December 1, 2011

Friday, 1 December 1911


"To-night against some opinion I decided Christopher must go," wrote Scott. "He has been shot; less regret goes with him than the others, in remembrance of all the trouble he gave at the outset, and the unsatisfactory way he has gone of late. Here we leave a depôt so that no extra weight is brought on the other ponies." [1]

This was the Southern (or Lower) Barrier depot, at 82° 47'.

The pony snowshoes were tried again, and Nobby "came along splendidly on them for about four miles, then the wretched affairs racked and had to be taken off. There is no doubt that these snowshoes are the thing for ponies, and had ours been able to use them from the beginning they would have been very different in appearance at this moment. I think the sight of land has helped the animals, but not much."

"We started in bright warm sunshine," he added, "and with the mountains wonderfully clear on our right hand, but towards the end of the march clouds worked up from the east and a thin broken cumulo-stratus now overspreads the sky, leaving the land still visible but dull. A fine glacier descends from Mount Longstaff. It has cut very deep and the walls stand at an angle of at least 50°. Otherwise, although there are many cwms on the lower ranges, the mountains themselves seem little carved. They are rounded massive structures. A cliff of light yellow-brown rock appears opposite us, flanked with black or dark brown rock, which also appears under the lighter colour. One would be glad to know what nature of rock these represent. There is a good deal of exposed rock on the next range also."


"The Devil's Nameday." The snow and drift was so thick, wrote Bjaaland, that "we couldn't see in front of our nose tips, and our faces were white and hard as wax candles.... Wisting's jaw looks like the snout of a Jersey cow. Helmer has thick scabs [from frostbite] and skin as rough as a file. It was a damned hard day, the hounds slid on the ice, and stopped when the sledges hit a sastrugi, but we forced our way 13 miles against the ... wind which burned like a flame, oh, oh what a life." [2]

"[The] plateau over which we are travelling resembles a frozen sea," Amundsen wrote, "a domed cupola of ice ... excellent going for a skater, but unfortunately unsuitable for our dogs and ourselves. I drag myself with my sticks ahead on skis. It is not easy. The dog drivers are without skis, at the side of their sledges, ready to help the animals." [3]


[1] R.F. Scott, diary, 1 December, 1911, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition : the Journals, v.1.
[2] Olav Bjaaland, diary, 2 December, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.457.
[3] Roald Amundsen, diary, 2 December, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.457.

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