November 30, 2011

Thursday, 30 November 1911


"A very pleasant day for marching," wrote Scott, "but a very tiring march for the poor animals, which, with the exception of Nobby, are showing signs of failure all round. We were slower by half an hour or more than yesterday. Except that the loads are light now and there are still eight animals left, things don't look too pleasant, but we should be less than 60 miles from our first point of aim. The surface was much worse to-day, the ponies sinking to their knees very often." [1]

"The dogs are reported as doing very well. They are going to be a great standby, no doubt."


Although Amundsen had planned on a rest day for the dogs, a lull in the gale prompted them to start off anyway, eager see the last of the Devil's Glacier. "It was grim to start with," wrote Amundsen in his diary, "and it went agonizingly slowly." The previous night's wind had swept the ice bare of drift. "It looked really gruesome." [2]

They had left their crampons behind at the Butcher's Shop. "Without them, climbing on sheer ice is supposed to be practically an impossibility. A thousand thoughts raced through my brain. The pole lost, perhaps, because of such an idiotic blunder?"

They pressed on, "inch by inch, foot by foot, sledge length by sledge length," over huge chasms and dangerous crevasses and ridges. At last reaching the point to where Amundsen and Helmer Hanssen had climbed the day before, the climb evened out gently, on and on, until they reached the plateau. "Thank God for that," wrote Bjaaland, "it was an everlasting grind to get the load up all the hummocks and ridges that we had to cross." [3]

Up on the plateau, the pressure that had caused such crevassing on the slopes had had a different effect on the ice, forming it into big haycock-like mounds. "Hassel raised his axe and gave a good sound blow; the axe met with no resistance, and went in up to the haft. The haycock was hollow. As the axe was pulled out the surrounding part gave way, and one could hear the pieces of ice falling down through the dark hole. It appeared, then, that two feet from our door we had a most convenient way down into the cellar. Hassel looked as if he enjoyed the situation. 'Black as a sack,' he smiled; 'couldn't see any bottom.' Hanssen was beaming; no doubt he would have liked the tent a little nearer." [4]

"We have not yet been able to see the immediate surroundings," added Amundsen, "but we know with certainty that we are past the glacier, and therefore we are in a party mood."


[1] R.F. Scott, diary, 30 November, 1911, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition : the Journals, v.1.
[2] Roald Amundsen, diary, 1 December, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Race for the South Pole : the expedition diaries of Scott and Amundsen (London : Continuum, c2010), p.155-156.
[3] Olav Bjaaland, diary, 1 December, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Race for the South Pole : the expedition diaries of Scott and Amundsen (London : Continuum, c2010), p.156.
[4] Roald Amundsen, The South Pole, ch.11.

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