April 26, 2011

Wednesday, 26 April 1911


Nansen in Bergen, around 1910. [1]

Feelings against Amundsen ran so high that Nansen defended him in a letter to The Times: "I have had much to do with Amundsen, and on all occasions ... he always acted as a man, and my firm conviction is that an unfair act of any kind would be entirely alien to his nature.... Fearing that [his supporters] might advise him not to go to the Antarctic, he decided not to tell any of us.... And in this he was perhaps right ... he thought he had no right to make us co-responsible and so has taken the whole responsibility upon himself. I cannot help thinking that this is a manly way of proceeding.... As regards the question of whether Amundsen had a right to enter [another explorer's territory] ... [it must] be remembered that the bases of operations of Scott and Amundsen lie far apart, there being about the same distance between them as between Spitsbergen and Franz Josef Land. I am certain that not even the keenest monopolist would venture to suggest that it would be unfair to go to Franz Josef Land on an expedition in quest of the North Pole, because another expedition with the same object in view was already on its way to Spitsbergen." [2]

Leon wrote a month later to Don Pedro, "When my brother received your charitable offer before his departure from Norway, he had no idea he would be compelled to take advantage of it to the extent that now has been necessary; he felt convinced that his supporters and the Norwegian people would sympathise with the decision he had made to go South, when his reasons were so strong and good ... and he believed definitely he could count on the necessary support to carry out his journey. In that belief he remains today."

"He does not know what I know, that his actions have been condemned in nearly all quarters.... It is a fact which in the highest degree will hurt his sense of honour and sow bitterness in his mind when he learns about it." [3]


[1] Nansen Electronic Photographic Archive, Nasjonalbiblioteket.
[2] The Times, 26 April, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.378.
[3] Leon Amundsen, letter to Don Pedro Christophersen, 21 June 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.379.

April 24, 2011

Monday, 24 April 1911


"Lunar corona", a watercolour by Wilson. [1]

The sun set for the winter at Cape Evans.


[1] "Scott's Last Expedition: Illustrations in the First Volume".

April 19, 2011

Wednesday, 19 April 1911

A snowed-under Framheim in the moonlight, April 1911. [1]

The sun set for the winter at Framheim.

Rather than dig out the hut from its accumulation of snow, wrote Amundsen, "we began to extend our premises. Along the axis of the house, facing west, a huge snowdrift had formed just in front of the entrance. It was our intention ... to remove it. At the last moment, it occurred to me that we could possibly use the drift and escape the work of shovelling and carting it away. We have now started to excavate it and arrange a direct connection with the house through an underground passage. By digging downwards, we can obtain all the space we need. Provisionally, we are digging out a carpenter's workshop for Bjaaland and Stubberud.... I think the idea is good!" [1]


[1] Roald Amundsen Bildearkiv, Nasjonalbiblioteket. This is one of the glass slides that was coloured in for use in Amundsen's lectures in 1912.
[2] Roald Amundsen, diary, [20 April, 1911], quoted by Roland Huntford in The Amundsen Photographs (London : Hodder & Stoughton, c1987), p.104.

April 17, 2011

Monday, 17 April 1911


The only scientific work done by the men at Framheim was the routine meteorological observations. "Our plan is one, one and again one alone," Amundsen wrote in his diary, "to reach the pole. For that goal, I have decided to throw everything else aside. We shall do what we can without colliding with this plan. If we were to have a night watch, we would have to have a light burning the whole time. In one room, as we have, this would be worrying for most of us, and make us weak. What concerns me is that we all live properly in all respects during the winter. Sleep and eat well, so that we have full strength and are in good spirits when spring arrives to fight towards the goal which we must attain at any cost." [1]

The Fram arrived in Buenos Aires. Due to ill-feeling in Norway against Amundsen's behaviour, the Government had hesitated to ask the Storting for further grants, and the expedition was completely broke -- Nilsen did not even have the money to hire a tender to take him ashore, as all spare change had been confiscated at the Bay of Whales for soldering and sealing paraffin tanks.

Don Pedro Christophersen generously agreed to pay Amundsen's bills.

But, Nilsen wrote to Alexander Nansen, the expedition's business manager, "It was not fair to draw too big a draft on one man. [At] home they can naturally say that the expedition went South in all secrecy, and therefore it can manage as best it can. But what is one to do? Norway spends money now and then on vessels to represent the country. Is Fram not the best vessel that can be sent out? I won't pretend to say that there is anybody on board particularly qualified to represent the country, but who doesn't know Fram? Norway can scarcely be better known than by its flag flying the the world's greatest harbours from the gaff of the world's most famous ship."

"Every man from chief to cook has done, and will do everything for the expedition to reach its goal. It is therefore not exactly encouraging to hear in the first port of call that the country has washed its hands of us." [2]

Don Pedro payed for the refit Fram needed, and Nilsen left on 8th June as planned for his oceanographic cruise between South America and Southern Africa.

