January 31, 2011

Tuesday, 31 January 1911


One of the pony snowshoes from the Terra Nova Expedition, photographed in 2009 by the Antarctic Heritage Trust. [1]

Keohane's pony had gone lame. The going had started out well, but soon the ponies were sinking deep into the snow. "[This] afternoon," Scott wrote in his diary, "we tried our one pair of [pony] snow-shoes on 'Weary Willy.' The effect was magical. He strolled around as though walking on hard ground in places where he floundered woefully without them. Oates hasn't had any faith in these shoes at all...."

"Immediately after our experiment I decided that an effort must be made to get more, and within half an hour Meares and Wilson were on their way to the station more than 20 miles away. There is just the chance that the ice may not have gone out, but it is a very poor one I fear. At present it looks as though we might double our distance with the snow-shoes." [2]


[1] Antarctic Conservation Blog, 10 August 2009.
[2] R.F. Scott, diary, 31 January, 1911, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.

January 30, 2011

Monday, 30 January 1911


Wilson was much more impressed with the dogs than Scott had been a few days earlier. "Dog-driving like this," Wilson wrote later, "is a very different thing to the beastly dog-driving we perpetrated in the Discovery days. I got to love all my team and they all got to know me well, and my old leader even now (I am writing this six months after I have had anything to do with any of them) never fails to come and speak to me, and he knows me and my voice ever so far off." [1]

The first depot, about eighteen miles onto the Barrier at 77.55°, was named Safety Camp for its distance from the edge of the ice and the possibility of calving.

Here, Scott "held a council of war ... I unfolded my plan, which is to go forward with five weeks' food for men and animals: to depôt a fortnight's supply after twelve or thirteen days and return here." [2]

Taylor's First Western Geological Party established their base near the Ferrar Glacier (where they found a depot from the Nimrod Expedition) and began their survey of the nearby glaciers and the McMurdo Dry Valleys.


[1] E.A. Wilson, [date not given], quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.415.
[2] R.F. Scott, diary, 30 January, 1911, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.

January 29, 2011

Sunday, 29 January 1911


Gran, photographed by Ponting in January, 1911. [1]

With the going heavy, Gran decided to use his skis, and fastened a harness to Weary Willy. "Gran tried going on ski with his pony," Scott wrote. "All went well while he was alongside, but when he came up from the back the swish of the ski frightened the beast, who fled faster than his pursuer -- that is, the pony and load were going better than the Norwegian on ski." [2]


[1] Wikipedia.no.
[2] R.F. Scott, diary, 29 January, 1911, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.

January 28, 2011

Saturday, 28 January 1911


"Sledge-hauling on the Great Ice Barrier" by E.A. Wilson, 1903. [1]

The depot-laying party reached the Barrier.

"Those first days of sledging were wonderful!" wrote Cherry in retrospect. "What memories they must have brought to Scott and Wilson when to us, who had never seen them before, these much-discussed landmarks were almost like old friends." [2]

"I expect we were all a little excited, for to walk upon the Barrier for the first time was indeed an adventure: what kind of surface was it, and how about these beastly crevasses of which we had read so much? Scott was ahead, and so far as we could see there was nothing but the same level of ice all round -- when suddenly he was above us, walking up the sloping and quite invisible drift. A minute after and our ponies and sledges were up and over the tide crack, and beneath us soft and yielding snow, very different from the hard wind-swept surface of the frozen sea, which we had just left."

The Terra Nova left for the western shore of McMurdo Sound to land Taylor's geological party.


[1] Source unknown.
[2] Apsley Cherry-Garrard, The Worst Journey in the World, ch.5.

January 27, 2011

Friday, 27 January 1911


The Norwegians' camp, around February 1911. [1]

The landing party moved into the hut. "Very fine work has been done. Within 14 days of the site being chosen, the house had been completed, and virtually all provisions landed." [2]

"Here on the same barrier," Amundsen wrote in his diary, "where Shackleton praised his God that he had not landed -- here we have put up our house -- here we will have our home. That Ross did not want to come too close to this ice giant in his sailing ships -- that I understand. But that S. did not come here and take the great chance offered by an extra degree of Southern latitude; that I don't understand. Not one of us has given a thought to any danger in doing so. The future will show if we were right." [3]


[1] Roald Amundsen Bildearkiv, Nasjonalbiblioteket.
[2] Roald Amundsen, diary, 28 January, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in The Amundsen Photographs (London : Hodder & Stoughton, c1987), p.84.
[3] Roald Amundsen, diary, 28 January, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.340.

January 26, 2011

Thursday, 26 January 1911


"Captain Scott and the Southern [depot-laying] Party .... Erebus in background. Photograph taken on the 26th of January 1911, by Herbert George Ponting." Standing, left to right, are Crean, Keohane, Gran, Scott, Forde, Meares, Cherry-Garrard, Oates, and Atkinson, and sitting on the sledge, Wilson and Bowers. [1]

As the pony teams made their way across land to Glacier Tongue, Scott and the dog teams came round on the Terra Nova to their rendezvous. "Pennell had the men aft and I thanked them for their splendid work," wrote Scott. "They have behaved like bricks and a finer lot of fellows never sailed in a ship." [2]

Pennell would later write, "From the first meeting with Captain Scott in London till saying good bye when he started on the Depot journey in January 1911, he never in any way showed me anything but the greatest kindness and forbearance, & I cannot say how truly grateful I have always been to him. "It seems almost a mockery to say that his example helps one now & will help in the future in getting over difficulties & despising one's own troubles & petty worries; but I do feel that to have been allowed to serve under such a man & to have been trusted by him in work that was his life's work is far & away the greatest reward the expedition could have given me." [3]

At the same time, Taylor, Debenham, and Wright, along with P.O. Evans to teach them sledging techniques, headed off for two months reconnoitering the glaciers west of Cape Evans, whilst Ponting, Nelson, Day, and Lashly set out on a short photographic trip to Cape Royds. Campbell and his Eastern Party were bound for a year in King Edward VII Land.


