It was 1.15 a.m. when we set out. We had not had a long sleep, but it was very important to avail ourselves of this fine, clear weather while it lasted; we knew by experience that up here in the neighbourhood of the Butcher's the weather was not to be depended upon. From the outward journey we knew that the distance from the beacon where our camp was to the depot at the Butcher's was thirteen and a half miles. We had not put up more than two beacons on this stretch, but the ground was of such a nature that we thought we could not go wrong. That it was not so easy to find the way, in spite of the beacons, we were soon to discover. In the fine, clear weather, and with Hanssen's sharp eyes, we picked up both our beacons. Meanwhile we were astonished at the appearance of the mountains. As I have already mentioned, we thought the weather was perfectly clear when we reached the Butcher's for the first time, on November 20. I then took a bearing from the tent of the way we had come up on to the plateau between the mountains, and carefully recorded it. After passing our last beacon, when we were beginning to approach the Butcher's — as we reckoned — we were greatly surprised at the aspect of our surroundings. Last time — on November 20 — we had seen mountains on the west and north, but a long way off: Now the whole of that part of the horizon seemed to be filled with colossal mountain masses, which were right over us. What in the world was the meaning of this? Was it witchcraft? I am sure I began to think so for a moment. I would readily have taken my most solemn oath that I had never seen that landscape before in my life. We had now gone the full distance, and according to the beacons we had passed, we ought to be on the spot. This was very strange; in the direction in which I had taken the bearing of our ascent, we now only saw the side of a perfectly unknown mountain, sticking up from the plain. There could be absolutely no way down in that precipitous wall. Only on the north-west did the ground give the impression of allowing a descent; there a natural depression seemed to be formed, running down towards the Barrier, which we could see far, far away.
We halted and discussed the situation. "Hullo!" Hanssen suddenly exclaimed, "somebody has been here before." — "Yes," broke in Wisting; "I'm hanged if that isn't my broken ski that I stuck up by the depot." So it was Wisting's broken ski that brought us out of this unpleasant situation. It was a good thing he put it there — very thoughtful, in any case. I now examined the place with the glasses, and by the side of a snow mound, which proved to be our depot, but might easily have escaped our notice, we could see the ski sticking up out of the snow. We cheerfully set our course for the spot, but did not reach it until we had gone three miles.
There was rejoicing in our little band when we arrived and saw that what we had considered the most important point of our homeward journey had been reached. It was not so much for the sake of the food it contained that we considered it so necessary to find this spot, as for discovering the way down to the Barrier again. And now that we stood there, we recognized this necessity more than ever. For although we now knew, from our bearings, exactly where the descent lay, we could see nothing of it at all. The plateau there seemed to go right up to the mountain, without any opening towards the lower ground beyond; and yet the compass told us that such an opening must exist, and would take us down. The mountain, on which we had thus walked all day on the outward journey, without knowing anything of it, was Mount Fridtjof Nansen. Yes, the difference in the light made a surprising alteration in the appearance of things.
The first thing we did on reaching the depot was to take out the dogs' carcasses that lay there and cut them into big lumps, that were divided among the dogs. They looked rather surprised; they had not been accustomed to such rations. We threw three carcasses on to the sledges, so as to have a little extra food for them on the way down. The Butcher's was not a very friendly spot this time, either. True, it was not the same awful weather as on our first visit, but it was blowing a fresh breeze with a temperature of -9.4deg. F., which, after the heat of the last few days, seemed to go to one's marrow, and did not invite us to stay longer than was absolutely necessary. Therefore, as soon as we had finished feeding the dogs and putting our sledges in order, we set out.
Although the ground had not given us the impression of sloping, we soon found out that it did so when we got under way. It was not only downhill, but the pace became so great that we had to stop and put brakes under the sledges. As we advanced, the apparently unbroken wall opened more and more, and showed us at last our old familiar ascent. There lay Mount Ole Engelstad, snowclad and cold, as we saw it the first time. As we rounded it we came on to the severe, steep slope, where, on the way south, I had so much admired the work done by my companions and the dogs that day. But now I had an even better opportunity of seeing how steep this ascent really had been. Many were the brakes we had to put on before we could reduce the speed to a moderate pace, but even so we came down rapidly, and soon the first part of the descent lay behind us. So as not to be exposed to possible gusts from the plain, we went round Mount Engelstad and camped under the lee of it, well content with the day's work. The snow lay here as on our first visit, deep and loose, and it was difficult to find anything like a good place for the tent. We could soon feel that we had descended a couple of thousand feet and come down among the mountains. It was still, absolutely still, and the sun broiled us as on a day of high summer at home. I thought, too, that I could notice a difference in my breathing; it seemed to work much more easily and pleasantly — perhaps it was only imagination.
At one o'clock on the following morning we were out again. The sight that met our eyes that morning, when we came out of the tent, was one of those that will always live in our memories. The tent stood in the narrow gap between Fridtjof Nansen and Ole Engelstad. The sun, which now stood in the south, was completely hidden by the latter mountain, and our camp was thus in the deepest shadow; but right against us on the other side the Nansen mountain raised its splendid ice-clad summit high towards heaven, gleaming and sparkling in the rays of the midnight sun. The shining white passed gradually, very gradually, into pale blue, then deeper and deeper blue, until the shadow swallowed it up. But down below, right on the Heiberg Glacier, its ice-covered side was exposed — dark and solemn the mountain mass stood out. Mount Engelstad lay in shadow, but on its summit rested a beautiful light little cirrus cloud, red with an edge of gold. Down over its side the blocks of ice lay scattered pell-mell. And farther down on the east rose Don Pedro Christophersen, partly in shadow, partly gleaming in the sun — a marvellously beautiful sight. And all was so still; one almost feared to disturb the incomparable splendour of the scene.
We now knew the ground well enough to be able to go straight ahead without any detours. The huge avalanches were more frequent than on the outward journey. One mass of snow after another plunged down; Don Pedro was getting rid of his winter coat. The going was precisely the same — loose, fairly deep snow. We went quite easily over it, however, and it was all downhill. On the ridge where the descent to the glacier began we halted to make our preparations. Brakes were put under the sledges, and our two ski-sticks were fastened together to make one strong one; we should have to be able to stop instantly if surprised by a crevasse as we were going. We ski-runners went in front. The going was ideal here on the steep slope, just enough loose snow to give one good steering on ski. We went whizzing down, and it was not many minutes before we were on the Heiberg Glacier. For the drivers it was not quite such plain sailing: they followed our tracks, but had to be extremely careful on the steep fall.
We camped that evening on the selfsame spot where we had had our tent on November 18, at about 3,100 feet above the sea. From here one could see the course of the Axel Heiberg Glacier right down to its junction with the Barrier. It looked fine and even, and we decided to follow it instead of climbing over the mountain, as we had done on the way south. Perhaps the distance would be somewhat longer, but probably we should make a considerable saving of time. We had now agreed upon a new arrangement of our time; the long spells of rest were becoming almost unbearable. Another very important side of the question was that, by a reasonable arrangement, we should be able to save a lot of time, and reach home several days sooner than we had reckoned. After a great deal of talk on one side and on the other, we agreed to arrange matters thus: we were to do our fifteen geographical miles, or twenty-eight kilometres, and then have a sleep of six hours, turn out again and do fifteen miles more, and so on. In this way we should accomplish a very good average distance on our day's march. We kept to this arrangement for the rest of the journey, and thus saved a good many days.
Our progress down the Heiberg Glacier did not encounter any obstructions; only at the transition from the glacier to the Barrier were there a few crevasses that had to be circumvented. At 7 a.m. on January 6 we halted at the angle of land that forms the entrance to the Heiberg Glacier, and thence extends northward. We had not yet recognized any of the land we lay under, but that was quite natural, as we now saw it from the opposite side. We knew, though, that we were not far away from our main depot in 85deg. 5' S. On the afternoon of the same day we were off again.
From a little ridge we crossed immediately after starting, Bjaaland thought he could see the depot down on the Barrier, and it was not very long before we came in sight of Mount Betty and our way up. And now we could make sure with the glasses that it really was our depot that we saw — the same that Bjaaland thought he had seen before. We therefore set our course straight for it, and in a few minutes we were once more on the Barrier — January 6, 11 p.m. — after a stay of fifty-one days on land. It was on November 17 that we had begun the ascent.
We reached the depot, and found everything in order. The heat here must have been very powerful; our lofty, solid depot was melted by the sun into a rather low mound of snow. The pemmican rations that had been exposed to the direct action of the sun's rays had assumed the strangest forms, and, of course, they had become rancid. We got the sledges ready at once, taking all the provisions out of the depot and loading them. We left behind some of the old clothes we had been wearing all the way from here to the Pole and back. When we had completed all this repacking and had everything ready, two of us went over to Mount Betty, and collected as many different specimens of rock as we could lay our hands on. At the same time we built a great cairn, and left there a can of 17 litres of paraffin, two packets of matches — containing twenty boxes — and an account of our expedition. Possibly someone may find a use for these things in the future.
We had to kill Frithjof, one of Bjaaland's dogs, at this camp. He had latterly been showing marked signs of shortness of breath, and finally this became so painful to the animal that we decided to put an end to him. Thus brave Frithjof ended his career. On cutting him open it appeared that his lungs were quite shrivelled up; nevertheless, the remains disappeared pretty quickly into his companions' stomachs. What they had lost in quantity did not apparently affect their quality. Nigger, one of Hassel's dogs, had been destroyed on the way down from the plateau. We thus reached this point again with twelve dogs, as we had reckoned on doing, and left it with eleven. I see in my diary the following remark: "The dogs look just as well as when we left Framheim." On leaving the place a few hours later we had provisions for thirty-five days on the sledges. Besides this, of course, we had a depot at every degree of latitude up to 80deg..
