March 31, 2011

Friday, 31 March 1911


The Terra Nova arrived back in Lyttelton, after a difficult voyage north in which, beset by stormy weather, the bilge pumps clogged up yet again.

March 30, 2011

Thursday, 30 March 1911


Johansen at Framheim, in an undated photograph. [1]

At 10.30 in the morning, the Norwegians set out on their third and final depot-laying run. Amundsen, still suffering from a painful rectal complaint, stayed behind with Lindstrøm.

The day before, Johansen wrote in his diary, "Amundsen said that I am to take charge of the impending trip, as he is not quite well. He gave these instructions in the others' presence. And he did it on purpose, so that the others would abide by it." [2]


[1] Roald Amundsen Bildearkiv, Nasjonalbiblioteket.
[2] Hjalmar Johansen, diary, 4 February 1911, published as Dagbok fra Sydpolen (Skien : Vågemot Miniforlag, 2007), p.7.

March 27, 2011

Monday, 27 March 1911


The aurora australis, photographed in Antarctica by Samuel Blanc in April, 2006. [1]

"The aurora australis was seen for the first time on the evening of March 28," Amundsen wrote later. "It was composed of shafts and bands, and extended from the south-west to the north-east through the zenith. The light was pale green and red. We see many fine sunsets here, unique in the splendour of their colour. No doubt the surroundings in this fairyland of blue and white do much to increase their beauty." [2]


[1] Wikimedia Commons.
[2] Roald Amundsen, The South Pole, ch.6.

March 23, 2011

Thursday, 23 March 1911


The depot party arrived back at Hut Point. "They had thick weather on the outward march," recorded Scott, "and missed the track, finally doing 30 miles between Safety Camp and Corner Camp. They had a hard blow up to force 8 on the night of our gale [two days earlier]". [1]


[1] R.F. Scott, diary, 24 March, 1911, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.

March 22, 2011

Wednesday, 22 March 1911


Gran had a long talk with Wilson, sitting on a boulder some distance from the hut. "I had the sort of feeling," Gran later said, "when I opened my mouth Scott would think of Amundsen. I had a sort of feeling that I was a kind of shadow in Scott's life.... [Wilson said] You mustn't think like that. Scott is in a terrible state. But it is natural, because I think he thinks that if Amundsen does not have bad luck, he will get to the Pole first and then you know that the expedition will be ruined, and nothing to what it could have been if Amundsen hadn't existed." [1]


The second depot-laying party arrived back at Framheim. Eight dogs had been lost; two more depots had been laid, one at 81° and another at 82° S., containing over a ton and a half of supplies, including three months' of pemmican for twenty-five dogs at the 82° depot, and 110 litres of paraffin, enough for four or five men travelling for two hundred days, twice Amundsen's estimation of the Polar journey.


[1] Tryggve Gran, interview with Roland Huntford, quoted by Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.373.

March 17, 2011

Friday, 17 March 1911


Stuck in the Discovery hut -- now with the advent of Taylor's party crammed with sixteen men -- waiting for the sea to freeze so that they could return to Cape Evans, Scott became nervous and moody. "In spite of all little activities I am impatient of our wait here. But I shall be impatient also in the main hut. It is ill to sit still and contemplate the ruin which has assailed our transport. The scheme of advance must be very different from that which I first contemplated. The Pole is a very long way off, alas! Bit by bit I am losing all faith in the dogs -- I'm afraid they will never go the pace we look for." [1]

Venting his frustrations, perhaps, on the only available Norwegian, Scott gave Gran a public dressing-down for being "lazy" and "a malingerer". "All that remains," he fumed in his diary, "is to rid oneself as far as possible of the nuisance of his presence." [2]

"I could not help feeling a bit sorry for Trigger," Bowers wrote, "as he always meant well & was the youngest of the party. A year at an English school would have worked wonders for him as he is in every respect a nice fellow." [3]


[1] R.F. Scott, diary, 17 March, 1911, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.
[2] R.F. Scott, diary, [17 March, 1911], quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.373. See also Tryggve Gran's The Norwegian With Scott : Tryggve Gran's Antarctic Diary 1910-1913 ([Greenwich] : National Maritime Museum, 1984), p.16.
[3] H.R. Bowers, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.373.

