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Scott's Last Expedition

Archive for the ‘Chapter VII: At Discovery Hut’ Category

Sunday, April 16th 1911

Sunday, April 16th, 1911

Same wind as yesterday up to 6 o’clock, when it fell calm with gusts from the north.

Have exercised the ponies to-day and got my first good look at them. I scarcely like to express the mixed feelings with which I am able to regard this remnant.

Freezing of Bays. Cape Evans
March 15. – General young ice formed.
March 19. – Bay cleared except strip inside Inaccessible and Razor Back Islands to Corner Turk’s Head.
March 20. – Everything cleared.
March 25. – Sea froze over inside Islands for good.
March 28. – Sea frozen as far as seen.
March 30. – Remaining only inside Islands.
April 1. – Limit Cape to Island.
April 6. – Present limit freezing in Strait and in North Bay.
April 9. – Strait cleared except former limit and _some_ ice in North Bay likely to remain.

Saturday, April 15th 1911

Saturday, April 15th, 1911

Weather continuing thoroughly bad. Wind blowing from 30 to 40 miles an hour all day; drift bad, and to-night snow falling. I am waiting to get back to Hut Point with relief stores. To-night sent up signal light to inform them there of our safe arrival – an answering flare was shown.

Friday, April 14th 1911

Friday, April 14th, 1911

Good Friday. Peaceful day. Wind continuing 20 to 30 miles per hour.
Had divine service.

Thursday, April 13th 1911

Friday, April 14th, 1911

Started from Hut Point 9 A.M. Tuesday. Party consisted of self, Bowers, P.O. Evans, Taylor, one tent; Evans, Gran, Crean, Debenham, and Wright, second tent. Left Wilson in charge at Hut Point with Meares, Forde, Keohane, Oates, Atkinson, and Cherry-Garrard. All gave us a pull up the ski slope; it had become a point of honour to take this slope without a ‘breather.’ I find such an effort trying in the early morning, but had to go through with it.

Weather fine; we marched past Castle Rock, east of it; the snow was soft on the slopes, showing the shelter afforded – continued to traverse the ridge for the first time – found quite good surface much wind swept – passed both cones on the ridge on the west side. Caught a glimpse of fast ice in the Bays either side of Glacier as expected, but in the near Bay its extent was very small. Evidently we should have to go well along the ridge before descending, and then the problem would be how to get down over the cliffs. On to Hulton Rocks 7 1/2 miles from the start – here it was very icy and wind swept, inhospitable – the wind got up and light became bad just at the critical moment, so we camped and had some tea at 2 P.M. A clearance half an hour later allowed us to see a possible descent to the ice cliffs, but between Hulton Rocks and Erebus all the slope was much cracked and crevassed. We chose a clear track to the edge of the cliffs, but could find no low place in these, the lowest part being 24 feet sheer drop. Arriving here the wind increased, the snow drifting off the ridge – we had to decide quickly; I got myself to the edge and made standing places to work the rope; dug away at the cornice, well situated for such work in harness. Got three people lowered by the Alpine rope – Evans, Bowers, and Taylor – then sent down the sledges, which went down in fine style, fully packed – then the remainder of the party. For the last three, drove a stake hard down in the snow and used the rope round it, the men being lowered by people below – came down last myself. Quite a neat and speedy bit of work and all done in 20 minutes without serious frostbite – quite pleased with the result.

We found pulling to Glacier Tongue very heavy over the surface of ice covered with salt crystals, and reached Glacier Tongue about 5.30; found a low place and got the sledges up the 6 ft. wall pretty easily. Stiff incline, but easy pulling on hard surface – the light was failing and the surface criss-crossed with innumerable cracks; several of us fell in these with risk of strain, but the north side was well snow-covered and easy, with a good valley leading to a low ice cliff – here a broken piece afforded easy descent. I decided to push on for Cape Evans, so camped for tea at 6. At 6.30 found darkness suddenly arrived; it was very difficult to see anything – we got down on the sea ice, very heavy pulling, but plodded on for some hours; at 10 arrived close under little Razor Back Island, and not being able to see anything ahead, decided to camp and got to sleep at 11.30 in no very comfortable circumstances.
The wind commenced to rise during night. We found a roaring blizzard in the morning. We had many alarms for the safety of the ice on which the camp was pitched. Bowers and Taylor climbed the island; reported wind terrific on the summit – sweeping on either side but comparatively calm immediately to windward and to leeward. Waited all day in hopes of a lull; at 3 I went round the island myself with Bowers, and found a little ice platform close under the weather side; resolved to shift camp here. It took two very cold hours, but we gained great shelter, the cliffs rising almost sheer from the tents. Only now and again a whirling wind current eddied down on the tents, which were well secured, but the noise of the wind sweeping over the rocky ridge above our heads was deafening; we could scarcely hear ourselves speak. Settled down for our second night with little comfort, and slept better, knowing we could not be swept out to sea, but provisions were left only for one more meal.