It looked as though we had found our depot at the right moment, for when we came out to continue our journey the whole Barrier was in a blizzard. A gale was blowing from the south, with a sky completely clouded over; falling snow and drift united in a delightful dance, and made it difficult to see. The lucky thing was that now we had the wind with us, and thus escaped getting it all in our eyes, as, we had been accustomed to. The big crevasse, which, as we knew, lay right across the line of our route, made us go very carefully. To avoid any risk, Bjaaland and Hassel, who went in advance, fastened an alpine rope between them. The snow was very deep and loose, and the going very heavy. Fortunately, we were warned in time of our approach to the expected cracks by the appearance of some bare ice ridges. These told us clearly enough that disturbances had taken place here, and that even greater ones might be expected, probably near at hand. At that moment the thick curtain of cloud was torn asunder, and the sun pierced the whirling mass of snow. Instantly Hanssen shouted: "Stop, Bjaaland!" He was just on the edge of the yawning crevasse. Bjaaland himself has splendid sight, but his excellent snow-goggles — his own patent — entirely prevented his seeing. Well, Bjaaland would not have been in any serious danger if he had fallen into the crevasse, as he was roped to Hassel, but it would have been confoundedly unpleasant all the same.
As I have said before, I assume that these great disturbances here mark the boundary between the Barrier and the land. This time, curiously enough, they seemed also to form a boundary between good and bad weather, for on the far side of them — to the north — the Barrier lay bathed in sunshine. On the south the blizzard raged worse than ever. Mount Betty was the last to send us its farewell. South Victoria Land had gone into hiding, and did not show itself again. As soon as we came into the sunshine, we ran upon one of our beacons; our course lay straight towards it. That was not bad steering in the dark. At 9 p.m. we reached the depot in 85deg. S. Now we could begin to be liberal with the dogs' food, too; they had double pemmican rations, besides as many oatmeal biscuits as they would eat. We had such masses of biscuits now that we could positively throw them about. Of course, we might have left a large part of these provisions behind; but there was a great satisfaction in being so well supplied with food, and the dogs did not seem to mind the little extra weight in the least. As long as things went so capitally as they were going — that is, with men and dogs exactly keeping pace with one another — we could ask for nothing better. But the weather that had cheered us was not of long duration. "Same beastly weather," my diary says of the next stage. The wind had shifted to the north-west, with overcast, thick weather, and very troublesome drifting snow. In spite of these unfavourable conditions, we passed beacon after beacon, and at the end of our march had picked up all the beacons we had erected on this distance of seventeen miles and three-eighths. But, as before, we owed this to Hanssen's good eyes.
On our way southward we had taken a good deal of seal meat and had divided it among the depots we built on the Barrier in such a way that we were now able to eat fresh meat every day. This had not been done without an object; if we should be visited with scurvy, this fresh meat would be invaluable. As we were — sound and healthy as we had never been before — the seal-beef was a pleasant distraction in our menu, nothing more. The temperature had risen greatly since we came down on to the Barrier, and kept steady at about + 14deg. F. We were so warm in our sleeping-bags that we had to turn them with the hair out. That was better; we breathed more freely and felt happier. "Just like going into an ice-cellar," somebody remarked. The same feeling as when on a really warm summer day one comes out of the hot sun into cool shade.
January 9. — "Same beastly weather; snow, snow, snow, nothing but snow. Is there no end to it? Thick too, so that we have not been able to see ten yards ahead. Temperature + 17.6deg. F. Thawing everywhere on the sledges. Everything getting wet. Have not found a single beacon in this blind man's weather. The snow was very deep to begin with and the going exceedingly heavy, but in spite of this the dogs managed their sledges very well." That evening the weather improved, fortunately, and became comparatively clear by the time we resumed our journey at 10 p.m. Not long after we sighted one of our beacons. It lay to the west, about 200 yards away. We were thus not far out of our course; we turned aside and went up to it, as it was interesting to see whether our reckoning was in order. The beacon was somewhat damaged by sunshine and storms, but we found the paper left in it, which told us that this beacon was erected on November 14, in 84deg. 26' S. It also told us what course to steer by compass to reach the next beacon, which lay five kilometres from this one.
As we were leaving this old friend and setting our course as it advised, to our unspeakable astonishment two great birds — skua gulls — suddenly came flying straight towards us. They circled round us once or twice and then settled on the beacon. Can anyone who reads these lines form an idea of the effect this had upon us? It is hardly likely. They brought us a message from the living world into this realm of death — a message of all that was dear to us. I think the same thoughts filled us all. They did not allow themselves a long rest, these first messengers from another world; they sat still a while, no doubt wondering who we were, then rose aloft and flew on to the south. Mysterious creatures! they were now exactly half-way between Framheim and the Pole, and yet they were going farther inland. Were they going over to the other side?
Our march ended this time at one of our beacons, in 84deg. 15'. It felt so good and safe to lie beside one of these; it always gave us a sure starting-point for the following stage. We were up at 4 a.m. and left the place a few hours later, with the result that the day's march brought us thirty-four miles nearer Framheim. With our present arrangement, we had these long-day marches every other day. Our dogs need no better testimonial than this — one day seventeen miles, the next day thirty-four, and fresh all the way home. The two birds, agreeably as their first appearance had affected me, led my thoughts after a while in another direction, which was anything but agreeable. It occurred to me that these two might only be representatives of a larger collection of these voracious birds, and that the remainder might now be occupied in consuming all the fresh meat we had so laboriously transported with us and spread all over the plain in our depots. It is incredible what a flock of these birds of prey can get rid of; it would not matter if the meat were frozen as hard as iron, they would have managed it, even if it had been a good deal harder than iron. Of the seals' carcasses we had lying in 80deg., I saw in my thoughts nothing but the bones. Of the various dogs we had killed on our way south and laid on the tops of beacons I did not see even so much as that. Well, it was possible that my thoughts had begun to assume too dark a hue; perhaps the reality would be brighter.
Weather and going began by degrees to right themselves; it looked as if things would improve in proportion to our distance from land. Finally, both became perfect; the sun shone from a cloudless sky, and the sledges ran on the fine, even surface with all the ease and speed that could be desired. Bjaaland, who had occupied the position of forerunner all the way from the Pole, performed his duties admirably; but the old saying that nobody is perfect applied even to him. None of us — no matter who it may be — can keep in a straight line, when he has no marks to follow. All the more difficult is this when, as so often happened with us, one has to go blindly. Most of us, I suppose, would swerve now to one side, now to the other, and possibly end, after all this groping, by keeping pretty well to the line. Not so with Bjaaland; he was a right-hand man. I can see him now; Hanssen has given him the direction by compass, and Bjaaland turns round, points his ski in the line indicated and sets of with decision. His movements clearly show that he has made up his mind, cost what it may, to keep in the right direction. He sends his ski firmly along, so that the snow spurts from them, and looks straight before him. But the result is the same; if Hanssen had let Bjaaland go on without any correction, in the course of an hour or so the latter would probably have described a beautiful circle and brought himself back to the spot from which he had started. Perhaps. after all, this was not a fault to complain of, since we always knew with absolute certainty that, when we had got out of the line of beacons, we were to the right of it and had to search for the beacons to the west. This conclusion proved very useful to us more than once, and we gradually became so familiar with Bjaaland's right-handed tendencies that we actually counted on them.
On January 13, according to our reckoning, we ought to reach the depot in 83deg. S. This was the last of our depots that was not marked at right angles to the route, and therefore the last critical point. The day was not altogether suited for finding the needle in the haystack. It was calm with a thick fog, so thick that we could only see a few yards in front of us. We did not see a single beacon on the whole march. At 4 p.m. we had completed the distance, according to the sledge-meters, and reckoned that we ought to be in 83deg. S., by the depot; but there was nothing to be seen. We decided, therefore, to set our tent and wait till it cleared. While we were at work with this, there was a rift in the thick mass of fog, and there, not many yards away — to the west, of course — lay our depot. We quickly took the tent down again, packed it on the sledge, and drove up to our food mound, which proved to be quite in order. There was no sign of the birds having paid it a visit. But what was that? Fresh, well-marked dog-tracks in the newly-fallen snow. We soon saw that they must be the tracks of the runaways that we had lost here on the way south. Judging by appearances, they must have lain under the lee of the depot for a considerable time; two deep hollows in the snow told us that plainly. And evidently they must have had enough food, but where on earth had they got it from? The depot was absolutely untouched, in spite of the fact that the lumps of pemmican lay exposed to the light of day and were very easy to get at; besides which, the snow on the depot was not so hard as to prevent the dogs pulling it down and eating up all the food. Meanwhile the dogs had left the place again, as shown by the fresh trail, which pointed to the north. We examined the tracks very closely, and agreed that they were not more than two days old. They went northward, and we followed them from time to time on our next stage. At the beacon in 82deg. 45', where we halted, we saw them still going to the north. In 82deg. 24' the trail began to be much confused, and ended by pointing due west. That was the last we saw of the tracks; but we had not done with these dogs, or rather with their deeds. We stopped at the beacon in 82deg. 20'. Else, who had been laid on the top of it, had fallen down and lay by the side; the sun had thawed away the lower part of the beacon. So the roving dogs had not been here; so much was certain, for otherwise we should not have found Else as we did. We camped at the end of that stage by the beacon in 82deg. 15', and shared out Else's body. Although she had been lying in the strong sunshine, the flesh was quite good, when we had scraped away a little mouldiness. It smelt rather old, perhaps, but our dogs were not fastidious when it was a question of meat.
