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Scott's Last Expedition

Archive for the ‘Chapter IX: The Work and the Workers’ Category

Tuesday, May 2th 1911

Tuesday, May 2nd, 1911

It was calm yesterday. A balloon was sent up in the morning, but only reached a mile in height before the instrument was detached (by slow match).

In the afternoon went out with Bowers and his pony to pick up instrument, which was close to the shore in the South Bay. Went on past Inaccessible Island. The ice outside the bergs has grown very thick, 14 inches or more, but there were freshly frozen pools beyond the Island.

In the evening Wilson opened the lecture series with a paper on ‘Antarctic Flying Birds.’ Considering the limits of the subject the discussion was interesting. The most attractive point raised was that of pigmentation. Does the absence of pigment suggest absence of reserve energy? Does it increase the insulating properties of the hair or feathers? Or does the animal clothed in white radiate less of his internal heat? The most interesting example of Polar colouring here is the increased proportion of albinos amongst the giant petrels found in high latitudes.

To-day have had our first game of football; a harassing southerly wind sprang up, which helped my own side to the extent of three goals.

This same wind came with a clear sky and jumped up and down in force throughout the afternoon, but has died away to-night. In the afternoon I saw an ominous lead outside the Island which appeared to extend a long way south. I’m much afraid it may go across our pony track from Hut Point. I am getting anxious to have the hut party back, and begin to wonder if the ice to the south will ever hold in permanently now that the Glacier Tongue has gone.

Sunday, April 30th 1911

Sunday, April 30th, 1911

As I feared last night, the morning light revealed the havoc made in the ice by yesterday’s gale. From Wind Vane Hill (66 feet) it appeared that the Strait had not opened beyond the island, but after church I went up the Ramp with Wilson and steadily climbed over the Glacier ice to a height of about 650 feet. From this elevation one could see that a broad belt of sea ice had been pushed bodily to seaward, and it was evident that last night the whole stretch of water from Hut Point to Turtle Island must have been open – so that our poor people at Hut Point are just where they were.

The only comfort is that the Strait is already frozen again; but what is to happen if every blow clears the sea like this?

Had an interesting walk. One can go at least a mile up the glacier slope before coming to crevasses, and it does not appear that these would be serious for a good way farther. The view is magnificent, and on a clear day like this, one still enjoys some hours of daylight, or rather twilight, when it is possible to see everything clearly.

Have had talks of the curious cones which are such a feature of the Ramp – they are certainly partly produced by ice and partly by weathering. The ponds and various forms of ice grains interest us.

To-night have been naming all the small land features of our vicinity.

Saturday, April 29th 1911

Saturday, April 29th, 1911

Went to Inaccessible Island with Wilson. The agglomerates, kenytes, and lavas are much the same as those at Cape Evans. The Island is 540 ft. high, and it is a steep climb to reach the summit over very loose sand and boulders. From the summit one has an excellent view of our surroundings and the ice in the Strait, which seemed to extend far beyond Cape Royds, but had some ominous cracks beyond the Island.

We climbed round the ice foot after descending the hill and found it much broken up on the south side; the sea spray had washed far up on it.

It is curious to find that all the heavy seas come from the south and that it is from this direction that protection is most needed.

There is some curious weathering on the ice blocks on the N. side; also the snow drifts show interesting dirt bands. The island had a good sprinkling of snow, which will all be gone, I expect, to-night. For as we reached the summit we saw a storm approaching from the south; it had blotted out the Bluff, and we watched it covering Black Island, then Hut Point and Castle Rock. By the time we started homeward it was upon us, making a harsh chatter as it struck the high rocks and sweeping along the drift on the floe.

The blow seems to have passed over to-night and the sky is clear again, but I much fear the ice has gone out in the Strait. There is an ominous black look to the westward.

