January 8, 2012

Monday, 8 January 1912


"Antarctic Sledging (One of Scott's party prepares for a night away from base)", a painting by Wilson from the Discovery expedition. [1]

The party was tent-bound, stopped by a Force 4-6 wind from the south. "T. -19.8°. Min. for night -25°," wrote Scott.

"It is quite impossible to speak too highly of my companions," he went on. "Each fulfils his office to the party; Wilson, first as doctor, ever on the lookout to alleviate the small pains and troubles incidental to the work, now as cook, quick, careful and dexterous, ever thinking of some fresh expedient to help the camp life; tough as steel on the traces, never wavering from start to finish." [1]

"Evans, a giant worker with a really remarkable headpiece. It is only now I realise how much has been due to him. Our ski shoes and crampons have been absolutely indispensable, and if the original ideas were not his, the details of manufacture and design and the good workmanship are his alone. He is responsible for every sledge, every sledge fitting, tents, sleeping-bags, harness, and when one cannot recall a single expression of dissatisfaction with any one of these items, it shows what an invaluable assistant he has been. Now, besides superintending the putting up of the tent, he thinks out and arranges the packing of the sledge; it is extraordinary how neatly and handily everything is stowed, and how much study has been given to preserving the suppleness and good running qualities of the machine. On the Barrier, before the ponies were killed, he was ever roaming round, correcting faults of stowage."

"Little Bowers remains a marvel -- he is thoroughly enjoying himself. I leave all the provision arrangement in his hands, and at all times he knows exactly how we stand, or how each returning party should fare. It has been a complicated business to redistribute stores at various stages of re-organisation, but not one single mistake has been made. In addition to the stores, he keeps the most thorough and conscientious meteorological record, and to this he now adds the duty of observer and photographer. Nothing comes amiss to him, and no work is too hard. It is a difficulty to get him into the tent; he seems quite oblivious of the cold, and he lies coiled in his bag writing and working out sights long after the others are asleep."

"Of these three it is a matter for thought and congratulation that each is sufficiently suited for his own work, but would not be capable of doing that of the others as well as it is done. Each is invaluable. Oates had his invaluable period with the ponies; now he is a foot slogger and goes hard the whole time, does his share of camp work, and stands the hardship as well as any of us. I would not like to be without him either. So our five people are perhaps as happily selected as it is possible to imagine."

Campbell's Northern Party was landed slightly further northeast of Evans Coves than planned, at a place they called Depot Moraine Camp, later called Hell's Gate. Priestley wrote later, "We had prepared a large depot at Cape Adare which was to have been landed with us here, but it was necessary to sledge all our gear about half a mile over sea ice before it would have been possible to depot it, and as Campbell did not wish to delay the ship, he decided to land only such spare food as could be taken in one journey by ourselves and a sledge party from the ship's crew. In the light of after events this proved to be a grave mistake." [3] Assuming that the ship would pick them up on 18th February as scheduled, Campbell did not feel justified in taking supplies marked down for the main party at Cape Evans.


[1] Source unknown.
[2] R.F. Scott, diary, 8 January, 1912, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.
[3] Raymond Priestley, quoted by Katherine Lambert in The Longest Winter (Washington DC : Smithsonian Books, c2004), p.110.

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