November 27, 2012

Wednesday, 27 November 1912


The search party arrived at Hut Point to find Campbell already there. "At long last there's something cheerful to record," wrote Gran in his diary. [1]


[1] Tryggve Gran, diary, 27 November, 1912, quoted in The Norwegian With Scott : Tryggve Gran's Antarctic Diary 1910-1913 (National Maritime Museum, 1984), p.221.

November 26, 2012

Monday, 26 November 1912

Hooper and Abdullah at Cape Evans, 1912. [1]

The search party arrived at Safety Camp. "Since 'lunch' at midnight," Gran wrote in his diary, "Wright, Nelson, and I have hauled 'Abdullah's' sledge. The animal was exhausted and simply couldn't get on at all." [2]


[1] Scott Polar Research Institute.
[2] Tryggve Gran, diary, 26 November, 1912, quoted in The Norwegian With Scott : Tryggve Gran's Antarctic Diary 1910-1913 (National Maritime Museum, 1984), p.221.

November 17, 2012

Sunday, 17 November 1912


For the return to Hut Point, Gran put on Scott's skis: "they at any rate will complete the 3,000-km trail," he wrote in his diary. [2] They hurried back, for (to their knowledge) there was still no news of Campbell and his men.


[1] Tryggve Gran, diary, 17 November, 1912, quoted in The Norwegian With Scott : Tryggve Gran's Antarctic Diary 1910-1913 (National Maritime Museum, 1984), p.218. A film clip of Gran in 1962 recalling the finding of Scott is posted at

November 15, 2012

Friday, 15 November 1912


A commemorative card with an illustration of Oates's memorial, 1913. [1]

The search party went on to look for Oates, but found only his sleeping bag a few miles away. They put up another cairn and cross, which was marked "Hereabouts died a very gallant gentleman, Capt. L.E.G. Oates, of the Inniskilling Dragoons."

Amundsen's letter to King Haakon, left at Polheim 17th December 1911, and collected by Scott a month later. [2]

Back at what Williamson called "Sorrowful Camp", he and Gran found by chance a bag containing Amundsen's letter to King Haakon, among the debris on Scott's sledge.

Cherry, knowing now that Scott and his party had been only sixty miles away when he and Dimitri had waited for them at One Ton, was haunted by self-recrimination. "If only we had travelled for a day and a half," he wrote in his diary, "we might have left some food and oil on one of the cairns, hoping that they would see it.... It will always to the end of my life be a great sorrow to me that we did not do this." [3]


One of Amundsen's receptions, at an unidentified location. [4]

Amundsen lectured on his attainment of the South Pole at the Queen's Hall, London. Kathleen Scott was present; his photographs, she thought, "were very poor, & many of them faked -- painted etc." [5] (In the days before colour photography, prints and lantern slides were frequently touched up by hand.)

A Bristol schoolgirl who also attended one of Amundsen's lectures wrote in her diary, "Amundsen had a simply killing Norwegian accent. And we had to consentrate [sic] for all we were worth to be able to understand what he said. [The slides were] mostly coloured and simply lovely.... Amundsen told us that many people asked what was the use of trying to get to the S. Pole etc. The man said with the utmost scorn, 'Little minds have only room for thoughts of bread & butter.'" [6]


[1] Dundee Heritage Trust.
[2] Source unknown.
[3] Apsley Cherry-Garrard, diary, 15 November, 1912, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.556.
[4] Roald Amundsen Bildearkiv, Nasjonalbiblioteket.
[5] Kathleen Scott, [source not given] quoted by Roland Huntford in The Amundsen Photographs (London : Hodder & Stoughton, c1987), p.8. In Mrs Scott's defence, it is difficult at times not to compare Ponting's brilliant photographs with the rather indifferent ones from Amundsen's expedition.
[6] Quoted by Roland Huntford in The Amundsen Photographs (London : Hodder & Stoughton, c1987), p.7.

November 13, 2012

Wednesday, 13 November 1912


"Hour after hour, so it seemed to me," Cherry wrote later, "Atkinson sat in our tent and read. The finder was to read the diary and then it was to be brought home -- these were Scott's instructions written on the cover. But Atkinson said he was only going to read sufficient to know what had happened -- and after that they were brought home unopened and unread. When he had the outline we all gathered together and he read to us the Message to the Public, and the account of Oates' death, which Scott had expressly wished to be known." [1]

"Of their sufferings hardship and devotion to one another the world will soon know," wrote Williamson, "the deeds that were done were equally as great as any committed on Battlefield and the respect and honour of every true Britisher." [2]

But, wrote Gran in his diary, "I cannot rid myself of the thought that we ought to have been able to save Scott. Perhaps we might have succeeded if Cherry could have navigated. My companions are too phlegmatic. It is sometimes a good thing to raise Hell. Perhaps Scott himself is most to blame. He did not want to risk others' lives to save his own. But I wonder if he didn't also think that if Shackleton managed to come back without help, so could he -- and so he could, if it had been Our Lord's intention .... Atkinson was too much the calm, conservative doctor. He is capable, but too unimaginative. Ah yes, it is sad indeed." [3]

"The question of what we might have done for them with the dog teams is terribly on my mind," wrote Cherry, "but we obeyed instructions, and did our very utmost -- up to breaking down ourselves -- and I know that we did our best. To have found that they were here when we were at One Ton could have been most terrible -- but they did not get here till 11 days after we had to leave: & we could not have waited longer." He added, "It is all too horrible -- I am almost afraid to go to sleep now." [1]


[1] Apsley Cherry-Garrard, The Worst Journey in the World, ch.14.
[2] Thomas Williamson, diary, [date not given], quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.556.
[3] Tryggve Gran, diary, [13 November, 1912?], quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.555.
[4] Apsley Cherry-Garrard, diary, 12-13 November 1912, Scott Polar Research Institute.

November 12, 2012

Tuesday, 12 November 1912


The cairn, November 1912. [1]

Early in the morning, about ten miles south of One Ton Depot, they saw in the distance what they thought was a cairn. Wright, going over to investigate, saw that it was a tent that had been drifted up.

Wright later wrote, "I had been plugging away along my chosen course when I saw a small object projecting above the surface on the starboard bow, but carried on the chosen course until we were nearly abreast of this object.... I decided [it] had better be investigated more closely, but did not expect if was of great interest.... It was the 6 inches or so tip of a tent and was a great shock.... I tried to signal my party to stop and come up to me, but my alphabetical signals could not be read by the navy and I considered it would be a sort of sacrilege to make a noise. I felt much as if I were in a cathedral and found myself with my hat on." [2]

He went out to meet the rest of the advance party, waiting until Atkinson and Cherry could arrive.

"Wright came across to us," Cherry wrote afterwards. "'It is the tent.' I do not know how he knew. Just a waste of snow: to our right the remains of one of last year's cairns, a mere mound: and then three feet of bamboo sticking quite alone out of the snow: and then another mound, of snow, perhaps a trifle more pointed. We walked up to it. I do not think we quite realized -- not for very long -- but some one reached up to a projection of snow, and brushed it away. The green flap of the ventilator of the tent appeared, and we knew that the door was below." [3]

"I must own I shed a few tears," wrote Williamson, "and I know the others did the same, it came as a great shock to us all, although we knew full well for months past that we should meet with this sort of thing everyone seemed dumfounded [sic] we did not touch anything but just stood gazing and wondering what awful secrets the tent held for us." [4]

Two of the men went into the tent, but they could see little as the drift around it obscured the light, until they dug it out.

"Everything was tidy," wrote Cherry later. "The tent had been pitched as well as ever, with the door facing down the sastrugi, the bamboos with a good spread, the tent itself taut and shipshape. There was no snow inside the inner lining. There were some loose pannikins from the cooker, the ordinary tent gear, the personal belongings and a few more letters and records -- personal and scientific. Near Scott was a lamp formed from a tin and some lamp wick off a finnesko. It had been used to burn the little methylated spirit which remained. I think that Scott had used it to help him to write up to the end. I feel sure that he had died last -- and once I had thought that he would not go so far as some of the others. We never realized how strong that man was, mentally and physically, until now."

After ordering camp to be made a little ways off, Atkinson then opened the tent and, before anything was removed, insisted on each of them going in one by one, so that there could be no disagreement over what was found.