On January 16 we arrived at the depot in 82deg. S. We could see from a long way off that the order in which we had left it no longer prevailed. When we came up to it, we saw at once what had happened. The innumerable dog-tracks that had trampled the snow quite hard round the depot declared plainly enough that the runaways had spent a good deal of time here. Several of the cases belonging to the depot had fallen down, presumably from the same cause as Else, and the rascals had succeeded in breaking into one of them. Of the biscuits and pemmican which it had contained, nothing, of course, was left; but that made no difference to us now, as we had food in abundance. The two dogs' carcasses that we had placed on the top of the depot — Uranus and Jaala — were gone, not even the teeth were to be seen. Yet they had left the teeth of Lucy, whom they had eaten in 82deg. 3'. Jaala's eight puppies were still lying on the top of a case; curiously enough, they had not fallen down. In addition to all the rest, the beasts had devoured some ski-bindings and things of that sort. It was no loss to us, as it happened; but who could tell which way these creatures had gone? If they had succeeded in finding the depot in 80deg. S., they would probably by this time have finished our supply of seal meat there. Of course it would be regrettable if this had happened, although it would entail no danger either to ourselves or our animals. If we got as far as 80deg., we should come through all right. For the time being, we had to console ourselves with the fact that we could see no continuation of the trail northward.
We permitted ourselves a little feast here in 82deg.. The "chocolate pudding" that Wisting served as dessert is still fresh in my memory; we all agreed that it came nearer perfection than anything it had hitherto fallen to our lot to taste. I may disclose the receipt: biscuit-crumbs, dried milk and chocolate are put into a kettle of boiling water. What happens afterwards, I don't know; for further information apply to Wisting. Between 82deg. and 81deg. we came into our old marks of the second depot journey; on that trip we had marked this distance with splinters of packing-case at every geographical mile. That was in March, 1911, and now we were following these splinters in the second half of January, 1912. Apparently they stood exactly as they had been put in. This marking stopped in 81deg. 33' S., with two pieces of case on a snow pedestal. The pedestal was still intact and good.
I shall let my diary describe what we saw on January 18: "Unusually fine weather to-day. Light south-south-west breeze, which in the course of our march cleared the whole sky. In 81deg. 20' we came abreast of our old big pressure ridges. We now saw far more of them than ever before. They extended as far as the eye could see, running north-east to south-west, in ridges and peaks. Great was our surprise when, a short time after, we made out high, bare land in the same direction, and not long after that two lofty, white summits to the south-east, probably in about 82deg. S. It could be seen by the look of the sky that the land extended from north-east to south-west. This must be the same land that we saw lose itself in the horizon in about 84deg.S., when we stood at a height of about 4,000 feet and looked out over the Barrier, during our ascent. We now have sufficient indications to enable us without hesitation to draw this land as continuous — Carmen Land. The surface against the land is violently disturbed — crevasses and pressure ridges, waves and valleys, in all directions. We shall no doubt feel the effect of it to-morrow." Although what we have seen apparently justifies us in concluding that Carmen Land extends from 86deg. S. to this position — about 81deg. 30' S. — and possibly farther to the north-east, I have not ventured to lay it down thus on the map. I have contented myself with giving the name of Carmen Land to the land between 86deg. and 84deg., and have called the rest "Appearance of Land." It will be a profitable task for an explorer to investigate this district more closely.
As we had expected, on our next stage we were made to feel the effect of the disturbances. Three times we had now gone over this stretch of the Barrier without having really clear weather. This time we had it, and were able to see what it actually looked like. The irregularities began in 81deg. 12' S., and did not extend very far from north to south-possibly about five kilometres (three and a quarter miles). How far they extended from east to west it is difficult to say, but at any rate as far as the eye could reach. Immense pieces of the surface had fallen away and opened up the most horrible yawning gulfs, big enough to swallow many caravans of the size of ours. From these open holes, ugly wide cracks ran out in all directions; besides which, mounds and haycocks were everywhere to be seen. Perhaps the most remarkable thing of all was that we had passed over here unharmed. We went across as light-footedly as possible, and at top speed. Hanssen went halfway into a crevasse, but luckily got out of it again without difficulty.
The depot in 81deg. S. was in perfect order; no dog-tracks to be seen there. Our hopes that the depot in 80deg. S. would be intact rose considerably. In 80deg. 45' S. lay the first dog we had killed — Bone. He was particularly fat, and was immensely appreciated. The dogs no longer cared very much for pemmican. On January 21 we passed our last beacon, which stood in 80deg. 23' S. Glad as we were to leave it behind, I cannot deny that it was with a certain feeling of melancholy that we saw it vanish. We had grown so fond of our beacons, and whenever we met them we greeted them as old friends. Many and great were the services these silent watchers did us on our long and lonely way.
On the same day we reached our big depot in 80deg. S., and now we considered that we were back. We could see at once that others had been at the depot since we had left it, and we found a message from Lieutenant Prestrud, the leader of the eastern party, saying that he, with Stubberud and Johansen, had passed here on November 12, with two sledges, sixteen dogs, and supplies for thirty days. Everything thus appeared to be in the best of order. Immediately on arriving at the depot we let the dogs loose, and they made a dash for the heap of seal's flesh, which had been attacked neither by birds nor dogs in our absence. It was not so much for the sake of eating that our dogs made their way to the meat mound, as for the sake of fighting. Now they really had something to fight about. They went round the seals' carcasses a few times, looked askance at the food and at each other, and then flung themselves into the wildest scrimmage. When this had been duly brought to a conclusion, they went away and lay round their sledges. The depot in 80deg. S. is still large, well supplied and well marked, so it is not impossible that it may be found useful later.
The journey from 80deg. S. to Framheim has been so often described that there is nothing new to say about it. On January 25, at 4 a.m., we reached our good little house again, with two sledges and eleven dogs; men and animals all hale and hearty. We stood and waited for each other outside the door in the early morning; our appearance must be made all together. It was so still and quiet — they must be all asleep. We came in. Stubberud started up in his bunk and glared at us; no doubt he took us for ghosts. One after another they woke up — not grasping what was happening. Then there was a hearty welcome home on all sides "Where's the Fram?" was of course our first question Our joy was great when we heard all was well. "And what about the Pole? Have you been there?" — "Yes, of course; otherwise you would hardly have seen us again." Then the coffee kettle was put on, and the perfume of "hot cakes" rose as in old days. We agreed that it was good outside, but still better at home. Ninety-nine days the trip had taken. Distance about 1,860 miles.
The Franz had come in to the Barrier on January 8, after a three months' voyage from Buenos Aires; all were well on board. Meanwhile, bad weather had forced her to put out again. On the following day the lookout man reported that the Fram was approaching There was life in the camp; on with furs and out with the dogs. They should see that our dogs were not worn out yet. We heard the engine panting and grunting, saw the crow's-nest appear over the edge of the Barrier, and at last she glided in, sure and steady. It was with a joyful heart I went on board and greeted all these gallant men, who had brought the Franz to her destination through so many fatigues and perils, and had accomplished so much excellent work on the way. They all looked pleased and happy, but nobody asked about the Pole. At last it slipped out of Gjertsen: "Have you been there?" Joy is a poor name for the feeling that beamed in my comrades' faces; it was something more.
I shut myself up in the chart-house with Captain Nilsen, who gave me my mail and all the news. Three names stood high above the rest, when I was able to understand all that had happened — the names of the three who gave me their support when it was most needed. I shall always remember them in respectful gratitude —
H. M. The King, Professor Fridtjof Nansen, Don Pedro Christophersen.
After two days of bustle in getting on board the things we were to take with us, we managed to be ready for sea on the afternoon of January 30. There could scarcely have been anything at that moment that rejoiced us more than just that fact, that we were able at so early a date to set our course northward and thus take the first step on the way to that world which, as we knew, would soon begin to expect news from us, or of us. And yet, I wonder whether there was not a little feeling of melancholy in the midst of all our joy? It can hardly be doubted that such was really the case, although to many this may seem a flat contradiction. But it is not altogether so easy to part from a place that has been one's home for any length of time, even though this home lie in the 79th degree of latitude, more or less buried in snow and ice. We human beings are far too dependent on habit to be able to tear ourselves abruptly from the surroundings with which we have been obliged to be familiar for many months. That outsiders would perhaps pray all the powers of goodness to preserve them from such surroundings, does not counteract the full validity of this rule. To an overwhelming majority of our fellow-men Framheim will certainly appear as one of those spots on our planet where they would least of all wish to find themselves — a God-forsaken, out-of-the-way hole that could offer nothing but the very climax of desolation, discomfort, and boredom. To us nine, who stood on the gangway ready to leave this place, things appeared somewhat differently. That strong little house, that now lay entirely hidden beneath the snow behind Mount Nelson, had for a whole year been our home, and a thoroughly good and comfortable home it was, where after so many a hard day's work we had found all the rest and quiet we wanted. Through the whole Antarctic winter — and it is a winter — those four walls had protected us so well that many a poor wretch in milder latitudes would have envied us with all his heart, if he could have seen us. In conditions so hard that every form of life flies headlong from them, we had lived on at Framheim undisturbed and untroubled, and lived, be it said, not as animals, but as civilized human beings, who had always within their reach most of the good things that are found in a well-ordered home. Darkness and cold reigned outside, and the blizzards no doubt did their best to blot out most traces of our activity, but these enemies never came within the door of our excellent dwelling; there we shared quarters with light and warmth and comfort. What wonder was it that this spot exercised a strong attraction upon each of us at the moment when we were to turn our backs upon it for good? Outside the great world beckoned to us, that is true; and it might have much to offer us that we had had to forego for a long time; but in what awaited us there was certainly a great deal that we would gladly have put off for as long as possible. When everyday life came with its cares and worries, it might well happen that we should look back with regret to our peaceful and untroubled existence at Framheim.
