August 29, 2011

Tuesday, 29 August 1911

Ponting's lecture on his travels in Japan, 16th October, 1911. [1]

The weekly lectures continued; Ponting's were a great success. "Yesterday evening," Scott wrote in his diary, "Ponting gave us a lecture on his Indian travels. He is very frank in acknowledging his debt to guide-books for information, nevertheless he tells his story well and his slides are wonderful. In personal reminiscence he is distinctly dramatic -- he thrilled us a good deal last night with a vivid description of a sunrise in the sacred city of Benares. In the first dim light the waiting, praying multitude of bathers, the wonderful ritual and its incessant performance; then, as the sun approaches, the hush -- the effect of thousands of worshippers waiting in silence -- a silence to be felt. Finally, as the first rays appear, the swelling roar of a single word from tens of thousands of throats: 'Ambah!' It was artistic to follow this picture of life with the gruesome horrors of the ghat. This impressionist style of lecturing is very attractive and must essentially cover a great deal of ground. So we saw Jeypore, Udaipore, Darjeeling, and a confusing number of places -- temples, monuments and tombs in profusion, with remarkable pictures of the wonderful Taj Mahal -- horses, elephants, alligators, wild boars, and flamingoes -- warriors, fakirs, and nautch girls -- an impression here and an impression there.

It is worth remembering how attractive this style can be -- in lecturing one is inclined to give too much attention to connecting links which join one episode to another. A lecture need not be a connected story; perhaps it is better it should not be." [1]

A few days later, Scott wrote, "Last night Meares told us of his adventures in and about Lolo land, a wild Central Asian country nominally tributary to Lhassa. He had no pictures and very makeshift maps, yet he held us really entranced for nearly two hours by the sheer interest of his adventures. The spirit of the wanderer is in Meares' blood: he has no happiness but in the wild places of the earth. I have never met so extreme a type. Even now he is looking forward to getting away by himself to Hut Point, tired already of our scant measure of civilisation." [3]


[1] Scott Polar Research Institute.
[2] R.F. Scott, diary, 22 August, 1911, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.
[3] R.F. Scott, diary, 29 August, 1911, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.

August 23, 2011

Wednesday, 23 August 1911


"The Return of the Sun in the Antarctic" by George Marston. The Norwegians would have known Marston's work, as a number of his paintings were included in Shackleton's book The Heart of the Antarctic (1909), part of the polar library at Framheim. [1]

The sun returned to Framheim.

Still beset by cold temperatures, Amundsen delayed the start. Since dogs pant through their mouths, they would not be able to stand the cold air very long.

"Faithful are they, faithful unto death. It cuts me to the quick when I think that these, our faithful companions, will probably receive death as their reward for faithful service.... Feelings will, luckily, not be so delicate when we have done so much of our journey that this can come into question." [1]


[1] Roald Amundsen, diary, 24 August, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.463-464.

August 22, 2011

Tuesday, 22 August 1911


First sun of the season on the Hut, 26th August, 1911.

The sun returned to Cape Evans. "We felt very young, sang and cheered --" wrote Scott in his diary, "we were reminded of a bright frosty morning in England -- everything sparkled and the air had the same crisp feel. There is little new to be said of the return of the sun in polar regions, yet it is such a very real and important event that one cannot pass it in silence. It changes the outlook on life of every individual, foul weather is robbed of its terrors; if it is stormy to-day it will be fine to-morrow or the next day, and each day's delay will mean a brighter outlook when the sky is clear." [2]


A driver with a loaded sledge at Framheim, date unknown but probably from a depot tour. [3]

The loaded sledges were hauled by block and tackle from the workshops; they had been ready for a month. Dogs were harnessed, twelve to each of the seven sledges, and run out to the edge of the Barrier to the line of flags that marked the route, and the sledges were left there ready to start when the weather turned. "Our polar journey has begun," wrote Amundsen in his diary. "May it be crowned with good fortune -- for that, the Almighty will help us." [4]

Everyone was allowed 20 lbs. (9 kg) of gear in addition to his sleeping bag. Each had spare underwear and mittens, socks, felt overboots, kamik (soft reindeer or sealskin boots) for wearing when not on the march, sennegrass (a type of sedge grass [
Carex vesicaria] traditionally used by the Sami as an insulator and absorbent inside boots), snow goggles, a felt hat to wear in the sun, face masks for low temperatures, a pocket mirror to check for frostbite on the face, and a man-hauling harness.


