May 27, 2011

Saturday, 27 May 1911

Stubberud's self-closing door into the snow-tunnels at Framheim. Placed at an angle, the door's own weight allowed it to fall shut behind whoever went in or out, keeping out not only the weather but curious dogs. Bjaaland made the spade; upon arrival at Framheim, they realised that they had forgotten to bring any, so Bjaaland improvised a dozen out of iron plate, with handles turned out by Stubberud. [1]

Winter duties, Amundsen wrote, were assigned as follows: "Prestrud, scientific observations; Johansen, packing of sledging provisions; Hassel had to keep Lindström supplied with coal, wood, and paraffin, and to make whip-lashes -- an occupation he was very familiar with from the Fram's second expedition; Stubberud was to reduce the weight of the sledge cases to a minimum, besides doing a lot of other things. There was nothing he could not turn his hand to, so the programme of his winter work was left rather vague. I knew he would manage a great deal more than the sledge cases, though it must be said that it was a tiresome job he had. Bjaaland was allotted the task which we all regarded with intense interest -- the alteration of the sledges. We knew that an enormous amount of weight could be saved, but how much? Hanssen and Wisting had to lash together the different parts as they were finished; this was to be done in the Clothing Store. These two had also a number of other things on their programme for the winter." [2]


[1] Roald Amundsen Bildearkiv, Nasjonalbiblioteket.
[2] Roald Amundsen, The South Pole, ch.7.

May 25, 2011

Thursday, 25 May 1911


Silas, photographed by Ponting on 2 April, 1911. [1]

Each of the scientific staff took a turn at the lectern, many to great success, although some of them were less adroit at public speaking. "My talk on ice problems was a fearful business and went on for 2 1/2 hours," Wright admitted in his diary. [2]


[1] Source unknown.
[2] Charles S. Wright, diary, 25 May, 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.164.

May 21, 2011

Sunday, 21 May 1911


Aurora australis display, here at Wellington, New Zealand, in November 2001. [1]

"Good weather," Amundsen wrote. "Still and clear -46° .... Tomorrow we will have the door to the entrance installed, and thereby the whole of this huge snow complex will be finished.... It is difficult to describe the beautiful scene I saw when I came out of my dog tent this afternoon. Low down on the S.W. horizon was the moon -- shining yellow -- just over the rooftop of our hut -- or snow mound. In the S.W. sky the Southern Lights played in many forms and colours -- and high up there one sees the Southern Cross among an army of glittering, shining worlds. Like a fairy tale, the big, pointed ... tents rise up, all illuminated as if in celebration.... If only I could paint -- if only I could." [2]


[1] Wikipedia.
[2] Roald Amundsen, diary, 22 May, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in The Amundsen Photographs, (London : Hodder & Stoughton, c1987), p.114.

May 18, 2011

Thursday, 18 May 1911


A plan of the hut and tunnels at Framheim. [1]

Work on the tunnels in the snowdrift was nearly complete. Surrounding the hut were now a carpenter's shop, petroleum stores as well as coal and wood, storage for the reindeer clothing and a small room for Wisting's sewing machine, an astronomical observatory, and a storage and work-room -- dubbed "The Crystal Palace" -- for the skis and sledging cases, as well as amenities such as a laundry, a sauna, and a W.C. "quite American as far as hygiene is concerned," Amundsen noted. "Admittedly we don't have water, but instead we have the dogs [who] in a quick and efficient manner remove the night soil." [2]


[1] Roald Amundsen Bildearkiv, Nasjonalbiblioteket.
[2] Roald Amundsen, diary, 19 May 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.381.

May 14, 2011

Sunday, 14 May 1911


Scott at his writing table, photographed by Ponting in the winter of 1911. [1]

"I am very much impressed," Scott wrote contentedly, "with the extraordinary and general cordiality of the relations which exist amongst our people. I do not suppose that a statement of the real truth, namely, that there is no friction at all, will be credited -- it is so generally thought that the many rubs of such a life as this are quietly and purposely sunk in oblivion. With me there is no need to draw a veil; there is nothing to cover. There are no strained relations in this hut, and nothing more emphatically evident than the universally amicable spirit which is shown on all occasions.

"Such a state of affairs would be delightfully surprising under any conditions, but it is much more so when one remembers the diverse assortment of our company." [2]


[1] Wikipedia.
[2] R.F. Scott, diary, 14 May, 1911, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.

May 13, 2011

Saturday, 13 May 1911


In the afternoon the last of the depoting party returned from Hut Point -- first Meares with the dog team, then half an hour later Day, Lashly, Nelson, Forde, and Keohane arrived with the two ponies.

