November 27, 2011

Monday, 27 November 1911


Poor surfaces and snowfall made the going heavy. "A tired animal makes a tired man, I find," Scott wrote, "and none of us are very bright now after the day's march, though we have had ample sleep of late." [1]


A 1966 map of the Nilsen Plateau and surrounding area, from aerial photographs taken 1960-1964 by the USGS. The nearby Amundsen Glacier was discovered and named on Byrd's 1929 flight. The Axel Heiberg Glacier is to the north-west, on a separate map. [2]

The going was still through fog and blizzard. The glimpse of a dark mass to the E.S.E. was the discovery of what was later called the Nilsen Plateau after the Fram's captain. Another sighting, of what Amundsen afterwards described in a letter to Helland-Hansen as "a gloriously beautiful mountain, in fact two, in the distant, wonderfully lovely land around the Pole which I have given you" [3], proved -- albeit only many years later -- to have been an illusion, sparked not only by the deceptive play of light in that area but Amundsen's own disinterest in geographic surveys. [4]


[1] R.F. Scott, diary, 27 November, 1911, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition : the Journals, v.1.
[2] United States Geological Survey, "Nilsen Plateau" map.
[3] Roald Amundsen, letter to Bjørn Helland-Hansen, [date not given], quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.454.
[4] See Roland Huntford, Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.454. Amundsen made only sketchy drawings and took few photographs, but it should be pointed out that his dead-reckoning position of the Butcher's Shop, for example, proved later to have been within a mile of its true bearing. His navigational precision is not in question, only his lack of interest in "minor" details.

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