[1] Scott Polar Research Institute.
R.F. Scott, diary, 26 August, 1911, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.
[3] Roald Amundsen Bildearkiv, Nasjonalbiblioteket. There are surprisingly few photographs marking this first start of the Polar journey itself, but then the sun had not quite returned to the Bay of Whales, and it was probably too dark for their cameras.
[4] Roald Amundsen, diary, [23 August, 1911], quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.404-405.

August 19, 2011

Saturday, 19 August 1911


Lussi, Karenius, and Sauen, before the start of the polar journey. [1]

Four days before the planned start of the Polar journey, Hassel wrote in his diary, "If only we could delay the start until November 1st. But if one wants to be first at the Pole, there is no choice." [2]

For the past week, temperatures had stayed below 50 degrees C. of frost, and one afternoon as far as -57.

"In such weather," Johansen wrote, "a sledge journey would be fatal. It would be worst for the dogs. These days they go about lifting their feet gingerly. They lie in the snowdrifts and roll up in a ball with their noses between their paws to keep warm."

The dogs were getting restless, too. "We have to keep watch over them all day," Johansen added. "They fight and bite each other on the ears." [3]


[1] Roald Amundsen Bildearkiv, Nasjonalbiblioteket.
[2] Sverre Hassel, diary, 20 August, 1911, published as Dagboksnotater fra Sydpolen (Skien : Vågemot Miniforlag, 1997), p.4.
[3] Hjalmar Johansen, diary, 20 August 1911, published as Dagbok fra Sydpolen (Skien : Vågemot Miniforlag, 2007), p.14.

August 1, 2011

Tuesday, 1 August 1911


Wilson, Bowers, and Cherry on their return from Cape Crozier, 1 August 1911. [1]

Cherry had nothing but praise for his companions on the Winter Journey. "In civilization men are taken at their own valuation because there are so many ways of concealment, and there is so little time, perhaps even so little understanding. Not so down South. These two men went through the Winter Journey and lived: later they went through the Polar Journey and died. They were gold, pure, shining, unalloyed. Words cannot express how good their companionship was." [2]

The three men returned, Scott wrote, "after enduring for five weeks the hardest conditions on record. They looked more weather-worn than anyone I have yet seen. Their faces were scarred and wrinkled, their eyes dull, their hands whitened and creased with the constant exposure to damp and cold."

"That men should wander forth in the depth of a Polar night to face the most dismal cold and the fiercest gales in darkness is something new; that they should have persisted in this effort in spite of every adversity for five full weeks is heroic. It makes a tale for our generation which I hope may not be lost in the telling."

A map of Griffith Taylor's and Wilson's routes on their respective journeys. [3]

The trip had also been an opportunity to test different rations, with each man having a different combination of fats and carbohydrates. Scott summed this up the next day: "For our future sledge work several points have been most satisfactorily settled. The party went on a very simple food ration in different and extreme proportions; they took pemmican, butter, biscuit and tea only. After a short experience they found that Wilson, who had arranged for the greatest quantity of fat, had too much of it, and C.-G., who had gone for biscuit, had more than he could eat. A middle course was struck which gave a general proportion agreeable to all, and at the same time suited the total quantities of the various articles carried. In this way we have arrived at a simple and suitable ration for the inland plateau. The only change suggested is the addition of cocoa for the evening meal. The party contented themselves with hot water, deeming that tea might rob them of their slender chance of sleep."

"One continues to wonder as to the possibilities of fur clothing as made by the Esquimaux, with a sneaking feeling that it may outclass our more civilised garb. For us this can only be a matter of speculation, as it would have been quite impossible to have obtained such articles. With the exception of this radically different alternative, I feel sure we are as near perfection as experience can direct." [4]


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