"Captain Scott lay in the middle, half out of his sleeping bag," Gran wrote, "Bowers on his right, and Wilson on his left but twisted round with his head and upper body up against the tent pole. Wilson and Bowers were right inside their sleeping bags. The cold had turned their skin yellow and glassy, and there were masses of marks of frost-bite. Scott seemed to have fought hard at the moment of death, but the others gave the impression of having passed away in their sleep." [5]

"I did not go over for quite a good time," Williamson wrote, "for fear I could not look on this most pityable [sic] scene, but when at last I made up my mind I saw a most ghastly sight, those sleeping bags with frozen bodies in them the one in the middle I recognized as Capt. Scott ... the other two bodies I did not see, nor did I care to see them poor fellows." [6]

When they had finished, Atkinson took out the watches and documents, and the tent was collapsed over the bodies and a cairn built, topped by Gran's skis tied into a cross. Atkinson read the burial service.

"We never moved them," wrote Cherry. "We took the bamboos of the tent away, and the tent itself covered them. And over them we built the cairn. I do not know how long we were there, but when all was finished, and the chapter of Corinthians had been read, it was midnight of some day. The sun was dipping low above the Pole, the Barrier was almost in shadow. And the sky was blazing -- sheets and sheets of iridescent clouds. The cairn and Cross stood dark against a glory of burnished gold."

"It was a truly solemn moment," Gran wrote. "It was moving to witness 11 weather-beaten men standing with bared heads singing. The sun flamed through threatening storm-clouds, and strange colours played over the icy desert. Driving snow whirled up around us and, when the hymns came to an end, a white mantle had already covered the dead." [7]


[1] Scott Polar Research Institute.
[2] Charles S. Wright, Silas : the Antarctic Diaries and Memoir of Charles S. Wright (Columbus : Ohio University, 1993), quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.509.
[3] Apsley Cherry-Garrard, The Worst Journey in the World, ch.14.
[4] Thomas Williamson, diary, 12 November, 1912, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.554.
[5] Tryggve Gran, diary, 12 November, 1912, quoted in The Norwegian With Scott : Tryggve Gran's Antarctic Diary 1910-1913 (National Maritime Museum, 1984), p.216.
[6] Thomas Williamson, diary, 12 November, 1912, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.554.
[7] Tryggve Gran, diary, 12 November, 1912, quoted in The Norwegian With Scott : Tryggve Gran's Antarctic Diary 1910-1913 (National Maritime Museum, 1984), p.217.

November 7, 2012

Thursday, 7 November 1912


The Northern Party upon their return, 1912. From left, Abbott, Campbell, Dickason, Priestley, Levick, and Browning.[1]

After a brief stop at the Discovery Hut -- where they found Atkinson's note for Pennell to the effect that "Wright and 8 men with the mules which the ship brought this year, and Atkinson with Dimitri and Cherry-Garrard, have gone off to search for the bodies" [2] -- Campbell and his Northern Party arrived back at Cape Evans. Debenham and Archer were the only ones there.

Despite often-horrible conditions on the journey, they had even -- heroically -- managed to collect geological specimens depoted by Edgworth David during the first half of his 1908-09 journey along the same route.

They had been gone 304 days.

"Campbell reached Hut Point only five days after we left it with the dog-teams," wrote Cherry later. "A characteristic note left to greet us on our return regretted they were too late to take part in the Search Journey. If I had lived through ten months such as those men had just endured, wild horses would not have dragged me out sledging again. But they were keen to get some useful work done in the time which remained until the ship arrived." [3]


[1] Scott Polar Research Institute. The photograph is catalogued by SPRI in the Levick Collection; it may therefore have been taken by Levick himself, at Hut Point.
[2] Quoted by Katherine Lambert in The Longest Winter (Washington DC : Smithsonian Books, c2004), p.183.
[3] Apsley Cherry-Garrard, The Worst Journey in the World, ch.19.

October 29, 2012

Tuesday, 29 October 1912


Mules ready to start, 29th October 1912, photographed probably by Debenham. [1]

The search party started out from Cape Evans, twelve men with dogs and the seven Indian Army Himalayan mules. They kept as close to the old route as possible.

They had discussed during the winter the courses available to them: to go south in search of Scott and the Polar party, or west to relieve Campbell and the Northern Party. It was thought that the ice would not be strong enough to reach Campbell, who might, they thought, have already been picked up by the Terra Nova anyway.


[1] Scott Polar Research Institute.

October 8, 2012

Tuesday, 8 October 1912


Kathleen Scott with her son Peter. [1]

Still waiting at home for news, Kathleen Scott, perhaps somewhat defensively, perhaps not, kept writing boundlessly optimistic letters to her husband in the Antarctic.

"174 Buckingham Palace Road
October 8 1912

"To think that you will get this in quite a reasonably few months! Last night I had a party! To show your films at the tiny theatre of the Gaumont Co, very elect indeed!!! It houses 24 people & I'll tell you who they were, & will you please say I'm a good wife!

"There was Lord Curzon & Prince Louis of Battenberg & his princess & his son, & Sir Francis and Lady Bridgeman & Sir George & Lady Egerton & Mrs McKenna (an excitement in the House of Commons prevented Mr McKenna & Winston Churchill coming, the latter sent a nice telegram) and Sir Henry Clissold & Gertrude Bell & Leonard Darwin & Mr Longstaff & Willy and Ettie & the Baroness Erlenger & Sir Henry Galway & Admiral Parry Cust and Mr Newell and Peter!!

"Don't you think that was a nice party, & everybody was so thrilled. They are the most wonderful thing I ever saw, the ones in the tent are so splendid. Sir George Egerton was so excited he could scarcely contain himself, & Prince Louis hopped about & asked questions. I got Ponting to come & introduced him to everyone & made a great fuss of him & was ever so elated.

"It really was lovely, & Peter was so adorable & sensible. He said 'The motor sledge' -- can't imagine how he knew. It is the first time in his life he has been up after 6.30 & he was out till 11.30 & this morning looks fitter than ever, apparently he is like his mother & thrives on dissipation!

"I'm going to have another little show on Sat. afternoon, the Gaumont people love it & I think it does good. They are so wonderful.

"Lambie dear, there's another thing I want to impress upon you -- I don't know whether you have just heard the Amundsen news or whether you learnt it at the Pole (neither bear thinking of) but I want to tell you with six months knowledge of it upon one that it matters very very little -- so far less than one thought at first -- indeed in some respects it has done good for it has laid great stress on the differences of the two ventures & the greater scientific importance of yours is percolating in to the public mind in a manner it never would have done had not contrast been shown -- upon my word I don't think it has made a scrap of difference. I couldn't have believed it would matter so little.

"Of course everybody says he didn't play the game, but I can make myself see another point of view -- If a man is doing anything that only one man can do -- be the first man to invent anything, first man to find gold, first man to perform some long thought of operation etc etc galore. Anything wherein the main shout is in being first he does not perhaps apprise all the people working along the same lines as his progress and intents, and yet no one thinks his gains ill gotten -- It is only a point of view.

"Oh my darling how I love you and long to talk with you and know that you are content. You're not going to let the little Amundsen pinprick (upon my word it's no more) worry you, are you? It looked huge when it first met the eye and has now dwindled into nothing.

"You are loved and respected in England in a way that makes me very happy. To see your little face in the Cinematograph last night, almost like a stranger after all these years, and your dear toes when you took off your socks then to feel that in a few short months --!

"Don't ever be sad, my darling, life is ever so glorious. I'm so happy everybody is so nice to me for your sake I like to know and our little home's so nice and my work prospers and I'm so well and Peter so magnificent & you're coming home to us." [2]


[1] Source unknown.
[2] "Kathleen Scott's last letter to her husband",, 15 January, 2007.

September 30, 2012

Monday, 30 September 1912


Looking out over Inexpressible Island, photographed by M. Murphy in January 2006. [1]

Campbell's Northern Party set off at last from Inexpressible Island. Campbell had wanted to leave a week earlier, while Levick and Priestley argued for a week later: the weather was likely to be bad, with low temperatures and the Cape's infamous winds either way. All of them were suffering from the effects of poor nutrition and a recent bout of diarrhea; Browning was especially poorly.