The hut was completed after ten days, while the men continued unloading and transporting supplies from the Fram, and hunting and flensing seals and penguins for the coming winter.

Amundsen wrote in his diary, "6 inches of snow fell during the night. The going was bad [but] we did 6 runs and tomorrow we will finish.... It was a brilliant piece of work, and I cannot but admire the patience and diligence of all concerned." [4]


[1] Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand.
[2] R.F. Scott, diary, 26 January, 1911, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition : the Journals, v.1.
[3] Harry Pennell, letter to Kathleen Scott, 2 March, 1913, quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.412.
[4] Roald Amundsen, diary, [27 January, 1911], quoted by Roland Huntford in The Amundsen Photographs (London : Hodder & Stoughton, c1987), p.83.

January 24, 2011

Tuesday, 24 January 1911


Bowers with Victor, photographed by Ponting, October 1911. [1]

The first depot-laying party set out in the morning, leading the ponies across land as far as Glacier Tongue. Scott and the dog teams went on the Terra Nova to meet them at the end of the Tongue. There were twelve men -- Scott, Wilson, Oates, Meares, Atkinson, Bowers, Gran, Cherry-Garrard, Crean, P.O. Evans, Forde, and Keohane -- with eight ponies and two dogs teams.

"My most vivid recollection of the day we started," Cherry wrote later, "is the sight of Bowers, out of breath, very hot, and in great pain from a bad knock which he had given his knee against a rock, being led forward by his big pony Uncle Bill, over whom temporarily he had but little control. He had been left behind in the camp, giving last instructions about the storage of cases and management of provisions, and had practically lost himself in trying to follow us over what was then unknown ground. He was wearing all the clothing which was not included in his personal gear, for he did not think it fair to give the pony the extra weight. He had bruised his leg in an ugly way, and for many days he came to me to bandage it. He was afraid that if he let the doctors see it they would forbid him to go forward. He had had no sleep for seventy-two hours." [2]

Each sledge weight 52 lbs., and each driver's sleeping bag, skis, and pony gear weighed 65 lbs. Personal gear added another 12 lbs. Cooker and primus, oil, tent and poles, biscuits, tools, and oats for the ponies were distributed amongst the sledges. Each pony sledge averaged 570 lbs. (258 kg), and the two dog sledges 490 lbs. (222 kg) each. The goal was 80°.

"Stareek", photographed by Ponting, 1911. [3]

Meares was in charge of one of the dog teams and Wilson the other. Stareek ("old man" in Russian), was, Wilson wrote, "quite the nicest, quietest cleverest old dog gentleman I have ever come across. He looks in face as though he knew all the wickedness of all the world and all its cares and as though he was bored to death by both of them." [4]

Scott, however, was already writing in his diary, "I withhold my opinion of the dogs in much doubt as to whether they are going to be a real success -- but the ponies are going to be real good. They work with such extraordinary steadiness, stepping out briskly and cheerfully, following in each other's tracks. The great drawback is the ease with which they sink in soft snow: they go through in lots of places where the men scarcely make an impression -- they struggle pluckily when they sink, but it is trying to watch them." [5]


"As usual," Amundsen calculated in his diary, "we drove a load up before breakfast. The first run brought the remaining things for the hut, like bunks, stoves, etc. Afterwards we began carrying provisions. It is a matter of 900 packing cases.... We have done 5 runs today, but hope to manage 6 tomorrow. [Since] each sledge load consists generally of 5 cases, [thus] 25 cases per run, [that] means 150 cases in the course of a day. In this way, we will get them all carried up quickly." [6]


[1] Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand.
[2] Apsley Cherry-Garrard, The Worst Journey in the World, ch.5.
[3] Scott Polar Research Institute.
[4] E.A. Wilson, diary, 30 January, 1911, quoted in Diary of the Terra Nova Expedition to the Antarctic, 1910-1912 (London : Blandford, 1972), p.100.
[5] R.F. Scott, diary, 24 January, 1911, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition : the Journals, v.1.
[6] Roald Amundsen, diary, 23 January, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in The Amundsen Photographs (London : Hodder & Stoughton, c1987), p.83.

January 23, 2011

Monday, 23 January 1911


"Getting camp in order", photographed by Ponting, 23 January, 1911. [1]

Scott wrote out his orders for Campbell's Eastern Party: "Whilst I hope you may be able to land in King Edward's Land, I fully realise the possibility of the conditions being unfavourable and the difficulty of the task which has been set you.

"I do not think you should attempt a landing unless the Ship can remain in security near you for at least three days, unless all your stores can be placed in a position of safety in a shorter time.

"The Ship will give you all possible help in erecting your hut, &tc., but I hope you will not find it necessary to keep her by you for any length of time.

"Should you succeed in landing, the object you will hold in view is to discover the nature and extent of King Edward's Land. The possibilities of your situation are so various that it must be left to you entirely to determine how this object may be best achieved.

"In this connexion it remains only to say that you should be at your winter situation and ready to embark on February 1, 1912.