May 8, 2011

Monday, 8 May 1911


Scott's "Southern Journey" lecture notes, 8 May 1911. [1]

Keen to take advantage of the wide array of knowledge amongst his staff, Scott instituted a series of thrice-weekly lectures -- quickly dubbed "Universitas Antarctica" -- Wilson opening with a paper on "Antarctic Flying Birds", then Simpson the next evening on coronas.

One of the more eagerly-attended was no doubt Scott's own. "As one of the series of lectures," he wrote in his diary, "I gave an outline of my plans for next season on Monday evening. Everyone was interested naturally. I could not but hint that in my opinion the problem of reaching the Pole can best be solved by relying on the ponies and man haulage. With this sentiment the whole company appeared to be in sympathy. Everyone seems to distrust the dogs when it comes to glacier and summit. I have asked everyone to give thought to the problem, to freely discuss it, and bring suggestions to my notice. It's going to be a tough job; that is better realised the more one dives into it." [2]

Scott proposed leaving on 3 November, estimating a return to Hut Point on 27th March. "Therefore," he added, "the Pole party will almost certainly be too late for the ship." [3]

The ponies could be taken only as far as the foot of the Beardmore Glacier; after that it would be man-hauling.

"I for one am delighted at the decision," Bowers wrote cheerfully. "After all, it will be a fine thing to do that plateau with man-haulage in these days of the supposed decadence of the British race." [4]

Simpson noted privately, "It appears that with all our resources, there is little margin, and a few accidents or a spell of bad weather would not only bring failure but very likely disaster." [5]

The Polar party would have to spend seventy-five days at high altitude on the Plateau. Scott finished, Debenham recorded, by saying, "I don't know whether it is possible for men to last out that time. I almost doubt it." [6]

Wilson remained philosophical, if somewhat fatalistic. "Things generally turn out for the best," he wrote in his diary, "and generally in a different way to what one expects." [7]


[1] "Lecture notes 'Southern Journey 1911 - 12', 8 May 1911", under Recent Acquisitions, Canterbury Museum, Christchurch, New Zealand. "These handwritten notes by Capt. Robert Falcon Scott set out his plans for journey to the South Pole during the British Antarctic Expedition 1910-13. Various lectures were given to the men of the expedition during the long winter months spent in the hut at Cape Evans. Recently discovered by a London bookseller and acquired by Canterbury Museum, this manuscript gives details of Scott's plans for the journey in which he and four of his companions lost their lives."
[2] R.F. Scott, diary, 8-9 May, 1911, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.
[3] Frank Debenham, diary, 8 May, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.395.
[4] H.R. Bowers, letter to Kathleen Scott, 27 October, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.395-396.
[5] George Simpson, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.396.
[6] Frank Debenham, diary, 8 May, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.395.
[7] E.A. Wilson, [date not given], quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.395.

May 5, 2011

Friday, 5 May 1911


In the long, quiet winter days at Cape Evans, Scott reflected upon the men around him.

"Bill" Wilson working up a sketch, 18 May, 1911, photographed by Ponting. [1]

"One sees Wilson busy with pencil and colour box, rapidly and steadily adding to his portfolio of charming sketches and at intervals filling the gaps in his zoological work of Discovery times; withal ready and willing to give advice and assistance to others at all times; his sound judgment appreciated and therefore a constant referee." [2]

Simpson in his lab, photographed by Ponting, 21 December, 1911. [3]

"Simpson, master of his craft, untiringly attentive to the working of his numerous self-recording instruments, observing all changes with scientific acumen, doing the work of two observers at least and yet ever seeking to correlate an expanded scope. So the current meteorological and magnetic observations are taken as never before by Polar expeditions.

"Wright, good-hearted, strong, keen, striving to saturate his mind with the ice problems of this wonderful region. He has taken the electrical work in hand with all its modern interest of association with radio-activity.

"Evans, with a clear-minded zeal in his own work, does it with all the success of result which comes from the taking of pains. Therefrom we derive a singularly exact preservation of time -- an important consideration to all, but especially necessary for the physical work. Therefrom also, and including more labour, we have an accurate survey of our immediate surroundings and can trust to possess the correctly mapped results of all surveying data obtained. He has Gran for assistant. [4]

"Taylor's intellect is omnivorous and versatile -- his mind is unceasingly active, his grasp wide. Whatever he writes will be of interest -- his pen flows well."

Debenham, Gran, and Taylor in their cubicle, photographed by Ponting, 18 May, 1911. [5]

"Debenham's is clearer. Here we have a well-trained, sturdy worker, with a quiet meaning that carries conviction; he realises the conceptions of thoroughness and conscientiousness."