Their progress the first week was a mere 32 miles, although during the second they managed 68, steering blind at times in the heavy drift. They did not know, either, if they would find anyone there to greet them at Cape Evans. They did, though, allow themselves the fullest sledging rations possible under the circumstances: a mug of cocoa each, three biscuits, one stick of chocolate, eight lumps of sugar, and a little pemmican to add to the meat-and-blubber hoosh per man daily.


[1] Wikimedia Commons.

September 8, 2012

September 1912


Gustav Amundsen's copy of his brother's book, with the inscription in Norwegian, "Gustav from Roald. 24.12.14." [1]

Norwegian public opinion of Amundsen's achievement was uneasy, despite the flags and headlines. "We are glad," wrote one newspaper, "that Roald Amundsen chose a new route to the South Pole, so that he avoided going directly in Scott's path. The English had the exclusive right to the route from McMurdo Sound. That was their opinion at any rate." [2] Helland-Hansen wrote to Nansen that he could not understand "why people don't show more pleasure than they do." [3]

The general mood in Britain seemed to be that Amundsen had made it all look too easy. Scott's report, sent back with the Terra Nova in April, gave, thought a Christiana newspaper, "the impression that terrain and weather were much worse [than] Amundsen's. This can hardly be the case. From Amundsen's acount, one can see, for example, that he was forced to lie still for four days in a snow storm. But he considers it as something that belongs to such a journey -- it's 'all in the day's work', and he doesn't make a fuss about it" [4] but the British seemed to see it as Scott's bad luck, rather than Amundsen's well-laid plans and matter-of-fact execution of them.

Nansen, who supported Amundsen completely, was so annoyed that he wrote in the introduction to Amundsen's book, published in the autumn of 1912, "Let no one come and prate about luck and chance. Amundsen’s luck is that of the strong man who looks ahead." [5]


[1] Christie's, Sale 7261, "Exploration and Travel with the Polar Sale Including The Amundsen Collection", 27 September 2006, London.
[2] Norges Handels- og Sjøfartstidende, 9 March 1912, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.547.
[3] Bjørn Helland-Hansen, letter to Fridtjof Nansen, date not given, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.547.
[4] Morgenbladet, 2 April 1912, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.549.
[5] Fridtjof Nansen, quoted in Roald Amundsen's The South Pole.

July 2, 2012

Tuesday, 2 July 1912


Bjaaland and the others arrived in Bergen. Asked by the press about Scott, "[they] had little wish to make any comments, but they were all agreed that Scott had reached the Pole. On the other hand, they could not avoid the fear that he had not reached his main depot on the way back. In their view, winter had stopped him." [1]

"Scurvy, in their view," it was reported, "could also be a dangerous enemy. They would be extremely sorry if anything were to happen to him."


[1] Bergens Tidende, 2 July, 1912, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.553.

July 1, 2012

Winter 1912


At Cape Evans, there remained thirteen men, instead of the previous year's twenty-seven. Atkinson was in charge, with Cherry-Garrard, Wright, Debenham, Gran, Nelson, Lashly, Crean, Keohane, Dimitri, and Hooper. Williamson and Archer (the cook) had been landed from the ship.

"Everyone had got respect for him," Gran wrote of Atkinson later. "His wonderful qualities of leadership soon appeared in the winter hibernation at Cape Evans. He never gave orders -- only expressed wishes -- and more was not needed." [1]

In addition to being in command, Cherry wrote later, Atch and Dimitri "took over the care of the dogs. Many of these, both those which had been out sledging and those just arrived, were in a very poor state, and a dog hospital was soon built. At this date we had 24 dogs left from the last year, and 11 dogs brought down recently by the ship: three of the new dogs had already died. Lashly was in charge of the seven mules, which were allotted to seven men for exercise: Nelson was to continue his marine biological work: Wright was to be meteorologist as well as chemist and physicist: Gran was in charge of stores, and would help Wright in the meteorological observations: Debenham was geologist and photographer. I was ordered to take a long rest, but could do the zoological work, the South Polar Times, and keep the Official Account of the Expedition from day to day. Crean was in charge of sledging stores and equipment. Archer was cook. Hooper, our domestic, took over in addition the working of the acetylene plant. There was plenty of work for our other two seamen, Keohane and Williamson, in the daily life of the camp and in preparations for the sledging season to come." [2]


[1] Tryggve Gran, Kampen om Sydpolen, p.192, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.554.
[2] Apsley Cherry-Garrard, The Worst Journey in the World, ch.XIV.

June 20, 2012

June 1912

"Afterguard dinner mid-winter 1912", photo by Debenham, June 1912. From left, Cherry, Silas Wright, Atkinson, Nelson, and Gran. [1]

Atkinson's quiet leadership held together those waiting out the winter at Cape Evans. Lectures were given -- "but not as many as during the previous winter when they became rather excessive: and we included outside subjects," noted Cherry, who spoke once on rowing and later on Florence under the Medici -- a second edition of the expedition's South Polar Times was produced, and scientific experiments continued, and Oates's Indian mules occupied much of the men's time. [2]

"This winter is passing a lot better than I thought it would under the circumstances," Keohane wrote. "It is no doubt owing to our skelleywag board everybody is very keen on winning." [3]

"We usually wear our underclothing about a month," noted Williamson. "Now that we have run out of soap we shall be obliged to wear them much longer periods." [4]

But there was no escaping the sight of the empty bunks. "Cherry was his usual cheerful self," Silas remembered later, "but rather subdued by the loss of his two greatest friends." [5] Cherry himself wrote afterwards that it was at times "a ghastly experience." "The scenery has lost much of its beauty to us," wrote Deb, "the auroras are cheap and the cold rather colder." [6]


[1] Scott Polar Research Institute.
[2] Apsley Cherry-Garrard, in The Worst Journey in the World, ch.14.
[3] Patrick Keohane, diary, 21 July 1912, quoted by Sara Wheeler in Cherry : a Life of Apsley Cherry-Garrard (New York : Modern Library, 2003, c2001), p.139.
[4] Thomas Williamson, diary, 11 July 1912, quoted by Sara Wheeler in Cherry : a Life of Apsley Cherry-Garrard (New York : Modern Library, 2003, c2001), p.139.
[5] Charles S. Wright, in Silas : the Antarctic Diaries and Memoir of Charles S. Wright (p.300), quoted by Sara Wheeler in Cherry : a Life of Apsley Cherry-Garrard (New York : Modern Library, 2003, c2001), p.140.
[6] Frank Debenham, in The Quiet Land : the Antarctic Diaries of Frank Debenham (p.143), quoted by Sara Wheeler in Cherry : a Life of Apsley Cherry-Garrard (New York : Modern Library, 2003, c2001), p.140.

June 16, 2012

Sunday, 16 June 1912


Amundsen holed up in one of his patron Don Pedro's estancias to write his book on the South Pole expedition. The Fram's departure for the Arctic was postponed due to lack of funds, and most of the crew made their own ways home by liner. Amundsen had not been able to afford to give them pocket money. "Broke and miserable," Bjaaland wrote at sea. "God knows when I shall have money as becomes a man." [1]


[1] Olav Bjaaland, diary, 16 June, 1912, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.553.

May 31, 2012

Friday, 31 May 1912


Amundsen arrives in Buenos Aires, May 1912. The man immediately to his right is probably Don Pedro Christophersen. [1]

Having recently arrived in Buenos Aires after his lecture tour in Australia, Amundsen met Don Pedro Christophersen for the first time, and the Norwegian community in Buenos Aires gave a banquet for Amundsen and the crew of the Fram. Amundsen presented Christophersen with a large photograph of the mountain he had named after his patron, and made a speech.

He admitted, Hassel wrote of the speech, that "he was an unpleasant man to work with. He's right about that. At the same time, it is remarkable how a frank admission of a fault helps to appease the resentment it causes. Amundsen spoke well. All of it was apparently improvised." [1]


[1] Roald Amundsen Bildearkiv, Nasjonalbiblioteket.
[2] Sverre Hassel, diary, [31 May?, 1912], in Dagboksnotater fra Sydpolen, (Skien: Vågemots miniforlag, 1997), p.13.

