December 8, 2011

Friday, 8 December 1911


"Three days generally see these blizzards out, and we hoped much from Friday, December 8," recalled Cherry. "But when we breakfasted at 10 a.m. (we were getting into day-marching routine) wind and snow were monotonously the same. The temperature rose to +34.3°. These temperatures and those recorded by Meares on his way home must be a record for the interior of the Barrier. So far as we were concerned it did not much matter now whether it was +40° or +34°. Things did look really gloomy that morning." [1]

"But at noon there came a gleam of comfort."

The wind dropped. Almost immediately, the men were digging out the tents and sledges in the watery sunshine. Without sewn-in groundsheets, the tents had leaked profusely. "We bails the water off the floor cloth," Keohane wrote in his diary, "but that is small comfort." [2]

"We are all sitting round now after some tea," Cherry continued in the afternoon, "it is much better than getting into the bags. I can hardly think that the ponies can pull on, but Titus thinks they can pull to-morrow; all the food is finished, and what they have had to-day was only what they would not eat out of their last feed yesterday. It is a terrible end -- driven to death on no more food, to be then cut up, poor devils. I have swopped the Little Minister with Silas Wright for Dante's Inferno!"


"We stayed in bed late today," Amundsen wrote in his diary, "to prepare for the final onslaught."

The Norwegians laid their last depot, lightening Wisting's and Bjaaland's sledges by about 100 pounds each. The depot was marked especially carefully, with a traverse line of planks taken from empty sledging cases and painted black, earlier at Framheim. The planks were set a hundred skiing paces from each other, making a grid of three miles in either direction of the depot. Every other plank, Amundsen noted, "carries a black pennant. Those planks to the E. all have a notch under the pennant to indicate the direction they lie in relation to the depot.... In addition to the transverse marking we will put up a few snow blocks every other nautical mile on the way South." [3]

One of Wisting's dogs had disappeared the day before -- "presumably he has gone away to die."

"We leave here well supplied to get back here -- ca.30 days [rations] for humans, ca.20 days for dogs. Three of us -- H[elmer] H[anssen], W[isting], and I," Amundsen added, "look quite awe-inspiring since our faces were frostbitten in the SE storm a few days ago. Bj[aaland] & Hass[el], who went last, got off scot free. The dogs have begun to be quite dangerous and must be considered as mortal enemies when one leaves the sledges."

To the northeast in King Edward VII Land, Prestrud and his Eastern Party decided to head for home.


[1] Apsley Cherry-Garrard, The Worst Journey in the World, ch.IX.
[2] Patrick Keohane, diary, 8 December, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.463.
[3] Roald Amundsen, diary, 9 December, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Race for the South Pole : the expedition diaries of Scott and Amundsen (London : Continuum, c2010), p.172-173. See the entry for 30 October 1911 for Nilsen's drawing of the similar markers at the 80° depot.

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