March 16, 2011

Thursday, 16 March 1911


The last depot-laying team set out: "Evans, Wright, Crean, and Forde in one team; Bowers, Oates, Cherry-Garrard, and Atkinson in the other," wrote Scott. "It was very sporting of Wright to join in after only a day's rest. He is evidently a splendid puller." [1]

Wright himself noted, though, that "With singular short-sightedness, we were sent off with only one can of oil and less than a week's grub for a trip that could not be done in less than five days (for which the oil could be made to spin out) and at this time of year, moreover, only one out of every two days can be relied upon for travelling." [2]


[1] R.F. Scott, diary, 17 March, 1911, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.
[2] Charles S. Wright, diary, 16 March, 1911, quoted by Adrian Raeside in Return to Antarctica: the Amazing Adventure of Sir Charles Wright on Robert Scott's Journey to the South Pole (Mississauga, Ont.: John Wiley, c2009), p.127.

March 9, 2011

Friday, 10 March 1911


Amundsen, the worst dog-driver, depoted his sledge and divided his dogs between Helmer Hanssen's and Wisting's teams for the return journey. The weather was stormy and cold, with 30-40 deg. C of frost.

March 8, 2011

Wednesday, 8 March 1911


Despite their achievement, tempers were somewhat short. "I have slept in many kinds of tent," Johansen wrote, "and without tent, but this is the worst, and ditto the cooking arrangements." [1] The five men shared two small tents, cooking in one.

"[We] gathered in the cooking tent in various squeezed up postures in order to profit a little from the warmth of the Primus. And then we discussed how best we were to reach our goal in the spring, by using our dogs in the best possible way. Now we have seen that they have been strained because the load was too heavy and time too short. A. gave it as his opinion that the motto from 82 degrees must be as few people and as many dogs as possible. That is the whole principle." [2]


[1] Hjalmar Johansen, [diary? date not given], quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.353.
[1] Hjalmar Johansen, diary [9 March 1911], quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.353-354.

March 7, 2011

Tuesday, 7 March 1911


Building the depot at 82° S. [1]

The party arrived at 82°, with over half a ton of supplies, including 400 kilos (880 pounds) of dog pemmican.

Amundsen wrote later, "It was the utmost my five dogs could manage. Indeed, as will shortly be seen, it was already too much. They were completely worn out, poor beasts. This is the only dark memory of my stay in the South -- the over-taxing of these fine animals -- I had asked more of them than they were capable of doing. My consolation is that I did not spare myself either." [2]


[1] Aan de Zuidpool, The Gutenberg Project.
[2] Roald Amundsen, The South Pole, ch.6. He was in fact suffering from a painful rectal complaint, probably haemorrhoids, that is apparently not uncommon among polar travellers.

March 6, 2011

Monday, 6 March 1911


A man and dogs with loaded sledges, probably in 1911. [1]

"[We] did 13 miles with greater difficulty than hitherto," Johansen recorded, "and it goes very sluggishly; it nearly didn't go at all the last part of the way. The Chief's dogs are the worst, they don't take any notice of thrashing any more, just lie down in their tracks, and it is a terrible performance to get them going again." [2]

Temperatures were around 30° C. (-22 F), and the dogs' feet were sore, out of shape from the long voyage south.

"I have decided only to take the depot to 82 deg. S.," Amundsen wrote tersely. "It will not pay to push on further." [3]


[1] Roald Amundsen Bildearkiv, Nasjonalbiblioteket.
[2] Hjalmar Johansen, diary, [7 March, 1911], quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.352.
[3] Roald Amundsen, [diary? date not given], quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.352.

March 5, 2011

Sunday, 5 March 1911


Hut Point in January 2007. The Royal Society Range can be seen in the background. The cross is a memorial to Seaman George Vince, who was killed falling from a cliff during Scott's Discovery Expedition, the first recorded death in McMurdo Sound. [1]

The depot party arrived at Hut Point early in the morning. "Found the hut in comparative order and slept there," Scott noted wearily in his diary. [2]


In the past few days, temperatures had dropped to 30-40 degrees C of frost. "16 1/2 miles covered today," Johansen recorded with disappointment, "the last part of the way terribly slowly. The poor dogs had to be whipped on." [3]


[1] Wikipedia.
[2] R.F. Scott, diary, 5 March, 1911, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.
[3] Hjalmar Johansen, diary, 6 March, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.352.