However, this feeling of melancholy was hardly so strong that we could not all get over it comparatively quickly. Judging by the faces, at any rate, one would have thought that joy was the most predominant mood. And why not? It was no use dwelling on the past, however attractive it might seem just then, and as to the future, we had every right to expect the best of it. Who cared to think of coming troubles? No one. Therefore the Fram was dressed with flags from stem to stern, and therefore faces beamed at each other as we said good-bye to our home on the Barrier. We could leave it with the consciousness that the object of our year's stay had been attained, and, after all, this consciousness was of considerably more weight than the thought that we had been so happy there. One thing that in the course of our two years' association on this expedition contributed enormously to making time pass easily and keeping each of us in full vigour was the entire absence of what I may call "dead periods." As soon as one problem was solved, another instantly appeared. No sooner was one goal reached, than the next one beckoned from afar. In this way we always had our hands full, and when that is the case, as everyone knows, time flies quickly. One often hears it asked, How is it possible to make the time pass on such a trip? My good friends, I would answer, if anything caused us worry, it was the thought of how we should find time enough for all we had to do. Perhaps to many this assertion will bear the stamp of improbability; it is, nevertheless, absolutely true. Those who have read this narrative through will, in any case, have received the impression that unemployment was an evil that was utterly unknown in our little community.
At the stage where we now found ourselves, with the main object of our enterprise achieved, there might have been reason to expect a certain degree of relaxation of interest. This, however, was not the case. The fact was that what we had done would have no real value until it was brought to the knowledge of mankind, and this communication had to be made with as little loss of time as possible. If anyone was interested in being first in the market it was certainly ourselves. The probability was, no doubt, that we were out in good time; but, in spite of all, it was only a probability. On the other hand, it was absolutely certain that we had a voyage of 2,400 nautical miles to Hobart, which had been selected as our first port of call; and it was almost equally certain that this voyage would be both slow and troublesome. A year before our trip through Ross Sea had turned out almost like a pleasure cruise, but that was in the middle of summer. Now we were in February, and autumn was at hand. As regards the belt of drift-ice, Captain Nilsen thought that would cause us no delay in future. He had discovered a patent and infallible way of getting through! This sounded like a rather bold assertion, but, as will be seen later, he was as good as his word. Our worst troubles would be up in the westerlies, where we should this time be exposed to the unpleasant possibility of having to beat. The difference in longitude between the Bay of Whales and Hobart is nearly fifty degrees. If we could have sailed off this difference in longitude in the latitudes where we then were, and where a degree of longitude is only about thirteen nautical miles, it would all have been done in a twinkling; but the mighty mountain ranges of North Victoria Land were a decisive obstacle. We should first have to follow a northerly course until we had rounded the Antarctic Continent's northern outpost, Cape Adare, and the Balleny Islands to the north of it. Not till then would the way be open for us to work to the west; but then we should be in a region where in all probability the wind would be dead against us, and as to tacking with the Fram — no, thank you! Every single man on board knew enough of the conditions to be well aware of what awaited us, and it is equally certain that the thoughts of all were centred upon how we might conquer our coming difficulties in the best and quickest way. It was the one great, common object that still bound, and would continue to bind, us all together in our joint efforts.
Among the items of news that we had just received from the outer world was the message that the Australian Antarctic Expedition under Dr. Douglas Mawson would be glad to take over some of our dogs, if we had any to spare. The base of this expedition was Hobart, and as far as that went, this suited us very well. It chanced that we were able to do our esteemed colleague this small service. On leaving the Barrier we could show a pack of thirty-nine dogs, many of which had grown up during our year's stay there; about half had survived the whole trip from Norway, and eleven had been at the South Pole. It had been our intention only to keep a suitable number as the progenitors of a new pack for the approaching voyage in the Arctic Ocean, but Dr. Mawson's request caused us to take all the thirty-nine on board. Of these dogs, if nothing unforeseen happened, we should be able to make over twenty-one to him. When the last load was brought down, there was nothing to do but to pull the dogs over the side, and then we were ready. It was quite curious to see how several of the old veterans seemed at home again on the Fram's deck. Wisting's brave dog, the old Colonel, with his two adjutants, Suggen and Arne, at once took possession of the places where they had stood for so many a long day on the voyage south — on the starboard side of the mainmast; the two twins, Mylius and Ring, Helmer Hanssen's special favourites, began their games away in the corner of the fore-deck to port, as though nothing had happened. To look at those two merry rascals no one would have thought they had trotted at the head of the whole caravan both to and from the Pole. One solitary dog could be seen stalking about, lonely and reserved, in a continual uneasy search. This was the boss of Bjaaland's team. He was unaffected by any advances; no one could take the place of his fallen comrade and friend, Frithjof, who had long ago found a grave in the stomachs of his companions many hundreds of miles across the Barrier.
No sooner was the last dog helped on board, and the two ice-anchors released, than the engine-room telegraph rang, and the engine was at once set going to keep us from any closer contact with the ice-foot in the Bay of Whales. Our farewell to this snug harbour took almost the form of a leap from one world to another; the fog hung over us as thick as gruel, concealing all the surrounding outlines behind its clammy curtain, as we stood out. After a lapse of three or four hours, it lifted quite suddenly, but astern of us the bank of fog still stood like a wall; behind it the panorama, which we knew would have looked wonderful in clear weather, and which we should so gladly have let our eyes rest upon as long as we could, was entirely concealed.
The same course we had steered when coming in a year before could safely be taken in the opposite direction now we were going out. The outlines of the bay had remained absolutely unchanged during the year that had elapsed. Even the most projecting point of the wall on the west side of the bay, Cape Man's Head, stood serenely in its old place, and it looked as if it was in no particular hurry to remove itself. It will probably stay where it is for many a long day yet, for if any movement of the ice mass is taking place at the inner end of the bay, it is in any case very slight. Only in one respect did the condition of things differ somewhat this year from the preceding. Whereas in 1911 the greater part of the bay was free of sea-ice as early as January 14, in 1912 there was no opening until about fourteen days later. The ice-sheet had stubbornly held on until the fresh north-easterly breeze, that appeared on the very day the southern party returned, had rapidly provided a channel of open water. The breaking up of the ice could not possibly have taken place at a more convenient moment; the breeze in question saved us a great deal, both of time and trouble, as the way to the place where the Fram lay before the ice broke up was about five times as long as the distance we now had to go. This difference of fourteen days in the time of the disappearance of the ice in two summers showed us how lucky we had been to choose that particular year — 1911 — for our landing here. The work which we carried out in three weeks in 1911, thanks to the early breaking up of the ice, would certainly have taken us double the time in 1912, and would have caused us far more difficulty and trouble.
The thick fog that, as I have said, lay over the Bay of Whales when we left it, prevented us also from seeing what our friends the Japanese were doing. The Kainan Maru had put to sea in company with the Fram during the gale of January 27, and since that time we had seen nothing of them. Those members of the expedition who had been left behind in a tent on the edge of the Barrier to the north of Framheim had also been very retiring of late. On the day we left the place, one of our own party had an interview with two of the foreigners. Prestrud had gone to fetch the flag that had been set up on Cape Man's Head as a signal to the Fram that all had returned. By the side of the flag a tent had been put up, which was intended as a shelter for a lookout man, in case the Fram had been delayed. When Prestrud came up, he was no doubt rather surprised to find himself face to face with two sons of Nippon, who were engaged in inspecting our tent and its contents, which, however, only consisted of a sleeping-bag and a Primus. The Japanese had opened the conversation with enthusiastic phrases about "nice day" and "plenty ice"; when our man had expressed his absolute agreement on these indisputable facts, he tried to get information on matters of more special interest. The two strangers told him that for the moment they were the only inhabitants of the tent out on the edge of the Barrier. Two of their companions had gone on a tour into the Barrier to make meteorological observations, and were to be away about a week. The Kainan Maru had gone on another cruise in the direction of King Edward Land. As far as they knew, it was intended that the ship should be back before February 10, and that all the members of the expedition should then go on board and sail to the north. Prestrud had invited his two new acquaintances to visit us at Framheim, the sooner the better; they delayed their coming too long, however, for us to be able to wait for them. If they have since been at Framheim, they will at any rate be able to bear witness that we did our best to make things comfortable for any successors.
When the fog lifted, we found ourselves surrounded by open sea, practically free from ice, on all sides. A blue-black sea, with a heavy, dark sky above it, is not usually reckoned among the sights that delight the eye. To our organs of vision it was a real relief to come into surroundings where dark colours predominated. For months we had been staring at a dazzling sea of white, where artificial means had constantly to be employed to protect the eyes against the excessive flood of light. As a rule, it was even necessary to limit the exposure of the pupils to a minimum, and to draw the eyelids together. Now we could once more look on the world with open eyes, literally "without winking "; even such a commonplace thing as this is an experience in one's life. Ross Sea showed itself again on its most favourable side. A cat's paw of south-westerly wind enabled us to use the sails, so that after a lapse of two days we were already about two hundred miles from the Barrier. Modest as this distance may be in itself, when seen on the chart it looked quite imposing in our eyes. It must be remembered that, with the means of transport we had employed on land, it cost us many a hard day's march to cover a distance of two hundred geographical miles.
