September 13, 2011

Wednesday, 13 September 1911


At Cape Evans, Scott outlined his final plans for the Pole. They would use ponies, dogs, motors, and man-hauling, with support parties going back and forth and depots being laid until the final push.

"[Everyone] was enthusiastic," Scott recorded, "and the feeling is general that our arrangements are calculated to make the best of our resources. Although people have given a good deal of thought to various branches of the subject, there was not a suggestion offered for improvement." [1] This was the first time he had made his plans known.

Gran, for one, kept quiet, only commenting silently in his diary that the "Southern Plans" were "[a] decidedly intricate apparatus". [2]

The polar journey would take an estimated 144 days, with motor-, dog-, and manhauling-parties laying a string of depots out to the Beardmore, and manhauling to the Pole itself: a total of 1,530 miles there and back.

"Of hopeful signs for the future," Scott had written a few days earlier, "none are more remarkable than the health and spirit of our people. It would be impossible to imagine a more vigorous community, and there does not seem to be a single weak spot in the twelve good men and true who are chosen for the Southern advance. All are now experienced sledge travellers, knit together with a bond of friendship that has never been equalled under such circumstances. Thanks to these people, and more especially to Bowers and Petty Officer Evans, there is not a single detail of our equipment which is not arranged with the utmost care and in accordance with the tests of experience. It is good to have arrived at a point where one can run over facts and figures again and again without detecting a flaw or foreseeing a difficulty." [3]

A late start in November would mean a second year in Antarctica, as the Polar Party could not hope to return until late March, by which time the Terra Nova would have already had to leave McMurdo Sound if she was not to be frozen in. A second year was unfortunately not something that the expedition could afford, and later in October Scott was compelled to ask any officer who could afford it to forego future payment -- to which they generously agreed.


Two unidentified men in front of the depot at 80°. To one side is the marker pennant. [4]

"-56° Calm and clear," wrote Amundsen. "After a few hours on the march, we caught sight of our depot along our course. Now that wasn't bad without a compass. All honour to H[elmer] H[anssen], who has steered the whole time." [5]

After depoting their supplies, the Norwegians immediately turned for home, riding on the now-empty sledges. "It was a bloody cold job," Bjaaland noted, "to drive in 55-56 degrees of frost." [6]

A bottle of geneva that Amundsen had brought proved to be frozen solid and the bottle cracked as they tried to thaw it, but they were more careful with another bottle, this time of acquavit, and the drink cheered them somewhat.


[1] R.F. Scott, diary, 14 September, 1911, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.
[2] Tryggve Gran, diary [date not given], quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.402.
[3] R.F. Scott, diary, 10 September, 1911, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.
[4] Roald Amundsen Bildearkiv, Nasjonalbiblioteket. The NB dates this photo "13-11-11?", and identifies it as "probably" being taken by Prestrud's Eastern party, which passed the depot on their way to King Edward VII Land in November. Bjaaland noted in his diary that he took two photos at the depot before they left for home (see Huntford, Race for the South Pole, p.44).
[5] Roald Amundsen, diary, 14 September, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Race for the South Pole : the expedition diaries of Scott and Amundsen, (London : Continuum, c2010), p.44.
[6] Olav Bjaaland, diary, 14 September, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.408.

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