May 1, 2012

Wednesday, 1 May 1912


Atkinson, Cherry, and Dimitri left for Cape Evans. The weather was very bad, making hard pulling for the dogs, and the sun had gone for the winter a few days earlier. "As we neared the Cape," Cherry wrote later, "Atkinson turned to me: 'Would you go for Campbell or the Polar Party next year?' he said. 'Campbell,' I answered: just then it seemed to me unthinkable that we should leave live men to search for those who were dead." [1]


[1] Apsley Cherry-Garrard, The Worst Journey in the World, ch.XIII.

April 17, 2012

Wednesday, 17 April 1912


Atkinson, Wright, Keohane, and Williamson set out from Cape Evans to try and relieve Campbell's stranded Northern Party, but the break-up of the ice at Butter Point prevented them. They left a depot of a week's provisions and returned to Hut Point six days later.

Between 18th March (when they decided that the ship was not coming) and 31st July, Levick recorded, the six men of the Northern Party had the following daily ration: "Morning: 1 1/2 pints of hoosh [made of seal and/or penguin meat and blubber], 1 1/2 biscuits. Evening: 1 1/2 points of hoosh, 1 spoonful cocoa in 1/2 pint of water. Excepting: Sunday 1 spoonful tea instead of cocoa, Monday, the same tea [leaves] reboiled." Every Sunday they allowed themselves ten lumps of sugar, every Saturday 1 stick (1/2 ounce) of chocolate, and every other Wednesday, 1/2 ounce of chocolate. On the last day of each month, they had ten raisins apiece, 25 on birthdays. [1] Such a meagre diet inevitably played havoc with their gastrointestinal health, although the fresh meat probably saved them from getting scurvy.


[1] George Murray Levick, quoted by Katherine Lambert in The Longest Winter (Washington DC : Smithsonian Books, c2004), p.139-140. Four of the six men had birthdays during those months in the igloo. Campbell noted dryly, "I can see that one of Priestley's difficulties [as stores-keeper] in the future is going to be preventing each man from having a birthday once a month" [Lambert, p.153].

April 4, 2012

Thursday, 4 April 1912


Cherry, beginning what would turn out to be years of personal struggle to come to terms with his grief at the loss of his friends and Captain Scott, replayed in his diary the last few hours before he had turned back at the top of the Beardmore that day in December, leaving the Polar party to go on.

"Atch tells me that Bill discussed the health of those going on with him the last morning on the top. Titus they agreed on as being very done: Bill said Scott was keen on his going on, he wanted the Army represented, but Atch who went to see Titus in his tent did not think T. wanted to go on, though he (T.) did not actually say so. He thinks Titus knew he was done -- his face showed him to be so, & the way he went along. Birdie & Evans they also agreed on as being done. This has been confirmed. Lashley told Atch that they both looked very bad on the Plateau. Bill thought Crean was also, but Atch did not agree."


[1] Apsley Cherry-Garrard, diary, 4 April 1912, Scott Polar Research Institute.

April 2, 2012

Tuesday, 2 April 1912


Cape Evans from Arrival Heights, the view the men at Hut Point had. [1]

"We have got to face it now," Cherry wrote miserably in his diary at Hut Point, "the Pole Party will not in all probability ever get back. And there is no more that we can do. The next step must be to get to C. Evans as soon as it is possible, & there are fresh men there at any rate fresh compared to us." [2]


Scott, the Norwegian press thought from reports brought back by the Terra Nova, "[gives] the impression that terrain and weather were much worse [than] Amundsen's. This can hardly be the case. From Amundsen's account, one can see, for example, that he was forced to lie still for four days in a snow storm. But he considers it as something that belongs to such a journey -- it's 'all in the day's work' -- and he doesn't make a fuss about it." [3]

The British press remained obdurate in their dislike of Amundsen. Scott's message sent back with Lt. Evans, that "I am remaining in the Antarctic for another winter in order to continue and complete my work," "suffices to tell the country that ... there has been no ... 'race' to the Pole.... Captain Scott ... was not lent by the Admiralty to take part in a Marathon race. There are questions of the utmost scientific importance to which he is seeking the answer.... The message is one of which Captain Scott's countrymen may be prouder than if he had been able to announce that he had arrived at the South Pole slightly in advance of Amundsen." [4]


[1] Apsley Cherry-Garrard, The Worst Journey in the World, ch.XIII.
[2] Apsley Cherry-Garrard, diary, 2 April, 1912, Scott Polar Research Institute.
[3] Morgenbladet, 2 April, 1912, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.549.
[4] The Pall Mall Gazette, 1 April, 1912, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.549.

April 1, 2012

Monday, 1 April 1912


Atkinson and Keohane arrived back at Hut Point.

The Terra Nova arrived in New Zealand. The last news of Scott had come back from the Barrier with Lt. Evans, on 4th January. Evans himself was on board, sent home to recuperate. Also on the ship were Simpson, Taylor, Ponting, Day, Meares, Forde, Clissold, and Anton.


Among the letters of thanks that Amundsen wrote (his first was to Don Pedro Christophersen), was one to Nansen. "Again and again I have tried to find expression for the thanks I so much want to send you, but in vain. World cannot express it. With your name, you have gone surety for my actions. With your authority you have shamed all the gossiping people into silence. In my heart of hearts I have felt that you wanted to help me, and often, often, it has helped me forwards, when things became difficult."

"Unfortunately my letter does not only bring good news -- I have been compelled to send Johansen ashore. From the start his behaviour on board has been anything but pleasant. during the winter, he refused to obey orders on one occasion, and on that account I was compelled to exclude him from participation in the Southern party. That naturally made things worse. On our arrival here, he got drunk and began to pick quarrels with his shipmates, and obstruct them in their work. To have peace on board, I have therefore been compelled to send him ashore." [1]

Amundsen gave Johansen money for his passage home, and he left Hobart on a cargo boat, arriving in Norway in the middle of June. Amundsen, unable to forgive Johansen's actions in the winter, cabled the president of the Norwegian Geographical Society that Johansen was being sent home because he had committed mutiny, and that he was to be excluded from official celebrations.


[1] Roald Amundsen, letter to Fridtjof Nansen, [date not given], quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.551.

March 30, 2012

Saturday, 30 March 1912


Faced with gales and drift, Atkinson and Keohane decided to turn back. They had collected Lt. Evans's sledge and got to Corner Camp.

"Taking into consideration the weather and temperatures and the time of the year," Atkinson wrote later in his report, "and the hopelessness of finding the party except at any definite point like a depôt, I decided to return from here. We depôted the major portion of a week's provisions to enable them to communicate with Hut Point in case they should reach this point. At this date in my own mind I was morally certain that the party had perished." [1]


[1] Edward Atkinson, quoted in Scott's last expedition, v.2 (GoogleBooks edition), p.211.

March 29, 2012

Friday, 29 March 1912


In his last diary entry, Scott wrote, "Since the 21st we have had a continuous gale from W.S.W. and S.W. We had fuel to make two cups of tea apiece and bare food for two days on the 20th. Every day we have been ready to start for our depot 11 miles away, but outside the door of the tent it remains a scene of whirling drift. I do not think we can hope for any better things now. We shall stick it out to the end, but we are getting weaker, of course, and the end cannot be far."

"It seems a pity, but I do not think I can write more. R. Scott."

"For God's sake look after our people." [1]


[1] R.F. Scott, diary, 29 March, 1912, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.

March 26, 2012

Tuesday, 26 March 1912


Atkinson and Keohane left from Hut Point on a last-ditch effort to reach Scott and the Polar party. Neither of them had driven dogs before, and Atkinson felt that it would be cruel to take the dogs out again so soon after their journey with Cherry and Dimitri, so he and Keohane went on foot.

They knew that Scott's original plan had the Polar party returning around 27th March, and although they tried in this light not to worry, the strain was beginning to tell. The dogs would sing out, and the men would be sure a party was approaching. "Last night we had turned in about two hours," Cherry wrote, "when five or six knocks were hit on the little window over our heads. Atkinson shouted 'Hullo!' and cried, 'Cherry, they're in.' Keohane said, 'Who's cook?' Some one lit a candle and left it in the far corner of the hut to give them light, and we all rushed out. But there was no one there. It was the nearest approach to ghost work that I have ever heard, and it must have been a dog which sleeps in that window. He must have shaken himself, hitting the window with his tail. Atkinson thought he heard footsteps!" [1]


[1] Apsley Cherry-Garrard, diary [26? March, 1912], quoted in his The Worst Journey in the World, ch.XIII.

