January 24, 2012

Wednesday, 24 January 1912


"Things beginning to look a little serious," wrote Scott. A strong wind developed into a blizzard, and they struggled to put up the tent. "This is the second full gale since we left the Pole. I don't like the look of it. Is the weather breaking up? If so, God help us, with the tremendous summit journey and scant food. Wilson and Bowers are my standby. I don't like the easy way in which Oates and Evans get frostbitten." [1]

They had managed 7 miles for the day, and were 7 miles from their depot. [2]

"Evans has got his fingers all blistered with frost-bites," Bowers wrote in his diary, "otherwise we are all well, but thinning, and in spite of our good rations get hungrier daily. I sometimes spend much thought on the march with plans for making a pig of myself on the first opportunity. As that will be after a further march of 700 miles they are a bit premature." [3]


The going suddenly better, "the dogs flew as never before," Amundsen wrote. But as they made camp, "the Sou'Wester broke out with drift and other abomination." [4]

Within hours of Framheim, they had covered 21 miles. They had lightened their loads so much in order to make good time that, Bjaaland noted, "We have almost no food, a few biscuits and chocolate." [5]


[1] R.F. Scott, diary, 24 January, 1912, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.
[2] Roland Huntford notes here that Scott's inability to continue in this gale, which was a force 8 from the SSE, illustrates how the compasses used by the Norwegians and the British differed crucially. "Amundsen's ship's models, fixed on the sledges, allowed travel in any conditions. Scott only had pocket compasses and portable sundials, both of which assumed good visibility to take the necessary bearings.... In the [man-hauling] traces, it was well-nigh impossible to navigate without periodic halts to take compass bearings, and [without] marks in the terrain by which to steer." The Norwegians, however, could keep going in a similar gale, such as the one on 1st/2nd December, even though at that point it was in fact a head wind for them. "Keeping a course in poor visibility needed someone to follow on behind and call out directions.... [Consequently, Scott] was stopped by a following wind, which otherwise ought to have helped him along" (Race for the South Pole, p.259).
[3] H.R. Bowers, diary, 24 January, 1912, quoted by Apsley Cherry-Garrard in The Worst Journey in the World, ch.12.
[4] Roald Amundsen, diary, 25 January, 1912, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.508.
[5] Olav Bjaaland, diary, 25 January, 1912, quoted by Roland Huntford in Race for the South Pole : the expedition diaries of Scott and Amundsen (London : Continuum, c2010), p.260.

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