During the night the wind moderated and we could just see outline of land.

I roused the party at 7 A.M. and we were soon under weigh, with a desperately cold and stiff breeze and frozen clothes; it was very heavy pulling, but the distance only two miles. Arrived off the point about ten and found sea ice continued around it. It was a very great relief to see the hut on rounding it and to hear that all was well.
Another pony, Hackenschmidt, and one dog reported dead, but this certainly is not worse than expected. All the other animals are in good form.

Delighted with everything I see in the hut. Simpson has done wonders, but indeed so has everyone else, and I must leave description to a future occasion.

Captain Scott and group taken on return of the Southern Party
“Captain Scott and group taken on return of the Southern Party”
Captain Scott
“Captain Scott”
Captain Scott
“Captain Scott”
Lieutenant Evans
“Lieutenant Evans”
F.E. Debenham
“F.E. Debenham”
Mr F.E. Debenham
“Mr F.E. Debenham”
Lieutenant Bowers
“Lieutenant Bowers”
Lieut Bowers
“Lieut Bowers”
Mr Griffith Taylor
“Mr Griffith Taylor”
C.S. Wright
“C.S. Wright”
Mr C. S. Wright
“Mr C. S. Wright”
Mr T Gran
“Mr T Gran”
Evans and Crean
“Evans and Crean”
Petty Officer Evans and Crean
“Petty Officer Evans and Crean”
Evans and Crean
“Evans and Crean”
Petty Officer Evans and Crean
“Petty Officer Evans and Crean”
Dr E.A. Wilson
“Dr E.A. Wilson”
Dr. E. A. Wilson
“Dr. E. A. Wilson”
Dr E.A. Wilson on return from Southern Journey
“Dr E.A. Wilson on return from Southern Journey”
Dr E.A. Wilson on return from Southern Journey
“Dr E.A. Wilson on return from Southern Journey”
Land’s End and adjoining glacier
“Land’s End and adjoining glacier”

Monday, April 10th 1911

Tuesday, April 11th, 1911

Intended to make for Cape Evans this morning. Called hands early, but when we were ready for departure after breakfast, the sky became more overcast and snow began to fall. It continued off and on all day, only clearing as the sun set. It would have been the worst condition possible for our attempt, as we could not have been more than 100 yards.

Conditions look very unfavourable for the continued freezing of the Strait.

Sunday, April 9th 1911

Monday, April 10th, 1911

On Friday night it grew overcast and the wind went to the south. During the whole of yesterday and last night it blew a moderate blizzard – the temperature at highest +5º, a relatively small amount of drift. On Friday night the ice in the Strait went out from a line meeting the shore 3/4 mile north of Hut Point. A crack off Hut Point and curving to N.W. opened to about 15 or 20 feet, the opening continuing on the north side of the Point. It is strange that the ice thus opened should have remained.

Ice cleared out to the north directly wind commenced – it didn’t wait a single instant, showing that our journey over it earlier in the day was a very risky proceeding – the uncertainty of these conditions is beyond words, but there shall be no more of this foolish venturing on young ice. This decision seems to put off the return of the ponies to a comparatively late date.

Yesterday went to the second crater, Arrival Heights, hoping to see the condition of the northerly bays, but could see little or nothing owing to drift. A white line dimly seen on the horizon seemed to indicate that the ice drifted out has not gone far.

Some skuas were seen yesterday, a very late date. The seals disinclined to come on the ice; one can be seen at Cape Armitage this morning, but it is two or three days since there was one up in our Bay. It will certainly be some time before the ponies can be got back.