Nilsen had marked on the chart the limits of the belt of drift-ice during the three passages the Fram had already made. The supposition that an available opening is always to be found in the neighbourhood of the 150th meridian appears to be confirmed. The slight changes in the position of the channel were only caused, according to Nilsen's experiences, by variations in the direction of the wind. He had found that it always answered his purpose to turn and try to windward, if the pack showed signs of being close. This mode of procedure naturally had the effect of making the course somewhat crooked, but to make up for this it had always resulted in his finding open water. On this trip we reached the edge of the pack-ice belt three days after leaving the Barrier. The position of the belt proved to be very nearly the same as on previous passages. After we had held our course for some hours, however, the ice became so thick that it looked badly for our further progress. Now was the time to try Nilsen's method: the wind, which, by the way, was quite light, came about due west, and accordingly the helm was put to starboard and the bow turned to the west. For a good while we even steered true south, but it proved that this fairly long turn had not been made in vain; after we had worked our way to windward for a few hours, we found openings in numbers. If we had held our course as we began, it is not at all impossible that we should have been delayed for a long time, with a free passage a few miles away.
After having accomplished this first long turn, we escaped having to make any more in future. The ice continued slack, and on February 6 the rapidly increasing swell told us that we had done with the Antarctic drift-ice for good. I doubt if we saw a single seal during our passage through the ice-belt this time; and if we had seen any, we should scarcely have allowed the time for shooting them. There was plenty of good food both for men and dogs this time, without our having recourse to seal-beef. For the dogs we had brought all our remaining store of the excellent dogs' pemmican, and that was not a little. Besides this, we had a good lot of dried fish. They had fish and pemmican on alternate days. On this diet the animals kept in such splendid condition that, when on arrival at Hobart they had shed most of their rough winter coats, they looked as if they had been in clover for a year.
For the nine of us who had just joined the ship, our comrades on board had brought all the way from Buenos Aires several fat pigs, that were now living in luxury in their pen on the after-deck; in addition to these, three fine sheep's carcasses hung in the workroom. It need scarcely be said that we were fully capable of appreciating these unexpected luxuries. Seal-beef, no doubt, had done excellent service, but this did not prevent roast mutton and pork being a welcome change, especially as they came as a complete surprise. I hardly think one of us had counted on the possibility of getting fresh meat before we were back again in civilization.
On her arrival at the Bay of Whales there were eleven men on board the Fram, all included. Instead of Kutschin and Nodtvedt, who had gone home from Buenos Aires while the ship was there in the autumn of 1911, three new men were engaged — namely, Halvorsen, Olsen and Steller; the two first-named were from Bergen; Steller was a German, who had lived for several years in Norway, and talked Norwegian like a native.
All three were remarkably efficient and friendly men; it was a pleasure to have any dealings with them. I venture to think that they, too, found themselves at home in our company; they were really only engaged until the Fram called at the first port, but they stayed on board all the way to Buenos Aires, and will certainly go with us farther still.
When the shore party came on board, Lieutenant Prestrud took up his old position as first officer; the others began duty at once. All told, we were now twenty men on board, and after the Fram had sailed for a year rather short-handed, she could now be said to have a full crew again. On this voyage we had no special work outside the usual sea routine, and so long as the weather was fair, we had thus a comparatively quiet life on board. But the hours of watch on deck passed quickly enough, I expect; there was material in plenty for many a long chat now. If we, who came from land, showed a high degree of curiosity about what had been going on in the world, the sea-party were at least as eager to have full information of every detail of our year-long stay on the Barrier. One must almost have experienced something similar oneself to be able to form an idea of the hail of questions that is showered upon one on such an occasion. What we land-lubbers had to relate has been given in outline in the preceding chapters. Of the news we heard from outside, perhaps nothing interested us so much as the story of how the change in the plan of the expedition had been received at home and abroad.
It must have been at least a week before there was any noticeable ebb in the flood of questions and answers. That week went by quickly; perhaps more quickly than we really cared for, since it proved that the Fram was not really able to keep pace with time. The weather remained quite well behaved, but not exactly in the way we wished. We had reckoned that the south-easterly and easterly winds, so frequent around Framheim, would also show themselves out in Ross Sea, but they entirely forgot to do so. We had little wind, and when there was any, it was, as a rule, a slant from the north, always enough to delay our honest old ship. It was impossible to take any observations for the first eight days, the sky was continuously overcast. If one occasionally asked the skipper about her position, he usually replied that the only thing that could be said for certain was that we were in Ross Sea. On February 7, however, according to a fairly good noon observation, we were well to the north of Cape Adare, and therefore beyond the limits of the Antarctic Continent. On the way northward we passed Cape Adare at a distance hardly greater than could have been covered with a good day's sailing; but our desire of making this detour had to give way to the chief consideration — northward, northward as quickly as possible.
There is usually plenty of wind in the neighbourhood of bold promontories, and Cape Adare is no exception in this respect; it is well known as a centre of bad weather. Nor did we slip by without getting a taste of this; but it could not have been more welcome, as it happened that the wind was going the same way as ourselves. Two days of fresh south-east wind took us comparatively quickly past the Balleny Islands, and on February 9 we could congratulate ourselves on being well out of the south frigid zone. It was with joy that we had crossed the Antarctic Circle over a year ago, going south; perhaps we rejoiced no less at crossing it this time in the opposite direction.
In the bustle of getting away from our winter-quarters there had been no time for any celebration of the fortunate reunion of the land and sea parties. As this occasion for festivity had been let slip, we had to look out for another, and we agreed that the day of our passage from the frigid to the temperate zone afforded a very good excuse. The pre-arranged part of the programme was extremely simple: an extra cup of coffee, duly accompanied by punch and cigars, and some music on the gramophone. Our worthy gramophone could not offer anything that had the interest of novelty to us nine who had wintered at Framheim: we knew the whole repertoire pretty well by heart; but the well-known melodies awakened memories of many a pleasant Saturday evening around the toddy table in our cosy winter home down at the head of the Bay of Whales — memories which we need not be ashamed of recalling. On board the Fram gramophone music had not been heard since Christmas Eve, 1910, and the members of the sea party were glad enough to encore more than one number.
Outside the limits of the programme we were treated to an extra number by a singer, who imitated the gramophone in utilizing a big megaphone, to make up for the deficiencies of his voice — according to his own statement. He hid behind the curtain of Captain Nilsen's cabin, and through the megaphone came a ditty intended to describe life on the Barrier from its humorous side. It was completely successful, and we again had a laugh that did us good. Performances of this kind, of course, only have a value to those who have taken part in or are acquainted with the events to which they refer. In case any outsider may be interested in seeing what our entertainment was like, a few of the verses are given here.
It must be remarked that the author composed his production in the supposition that we should be able to meet by Christmas, and he therefore proposed that for the moment we should imagine ourselves to be celebrating that festival. We made no difficulty about acceding to his request:
Well, here we are assembled to jollity once more, Some from off the ocean and the rest from off the shore. A year has passed since last we met and all are safe and sound, Then let us banish all our cares and join our hands all round. Christmas, happy Christmas! let us pass the flowing bowl, Fill your glasses all, and let's make "Sails" a wee bit full. For all I'll say is this — that it's in his country's cause; If he staggers just a little, it is in his country's cause.
Now you sailor boys shall hear about the time we have gone through: The winter — well, it wasn't long, we had so much to do. There was digging snow, and sleeping — you can bet we're good at that — And eating, too — no wonder that we're all a little fat. We had hot cakes for our breakfast and "hermetik" each day, Mutton pies, ragouts and curries, for that is Lindstrom's way. But all I'll say is this — that 'twas in our country's cause, If we stuffed ourselves with dainties, it was in our country's cause.
September came and off we went — that trip was pretty tough; Our compasses all went on strike, they thought it cold enough. The brandy in the Captain's flask froze to a lump of ice; We all agreed, both men and dogs, such weather wasn't nice. So back we went to Framheim to thaw our heels and toes; It could not be quite healthy when our feet and fingers froze. But all I say is this — that 'twas in our country's cause, And we did not mind a frost-bite when 'twas in our country's cause.
The sun came up and warmed us then a little day by day; Five men went out again and toiled along the southern way. This time they conquered snow and ice, and all the world may hear That Norway's flag flies at the Pole. Now, boys, a ringing cheer For him who led them forward through the mountains and the plain, Up to the goal they aimed at, and safely back again. But all I'll say is this — that 'twas in his country's cause; If he went through and won the Pole, 'twas in his country's cause.
It could soon be noticed, in one way and another, that we had reached latitudes where existence took a very different aspect from what we had been accustomed to south of the 66th parallel. One welcome change was the rise in temperature; the mercury now climbed well above freezing-point, and those individuals on board who were still more or less clad in skins, shed the last remnants of their Polar garb for a lighter and more convenient costume. Those who waited longest before making the change were the ones who belonged to the shore party. The numerous people who imagine that a long stay in the Polar regions makes a man less susceptible of cold than other mortals are completely mistaken. The direct opposite is more likely to be the case. A man who stays some time in a place where the everyday temperature is down in the fifties below zero, or more than that, will not trouble himself greatly about the cold, so long as he has good and serviceable skin clothing. Let the same man, rigged out in civilized clothes, be suddenly put down in the streets of Christiania on a winter day, with thirty or thirty-five degrees of frost, and the poor fellow's teeth will chatter till they fall out of his mouth. The fact is, that on a Polar trip one defends oneself effectively against the cold; when one comes back, and has to go about with the protection afforded by an overcoat, a stiff collar, and a hard hat — well, then one feels it.
