December 31, 2011

Sunday, 31 December 1911

Scott

The camp on 31st December, at 86°56' S, before Lt. Evans turned back with Crean and Lashly. Bowers took this photograph. [1]

"The second party depoted its ski and some other weights equivalent to about 100 lbs.," wrote Scott. "I sent them off first; they marched, but not very fast. We followed and did not catch them before they camped by direction at 1.30. By this time we had covered exactly 7 miles (geo.), and we must have risen a good deal." [2] He did not give a reason for the depoting of the skis.

After a short march, Scott made camp and had the men dismantle the sledges and shorten them from twelve feet to ten, in order to lighten them and improve their running. This took eight hours, longer than Scott had intended, and Evans cut his hand badly in the process.


Amundsen

"Dear Diary," wrote Bjaaland, "wasn't the first day of the New Year fine and easy, the loveliest day of all." [3]

Because of fog and blizzard on the way up, the Norwegians were seeing the landscape for the first time, and for a few days were unable to tell exactly where they were. Amundsen had relied for his bearings on a distinctive mountain at the edge of the Norway Glacier, known today as Mount Bjaaland, but now, confused by the unfamiliar angle and changing light, as well as being cagey about his short-sightedness, could not seem to find it. "We are in truth running through an enigma. To recognise where we are is an impossibility." [4] They had stopped taking astronomical observations since leaving the Pole, and had lost the line of cairns after 88° S, but son picked up the mountains around the Butcher's Shop in the distance.

The Norwegians and the British were in fact barely a hundred miles apart, Amundsen approaching the descent from the Polar Plateau via the Axel Heiberg Glacier, and Scott just coming up to it from the Beardmore.

Wisting came down with toothache. He was the one with dental training, and since, he wrote later, "it was a little far to the nearest dentist, I asked [Amundsen] if he would take care of the beast. He instantly declared himself willing, and our forceps were got out. On account of the cold, it first had to be warmed over the Primus. Then I knelt in my sleeping bag, and he sat over me in his, and pulled as hard as he could. After a tremendous fuss the operation -- eventually -- succeeded, and with that all my troubles were over." [5]

Prestrud's Eastern Party started out on their third survey journey, this time to the southwestern corner of the Bay of Whales. They were surprised to find, he later wrote, that "the solid Barrier divided into small islands, separated by comparatively broad sounds. These isolated masses of ice could not possibly be afloat, although the depth in one or two places, where we had a chance of making soundings, proved to be as much as 200 fathoms. The only rational explanation we could think of was that there must be a group of low-lying islands here, or in any case shoals." [6]


Notes

[1] Wikipedia.
[2] R.F. Scott, diary, 1 January 1912, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.
[3] Olav Bjaaland, diary, [1 January, 1912], quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.499.
[4] Roald Amundsen, diary, 1 January, 1912, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.499.
[5] Oscar Wisting, 16 År med Roald Amundsen, p.38, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.500. Amundsen had studied medicine as a young man at the request of his mother; when she died, he gave it up almost immediately to dedicate himself to polar exploration.
[6] Kristian Prestrud, "The Eastern Sledge Journey", in Roald Amundsen's The South Pole, ch.15. Note that the date is given as 1st January 1912; see Hinks' note on dates in "The Observations of Amundsen and Scott at the South Pole" (The Geographical Journal, April 1944, p.169).

December 30, 2011

Saturday, 30 December 1911

Scott

"Scott's own diary of this first fortnight on the plateau shows the immense shove of the man," Cherry wrote later, "he was getting every inch out of the miles, every ounce out of his companions. Also he was in a hurry, he always was. That blizzard which had delayed him just before the Gateway, and the resulting surfaces which had delayed him in the lower reaches of the glacier! One can feel the averages running through his brain: so many miles to-day: so many more to-morrow. When shall we come to an end of this pressure? Can we go straight or must we go more west? And then the great undulating waves with troughs eight miles wide, and the buried mountains, causing whirlpools in the ice -- how immense, and how annoying. The monotonous march: the necessity to keep the mind concentrated to steer amongst disturbances: the relief of a steady plod when the disturbances cease for a time: then more pressure and more crevasses. Always slog on, slog on. Always a fraction of a mile more. On December 30 he writes, 'We have caught up Shackleton's dates.'" [1]


Amundsen

"The dogs are in splendid form now," wrote Amundsen, "hale and hearty. Passed 87° S.Lat. last night at 11 o'clock. As usual we have done our 15 nautical miles in 5 hours. W. always sets sail on his sledge and it helps him a great deal." [2]


Notes:

[1] Apsley Cherry-Garrard, The Worst Journey in the World, ch.XI.
[2] Roald Amundsen, diary, 31 December 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Race for the South Pole : the expedition diaries of Scott and Amundsen (London : Continuum, c2010), p.214.

December 29, 2011

Friday, 29 December 1911

Scott

"Sledging", a watercolour by Wilson, date unknown. This was later published in Scott's Last Expedition. [1]

"The worst surface we have struck, very heavy pulling," wrote Scott, "but we came 6 1/2 miles (geo.). It will be a strain to keep up distances if we get surfaces like this. We seem to be steadily but slowly rising. The satisfactory thing is that the second party now keeps up, as the faults have been discovered; they were due partly to the rigid loading of the sledge and partly to the bad pacing." [2]

"The marches are terribly monotonous," he added. "One's thoughts wander occasionally to pleasanter scenes and places, but the necessity to keep the course, or some hitch in the surface, quickly brings them back. There have been some hours of very steady plodding to-day; these are the best part of the business, they mean forgetfulness and advance." [3]


Amundsen

The terrain on the descent was a mixture of sastrugi and blue ice. "We went with the speed of lightning," wrote Amundsen. He and the other skiers "had a hard job to keep up with the sledges. The drivers support themselves on their sledges, are pulled along on skis, and have halcyon days." [4]

The skiing, wrote Bjaaland, was "as easy as it could possibly be [but] had my work cut out to keep ahead of Helmer's dogs. Just as I thought they were well behind, I found them sticking their noses in front, just next to me." [5]

Wisting rigged a sail on his sledge.


Notes:

[1] "Pictures From the Terra Nova Expedition : Watercolours by Dr. E. A. Wilson" at Cool Antarctica.
[2] R.F. Scott, diary, 29 December, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Race for the South Pole : the expedition diaries of Scott and Amundsen (London : Continuum, c2010), p.212-213. This part of the entry does not appear in the online version of Scott's journals at Project Gutenberg. It seems to have been conflated with the entry for 30th December, possibly an error and not a deliberate omission, as it appears in print editions such as that by Methuen.
[3] R.F. Scott, diary, 29 December, 1911, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.
[4] Roald Amundsen, diary, 30 December, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.498.
[5] Olav Bjaaland, diary, 30 December, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.498.

December 28, 2011

Thursday, 28 December 1911

Scott

"When Scott and Amundsen Passed". [1]

Teddy Evans' team were "fagged out," Scott decided, "and I have told them plainly that they must wrestle with the trouble and get it right for themselves." [2] Evans' sledge was running badly, and Scott blamed Evans for strapping the loads too tightly, thus distorting the framework and runners.

"There is no possible reason why they should not get along as easily as we do," he added. [3] Evans and Lashly had now been man-hauling since the motors broke down, almost the whole length of the Barrier, and Evans was, although it was unknown at the time, already in the early stages of scurvy.

