August 22, 2010

Monday, 22 August 1910


The Terra Nova set out from South Africa for Melbourne.

Scott had decided to join the ship in Cape Town, instead of waiting until New Zealand. Oates noted in a letter home, "this is not a very popular move but in a way I think it is a good thing as [Scott] gets to know the people better and we get to know him." [1]

From the Caroline Islands in the western Pacific, Meares wrote, "I have arrived here so far safely with my menagerie, and they are all flourishing for the present. Captain Scott's brother-in-law came out to help me, he is chief officer on a P&O steamer. Quite 'one of the boys' but too 'kid glovey' for this job, he stands on the upper deck & looks on instead of taking off his coat when there is a hard job of work." [2]


Amundsen shortly before departure, on the deck of the Fram. Photo by Anders Beer Wiltse. [3]

Shutting himself up in his cabin, Amundsen wrote the following letter:

"Herr Professor Fridtjof Nansen,

"It is not with a light heart that I send you these lines, but there is no way round, and therefore I might as well go straight to the point.

"When the news from Cook and later from Peary about their journeys to the North Pole arrived in the autumn of last year, I understood immediately that that was the death blow to my enterprise. I understood immediately that after this I could not count on the financial support I needed ....

"To give up my enterprise did not for one moment occur to me. The question for me became what I had to do in order to raise the necessary means. To acquire these without something special was out of the question. Something had to be done to rouse the interest of the public. In that way alone would it be possible to realize my plan. Only one problem remained in the polar regions that could be depended on to awaken the interest of the masses; the attainment of the South Pole. If I could carry that out, I knew that the means would be secured for the expedition I had originally planned.

"Yes, it is hard for me, Herr Professor, to tell you, but in September 1909, my decision to take part in the contest for the solution of this question was taken. Many a time I have been on the way to confide the whole matter in you, but always have turned back for fear that you would stop me. I have often wished that Scott could have learned of my decision, so that it would not seem as if I wanted to sneak down there without his knowledge in order to forestall him: but I have not dared to make any kind of announcement, for fear of being stopped. I shall in the meanwhile do everything possible to meet him down there and tell him my decision, and then he can act accordingly.

"So, since September last year, my mind has been made up, and I believe I may say we are well prepared. But at the same time I must point out that, had I succeeded in obtaining the funds still needed for the expedition I originally intended -- about 150,000 kroner -- I would have left out this extra excursion with pleasure; but there was no question of that.

"From Madeira we set our course Southwards for South Victoria Land. With 9 men it is my intention to be landed there, and then let Fram go out on an oceanographic cruise.... Where we will go ashore down there, I have not yet decided, but it is my intention not to dog the Englishmen's footsteps. They have naturally the first right. We must make do with what they discard.

"In February-March 1912, Fram will again come down to fetch us. We will then first go to Lyttelton in New Zealand to cable, and from there to San Francisco to continue my interrupted work with, as I hope, the equipment necessary for a voyage of this nature.

"I have asked Helland [Hansen], who for some time has known this plan, to deliver this letter, in the hope that possibly he will be in a position to put my case in a more favourable light than I myself am able.

"And when you pass judgment on me, Herr Professor, do not be too severe. I have taken the only path that seemed open, and now events will just have to take their course.

"Simultaneously with this letter, I am informing the King as well, but no one else. A few days after the receipt of this, my brother will arrange the announcement of the addition to the expedition's plan.

"Once more, I beg you, do not treat me too harshly. I am no humbug; necessity forced me.

"And so I beg your forgiveness for what I have done. May my coming work help to atone for that in which I have offended.

"With my most respectful greetings,
Roald Amundsen." [4]


[1] L.E.G. Oates, [letter to his mother? date not given], quoted by Sue Limb and Patrick Cordingley in Captain Oates : Soldier and Explorer (London : Batsford, c1982), p.99.
[2] Cecil Meares, letter [to his father?], 22 August, 1910, quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.388.
[3] GalleriNOR.
[4] Roald Amundsen, letter to Fridtjof Nansen, 22 August 1910, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.294-295.

August 15, 2010

Monday, 15 August 1910


Simon's Town, ca.2006. Photo by Henry Trotter. [1]

The Terra Nova arrived in Simon's Bay, not far from Cape Town, South Africa, on her way south.

Scott spent much of his time in South Africa wooing donors, and managed to secure a government grant of £500 and an equal amount from private sources.


Johansen, a few days before the Fram's departure. Photo by Anders Beer Wilse. [2]

Around this time, Johansen wrote in his diary, "I am compelled to make comparisons between this voyage and the first one of Fram's. The difference is great. This time there is too much fuss. There is no esprit de corps. There is not the comradeship, not to mention anything so elevated as friendship, which is necessary if an expedition as serious as this is to have a fortunate outcome." [3]

Tensions and perplexity abounded on the Fram. If they were going north, why take the trouble of hauling the dogs all of the way from Greenland, instead of getting them in Alaska? Why all of that coal? Why was the captain already on board when he had planned to join the ship in San Francisco? And what about that so-called "ice hut"? "Their very faces," Amundsen remembered, "began to resemble question marks." [4]

"Heigh-ho," Johansen went on, "with time, things I suppose will improve. But with the atmosphere now on board ... there's no point in plunging into the ice up North and struggling for years with everything one encounters there."


[1] Wikipedia.
[2] GalleriNOR.
[3] Hjalmar Johansen, diary, [date not given], quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.293.
[4] Roald Amundsen, The South Pole, ch.3.

August 9, 2010

Tuesday, 9 August 1910


After three weeks' recuperation, the dogs -- "our new shipmates" [1] -- were transferred from the island, twenty at a time.

"A wonderful feeling," Amundsen wrote in his diary, "to be able to cast off and head for our goal at last. After taking our 97 dogs on board this afternoon, we weighed anchor and stood out at 8.30. Still and clear. Warm as the finest summer's day.... Heading for the Channel. All well." [2]


[1] Roald Amundsen, The South Pole, ch.3.
[2] Roald Amundsen, diary, 9 August, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in The Amundsen Photographs (London : Hodder & Stoughton, c1987), p.50.

August 7, 2010

Sunday, 7 August 1910


As the Terra Nova headed south through the Indian Ocean, Cherry noted that "[Teddy] Evans, Campbell & Wilson have formed a sledging committee and I am nominally the secretary, but there seems very little for me to do." [1]


[1] Apsley Cherry-Garrard, [diary?] 7 August, 1910, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.304.