December 13, 2011

Wednesday, 13 December 1911

Wilson sketching on the Beardmore Glacier, lunch camp, 13 December 1911, photographed by Scott. [1]

"We did perhaps half a mile in the forenoon," Bowers wrote. "Anticipating a better surface in the afternoon we got a shock. Teddy [Evans] led off half an hour earlier to pilot a way, and Captain Scott tried some fake with his spare runners [he lashed them under the sledge to prevent the cross-pieces ploughing the snow] that involved about an hour's work. We had to continually turn our runners up to scrape the ice off them, for in these temperatures they are liable to get warm and melt the snow on them, and that freezes into knobs of ice which act like sandpaper or spikes on a pair of skates. We bust off second full of hope having done so well in the forenoon, but pride goeth [before a fall]. We stuck ten yards from the camp, and nine hours later found us little more than half a mile on. I have never seen a sledge sink so. I have never pulled so hard, or so nearly crushed my inside into my backbone by the everlasting jerking with all my strength on the canvas band round my unfortunate tummy. We were all in the same boat however."

"I saw Teddy struggling ahead and Scott astern, but we were the worst off as the leading team had topped the rise and I was too blind to pick out a better trail. We fairly played ourselves out that time, and finally had to give it up and relay. Halving the load we went forward about a mile with it, and, leaving that lot, went back for the remainder. So done were my team that we could do little more than pull the half loads. Teddy's team did the same, and though Scott's did not, we camped practically the same time, having gone over our distance three times. Mount Kyffin was still ahead of us to the left: we seemed as if we can never come up with it. To-morrow Scott decided that if we could not move our full loads we would start relaying systematically. It was a most depressing outlook after such a day of strenuous labour." [2]

"A most damnably dismal day," Scott called it in his diary. "We can but toil on, but it is woefully disheartening. I am not at all hungry, but pretty thirsty. (T. +15°.) I find our summit ration is even too filling for the present. Two skuas came round the camp at lunch, no doubt attracted by our 'Shambles' camp." [3]

From the Beardmore onwards, the daily ration per man was 12 oz. pemmican (340g), 2 oz. butter (57g), 1 lb. biscuit (454g), 0.86 oz. cocoa (24g), 3 oz. sugar (85g), and 0.7 oz. tea (20g). [4]


"The dogs are so hungry they're eating their own crap, and if they can get at it, they eat the lashing on the sledges and bite deep into the wood," Bjaaland wrote in his diary. "We can now lie and look towards the Pole, and I hear the axle creaking, but tomorrow it will be oiled. The excitement is great. Shall we see the English flag -- God have mercy on us, I don't believe it." [5]


[1] "The Lost Photographs of Captain Scott", 5 October 2011,
[2] H.R. Bowers, diary, 13 December, 1911, quoted by Apsley Cherry-Garrard in The Worst Journey in the World, v.2.
[3] R.F. Scott, diary, 13 December, 1911, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.
[4] Roland Huntford, in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), "A Note on Diet" (figures rounded slightly here). Diana Preston gives the cocoa ration as 0.57 oz. (16g) (A first-rate tragedy : Robert Falcon Scott and the race to the South Pole [Boston : Houghton Mifflin, c1998], p.111).
[5] Olav Bjaaland, diary, 14 December 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Race for the South Pole : the expedition diaries of Scott and Amundsen (London : Continuum, c2010), p.182.

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