March 24, 2012

Sunday, 24 March 1912


To Sir Joseph Kinsey, Scott wrote, "March 24th, 1912. My dear Kinsey, I'm afraid we are pretty well done -- four days of blizzard just as we were getting to the last depot. My thoughts have been with you often. You have been a brick. You will pull the expedition through, I'm sure. My thoughts are for my wife and boy. Will you do what you can for them if the country won't. I want the boy to have a good chance in the world, but you know the circumstances well enough."

"If I knew the wife and boy were in safe keeping I should have little regret in leaving the world, for I feel that the country need not be ashamed of us -- our journey has been the biggest on record, and nothing but the most exceptional hard luck at the end would have caused us to fail to return. We have been to the S. pole as we set out. God bless you and dear Mrs. Kinsey. It is good to remember you and your kindness. Your friend, R. Scott." [1]

He also outlined, in a paper titled, "Message to the Public", an outline of his defence of the expedition. "The causes of the disaster are not due to faulty organisation, but to misfortune in all risks which had to be undertaken."

"1. The loss of pony transport in March 1911 obliged me to start later than I had intended, and obliged the limits of stuff transported to be narrowed. 2. The weather throughout the outward journey, and especially the long gale in 83° S., stopped us. 3. The soft snow in lower reaches of glacier again reduced pace."

"We fought these untoward events with a will and conquered, but it cut into our provision reserve."

"Every detail of our food supplies, clothing and depôts made on the interior ice-sheet and over that long stretch of 700 miles to the Pole and back, worked out to perfection. The advance party would have returned to the glacier in fine form and with surplus of food, but for the astonishing failure of the man whom we had least expected to fail. Edgar Evans was thought the strongest man of the party."

"The Beardmore Glacier is not difficult in fine weather, but on our return we did not get a single completely fine day; this with a sick companion enormously increased our anxieties. As I have said elsewhere we got into frightfully rough ice and Edgar Evans received a concussion of the brain -- he died a natural death, but left us a shaken party with the season unduly advanced."

"But all the facts above enumerated were as nothing to the surprise which awaited us on the Barrier. I maintain that our arrangements for returning were quite adequate, and that no one in the world would have expected the temperatures and surfaces which we encountered at this time of the year. On the summit in lat. 85° 86° we had -20°, -30°. On the Barrier in lat. 82°, 10,000 feet lower, we had -30° in the day, -47° at night pretty regularly, with continuous head wind during our day marches. It is clear that these circumstances come on very suddenly, and our wreck is certainly due to this sudden advent of severe weather, which does not seem to have any satisfactory cause. I do not think human beings ever came through such a month as we have come through, and we should have got through in spite of the weather but for the sickening of a second companion, Captain Oates, and a shortage of fuel in our depôts for which I cannot account, and finally, but for the storm which has fallen on us within 11 miles of the depôt at which we hoped to secure our final supplies. Surely misfortune could scarcely have exceeded this last blow. We arrived within 11 miles of our old One Ton Camp with fuel for one last meal and food for two days. For four days we have been unable to leave the tent -- the gale howling about us. We are weak, writing is difficult, but for my own sake I do not regret this journey, which has shown that Englishmen can endure hardships, help one another, and meet death with as great a fortitude as ever in the past. We took risks, we knew we took them; things have come out against us, and therefore we have no cause for complaint, but bow to the will of Providence, determined still to do our best to the last. But if we have been willing to give our lives to this enterprise, which is for the honour of our country, I appeal to our countrymen to see that those who depend on us are properly cared for."

"Had we lived, I should have had a tale to tell of the hardihood, endurance, and courage of my companions which would have stirred the heart of every Englishman. These rough notes and our dead bodies must tell the tale, but surely, surely, a great rich country like ours will see that those who are dependent on us are properly provided for." [2]

To Bowers's mother, Scott wrote, "I am afraid this will reach you after one of the heaviest blows of your life. I write when we are very near the end of our journey, and I am finishing it in company with two gallant, noble gentlemen. One of these is your son. He had come to be one of my closest and soundest friends, and I appreciate his wonderful upright nature, his ability and energy. As the troubles have thickened his dauntless spirit ever shone brighter and he has remained cheerful, hopeful, and indomitable to the end. The ways of Providence are inscrutable, but there must be some reason why such a young, vigorous and promising life is taken. My whole heart goes outin pity for you. Yours, R. Scott. To the end he has talked of you and his sisters. One sees what a happy home he must have had and perhaps it is well to look back on nothing but happiness. He remains unselfish, self-reliant and splendidly hopeful to the end, believing in God's mercy to you."

To Wilson's wife, Scott wrote, "If this letter reaches you Bill and I will have gone out together. We are very near it now and I should like you to know how splendid he was at the end -- everlastingly cheerful and ready to sacrifice himself for others, never a word of blame to me for leading him into this mess. He is not suffering, luckily, at least only minor discomforts."

"His eyes have a comfortable blue look of hope and his mind is peaceful with the satisfaction of his faith in regarding himself as part of the great scheme of the Almighty. I can do no more to comfort you than to tell you that he died as he lived, a brave, true man -- the best of comrades and staunchest of friends. My whole heart goes out to you in pity."

To Kathleen, he wrote in part, "Make the boy interested in natural history if you can; it is better than games; they encourage it at some schools. I know you will keep him in the open air. Above all, he must guard and you must guard him against indolence. Make him a strenuous man. I had to force myself into being strenuous as you know -- had always an inclination to be idle."

"There is a piece of the Union Jack I put up at the South Pole in my private kit bag, together with Amundsen's black flag and other trifles. Send a small piece of the Union Jack to the King and a small piece to Queen Alexandra."

"What lots and lots I could tell you of this journey. How much better has it been than lounging in too great comfort at home. What tales you would have for the boys. But what a price to pay. Tell Sir Clements -- I thought much of him and never regretted him putting me in command of the Discovery." [3]


[1] R.F. Scott, letter to Sir Joseph Kinsey, 24 March, 1912, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.
[2] R.F. Scott, "Message to the Public" (undated, March 1912), quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.
[3] R.F. Scott, letters to unnamed recipients, March 1912), quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.

March 23, 2012

Saturday, 23 March 1912


"Blizzard bad as ever, "Scott wrote in his diary, "Wilson and Bowers unable to start -- to-morrow last chance -- no fuel and only one or two of food left -- must be near the end. Have decided it shall be natural -- we shall march for the depot with or without our effects and die in our tracks." [1]

Scott continued to write letters, among them to Sir Frances Charles Bridgeman, his last naval chief ("I fear we have shipped up; a close shave; I am writing a few letters which I hope will be delivered some day. I want to thank you for the friendship you gave me of late years, and to tell you how extraordinarily pleasant I found it to serve under you. I want to tell you that I was not too old for this job. It was the younger men that went under first… After all we are setting a good example to our countrymen, if not by getting into a tight place, by facing it like men when we were there. We could have come through had we neglected the sick. Good-bye, and good-bye to dear Lady Bridgeman. Excuse writing -- it is -40°, and has been for nigh a month") and to Sir George Le Clearc Egerton, his naval patron ("I fear we have shot our bolt -- but we have been to Pole and done the longest journey on record. I hope these letters may find their destination some day. Subsidiary reasons of our failure to return are due to the sickness of different members of the party, but the real thing that has stopped us is the awful weather and unexpected cold towards the end of the journey. This traverse of the Barrier has been quite three times as severe as any experience we had on the summit. There is no accounting for it, but the result has thrown out my calculations, and here we are little more than 100 miles from the base and petering out. Good-bye. Please see my widow is looked after as far as Admiralty is concerned. My kindest regards to Lady Egerton. I can never forget all your kindness").

