November 22, 2011

Wednesday, 22 November 1911

"Leading ponies on the Barrier. November 20, 1911", a drawing by Wilson. [1]

"The weather is glorious," Scott wrote at Camp 18, "and the ponies can make the most of their rest during the warmest hours, but they certainly lose in one way by marching at night. The surface is much easier for the sledges when the sun is warm, and for about three hours before and after midnight the friction noticeably increases. It is just a question whether this extra weight on the loads is compensated by the resting temperature. We are quite steady on the march now, and though not fast yet get through with few stops. The animals seem to be getting accustomed to the steady, heavy plod and take the deep places less fussily." [2]

"There was a homelike air about ["the Owner's"] tent at supper time," Cherry wrote later, here remembering the earlier Depot Journey, "and, though a lunch camp in the middle of the night is always rather bleak, there was never anything slovenly. Another thing which struck me even more forcibly was the cooking. We were of course on just the same ration [as everyone else]. I was hungry and said so. 'Bad cooking, ' said Wilson shortly; and so it was. For in two or three days the sharpest edge was off my hunger. Wilson and Scott had learned many a cooking tip in the past, and, instead of the same old meal day by day, the weekly ration was so manœuvred by a clever cook that it was seldom quite the same meal. Sometimes pemmican plain, or thicker pemmican with some arrowroot mixed with it: at others we surrendered a biscuit and a half apiece and had a dry hoosh, i.e. biscuit fried in pemmican with a little water added, and a good big cup of cocoa to follow. Dry hooshes also saved oil. There were cocoa and tea upon which to ring the changes, or better still 'teaco' which combined the stimulating qualities of tea with the food value of cocoa. Then much could be done with the dessert-spoonful of raisins which was our daily whack. They were good soaked in the tea, but best perhaps in with the biscuits and pemmican as a dry hoosh. 'You are going far to earn my undying gratitude, Cherry, ' was a satisfied remark of Scott one evening when, having saved, unbeknownst to my companions, some of their daily ration of cocoa, arrowroot, sugar and raisins, I made a 'chocolate hoosh. ' But I am afraid he had indigestion next morning. There were meals when we had interesting little talks, as when I find in my diary that: 'we had a jolly lunch meal, discussing authors. Barrie, Galsworthy and others are personal friends of Scott. Some one told Max Beerbohm that he was like Captain Scott, and immediately, so Scott assured us, he grew a beard. '"

"But about three weeks out the topics of conversation became threadbare. From then onwards it was often that whole days passed without conversation beyond the routine Camp ho! All ready? Pack up. Spell ho. The latter after some two hours' pulling." [3]


A gale blew up which kept the Norwegians in their tent -- "luckily the bad weather chose a rest day," wrote Amundsen. [4] The climb had been hard on the dogs.

"From here on," he added, thinking of the flat, featureless plateau ahead of them, "we will build a cairn every other mile. At each degree we will lay a depot with human food for seven days and dog food for six days … this will quickly lighten the sledges of ours."

Prestrud's Eastern Party came to the edge of the Barrier. "To-day," he wrote later, "we were to see something besides sky and snow. An hour after breaking camp this morning two snowy petrels came sailing over us; a little while later a couple of skua gulls. We welcomed them as the first living creatures we had seen since leaving winter-quarters. The constantly increasing 'water-sky' to the north had long ago warned us that we were approaching the sea; the presence of the birds told us it was not far off. The skua gulls settled very near us, and the dogs, no doubt taking them for baby seals, were of course ready to break the line of march, and go off hunting, but their keenness soon passed when they discovered that the game had wings." [5] They took a sounding off the edge of the ice, which showed a depth of 130 fathoms (nearly 238 metres).


[1] Apsley Cherry-Garrard, The Worst Journey in the World, p.206.
[2] R.F. Scott, diary, 22 November, 1911, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition : the Journals, v.1.
[3] Apsley Cherry-Garrard, The Worst Journey in the World, ch.IX.
[4] Roald Amundsen, diary, 23 November, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Race for the South Pole : the expedition diaries of Scott and Amundsen (London : Continuum, c2010), p.142.
[5] Kristian Prestrud, "The Eastern Sledge Journey", in Roald Amundsen's The South Pole, ch.15. Note that the date here is given as 23rd 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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