"Should you be unable to land in the region of King Edward's Land you will be at liberty to go to the region of Robertson Bay after communicating with Cape Evans." [2]


Five days after beginning the hut, Amundsen wrote, "The roof was on. All further work [of building] can thus take place inside and cannot be inhibited by the weather.... This afternoon, while they were working on the house, Bj. & Jørg. heard a violent noise in the ice, far away. Probably an iceberg calving, or formation of crevasses in the barrier." [3]


[1] Scott Polar Research Institute.
[2] R.F. Scott, instructions to Victor Campbell, 23 January, 1911, quoted by Katherine Lambert in The Longest Winter (Washington DC : Smithsonian, c2004), pp.45-46, and by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.424. Crane gives a more brief version than Lambert, but includes the last paragraph.
[3] Roald Amundsen, diary, [22? January, 1911], quoted by Roland Huntford in The Amundsen Photographs (London : Hodder & Stoughton, c1987), p.84.

January 22, 2011

Sunday, 22 January 1911


Oates, photographed by Ponting, 1911. [1]

"The transport is of course the great question," Oates wrote to his mother just before the start of the first depot journey, "and between you and me things are not as rosy as they might be. To start with we had three sledges the best of which fell through the ice and sank in 100 fathoms to arise no more the other two have developed serious defects which prevent them being used on this depot journey, secondly I went a journey [sic] yesterday to Glacier Tongue with Meares and 9 dogs only 14 miles there and back and we returned both walking, one dog being dragged on the sledge two more not able to pull atal and the rest dead beat: now for the journey eleven is the team and they are expected to pull 450 lbs personally I am glad I have not much to do with them."

"The ponies are alright but as I say nobody understands severe marching with ponies except Meares and myself and Meares goes with the dogs and I can't run the lot especially as there are three people over me to give orders. Scott and Evans boss the show pretty well and their ignorance about marching with animals is colossal, on several points Scott is going on lines contrary to what I have suggested, however, if I can only persuade him to take a pony himself he will learn a lot this autumn. That is all the growl I have got."

"The ponies have improved out of all recognition since coming ashore they are fat but of course soft as after we had finished hauling stores ashore they have had no exercise no-one being available for the job, this is a point Scott cannot see the force of but if he wishes to march with soft animals I am content. We shall I am sure be handicapped by the lack of experience in trekking which the party possesses, Scott having spent too much of his time in an office, he would fifty times sooner stay in the hut seeing how a pair of Foxs spiral puttees suited him than come out and look at the ponies legs or a dogs feet [sic] -- however I suppose I think too much of this having come strate [sic] from a regiment where horses were the first and only real consideration."

"I wonder what has happened to Amundsen. Scott thinks he has gone to the Weddell Sea to try for the Pole from there, if it comes to a race he will have a great chance of getting there as he is a man who has been at this kind of game all his life and he has a hard crowd behind him while we are very young. Don't think from what I say that Scott is likely to endanger anyone, it is quite the reverse and I may be maligning the man altogether as I admit I am annoyed at him not having taken my advice more freely about the marches.... I don't know yet whether I shall stay or not as it is early yet and I shan't decide until I see the mail.... I'm afraid you will think my letter is full of growls, but as a matter of fact I am having a first class time am very fit and looking forward to the sledge journey." [2]


[1] Wikipedia.
[2] L.E.G. Oates, letter to Caroline Oates, [22 January, 1911], quoted by Sue Limb and Patrick Cordingley in Captain Oates : Soldier and Explorer (London : Batsford, c1982), p.107-108.

January 20, 2011

Friday, 20 January 1911


Cherry-Garrard's sketch of the hut's layout. [1]

On the officer's side of the bulkhead across the middle of the hut, space was allotted to Bowers, Atkinson, Oates, Meares, and Cherry-Garrard -- soon dubbed "The Tenements" -- with separate labs/dormitories for Simpson and Wright, Day and Nelson, Ponting's darkroom, and Debenham, Taylor, and Gran together. Scott shared his corner space with Wilson and Lt. Evans.
"It will make things uncomfortable ... if they start slinging plates at each other," Oates commented dryly. [2]

Oates wrote to one of his fellow officers back home to arrange for mules for the next season, which Oates had recommended be got from India, for "if Scott goes elsewhere he will get stuck as he did with this lot.... I shall look pretty foolish," he added, "if they all die of cold on landing but they should be better than the crocks we have here." [3]


Building the hut. [4]

Stubberud and Bjaaland had to make a windbreak to keep out the constant snow drift. "In that way," Stubberud remembered, "we managed to dig out the site and get down to solid ground, i.e., blue ice, hard as rock. Because of the sloping terrain, we had to hack down about 3 metres for a length of 8 metres along the upper part to get the site horizontal. It was naturally a hard job; severe cold ... delayed the work. But in the end we did it." [5]


[1] Source unknown.
[2] L.E.G. Oates, [letter to his mother?], 22 January, 1911, quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.406.
[3] L.E.G. Oates, letter to Maj. N. Haig, 20 January, 1911, quoted by Sue Limb and Patrick Cordingley in Captain Oates : Soldier and Explorer (London : Batsford, c1982), p.108.
[4] Roald Amundsen Bildearkiv, Nasjonalbiblioteket.
[5] Jørgen Stubberud, "Den Siste av Sydpolens Erobrere", Vi Menn, No.5, 25 January, 1972, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.339.