"My unit pulled away easy this morning," Scott wrote, "and stretched out for two hours -- the second unit made heavy weather. I changed with [Lt.] Evans and found the second sledge heavy -- could keep up, but the team was not swinging with me as my own team swings. Then I changed P.O. Evans for Lashly. We seemed to get on better, but at the moment the surface changed and we came up over a rise with hard sastrugi. At the top we camped for lunch. What was the difficulty? One theory was that some members of the second party were stale. Another that all was due to the bad stepping and want of swing; another that the sledge pulled heavy. In the afternoon we exchanged sledges, and at first went off well, but getting into soft snow, we found a terrible drag, the second party coming quite easily with our sledge. So the sledge is the cause of the trouble, and talking it out, I found that all is due to want of care. The runners ran excellently, but the structure has been distorted by bad strapping, bad loading, this afternoon and only managed to get 12 miles (geo.)." [4]


Amundsen

The Norwegians reached the summit of the Plateau, and began the gentle descent.

Amundsen again raised the pemmican allowance, to 450g, and they were now getting a little more than the amount of food they needed. [5] Bjaaland had the day before "asked the Captain for a little more pemmican, and had 1/2 a ration extra" -- he was working hard as forerunner. [6]


Notes:

[1] The New York Times, 12 February 1913.
[2] R.F. Scott, diary, 28 December 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.471. This quote does not appear in the published version of Scott's diary, and may have been excised as were a number of other uncomplimentary remarks, but neither does it appear in Huntford's Race for the South Pole : the expedition diaries of Scott and Amundsen (2011), which supposedly restores these excisions. See the next note.
[3] R.F. Scott, diary, 28 December, 1911, quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.479. Crane gives essentially the same quote here as does Huntford in Scott and Amundsen.
[4] R.F. Scott, diary, 28 December, 1911, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.
[5] Roland Huntford gives the Norwegians' calorie allowance at this point as 5,000 per day after the increase in pemmican, for work that used about 4,500 calories (Scott and Amundsen, "Note on diet").
[6] Olav Bjaaland, diary, 28 December 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Race for the South Pole : the expedition diaries of Scott and Amundsen (London : Continuum, c2010), p.210.

December 27, 2011

Wednesday, 27 December 1911

Scott

Bowers accidentally broke the thermometer on the hypsometer, an instrument for determining altitude by the boiling point of water. "[I] got an unusual outburst of wrath in consequence," he wrote in chagrin, "in fact my name is mud just at present. It is rather sad to get into the dirt tub with one's leader at this juncture, but accidents will happen." [1] Scott now had no accurate way to measure altitude, having brought only one thermometer.

"We marched off well after lunch on a soft, snowy surface," Scott wrote that evening, "then came to slippery hard sastrugi and kept a good pace; but I felt this meant something wrong, and on topping a short rise we were once more in the midst of crevasses and disturbances. For an hour it was dreadfully trying -- had to pick a road, tumbled into crevasses, and got jerked about abominably. At the summit of the ridge we came into another 'pit' or 'whirl,' which seemed the centre of the trouble -- is it a submerged mountain peak? During the last hour and a quarter we pulled out on to soft snow again and moved well. Camped at 6.45, having covered 13 1/3 miles (geo.). Steering the party is no light task. One cannot allow one's thoughts to wander as others do, and when, as this afternoon, one gets amongst disturbances, I find it is very worrying and tiring." [2]


Notes:

[1] H.R. Bowers, diary, 27 December, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.469. Amundsen had four thermometers, in case of accidents.
[2] R. F. Scott, diary, 27 December, 1911, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition : the Journals, v.1.

December 26, 2011

Tuesday, 26 December 1911

Scott

"It seems astonishing," Scott wrote at 86° 2' S, "to be disappointed with a march of 15 (stat.) miles, when I had contemplated doing little more than 10 with full loads." [1]

"Our height yesterday morning by hypsometer was 8000 feet," wrote Bowers. "That is our last hypsometer record, as I had the misfortune to break the thermometer. The hypsometer was one of my chief delights, and nobody could have been more disgusted than myself at its breaking. However, we have the aneroid to check the height. We are going gradually up and up." [2]

Day and Hooper arrived back at Cape Evans with the news that Scott had taken the dogs on further than intended. Scott's orders to Simpson, in charge in Scott's absence, instructed that the dogs "might be late returning, unfit for work or non-existent. So don't forget that the [supplies] must be [got to One Ton] somehow." [3]

Meares and the dogs had been expected back by 15th December. Simpson was of course not to know that they had not turned back until the 11th. In lieu of the dog teams, therefore, he promptly sent Day and Hooper to One Ton to replenish the depot.


Amundsen

"Boiling sun on our backs," wrote Amundsen. "Brilliant going that puts the dogs in top form, [they] really seem to be putting on weight." [2]

Land was sighted. Amundsen thought it was a new discovery, but realised his mistake a few days later, that the sun and mirage had distorted perspective. (Amundsen was in fact rather short-sighted, a fact that he concealed for most of his life.)


Notes:

[1] R.F. Scott, diary, 26 December, 1911, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition : the Journals, v.1.
[2] H.R. Bowers, diary, 26 December, 1911, quoted by Apsley Cherry-Garrard in The Worst Journey in the World, ch.10.
[3] George Simpson, diary, 31 December, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.426.
[4] Roald Amundsen, diary, 27 December, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.498.

December 25, 2011

Monday, 25 December 1911

Scott

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]


Amunden

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.


Notes:

[1] Guardian.co.uk.
[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.

December 24, 2011

Sunday, 24 December 1911

Scott

The surface of the plateau, though still jumbled with crevasses and ridges, was covered now with a hard layer of icy snow, which Bowers cheerfully called "quite a holiday" after the softer surface of the climb. [1]

In camp that night, Christmas Eve was celebrated with a four-course meal, which Scott described the next day in his diary: "The first [course], pemmican, full whack, with slices of horse meat flavoured with onion and curry powder and thickened with biscuit; then an arrowroot, cocoa and biscuit hoosh sweetened; then a plum-pudding; then cocoa with raisins, and finally a dessert of caramels and ginger. After the feast it was difficult to move. Wilson and I couldn't finish our share of plum-pudding. We have all slept splendidly and feel thoroughly warm -- such is the effect of full feeding." [2]


Amundsen

A case of Horlick's Malted Milk Tablets from the Norwegian expedition. [3]

The first depot of the homeward journey, at 88° 25', was reached on Christmas day. They had indulged themselves at the Pole and overspent their chocolate allowance, going short for the past week or so since then as a result.

