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Scott's Last Expedition

Archive for February, 1912

Wednesday, February 29th 1912

Thursday, February 29th, 1912

Lunch. Cold night. Minimum Temp. -37.5°; -30° with north-west wind, force 4, when we got up. Frightfully cold starting; luckily Bowers and Oates in their last new finnesko; keeping my old ones for present. Expected awful march and for first hour got it. Then things improved and we camped after 5 1/2 hours marching close to lunch camp—22 1/2. Next camp is our depot and it is exactly 13 miles. It ought not to take more than 1 1/2 days; we pray for another fine one. The oil will just about spin out in that event, and we arrive 3 clear days’ food in hand. The increase of ration has had an enormously beneficial result. Mountains now looking small. Wind still very light from west—cannot understand this wind.

Tuesday, February 28th 1912

Wednesday, February 28th, 1912

Lunch. Thermometer went below -40° last night; it was desperately cold for us, but we had a fair night. I decided to slightly increase food; the effect is undoubtedly good. Started marching in -32° with a slight north-westerly breeze—blighting. Many cold feet this morning; long time over foot gear, but we are earlier. Shall camp earlier and get the chance of a good night, if not the reality. Things must be critical till we reach the depot, and the more I think of matters, the more I anticipate their remaining so after that event. Only 24 1/2 miles from the depot. The sun shines brightly, but there is little warmth in it. There is no doubt the middle of the Barrier is a pretty awful locality.

Camp 42. Splendid pony hoosh sent us to bed and sleep happily after a horrid day, wind continuing; did 11 1/2 miles. Temp. not quite so low, but expect we are in for cold night (Temp. -27°).

Monday, February 27th 1912

Tuesday, February 27th, 1912

Desperately cold last night: -33º when we got up, with -37º minimum. Some suffering from cold feet, but all got good rest. We must open out on food soon. But we have done 7 miles this morning and hope for some 5 this afternoon. Overcast sky and good surface till now, when sun shows again. It is good to be marching the cairns up, but there is still much to be anxious about. We talk of little but food, except after meals. Land disappearing in satisfactory manner. Pray God we have no further set-backs. We are naturally always discussing possibility of meeting dogs, where and when, &c. It is a critical position. We may find ourselves in safety at next depôt, but there is a horrid element of doubt.

Camp R. 41. Temp. -32º. Still fine clear weather but very cold – absolutely calm to-night. We have got off an excellent march for these days (12.2) and are much earlier than usual in our bags. 31 miles to depot, 3 days’ fuel at a pinch, and 6 days’ food. Things begin to look a little better; we can open out a little on food from to-morrow night, I think.

Very curious surface – soft recent sastrugi which sink underfoot, and between, a sort of flaky crust with large crystals beneath.

Sunday, February 26th 1912

Monday, February 26th, 1912

Lunch Temp. -17º. Sky overcast at start, but able see tracks and cairn distinct at long distance. Did a little better, 6 1/2 miles to date. Bowers and Wilson now in front. Find great relief pulling behind with no necessity to keep attention on track. Very cold nights now and cold feet starting march, as day footgear doesn’t dry at all. We are doing well on our food, but we ought to have yet more. I hope the next depôt, now only 50 miles, will find us with enough surplus to open out. The fuel shortage still an anxiety.

R. 40. Temp. -21º Nine hours’ solid marching has given us 11 1/2 miles. Only 43 miles from the next depôt. Wonderfully fine weather but cold, very cold. Nothing dries and we get our feet cold too often. We want more food yet and especially more fat. Fuel is woefully short. We can scarcely hope to get a better surface at this season, but I wish we could have some help from the wind, though it might shake us badly if the temp. didn’t rise.

Saturday, February 25th 1912

Sunday, February 25th, 1912

Lunch Temp. -12º. Managed just 6 miles this morning. Started somewhat despondent; not relieved when pulling seemed to show no improvement. Bit by bit surface grew better, less sastrugi, more glide, slight following wind for a time. Then we began to travel a little faster. But the pulling is still _very_ hard; undulations disappearing but inequalities remain.

Twenty-six Camp walls about 2 miles ahead, all tracks in sight – Evans’ track very conspicuous. This is something in favour, but the pulling is tiring us, though we are getting into better ski drawing again. Bowers hasn’t quite the trick and is a little hurt at my criticisms, but I never doubted his heart. Very much easier – write diary at lunch – excellent meal – now one pannikin very strong tea – four biscuits and butter.

Hope for better things this afternoon, but no improvement apparent. Oh! for a little wind – E. Evans evidently had plenty.

R. 39. Temp. -20º. Better march in afternoon. Day yields 11.4 miles – the first double figure of steady dragging for a long time, but it meant and will mean hard work if we can’t get a wind to help us. Evans evidently had a strong wind here, S.E. I should think. The temperature goes very low at night now when the sky is clear as at present. As a matter of fact this is wonderfully fair weather – the only drawback the spoiling of the surface and absence of wind. We see all tracks very plain, but the pony-walls have evidently been badly drifted up. Some kind people had substituted a cairn at last camp 27. The old cairns do not seem to have suffered much.