A less welcome consequence of the difference in latitude was the darkening of the nights. It may be admitted that continual daylight would be unpleasant in the long run ashore, but aboard ship an everlasting day would certainly be preferred, if such a thing could be had. Even if we might now consider that we had done with the principal mass of Antarctic ice, we still had to reckon with its disagreeable outposts — the icebergs. It has already been remarked that a practised look-out man can see the blink of one of the larger bergs a long way off in the dark, but when it is a question of one of the smaller masses of ice, of which only an inconsiderable part rises above the surface, there is no such brightness, and therefore no warning. A little lump like this is just as dangerous as a big berg; you run the same risks in a possible collision of knocking a hole in the bows or carrying away the rigging. In these transitional regions, where the temperature of the water is always very low, the thermometer is a very doubtful guide.
The waters in which we were sailing are not yet so well known as to exclude the possibility of meeting with land. Captain Colbeck, who commanded one of the relief ships sent south during Scott's first expedition, came quite unexpectedly upon a little island to the east of Cape Adare; this island was afterwards named after Captain Scott. When Captain Colbeck made his discovery, he was about on the course that has usually been taken by ships whose destination was within the limits of Ross Sea. There is still a possibility that in going out of one's course, voluntarily or involuntarily, one may find more groups of islands in that part.
On the current charts of the South Pacific there are marked several archipelagoes and islands, the position of which is not a little doubtful. One of these — Emerald Island — is charted as lying almost directly in the course we had to follow to reach Hobart. Captain Davis, who took Shackleton's ship, the Nimrod, home to England in 1909, sailed, however, right over the point where Emerald Island should be found according to the chart without seeing anything of it. If it exists at all, it is, at any rate, incorrectly charted. In order to avoid its vicinity, and still more in order to get as far as possible to the west before we came into the westerly belt proper, we pressed on as much as we could for one hard week, or perhaps nearer two; but a continual north-west wind seemed for a long time to leave us only two disagreeable possibilities, either of drifting to the eastward, or of finding ourselves down in the drift-ice to the north of Wilkes Land.
Those weeks were a very severe trial of patience to the many on board who were burning with eagerness to get ashore with our news, and perhaps to hear some in return. When the first three weeks of February were past, we were not much more than half-way; with anything like favourable conditions we ought to have arrived by that time. The optimists always consoled us by saying that sooner or later there would be a change for the better, and at last it came. A good spell of favourable wind took us at a bound well to the windward both of the doubtful Emerald Island and of the authentic Macquarie group to the north of it. It may be mentioned in passing, that at the time we went by, the most southerly wireless telegraphy station in the world was located on one of the Macquarie Islands. The installation belonged to Dr. Mawson's Antarctic expedition. Dr. Mawson also took with him apparatus for installing a station on the Antarctic Continent itself, but, so far as is known, no connection was accomplished the first year.
During this fortunate run we had come so far to the west that our course to Hobart was rapidly approaching true north. On the other hand, we should have liked to be able to take advantage of the prevailing winds, — the westerlies. These vary little from one year to another, and we found them much the same as we had been accustomed to before: frequent, stiff breezes from the north-west, which generally held for about twelve hours, and then veered to west or south-west. So long as the north-wester was blowing, there was nothing to do but to lie to with shortened sail; when the change of wind came, we made a few hours' progress in the right direction. In this way we crept step by step northward to our destination. It was slow enough, no doubt; but every day the line of our course on the chart grew a little longer, and towards the end of February the distance between us and the southern point of Tasmania had shrunk to very modest dimensions.
With the constant heavy westerly swell, the Fram, light as she now was, surpassed herself in rolling, and that is indeed saying a great deal. This rolling brought us a little damage to the rigging, the gaff of the mainsail breaking; however, that affair did not stop us long. The broken spar was quickly replaced by a spare gaff.
Our hopes of arriving before the end of February came to naught, and a quarter of March went by before our voyage was at an end.
On the afternoon of March 4, we had our first glimpse of land; but, as the weather was by no means clear and we had not been able to determine our longitude with certainty for two days, we were uncertain which point of Tasmania we had before us. To explain the situation, a short description of the coast-line is necessary. The southern angle of Tasmania runs out in three promontories; off the easternmost of these, and only divided from it by a very narrow channel, lies a steep and apparently inaccessible island, called Tasman Island. It is, however, accessible, for on the top of it — 900 feet above the sea — stands a lighthouse. The middle promontory is called Tasman Head, and between this and the eastern one we have Storm Bay, which forms the approach to Hobart; there, then, lay our course. The question was, which of the three heads we had sighted. This was difficult, or rather impossible, to decide, so indistinct was the outline of the land in the misty air; it was also entirely unknown to us, as not one of us had ever before been in this corner of the world. When darkness came on, a heavy rain set in, and without being able to see anything at all, we lay there feeling our way all night. With the appearance of daylight a fresh south-west wind came and swept away most of the rain, so that we could again make out the land. We decided that what we saw was the middle promontory, Tasman Head, and gaily set our course into Storm Bay — as we thought. With the rapidly strengthening breeze we went spinningly, and the possibility of reaching Hobart in a few hours began to appear as a dead certainty. With this comfortable feeling we had just sat down to the breakfast table in the fore-saloon, when the door was pulled open with what seemed unnecessary violence, and the face of the officer of the watch appeared in the doorway. "We're on the wrong side of the head," was the sinister message, and the face disappeared. Good-bye to our pleasant plans, good-bye to our breakfast! All hands went on deck at once, and it was seen only too well that the melancholy information was correct. We had made a mistake in the thick rain. The wind, that had now increased to a stiff breeze, had chased the rain-clouds from the tops of the hills, and on the point we had taken for Tasman Head, we now saw the lighthouse. It was therefore Tasman Island, and instead of being in Storm Bay, we were out in the open Pacific, far to leeward of the infamous headland.
There was nothing to be done but to beat and attempt to work our way back to windward, although we knew it would be practically labour in vain. The breeze increased to a gale, and instead of making any headway we had every prospect of drifting well to leeward; that was the usual result of trying to beat with the Fram. Rather annoyed though we were, we set to work to do what could be done, and with every square foot of canvas set the Fram pitched on her way close-hauled. To begin with, it looked as if we held our own more or less, but as the distance from land increased and the wind got more force, our bearings soon showed us that we were going the way the hen kicks. About midday we went about and stood in towards land again; immediately after came a violent squall which tore the outer jib to ribbons; with that we were also obliged to take in the mainsail, otherwise it would pretty soon have been caught aback, and there would have been further damage to the rigging. With the remaining sails any further attempt was useless; there was nothing left but to get as close under the lee of the land as we could and try with the help of the engine to hold our own till the weather moderated. How it blew that afternoon! One gust after another came dancing down the slopes of the hills, and tore at the rigging till the whole vessel shook. The feeling on board was, as might be expected, somewhat sultry, and found an outlet in various expressions the reverse of gentle. Wind, weather, fate, and life in general were inveighed against, but this availed little. The peninsula that separated us from Storm Bay still lay there firm and immovable, and the gale went on as if it was in no hurry to let us get round. The whole day went by, and the greater part of the night, without any change taking place. Not till the morning of the 6th did our prospects begin to improve. The wind became lighter and went more to the south; that was, of course, the way we had to go, but by hugging the shore, where we had perfectly smooth water, we succeeded in working our way down to Tasman Island before darkness fell. The night brought a calm, and that gave us our chance. The engine worked furiously, and a slight favourable current contributed to set us on our way. By dawn on the 7th we were far up Storm Bay and could at last consider ourselves masters of the situation.
It was a sunny day, and our faces shone in rivalry with the sun; all trace of the last two days' annoyances had vanished. And soon the Fram, too, began to shine. The white paint on deck had a thorough overhauling with soap and water in strong solution. The Ripolin was again as fresh as when new. When this had been seen to, the outward appearance of the men also began to undergo a striking change. The Iceland jackets and "blanket costumes" from Horten gave way to "shore clothes" of the most varied cut, hauled out after a two years' rest; razors and scissors had made a rich harvest, and sailmaker Ronne's fashionable Burberry caps figured on most heads. Even Lindstrom, who up to date had held the position among the land party of being its heaviest, fattest, and blackest member, showed unmistakable signs of having been in close contact with water.
Meanwhile we were nearing a pilot station, and a bustling little motor launch swung alongside. "Want a pilot, captain?" One positively started at the sound of the first new human voice. Communication with the outer world was again established. The pilot — a brisk, good-humoured old man — looked about him in surprise when he came up on to our deck. "I should never have imagined things were so clean and bright on board a Polar ship," he said; "nor should I have thought from the look of you that you had come from Antarctica. You look as if you had had nothing but a good time." We could assure him of that, but as to the rest, it was not our intention just yet to allow ourselves to be pumped, and the old man could see that. He had no objection to our pumping him, though he had no very great store of news to give us. He had heard nothing of the Terra Nova; on the other hand, he was able to tell us that Dr. Mawson's ship, the Aurora, commanded by Captain Davis, might be expected at Hobart any day. They had been looking out for the Fram since the beginning of February, and had given us up long ago. That was a surprise, anyhow.