It was eight days' travelling to the next depot at 86° 26', 124 miles away. They now had twelve days' full rations for all, and a reserve of pemmican. "So we are well provided for. I am [therefore] putting aside a sample of each item of food that has been at the Pole," wrote Amundsen, adding drily, "The suppliers will presumably appreciate it." [4]

Having brought no extra food for Christmas, Wisting collected biscuit crumbs and with some powdered milk improvised a kind of pudding in the style of the traditional Norwegian risgrøt, or rice porridge. "Well now you are lighting the candles at home," Amundsen wrote. "We are together with you [in spirit], even if the distance is great. But wait a little -- after not too long, you will have us back again, and then with victory in our hands." [5]

"Ah how are you doing Mother," Bjaaland wrote wistfully, "hope you are well and enjoying life, will soon be seeing you." It was 600 more miles back to Framheim. "It will be a long hard yomp," he added. [6]


Notes:

[1] H.R. Bowers, diary, 24 December, 1911, quoted by Apsley Cherry-Garrard in The Worst Journey in the World, ch.X.
[2] R.F. Scott, diary, 25 December, 1911, in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.
[3] Christie's.
[4] Roald Amundsen, diary, 25 December, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.498. It was, of course, Christmas day by the Norwegians' one-day-off reckoning (see the note in the sidebar).
[5] Roald Amundsen, diary, 25 December, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Race for the South Pole : the expedition diaries of Scott and Amundsen (London : Continuum, c2010), p.204-205.
[6] Olav Bjaaland, diary, 25 December, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Race for the South Pole : the expedition diaries of Scott and Amundsen (London : Continuum, c2010), p.205. "Yomp" is Royal Marines slang for a long-distance march carrying full kit, and Bjaaland is presumably using it in that sense; Huntford suggests that the word is back-formed from the Norwegian jump, "jump", pronounced "yomp".

December 23, 2011

Saturday, 23 December 1911

Scott

After a rough afternoon climb over crevasses and waves of ice, Scott wrote, "quite suddenly at 5 P.M. everything changed. The hard surface gave place to regular sastrugi and our horizon levelled in every direction. I hung on to the S.W. till 6 P.M., and then camped with a delightful feeling of security that we had at length reached the summit proper. I am feeling very cheerful about everything to-night. We marched 15 miles (geo.) (over 17 stat.) to-day, mounting nearly 800 feet and all in about 8 1/2 hours. My determination to keep mounting irrespective of course is fully justified and I shall be indeed surprised if we have any further difficulties with crevasses or steep slopes. To me for the first time our goal seems really in sight. We can pull our loads and pull them much faster and farther than I expected in my most hopeful moments. I only pray for a fair share of good weather. There is a cold wind now as expected, but with good clothes and well fed as we are, we can stick a lot worse than we are getting. I trust this may prove the turning-point in our fortunes for which we have waited so patiently." [1]


Notes:

[1] R.F. Scott, diary, 23 December 1911, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.

December 22, 2011

Friday, 22 December 1911

Scott

Wilson's sketch of the view at the lunch camp of 19th December, showing Mt. Deakin to the left, Keltie Glacier, and part of Mt. Kinsey on the extreme right. He made a number of sketches, often panoramas like this one. [1]

On the flyleaf of his new journal for the summit journey, Scott noted, "Ages: Self 43, Wilson 39, Evans (P.O.) 37, Oates 32, Bowers 28. Average 36." [2]

"We started with our heavy loads about 9.20," he wrote, "I in some trepidation -- quickly dissipated as we went off and up a slope at a smart pace. The second sledge came close behind us, showing that we have weeded the weak spots and made the proper choice for the returning party."

Their 7 1/2 hours for the day, with a long break at lunch to mend a broken sledge-meter, covered 12 miles (19.3 km).

"To-morrow we march longer hours, about 9 I hope. Every day the loads will lighten, and so we ought to make the requisite progress. I think we have climbed about 250 feet to-day, but thought it more on the march.... The weather has been beautifully fine all day as it was last night. (Night Temp. -9°.) This morning there was an hour or so of haze due to clouds from the N. Now it is perfectly clear, and we get a fine view of the mountain behind which Wilson has just been sketching."

Here they made their Upper Glacier depot, at 85°13'. Bowers noted that they left here "two half-weekly units for return of the two parties, also all crampons and glacier gear, such as ice-axes, crowbar, spare Alpine rope, etc., personal gear, medical, and in fact everything we could dispense with. I left my old finnesko, wind trousers and some other spare gear in a bag for going back." [3] The cairn was marked with two spare 10-ft. sledge runners and a black flag.

The two parties now consisted of Scott, Wilson, Oates, and P.O. Evans on one sledge, and Lt. Evans, Bowers, Lashly, and Crean on the other.

"It was a sad job saying good-bye," wrote Cherry in his diary. "It was thick, snowing and drifting clouds when we started back after making the depôt, and the last we saw of them as we swung the sledge north was a black dot just disappearing over the next ridge and a big white pressure wave ahead of them.... Scott said some nice things when we said good-bye. Anyway he has only to average seven miles a day to get to the Pole on full rations -- it's practically a cert for him. I do hope he takes Bill and Birdie. The view over the ice-falls and pressure by the Mill Glacier from the top of the ice-falls is one of the finest things I have ever seen. Atch is doing us proud." [4]


Amundsen

"Bitter this morning," wrote Amundsen. "SE'ly breeze and biting cold. Almost overcast. Very difficult to see the terrain. Bj[aaland] therefore soon lost our tracks. Luckily it eased and cleared up." [5]

Despite the poor visibility, they found that they were in fact heading directly for their next cairn.


Notes

[1] Apsley Cherry-Garrard, The Worst Journey in the World, ch.X.
[2] R.F. Scott, Summit Journey diary, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1. Since this note is undated, it is not clear when Scott decided on the members of the polar party.
[3] Apsley Cherry-Garrard, The Worst Journey in the World, ch.XI.
[4] Apsley Cherry-Garrard, diary, 22 December, 1911, quoted in his The Worst Journey in the World, ch.XII.
[5] Roald Amundsen, diary, 23 December, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Race for the South Pole : the expedition diaries of Scott and Amundsen (London : Continuum, c2010), p.201.

December 21, 2011

Thursday, 21 December 1911

Scott

A 1965 map of the top of the Beardmore Glacier, from aerial photographs taken 1960-1962 by the USGS. [1]

"I write this sitting in our tent waiting for the fog to clear," wrote Scott in a letter home, "an exasperating position as we are in the worst crevassed region. Teddy Evans and Atkinson were down to the length of their harness this morning, and we have all been half-way down. As first man I get first chance, and it's decidedly exciting not knowing which step will give way. Still all this is interesting enough if one could only go on." [2]

When the fog cleared in the afternoon, they "made a dash for it", heading for Mount Darwin, now visible in the near-distance.

"Scott was fairly wound up," wrote Bowers, "and he went on and on. Every rise topped seemed to fire him with a desire to top the next, and every rise had another beyond and above it. We camped at 8 p.m., all pretty weary, having come up nearly 1500 feet, and done over eleven miles in a S.W. direction. We were south of Mount Darwin in 85° 7' S., and our corrected altitude proved to be 7000 feet above the Barrier. I worked up till a very late hour getting the depôt stores ready, and also weighing out and arranging allowances for the returning party, and arranging the stores and distribution of weights of the two parties going on." [3]

"So here we are," Scott added, "practically on the summit and up to date in the provision line. We ought to get through."