Bowers reading the thermometer at the top of the Ramp, with Wilson taking notes, photographed by flash-light by Ponting, 7 June, 1911. [6]

"To Bowers' practical genius is owed much of the smooth working of our station. He has a natural method in line with which all arrangements fall, so that expenditure is easily and exactly adjusted to supply, and I have the inestimable advantage of knowing the length of time which each of our possessions will last us and the assurance that there can be no waste. Active mind and active body were never more happily blended. It is a restless activity, admitting no idle moments and ever budding into new forms.

"So we see the balloons ascending under his guidance and anon he is away over the floe tracking the silk thread which held it. Such a task completed, he is away to exercise his pony, and later out again with the dogs, the last typically self-suggested, because for the moment there is no one else to care for these animals. Now in a similar manner he is spreading thermometer screens to get comparative readings with the home station. He is for the open air, seemingly incapable of realising any discomfort from it, and yet his hours within doors spent with equal profit. For he is intent on tracking the problems of sledging food and clothing to their innermost bearings and is becoming an authority on past records. This will be no small help to me and one which others never could have given."

Atkinson in his lab, photographed by Ponting. [7]

"Adjacent to the physicist's corner of the hut Atkinson is quietly pursuing the subject of parasites. Already he is in a new world. The laying out of the fish trap was his action and the catches are his field of labour. Constantly he comes to ask if I would like to see some new form and I am taken to see some protozoa or ascidian isolated on the slide plate of his microscope. The fishes themselves are comparatively new to science; it is strange that their parasites should have been under investigation so soon.

"Atkinson's bench with its array of microscopes, test-tubes, spirit lamps, &c., is next the dark room in which Ponting spends the greater part of his life. I would describe him as sustained by artistic enthusiasm. This world of ours is a different one to him than it is to the rest of us -- he gauges it by its picturesqueness -- his joy is to reproduce its pictures artistically, his grief to fail to do so. No attitude could be happier for the work which he has undertaken, and one cannot doubt its productiveness. I would not imply that he is out of sympathy with the works of others, which is far from being the case, but that his energies centre devotedly on the minutiae of his business."

Cherry typing up the "South Polar Times", photographed by Ponting. [8]

"Cherry-Garrard is another of the open-air, self-effacing, quiet workers; his whole heart is in the life, with profound eagerness to help everyone. 'One has caught glimpses of him in tight places; sound all through and pretty hard also.' Indoors he is editing our Polar journal, out of doors he is busy making trial stone huts and blubber stoves, primarily with a view to the winter journey to Cape Crozier, but incidentally these are instructive experiments for any party which may get into difficulty by being cut off from the home station. It is very well to know how best to use the scant resources that nature provides in these regions. In this connection I have been studying our Arctic library to get details concerning snow hut building and the implements used for it."

Meares and Oates at the blubber stove in the stables, cooking mash for the ponies, photographed by Ponting, possibly May 1911. [9]

"Oates' whole heart is in the ponies. He is really devoted to their care, and I believe will produce them in the best possible form for the sledging season. Opening out the stores, installing a blubber stove, &c., has kept him busy, whilst his satellite, Anton, is ever at work in the stables -- an excellent little man."

"Thomas Crean (on left) and Petty Officer Evans (on right) mending sleeping bags. Taken by Herbert George Ponting on 16 May 1911 during British Antarctic ('Terra Nova') Expedition (1910-1913)". [10]

"Evans and Crean are repairing sleeping-bags, covering felt boots, and generally working on sledging kit. In fact there is no one idle, and no one who has the least prospect of idleness."


[1] Scott Polar Research Institute.
[2] R.F. Scott, diary, 5 May, 1911, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.
[3] Scott Polar Research Institute.
[4] "Evans himself is a queer study," Scott wrote in a passage cut from the published diary, "his boyish enthusiasm carries all along till one sees clearly the childish limitations of its foundations and appreciates that it is not a rock to be built on -- He is altogether a good fellow and wholly well-meaning but terribly slow to learn and hence fails altogether to grasp the value of any work but his own -- very desirous to help everyone he is mentally incapable of doing it. There are problems ahead here for I cannot consider him fitted for a superior position -- though he is physically strong & fit for a subordinate one. It was curious to note how his value (in this respect) suddenly diminished as he stepped ashore -- The ship's deck was his trained position -- on the land he seems incapable of expanding beyond the limits of an astonishingly narrow experience." Quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.443-444.
[5] Scott Polar Research Institute.
[6] Scott Polar Research Institute.
[7] Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand.
[8] Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand.
[9] Scott Polar Research Institute.
[10] Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand.