June 28, 2011

Wednesday, 28 June 1911


Hauling their sledges up onto the Barrier, Cherry got all of his fingers frostbitten, leaving blisters an inch long, and that night the temperature fell to -47°. His glasses iced up and had to be put away -- "must be sure not to let any inability arising from this get on my nerves," he told himself. [1]


[1] Apsley Cherry-Garrard, diary, 27 June, 1911, quoted by Sara Wheeler in Cherry : a life of Apsley Cherry-Garrard (New York : The Modern Library, c2001), p.110.

June 27, 2011

Tuesday, 27 June 1911


"Henry Robertson Bowers (left), Dr Wilson (centre), and Apsley George Benet Cherry-Gerrard (right) with loaded sled, ready to leave for Cape Crozier, 27 June 1911. Photograph taken by Herbert George Ponting, during the British Antarctic ('Terra Nova') Expedition (1910-1913)." [1]

Wilson, Bowers, and Cherry left on an expedition to Cape Crozier to collect penguin eggs.

This was Wilson's pet project, to study the embryology of Emperor penguin eggs, available unhatched only in the middle of winter. "It is because the Emperor is probably the most primitive bird in existence," Cherry explained later, "that the working out of his embryology is so important. The embryo shows remains of the development of an animal in former ages and former states; it recapitulates its former lives. The embryo of an Emperor may prove the missing link between birds and the reptiles from which birds have sprung." [2] The only known rookery was at Cape Crozier, and Wilson reckoned that the eggs would be laid in the beginning of July.

They took two 9-foot sledges lashed together, with 790 lbs. of gear and supplies for six weeks, travelling in the almost-complete darkness of midwinter. It would be the "worst journey in the world" after which Cherry later named his book.


[1] Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand.
[2] Apsley Cherry-Garrard, The Worst Journey in the World, ch.VII. Wilson had been deeply influenced by the work of the German biologist and philosopher Ernst Haeckel, who proposed that the embryonic stages of an animal repeat the evolutionary history of its type. It is thought today that flightless birds evolved from those with flight, rather than the other way around.

June 22, 2011

Thursday, 22 June 1911


Midwinter's Day at Cape Evans, photographed by Ponting, 22 June, 1911. Seated from left, Debenham, Oates, Meares, Bowers, Cherry-Garrard, Scott at the head, Wilson, Simpson, Nelson?, Lt. Evans, Day?, and Taylor. Standing at left, Wright and Atkinson; at left, Gran. [1]

To mark Midwinter's Day, Scott wrote, "I screwed myself up to a little speech which drew attention to the nature of the celebration as a half-way mark not only in our winter but in the plans of the Expedition as originally published. (I fear there are some who don't realise how rapidly time passes and who have barely begun work which by this time ought to be in full swing.)

"We had come through a summer season and half a winter, and had before us half a winter and a second summer. We ought to know how we stood in every respect; we did know how we stood in regard to stores and transport, and I especially thanked the officer in charge of stores and the custodians of the animals. I said that as regards the future, chance must play a part, but that experience showed me that it would have been impossible to have chosen people more fitted to support me in the enterprise to the South than those who were to start in that direction in the spring. I thanked them all for having put their shoulders to the wheel and given me this confidence.

"We drank to the Success of the Expedition."

Everyone gave a short speech in turn, and then the table was upended and chairs set out for a show of Ponting's slides of the expedition.

"After this show the table was restored for snapdragon, and a brew of milk punch was prepared in which we drank the health of Campbell's party and of our good friends in the Terra Nova. Then the table was again removed and a set of lancers formed.

"By this time the effect of stimulating liquid refreshment on men so long accustomed to a simple life became apparent. Our biologist had retired to bed, the silent Soldier bubbled with humour and insisted on dancing with Anton. Evans, P.O., was imparting confidences in heavy whispers. Pat Keohane had grown intensely Irish and desirous of political argument, whilst Clissold sat with a constant expansive smile and punctuated the babble of conversation with an occasional 'Whoop' of delight or disjointed witticism. Other bright-eyed individuals merely reached the capacity to enjoy that which under ordinary circumstances might have passed without evoking a smile." [2]

Bowers' midwinter tree. [3]

"After dinner we had to make speeches," Cherry remembered, "but instead of making a speech Bowers brought in a wonderful Christmas tree, made of split bamboos and a ski stick, with feathers tied to the end of each branch; candles, sweets, preserved fruits, and the most absurd toys of which Bill was the owner. Titus [Oates] got three things which pleased him immensely, a sponge, a whistle, and a pop-gun which went off when he pressed in the butt. For the rest of the evening he went round asking whether you were sweating. 'No.' 'Yes, you are,' he said, and wiped your face with the sponge. 'If you want to please me very much you will fall down when I shoot you,' he said to me, and then he went round shooting everybody. At intervals he blew the whistle." [4]

Midwinter's Day at Cape Adare, photographed by Levick. [5]

At Cape Adare, Campbell's usually-strict rationing of alcohol was waived for the occasion, and champagne, brandy, and crême de menthe accompanied the celebratory dinner, with cigars and crystallized fruit, followed by songs, paper hats, and parcels from home.


[1] Scott Polar Research Institute.
[2] R.F. Scott, diary, 22 June, 1911, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.
[3] Scott Polar Research Institute.
[4] Apsley Cherry-Garrard, The Worst Journey in the World, ch.7.
[5] Scott Polar Research Institute.

June 21, 2011

Wednesday, 21 June 1911


Bjaaland, Hassel, Wisting, Helmer Hanssen, Amundsen, Johansen, Prestrud, and Stubberud around the table at Framheim, probably on Midwinter's Day. [1]

At Framheim, Amundsen wrote later, "preparations for a feast were going on, and now one could really appreciate a good house. The change from the howling wind, the driving snow, the intense cold, and the absolute darkness, was great indeed when one came in. Everything was newly washed, and the table was gaily decorated. Small Norwegian flags were everywhere, on the table and walls. The festival began at six, and all the 'vikings' came merrily in. Lindström had done his best, and that is not saying a little. I specially admired his powers and his liberality -- and I think, even in the short time I have observed him, he has shown no sign of being stingy -- when he appeared with the "Napoleon" cakes. Now I must tell you that these cakes were served after every man had put away a quarter of a plum-pudding. The cakes were delightful to look at -- the finest puff-pastry, with layers of vanilla custard and cream. They made my mouth water. But the size of them! -- there could not be one of those mountains of cake to every man? One among them all, perhaps -- if they could be expected to eat Napoleon cakes at all after plum-pudding. But why had he brought in eight -- two enormous dishes with four on each? Good heavens! -- one of the vikings had just started, and was making short work of his mountain. And one after another they all walked into them, until the whole eight had disappeared. I should have nothing to say about hunger, misery, and cold, when I came home. My head was going round; the temperature must have been as many degrees above zero in here as it was below zero outside. I looked up at Wisting’s bunk, where a thermometer was hanging: +95° F. The vikings did not seem to take the slightest notice of this trifle; their work with the 'Napoleons' continued undisturbed." [2]

Cigars, coffee, and Benedictine came after that, and then the gramophone was brought out.

The concert, Amundsen related, "began with 'Tarara-boom-de-ay,' followed by the 'Apache' waltz.... Certain numbers were kept to the last; I could see that they were to the taste of all. First came an air from 'The Huguenots,' sung by Michalowa; this showed the vikings to be musical. It was beautifully sung. 'But look here,' cried an impatient voice: 'aren’t we going to have Borghild Bryhn to-night?' 'Yes,' was the answer; 'here she comes.' And Solveig’s Song followed. It was a pity Borghild Bryhn was not there; I believe the most rapturous applause would not have moved her so much as the way her song was received here that evening."


[1] Roald Amundsen Bildearkiv, Nasjonalbiblioteket.
[2] Roald Amundsen, The South Pole, ch.8.

June 20, 2011

Tuesday, 20 June 1911


Bjaaland planing sledge runners in his workshop dug under the snow at Framheim, June or July, 1911. [1]

After experiencing the Barrier for himself, Amundsen realised that at 75 kilos (165 lbs.) their sledges were too heavy, and had run badly anyway. Prepared for difficult and treacherous ice by Scott's and Shackleton's earlier accounts, Amundsen had got his sledges from Hagen's in Christiania, the same models that Scott was using. But after their depot journeys, Amundsen found that "the mysterious Barrier of the Englishmen has once and for all disappeared, and must give place to a completely natural phenomenon -- a glacier." [2]

Bjaaland reworked four sledges they had from Sverdrup's second Fram expedition, as well as making three new sledges. Sverdrup's he planed down and lightened; these would be for the difficult ice on the glaciers leading to the Polar plateau. Once there, these sledges would be depoted and Bjaaland's own lightweight ones, built for speed on level snow, would take them the rest of the way.

"Today, Bjaaland finished the first new sledge," Amundsen wrote with satisfaction. "It is extremely fine to look at, and is particularly light -- 24 kilos [53 lbs.]-- against 34 kilos [the 75 lbs. of the rebuilt Sverdrup sledges]." [3]


Roald Amundsen Bildearkiv, Nasjonalbiblioteket.
[2] Roald Amundsen, diary, 11 July, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.382.
[3] Roald Amundsen, diary, 22 June, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in The Amundsen Photographs, (London : Hodder & Stoughton, c1987), p.112.

June 17, 2011

June 1911

Around the table at Framheim, date unknown. From left, Lindstrøm, Hassel, Wisting, Hanssen, Amundsen, Stubberud, and Prestrud. [1]

Amundsen worked hard to keep the strains of being in close quarters at a minimum. With all of the preparations to be made, there was not much free time, but Prestrud gave English lessons to some of the men -- in the kitchen, so as not to disturb the others -- and there was a small but comprehensive library available to everyone, mostly Polar literature, as well as card games, and darts sent by Amundsen's sister-in-law. One of the competitions Amundsen organised was a temperature-guessing contest, with prizes every month and a telescope at the end of the season for the overall winner -- ostensibly, this was to develop the men's ability to gauge temperature, should all of the thermometers break on the Polar journey, but it had the more immediate effect of keeping spirits up.

"Because of the prizes, everybody insists on going out [every morning] to look at the weather. And that's why the prizes have been put up. But nobody knew it. I find this little morning visit out in the open is so beneficial. Even if it is but for a minute or two, it is unbelievable how that short time helps to wake a sleepy man and bring feelings into equilibrium before [the day's first] cup of nice, warm coffee."

"Even the best-humoured person in the world has a touch of morning peevishness, and that has to be removed as unnoticeably as possible. If a morning peevish person notices that you are putting yourself out to remove his burden, he becomes doubly peevish." [2]


[1] Roald Amundsen Bildearkiv, Nasjonalbiblioteket.
[2] Roald Amundsen, diary, [date not given], quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.385.

June 13, 2011

Tuesday, 13 June 1911

"Moonlight Photograph of the Winterquarters Hut and Camp with Mount Erebus in the background. (One day past full moon). June 13th 1911", by Ponting. [1]


[1] Scott Polar Research Institute.

June 11, 2011

Sunday, 11 June 1911


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

Scott took a keen interest in the work of the scientists. Simpson, for one, was impressed by Scott's "versatile mind. There is no specialist here who is not pleased to discuss his problems with him." [2]


[1] Wikipedia.
[2] George Simpson, diary, 11 June, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.398.

June 8, 2011

Thursday, 8 June 1911


Johansen in his workshop, packing provisions in the sledge cases. [1]

"Everything is advancing slowly, but with great care and precision," wrote Amundsen. "I hope that we can find place for all provisions in 4 cases per sledge = 28 cases in all. The packing must therefore be carried out with the greatest care. Not a millimetre must be wasted. And Johansen is the man -- extremely careful and meticulous." [2]

To save weight, the pemmican was removed from its tins, but its shape "was cylindrical. This is ... unfortunate ... because [when packed they] leave a space ... difficult to fill. Well, difficulties have not yet frightened us.... These spaces, which are 4 cm. across and as high as the case -- 39 cm. -- are filled with milk powder. On his sewing machine, Wisting has sewn the necessary 189 sausage skins of thin material, and I have filled them with milk powder.... [Each] sausage holds 300 g., which is exactly what a tent team -- 4 men -- needs for their hot chocolate. Thus it is easy to obtain one's dried milk by extracting a sausage."

Packing the biscuit boxes " is the greatest test of patience, because [Johansen] has to stow 5 to 6,000 sledging biscuits precisely side by side ... so as not to waste any space. And has managed it particularly well."


[1] Roald Amundsen Bildearkiv, Nasjonalbiblioteket. The glass plate has been heavily damaged.
[2] Roald Amundsen, diary, 9 June, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in The Amundsen Photographs (London : Hodder & Stoughton, c1987), p.110.

June 6, 2011

Tuesday, 6 June 1911


Scott's birthday lunch, 6th June. From left, Bowers, Atkinson, Wright, Nelson, Lt. Evans, Scott, Wilson, Simpson, Taylor, Gran, unknown (possibly Oates?).

