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Scott's Last Expedition

Archive for the ‘Chapter XI: To Midwinter Day’ Category

Monday, June 12th 1911

Monday, June 12th, 1911

The weather is not kind to us. There has not been much wind to-day, but the moon has been hid behind stratus cloud. One feels horribly cheated in losing the pleasure of its light. I scarcely know what the Crozier party can do if they don’t get better luck next month.

Debenham and Gran have not yet returned; this is their fifth day of absence.

Bowers and Cherry-Garrard went to Cape Royds this afternoon to stay the night. Taylor and Wright walked there and back after breakfast this morning. They returned shortly after lunch.

Went for a short spin on ski this morning and again this afternoon. This evening Evans has given us a lecture on surveying. He was shy and slow, but very painstaking, taking a deal of trouble in preparing pictures, &c.

I took the opportunity to note hurriedly the few points to which I want attention especially directed. No doubt others will occur to me presently. I think I now understand very well how and why the old surveyors (like Belcher) failed in the early Arctic work.

1. Every officer who takes part in the Southern Journey ought to have in his memory the approximate variation of the compass at various stages of the journey and to know how to apply it to obtain a true course from the compass. The variation changes very slowly so that no great effort of memory is required.

2. He ought to know what the true course is to reach one depôt from another.

3. He should be able to take an observation with the theodolite.

4. He should be able to work out a meridian altitude observation.

5. He could advantageously add to his knowledge the ability to work out a longitude observation or an ex-meridian altitude.

6. He should know how to read the sledgemeter.

7. He should note and remember the error of the watch he carries and the rate which is ascertained for it from time to time.

8. He should assist the surveyor by noting the coincidences of objects, the opening out of valleys, the observation of new peaks, &c.

Sunday, June 11th 1911

Sunday, June 11th, 1911

A fine clear morning, the moon now revolving well aloft and with full face.

For exercise a run on ski to the South Bay in the morning and a dash up the Ramp before dinner. Wind and drift arose in the middle of the day, but it is now nearly calm again.

At our morning service Cherry-Garrard, good fellow, vamped the accompaniment of two hymns; he received encouraging thanks and will cope with all three hymns next Sunday.

Day by day news grows scant in this midwinter season; all events seem to compress into a small record, yet a little reflection shows that this is not the case. For instance I have had at least three important discussions on weather and ice conditions to-day, concerning which many notes might be made, and quite a number of small arrangements have been made.

If a diary can be so inadequate here how difficult must be the task of making a faithful record of a day’s events in ordinary civilised life! I think this is why I have found it so difficult to keep a diary at home.

Saturday, June 10th 1911

Saturday, June 10th, 1911

The impending blizzard has come; the wind came with a burst at 9.30 this morning.

Simpson spent the night turning over a theory to account for the phenomenon, and delivered himself of it this morning. It seems a good basis for the reference of future observations. He imagines the atmosphere A C in potential equilibrium with large margin of stability, i.e. the difference of temperature between A and C being much less than the adiabatic gradient.
In this condition there is a tendency to cool by radiation until some critical layer, B, reaches its due point. A stratus cloud is thus formed at B; from this moment A B continues to cool, but B C is protected from radiating, whilst heated by radiation from snow and possibly by release of latent heat due to cloud formation.

The condition now rapidly approaches unstable equilibrium, B C tending to rise, A B to descend.

Owing to lack of sun heat the effect will be more rapid in south than north and therefore the upset will commence first in the south. After the first start the upset will rapidly spread north, bringing the blizzard. The facts supporting the theory are the actual formation of a stratus cloud before a blizzard, the snow and warm temperature of the blizzard and its gusty nature.
It is a pretty starting-point, but, of course, there are weak spots.

Atkinson has found a trypanosome in the fish – it has been stained, photographed and drawn – an interesting discovery having regard to the few species that have been found. A trypanosome is the cause of ‘sleeping sickness.’

The blizzard has continued all day with a good deal of drift. I went for a walk, but the conditions were not inviting.

We have begun to consider details of next season’s travelling equipment. The crampons, repair of finnesko with sealskin, and an idea for a double tent have been discussed to-day. P.O. Evans and Lashly are delightfully intelligent in carrying out instructions.

Friday, June 9th 1911

Friday, June 9th, 1911

No wind came with the clouds of yesterday, but the sky has not been clear since they spread over it except for about two hours in the middle of the night when the moonlight was so bright that one might have imagined the day returned.