March 3, 2011

Friday, 3 March 1911


The Norwegians reached 81° 1' S, and put up their next depot, with a half-ton of dog pemmican. Hassel, Bjaaland, and Stubberud turned for home -- with one of Amundsen's dogs, which was being chafed by a poorly-fitted harness -- while the others continued on for 83°.

March 1, 2011

Wednesday, 1 March 1911


Scott, Oates, and Gran turned out early in order to catch up with Bowers and the rest of the ponies, and struck out on ski for the forage depot a half-mile onto the Barrier southeast of Hut Point. As they approached, they saw with horror that the ice had broken up at the edge of the Barrier.

"My thoughts flew to the ponies and dogs," Scott wrote the next day, "and fearful anxieties assailed my mind. We turned to follow the sea edge and suddenly discovered a working crack. We dashed over this and slackened pace again after a quarter of a mile. Then again cracks appeared ahead and we increased pace as much as possible, not slackening again till we were in line between the Safety Camp and Castle Rock." [1]

"My orders were to push on to Hut Point over the sea-ice without delay," wrote Bowers later, "and to follow the dogs; previously I had been told to camp on the sea-ice only in case of the beasts being unable to go on. We had four pretty heavy sledges, as we were taking six weeks' man food and oil to the hut, as well as a lot of gear from the depôt, and pony food, etc. Unfortunately the dogs misunderstood their orders and, instead of piloting us, dashed off on their own. We saw them like specks in the distance in the direction of the old seal crack. Having crossed this they wheeled to the right in the direction of Cape Armitage and disappeared into a black indefinite mist, which seemed to pervade everything in that direction." [2]

Thinking that if they gave Cape Armitage a wide enough berth, they could get around to Hut Point safely, Bowers carried on with the ponies and sledges, Cherry, and Crean. "However, about a mile farther on I began to have misgivings; the cracks became too frequent to be pleasant, and although the ice was from five to ten feet thick, one does not like to see water squelching between them, as we did later. It spells motion, and motion on sea-ice means breakage." This was too much even for Bowers, and they turned back, going as far as they could with the exhausted ponies before setting up camp.

"We had only the primus with the missing cap and it took over 1 1/2 hours to heat up the water; however, we had a cup of pemmican. It was very dark, and I mistook a small bag of curry powder for the cocoa bag, and made cocoa with that, mixed with sugar; Crean drank his right down before discovering anything was wrong."

Two hours later Bowers was disturbed by a noise. Thinking that a pony had got into the oats, he went out of the tent. "I cannot describe either the scene or my feelings," he wrote, "I must leave those to your imagination. We were in the middle of a floating pack of broken-up ice. The tops of the hills were visible, but all below was thin mist and as far as the eye could see there was nothing solid; it was all broken up, and heaving up and down with the swell. Long black tongues of water were everywhere. The floe on which we were had split right under our picketing line, and cut poor Guts' wall in half." The pony had disappeared, and they were on a floe about 15 yards across, drifting to open sea.

They managed to retrieve two of the sledges from a nearby floe, before packing up their tent and the other two sledges and harnessing the ponies, and striking off across the moving ice, jumping from floe to floe, or using a sledge as a bridge across the leads, and making their way with agonizing slowness because Bowers was determined that they should not separate. A group of killer whales surfaced nearby, hunting seals in the broken-up ice.

Sea ice, both floes and brash, here in the Arctic in August 2009. [3]

Seeing a large floe that seemed to slope upwards to the Barrier's edge, they made a rush up it to find the sea between them and the Barrier open for some thirty or forty feet, filled with brash ice and killer whales. It was decided that Crean, because Cherry was too short-sighted to see and Bowers would not leave the ponies, would make a dash for help. "It was not a pleasant day that Cherry and I spent all alone there," Bowers noted later, with the sea wide open behind them, the edge of the Barrier calving as they watched, and killer whales blowing sometimes only inches away.