"It is my birthday, a fact I might easily have forgotten, but my kind people did not," wrote Scott in his diary. "At lunch an immense birthday cake made its appearance and we were photographed assembled about it. Clissold had decorated its sugared top with various devices in chocolate and crystallised fruit, flags and photographs of myself."

"Captain Robert Falcon Scott's last birthday dinner, 6th June, 1911, photographed by Herbert George Ponting during the British Antarctic ('Terra Nova') Expedition (1910-1913). From left to right: Atkinson, Meares, Cherry-Garrard, Taylor, Nelson, Evans, Scott (centre), Wilson, Simpson, Bowers, Wright, Debenham, and Day. Standing are Oates (left) and Gran." [1]

"After my walk I discovered that great preparations were in progress for a special dinner, and when the hour for that meal arrived we sat down to a sumptuous spread with our sledge banners hung about us. Clissold's especially excellent seal soup, roast mutton and red currant jelly, fruit salad, asparagus and chocolate -- such was our menu. For drink we had cider cup, a mystery not yet fathomed, some sherry and a liqueur.

"After this luxurious meal everyone was very festive and amiably argumentative. As I write there is a group in the dark room discussing political progress with discussions -- another at one corner of the dinner table airing its views on the origin of matter and the probability of its ultimate discovery, and yet another debating military problems. The scraps that reach me from the various groups sometimes piece together in ludicrous fashion. Perhaps these arguments are practically unprofitable, but they give a great deal of pleasure to the participants. It's delightful to hear the ring of triumph in some voice when the owner imagines he has delivered himself of a well-rounded period or a clinching statement concerning the point under discussion. They are boys, all of them, but such excellent good-natured ones; there has been no sign of sharpness or anger, no jarring note, in all these wordy contests! all end with a laugh." [2]


Bjaaland, Hassel, Wisting, Helmer Hanssen, Amundsen, Johansen, Prestrud, and Stubberud around the table at Framheim, in an undated but obviously celebratory photo. [3]

Johansen, on this Norwegian Independence Day, "proposed the Chief's skål, and said that working together was easy on the present expedition, because we had such a straightforward, understanding and pleasant chief." [4]


[1] Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand.
[2] R.F. Scott, diary, 6 June, 1911, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.
[3] Roald Amundsen Bildearkiv, Nasjonalbiblioteket.
[4] Hjalmar Johansen, diary, 7 June, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.384.

June 5, 2011

June 1911


Leon Amundsen, at top, on the steps at his brother Roald's house at Svartskog in the summer of 1918. Below him, in the white jacket, is Roald; at the far left, also in a white jacket, is elder brother Gustav. [1]

In London, Leon called on Nansen's promoter, George Christy. "We spoke about Shackleton," Leon wrote his brother, "and he [Christy] advised me to look him up, which I was not keen to do. He then phoned S. and he straight away said he wanted to talk to me. I went to see him immediately and met him with Captain Davies who will now lead Dr Mawson's Australian expedition to Cape Adare -- later Dr Mawson arrived too. They had been quite critical of you to begin with but to my great surprise the tone had now changed completely and everyone present took your side against Scott. As far as Shackleton is concerned it must be jealousy or irritation about Scott's journey to the South. Apparently, immediately Shackleton returned home and before he had time to settle, Scott made the decision to go south so that under the circumstances Shackleton himself had no chance to even think of it. (Although Christy is of the opinion that Sh. had decided not to go south again.) Whatever the truth of the matter, Shackleton is furious and has placed himself at my disposal for all information and arrangements (this is, of course, completely confidential as officially he can do nothing other than take Scott's side). Captain Davies went so far as to pronounce that he hoped you would beat Scott; the reason being that Scott, in spite of having an agreement with Dr Mawson, that he, Mawson, alone would use Cape Adare as an operations base, has himself set a party ashore there, forcing Mawson to disembark elsewhere. There are some very favourable circumstances for you in England as Shackleton is now a very powerful man; through the Daily Mail he managed to raise 12,000 for the Mawson expedition in four days and he has a large following on his side and against Scott." [1]


[1] Roald Amundsen Bildearkiv, Nasjonalbiblioteket.
[2] Leon Amundsen, letter to Roald Amundsen, [ca.5 June, 1911], quoted by Tor Bomann-Larsen in Roald Amundsen (Stroud, Gloucestershire : Sutton, c2006, c1995), p.92-93.