Wilson had taken Atkinson aside earlier and asked, as a fellow-doctor, which of the seamen he thought fittest to go on to the Pole. Atkinson had said that he felt that was Lashly. Scott wanted, as a Naval officer, to have the "Lower Deck" represented, and had already privately chosen P.O. Evans, a favorite of his since the Discovery days -- and by having Atkinson's opinion, Wilson wanted to reinforce his own arguments in favour of Lashly or perhaps Crean continuing, having doubts about Evans' mental and physical stability. [4]

"There is a very mournful air to-night," Cherry wrote in his diary, "those going on and those turning back. Bill [Wilson] came in while I was cooking, to say good-bye. He told me he fully expected to come back with the next party: that he could see Scott was going to take on the strongest fellows, perhaps three seamen. It would be a great disappointment if Bill did not go on.... I have been trying to give away my spare gear where it may be most acceptable: finnesko to Birdie, pyjama trousers to Bill, and a bag of baccy for Bill to give Scott on Christmas Day, some baccy to Titus, jaeger socks and half my scarf to Crean, and a bit of handkerchief to Birdie. Very tired to-night." [5]

Scott changed Atkinson's orders for the dogs, that he was to bring the dog teams south in the event of Meares returning home. "Come as far as you can," he added casually. [6] "This was not meant in any way to be a relief journey," Cherry noted later. "Scott said that he was not relying upon the dogs; and that in view of the sledging in the following year, the dogs were not to be risked." [7]

"The temperature has dropped below zero," Scott wrote, "but to-night it is so calm and bright that one feels delightfully warm and comfortable in the tent. Such weather helps greatly in all the sorting arrangements, &c., which are going on to-night. For me it is an immense relief to have the indefatigable little Bowers to see to all detail arrangements of this sort." [8]


Amundsen

"Pure summer today," wrote Bjaaland. "Absolutely calm, sunshine, tracks indistinct but cairns gleaming like electric beacons." [9]

Another dog had been put down, worn out, possibly -- although they did not realise it at the time -- due to dehydration.


Notes:

[1] United States Geological Survey, "Buckley Island" map.
[2] R.F. Scott, 21 December, 1911, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition : the Journals, v.1. The passages in inverted commas, such as this one, are from letters home, and are quoted in the correspondingly-dated diary entries in both the print and online versions of the journals.
[3] H.R. Bowers, diary, 21 December, 1911, quoted in by Apsley Cherry-Garrard in The Worst Journey in the World, ch.X.
[4] Roland Huntford, Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.467-468.
[5] Apsley Cherry-Garrard, diary, 21 December 1911, quoted in The Worst Journey in the World, ch.X.
[6] Roland Huntford, Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.470.
[7] Apsley Cherry-Garrard, in The Worst Journey in the World, ch.XIII. "According to the [original] plans for the Polar Journey the food necessary to bring the three advance parties of man-haulers back from One Ton Depôt to Hut Point was to be taken out to One Ton during the absence of these parties. This food consisted of five weekly units of what were known as XS rations. It was also arranged that if possible a depôt of dog-biscuit should be taken out at the same time: this was the depôt referred to above by Scott. In the event of the return of the dog-teams in the first half of December, which was the original plan, the five units of food and the dog-biscuit would have been run out by them to One Ton. If the dog-teams did not return in time to do this a man-hauling party from Cape Evans was to take out three of the five units of food." Since Meares and the dog teams had been taken on further than planned, they had not returned until a month later, on 4th January.
[8] R.F. Scott, diary, 21 December, 1911, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition : the Journals, v.1.
[9] Olav Bjaaland, diary, 22 December 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Race for the South Pole : the expedition diaries of Scott and Amundsen (London : Continuum, c2010), p.200.

December 20, 2011

Wednesday, 20 December 1911

Scott

"Camp under the Wild Mountains, 20 December 1911." [1]

At evening camp, Scott told off the next returning party. "Atkinson, Wright, Cherry-Garrard, and Keohane. All are disappointed -- poor Wright rather bitterly, I fear. I dread this necessity of choosing -- nothing could be more heartrending. I calculated our programme to start from 85° 10' with 12 units of food [one unit was a week's supplies for four men] and eight men. We ought to be in this position to-morrow night, less one day's food. After all our harassing trouble one cannot but be satisfied with such a prospect." [2]

"Aitch [sic], Cherry, Keohane and I turn back tomorrow night," Wright fumed in his diary. "Scott a fool. Teddy goes on. I have to make course back. Too wild to write more tonight. Teddy slack trace 7/8th of today." [3] Later he recalled more calmly, "Cherry was, I know, very disappointed and so was I. The reason for my disappointment was that I was quite certain that both Cherry and I were in better shape than at least one who was chosen to go on. I must have shown my disappointment since the Owner, most kindly, softened the blow by pointing out that I would have the responsibility as navigator of the party, of seeing that we did not get lost on the way back. It did soften the blow to a great extent. I was not entirely happy but soon recovered and indeed, probably took this responsibility too seriously." [4]

"This evening has been rather a shock," Cherry wrote in his diary. "As I was getting my finnesko on to the top of my ski beyond the tent Scott came up to me, and said that he was afraid he had rather a blow for me. Of course I knew what he was going to say, but could hardly grasp that I was going back -- to-morrow night. The returning party is to be Atch, Silas, Keohane and self." [5]

"Scott was very put about, said he had been thinking a lot about it but had come to the conclusion that the seamen with their special knowledge, would be needed: to rebuild the sledge, I suppose. Wilson told me it was a toss-up whether Titus or I should go on: that being so I think Titus will help him more than I can. I said all I could think of -- he seemed so cut up about it, saying 'I think, somehow, it is specially hard on you.' I said I hoped I had not disappointed him, and he caught hold of me and said 'No -- no -- No,' so if that is the case all is well. He told me that at the bottom of the glacier he was hardly expecting to go on himself: I don't know what the trouble is, but his foot is troubling him, and also, I think, indigestion."


Amundsen

Amundsen raised the daily allowance of pemmican from 350g to 400g per man. "God reward him for that," Bjaaland wrote. "Now I'm so full and satisfied, I can't express it in words." [6]


Notes:

[1] "The Lost Photographs of Captain Scott", 5 October 2011, Guardian.co.uk. "Scott took this impressive image to capture the interesting geological features around Mount Wild. On the sledge in the camp, two figures can be seen sketching. On the left, Apsley Cherry Garrard is drawing the view towards Mount Buckley; on the right, Edward Wilson is making detailed sketches and notes of the geological features so clearly visible in Scott's photograph. The other figure that can be seen is probably Birdie Bowers.... Scott returned his camera to base with the First Supporting Party as they departed from the top of the Beardmore Glacier towards Cape Evans.... Bowers, with his lighter camera, was chosen by Scott to become the photographer for the final pole party."
[2] R.F. Scott, diary, 20 December, 1911, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.
[3] Charles S. Wright, diary, 20 December, 1911, quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.476.
[4] Charles S. Wright, Silas : the Antarctic Diaries and Memoir of Charles S. Wright (Columbus : Ohio State University, 1993), quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.476.
[5] Apsley Cherry-Garrard, diary, 20 December, 1911, quoted in The Worst Journey in the World, ch.10.
[6] Olav Bjaaland, diary, 21 December 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.497.

