November 4, 2011

Saturday, 4 November 1911


The pony party found a motor sledge broken down and abandoned. "It appears they had a bad ground on the morning of the 29th," Scott wrote in his diary. "I suppose the surface was bad and everything seemed to be going wrong. They 'dumped' a good deal of petrol and lubricant. Worse was to follow. Some 4 miles out we met a tin pathetically inscribed, 'Big end Day's motor No. 2 cylinder broken.' Half a mile beyond, as I expected, we found the motor, its tracking sledges and all. Notes from Evans and Day told the tale. The only spare had been used for Lashly's machine, and it would have taken a long time to strip Day's engine so that it could run on three cylinders. They had decided to abandon it and push on with the other alone. They had taken the six bags of forage and some odds and ends, besides their petrol and lubricant. So the dream of great help from the machines is at an end!" [1]


"At 4 a.m.," wrote Amundsen, "the sun came out for a moment and we were not slow in getting out of our sleeping bags. There the depot loomed up about 2 miles E.S.E. The small flags were just as they had been left, standing out beautifully against the white background.... We took the depot's bearings, and got back into bed again. After breakfast we packed up and set off. [The fog] had then closed in again, but we had our bearing, and after 2 1/2 miles' march we stood by our southernmost depot. Everything was in the finest order." [2]

The weather was fine, and they took a few days to rest the dogs and themselves, basking in sunshine that made Amundsen's thoughts, he said, "stray now and then to the tropics."

With the sledges replenished with paraffin and pemmican from the depot, they were now as fully-loaded as they had been at the start of the journey at Framheim. "[Everything] -- both men, animals and equipment, is in the finest condition. The doggies are now in a far better state than when we started off. All the sore feet have healed, and a little of the superfluous obesity has gone." [3]

They now had supplies for 100 days, which would take them to 6th February. According to the plan that Amundsen had worked out, and at current rates of speed, they would return to Framheim by 31st January, allowing one day in four for rest and bad weather. He assumed that they would have to man-haul from 86° S. on the return journey. There were three tons of supplies in the depots, for five men.

His original intention had been to carry on to the Pole and back with fully-loaded sledges, but having now proved that it was possible "to lay out depots on these endless expanses and mark them so that with careful navigation we can find them again," he suggested a plan he had had in mind for some time: to lay depots every degree of latitude. After a short discussion, everyone agreed. This new scheme would considerably lighten the sledges for the dogs.


[1] R.F. Scott, diary, 4 November, 1911, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition : the Journals, v.1.
[2] Roald Amundsen, diary, 5 November, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.433.
[3] Roald Amundsen, diary, 5 November, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Race for the South Pole : the expedition diaries of Scott and Amundsen (London : Continuum, c2010), p.104.

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