skip to primary navigation skip to content


Scott's Last Expedition

Archive for November, 1911

Thursday, November 30th 1911

Thursday, November 30th, 1911

Camp 26. A very pleasant day for marching, but a very tiring march for the poor animals, which, with the exception of Nobby, are showing signs of failure all round. We were slower by half an hour or more than yesterday. Except that the loads are light now and there are still eight animals left, things don’t look too pleasant, but we should be less than 60 miles from our first point of aim. The surface was much worse to-day, the ponies sinking to their knees very often. There were a few harder patches towards the end of the march. In spite of the sun there was not much ‘glide’ on the snow. The dogs are reported as doing very well. They are going to be a great standby, no doubt. The land has been veiled in thin white mist; it appeared at intervals after we camped and I had taken a couple of photographs.

Wednesday, November 29th 1911

Wednesday, November 29th, 1911

Camp 25. Lat. 82º 21′. Things much better. The land showed up late yesterday; Mount Markham, a magnificent triple peak, appearing wonderfully close, Cape Lyttelton and Cape Goldie. We did our march in good time, leaving about 4.20, and getting into this camp at 1.15. About 7 1/2 hours on the march. I suppose our speed throughout averages 2 stat. miles an hour.

The land showed hazily on the march, at times looking remarkably near. Sheety white snowy stratus cloud hung about overhead during the first march, but now the sky is clearing, the sun very warm and bright. Land shows up almost ahead now, our pony goal less than 70 miles away. The ponies are tired, but I believe all have five days’ work left in them, and some a great deal more. Chinaman made four feeds for the dogs, and I suppose we can count every other pony as a similar asset. It follows that the dogs can be employed, rested, and fed well on the homeward track. We could really get though now with their help and without much delay, yet every consideration makes it desirable to save the men from heavy hauling as long as possible. So I devoutly hope the 70 miles will come in the present order of things. Snippets and Nobby now walk by themselves, following in the tracks well. Both have a continually cunning eye on their driver, ready to stop the moment he pauses. They eat snow every few minutes. It’s a relief not having to lead an animal; such trifles annoy one on these marches, the animal’s vagaries, his everlasting attempts to eat his head rope, &c. Yet all these animals are very full of character. Some day I must write of them and their individualities.

The men-haulers started 1 1/2 hours before us and got here a good hour ahead, travelling easily throughout. Such is the surface with the sun on it, justifying my decision to work towards day marching. Evans has suggested the word ‘glide’ for the quality of surface indicated. ‘Surface’ is more comprehensive, and includes the crusts and liability to sink in them. From this point of view the surface is distinctly bad. The ponies plough deep all the time, and the men most of the time. The sastrugi are rather more clearly S.E.; this would be from winds sweeping along the coast. We have a recurrence of ‘sinking crusts’ – areas which give way with a report. There has been little of this since we left One Ton Camp until yesterday and to-day, when it is again very marked. Certainly the open Barrier conditions are different from those near the coast. Altogether things look much better and everyone is in excellent spirits. Meares has been measuring the holes made by ponies’ hooves and finds an average of about 8 inches since we left One Ton Camp. He finds many holes a foot deep. This gives a good indication of the nature of the work. In Bowers’ tent they had some of Chinaman’s undercut in their hoosh yesterday, and say it was excellent. I am cook for the present. Have been discussing pony snowshoes. I wish to goodness the animals would wear them – it would save them any amount of labour in such surfaces as this.

Tuesday, November 28th 1911

Tuesday, November 28th, 1911

Camp 24. The most dismal start imaginable. Thick as a hedge, snow falling and drifting with keen southerly wind. The men pulled out at 3.15 with Chinaman and James Pigg. We followed at 4.20, just catching the party at the lunch camp at 8.30. Things got better half way; the sky showed signs of clearing and the steering improved. Now, at lunch, it is getting thick again. When will the wretched blizzard be over? The walking is better for ponies, worse for men; there is nearly everywhere a hard crust some 3 to 6 inches down. Towards the end of the march we crossed a succession of high hard south-easterly sastrugi, widely dispersed. I don’t know what to make of these.

Second march almost as horrid as the first. Wind blowing strong from the south, shifting to S.E. as the snowstorms fell on us, when we could see little or nothing, and the driving snow hit us stingingly in the face. The general impression of all this dirty weather is that it spreads in from the S.E. We started at 4 A.M., and I think I shall stick to that custom for the present. These last four marches have been fought for, but completed without hitch, and, though we camped in a snowstorm, there is a more promising look in the sky, and if only for a time the wind has dropped and the sun shines brightly, dispelling some of the gloomy results of the distressing marching.