December 19, 2011

Tuesday, 19 December 1911

Scott

"Things are looking up," Scott wrote. "We stepped off this afternoon at the rate of 2 miles or more an hour, with the very satisfactory result of 17 (stat.) miles to the good for the day. It has not been a strain, except perhaps for me with my wounds received [from falling into a crevasse] early in the day. The wind has kept us cool on the march, which has in consequence been very much pleasanter; we are not wet in our clothes to-night, and have not suffered from the same overpowering thirst as on previous days. (T. -11°.) (Min. -5°.) [sic, see note 1] [Lt.] Evans and Bowers are busy taking angles; as they have been all day, we shall have material for an excellent chart. Days like this put heart in one." [1]

Wright, perhaps seeing his chance at the pole slipping away, complained in his diary, "Our sledge is slow and can't keep up with the Owner's. Teddy, the damn hypocrite, as soon as he sees the Owner's sledge stopped and they watch us come up puts his head down and digs in for all he is worth." [2]


Amundsen

"Same magnificently beautiful weather," wrote Amundsen. "Almost calm and partly clear. We have done our regulation 15 nautical miles. Put 'Lasse' down this evening. He was one of our best dogs, but wore himself out. He was divided into 15 parts. The others are now like mad creatures after dog meat." [3]

Their tracks from the outward journey were still clearly visible, and they could easily see their next cairns.


Notes:

[1] R.F. Scott, diary, 19 December, 1911, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition : the Journals, v.1. The Gutenberg Project edition of Scott's diary gives the temperatures as quoted above, but the Methuen edition, for one, reads " (T. +11°.) (Min. +5°.)".
[2] Charles Wright, diary, 19 December, 1911, quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.473. "There can be no doubt of Evans's courage when it came to a crisis," Crane adds here, "but if his performance in the Terra Nova or subsequent war record are any guide, his was a temperament that was better suited to the drama and dangers of battle on the high seas than the grim, unglamorous slog of hauling."
[3] Roald Amundsen, diary, 20 December, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Race for the South Pole : the expedition diaries of Scott and Amundsen (London : Continuum, c2010), p.196.

December 18, 2011

Monday, 18 December 1911

Scott

A 1965 map of the middle length of the Beardmore Glacier, from aerial photographs taken 1958-1963 by the USGS. [1]

"Scott set a hot pace," wrote Silas Wright. "May I never again be the only long-legged one in such a team. All did their best but I am damn sure I had to provide the extra speed." [2]

Their day's march of fourteen miles got them to 84° 34', 4500 ft. (1372 m) above the Barrier.

"After lunch got on some very rough stuff within a few hundred yards of pressure ridge," Scott wrote. "There seemed no alternative, and we went through with it. Later, the glacier opened out into a broad basin with irregular undulations, and we on to a better surface, but later on again this improvement nearly vanished, so that it has been hard going all day, but we have done a good mileage (over 14 stat.). We are less than five days behind S. now." [3]

"Still sweating horribly on the march and very thirsty at the halts."


Amundsen

In the evening -- switching to night travel, in order to have the sun behind them and avoid glare from the snow -- the Norwegians left the Pole for Framheim. Bjaaland was forerunner for the journey home. "We got away in the most wonderful weather conditions one could possibly desire," he wrote. "-19 deg. [C] must be said to be fine at the South Pole. The dogs, poor devils, have not been over fed at the Pole, yet they are quick and lively." [4] They backtracked to the first Pole camp to pick up their outward trail, and headed off. Fifteen miles out, Amundsen put up another black flag at about the 180th meridian, the approximate British route from the Beardmore.

Amundsen knew that he still had to be first back with the news. Scott, he said to Helmer Hanssen, "will arrive during the next day or two. If I know the British, they won't give up once they've started." [5]

"700 miles will be quite tough," Bjaaland had remarked in his diary the night before, "but I'll manage." [6] The job of forerunner was an unenviable one: he had to set the track and keep the course true, as well as keep ahead of the dogs in order to give them something to follow. He also preferred, as a ski-racer, to be at the back, where he could see the rest of the pack and judge the competition. But in Bjaaland, Amundsen wrote, "we have found a forerunner of class. He sees like nobody else, and he goes like nobody else. Thus he has kept our old spoors Northwards ... although they are very indistinct." [7]


Notes:

[1] United States Geological Survey, "The Cloudmaker" map.
[2] Charles Wright, diary, 18 December, 1911, quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.473.
[3] R.F. Scott, diary, 18 December, 1911, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.
[4] Olav Bjaaland, diary, 19 December, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.495.
[5] Helmer Hanssen, Gjennem Isbaksen, p.96, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.495. When Amundsen had arrived in Eagle, Alaska at the end of his Northwest Passage journey in 1906, his telegram conveying the news was leaked to the press, causing him considerable financial loss on a supposedly-exclusive story. The lesson that he took away from this experience, as well as from the Peary/Cook North Pole controversy, was that being first out with the news of an attainment such as this was essentially second only to the attainment itself.
[6] Olav Bjaaland, diary, 19 December, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.495.
[7] Roald Amundsen, diary, 19 December, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.496.

December 17, 2011

Sunday, 17 December 1911

Scott

Mount Hope -- the centre peak -- discovered and photographed by Shackleton's party in December 1908. [1]

A good run in the afternoon up the centre of the glacier took them about 12 1/2 miles, to an altitude of about 3,500 ft. "This has put Mount Hope in the background and shows us more of the upper reaches," Scott wrote. "If we can keep up the pace, we gain on Shackleton, and I don't see any reason why we shouldn't, except that more pressure is showing up ahead. For once one can say 'sufficient for the day is the good thereof.' Our luck may be on the turn -- I think we deserve it." [2]


Amundsen

Amundsen, Helmer Hanssen, Hassel, and Wisting taking leave of Polheim, 18 December, 1911, photographed by Bjaaland. The sloping edge of the tent was a special construction to reduce wind resistance. [3]

The Norwegians boxed the "remaining few minutes of arc" by putting pennants a few miles in each direction. "We have done what we can," wrote Amundsen. "I think our observations will be of great interest for the experts." [4] Polheim was within 2,500 yards of the mathematical point.

Work finished at midday, and they began to prepare for the return journey. At the Pole mark, Amundsen raised the reserve tent made by Rønne on the Fram, revealing two yellow leather labels sewn to it, one reading "Bon Voyage" and the other "Welcome to 90 degrees", signed by Rønne and Beck. To the top of the tent was lashed a long bamboo pole onto which was fixed the Norwegian flag and a pennant reading "Fram".

Inside the tent, Amundsen left some superfluous equipment, a few items of reindeer-skin clothing they didn't need, and a letter to King Haakon. "Your Majesty," it read, "We have determined the Southernmost extremity of the great 'Ross Ice Barrier', together with the junction of Victoria Land and King Edward VII Land at the same place. We have discovered a mighty mountain range with peaks up to 22,000 ft. a.s.l., which I have taken the liberty of calling -- with permission, I hope -- 'Queen Maud's Range'. We found that the great inland plateau ... began to slope gently downwards from 89°.... We have called this gently sloping plain on which we have succeeded in establishing the position of the Geographic South Pole -- with I hope Your Majesty's permission -- 'King Haakon VII's Plateau'...." [5]

The envelope and a covering letter were addressed to Scott, who, Amundsen wrote in his diary, "I must assume will be the first to visit the place after us." [6] "The way home was a long one," he explained later, "and so many things might happen to make it impossible for us to give an account of our expedition." [7] His explanation was certainly logical, but, as Hassel put it, "It won't be nice for Scott, if he gets here now, to arrive and see the tent with the Norwegian flag and the burgee with Fram on it." [8]

At half past seven in the evening, they turned again to the North. "And so, farewell, dear Pole," wrote Amundsen. "I don't think we'll meet again." [9]