Friday, April 7th 1911

Friday, April 7th, 1911

Went north over ice with Atkinson, Bowers, Taylor, Cherry-Garrard; found the thickness nearly 5 inches everywhere except in open water leads, which remain open in many places. As we got away from the land we got on an interesting surface of small pancakes, much capped and pressed up, a sort of mosaic. This is the ice which was built up from lee side of the Strait, spreading across to windward against the strong winds of Monday and Tuesday.

Another point of interest was the manner in which the overriding ice sheets had scraped the under floes.

Taylor fell in when rather foolishly trying to cross a thinly covered lead – he had a very scared face for a moment or two whilst we hurried to the rescue, but hauled himself out with his ice axe without our help and walked back with Cherry.

The remainder of us went on till abreast of the sulphur cones under Castle Rock, when we made for the shore, and with a little mutual help climbed the cliff and returned by land.

As far as one can see all should be well for our return to-morrow, but the sky is clouding to-night and a change of weather seems imminent. Three successive fine days seem near the limit in this region.

We have picked up quite a number of fish frozen in the ice – the larger ones about the size of a herring and the smaller of a minnow. We imagined both had been driven into the slushy ice by seals, but to-day Gran found a large fish frozen in the act of swallowing a small one. It looks as though both small and large are caught when one is chasing the other.

We have achieved such great comfort here that one is half sorry to leave – it is a fine healthy existence with many hours spent in the open and generally some interesting object for our walks abroad. The hill climbing gives excellent exercise – we shall miss much of it at Cape Evans. But I am anxious to get back and see that all is well at the latter, as for a long time I have been wondering how our beach has withstood the shocks of northerly winds. The thought that the hut may have been damaged by the sea in one of the heavy storms will not be banished.

A Sketch of the Life at Hut Point
We gather around the fire seated on packing-cases to receive them with a hunk of butter and a steaming pannikin of tea, and life is well worth living. After lunch we are out and about again; there is little to tempt a long stay indoors and exercise keeps us all the fitter.

The falling light and approach of supper drives us home again with good appetites about 5 or 6 o’clock, and then the cooks rival one another in preparing succulent dishes of fried seal liver. A single dish may not seem to offer much opportunity of variation, but a lot can be done with a little flour, a handful of raisins, a spoonful of curry powder, or the addition of a little boiled pea meal. Be this as it may, we never tire of our dish and exclamations of satisfaction can be heard every night – or nearly every night, for two nights ago [April 4] Wilson, who has proved a genius in the invention of ‘plats,’ almost ruined his reputation. He proposed to fry the seal liver in penguin blubber, suggesting that the latter could be freed from all rankness. The blubber was obtained and rendered down with great care, the result appeared as delightfully pure fat free from smell; but appearances were deceptive; the ‘fry’ proved redolent of penguin, a concentrated essence of that peculiar flavour which faintly lingers in the meat and should not be emphasised. Three heroes got through their pannikins, but the rest of us decided to be contented with cocoa and biscuit after tasting the first mouthful. After supper we have an hour or so of smoking and conversation – a cheering, pleasant hour – in which reminiscences are exchanged by a company which has very literally had world-wide experience. There is scarce a country under the sun which one or another of us has not travelled in, so diverse are our origins and occupations. An hour or so after supper we tail off one by one, spread out our sleeping-bags, take off our shoes and creep into comfort, for our reindeer bags are really warm and comfortable now that they have had a chance of drying, and the hut retains some of the heat generated in it. Thanks to the success of the blubber lamps and to a fair supply of candles, we can muster ample light to read for another hour or two, and so tucked up in our furs we study the social and political questions of the past decade.

We muster no less than sixteen. Seven of us pretty well cover the floor of one wing of the L-shaped enclosure, four sleep in the other wing, which also holds the store, whilst the remaining five occupy the annexe and affect to find the colder temperature more salubrious. Everyone can manage eight or nine hours’ sleep without a break, and not a few would have little difficulty in sleeping the clock round, which goes to show that our extremely simple life is an exceedingly healthy one, though with faces and hands blackened with smoke, appearances might not lead an outsider to suppose it.

Dr Simpson inflating one of his balloons
“Dr Simpson inflating one of his balloons”

Thursday, April 6th 1911

Thursday, April 6th, 1911

The weather continued fine and clear yesterday – one of the very few fine days we have had since our arrival at the hut.

