November 28, 2011

Tuesday, 28 November 1911


"The most dismal start imaginable," Scott wrote. "Thick as a hedge, snow falling and drifting with keen southerly wind…. Things got better half way; the sky showed signs of clearing and the steering improved. Now, at lunch, it is getting thick again. When will the wretched blizzard be over? The walking is better for ponies, worse for men; there is nearly everywhere a hard crust some 3 to 6 inches down. Towards the end of the march we crossed a succession of high hard south-easterly sastrugi, widely dispersed. I don't know what to make of these." [1]

"Bowers tells me that the barometer was phenomenally low both during this blizzard and the last. This has certainly been the most unexpected and trying summer blizzard yet experienced in this region. I only trust it is over."

"Chinaman died tonight of senile decay complicated by the presence of a bullet in the brain," Wright wrote in his diary. "Poor old devil, he never shirked and was capable of reaching the Beardmore. Dogs had to be fed was the trouble." [2]


"Fog, fog and fog again," wrote Amundsen, "and in addition fine snow crystals that make the going impossible. Poor beasts, they have struggled hard to get the sledges forward today." [3]

Every time the fog lifted momentarily, it seemed, another surprise was revealed -- glaciers, mountains -- and two great ranges, named, continuing the previous laconic theme, F range and G range (now the group of mountains at the top of the Norway Glacier, and the Nilsen Plateau, respectively, in the Queen Maud Mountains).

"The biggest and most unpleasant surprise was however an enormous, mighty glacier running E-W from F. range, as far as the eye could see. In other words, right across our course."

Arriving at this glacier, in a thick fog, they had to inch their way along, Hassel and Amundsen roped together for safety, and the others following behind. "After climbing a few hundred feet, we encountered such confusion, that we were forced to stop and make camp with crevasses and chasms on all sides."

But, Bjaaland wrote, "It was a lovely sight when the fog lifted again, and mountains and glacier came through in the most wonderful tints, no artist could ever achieve anything so magical; the blue green reflection in the fog ...." [4]

Pretrud's Eastern party reached 77° 32'. "It cannot be denied that at this juncture I began to entertain a certain doubt of the existence of bare land in this quarter." [5]


[1] R.F. Scott, diary, 28 November, 1911, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition : the Journals, v.1.
[2] Charles Wright, diary, 28 November, 1911, quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.465.
[3] Roald Amundsen, diary, 29 November, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Race for the South Pole : the expedition diaries of Scott and Amundsen (London : Continuum, c2010), p.150-151.
[4] Olav Bjaaland, diary, 29 November, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.456.
[5] Kristian Prestrud, "The Eastern Sledge Journey", in Roald Amundsen's The South Pole, ch.15. Note that the date here is given as 29th November; see Hinks' note on dates in "The Observations of Amundsen and Scott at the South Pole" (The Geographical Journal, April 1944, p.169).

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