Otherwise the web of stratus which hangs over us thickens and thins, rises and falls with very bewildering uncertainty. We want theories for these mysterious weather conditions; meanwhile it is annoying to lose the advantages of the moonlight.
This morning had some discussion with Nelson and Wright regarding the action of sea water in melting barrier and sea ice. The discussion was useful to me in drawing attention to the equilibrium of layers of sea water.

In the afternoon I went round the Razor Back Islands on ski, a run of 5 or 6 miles; the surface was good but in places still irregular with the pressures formed when the ice was ‘young.’

The snow is astonishingly soft on the south side of both islands. It is clear that in the heaviest blizzard one could escape the wind altogether by camping to windward of the larger island. One sees more and more clearly what shelter is afforded on the weather side of steep-sided objects.

Passed three seals asleep on the ice. Two others were killed near the bergs.

Thursday, June 8th 1911

Thursday, June 8th, 1911

Did not turn out till 1 P.M., then with a bad head, an inevitable sequel to a night of vigil. Walked out to and around the bergs, bright moonlight, but clouds rapidly spreading up from south.

Tried the snow knife, which is developing. Debenham and Gran went off to Hut Point this morning; they should return to-morrow.

Lieut Evans observing an occulation of Jupiter. June 8th 1911
“Lieut Evans observing an occulation of Jupiter. June 8th 1911”

Lieut Evans observing an occulation of Jupiter. June 8th 1911
“Lieut Evans observing an occulation of Jupiter. June 8th 1911”

Midwinter work group in the Hut. June 8th 1911
“Midwinter work group in the Hut. June 8th 1911”

Cherry-Garrard working on the “South Polar Times”. June 8th 1911
“Cherry-Garrard working on the “South Polar Times”. June 8th 1911”

Cherry-Garrard working on the “South Polar Times”. June 8th 1911
“Cherry-Garrard working on the “South Polar Times”. June 8th 1911”

Wednesday, June 7th 1911

Wednesday, June 7th, 1911

A very beautiful day. In the afternoon went well out over the floe to the south, looking up Nelson at his icehole and picking up Bowers at his thermometer. The surface was polished and beautifully smooth for ski, the scene brightly illuminated with moonlight, the air still and crisp, and the thermometer at -10º. Perfect conditions for a winter walk.

In the evening I read a paper on ‘The Ice Barrier and Inland Ice.’ I have strung together a good many new points and the interest taken in the discussion was very genuine – so keen, in fact, that we did not break up till close on midnight. I am keeping this paper, which makes a very good basis for all future work on these subjects.

Shelters to Iceholes

Time out of number one is coming across rediscoveries. Of such a nature is the building of shelters for iceholes. We knew a good deal about it in the Discovery, but unfortunately did not make notes of our experiences. I sketched the above figures for Nelson, and found on going to the hole that the drift accorded with my sketch. The sketches explain themselves. I think wall ‘b’ should be higher than wall ‘a.’

My night on duty. The silent hours passed rapidly and comfortably. To bed 7 A.M.

Dr Wilson and Lieut Bowers reading the Ramp thermometer. June 7th 1911
“Dr Wilson and Lieut Bowers reading the Ramp thermometer. June 7th 1911”

Tuesday, June 6th 1911

Tuesday, June 6th, 1911

The temperature has been as high as +19º to-day; the south wind persisted until the evening with clear sky except for fine effects of torn cloud round about the mountain. To-night the moon has emerged from behind the mountain and sails across the cloudless northern sky; the wind has fallen and the scene is glorious.

It is my birthday, a fact I might easily have forgotten, but my kind people did not. At lunch an immense birthday cake made its appearance and we were photographed assembled about it. Clissold had decorated its sugared top with various devices in chocolate and crystallised fruit, flags and photographs of myself.

After my walk I discovered that great preparations were in progress for a special dinner, and when the hour for that meal arrived we sat down to a sumptuous spread with our sledge banners hung about us. Clissold’s especially excellent seal soup, roast mutton and red currant jelly, fruit salad, asparagus and chocolate – such was our menu. For drink we had cider cup, a mystery not yet fathomed, some sherry and a liqueur.