Friday, April 28th 1911

Friday, April 28th, 1911

Another comparatively calm day – temp. -12º, clear sky. Went to ice caves on glacier S. of Cape; these are really very wonderful. Ponting took some photographs with long exposure and Wright got some very fine ice crystals. The Glacier Tongue comes close around a high bluff headland of kenyte; it is much cracked and curiously composed of a broad wedge of white nÈvÈ over blue ice. The faults in the dust strata in these surfaces are very mysterious and should be instructive in the explanation of certain ice problems.

It looks as though the sea had frozen over for good. If no further blizzard clears the Strait it can be said for this season that:

The Bays froze over on March 25.
The Strait ,, ,, ,, April 22.
,, ,, dissipated April 29.
,, ,, froze over on April 30.
Later. The Hut Point record of freezing is:
Night 24th-25th. Ice forming mid-day 25th, opened with leads.
26th. Ice all out, sound apparently open.
27th. Strait apparently freezing.
Early 28th. Ice over whole Strait.
29th. All ice gone.
30th. Freezing over.
May 4th. Broad lead opened along land to Castle Rock, 300 to 400 yds. wide.
Party intended to start on 11th, if weather fine.

Very fine display of aurora to-night, one of the brightest I have ever seen – over Erebus; it is conceded that a red tinge is seen after the movement of light.

Thursday, April 27th 1911

Thursday, April 27th, 1911

The fourth day in succession without wind, but overcast. Light snow has fallen during the day – to-night the wind comes from the north.

We should have our party back soon. The temperature remains about -5º and the ice should be getting thicker with rapidity.

Went round the bergs off Cape Evans – they are very beautiful, especially one which is pierced to form a huge arch. It will be interesting to climb around these monsters as the winter proceeds.

To-day I have organised a series of lectures for the winter; the people seem keen and it ought to be exceedingly interesting to discuss so many diverse subjects with experts.

We have an extraordinary diversity of talent and training in our people; it would be difficult to imagine a company composed of experiences which differed so completely. We find one hut contains an experience of every country and every clime! What an assemblage of motley knowledge!

Wednesday, April 26th 1911

Wednesday, April 26th, 1911

Calm. Went round Cape Evans – remarkable effects of icicles on the ice foot, formed by spray of southerly gales.

Tuesday, April 25th 1911

Tuesday, April 25th, 1911

It was comparatively calm all day yesterday and last night, and there have been light airs only from the south to-day. The temperature, at first comparatively high at -5º, has gradually fallen to -13º; as a result the Strait has frozen over at last and it looks as though the Hut Point party should be with us before very long. If the blizzards hold off for another three days the crossing should be perfectly safe, but I don’t expect Meares to hurry.

Although we had very good sunset effects at Hut Point, Ponting and others were much disappointed with the absence of such effects at Cape Evans. This was probably due to the continual interference of frost smoke; since our return here and especially yesterday and to-day the sky and sea have been glorious in the afternoon.
Ponting has taken some coloured pictures, but the result is not very satisfactory and the plates are much spotted; Wilson is very busy with pencil and brush.

Atkinson is unpacking and setting up his sterilizers and incubators. Wright is wrestling with the electrical instruments. Evans is busy surveying the Cape and its vicinity. Oates is reorganising the stable, making bigger stalls, &c. Cherry-Garrard is building a stone house for taxidermy and with a view to getting hints for making a shelter at Cape Crozier during the winter. Debenham and Taylor are taking advantage of the last of the light to examine the topography of the peninsula. In fact, everyone is extraordinarily busy.

I came back with the impression that we should not find our winter walks so interesting as those at Hut Point, but I’m rapidly altering my opinion; we may miss the hill climbing here, but in every direction there is abundance of interest. To-day I walked round the shores of the North Bay examining the kenyte cliffs and great masses of morainic material of the Barne Glacier, then on under the huge blue ice cliffs of the Glacier itself. With the sunset lights, deep shadows, the black islands and white bergs it was all very beautiful.

Simpson and Bowers sent up a balloon to-day with a double thread and instrument attached; the line was checked at about 3 miles, and soon after the instrument was seen to disengage. The balloon at first went north with a light southerly breeze till it reached 300 or 400 ft., then it turned to the south but did not travel rapidly; when 2 miles of thread had gone it seemed to be going north again or rising straight upward.