Our guest evidently had no desire to make the acquaintance of our cuisine; at any rate, he very energetically declined our invitation to breakfast. Presumably he was afraid of being treated to dog's flesh or similar original dishes. On the other hand, he showed great appreciation of our Norwegian tobacco. He had his handbag pretty nearly full when he left us.
Hobart Town lies on the bank of the Derwent River, which runs into Storm Bay. The surroundings are beautiful, and the soil evidently extremely fertile; but woods and fields were almost burnt up on our arrival; a prolonged drought had prevailed, and made an end of all green things. To our eyes it was, however, an unmixed delight to look upon meadows and woods, even if their colours were not absolutely fresh. We were not very difficult to please on that score.
The harbour of Hobart is an almost ideal one, large and remarkably well protected. As we approached the town, the usual procession of harbour-master, doctor, and Custom-house officers came aboard. The doctor soon saw that there was no work for his department, and the Custom-house officers were easily convinced that we had no contraband goods. The anchor was dropped, and we were free to land. I took my cablegrams, and accompanied the harbour-master ashore.
The Eastern Sledge Journey
By Lieutenant K. Prestrud
On October 20, 1911, the southern party started on their long journey. The departure took place without much ceremony, and with the smallest possible expenditure of words. A hearty grasp of the hand serves the purpose quite as well on such occasions. I accompanied them to the place we called the starting-point, on the south side of the bay. After a final "Good luck" to our Chief and comrades — as sincere a wish as I have ever bestowed upon anyone — I cinematographed the caravan, and very soon after it was out of sight. Those fellows went southward at a great pace, Helmer Hanssen's quick-footed team leading as usual.
There I stood, utterly alone, and I cannot deny that I was a prey to somewhat mixed feelings. When should we see those five again, who had just disappeared from view on the boundless plain, and in what conditions? What sort of a report would they bring of the result? There was plenty of room for guesses here, and abundant opportunity for weighing every possibility, good and bad; but there was very little to be gained by indulging in speculations of that sort. The immediate facts first claimed attention. One fact, amongst others, was that Framheim was a good three miles away; another was that the cinematograph apparatus weighed a good many pounds; and a third that Lindstrom would be mightily put out if I arrived too late for dinner. Our chef insisted on a high standard of punctuality in the matter of meal-times. Homeward, then, at the best speed possible. The speed, however, was not particularly good, and I began to prepare for the consequences of a long delay. On the other side of the bay I could just make out a little black speck, that seemed to be in motion towards me. I thought at first it was a seal, but, fortunately, it turned out to be Jorgen Stubberud with six dogs and a sledge. This was quite encouraging: in the first place, I should get rid of my unmanageable burden, and in the second I might expect to get on faster. Stubberud's team consisted, however, of four intractable puppies, besides Puss and another courser of similar breed; the result was that our pace was a modest one and our course anything but straight, so that we arrived at Framheim two hours after the time appointed for dinner. Those who know anything of Master Lindstrom and his disposition will easily be able from this explanation to form an idea of his state of mind at the moment when we entered the door. Yes, he was undoubtedly angry, but we were at least equally hungry; and if anything can soften the heart of a Norwegian caterer, it is a ravenous appetite in those he has to feed, provided, of course, that he have enough to offer them, and Lindstrom's supplies were practically unlimited.
I remember that dinner well: at the same table where eight of us had sat for so many months, there were now only three left — Johansen, Stubberud, and I. We had more room, it is true, but that gain was a poor satisfaction. We missed those who had gone very badly, and our thoughts were always following them. The first thing we discussed on this occasion was how many miles they might be expected to do that day: nor was this the last dispute we had on the same theme. During the weeks and months that followed, it was constantly to the fore, and gave plenty of material for conversation when we had exhausted our own concerns. As regards these latter, my instructions were
1. To go to King Edward VII. Land, and there carry out what exploration time and circumstances might permit.
2. To survey and map the Bay of Whales and its immediate surroundings.
3. As far as possible to keep the station at Framheim in order, in case we might have to spend another winter there.
As regards time, my orders were to be back at Framheim before we could reasonably expect the arrival of the Fram. This was, and would necessarily remain, somewhat uncertain. No doubt we all had a great idea of the Fram's capacity for keeping time, and Lieutenant Nilsen had announced his intention of being back by Christmas or the New Year; but nevertheless a year is a long time, and there are many miles in a trip round the world. If we assumed that no mishap had occurred to the Fram, and that she had left Buenos Aires at the time fixed in the plan — October 1, 1911 — she would in all probability be able to arrive at the Bay of Whales about the middle of January, 1912. On the basis of this calculation we decided, if possible, to get the sledge journey to King Edward Land done before Christmas, while the surveying work around the bay would have to be postponed to the first half of January, 1912. I thought, however, seeing the advantages of working while the bay was still frozen over, that it would pay to devote a few days — immediately following the departure of the southern party — to the preparatory work of measuring. But this did not pay at all. We had reckoned without the weather, and in consequence were well taken in. When one thinks over it afterwards, it seems reasonable enough that the final victory of mild weather over the remains of the Antarctic winter cannot be accomplished without serious disturbances of the atmospheric conditions. The expulsion of one evil has to be effected by the help of another; and the weather was bad with a vengeance. During the two weeks that followed October 20 there were only three or four days that offered any chance of working with the theodolite and plane-table. We managed to get a base-line measured, 1,000 metres long, and to lay out the greater part of the east side of the bay, as well as the most prominent points round the camp; but one had positively to snatch one's opportunities by stealth, and every excursion ended regularly in bringing the instruments home well covered with snow.
If the bad weather thus put hindrances in the way of the work we were anxious to do, it made up for it by providing us with a lot of extra work which we could very well have done without. There was incessant shovelling of snow to keep any sort of passage open to the four dog-tents that were left standing, as well as to our own underground dwelling, over which the snow covering had been growing constantly higher. The fairly high wall that we had originally built on the east side of the entrance door was now entirely buried in the snow-drift. It had given us good protection; now the drift had unimpeded access, and the opening, like the descent into a cellar, that led down to the door, was filled up in the course of a few hours when the wind was in the right quarter. Lindstrom shook his head when we sometimes asked him how he would get on by himself if the weather continued in this way. "So long as there's nothing but snow in the way, I'll manage to get out," said he. One day he came and told us that he could no longer get at the coal, and on further investigation it looked rather difficult. The roof of the place where the coal was stored had yielded to the pressure of the mass of snow, and the whole edifice had collapsed. There was nothing to be done but to set to work at once, and after a great deal of hard labour we got the remainder of the precious fuel moved into the long snow tunnel that led from the house to the coal-store. With that our "black diamonds" were in safety for the time being. This job made us about as black as the "diamonds." When we came in the cook, as it happened, had just been doing a big wash on his own account — a comparatively rare event — and there was surprise on both sides. The cook was as much taken aback at seeing us so black as we were at seeing him so clean.
All the snow-shovelling that resulted from the continued bad weather, in conjunction with the necessary preparations for the sledge journey, gave us plenty of occupation, but I will venture to say that none of us would care to go through those days again. We were delayed in our real work, and delay, which is unpleasant enough in any circumstances, was all the more unwelcome down here, where time is so precious. As we only had two sledges on which to transport supplies for three men and sixteen dogs, besides all our outfit, and as on our trip we should have no depots to fall back on, the duration of the journey could not be extended much beyond six weeks. In order to be back again by Christmas, we had, therefore, to leave before the middle of November. It would do no harm, however, to be off before this, and as soon as November arrived we took the first opportunity of disappearing.
On account of getting on the right course, we preferred that the start should take place in clear weather. The fact was that we were obliged to go round by the depot in 80deg. S. As King Edward Land lies to the east, or rather north-east, of Framheim, this was a considerable detour; it had to be made, because in September we had left at this depot all the packed sledging provisions, a good deal of our personal equipment, and, finally, some of the necessary instruments.
On the way to the depot, about thirty geographical miles south of Framheim, we had the nasty crevassed surface that had been met with for the first time on the third depot journey in the autumn of 1911 — in the month of April. At that time we came upon it altogether unawares, and it was somewhat remarkable that we escaped from it with the loss of two dogs. This broken surface lay in a depression about a mile to the west of the route originally marked out; but, however it may have been, it seems ever since that time to have exercised an irresistible attraction. On our first attempt to go south, in September, 1911, we came right into the middle of it, in spite of the fact that it was then perfectly clear. I afterwards heard that in spite of all their efforts, the southern party, on their last trip, landed in this dangerous region, and that one man had a very narrow escape of falling in with sledge and dogs. I had no wish to expose myself to the risk of such accidents — at any rate, while we were on familiar ground. That would have been a bad beginning to my first independent piece of work as a Polar explorer. A day or two of fine weather to begin with would enable us to follow the line originally marked out, and thus keep safe ground under our feet until the ugly place was passed.
In the opening days of November the weather conditions began to improve somewhat; in any case, there was not the continual driving snow. Lindstrom asked us before we left to bring up a sufficient quantity of seals, to save him that work as long as possible. The supply we had had during the winter was almost exhausted; there was only a certain amount of blubber left. We thought it only fair to accede to his wish, as it is an awkward business to transport those heavy beasts alone, especially when one has only a pack of unbroken puppies to drive. We afterwards heard that Lindstrom had some amusing experiences with them during the time he was left alone.