January 19, 2011

Thursday, 19 January 1911


Scott ordered Bowers and P.O. Evans to prepare for the depot-laying journey to start on the 25th. "I have been trying to work out sledge details, but my head doesn't seem half as clear on the subject as it ought to be," Scott wrote in his diary. "I have fixed the 25th as the date for our departure." [1]


[1] R.F. Scott, diary, 19 January, 1911, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.

January 18, 2011

Wednesday, 18 January 1911


A sledge loaded with seal. [1]

Amundsen's plan was to have their base ready by the end of April, well before the beginning of the Antarctic winter in June, and to make three depot journeys to lay in supplies to 83° in preparation for the run to the Pole in the spring.

In addition to transporting the stores from the ship, seals and penguins were slaughtered and flensed, to be laid in for the winter as food for men and dogs. Unfamiliar with predators on land, the seals and penguins were easy marks. "We live in a veritable Never-Never Land," Amundsen wrote. "Seals come up to the ship and penguins to the tent, and allow themselves to be shot." [2]


[1] Roald Amundsen Bildearkiv, Nasjonalbiblioteket.
[2] Roald Amundsen, diary, 18 January, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.339.

January 17, 2011

Tuesday, 17 January 1911


The hut at Cape Evans, photographed 28 January 2007 by Lin Padgham. Two annexes were built later, one not visible in this photo, as a stables for the ponies, and the second one, seen here, as a stores hut. The entrance to the hut proper is through the door at the far right of the stores annexe. [1]

The shore party moved into their new home.

"Such a noble dwelling transcends the word 'hut,'" wrote Scott, "and we pause to give it a more fitting title only from lack of the appropriate suggestion. What shall we call it?... The word 'hut' is misleading. Our residence is really a house of considerable size, in every respect the finest that has ever been erected in the Polar regions; 50 ft. long by 25 wide and 9 ft. to the eaves." [2]

"It would rejoice your heart," Wilson wrote to Kathleen Scott, "to see your husband in the weather beaten condition he is in at present. He is in the most excellent trim for hard work. I am sure he feels, as I do, that it was only yesterday we were here and that the seven years which have passed over have left no trace, except in your husband a very much more confident grasp of conditions & possibilities, in which he simply excels.... There is nothing I wouldn't do for him. He is just splendid." [3]


Dog teams with loaded sledges on the way to Framheim, January or February 1911. [4]

Work continued transporting equipment and supplies over the sea ice at the Bay of Whales. "The going has been good," Amundsen noted in his diary. "The sun has had a considerable effect on the [snow]. Wide, polished expanses help to keep the sledges moving." [5]


[1] Wikimedia Commons.
[2] R.F. Scott, diary, 18 January, 1911, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.
[3] E.A. Wilson, letter to Kathleen Scott, 17 January, 1911, quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.411.
[4] Roald Amundsen Bildearkiv, Nasjonalbiblioteket.
[5] Roald Amundsen, diary, 18 January, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in The Amundsen Photographs (London : Hodder & Stoughton, c1987), p.81.

January 16, 2011

Monday, 16 January 1911


East Greenland dog sledding. Photo by Derek Reay. [1]

Because of his earlier experience on the Gjøa in the Northwest Passage, Amundsen had been using the Alaskan style of dog harness, with the dogs attached in pairs to a central trace. These dogs, however, had been trained in the Greenland style, spreading out in a fan shape from a central attachment, and the Norwegians soon realised that this was the reason for their problems the day before.

Together with Johansen, Hassel, and Wisting, Amundsen returned to the ship to alter the dogs' harnesses. "With the help of the ship's party," he noted in his diary, "we were able to make 46 traces in the course of an afternoon, or full equipment for the 4 teams we can use at the moment. That was the splendid result, and a good proof of what co-operation can do." [2]

[1] Greenland Explored.
[2] Roald Amundsen, diary, 17 January, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.339.

January 15, 2011

Sunday, 15 January 1911


In Scott's initial plans, a group of scientists would remain at Cape Evans, while two other groups, an Eastern Party under Campbell, would explore the coastline of King Edward VII Land, and a Western Geological Party under Taylor, would work in the mountains. The Southern Party would be made of up a select group of those at Cape Evans.

Oates had marked down two of the better ponies for Campbell's use, but upon watching them in action during the unloading of the ship, Scott decided that the slower ones in the polar contingent would hinder the faster ones. "After Service," Scott noted in his diary, "I told Campbell that I should have to cancel his two ponies and give him two others. He took it like the gentleman he is, thoroughly appreciating the reason." [1]


Transporting equipment and supplies to Framheim. [2]

"[All] dogs were landed," wrote Amundsen in his diary. "At the same time we drove up all supplies and equipment we dared load on the sledges the first time.... We have had a lot of trouble with driving today. There have been hidings for the dogs, but it has been necessary to make them understand the gravity of the situation. Things will soon be better." [3]

Each sledge moved five or six loads a day, about two tons in all.

They established their first camp on the Barrier "as a temporary residence for the dogs. It lay 1.2 nautical miles from the ship. Here ... in a pleasant little valley, we pitched a 16-man tent for the dog minders J[ohansen] & H[assel], together with passing travellers. Round the tent we then ran a wire in the form of a triangle -- each side 50 m. -- where our animals will be placed. We then continued our march to the place we had selected for our house. It lay only 2.2 nautical miles from the ship. In this way, our landing will be much quicker than originally planned." [4]

Amundsen had intended to build the hut ten miles inland, in case the Barrier calved, but upon getting a look at the terrain, he decided that the much shorter distance was sufficient. "At the appointed place, we marked out the building plot -- in a SE-NW direction, and pitched [another] 16-man tent for the use of Bj[aaland] & Jørg. [Stubberud], who will be the builders."