That part of the ocean was, as Fridtjof Nansen wrote to Nilsen, "so to say, all an unknown world, where previous expeditions have ... done little or nothing of significance. It would be splendid if Norwegians could also show themselves superior in this field. In addition, it will show clearly that the Fram expedition is not only a sporting stunt, as some say, but also a scientific enterprise worthy of respect." [3]


[1] Roald Amundsen, diary, 18 April, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.380.
[2] Thorvald Nilsen, letter to Alexander Nansen, [date not given], quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.376-377.
[3] Fridtjof Nansen, letter to Thorvald Nilsen, [date not given], quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.377.

April 14, 2011

Friday, 14 April 1911


After weeks on the Barrier, and with their faces black with smoke from the Discovery hut's blubber stove, the men walked off the sea-ice and into the hut at Cape Evans.

"I shall never forget the breakfast that Clissold prepared for us," Teddy Evans remembered with feeling, "hot rolls, heaps of butter, milk, sugar, jam, a fine plate of tomato soup, and fried seal cooked superbly. The meal over, we shaved, bathed, and put on clean clothes, smoked cigarettes, and took a day's holiday." [1]

The party back at Hut Point were very anxious about those who had gone ahead, and upon seeing the prearranged signal gun from Cape Evans that evening, "all went wild with excitement," wrote Cherry in his diary, "knowing that all was well. Meares ran in and soaked some awning with paraffin, and we lifted it as an answering flare and threw it into the air again and again, until it was burning in little bits all over the snow. The relief was great." [2]

Scott himself wrote, "It was not until I found all safe at the Home Station that I realised how anxious I had been concerning it. In a normal season no thought of its having been in danger would have occurred to me, but since the loss of the ponies and the breaking of the Glacier Tongue I could not rid myself of the fear that misfortune was in the air and that some abnormal swell had swept the beach; gloomy thoughts of the havoc that might have been wrought by such an event would arise in spite of the sound reasons which had originally led me to choose the site of the hut as a safe one." [3]

"Anton considers the death of Hackenschmidt to have been an act of 'cussedness' -- the result of a determination to do no work for the Expedition!!"


[1] E.R.G.R. Evans, South with Scott, p.107, quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.436.
[2] Apsley Cherry-Garrard, The Worst Journey in the World, ch.5.
[3] R.F. Scott, diary, "Impressions on returning to the Hut, April 13, 1911", quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.

April 13, 2011

Thursday, 13 April 1911


Castle Rock, three miles (4.8 km) northeast of Hut Point, in 2000. Photo by Josh Landis. [1]

Scott at last made a start for Cape Evans at nine in the morning, after three more days' delay due to bad weather. "Party consisted of self, Bowers, P.O. Evans, Taylor, one tent," he wrote, "[Lt.] Evans, Gran, Crean, Debenham, and Wright, second tent. Left Wilson in charge at Hut Point with Meares, Forde, Keohane, Oates, Atkinson, and Cherry-Garrard." Scott reckoned that a new route could be found along the base of Mt. Erebus to the north; the dogs and ponies would have to wait to go back the usual way over the sea ice to Cape Evans.

"All gave us a pull up the ski slope; it had become a point of honour to take this slope without a 'breather.' I find such an effort trying in the early morning, but had to go through with it." [2]

Their way led past Castle Rock, northeast of Hut Point, and on to Hutton Cliffs, within sight of Cape Evans. They had to lower themselves and the loaded sledges by Alpine rope down these cliffs, which at one point dropped a sheer 24 feet (7.3 m).

"It was a good piece of work getting everything down safely," Evans later wrote, "and I admired Scott's decision to go over; a more nervous man would have fought shy because once down to the sea ice there was little chance of our getting back and we had to fight our way forward to Cape Evans somehow." [3]

"Quite pleased with the result," noted Scott.


[1] Wikipedia.
[2] R.F. Scott, diary, 13 April, 1911, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.
[3] E.R.G.R. Evans, South with Scott, p.105, quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.435.

April 10, 2011

Monday, 10 April 1911


The last depot party, under Johansen, arrived back at Framheim, three days later than expected. The delay had been caused by a thick fog which led them to wander into a maze of crevasses that collapsed underneath them. Two dogs had been lost -- Johansen's leading dogs -- but it was a blessing in disguise as it demonstrated the advantages of the Greenland fan harness. With the Alaskan single-trace harness, the whole team would have been dragged down.

The temperatures had been ten to fifteen degrees higher than before, with fog most of the way. They had missed the depot by a mile and a half, but had run into one of their marker flags to the west and had no difficulty tracing their way back to the depot.

They had rebuilt the depot at 80°, adding a ton of seal meat, 165 litres of paraffin, and other supplies, totalling almost two tons. Johansen had also arranged the six seal carcasses standing on end around the cairn of cases and snow blocks, to prevent the snow from drifting up around them and to save the trouble of having to dig them out later.

There were now depots at 80, 81, and 82 degrees, with the route marked every mile to 80°.

"Tomorrow," Amundsen wrote, "we celebrate the end of the autumn's work, and truly we can celebrate it with a good conscience." [1]


[1] Roald Amundsen, [diary, 11 April, 1911], quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.359.