The sun shone continuously from early morning till it set behind the northern hills about 5 P.M. The sea froze completely, but with only a thin sheet to the north. A fairly strong northerly wind sprang up, causing this thin ice to override and to leave several open leads near the land. In the forenoon I went to the edge of the new ice with Wright. It looked at the limit of safety and we did not venture far. The over-riding is interesting: the edge of one sheet splits as it rises and slides over the other sheet in long tongues which creep onward impressively. Whilst motion lasts there is continuous music, a medley of high pitched but tuneful notes – one might imagine small birds chirping in a wood. The ice sings, we say.

P.M. – In the afternoon went nearly two miles to the north over the young ice; found it about 3 1/2 inches thick. At supper arranged programme for shift to Cape Evans – men to go on Saturday – dogs Sunday – ponies Monday – all subject to maintenance of good weather of course.

Wednesday, April 5th 1911

Wednesday, April 5th, 1911

The east wind has continued with a short break on Sunday for five days, increasing in violence and gradually becoming colder and more charged with snow until yesterday, when we had a thick overcast day with falling and driving snow and temperature down to -11°.

Went beyond Castle Rock on Sunday and Monday mornings with Griffith Taylor.

Think the wind fairly local and that the Strait has frozen over to the north, as streams of drift snow and ice crystals (off the cliffs) were building up the ice sheet towards the wind. Monday we could see the approaching white sheet—yesterday it was visibly closer to land, though the wind had not decreased. Walking was little pleasure on either day: yesterday climbed about hills to see all possible. No one else left the hut. In the evening the wind fell and freezing continued during night (min.—17°). This morning there is ice everywhere. I cannot help thinking it has come to stay. In Arrival Bay it is 6 to 7 inches thick, but the new pools beyond have only I inch of the regular elastic sludgy new ice. The sky cleared last night, and this morning we have sunshine for the first time for many days. If this weather holds for a day we shall be all right. We are getting towards the end of our luxuries, so that it is quite time we made a move—we are very near the end of the sugar.

The skuas seem to have gone, the last was seen on Sunday. These birds were very shy towards the end of their stay, also very dark in plumage; they did not seem hungry, and yet it must have been difficult for them to get food.

The seals are coming up in our Bay—five last night. Luckily the dogs have not yet discovered them or the fact that the sea ice will bear them.

Had an interesting talk with Taylor on agglomerate and basaltic dykes of Castle Rock. The perfection of the small cone craters below Castle Rock seem to support the theory we have come to, that there have been volcanic disturbances since the recession of the greater ice sheet.

It is a great thing having Wright to fog out the ice problems, and he has had a good opportunity of observing many interesting things here. He is keeping notes of ice changes and a keen eye on ice phenomena; we have many discussions.

Yesterday Wilson prepared a fry of seal meat with penguin blubber. It had a flavour like cod-liver oil and was not much appreciated—some ate their share, and I think all would have done so if we had had sledging appetites—shades of Discovery days!!

This Emperor weighed anything from 88 to 96 lbs., and therefore approximated to or exceeded the record.

The dogs are doing pretty well with one or two exceptions. Deek is the worst, but I begin to think all will pull through.

Sunday, April 2nd 1911

Sunday, April 2nd, 1911

Went round Cape Armitage to Pram Point on sea ice for first time yesterday afternoon. Ice solid everywhere, except off the Cape, where there are numerous open pools. Can only imagine layers of comparatively warm water brought to the surface by shallows. The ice between the pools is fairly shallow. One Emperor killed off the Cape. Several skuas seen—three seals up in our Bay—several off Pram Point in the shelter of Horse Shoe Bay. A great many fish on sea ice—mostly small, but a second species 5 or 6 inches long: imagine they are chased by seals and caught in brashy ice where they are unable to escape. Came back over hill: glorious sunset, brilliant crimson clouds in west.

Returned to find wind dropping, the first time for three days. It turned to north in the evening. Splendid aurora in the night; a bright band of light from S.S.W. to E.N.E. passing within 10° of the zenith with two waving spirals at the summit. This morning sea to north covered with ice. Min. temp, for night -5°, but I think most of the ice was brought in by the wind. Things look more hopeful. Ice now continuous to Cape Evans, but very thin as far as Glacier Tongue; three or four days of calm or light winds should make everything firm.