"On our return journey, we marked the whole route with dark blue pennants," Amundsen added, "so that it will be impossible to lose one's way. These marks have been placed at intervals of 15 paces. We were on board again at 5 p.m. -- Took some photos of this first trip of ours."


[1] R.F. Scott, diary, 15 January, 1911, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition : the Journals, v.1.
[2] Roald Amundsen Bildearkiv, Nasjonalbiblioteket. The glass plate has suffered considerable damage.
[3] Roald Amundsen, diary, [16 January, 1911], quoted by Roland Huntford in The Amundsen Photographs (London : Hodder & Stoughton, c1987), p.75.
[4] Roald Amundsen, diary, 15 January, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in The Amundsen Photographs (London : Hodder & Stoughton, c1987), p.82.

January 14, 2011

Saturday, 14 January 1911


Unloading the Fram in the Bay of Whales, 14th January, 1911. [2]

At eleven o'clock in the morning, unloading of the Fram began. Eight dogs were hitched to a sledge loaded with 300 kilos (660 pounds) of supplies, and Amundsen was given the honour of driving.

"I glanced at the ship," he wrote later. "Yes; as I thought -- all our comrades were standing in a row, admiring the fine start. I am not quite sure that I did not hold my head rather high and look round with a certain air of triumph. If I did so, it was foolish of me. I ought to have waited; the defeat would have been easier to bear. For defeat it was, and a signal one. The dogs had spent half a year in lying about and eating and drinking, and had got the impression that they would never have anything else to do. Not one of them appeared to understand that a new era of toil had begun. After moving forward a few yards, they all sat down, as though at a word of command, and stared at each other. The most undisguised astonishment could be read in their faces. When at last we had succeeded, with another dose of the whip, in making them understand that we really asked them to work, instead of doing as they were told they flew at each other in a furious scrimmage. Heaven help me! what work we had with those eight dogs that day! If it was going to be like this on the way to the Pole, I calculated in the midst of the tumult that it would take exactly a year to get there, without counting the return journey. During all this confusion I stole another glance at the ship, but the sight that met me made me quickly withdraw my eyes again. They were simply shrieking with laughter, and loud shouts of the most infamous encouragement reached us." [3]

Anticipating the shuttle of stores between ship and hut, pennants on sticks had been prepared in advance, to be set out to mark the route.


[1] Roald Amunsen Bildearkiv, Nasjonalbiblioteket.
[2] Roald Amundsen, The South Pole, ch.5.

January 13, 2011

Friday, 13 January 1911


The Bay of Whales. Photograph by P. Bond, before 2007. [1]

The Fram pulled in to the Bay of Whales. As soon as she was moored, Amundsen, Nilsen, Prestrud, and Stubberud set off on ski. The men were all a bit out of shape from having been five months at sea, but the skiing was good in the loose new snow and brilliant sunshine. After half an hour, they came to the place where the sea-ice and the Barrier met, the Barrier there being a rather anticlimactic twenty feet (6 m) or so, and smoothed with drift into a gentle slope.

"[The] ice foot led onto the Barrier by a small, even slope; an ideal connection [to the ship] in other words. We continued in a south-easterly direction, and after about 15 minutes reached one of the [previously observed] ridge formations on the barrier. These formations looked like small morain ridges with certain irregularities on the top. These irregularities turned out to consist of huge ice blocks on edge. Something must have stopped the barrier in its regular progress and caused this. What else can it be but underlying land?" [2]

He was, in fact, wrong. Shackleton had in 1908 rejected the Bay as unstable due to the extensive calving in the inner bay. Amundsen, noting that Shackleton's observations had shown that the location and shape of the Bay had changed little since Ross' discovery of it in 1841, reasoned that the ice was grounded on land. Although the bay, like the entire Barrier, is now known to be afloat, it is in the lee of Roosevelt Island, which slows the advance of the ice and creates the ridges that Amundsen had studied.

"I selected a place -- in a little valley, on a fine, flat foundation, about 4 nautical miles from the ... sea, as our future residence. Here we will build our home, and from here our work will be carried out. Already tomorrow -- Sunday -- we start some preparatory work, so that we are ready to begin in earnest on Monday."

"Lt. N[ilsen] has worked out the distance sailed from Norway. it is 15,938 nautical miles, and had been estimated at 16,000. That was not bad. We had calculated on being at our field of work on the 15th January -- We lay to ... on the 14th."


[1] Wikimedia Commons.
[2] Roald Amundsen, diary, 14 January 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.315.

January 11, 2011

Wednesday, 11 January 1911


Cherry asked Wilson what would happen if Scott did not reach the Pole. "We shall probably stop here [another year] and have a 2nd go at it -- 'with fewer ponies and dogs, but more experience,' as Bill said. Two good failures and we could be forgiven for not succeeding.... [I] wonder where the Fram is: they are supposed to have 140 dogs and 10 dog drivers on board: Meares says that if they were here now he believes they could go straight to the Pole." [1]


[1] Apsley Cherry-Garrard, diary, 11 January 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.334.

January 10, 2011

Tuesday, 10 January 1911


"Francis E C Davies constructing a one storied wooden hut at Antarctica during the British Antarctic ('Terra Nova') Expedition (1910-1913). Photograph taken on the 10th of January 1911, by Herbert George Ponting." [1]

Work continued on the hut. Its double-walls were lined with felt and insulated with quilted seaweed, and the roof was covered with "three-ply rubberoid". Inside, the floor was covered with linoleum, and a bulkhead was constructed of packing cases to separate the seamen's mess-deck and the ward-room for the use of the officers and scientists.