Chinaman, ‘The Thunderbolt,’ has been shot to-night. Plucky little chap, he has stuck it out well and leaves the stage but a few days before his fellows. We have only four bags of forage (each one 30 lbs.) left, but these should give seven marches with all the remaining animals, and we are less than 90 miles from the Glacier. Bowers tells me that the barometer was phenomenally low both during this blizzard and the last. This has certainly been the most unexpected and trying summer blizzard yet experienced in this region. I only trust it is over. There is not much to choose between the remaining ponies. Nobby and Bones are the strongest, Victor and Christopher the weakest, but all should get through. The land doesn’t show up yet.

Monday, November 27th 1911

Monday, November 27th, 1911

Camp 23. (T. +8º, 12 P.M.; +2º, 3 A.M.; +13º, 11 A.M.; +17º, 3 P.M.) Quite the most trying march we have had. The surface very poor at start. The advance party got away in front but made heavy weather of it, and we caught them up several times. This threw the ponies out of their regular work and prolonged the march. It grew overcast again, although after a summery blizzard all yesterday there was promise of better things. Starting at 3 A.M. we did not get to lunch camp much before 9. The second march was even worse. The advance party started on ski, the leading marks failed altogether, and they had the greatest difficulty in keeping a course. At the midcairn building halt the snow suddenly came down heavily, with a rise of temperature, and the ski became hopelessly clogged (bad fahrer, as the Norwegians say). At this time the surface was unspeakably heavy for pulling, but in a few minutes a south wind sprang up and a beneficial result was immediately felt. Pulling on foot, the advance had even greater difficulty in going straight until the last half mile, when the sky broke slightly. We got off our march, but under the most harassing circumstances and with the animals very tired. It is snowing hard again now, and heaven only knows when it will stop.

If it were not for the surface and bad light, things would not be so bad. There are few sastrugi and little deep snow. For the most part men and ponies sink to a hard crust some 3 or 4 inches beneath the soft upper snow. Tiring for the men, but in itself more even, and therefore less tiring for the animals. Meares just come up and reporting very bad surface. We shall start 1 hour later to-morrow, i.e. at 4 A.M., making 5 hours’ delay on the conditions of three days ago. Our forage supply necessitates that we should plug on the 13 (geographical) miles daily under all conditions, so that we can only hope for better things. It is several days since we had a glimpse of land, which makes conditions especially gloomy. A tired animal makes a tired man, I find, and none of us are very bright now after the day’s march, though we have had ample sleep of late.

Sunday, November 26th 1911

Sunday, November 26th, 1911

Camp 22. Lunch camp. Marched here fairly easily, comparatively good surface. Started at 1 A.M. (midnight, local time). We now keep a steady pace of 2 miles an hour, very good going. The sky was slightly overcast at start and between two and three it grew very misty. Before we camped we lost sight of the men-haulers only 300 yards ahead. The sun is piercing the mist. Here in Lat. 81º 35′ we are leaving our ‘Middle Barrier DepÙt,’ one week for each re unit as at Mount Hooper.

Camp 22. – Snow began falling during the second march; it is blowing from the W.S.W., force 2 to 3, with snow pattering on the tent, a kind of summery blizzard that reminds one of April showers at home. The ponies came well on the second march and we shall start 2 hours later again to-morrow, i.e. at 3 A.M. (T.+13º). From this it will be a very short step to day routine when the time comes for man-hauling. The sastrugi seem to be gradually coming more to the south and a little more confused; now and again they are crossed with hard westerly sastrugi. The walking is tiring for the men, one’s feet sinking 2 or 3 inches at each step. Chinaman and Jimmy Pigg kept up splendidly with the other ponies. It is always rather dismal work walking over the great snow plain when sky and surface merge in one pall of dead whiteness, but it is cheering to be in such good company with everything going on steadily and well. The dogs came up as we camped. Meares says the best surface he has had yet.

Saturday, November 25th 1911

Saturday, November 25th, 1911

Camp 21. The surface during the first march was very heavy owing to a liberal coating of ice crystals; it improved during the second march becoming quite good towards the end (T.-2º). Now that it is pretty warm at night it is obviously desirable to work towards day marching. We shall start 2 hours later to-night and again to-morrow night.

Last night we bade farewell to Day and Hooper and set out with the new organisation (T.-8º). All started together, the man-haulers, Evans, Lashly, and Atkinson, going ahead with their gear on the 10-ft. sledge. Chinaman and James Pigg next, and the rest some ten minutes behind. We reached the lunch camp together and started therefrom in the same order, the two crocks somewhat behind, but not more than 300 yards at the finish, so we all got into camp very satisfactorily together. The men said the first march was extremely heavy (T.-(-2º).

The sun has been shining all night, but towards midnight light mist clouds arose, half obscuring the leading parties. Land can be dimly discerned nearly ahead. The ponies are slowly tiring, but we lighten loads again to-morrow by making another depôt. Meares has just come up to report that Jehu made four feeds for the dogs. He cut up very well and had quite a lot of fat on him. Meares says another pony will carry him to the Glacier. This is very good hearing. The men are pulling with ski sticks and say that they are a great assistance. I think of taking them up the Glacier. Jehu has certainly come up trumps after all, and Chinaman bids fair to be even more valuable. Only a few more marches to feel safe in getting to our first goal.