Friday, February 24th 1912

Saturday, February 24th, 1912

Lunch. Beautiful day – too beautiful – an hour after starting loose ice crystals spoiling surface. Saw depot and reached it middle forenoon. Found store in order except shortage oil – shall have to be _very_ saving with fuel – otherwise have ten full days’ provision from to-night and shall have less than 70 miles to go. Note from Meares who passed through December 15, saying surface bad; from Atkinson, after fine marching (2 1/4 days from pony depot), reporting Keohane better after sickness. Short note from Evans, not very cheerful, saying surface bad, temperature high. Think he must have been a little anxious. It is an immense relief to have picked up this depot and, for the time, anxieties are thrust aside. There is no doubt we have been rising steadily since leaving the Shambles Camp. The coastal Barrier descends except where glaciers press out. Undulation still but flattening out. Surface soft on top, curiously hard below. Great difference now between night and day temperatures. Quite warm as I write in tent. We are on tracks with half-march cairn ahead; have covered 4 1/2 miles. Poor Wilson has a fearful attack snow-blindness consequent on yesterday’s efforts. Wish we had more fuel.

Night camp R. 38. Temp. -17º. A little despondent again. We had a really terrible surface this afternoon and only covered 4 miles. We are on the track just beyond a lunch cairn. It really will be a bad business if we are to have this pulling all through. I don’t know what to think, but the rapid closing of the season is ominous. It is great luck having the horsemeat to add to our ration. To-night we have had a real fine ‘hoosh.’ It is a race between the season and hard conditions and our fitness and good food.

Thursday, February 23rd 1912

Friday, February 23rd, 1912

R. 37. Lunch Temp.-9.8º; Supper Temp. -12º. Started in sunshine, wind almost dropped. Luckily Bowers took a round of angles and with help of the chart we fogged out that we must be inside rather than outside tracks. The data were so meagre that it seemed a great responsibility to march out and we were none of us happy about it. But just as we decided to lunch, Bowers’ wonderful sharp eyes detected an old double lunch cairn, the theodolite telescope confirmed it, and our spirits rose accordingly. This afternoon we marched on and picked up another cairn; then on and camped only 2 1/2 miles from the depot. We cannot see it, but, given fine weather, we cannot miss it. We are, therefore, extraordinarily relieved. Covered 8.2 miles in 7 hours, showing we can do 10 to 12 on this surface. Things are again looking up, as we are on the regular line of cairns, with no gaps right home, I hope.

Wednesday, February 22nd 1912

Thursday, February 22nd, 1912

R. 36. Supper Temp. -2º. There is little doubt we are in for a rotten critical time going home, and the lateness of the season may make it really serious. Shortly after starting to-day the wind grew very fresh from the S.E. with strong surface drift. We lost the faint track immediately, though covering ground fairly rapidly. Lunch came without sight of the cairn we had hoped to pass. In the afternoon, Bowers being sure we were too far to the west, steered out. Result, we have passed another pony camp without seeing it. Looking at the map to-night there is no doubt we are too far to the east. With clear weather we ought to be able to correct the mistake, but will the weather get clear? It’s a gloomy position, more especially as one sees the same difficulty returning even when we have corrected the error. The wind is dying down to-night and the sky clearing in the south, which is hopeful. Meanwhile it is satisfactory to note that such untoward events fail to damp the spirit of the party. To-night we had a pony hoosh so excellent and filling that one feels really strong and vigorous again.

Tuesday, February 21st 1912

Wednesday, February 21st, 1912

R. 35. Lunch Temp. -9 1/2º; Supper Temp. -11º. Gloomy and overcast when we started; a good deal warmer. The marching almost as bad as yesterday. Heavy toiling all day, inspiring gloomiest thoughts at times. Rays of comfort when we picked up tracks and cairns. At lunch we seemed to have missed the way, but an hour or two after we passed the last pony walls, and since, we struck a tent ring, ending the march actually on our old pony-tracks. There is a critical spot here with a long stretch between cairns. If we can tide that over we get on the regular cairn route, and with luck should stick to it; but everything depends on the weather. We never won a march of 8 1/2 miles with greater difficulty, but we can’t go on like this. We are drawing away from the land and perhaps may get better things in a day or two. I devoutly hope so.

Monday, February 20th 1912

Tuesday, February 20th, 1912

R. 34. Lunch Temp. -13°; Supper Temp. -15°. Same terrible surface; four hours’ hard plodding in morning brought us to our Desolation Camp, where we had the four-day blizzard. We looked for more pony meat, but found none. After lunch we took to ski with some improvement of comfort. Total mileage for day 7—the ski tracks pretty plain and easily followed this afternoon. We have left another cairn behind. Terribly slow progress, but we hope for better things as we clear the land. There is a tendency to cloud over in the S.E. to-night, which may turn to our advantage. At present our sledge and ski leave deeply ploughed tracks which can be seen winding for miles behind. It is distressing, but as usual trials are forgotten when we camp, and good food is our lot. Pray God we get better travelling as we are not fit as we were, and the season is advancing apace.