The Ross Ice Shelf, photographed in 1997 by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. [2]

The Fram came upon the Great Ice Barrier, the massive Ross Ice Shelf. Nilsen had brought them in at 169° 40' W longitude, only a little too far to the west. [3]

Bjaaland waxed poetic in his diary: "At long last, the ice barrier hove into sight today. It is a strange feeling that grips one as the sight now reveals itself. The sea is still as a pool, and before one stands this Great Wall of China and glitters. Far off, it is like a photograph that has just been developed on the plate." [4]

Amundsen, however, was more pragmatic. "There it lay," he wrote in his diary, "this infamous 200 ft. high snow wall -- wall of ice one cannot call it -- and gleamed at us. I had expected it to impress me more than it does, but the excellent reproductions in Shackleton's book meant that I had got used to it and looked on it as an old acquaintance. So here we are." [5]

He wrote later, "At 2.30 p.m. we came in sight of the Great Ice Barrier. Slowly it rose up out of the sea until we were face to face with it in all its imposing majesty. It is difficult with the help of the pen to give any idea of the impression this mighty wall of ice makes on the observer who is confronted with it for the first time. It is altogether a thing which can hardly be described; but one can understand very well that this wall of 100 feet [sic] in height was regarded for a generation as an insuperable obstacle to further southward progress.

"We knew that the theory of the Barrier’s impregnability had long ago been overthrown; there was an opening to the unknown realm beyond it. This opening -- the Bay of Whales -- ought to lie, according to the descriptions before us, about a hundred miles to the east of the position in which we were. Our course was altered to true east, and during a cruise of twenty-four hours along the Barrier we had every opportunity of marvelling at this gigantic work of Nature. It was not without a certain feeling of suspense that we looked forward to our arrival at the harbour we were seeking What state should we find it in? Would it prove impossible to land at all conveniently?" [6]


[1] Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand. The entrance annexe with skylight visible in this photograph would later be surrounded by a stores annexe.
[2] Wikimedia Commons.
[3] Roland Huntford notes in his first two books about the South Pole that upon crossing the international date line on the way south, which would have been around 10th January, 1911, Amundsen forgot to put back his dates by one. Upon arrival at the pole itself, Amundsen made sure to note this: "'So we arrived, and planted our flag at the geographical South Pole,' Amundsen wrote in his diary. 'Thanks be to God!' The entry was headed 'Friday 15 December (really 14th)''' (The Amundsen Photographs, p.130). "On returning to civilization," Huntford adds, "the dates were (pedantically) revised" (Scott and Amundsen, p.546). This is mentioned almost in passing in the last sentence of Appendix II of Amundsen's The South Pole, which reads only, "The date was not changed on crossing the 180th meridian." It is not at all clear from Huntford's notes whether or not he silently corrected the dates in the Norwegians' diaries to align with this revision, but many seem to have been. For the Fram's arrival at the Great Barrier, for example, Bjaaland's diary as quoted by Huntford in Scott and Amundsen is dated 11 January, which is the supposedly-revised date given by Amundsen in The South Pole (ch.4). The only time that the two expeditions came in contact was on 4th February 1912, when Campbell in the Terra Nova put in at the Bay of Whales to find the Fram already established there; the diaries quoted by Huntford are indeed dated 4 February.
Hassel's diary (published by Vågemot Miniforlag in 1997) notes that "Friday, January 26, 1912 at 3 1/2 in the morning we came back from the South Pole, which we reached 15 December (new date 14 December) at about 5 in the afternoon", but no further information or explanation is given by either Hassel or the unknown editor.
For the most part, dates given for the Norwegians here in "Scott vs. Amundsen" are one day earlier than those given in the published sources by the respective authors, unless otherwise noted. Thus, here, pedantically or not, the Pole is attained on 14 December 1911.
Amundsen's book might be taken as the standard, but Arthur Hinks points out in "The Observations of Amundsen and Scott at the South Pole" (The Geographical Journal, vol. 103, no. 4 (April 1944), pp. 160-180) that dates were corrected inconsistently even within the same edition of Amundsen's book. Comparison with archival materials such as Fram's logbook and the various diaries would most likely settle the question, but is unfortunately beyond the scope of this project. In Race for the South Pole (Continuum, 2010), Huntford adds in a footnote to the entry for 15th December 1911, "The 14 December 1911 is the date that has gone down in history. It is all academic anyway. In the interests of historical authenticity, the original 'wrong' dates in the Norwegian diaries are preserved" (p.320, fn 59). Since Huntford so clearly states that the dates in the Norwegian diaries have not been revised for that book, this is here taken as the standard, minus one: I am all for historical accuracy, but the point of this page being to see as exactly as possible where the respective expeditions were in relation to each other on any given date, here it does matter.
Note that the US paperback version of Scott and Amundsen, retitled The Last Place on Earth (New York : Atheneum, c1983) was "adapted" for the popular market by not only cutting much of the text but eliminating the footnotes altogether. There is no mention of the dates question at all, and the date given for arrival at the Pole is Friday, 15th December (p.453).
[4] Olav Bjaaland, diary, 11 January 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.314.
[5] Roald Amundsen, [diary, 11 January 1911?], quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.314.
[6] Roald Amundsen, The South Pole, ch.4.