Friday, November 24th 1911

Friday, November 24th, 1911

Camp 20. There was a cold wind changing from south to S.E. and overcast sky all day yesterday. A gloomy start to our march, but the cloud rapidly lifted, bands of clear sky broke through from east to west, and the remnants of cloud dissipated. Now the sun is very bright and warm. We did the usual march very easily over a fairly good surface, the ponies now quite steady and regular. Since the junction with the Motor Party the procedure has been for the man-hauling people to go forward just ahead of the crocks, the other party following 2 or 3 hours later. To-day we closed less than usual, so that the crocks must have been going very well. However, the fiat had already gone forth, and this morning after the march poor old Jehu was led back on the track and shot. After our doubts as to his reaching Hut Point, it is wonderful to think that he has actually got eight marches beyond our last year limit and could have gone more. However, towards the end he was pulling very little, and on the whole it is merciful to have ended his life. Chinaman seems to improve and will certainly last a good many days yet. The rest show no signs of flagging and are only moderately hungry. The surface is tiring for walking, as one sinks two or three inches nearly all the time. I feel we ought to get through now. Day and Hooper leave us to-night.

Thursday, November 23rd 1911

Thursday, November 23rd, 1911

Camp 19. Getting along. I think the ponies will get through; we are now 150 geographical miles from the Glacier. But it is still rather touch and go. If one or more ponies were to go rapidly down hill we might be in queer street. The surface is much the same I think; before lunch there seemed to be a marked improvement, and after lunch the ponies marched much better, so that one supposed a betterment of the friction. It is banking up to the south (T. +9º) and I’m afraid we may get a blizzard. I hope to goodness it is not going to stop one marching; forage won’t allow that.

Wednesday, November 22nd 1911

Wednesday, November 22nd, 1911

Camp 18. Everything much the same. The ponies thinner but not much weaker. The crocks still going along. Jehu is now called ‘The Barrier Wonder’ and Chinaman ‘The Thunderbolt.’ Two days more and they will be well past the spot at which Shackleton killed his first animal. Nobby keeps his pre-eminence of condition and has now the heaviest load by some 50 lbs.; most of the others are under 500 lbs. load, and I hope will be eased further yet. The dogs are in good form still, and came up well with their loads this morning (night temp. -14º). It looks as though we ought to get through to the Glacier without great difficulty. The weather is glorious and the ponies can make the most of their rest during the warmest hours, but they certainly lose in one way by marching at night. The surface is much easier for the sledges when the sun is warm, and for about three hours before and after midnight the friction noticeably increases. It is just a question whether this extra weight on the loads is compensated by the resting temperature. We are quite steady on the march now, and though not fast yet get through with few stops. The animals seem to be getting accustomed to the steady, heavy plod and take the deep places less fussily. There is rather an increased condition of false crust, that is, a crust which appears firm till the whole weight of the animal is put upon it, when it suddenly gives some three or four inches. This is very trying for the poor beasts. There are also more patches in which the men sink, so that walking is getting more troublesome, but, speaking broadly, the crusts are not comparatively bad and the surface is rather better than it was. If the hot sun continues this should still further improve. One cannot see any reason why the crust should change in the next 100 miles. (Temp. + 2º.)

The land is visible along the western horizon in patches. Bowers points out a continuous dark band. Is this the dolerite sill?

Tuesday, November 21st 1911

Tuesday, November 21st, 1911

Camp 17. Lat. 80º 35′. The surface decidedly better and the ponies very steady on the march. None seem overtired, and now it is impossible not to take a hopeful view of their prospect of pulling through. (Temp. -14º, night.) The only circumstance to be feared is a reversion to bad surfaces, and that ought not to happen on this course. We marched to the usual lunch camp and saw a large cairn ahead. Two miles beyond we came on the Motor Party in Lat. 80º 32′. We learned that they had been waiting for six days. They all look very fit, but declare themselves to be very hungry. This is interesting as showing conclusively that a ration amply sufficient for the needs of men leading ponies is quite insufficient for men doing hard pulling work; it therefore fully justifies the provision which we have made for the Summit work. Even on that I have little doubt we shall soon get hungry. Day looks very thin, almost gaunt, but fit. The weather is beautiful – long may it so continue. (Temp. +6º, 11 A.M.)

It is decided to take on the Motor Party in advance for three days, then Day and Hooper return. We hope Jehu will last three days; he will then be finished in any case and fed to the dogs. It is amusing to see Meares looking eagerly for the chance of a feed for his animals; he has been expecting it daily. On the other hand, Atkinson and Oates are eager to get the poor animal beyond the point at which Shackleton killed his first beast. Reports on Chinaman are very favourable, and it really looks as though the ponies are going to do what is hoped of them.