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.