Leaving the transport out of the question, this seal-hunting is a very tame sport. An old Arctic hand or an Eskimo would certainly be astounded to see the placid calm with which the Antarctic seal allows itself to be shot and cut up. To them Antarctica would landed in this dangerous region, and that one man had a very narrow escape of falling in with sledge and dogs. I had no wish to expose myself to the risk of such accidents — at any rate, while we were on familiar ground. That would have been a bad beginning to my first independent piece of work as a Polar explorer. A day or two of fine weather to begin with would enable us to follow the line originally marked out, and thus keep safe ground under our feet until the ugly place was passed.
In the opening days of November the weather conditions began to improve somewhat; in any case, there was not the continual driving snow. Lindstrom asked us before we left to bring up a sufficient quantity of seals, to save him that work as long as possible. The supply we had had during the winter was almost exhausted; there was only a certain amount of blubber left. We thought it only fair to accede to his wish, as it is an awkward business to transport those heavy beasts alone, especially when one has only a pack of unbroken puppies to drive. We afterwards heard that Lindstrom had some amusing experiences with them during the time he was left alone.
Leaving the transport out of the question, this seal-hunting is a very tame sport. An old Arctic hand or an Eskimo would certainly be astounded to see the placid calm with which the Antarctic seal allows itself to be shot and cut up. To them Antarctica would but it seldom removes itself many yards at a time, for the motions of the seal are just as clumsy and slow on land as they are active and swift in the water. When it has crawled with great pains to a little distance, there is no sign that the interruption has made any lasting impression on it. It looks more as if it took it all as an unpleasant dream or nightmare, which it would be best to sleep off as soon as possible. If one shoots a single seal, this may happen without those lying round so much as raising their heads. Indeed, we could open and cut up a seal right before the noses of its companions without this making the slightest impression on them.
About the beginning of November the seals began to have their young. So far as we could make out, the females kept out of the water for several days without taking any food, until the young one was big enough to be able to go to sea; otherwise, it did not seem that the mothers cared very much for their little ones. Some, it is true, made a sort of attempt to protect their offspring if they were disturbed, but the majority simply left their young ones in the lurch.
As far as we were concerned, we left the females and their young as much as possible in peace. We killed two or three new-born seals to get the skins for our collection. It was another matter with the dogs. With them seal-hunting was far too favourite a sport for the opportunity to be neglected. Against a full-grown seal, however, they could do nothing; its body offered no particularly vulnerable spots, and the thick, tight-fitting skin was too much even for dogs' teeth. The utmost the rascals could accomplish was to annoy and torment the object of their attack. It was quite another matter when the young ones began to arrive. Among this small game the enterprising hunters could easily satisfy their inborn craving for murder, for the scoundrels only killed for the sake of killing; they were not at all hungry, as they had as much food as they liked. Of course, we did all we could to put a stop to this state of things, and so long as there were several of us at the hut, we saw that the whole pack was tied up; but when Lindstrom was left by himself, he could not manage to hold them fast. His tents were altogether snowed under in the weather that prevailed on the seaboard in December. There were not many dogs left in his charge, but I am afraid those few wrought great havoc among the young seals out on the ice of the bay. The poor mothers could hardly have done anything against a lot of dogs, even if they had been more courageous. Their enemies were too active. For them it was the work of a moment to snatch the young one from the side of its mother, and then they were able to take the poor thing's life undisturbed.
Unfortunately, there were no sea-leopards in the neighbourhood of Framheim. These, which are far quicker in their movements than the Weddell seal, and are, moreover, furnished with a formidable set of teeth, would certainly have made the four-footed seal-hunters more careful in their behaviour.
After we had brought up to the house enough seals' carcasses to keep the ten or twelve dogs that would be left supplied for a good while, and had cut up a sufficient quantity for our own use on the way to 80deg. S., we took the first opportunity of getting away. Before I pass on to give an account of our trip, I wish to say a few words about my companions — Johansen and Stubberud. It goes without saying that it gave me, as a beginner, a great feeling of security to have with me such a man as Johansen, who possessed many years' experience of all that pertains to sledging expeditions; and as regards Stubberud, I could not have wished for a better travelling companion than him either — a first-rate fellow, steady and efficient in word and deed. As it turned out, we were not to encounter very many difficulties, but one never escapes scot-free on a sledge journey in these regions. I owe my comrades thanks for the way in which they both did their best to smooth our path.
Johansen and Stubberud drove their dog-teams; I myself acted as "forerunner." The drivers had seven dogs apiece. We took so many, because we were not quite sure of what the animals we had were fit for. As was right and proper, the southern party had picked out the best. Among those at our disposal there were several that had previously shown signs of being rather quickly tired. True, this happened under very severe conditions. As it turned out, our dogs exceeded all our expectations in the easier conditions of work that prevailed during the summer. On the first part of the way — as far as the depot in 80deg. S. — the loads were quite modest. Besides the tent, the sleeping-bags, our personal outfit, and instruments, we only had provisions for eight days-seals' flesh for the dogs, and tinned food for ourselves. Our real supplies were to be taken from the depot, where there was enough of everything.
On November 8 we left Framheim, where in future Lindstrom was to reside as monarch of all he surveyed. The weather was as fine as could be wished. I was out with the cinematograph apparatus, in order if possible to immortalize the start. To complete the series of pictures, Lindstrom was to take the forerunner, who was now, be it said, a good way behind those he was supposed to be leading. With all possible emphasis I enjoined Lindstrom only to give the crank five or six turns, and then started off to catch up the drivers. When I had nearly reached the provision store I pulled up, struck by a sudden apprehension. Yes, I was right on looking back I discovered that incorrigible person still hard at work with the crank, as though he were going to be paid a pound for every yard of film showing the back view of the forerunner. By making threatening gestures with a ski-pole I stopped the too persistent cinematograph, and then went on to join Stubberud, who was only a few yards ahead. Johansen had disappeared like a meteor. The last I saw of him was the soles of his boots, as he quite unexpectedly made an elegant backward somersault off the sledge when it was passing over a little unevenness by the provision store. The dogs, of course, made off at full speed, and Johansen after them like the wind. We all met again safe and sound at the ascent to the Barrier. Here a proper order of march was formed, and we proceeded southward.
The Barrier greeted us with a fresh south wind, that now and then made an attempt to freeze the tip of one's nose; it did not succeed in this, but it delayed us a little. It does not take a great deal of wind on this level plain to diminish the rate of one's progress. But the sun shone too gaily that day to allow a trifle of wind to interfere very much with our enjoyment of life. The surface was so firm that there was hardly a sign of drift-snow. As it was perfectly clear, the mark-flags could be followed the whole time, thus assuring us that, at any rate, the first day's march would be accomplished without any deviation from the right track.
At five o'clock we camped, and when we had fed the dogs and come into the tent we could feel how much easier and pleasanter everything was at this season than on the former journeys in autumn and spring. We could move freely in a convenient costume; if we wished, there was nothing to prevent our performing all the work of the camp with bare hands and still preserving our finger-tips unharmed. As I had no dog-team to look after, I undertook the duty of attending to our own needs; that is to say, I acted as cook. This occupation also was considerably easier now than it had been when the temperature was below -60deg. F. At that time it took half an hour to turn the snow in the cooker into water; now it was done in ten minutes, and the cook ran no risk whatever of getting his fingers frozen in the process.
Ever since we landed on the Barrier in January, 1911, we had been expecting to hear a violent cannonade as the result of the movement of the mass of ice. We had now lived a whole winter at Framheim without having observed, as far as I know, the slightest sign of a sound. This was one of many indications that the ice round our winter-quarters was not in motion at all.
No one, I believe, had noticed anything of the expected noise on the sledge journeys either, but at the place where we camped on the night of November 8 we did hear it. There was a report about once in two minutes, not exactly loud, but still, there it was. It sounded just as if there was a whole battery of small guns in action down in the depths below us. A few hundred yards to the west of the camp there were a number of small hummocks, which might indicate the presence of crevasses, but otherwise the surface looked safe enough. The small guns kept up a lively crackle all through the night, and combined with a good deal of uproar among the dogs to shorten our sleep. But the first night of a sledge journey is almost always a bad one. Stubberud declared that he could not close his eyes on account of "that filthy row." He probably expected the ice to open and swallow him up every time he heard it. The surface, however, held securely, and we turned out to the finest day one could wish to see. It did not require any very great strength of mind to get out of one's sleeping-bag now. The stockings that had been hung up in the evening could be put on again as dry as a bone; the sun had seen to that. Our ski boots were as soft as ever; there was not a sign of frost on them. It is quite curious to see the behaviour of the dogs when the first head appears through the tent-door in the morning. They greet their lord and master with the most unmistakable signs of joy, although, of course, they must know that his arrival will be followed by many hours of toil, with, perhaps, a few doses of the whip thrown in; but from the moment he begins to handle the sledge, the dogs look as if they had no desire in the world but to get into the harness as soon as possible and start away. On days like this their troubles would be few; with the light load and good going we had no difficulty in covering nineteen geographical miles in eight hours. Johansen's team was on my heels the whole time, and Stubberud's animals followed faithfully behind. From time to time we saw sledge-tracks quite plainly; we also kept the mark-flags in sight all day. In the temperatures we now had to deal with our costume was comparatively light — certainly much lighter than most people imagine; for there is a kind of summer even in Antarctica, although the daily readings of the thermometer at this season would perhaps rather remind our friends at home of what they are accustomed to regard as winter.