After this luxurious meal everyone was very festive and amiably argumentative. As I write there is a group in the dark room discussing political progress with discussions – another at one corner of the dinner table airing its views on the origin of matter and the probability of its ultimate discovery, and yet another debating military problems. The scraps that reach me from the various groups sometimes piece together in ludicrous fashion. Perhaps these arguments are practically unprofitable, but they give a great deal of pleasure to the participants. It’s delightful to hear the ring of triumph in some voice when the owner imagines he has delivered himself of a well-rounded period or a clinching statement concerning the point under discussion. They are boys, all of them, but such excellent good-natured ones; there has been no sign of sharpness or anger, no jarring note, in all these wordy contests! all end with a laugh.

Nelson has offered Taylor a pair of socks to teach him some geology! This lulls me to sleep!

Capt Scott’s birthday dinner. June 6th 1911
“Capt Scott’s birthday dinner. June 6th 1911”

Capt Scott’s birthday dinner. June 6th 1911
“Capt Scott’s birthday dinner. June 6th 1911”

Capt Scott’s birthday dinner. June 6th 1911
“Capt Scott’s birthday dinner. June 6th 1911”

Capt Scott’s birthday dinner. June 6th 1911
“Capt Scott’s birthday dinner. June 6th 1911”

A “Winter-work” group in the Hut. June 6th 1911
“A “Winter-work” group in the Hut. June 6th 1911”

Monday, June 5th 1911

Monday, June 5th, 1911

The wind has been S. all day, sky overcast and air misty with snow crystals. The temperature has gone steadily up and to-night rose to + 16º. Everything seems to threaten a blizzard which cometh not. But what is to be made of this extraordinary high temperature heaven only knows. Went for a walk over the rocks and found it very warm and muggy.

Taylor gave us a paper on the Beardmore Glacier. He has taken pains to work up available information; on the ice side he showed the very gradual gradient as compared with the Ferrar. If crevasses are as plentiful as reported, the motion of glacier must be very considerable. There seem to be three badly crevassed parts where the glacier is constricted and the fall is heavier.

Geologically he explained the rocks found and the problems unsolved. The basement rocks, as to the north, appear to be reddish and grey granites and altered slate (possibly bearing fossils). The Cloudmaker appears to be diorite; Mt. Buckley sedimentary. The suggested formation is of several layers of coal with sandstone above and below; interesting to find if it is so and investigate coal. Wood fossil conifer appears to have come from this – better to get leaves – wrap fossils up for protection.

Mt. Dawson described as pinkish limestone, with a wedge of dark rock; this very doubtful! Limestone is of great interest owing to chance of finding Cambrian fossils (Archeocyathus).

He mentioned the interest of finding here, as in Dry Valley, volcanic cones of recent date (later than the recession of the ice). As points to be looked to in Geology and Physiography:

1. Hope Island shape.

2. Character of wall facets.

3. Type of tributary glacierscliff or curtain, broken.

4. Do tributaries enter ‘at grade’?

5. Lateral gullies pinnacled, &c., shape and size of slope.

6. Do tributaries cut out gullies – empty unoccupied cirques, hangers, &c.

7. Do upland moraines show tesselation?

8. Arrangement of strata, inclusion of.

9. Types of moraines, distance of blocks.

10. Weathering of glaciers. Types of surface. (Thrust mark? Rippled, snow stool, glass house, coral reef, honeycomb, ploughshare, bastions, piecrust.)

11. Amount of water silt bands, stratified, or irregular folded or broken.

12. Cross section, of valleys 35º slopes?

13. Weather slopes debris covered, height to which.

14. Nunataks, height of rounded, height of any angle in profile, erratics.

15. Evidence of order in glacier delta.

Debenham in discussion mentioned usefulness of small chips of rock – many chips from several places are more valuable than few larger specimens.

We had an interesting little discussion.

I must enter a protest against the use made of the word ‘glaciated’ by Geologists and Physiographers.

To them a ‘glaciated land’ is one which appears to have been shaped by former ice action.

The meaning I attach to the phrase, and one which I believe is more commonly current, is that it describes a land at present wholly or partly covered with ice and snow.

I hold the latter is the obvious meaning and the former results from a piracy committed in very recent times.

The alternative terms descriptive of the different meanings are ice covered and ice eroded.

To-day I have been helping the Soldier to design pony rugs; the great thing, I think, is to get something which will completely cover the hindquarters.

Sunday, June 4th 1911

Sunday, June 4th, 1911

A calm and beautiful day. The account of this, a typical Sunday, would run as follows: Breakfast. A half-hour or so selecting hymns and preparing for Service whilst the hut is being cleared up. The Service: a hymn; Morning prayer to the Psalms; another hymn; prayers from Communion Service and Litany; a final hymn and our special prayer. Wilson strikes the note on which the hymn is to start and I try to hit it after with doubtful success! After church the men go out with their ponies.