Fourteen hours later -- "I suppose there is no doubt we are in the devil of a hole," Cherry wrote in his diary as they waited [4] -- Crean appeared on the edge of the Barrier with Scott and Oates.

"Scott, instead of blowing me up," wrote Bowers, "was too relieved at our safety to be anything but pleased. I said: 'What about the ponies and the sledges?' He said: 'I don't care a damn about the ponies and sledges. It's you I want, and I am going to see you safe here up on the Barrier before I do anything else.'"

They dumped the gear from two of the sledges and used them as ladders to get across. Bowers was determined to rescue the ponies he had got this far, and Scott agreed, however reluctantly. "Titus [Oates] dug down a slope from the Barrier edge in the hope of getting the ponies up it. Scott knew more about ice than any of us, and realizing the danger we didn't, still wanted to abandon things. I fought for my point tooth and nail, and got him to concede one article and then another, and still the ice did not move till we had thrown and hauled up every article on to the Barrier except the two ladders and the ponies."

The shifting ice, though, kept them from getting the ponies, and they could only make camp and watch as the three ponies slowly drifted westwards. Some time later, the floe came up against a spur of the Barrier, and soon Bowers, with Cherry and Oates, was leaping across floes towards them. Cold and stiff, Punch shied at the first jump off, and went in, floundering in the brash ice. Rather than watch him be devoured by the killer whales, Oates finished him off with a pick. They got Nobby up onto the Barrier, but as he jumped between two floes, Bowers' pony Uncle Bill slipped and went in. They managed to drag him out, but, exhausted and done for, the pony could not get to his feet. "I said: 'I can't leave him to be eaten alive by those whales.' There was a pick lying up on the floe. Titus said: 'I shall be sick if I have to kill another horse like I did the last.' I had no intention that anybody should kill my own horse but myself, and getting the pick I struck where Titus told me. I made sure of my job before we ran up and jumped the opening in the Barrier, carrying a blood-stained pick-axe instead of leading the pony I had almost considered safe."

Like Wilson, reflecting upon it afterwards, Bowers felt that there was a greater hand than theirs at work. "Six hours earlier we could have walked to the hut on sound sea-ice. A few hours later we should have seen open water on arrival at the Barrier edge. The blizzard that knocked out the beasts, the death of Weary, the misunderstanding of the dogs, everything, fitted in to place us on the sea-ice during the only two hours of the whole year that we could possibly have been in such a position. Let those who believe in coincidence carry on believing. Nobody will ever convince me that there was not something more. Perhaps in the light of next year we shall see what was meant by such an apparent blow to our hopes. Certainly we shall start for the Pole with less of that foolish spirit of blatant boast and ridiculous blind self-assurance, that characterized some of us on leaving Cardiff." [5]

Looking back from six months later, Oates, though, was still bitter. "We lost 6 ponies including mine (Punch) which was a long way the best pony we had I was very upset the more so as I think he could have been saved if Scott had not been fussing to the extent he was, this pony was one of the ones drowned, the loss of the ponies was Scott's fault entirely." [6]


[1] R.F. Scott, diary, 2 March, 1911, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.
[2] H.R. Bowers, in a letter quoted by Apsley Cherry-Garrard in The Worst Journey in the World, ch.5.
[3] Wikimedia Commons.
[4] Apsley Cherry-Garrard, diary, 1 March 1911, quoted by Sara Wheeler in Cherry : a Life of Apsley Cherry-Garrard (New York : Modern Library, 2003, c2001), p.98.
[5] H.R. Bowers, quoted by Apsley Cherry-Garrard in The Worst Journey in the World, ch.5. Bowers not only singled out Cherry and Crean for praise in his report to Scott, but took full responsibility for underestimating the danger signs of the previous day, and for his own inexperience.
[6] L.E.G. Oates, letter?, [22 October, 1911], quoted by Sue Limb and Patrick Cordingley in Captain Oates : Soldier and Explorer (London : Batsford, c1982), p.120.