To Sir James Barrie, he wrote, "My dear Barrie, We are pegging out in a very comfortless spot. Hoping this letter may be found and sent to you, I write a word of farewell.... More practically I want you to help my widow and my boy -- your godson. We are showing that Englishmen can still die with a bold spirit, fighting it out to the end. It will be known that we have accomplished our object in reaching the Pole, and that we have done everything possible, even to sacrificing ourselves in order to save sick companions. I think this makes an example for Englishmen of the future, and that the country ought to help those who are left behind to mourn us. I leave my poor girl and your godson, Wilson leaves a widow, and Edgar Evans also a widow in humble circumstances. Do what you can to get their claims recognised. Goodbye. I am not at all afraid of the end, but sad to miss many a humble pleasure which I had planned for the future on our long marches. I may not have proved a great explorer, but we have done the greatest march ever made and come very near to great success. Goodbye, my dear friend,

Yours ever,
R. Scott."

He added two postscripts to this letter. "We are in a desperate state, feet frozen, &c. No fuel and a long way from food, but it would do your heart good to be in our tent, to hear our songs and the cheery conversation as to what we will do when we get to Hut Point."

"Later. -- We are very near the end, but have not and will not lose our good cheer. We have four days of storm in our tent and nowhere's food or fuel. We did intend to finish ourselves when things proved like this, but we have decided to die naturally in the track. As a dying man, my dear friend, be good to my wife and child. Give the boy a chance in life if the State won't do it. He ought to have good stuff in him.... I never met a man in my life whom I admired and loved more than you, but I never could show you how much your friendship meant to me, for you had much to give and I nothing." [2]

To his brother-in-law, who managed the family finances, he wrote, "I leave you in the lurch, but without intention as you know.... I left my money, about £2,000 to Mother. Other money ought to come in. See Speyer and talk over Kathleen's rights. You have been a brick." [3]

Bowers wrote a letter to his mother: "My own dearest Mother ... We have had a terrible journey back. Seaman Evans died on the glacier & Oates left us the other day. We have had terribly low temperatures on the Barrier & that & our sick companions have delayed us till too late in the season which has made us very short of fuel & we are now out of food as well. Each depot has been a harder struggle to reach but I am still strong & hope to reach this one with Dr Wilson & get the food & fuel necessary for our lives. God alone knows what will be the outcome of the 23 miles march but my trust is still in Him & the abounding grace of my Lord & Saviour whom you brought me up to trust in & who has been the stay of my life. In His keeping I leave you & am only glad that I am permitted to struggle on to the end. When man's extremity is reached God's help may put things right -- although the end will be painless enough for myself I would so like to come through for your dear sake. It is splendid to pass however with such companions.... Oh how I do feel for you when you hear all. You will know that for me the end was peaceful as it is only sleep in the cold. Your ever loving son to the end of this life & the next where God shall wipe away all tears from our eyes." He added, "My gear that is not in the ship is at Mrs Hatfields, Marine Hotel, Sumner, New Zealand." [4]


[1] R.F. Scott, diary, 22 and 23 March, 1912, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.
[2] R.F. Scott, letters, March, 1912, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.
[3] R.F. Scott, letter to Sir William Ellison-Macartney, [date not given], quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.543.
] H.R. Bowers, letter to his mother, [date not given or not known], quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.544.

March 21, 2012

Thursday, 21 March 1912


"Got within 11 miles of depôt Monday night [at Camp 60]; had to lay up all yesterday in severe blizzard. To-day forlorn hope, Wilson and Bowers going to depot for fuel." [1]

They were ten miles north of the point at which Scott had been urged to take the depot.


Amundsen left Hobart for the mainland to begin a lecture tour of Australia and New Zealand.


[1] R.F. Scott, diary, 21 March, 1912, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition : the Journals, v.1.

March 20, 2012

Wednesday, 20 March 1912


Albert Armitage, who had been Scott's second-in-command on the Discovery expedition, wrote to Nansen, with "heartiest congratulations" on Amundsen's success. "It proves once more the value of practical experience & logical reasoning.... I fear that Scott, with his dislike for Ski, to say nothing else, will find great difficulty in reaching his goal.... I see that Amundsen intends making the Bering Sea passage across the North Pole, and I sincerely hope that he will be as fully successful as in the South." [1]

The Fram left Hobart for Buenos Aires to be refitted for the Arctic drift, set to begin in 1913.


[1] Albert Armitage, letter to Fridtjof Nansen, 20 March, 1912, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.542.

March 19, 2012

Tuesday, 19 March 1912


"Sledge dreadfully heavy," Scott wrote tersely. "We are 15 1/2 miles from the depot and ought to get there in three days. What progress! We have two days' food but barely a day's fuel. All our feet are getting bad -- Wilson's best, my right foot worst, left all right. There is no chance to nurse one's feet till we can get hot food into us. Amputation is the least I can hope for now, but will the trouble spread?" [1]


[1] R.F. Scott, diary, 19 March, 1912, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.

March 18, 2012

Monday, 18 March 1912


"My right foot has gone," Scott wrote, "nearly all the toes -- two days ago I was proud possessor of best feet. These are the steps of my downfall. Like an ass I mixed a small spoonful of curry powder with my melted pemmican -- it gave me violent indigestion. I lay awake and in pain all night; woke and felt done on the march; foot went and I didn't know it. A very small measure of neglect and have a foot which is not pleasant to contemplate. Bowers takes first place in condition, but there is not much to choose after all. The others are still confident of getting through -- or pretend to be -- I don't know! We have the last half fill of oil in our primus and a very small quantity of spirit -- this alone between us and thirst. The wind is fair for the moment, and that is perhaps a fact to help. The mileage would have seemed ridiculously small on our outward journey." [1]


Publisher William Heinemann, writing to Nansen, thought that Amundsen's story in The Daily Chronicle was dull. "I am disappointed with the want of imagination he displays ... in even so thrilling a thing as his achievement.... I cannot help feeling that however great Amundsen's feat is, he is not likely to write a good book." [2]


[1] R.F. Scott, diary, 18 March, 1912, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.
[2] William Heinemann, letter to Fridtjof Nansen, 18 March, 1912, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.552.

March 17, 2012

Sunday, 17 March 1912


"Lost track of dates, but think the last correct," Scott wrote. "Tragedy all along the line. At lunch, the day before yesterday, poor Titus Oates said he couldn't go on; he proposed we should leave him in his sleeping-bag. That we could not do, and induced him to come on, on the afternoon march. In spite of its awful nature for him he struggled on and we made a few miles. At night he was worse and we knew the end had come."

"Should this be found I want these facts recorded. Oates' last thoughts were of his Mother, but immediately before he took pride in thinking that his regiment would be pleased with the bold way in which he met his death. We can testify to his bravery. He has borne intense suffering for weeks without complaint, and to the very last was able and willing to discuss outside subjects. He did not -- would not -- give up hope to the very end. He was a brave soul. This was the end. He slept through the night before last, hoping not to wake; but he woke in the morning -- yesterday. It was blowing a blizzard. He said, 'I am just going outside and may be some time.' He went out into the blizzard and we have not seen him since." [1]

"I can only write at lunch and then only occasionally. The cold is intense, -40° at midday. My companions are unendingly cheerful, but we are all on the verge of serious frostbites, and though we constantly talk of fetching through I don't think anyone of us believes it in his heart."

"We are cold on the march now, and at all times except meals. Yesterday we had to lay up for a blizzard and to-day we move dreadfully slowly. We are at No. 14 pony camp, only two pony marches from One Ton Depôt. We leave here our theodolite, a camera, and Oates' sleeping-bags. Diaries, &c., and geological specimens carried at Wilson's special request, will be found with us or on our sledge."

On the return from One Ton, Dimitri had begun complaining that he was feeling ill, with first a headache, then a bad right arm and side so that he could hardly work. Back at Hut Point, he recovered almost immediately upon their arrival, to the astonishment of Cherry, who was on the verge of a nervous breakdown himself, from worry over Scott and especially his own companions on the Winter Journey, Wilson and Bowers. "Dimitri is quite well. It is sad that he has really been shamming ill," Cherry wrote bitterly in his diary, "it has made the last journey very bad & it is all rather disgraceful. He just hasn't got the guts." [2]


[1] R.F. Scott, diary, 16 or 17 March, 1912, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1. It is not completely clear why, if in fact Oates did say something before he left the tent, Wilson did not relay these last words to Mrs Oates.
[2] Apsley Cherry-Garrard, diary, 17 March 1912. Scott Polar Research Institute.