In the afternoon Simpson and Bowers went to recover their treasure, but somewhere south of Inaccessible Island they found the thread broken and the light was not good enough to continue the search.

The sides of the galley fire have caved in – there should have been cheeks to prevent this; we got some fire clay cement to-day and plastered up the sides. I hope this will get over the difficulty, but have some doubt.

Monday, April 24th 1911

Monday, April 24th, 1911

A night watchman has been instituted mainly for the purpose of observing the aurora, of which the displays have been feeble so far. The observer is to look round every hour or oftener if there is aught to be seen. He is allowed cocoa and sardines with bread and butter – the cocoa can be made over an acetylene Bunsen burner, part of Simpson’s outfit. I took the first turn last night; the remainder of the afterguard follow in rotation. The long night hours give time to finish up a number of small tasks – the hut remains quite warm though the fires are out.

Simpson has been practising with balloons during our absence. This morning he sent one up for trial. The balloon is of silk and has a capacity of 1 cubic metre. It is filled with hydrogen gas, which is made in a special generator. The generation is a simple process. A vessel filled with water has an inverted vessel within it; a pipe is led to the balloon from the latter and a tube of india-rubber is attached which contains calcium hydrate. By tipping the tube the amount of calcium hydrate required can be poured into the generator. As the gas is made it passes into the balloon or is collected in the inner vessel, which acts as a bell jar if the stop cock to the balloon is closed.

The arrangements for utilising the balloon are very pretty.

An instrument weighing only 2 1/4 oz. and recording the temperature and pressure is attached beneath a small flag and hung 10 to 15 ft. below the balloon with balloon silk thread; this silk thread is of such fine quality that 5 miles of it only weighs 4 ozs., whilst its breaking strain is 1 1/4 lbs. The lower part of the instrument is again attached to the silk thread, which is cunningly wound on coned bobbins from which the balloon unwinds it without hitch or friction as it ascends.

In order to spare the silk any jerk as the balloon is released two pieces of string united with a slow match carry the strain between the instrument and the balloon until the slow match is consumed.

The balloon takes about a quarter of an hour to inflate; the slow match is then lit, and the balloon released; with a weight of 8 oz. and a lifting power of 2 1/2 lbs. it rises rapidly. After it is lost to ordinary vision it can be followed with glasses as mile after mile of thread runs out. Theoretically, if strain is put on the silk thread it should break between the instrument and the balloon, leaving the former free to drop, when the thread can be followed up and the instrument with its record recovered.

To-day this was tried with a dummy instrument, but the thread broke close to the bobbins. In the afternoon a double thread was tried, and this acted successfully.

To-day I allotted the ponies for exercise. Bowers, Cherry-Garrard, Hooper, Clissold, P.O. Evans, and Crean take animals, besides Anton and Oates. I have had to warn people that they will not necessarily lead the ponies which they now tend.

Wilson is very busy making sketches.

Sunday, April 23rd 1911

Sunday, April 23rd, 1911

Winter Quarters. The last day of the sun and a very glorious view of its golden light over the Barne Glacier. We could not see the sun itself on account of the Glacier, the fine ice cliffs of which were in deep shadow under the rosy rays.

Impression. – The long mild twilight which like a silver clasp unites to-day with yesterday; when morning and evening sit together hand in hand beneath the starless sky of midnight.

It blew hard last night and most of the young ice has gone as expected. Patches seem to be remaining south of the Glacier Tongue and the Island and off our own bay. In this very queer season it appears as though the final freezing is to be reached by gradual increments to the firmly established ice.
Had Divine Service. Have only seven hymn-books, those brought on shore for our first Service being very stupidly taken back to the ship.
I begin to think we are too comfortable in the hut and hope it will not make us slack; but it is good to see everyone in such excellent spirits – so far not a rift in the social arrangements.