December 7, 2011

Thursday, 7 December 1911


"The storm continues and the situation is now serious," wrote Scott. "One small feed remains for the ponies after to-day, so that we must either march to-morrow or sacrifice the animals. That is not the worst; with the help of the dogs we could get on, without doubt. The serious part is that we have this morning started our Summit rations, that is to say, the food calculated from the Glacier depot has been begun. Resignation to misfortune is the only attitude, but not an easy one to adopt. It seems undeserved where plans were well laid and so nearly crowned with a first success. I cannot see that any plan would be altered if it were to do again, the margin for bad weather was ample according to all experience, and this stormy December -- our finest month -- is a thing that the most cautious organiser might not have been prepared to encounter. It is very evil to lie here in a wet sleeping-bag and think of the pity of it, whilst with no break in the overcast sky things go steadily from bad to worse (T. 32°)." [1]

Teddy Evans, a trifle petulantly, wrote in his diary, "I think it would be fairer to shoot [the ponies] now, for what is a possible twelve miles to help?... Why, our party have never been out of harness for nearly 400 miles, so why should not the other eight men buckle to and do some dragging instead of saving work in halfpenny numbers?" [2]

With little else to do, Cherry's thoughts turned towards food. "Henceforward our full ration will be 16 oz. biscuit, 12 oz. pemmican, 2 oz. butter, 0.57 oz. cocoa, 3.0 oz. sugar and 0.86 oz. tea. This is the Summit ration, total 34.43 oz., with a little onion powder and salt. I am all for this: Seaman Evans and others are much regretting the loss of chocolate, raisins and cereals. For the first week up the glacier we are to go one biscuit short to provision Meares on the way back. The motors depôted too much and Meares has been brought on far farther than his orders were originally bringing him. Originally he was to be back at Hut Point on December 10. The dogs, however, are getting all the horse that is good for them, and are very fit. He has to average 24 miles a day going back. Michael is well out of this: we are now eating him. He was in excellent condition and tastes very good, though tough." [3]


Sledges, dogs, and men, having passed Shackleton's southernmost latitude, 7th December, 1911. [4]

"One of our big days," Amundsen began his diary.

"'His Grace'" the sun emerged and they found the observed latitude, 88° 16', agreed with the dead reckoning to within a mile: "a brilliant victory, after 1 1/2 deg. [ninety miles] in thick fog and snow drift ... so now we are ready to take the pole in any kind of weather on offer." [5]

Amundsen, going ahead as forerunner, "suddenly heard a stout, hearty cheer behind. I turned round. In the light breeze from the South, the brave, well-known colours waved from the first sledge, we have passed and put behind us [Shackleton's] record. It was a splendid sight. The sun had just broken through in all its glory and illuminated in a lovely manner the beautiful little flag .... My goggles clouded over again, but this time it was not the South wind's fault." [6]

"As my dogs were horribly worn, I was 1 mile behind," wrote Bjaaland, "and when I reached 88° 23' the Norwegian flag was flying, and I seemed to walk on springs. I congratulated the Captain, he was in a brilliant humour, you can be sure. Extra chocolate in honour of the occasion. Tomorrow rest day. The sun is shining." [7]

Prestrud at the top of Scott's Nunatak, probably 7th December, 1911. [8]

In the Alexandra Mountains, Prestrud's party dug themselves out after a four-day blizzard. "After six hours' hard work," he wrote later, "we got the tent set up a few yards to windward of its first position; the place where it had stood was now a well about seven feet deep. Unfortunately there was no chance of immortalizing this scene of excavation. It would have been amusing enough to have it on the plate; but drifting snow is a serious obstacle to an amateur photographer -- besides which, my camera was on Stubberud's sledge, buried at least four feet down." [9]

Afterwards, they dashed off at last to the peaks they had sighted days earlier, which he named Scott's Nunataks -- "after Captain Scott, who first saw them" in 1902.


[1] R.F. Scott, diary, 7 December, 1911, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition : the Journals, v.1.
[2] E.R.G.R. Evans, diary, [date not given], quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.469.
[3] Apsley Cherry-Garrard, The Worst Journey in the World, ch.IX.
[4] Roald Amundsen Bildearkiv, Nasjonalbiblioteket.
[5] Roald Amundsen, diary, 8 December, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.484.
[6] Roald Amundsen, diary, 8 December, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.459.
[7] Olav Bjaaland, diary, 8 December, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Race for the South Pole : the expedition diaries of Scott and Amundsen (London : Continuum, c2010), p.170.
[8] Roald Amundsen Bildearkiv, Nasjonalbiblioteket.
[9] Kristian Prestrud, "The Eastern Sledge Journey", in Roald Amundsen's The South Pole, ch.15. Note that the date is given as 8th December; see Hinks' note on dates in "The Observations of Amundsen and Scott at the South Pole" (The Geographical Journal, April 1944, p.169).

No comments:

Post a Comment