January 9, 2011

Monday, 9 January 1911


"Great activity reigns on board," Amundsen wrote in his diary. "The last touches are being put to all the work. Clothing bags must be packed ready to go ashore." [1]

While in the pack, seals had been shot and brought aboard to give the dogs fresh meat and feed them up before putting them to work.


[1] Roald Amundsen, [diary?], 9 January 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.313.

January 8, 2011

Sunday, 8 January 1911


"Men pulling a motor-sledge from the 'Terra Nova' on 8 January 1911. Taken by Herbert George Ponting in 1911, during the British Antarctic ('Terra Nova') Expedition (1910-1913)." [1]

The third of the motor sledges was lost when it fell through the thawing sea ice as it was being unloaded. "We realised that the ice was getting very rotten," Priestley wrote in his diary, but no-one wanted to disobey Scott's orders to hurry. The sledge had been lowered onto the ice when Williamson went through to his knees, "[the] car suddenly dipped, the ice gave way beneath her after end and she fell with all her weight vertically on the rope. The rope began cutting through the thin ice, and we were never able to hold her steady for a moment. Man after man was forced to leave the rope through his hands, and when only five of us were left she took charge at a gallop and is now resting on the bottom at a depth of 120 fathoms." Priestley himself, having gone back to the ship for a life-line and Day's goggles, fell through and was swept under by a strong current, bursting up again through the rotten ice "like a cork out of a champagne bottle." [2] "Day, here are your goggles," he said calmly. [3]

"A day of disaster," Scott wrote in his journal. [4]


[1] National Library of New Zealand.
[2] Raymond Priestley, diary, 8 January, 1911, quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.404.
[3] Apsley Cherry-Garrard, The Worst Journey in the World, ch.4.
[4] R.F. Scott, diary, 8 January, 1911, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.

January 7, 2011

Saturday, 7 January 1911

"View of ice, with the ship 'Terra Nova' in the distance, taken 7 January 1911 by Herbert George Ponting during the British Antarctic Expedition." [1]

Work continued unloading the Terra Nova. Two parties of officers made ten journeys apiece, with loads of 250 to 300 lbs. per man, 25 miles over the ice to the site of the hut. The ponies, fractious and restive after their long confinement aboard ship, two or three times got away from their handlers, once with a loaded sledge. "Oates is splendid with them," wrote Scott, "I do not know what we should do without him." [2]

The dogs, too, were restless, and a team got away from Meares, so unexpectedly that one of the dogs lost its footing and was dragged for nearly half a mile.

The ice was becoming sludgy, and in some places the ponies' feet went through. Ponting, too, got a ducking, out on his own with a small sledge loaded with his cameras and cinematograph, but luckily for him and his equipment both, the weak area he had inadvertently stepped into was small enough that he managed to pull himself out.

Work on the hut continued apace, and the framework was being covered with its double-layer of insulation. "I am wondering," Scott added to himself, "how we shall stable the ponies in the winter."


[1] National Library of New Zealand.
[2] R.F. Scott, diary, 7 January, 1911, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.

January 6, 2011

Friday, 6 January 1911


Ice in the Ross Sea. [1]

In one of the fasted passages to that date, the Fram came out into the open Ross Sea three and a half days after entering the ice pack. Thanks to her diesel motor, this was the first motor passage of the pack.

With characteristic respect for his predecessors, Amundsen wrote later of Sir James Ross, the first to reach the sea and ice shelf that now bear his name, "Few people of the present day are capable of rightly appreciating this heroic deed; this brilliant proof of human courage and energy. With two ponderous craft -- regular 'tubs' according to our ideas -- these men sailed right into the heart of the pack, which all previous polar explorers had regarded as certain death. It is not merely difficult to grasp this; it is simply impossible -- to us, who with a motion of the hand can set the screw going, and wriggle out of the first difficulty we encounter. These men were heroes -- heroes in the highest sense of the word." [2]

More immediately, he noted in his diary, "The swell is heavy and everything is familiar.... We are forging ahead under full sail and with the engine running as well, and doing 6-7 knots. If we carry on like this, the remaining 500 miles will soon be but a memory. We are all longing to start our work down there." [3]


[1] Wikimedia Commons.
[2] Roald Amundsen, The South Pole, ch.1.
[3] Roald Amundsen, diary, [6 January, 1911?], quoted by Roland Huntford in The Amundsen Photographs (London : Hodder & Stoughton, c1987), p.72-73.

January 5, 2011

Thursday, 5 January 1911


"An iceberg and grotto. Photograph taken by Herbert George Ponting on 5 January 1911, during the British Antarctic ('Terra Nova') Expedition (1910-1913)." [1]

Priestley was unimpressed at the difference "between the way the work was carried out and the way when we were landing stores at Cape Royds.... [There are] too many officers superintending and the men never know when and where to go for orders.... [An] Expedition to make a complete success should be entirely away from any Navy ideas.... [In] this one particular give me Shackleton's expedition over and over again." [2]

Faced with the necessity of marking the route between ship and hut, empty paraffin tins were pressed into service.


"The Midnight Sun was visible for the first time today," wrote Amundsen. "It was a wonderful sight on this beautiful evening. It is almost calm; just a breath of wind from the S.E.... Who can describe the wonderful feeling of wellbeing that has enveloped us here in the calm waters among the ice, with plenty of fresh water -- or rather fresh ice -- and fine, fresh meat, after 4 months' unending, intolerable pitching and tossing? I believe that hardly anyone who has not experienced this, can properly understand to what degree we appreciate the change." [3]


[1] National Library of New Zealand. The figures are Taylor and Wright; posing for Ponting quickly became known by the new verb "to pont".
[2] Raymond Priestley, letter from Cape Adare, undated, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.333.
[3] Roald Amundsen, diary, 5 January, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in The Amundsen Photographs (London : Hodder & Stoughton, c1987), p.72.

