December 25, 2011

Monday, 25 December 1911


The Christmas camp. [1]

A fresh breeze and snowfall brought a foot or so (30 cm) of drift, but the surface was still good and they went along smoothly for a while, until they came to another patch of crevasses and ridges. "Got our ski sticks out, which improved matters," wrote Scott, "but we had to tack a good deal and several of us went half down. After half an hour of this I looked round and found the second sledge halted some way in rear -- evidently someone had gone into a crevasse. We saw the rescue work going on, but had to wait half an hour for the party to come up, and got mighty cold. It appears that Lashly went down very suddenly, nearly dragging the crew with him. The sledge ran on and jammed the span so that the Alpine rope had to be got out and used to pull Lashly to the surface again. Lashly says the crevasse was 50 feet deep and 8 feet across, in form U, showing that the word 'unfathomable' can rarely be applied. Lashly is 44 to-day and as hard as nails. His fall has not even disturbed his equanimity." [2]

Lashly beside one of the motors, photographed at Cape Evans by Ponting in November 1911. [3]

"I had the misfortune to drop clean through," Lashly wrote, "but was stopped with a jerk when at the end of my harness. It was not of course a very nice sensation, especially on Christmas Day, and being my birthday as well. While spinning round in space like I was it took me a few seconds to gather together my thoughts and see what kind of a place I was in. It certainly was not a fairy's place. When I had collected myself I heard some one calling from above, 'Are you all right, Lashly?' I was all right it is true, but I did not care to be dangling in the air on a piece of rope, especially when I looked round and saw what kind of a place it was. It seemed about 50 feet deep and 8 feet wide, and 120 feet long. This information I had ample time to gain while dangling there. I could measure the width with my ski sticks, as I had them on my wrists. It seemed a long time before I saw the rope come down alongside me with a bowline in it for me to put my foot in and get dragged out. It was not a job I should care to have to go through often, as by being in the crevasse I had got cold and a bit frost-bitten on the hands and face, which made it more difficult for me to help myself. Anyhow Mr. Evans, Bowers and Crean hauled me out and Crean wished me many happy returns of the day, and of course I thanked him politely and the others laughed, but all were pleased I was not hurt bar a bit of a shake. It was funny although they called to the other team to stop they did not hear, but went trudging on and did not know until they looked round just in time to see me arrive on top again. They then waited for us to come up with them. The Captain asked if I was all right and could go on again, which I could honestly say 'Yes' to, and at night when we stopped for dinner I felt I could do two dinners in. Anyhow we had a pretty good tuck-in. Dinner consisted of pemmican, biscuits, chocolate éclair, pony meat, plum pudding and crystallized ginger and four caramels each. We none of us could hardly move." [4]

"In the afternoon we got clear of crevasses pretty soon," wrote Bowers, "but towards the end of the afternoon Captain Scott got fairly wound up and went on and on. The breeze died down and my breath kept fogging my glasses, and our windproofs got oppressively warm and altogether things were pretty rotten. At last he stopped and we found we had done 14 3/4 miles. He said, 'What about fifteen miles for Christmas Day?' so we gladly went on -- anything definite is better than indefinite trudging.

"[For dinner,] we had a great feed which I had kept hidden and out of the official weights since our departure from Winter Quarters. It consisted of a good fat hoosh with pony meat and ground biscuit; a chocolate hoosh made of water, cocoa, sugar, biscuit, raisins, and thickened with a spoonful of arrowroot. (This is the most satisfying stuff imaginable.) Then came 2 1/2 square inches of plum-duff each, and a good mug of cocoa washed down the whole. In addition to this we had four caramels each and four squares of crystallized ginger. I positively could not eat all mine, and turned in feeling as if I had made a beast of myself. I wrote up my journal -- in fact I should have liked somebody to put me to bed." [5]


Bjaaland was now racing, as it were, against the dogs. In this altitude, he could manage only four and a half miles an hour, instead of the seven he had done in a 50-kilometre race in back in Holmenkollen, and he did not like being beaten by a dog. "I wish to God we were down on the Barrier," he mourned in his diary, "here it is hard to breathe, and the nights are as long as the Devil." [6]

Amundsen would not allow the daily fifteen miles to be exceeded, insisting on plenty of rest, and the men were now spending as much as sixteen hours a day in their sleeping bags, conserving energy for the descent from the plateau.


[2] R. F. Scott, diary, 25 December, 1911, quoted in quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.
[3] National Library of New Zealand.
[4] William Lashly, diary, 25 December, 1911, quoted by Apsley Cherry-Garrard in The Worst Journey in the World, ch.10.
[5] H.R. Bowers, diary, 25 December, 1911, quoted by Apsley Cherry-Garrard in The Worst Journey in the World, ch.10.
[6] Olav Bjaaland, diary, 26 December, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.496.

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