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Scott's Last Expedition

Archive for the ‘CHAPTER XVII On the Beardmore Glacier’ Category

Monday, December 11th 1911

Monday, December 11th, 1911

Camp 33. A very good day from one point of view, very bad from another. We started straight out over the glacier and passed through a good deal of disturbance. We pulled on ski and the dogs followed. I cautioned the drivers to keep close to their sledges and we must have passed over a good many crevasses undiscovered by us, thanks to ski, and by the dogs owing to the soft snow. In one only Seaman Evans dropped a leg, ski and all. We built our depot [34] before starting, made it very conspicuous, and left a good deal of gear there. The old man-hauling party made heavy weather at first, but when relieved of a little weight and having cleaned their runners and re-adjusted their load they came on in fine style, and, passing us, took the lead. Starting about 11, by 3 o’clock we were clear of the pressure, and I camped the dogs, discharged our loads, and we put them on our sledges. It was a very anxious business when we started after lunch, about 4.30. Could we pull our full loads or not? My own party got away first, and, to my joy, I found we could make fairly good headway. Every now and again the sledge sank in a soft patch, which brought us up, but we learned to treat such occasions with patience. We got sideways to the sledge and hauled it out, Evans (P.O.) getting out of his ski to get better purchase. The great thing is to keep the sledge moving, and for an hour or more there were dozens of critical moments when it all but stopped, and not a few in it brought up altogether. The latter were very trying and tiring. But suddenly the surface grew more uniform and we more accustomed to the game, for after a long stop to let the other parties come up, I started at 6 and ran on till 7, pulling easily without a halt at the rate of about 2 miles an hour. I was very jubilant; all difficulties seemed to be vanishing; but unfortunately our history was not repeated with the other parties. Bowers came up about half an hour after us. They also had done well at the last, and I’m pretty sure they will get on all right. Keohane is the only weak spot, and he only, I think, because blind (temporarily). But Evans’ party didn’t get up till 10. They started quite well, but got into difficulties, did just the wrong thing by straining again and again, and so, tiring themselves, went from bad to worse. Their ski shoes, too, are out of trim.

Just as I thought we were in for making a great score, this difficulty overtakes us – it is dreadfully trying. The snow around us to-night is terribly soft, one sinks to the knee at every step; it would be impossible to drag sledges on foot and very difficult for dogs. Ski are the thing, and here are my tiresome fellow-countrymen too prejudiced to have prepared themselves for the event. The dogs should get back quite easily; there is food all along the line. The glacier wind sprang up about 7; the morning was very fine and warm. To-night there is some stratus cloud forming – a hint no more bad weather in sight. A plentiful crop of snow blindness due to incaution – the sufferers Evans, Bowers, Keohane, Lashly, Oates – in various degrees.

This forenoon Wilson went over to a boulder poised on the glacier. It proved to be a very coarse granite with large crystals of quartz in it. Evidently the rock of which the pillars of the Gateway and other neighbouring hills are formed.

Sunday, December 10th 1911

Sunday, December 10th, 1911

Camp 32. [33] I was very anxious about getting our loads forward over such an appalling surface, and that we have done so is mainly due to the ski. I roused everyone at 8, but it was noon before all the readjustments of load had been made and we were ready to start. The dogs carried 600 lbs. of our weight besides the depot (200 lbs.). It was greatly to my surprise when we – my own party – with a ‘one, two, three together’ started our sledge, and we found it running fairly easily behind us. We did the first mile at a rate of about 2 miles an hour, having previously very carefully scraped and dried our runners. The day was gloriously fine and we were soon perspiring. After the first mile we began to rise, and for some way on a steep slope we held to our ski and kept going. Then the slope got steeper and the surface much worse, and we had to take off our ski. The pulling after this was extraordinarily fatiguing. We sank above our finnesko everywhere, and in places nearly to our knees. The runners of the sledges got coated with a thin film of ice from which we could not free them, and the sledges themselves sank to the crossbars in soft spots. All the time they were literally ploughing the snow. We reached the top of the slope at 5, and started on after tea on the down grade. On this we had to pull almost as hard as on the upward slope, but could just manage to get along on ski. We camped at 9.15, when a heavy wind coming down the glacier suddenly fell on us; but I had decided to camp before, as Evans’ party could not keep up, and Wilson told me some very alarming news concerning it. It appears that Atkinson says that Wright is getting played out and Lashly is not so fit as he was owing to the heavy pulling since the blizzard. I have not felt satisfied about this party. The finish of the march to-day showed clearly that something was wrong. They fell a long way behind, had to take off ski, and took nearly half an hour to come up a few hundred yards. True, the surface was awful and growing worse every moment. It is a very serious business if the men are going to crack up. As for myself, I never felt fitter and my party can easily hold its own. P.O. Evans, of course, is a tower of strength, but Oates and Wilson are doing splendidly also.

Here where we are camped the snow is worse than I have ever seen it, but we are in a hollow. Every step here one sinks to the knees and the uneven surface is obviously insufficient to support the sledges. Perhaps this wind is a blessing in disguise, already it seems to be hardening the snow. All this soft snow is an aftermath of our prolonged storm. Hereabouts Shackleton found hard blue ice. It seems an extraordinary difference in fortune, and at every step S.’s luck becomes more evident. I take the dogs on for half a day to-morrow, then send them home. We have 200 lbs. to add to each sledge load and could easily do it on a reasonable surface, but it looks very much as though we shall be forced to relay if present conditions hold. There is a strong wind down the glacier to-night.

‘Beardmore Glacier. – Just a tiny note to be taken back by the dogs. Things are not so rosy as they might be, but we keep our spirits up and say the luck must turn. This is only to tell you that I find I can keep up with the rest as well as of old.’