Back at the Bay of Whales, Prestrud, Johansen, and Stubberud departed Framheim again for a five-day journey to explore the long eastern arm of the bay. "Although we came across no bare rock," Prestrud wrote later, "and in that respect the journey was a disappointment, it was nevertheless very interesting to observe the effects of the mighty forces that had here been at work, the disruption of the solid ice-sheath by the still more solid rock." [10]


Notes:

[1] Wikipedia.
[2] R.F. Scott, diary, 17 December 1911, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition : the Journals, v.1.
[3] National Library of Australia.
[4] Roald Amundsen, diary, 18 December, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.493.
[5] Roald Amundsen, letter to King Haakon VII, 15 December 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.494.
[6] Roald Amundsen, diary, 18 December, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.494.
[7] Roald Amundsen, The South Pole, ch.12.
[8] Sverre Hassel, diary, [18 December, 1911], quoted by Tor Bomann-Larsen in Roald Amundsen (Stroud, Gloucestershire : Sutton, c2006, c1995), p.109.
[9] Roald Amundsen, diary, [18 December, 1911], quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.495.
[10] Kristian Prestrud, "The Eastern Sledge Journey", in Roald Amundsen's The South Pole, ch.15. Note that the date is given as 18th December; see Hinks' note on dates in "The Observations of Amundsen and Scott at the South Pole" (The Geographical Journal, April 1944, p.169).

December 16, 2011

Saturday, 16 December 1911

Scott

After ten hours' march, they had covered 11 miles, over new snow covering ice-hard old sastrugi. "The sledges were so often brought up by this," wrote Scott, "that we decided to take to our feet, and thus made better progress, but for the time with very excessive labour. The crust, brittle, held for a pace or two, then let one down with a bump some 8 or 10 inches. Now and again one's leg went down a crack in the hard ice underneath." [1]

"We must push on all we can, for we are now 6 days behind Shackleton, all due to that wretched storm. So far, since we got amongst the disturbances we have not seen such alarming crevasses as I had expected; certainly dogs could have come up as far as this. At present one gets terrible hot and perspiring on the march, and quickly cold when halted, but the sun makes up for all evils. It is very difficult to know what to do about the ski; their weight is considerable and yet under certain circumstances they are extraordinarily useful. Everyone is very satisfied with our summit ration. The party which has been man-hauling for so long say they are far less hungry than they used to be. It is good to think that the majority will keep up this good feeding all through."


Amundsen

The Norwegians broke camp early in the morning. Amundsen gave the honour of skiing to the Pole to Bjaaland. "Thank you," Bjaaland said quietly. "The blokes in Morgedal will be grateful. It'll be fun, the finish to this race." [2]

Bjaaland took off, running dead straight, followed by Hassel, then Helmer Hanssen with his sledge, and Amundsen last to check the line of march. It was, he wrote, "pure pleasure to see Bj. keep his course. He moved as if he had a marked line to follow." [3] At eleven a.m., they arrived.

They pitched camp, and prepared for final observations, building two snow pedestals, one for the artificial horizon and the other to rest the sextant when they were not using it. Hourly observations were then taken for the next twenty-four hours, all four navigators -- Amundsen, Hassel, Wisting, and Helmer Hanssen -- taking it in pairs watch on and watch off. They each counter-signed the other's observation books.

In the tent that evening, Bjaaland made a speech in honour of the day, "in extremely well chosen words," Helmer Hanssen recalled. "In a shining humour, he let the curtain drop by presenting both past and present, with the very best prospects for the future, for our journey home." [4] He then passed around a box of cigars, presenting the case and remaining cigars to Amundsen with a little bow. "And this I give to you in memory of the Pole." [5] Amundsen was deeply touched, for Bjaaland himself did not smoke, and had carried the box all of the way from Framheim as a Christmas present.

"All the dogs are lying stretched out in the heat of the sun," finished Amundsen, "and enjoying life despite the poor rations -- apparently in good condition. It has been so clear today that we can see for many nautical miles around. We have all used the telescope industriously to see if there is any sign of life in any direction -- but in vain. We are the first here all right."


Notes:

[1] R.F. Scott, diary, 16 December 1911, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition : the Journals, v.1.
[2] Tryggve Gran, Kampen om Sydpolen, p. 144 (Oslo : Mortensens, 1961), quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.492.
[3] Roald Amundsen, diary, 17 December, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Race for the South Pole : the expedition diaries of Scott and Amundsen (London : Continuum, c2010), p.190.
[4] Helmer Hanssen, "Minner fra Sydpolsturen", Polar-Årboken, 1941, p.17, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.493.
[5] Johann Austbø, Olav Bjaaland, p.80, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.493.

December 15, 2011

Friday, 15 December 1911

Scott

"Did a splendid bust off on ski," Bowers wrote cheerfully, "leaving Scott in the lurch, and eventually overhauling the party which had left some time before us. All the morning we kept up a steady, even swing which was quite a pleasure." [1]

Scott, though, wrote, "Evans' is now decidedly the slowest unit, though Bowers' is not much faster. We keep up and overhaul either without difficulty." [2]

They were now at 84° 8', at about 2500 ft. (762 m). "At the lunch camp," Scott continued, "the snow covering was less than a foot, and at this it is a bare nine inches; patches of ice and hard névé are showing through in places. I meant to camp at 6.30, but before 5.0 the sky came down on us with falling snow. We could see nothing, and the pulling grew very heavy. At 5.45 there seemed nothing to do but camp -- another interrupted march. Our luck is really very bad. We should have done a good march to-day, as it is we have covered about 11 miles (stat.)."

Back in the Western Mountains with Debenham and Taylor, Tryggve Gran wrote in his diary, "I dreamed I had a telegram reading: 'Amundsen reached Pole, 15-20 December.'" [3]


Amundsen

"An extremely agitated day," Amundsen began his diary entry. [4]

Observations showed the camp to be four miles from the Pole, and Amundsen set about to make certain of it. He woke the men at midnight, "to the most glorious sunny weather," Bjaaland wrote, "so the observers ran about with their instruments to fix the position." [5] At 2.30 a.m., Bjaaland, Wisting, and Hassel all set out to ski ten miles, Bjaaland continuing on their course from Framheim, and the other two at right angles.

"Thus equipped," Amundsen wrote later, "and with thirty biscuits as an extra ration, the three men started off in the directions laid down. Their march was by no means free from danger, and does great honour to those who undertook it, not merely without raising the smallest objection, but with the greatest keenness. Let us consider for a moment the risk they ran. Our tent on the boundless plain, without marks of any kind, may very well be compared with a needle in a haystack. From this the three men were to steer out for a distance of twelve and a half miles. Compasses would have been good things to take on such a walk, but our sledge-compasses were too heavy and unsuitable for carrying. They therefore had to go without. They had the sun to go by, certainly, when they started, but who could say how long it would last? The weather was then fine enough, but it was impossible to guarantee that no sudden change would take place. If by bad luck the sun should be hidden, then their own tracks might help them. But to trust to tracks in these regions is a dangerous thing. Before you know where you are the whole plain may be one mass of driving snow, obliterating all tracks as soon as they are made. With the rapid changes of weather we had so often experienced, such a thing was not impossible. That these three risked their lives that morning, when they left the tent at 2.30, there can be no doubt at all, and they all three knew it very well. But if anyone thinks that on this account they took a solemn farewell of us who stayed behind, he is much mistaken. Not a bit; they all vanished in their different directions amid laughter and chaff." [6]

Each man carried a marker, a spare sledge runner twelve feet long with a black flag attached and a bag containing a note with the bearing and distance of the camp. The men were to ski ten miles by the clock, then plant the marker in the snow. They all three arrived back at almost exactly the same time, after about six hours. "No English flag to be seen anywhere," Bjaaland reported.

