar Glacier.

As one approaches the coast, the ‘tablecloth’ of snow in the foreground cuts off more and more of the inland peaks, and even at a distance it is impossible to get a good view of the inland valleys. To explore these over the ice cap is one of the objects of the Western Party.

So far, I never imagined a spring journey could be so pleasant.

On the afternoon of the 24th we turned back, and covering nearly eleven miles, camped inside the Glacier Tongue. After noon on the 25th we made a direct course for C. Evans, and in the evening camped well out in the Sound. Bowers got angles from our lunch camp and I took a photographic panorama, which is a good deal over exposed.

We only got 2 1/2 miles on the 26th when a heavy blizzard descended on us. We went on against it, the first time I have ever attempted to march into a blizzard; it was quite possible, but progress very slow owing to wind resistance. Decided to camp after we had done two miles. Quite a job getting up the tent, but we managed to do so, and get everything inside clear of snow with the help of much sweeping.

With care and extra fuel we have managed to get through the snowy part of the blizzard with less accumulation of snow than I ever remember, and so everywhere all round experience is helping us. It continued to blow hard throughout the 27th, and the 28th proved the most unpleasant day of the trip. We started facing a very keen, frostbiting wind. Although this slowly increased in force, we pushed doggedly on, halting now and again to bring our frozen features round. It was 2 o’clock before we could find a decent site for a lunch camp under a pressure ridge. The fatigue of the prolonged march told on Simpson, whose whole face was frostbitten at one time – it is still much blistered. It came on to drift as we sat in our tent, and again we were weather-bound. At 3 the drift ceased, and we marched on, wind as bad as ever; then I saw an ominous yellow fuzzy appearance on the southern ridges of Erebus, and knew that another snowstorm approached. Foolishly hoping it would pass us by I kept on until Inaccessible Island was suddenly blotted out. Then we rushed for a camp site, but the blizzard was on us. In the driving snow we found it impossible to set up the inner tent, and were obliged to unbend it. It was a long job getting the outer tent set, but thanks to Evans and Bowers it was done at last. We had to risk frostbitten fingers and hang on to the tent with all our energy: got it secured inch by inch, and not such a bad speed all things considered. We had some cocoa and waited. At 9 P.M. the snow drift again took off, and we were now so snowed up, we decided to push on in spite of the wind.

We arrived in at 1.15 A.M., pretty well done. The wind never let up for an instant; the temperature remained about -16º, and the 21 statute miles which we marched in the day must be remembered amongst the most strenuous in my memory.

Except for the last few days, we enjoyed a degree of comfort which I had not imagined impossible on a spring journey. The temperature was not particularly high, at the mouth of the Ferrar it was -40º, and it varied between -15º and -40º throughout. Of course this is much higher than it would be on the Barrier, but it does not in itself promise much comfort. The amelioration of such conditions we owe to experience. We used one-third more than the summer allowance of fuel. This, with our double tent, allowed a cosy hour after breakfast and supper in which we could dry our socks, &c., and put them on in comfort. We shifted our footgear immediately after the camp was pitched, and by this means kept our feet glowingly warm throughout the night. Nearly all the time we carried our sleeping-bags open on the sledges. Although the sun does not appear to have much effect, I believe this device is of great benefit even in the coldest weather – certainly by this means our bags were kept much freer of moisture than they would have been had they been rolled up in the daytime. The inner tent gets a good deal of ice on it, and I don’t see any easy way to prevent this.

The journey enables me to advise the Geological Party on their best route to Granite Harbour: this is along the shore, where for the main part the protection of a chain of grounded bergs has preserved the ice from all pressure. Outside these, and occasionally reaching to the headlands, there is a good deal of pressed up ice of this season, together with the latest of the old broken pack. Travelling through this is difficult, as we found on our return journey. Beyond this belt we passed through irregular patches where the ice, freezing at later intervals in the season, has been much screwed. The whole shows the general tendency of the ice to pack along the coast.

The objects of our little journey were satisfactorily accomplished, but the greatest source of pleasure to me is to realise that I have such men as Bowers and P.O. Evans for the Southern journey. I do not think that harder men or better sledge travellers ever took the trail. Bowers is a little wonder. I realised all that he must have done for the C. Crozier Party in their far severer experience.

In spite of the late hour of our return everyone was soon afoot, and I learned the news at once. E.R. Evans, Gran, and Forde had returned from the Corner Camp journey the day after we left. They were away six nights, four spent on the Barrier under very severe conditions – the minimum for one night registered -73º.

I am glad to find that Corner Camp showed up well; in fact, in more than one place remains of last year’s pony walls were seen. This removes all anxiety as to the chance of finding the One Ton Camp.

On this journey Forde got his hand badly frostbitten. I am annoyed at this, as it argues want of care; moreover there is a good chance that the tip of one of the fingers will be lost, and if this happens or if the hand is slow in recovery, Forde cannot take part in the Western Party. I have no one to replace him.

E.R. Evans looks remarkably well, as also Gran.

The ponies look very well and all are reported to be very buckish.