January 4, 2011

Wednesday, 4 January 1911


Blocked by ice from landing at McMurdo Sound, Scott chose instead a small promontory about six miles south of Cape Royds, which had in the Discovery days been called The Skuary; he renamed it Cape Evans "in honour of our excellent second in command".

After making fast with ice anchors, Scott, Wilson, and Lt. Evans walked across to the Cape. "A glance at the land showed, as we expected, ideal spots for our wintering station," he wrote. "We chose a spot for the hut on a beach facing N.W. and well protected by numerous small hills behind. This spot seems to have all the local advantages ... for a winter station, and we realised that at length our luck had turned." [1]

The dogs were still a source of great interest, both, one imagines, for their value to the expedition and simply as entertainment.

"Poor brutes," Scott went on, "how they must have enjoyed their first roll, and how glad they must be to have freedom to scratch themselves! It is evident all have suffered from skin irritation -- one can imagine the horror of suffering from such an ill for weeks without being able to get at the part that itched. I note that now they are picketed together they administer kindly offices to each other; one sees them gnawing away at each other's flanks in most amicable and obliging manner.

"Meares and the dogs were out early, and have been running to and fro most of the day with light loads. The great trouble with them has been due to the fatuous conduct of the penguins. Groups of these have been constantly leaping on to our floe. From the moment of landing on their feet their whole attitude expressed devouring curiosity and a pig-headed disregard for their own safety. They waddle forward, poking their heads to and fro in their usually absurd way, in spite of a string of howling dogs straining to get at them. 'Hulloa,' they seem to say, 'here's a game -- what do all you ridiculous things want?' And they come a few steps nearer. The dogs make a rush as far as their leashes or harness allow. The penguins are not daunted in the least, but their ruffs go up and they squawk with semblance of anger, for all the world as though they were rebuking a rude stranger -- their attitude might be imagined to convey 'Oh, that's the sort of animal you are; well, you've come to the wrong place -- we aren't going to be bluffed and bounced by you,' and then the final fatal steps forward are taken and they come within reach. There is a spring, a squawk, a horrid red patch on the snow, and the incident is closed."


[1] R.F. Scott, diary, 4 January, 1911, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.

January 3, 2011

Tuesday, 3 January 1911


Cape Crozier precipices, photographed by Ponting on 3 January, 1911. [1]

"6 P.M. -- No good!! Alas! Cape Crozier with all its attractions is denied us," lamented Scott. [2] They had come to the Great Barrier five miles east of the Cape, but heavy swells prevented their landing a boat, and there was no access to the beach for unloading their equipment. "It would have taken weeks to land the ordinary stores, and heaven knows how we could have got the ponies and the motor sledges ashore." [3]

Cherry wrote later, "We could see the great pressure waves which had proved such an obstacle to travellers from the Discovery to the Emperor penguin rookery. The Knoll was clear, but the summit of Mount Terror was in the clouds. As for the Barrier we seemed to have known it all our lives, it was so exactly like what we had imagined it to be, and seen in the pictures and photographs." [4]


Fram in the ice-pack, 1910. [5]

The Fram entered the pack ice at 175° 35'E longitude.

"The ice through which we have gone lies in streams with broad, open leads in between [with] a few eroded icebergs," Amundsen wrote in his diary. "An occasional seal has been seen here and there. In those cases, we stop and take it.... It had been a red letter day for all of us. For dinner we had steak -- the finest and tenderest meat.... The dogs have done just as well. For dinner they had each their huge piece of meat, about 2 kilos, together with a large piece of skin with blubber. To begin with, they did not really grasp the change from stockfish to fresh seal meat -- but it did not take them long.... I estimate that the ... heaviest seal we caught weighs about 500 kilos. Not many of those fellows will be needed to feed the dogs during the winter." [6]


[1] Scott Polar Research Institute.
[2] R.F. Scott, diary, 3 January, 1911, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.
[3] R.F. Scott, diary [date not given], quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.401-402.
[4] Apsley Cherry-Garrard, The Worst Journey in the World, ch.4.
[5] Roald Amundsen Bildearkiv, Nasjonalbiblioteket.
[6] Roald Amundsen, diary, 3 January, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in The Amundsen Photographs (London : Hodder & Stoughton, c1987), p.72.

January 2, 2011

Monday, 2 January 1911


The Fram crossed the Antarctic Circle, and found the water free of ice further south than anyone before had done. Amundsen's close study of the published records had led him to the conclusion that there was a passage at the point where the pack was slackest and narrowest, and that at that time of the year this point was probably a few degrees west of the 180th Meridian. Other than noting these conclusions, though, he let Beck take charge of their course.

"We have now found the sea free of ice further South than anyone else," Amundsen wrote in his diary. "But -- we will meet it in the end." [1]


[1] Roald Amundsen, diary, 2 January, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in The Amundsen Photographs (London : Hodder & Stoughton, c1987), p.72.

January 1, 2011

Sunday, 1 January 1911


Drift ice seen from the Fram, in an undated photo. [1]

At three in the morning, the officer of the watch sighted the first iceberg, with still more to come throughout the day.


[1] Nasjonalbiblioteket. The glass plate has suffered heavy damage.