Amundsen and Helmer Hanssen had in the meantime been taking frequent altitudes of the sun. Amundsen's meticulousness surprised no-one: he was taking no chances, and his men understood this. "The Chief wanted it that way," Helmer Hanssen said simply, "and that was the way he had it." [7]

Late in the afternoon, Amundsen found his position, on the 123rd meridian East, not the 168th West that he had been following on the Plateau. Nevertheless, they had come only about seven miles out of their way, and were now 5 1/2 miles from the Pole itself, well within the area boxed by Bjaaland, Wisting, and Hassel.

Sixteen dogs remained, and were reorganised into two teams, and Bjaaland's sledge was abandoned. "Thank God," he noted with relief, "I am quit the fuss and bother of my dogs."

"Tomorrow," finished Amundsen, "we will set off for the exact point of the Pole 5 1/2 nautical miles from here. We now have food for us human beings for 18 days, for the dogs 10. I think we will be all right back to our depot at 88° 25', and from there to the depot at the 'Devil's Glacier'."

In the north-east, Prestrud, Johansen, and Stubberud arrived back at Framheim.


Notes:

[1] H.R. Bowers, diary, 15 December, 1911, quoted by Apsley Cherry-Garrard in The Worst Journey in the World, v.2.
[2] R.F. Scott, diary, 15 December, 1911, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.
[3] Tryggve Gran, diary, 15 December 1911, quoted in The Norwegian With Scott : Tryggve Gran's Antarctic Diary 1910-1913 (National Maritime Museum, 1984), p.153.
[4] Roald Amundsen, diary, 16 December, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Race for the South Pole : the expedition diaries of Scott and Amundsen (London : Continuum, c2010), p.187-188.
[5] Olav Bjaaland, diary, 16 December, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Race for the South Pole : the expedition diaries of Scott and Amundsen (London : Continuum, c2010), p.188.
[6] Roald Amundsen, The South Pole, ch.12.
[7] Helmer Hanssen, Gjennem Isbaksen, p.95, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.489.

December 14, 2011

Thursday, 14 December 1911

Scott

"Indigestion and the soggy condition of my clothes kept me awake for some time last night," Scott noted in his diary, "and the exceptional exercise gives bad attacks of cramp. Our lips are getting raw and blistered. The eyes of the party are improving, I am glad to say. We are just starting our march with no very hopeful outlook. (T. + 13°.)" [1]

"Evans' party started first this morning; for an hour they found the hauling stiff, but after that, to my great surprise, they went on easily. Bowers followed without getting over the ground so easily. After the first 200 yards my own party came on with a swing that told me at once that all would be well. We soon caught the others and offered to take on more weight, but Evans' pride wouldn't allow such help. Later in the morning we exchanged sledges with Bowers, pulled theirs easily, whilst they made quite heavy work with ours."

They camped in the evening after climbing eleven or twelve miles, up to 2500 ft. and lat. about 84° 8'.

Man-hauling, Bowers wrote, was "the most back-breaking work I have ever come up against.... The starting was worse than pulling as it required from ten to fifteen desperate jerks on the harness to move the sledge at all.... 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." [2]


Amundsen

At the South Pole: Amundsen, Hassel, Bjaaland, and Wisting. Helmer Hanssen took this photograph with Bjaaland's camera. [3]

Wisting with his team. [4]

Bjaaland with his team, 14th December, 1911. [5]

Helmer Hanssen with his team, 14th December, 1911. Some of these images are apparently reversed, but it is difficult to tell which. [6]

"Friday 15 December (really 14th). So we arrived, and planted our flag at the geographical South Pole. Thanks be to God!"

"The time was 3 p.m. when it happened," Amundsen went on. "The weather was of the finest sort when we started this morning, but around 10 a.m., it became overcast. Fresh breeze from SE. The going has been partly good, partly bad. The plain -- King Haakon VII's Plateau -- has had the same appearance -- quite flat and without what one can call sastrugi. The sun came out again during the afternoon, and we ought to get a midnight observation.... We arrived here with 3 sledges and 17 dogs. Helmer Hanssen put one down immediately after arrival. 'Helgi' was worn out. Tomorrow we will go out in 3 directions to ring in the polar area. We have eaten our celebratory meal -- a little piece of seal meat each." [7]

Helmer Hanssen had been leading as usual -- he was the best dog-driver and the best navigator. With eight miles to go, he had called back to Amundsen to take the lead. "I can't get the dogs to run if nobody runs in front." But Hanssen felt that of course the honour of being first at the Pole belonged to Amundsen.

"The goal was reached, the journey ended," Amundsen wrote later. "I cannot say -- though I know it would sound much more effective -- that the object of my life was attained. That would be romancing rather too bare-facedly. I had better be honest and admit straight out that I have never known any man to be placed in such a diametrically opposite position to the goal of his desires as I was at that moment. The regions around the North Pole -- well, yes, the North Pole itself -- had attracted me from childhood, and here I was at the South Pole. Can anything more topsy-turvy be imagined?" [8]

It later turned out that Amundsen's camera was damaged. Bjaaland had brought a smaller one of his own, and his photographs would be the only record of the journey.

Wisting's flag. [9]

"Roald Amundsen," Wisting recalled, "asked us to gather round to plant the flag. 'It is not the privilege of one man alone to carry out this ceremony. It is the privilege of all those,' he said, 'who have risked their lives for this cause.' Each man gripped the flagpole, and together we planted Norway's flag at the South Pole, where no human being had yet set foot." [10]

Amundsen described the scene with more detail in his later account: "Pride and affection shone in the five pairs of eyes that gazed upon the flag, as it unfurled itself with a sharp crack, and waved over the Pole. I had determined that the act of planting it -- the historic event -- should be equally divided among us all. It was not for one man to do this; it was for all who had staked their lives in the struggle, and held together through thick and thin. This was the only way in which I could show my gratitude to my comrades in this desolate spot. I could see that they understood and accepted it in the spirit in which it was offered. Five weather-beaten, frost-bitten fists they were that grasped the pole, raised the waving flag in the air, and planted it as the first at the geographical South Pole. 'Thus we plant thee, beloved flag, at the South Pole, and give to the plain on which it lies the name of King Haakon VII.'s Plateau.' That moment will certainly be remembered by all of us who stood there."