March 16, 2012

Saturday, 16 March 1912


Scott, realising by now that there was little hope for them, began to write letters, one of the earliest to Sir Edgar Speyer, the expedition's treasurer.

"Dated March 16, 1912. Lat. 79.5°.

"I hope this may reach you. I fear we must go and that it leaves the Expedition in a bad muddle. But we have been to the Pole and we shall die like gentlemen. I regret only for the women we leave behind.

I thank you a thousand times for your help and support and your generous kindness. If this diary is found it will show how we stuck by dying companions and fought the thing out well to the end. I think this will show that the Spirit of pluck and power to endure has not passed out of our race …

"Wilson, the best fellow that ever stepped, has sacrificed himself again and again to the sick men of the party …

"I write to many friends hoping the letters will reach them some time after we are found next year.

"We very nearly came through, and it's a pity to have missed it, but lately I have felt that we have overshot our mark. No one is to blame and I hope no attempt will be made to suggest that we have lacked support.

"Good-bye to you and your dear kind wife.

                Yours ever sincerely,
                        R. Scott."

Cherry and Dimitri arrived back at Hut Point. Atkinson and Keohane were waiting for them, but until the sea froze, they were unable to get back to Cape Evans.


[1] R.F. Scott, letter to Sir Edgar Speyer, 16 March, 1912, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.

March 15, 2012

Friday, 15 March 1912


"Johansen is beginning to go 'boozing'," Hassel had recorded in his diary a few days earlier. "Now he wants to go home from here. He spoke to Amundsen this morning about it. It appears that he got permission to go." [1]

Amundsen noted tersely, "Paid off Johansen today who could not possibly remain on board any longer." [2]


[1] Sverre Hassel, diary, 12 March, 1912, in Dagboksnotater fra Sydpolen (Skien : Vågemots miniforlag, 1997), p.11.
[2] Roald Amundsen, diary, 15 March, 1912, quoted by Tor Bomann-Larsen in Roald Amundsen (Stroud, Gloucestershire : Sutton, c2006, c1995), p.113.

March 14, 2012

Thursday, 14 March 1912


"Poor Wilson horribly cold, could not get off ski for some time," Scott wrote. "Bowers and I practically made camp, and when we got into the tent at last we were all deadly cold. Then temp, now midday down -43° and the wind strong. We must go on, but now the making of every camp must be more difficult and dangerous. It must be near the end, but a pretty merciful end. Poor Oates got it again in the foot. I shudder to think what it will be like to-morrow. It is only with greatest pains rest of us keep off frostbites. No idea there could be temperatures like this at this time of year with such winds. Truly awful outside the tent. Must fight it out to the last biscuit, but can't reduce rations." [1]


[1] R.F. Scott, diary, 14 March, 1912, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.

March 12, 2012

Tuesday, 12 March 1912


"Things are left much the same," Scott wrote, "Oates not pulling much, and now with hands as well as feet pretty well useless. We did 4 miles this morning in 4 hours 20 min. -- we may hope for 3 this afternoon, 7 × 6 = 42. We shall be 47 miles from the depot. I doubt if we can possibly do it. The surface remains awful, the cold intense, and our physical condition running down. God help us! Not a breath of favourable wind for more than a week, and apparently liable to head winds at any moment." [1]


[1] R.F. Scott, diary, 12 March, 1912, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.

March 11, 2012

Monday, 11 March 1912


"Titus Oates is very near the end, one feels," Scott wrote. "What we or he will do, God only knows. We discussed the matter after breakfast; he is a brave fine fellow and understands the situation, but he practically asked for advice. Nothing could be said but to urge him to march as long as he could. One satisfactory result to the discussion; I practically ordered Wilson to hand over the means of ending our troubles to us, so that anyone of us may know how to do so. Wilson had no choice between doing so and our ransacking the medicine case. We have 30 opium tabloids apiece and he is left with a tube of morphine. So far the tragical side of our story." [1]

"The sky completely overcast when we started this morning. We could see nothing, lost the tracks, and doubtless have been swaying a good deal since -- 3.1 miles for the forenoon -- terribly heavy dragging -- expected it. Know that 6 miles is about the limit of our endurance now, if we get no help from wind or surfaces. We have 7 days' food and should be about 55 miles from One Ton Camp to-night, 6 × 7 = 42, leaving us 13 miles short of our distance, even if things get no worse."


The Daily Chronicle published a letter from Nansen defending Amundsen. "[He] had set his course, as he had determined, and without looking back.... It was foggy day after day, week after week -- the charitable fog of mediocrities in which all that is high and great is shrouded, when all at once ... a new message came. Men stop, look up, and there, high above them shines a deed, a man.... It is unique as a deed, as a voyage of discovery, and in results; and told so simply, as if it were of an Easter pleasure trip on the mountains. And yet what does it not convey of a sage, well-laid plan, and splendid execution of determined courage, endurance and manly power!" [2]


[1] R.F. Scott, diary, 11 March, 1912, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.
[2] Daily Chronicle, 11 March, 1912, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.547-548.

March 10, 2012

Sunday, 10 March 1912


"Things steadily downhill," Scott wrote. "Oates' foot worse. He has rare pluck and must know that he can never get through. He asked Wilson if he had a chance this morning, and of course Bill had to say he didn't know. In point of fact he has none. Apart from him, if he went under now, I doubt whether we could get through. With great care we might have a dog's chance, but no more. The weather conditions are awful, and our gear gets steadily more icy and difficult to manage. At the same time of course poor Titus is the greatest handicap. He keeps us waiting in the morning until we have partly lost the warming effect of our good breakfast, when the only wise policy is to be up and away at once; again at lunch. Poor chap! it is too pathetic to watch him; one cannot but try to cheer him up." [1]

"Yesterday we marched up the depot, Mt. Hooper. Cold comfort. Shortage on our allowance all round." Having had Meares and the dogs go further than planned in November, and the last-minute decision to take five men to the pole instead of four, had meant that the returning parties passing the depot earlier had been forced to break into rations and redistribute them; Scott seemed now not to remember this, and wrote in his diary, "I don't know that anyone is to blame -- but generosity & thoughtfulness have not been abundant -- The dogs which would have been our salvation have evidently failed. Meares had a bad trip home I suppose. -- It's a miserable jumble."

With no sign of the Polar party at One Ton, Cherry-Garrard and Dimitri turned back for Cape Evans.


[1] R.F. Scott, diary, 10 March, 1912, quoted by Roland Huntford in Race for the South Pole : the expedition diaries of Scott and Amundsen (London : Continuum, c2010), p.292. The two asides in the second paragraph quoted here -- "generosity & thoughtfulness have not been abundant" and "It's a miserable jumble" -- were deleted from the published edition of Scott's diary.

March 8, 2012

Friday, 8 March 1912


"Worse and worse in morning," Scott wrote, "poor Oates' left foot can never last out, and time over foot gear something awful.... We did 4 1/2 miles this morning and are now 8 1/2 miles from the depot -- a ridiculously small distance to feel in difficulties, yet on this surface we know we cannot equal half our old marches, and that for that effort we expend nearly double the energy. The great question is, What shall we find at the depot? If the dogs have visited it we may get along a good distance, but if there is another short allowance of fuel, God help us indeed. We are in a very bad way, I fear, in any case." [1]

The weather at One Ton remained bad, with a "good day" at -10° F (-23 C), and blowing most of the time. Cherry wrote in his diary, "-28 when we turned in & must have been -40 at least last night. This morning -28 & wind 4. It is a very cold wait -- waiting & thinking. I was so sure I saw them coming last night I nearly started to walk to them." [2]


Fram's crew upon arrival in Hobart. From left, in the back row, Hassel, Ludwig Hansen, Steller, Bjaaland, Kristensen, Rønne, Beck, Wisting, Halvorsen, Sundbeck; seated, Johansen, Prestrud, Amundsen, Nilsen, Gjertsen, Helmer Hanssen; in front, Lindstrøm, Stubberud, Karenius Olsen, A. Olsen. "Beattie's studios Hobart Tas." [3]

Helmer Hanssen, Amundsen, and Lindstrøm.