To-day Wilson, Bowers, Cherry-Garrard, Lashly, and I went to start the building of our first ‘igloo.’ There is a good deal of difference of opinion as to the best implement with which to cut snow blocks. Cherry-Garrard had a knife which I designed and Lashly made, Wilson a saw, and Bowers a large trowel. I’m inclined to think the knife will prove most effective, but the others don’t acknowledge it _yet_. As far as one can see at present this knife should have a longer handle and much coarser teeth in the saw edge – perhaps also the blade should be thinner.

We must go on with this hut building till we get good at it. I’m sure it’s going to be a useful art.

We only did three courses of blocks when tea-time arrived, and light was not good enough to proceed after tea.
Sunday afternoon for the men means a ‘stretch of the land.’

I went over the floe on ski. The best possible surface after the late winds as far as Inaccessible Island. Here, and doubtless in most places along the shore, this, the first week of June, may be noted as the date by which the wet, sticky salt crystals become covered and the surface possible for wood runners. Beyond the island the snow is still very thin, barely covering the ice flowers, and the surface is still bad.

There has been quite a small landslide on the S. side of the Island; seven or eight blocks of rock, one or two tons in weight, have dropped on to the floe, an interesting instance of the possibility of transport by sea ice.

Ponting has been out to the bergs photographing by flashlight. As I passed south of the Island with its whole mass between myself and the photographer I saw the flashes of magnesium light, having all the appearance of lightning. The light illuminated the sky and apparently objects at a great distance from the camera. It is evident that there may be very great possibilities in the use of this light for signalling purposes and I propose to have some experiments.

N.B. – Magnesium flashlight as signalling apparatus in the summer.

Another crab-eater seal was secured to-day; he had come up by the bergs.

Capt Oates and Meares on ski. June 4th 1911
“Capt Oates and Meares on ski. June 4th 1911”

Flashlight Photograph of The Castle Berg. June 4th 1911
“Flashlight Photograph of The Castle Berg. June 4th 1911”

Flashlight Photograph of The Castle Berg. June 4th 1911
“Flashlight Photograph of The Castle Berg. June 4th 1911”

Flashlight Photograph of The Castle Berg. June 4th 1911
“Flashlight Photograph of The Castle Berg. June 4th 1911”

Flashlight Photograph of The Castle Berg. June 4th 1911
“Flashlight Photograph of The Castle Berg. June 4th 1911”

Saturday, June 3rd 1911

Saturday, June 3rd, 1911

The wind dropped last night, but at 4 A.M. suddenly sprang up from a dead calm to 30 miles an hour. Almost instantaneously, certainly within the space of one minute, there was a temperature rise of nine degrees. It is the most extraordinary and interesting example of a rise of temperature with a southerly wind that I can remember. It is certainly difficult to account for unless we imagine that during the calm the surface layer of cold air is extremely thin and that there is a steep inverted gradient. When the wind arose the sky overhead was clearer than I ever remember to have seen it, the constellations brilliant, and the Milky Way like a bright auroral streamer.

The wind has continued all day, making it unpleasant out of doors. I went for a walk over the land; it was dark, the rock very black, very little snow lying; old footprints in the soft, sandy soil were filled with snow, showing quite white on a black ground. Have been digging away at food statistics.

Simpson has just given us a discourse, in the ordinary lecture series, on his instruments. Having already described these instruments, there is little to comment upon; he is excellently lucid in his explanations.

As an analogy to the attempt to make a scientific observation when the condition under consideration is affected by the means employed, he rather quaintly cited the impossibility of discovering the length of trousers by bending over to see!
The following are the instruments described:

The outside (bimetallic) thermograph.
The inside thermograph (alcohol) Alcohol in spiral, small lead pipe – float vessel.
The electrically recording anemometer Cam device with contact on wheel; slowing arrangement, inertia of wheel.
The Dynes anemometer Parabola on immersed float.
The recording wind vane Metallic pen.
The magnetometer Horizontal force measured in two directions – vertical force in one – timing arrangement.
The high and low potential apparatus of the balloon thermograph Spotting arrangement and difference, see ante.

Simpson is admirable as a worker, admirable as a scientist, and admirable as a lecturer.