"So now," Bjaaland wrote in his diary, "we have attained the goal of our desires, and the great thing is that we are here as the first men, no English flag waves, but a 3 coloured Norwegian. We have now eaten and drunk our fill of what we can manage; seal steak, and biscuits and pemmican and chocolate." [11]

Hanssen, on the other hand, felt only "relieved that I no longer should have to stare down at the compass in the biting wind which constantly blew against us while we drove Southwards, but which we now would have behind us." [12]

"One gets out of the way of protracted ceremonies in those regions," Amundsen said dryly, "the shorter they are the better. Everyday life began again at once." [13]


Notes:

[1] R.F. Scott, diary, 14 December, 1911, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.
[2] H.R. Bowers, diary, 14 December, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.466.
[3] Roald Amundsen Bildearkiv, Nasjonalbiblioteket.
[4] Roald Amundsen Bildearkiv, Nasjonalbiblioteket.
[5] Roald Amundsen Bildearkiv, Nasjonalbiblioteket.
[6] Roald Amundsen Bildearkiv, Nasjonalbiblioteket.
[7] Roald Amundsen, diary, 14 December 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in The Amundsen Photographs (London: Hodder & Stoughton, c1987), p.130. Amundsen had neglected to drop a day on his calendar when the Fram had crossed the International Date Line, but for this entry he made sure to note the fact.
[8] Roald Amundsen, The South Pole, ch.12.
[9] "In pictures: UK's first Roald Amundsen exhibition", BBC News Cambridgeshire, 16 September 2011. The flag was loaned from the Fram Museum in Oslo to the Polar Museum (SPRI) in Cambridge for the exhibit.
[10] Oscar Wisting, quoted by Roland Huntford in The Amundsen Photographs (London : Hodder & Stoughton, c1987, p.131.
[11] Olav Bjaaland, diary, [14 December 1911], quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.487.
[12] Helmer Hanssen, Gjennem Isbaksen, p.94, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.487.
[13] Roald Amundsen, The South Pole, ch.12.

December 13, 2011

Wednesday, 13 December 1911

Scott
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]


Amundsen

"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]


Notes:

[1] "The Lost Photographs of Captain Scott", 5 October 2011, Guardian.co.uk.
[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.

December 12, 2011

Tuesday, 12 December 1911

Scott

"Lost one hour on Owner's sledge today," Wright noted tersely. "Looks bad but Teddy and Lashly had pulled all the way from Corner Camp. Teddy a quitter." [1]

A five-hour march produced no more than a half-mile's distance.


Amundsen

The going was superb, hard crust over which skis and sledges glided easily. "Our finest day up here," Amundsen wrote, "calm most of the day, with burning sunshine." [2] They had done their fifteen miles, to 89°45', over hard snow crust, excellent for skiing.

But tension was high among the Norwegians, and every nerve was taut. As they were making camp, Hassel called out, "Do you see that black thing over there?" "Can it be Scott?" Bjaaland went over to investigate. "Mirage," he called out laconically, "dog turds." [3]

"The Captain is in a good mood and is unusually pleasant to me. Had a fine dream the other night. A girl, a little angel came to me with food and flowers, among them a big red rose." [4]



Notes:

[1] Charles Wright, diary, 12 December, 1911, quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.473.
[2] Roald Amundsen, diary, 13 December 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.484.
[3] Olav Bjaaland, personal communication with Roland Huntford, quoted by Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.485.
[4] Olav Bjaaland, diary, 13 December, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Race for the South Pole : the expedition diaries of Scott and Amundsen (London : Continuum, c2010), p.180.

December 11, 2011

Monday, 11 December 1911

Scott

The Beardmore Glacier, discovered by Shackleton on his Nimrod expedition in 1908. This aerial photograph was taken in 1956. [1]

"[Lt. Evans's team] started quite well," wrote Scott, "but got into difficulties, did just the wrong thing by straining again and again, and so, tiring themselves, went from bad to worse. Their ski shoes, too, are out of trim. Just as I thought we were in for making a great score, this difficulty overtakes us -- it is dreadfully trying. The snow around us to-night is terribly soft, one sinks to the knee at every step; it would be impossible to drag sledges on foot and very difficult for dogs. Ski are the thing, and here are my tiresome fellow-countrymen too prejudiced to have prepared themselves for the event." [2]

Wright, with Atkinson and Lashly on Lt. Evans's team, wrote somewhat testily in his diary, "Scott came back to wonder why we were behind the other teams. I was in front with Evans and had found one could do better by pulling at an angle of about 15° to the side and thus get a grip on the surface without my ski sliding back. Scott then said to Birdie, 'See that's the way to do it,' to which Birdie unthinkingly replied, 'Yes, but look at the loss of pull due to the angle.' I felt like reminding Birdie that the cosine at 15° would not lose more than 1 per cent effort of the straight pull.... However I kept my peace, for conditions were then at their worst and any argument ... should be avoided." [3]

The camp at Lower Glacier Depot, 11th December, 1911, photographed by Scott. [4]

In the afternoon, Meares and Dimitri finally turned for home with the dog teams. "They have done splendidly," Cherry wrote in his diary. "It looks as if Amundsen may have hit off the right thing." [5]

"The dogs should get back quite easily," Scott added, "there is food all along the line." There were in fact only two depots between the foot of the Beardmore and 80° (to Amundsen's seven), the Mid-Barrier depot and One Ton, 120 miles apart.

The dogs were supposed to have turned back two days earlier. In order to provide Meares with two days' more food, everyone else in the party gave up one biscuit daily, almost five percent of an already-low ration. [6]


Amundsen

At 89° 15', they started now to go downhill, sinking gently from the summit.

"[The] same fine terrain and going," Amundsen wrote in his diary. [7] In sunshine and clear skies, the men had done seventeen miles instead of their stipulated fifteen.

"The Pole is in sight," Bjaaland wrote. "Hope and pray to my God that the weather may continue fine. I whipped the dogs on to keep level with Helmer Hanssen's." [8]

With the goal fast approaching, nerves were tight. Hassel found Amundsen "distant and cantankerous", writing in his diary, "One would think the man has a screw loose. He has many times in the last few days actually initiated quarrels, an extraordinary stand to take for a Governor and leader for whom peace and good camaraderie should be the main target." [9]

In King Edward VII Land, Prestrud's Eastern Party had their first day of real sunshine. "At our midday rest we found ourselves abreast of the bay, where, on the outward journey, we had laid down our depot of seals' flesh. I had intended to turn aside to the depot and replenish our supply of meat as a precaution, but Johansen suggested leaving out this detour and going straight on. We might thereby run the risk of having to go on short rations; but Johansen thought it a greater risk to cross the treacherous ground about the bay, and, after some deliberation, I saw he was right. It was better to go on while we were about it." [10]


Notes:

[1] Wikipedia.
[2] R.F. Scott, diary, 11 December, 1911, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition : the Journals, v.1.
[3] Charles Wright, diary, 11 December, 1911, quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.472.
[4] Henry Fountain, "Antarctic Odyssey, Through the Eyes of a Polar Pioneer", New York Times, October 17, 2011.
[5] Apsley Cherry-Garrard, diary, 11 December 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.465.
[6] R.F. Scott, diary, 11 December, 1911, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition : the Journals, v.1.
[7] Roald Amundsen, diary, 12 December ,1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.484.
[8] Olav Bjaaland, diary, 12 December, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.484.
[9] Sverre Hassel, diary, [12 December, 1911], quoted by Tor Bomann-Larsen in Roald Amundsen (Stroud, Gloucestershire : Sutton, c2006, c1995), p.108.
[10] Kristian Prestrud, "The Eastern Sledge Journey", in Roald Amundsen's The South Pole, ch.15. Note that the date is given as 12th December; see Hinks' note on dates in "The Observations of Amundsen and Scott at the South Pole" (The Geographical Journal, April 1944, p.169).