Hassel, Wisting, Amundsen, Bjaaland, and Helmer Hanssen. [4]

"Pole Attained Fourteenth-Seventeenth December 1911. All Well" ran headlines everywhere. "The whole world," said the New York Times, "has now been discovered." [5]

"On a day like this," exulted Aftenposten, a leading Christiania newspaper, "everything is changed.... It is more warmth and pride that we feel that we are all children of the same, happy country. Smiles are more frequent -- in bold mens' deeds we are richer and more united and happier. Ah yes -- at one blow, we are far forwards!" [6]

Helland-Hansen, though, wrote to Nansen that he could not understand "why people don't show more pleasure than they do." [7] Many Norwegians, it seemed, felt that Amundsen's accomplishment was a political mistake; one paper wrote, "We are glad that Roald Amundsen chose a new route to the South Pole, so that he avoided going directly in Scott's path. The English had the exclusive right to the route from McMurdo Sound. That was their opinion at any rate." [8] The Times, indeed, wrote a day later that the Norwegian expedition was "a mere dash for the Pole, designed to forestall the British expedition in the most spectacular, though not the most valuable part of the work." [9]


[1] R.F. Scott, diary, 8 March, 1912, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.
[2] Apsley Cherry-Garrard, diary, 8 March, 1912, Scott Polar Research Institute.
[3] Roald Amundsen Bildearkiv, Nasjonalbiblioteket.
[4] "Tasmanian views, Edward Searle's album of photographs of Australia, Antarctica and the Pacific, 1911-1915", National Library of Australia.
[5] New York Times, 8 March, 1912, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.546.
[6] Aftenposten, 9 March, 1912, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.547.
[7] Bjørn Helland-Hansen, letter to Fridtjof Nansen, [date not given], quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.547.
[8] Norges Handels- og Sjøfartstidende, 9 March, 1912, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.547.
[9] The Times, 9 March, 1912, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.547.

March 7, 2012

Thursday, 7 March 1912


"This morning in 4 1/2 hours," wrote Scott, "we did just over 4 miles. We are 16 from our depot. If we only find the correct proportion of food there and this surface continues, we may get to the next depot [Mt. Hooper, 72 miles farther] but not to One Ton Camp. We hope against hope that the dogs have been to Mt. Hooper; then we might pull through. If there is a shortage of oil again we can have little hope. One feels that for poor Oates the crisis is near, but none of us are improving, though we are wonderfully fit considering the really excessive work we are doing." [1]


"'The Fram' at Hobart, Tasmania, from South Pole, 1912." [2]

The Fram put in at Hobart, after having sighted land three days earlier and been held off by storm. The first thing that Amundsen asked about was news of the Terra Nova, and was cheered when he was told that she had not been heard of.

Having learned a hard lesson on the Northwest Passage, losing his newspaper scoop and the resulting funds to cover his debts, Amundsen himself did not even know with which newspaper his brother Leon had contracted, and the Fram remained at anchor outside Hobart and refused to identify herself. Amundsen, he wrote in his diary, went ashore alone and "got a room at the Orient Hotel -- Treated as a tramp -- my peaked cap and blue sweater -- given a miserable little room.... Visited the Consul.... Then I cabled to the King ... Nansen and Leon. The day passed quietly, except for reporters, who were insistent but without result." [3]

The next day, Amundsen "received a telegram from Leon, instructing me to cable my report to the Daily Chronicle, London. This was immediately done. After that, I kept very quiet. When I had gone to bed -- 10 p.m. -- the telegrams began to rain down -- the King's came first."


[1] R.F. Scott, diary, 7 March, 1912, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.
[2] "Tasmanian views, Edward Searle's album of photographs of Australia, Antarctica and the Pacific, 1911-1915", National Library of Australia.
[3] Roald Amundsen, diary, [date not given], quoted by Roland Huntford in The Amundsen Photographs (London : Hodder & Stoughton, c1987, p.142.

March 6, 2012

Wednesday, 6 March 1912


Oates's feet were so swollen that it took an hour to get them into his finnesko each morning.

They were now struggling nine or more hours to manage six or seven miles a day.

"Poor Oates is unable to pull, sits on the sledge when we are track-searching -- he is wonderfully plucky, as his feet must be giving him great pain. He makes no complaint, but his spirits only come up in spurts now, and he grows more silent in the tent. We are making a spirit lamp to try and replace the primus when our oil is exhausted. It will be a very poor substitute and we've not got much spirit. If we could have kept up our 9-mile days we might have got within reasonable distance of the depot before running out, but nothing but a strong wind and good surface can help us now, and though we had quite a good breeze this morning, the sledge came as heavy as lead. If we were all fit I should have hopes of getting through, but the poor Soldier has become a terrible hindrance, though he does his utmost and suffers much I fear." [1]


[1] R.F. Scott, diary, 6 March, 1912, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.

March 5, 2012

Tuesday, 5 March 1912


"Regret to say going from bad to worse," Scott wrote at lunchtime. "The result is telling on all, but mainly on Oates, whose feet are in a wretched condition. One swelled up tremendously last night and he is very lame this morning. We started march on tea and [cold] pemmican as last night -- we pretend to prefer the pemmican this way. Marched for 5 hours this morning over a slightly better surface covered with high moundy sastrugi. Sledge capsized twice; we pulled on foot, covering about 5 1/2 miles. We are two pony marches and 4 miles about from our depot. Our fuel dreadfully low and the poor Soldier nearly done. It is pathetic enough because we can do nothing for him; more hot food might do a little, but only a little, I fear. We none of us expected these terribly low temperatures." [1]


Having sighted the coast of Tasmania the previous day, the Fram was held off by bad weather. "It was a stinking job to get in to Hobart," Bjaaland wrote in his diary. "Storm and calm followed each other, and when we finally were at the approaches to our goal, so God help me we were blown past, the result being we had to lay to in a storm with torn sail and splintered gaff." [2]


[1] R.F. Scott, diary, 5 March, 1912, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.
[2] Olav Bjaaland, diary, 5 March, 1912, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.531.

March 4, 2012

Monday, 4 March 1912


After a long morning of pulling over a sandy, rimed surface, Scott and his men managed 3 1/2 miles. They were forty-two miles from the next depot, with fuel for only three days. "It will be real bad [sic] if we get there and find the same shortage of oil," Scott worried. "Shall we get there? Such a short distance it would have appeared to us on the summit! I don't know what I should do if Wilson and Bowers weren't so determinedly cheerful over things." [1]

At One Ton, the weather was so bad that further travel was impossible; Cherry recorded temperatures of -34° and -37° at eight that evening. As he could not navigate, he feared missing Scott if he was not at the assigned rendezvous. There was no depot of dog food at One Ton, and in order to push on they would have had to kill some dogs to feed the others, running counter to Atkinson's instructions not to risk the dogs for the following season. "I had no reason," Cherry wrote later, "to suspect that the Polar Party could be in want of food." [2]


[1] R.F. Scott, diary, 4 March, 1912, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.
[2] Apsley Cherry-Garrard, in The Worst Journey in the World, ch.8.

March 3, 2012

Sunday, 3 March 1912


"God help us," wrote Scott, "we can't keep up this pulling, that is certain. Amongst ourselves we are unendingly cheerful, but what each man feels in his heart I can only guess. Pulling on foot gear in the morning is getter slower and slower, therefore every day more dangerous." [1]

Cherry and Dimitri arrived at One Ton Depot. "There is no sign of Scott here & so perhaps he will get in soon & all will be well," Cherry wrote in his diary the next day. "I have decided to wait 2 days & then settle what we will do. I think he must be in in 2 or 3 days.... Goggles very bad all the day & I had to trust D. for the cairns -- but he is splendid with them -- He says in this weather we should give the dogs more food than their rations as they are losing their coats. I have agreed. This leaves us with 13 more days dogs food including todays feed --" [2]

Browning at the entrance to the igloo on Inexpressible Island, photographed by Levick. The bamboo poles were used to clear out the "chimney" inside the igloo to keep the men from suffocating. [3]

Campbell, Priestley, and Dickason began to built the igloo on what they later named Inexpressible Island, where they would winter. They were now down to one biscuit a day each from their meagre stores. They were still not sure whether or not the ship would come.


[1] R.F. Scott, diary, 3 March, 1912, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.
[2] Apsley Cherry-Garrard, diary, 4 March, 1912 [Scott Polar Research Institute].
[2] Scott Polar Research Institute.