HotFreeBooks.com
The South Pole, Volumes 1 and 2
by Roald Amundsen
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

The next day was calm and clear, and the temperature began to descend, -13deg. F. But in spite of this lower temperature the air felt considerably milder, as it was quite still. We followed marks and fish the whole way, and at the end of our day's journey we had covered eighteen miles — a good distance for heavy going.

We then had a couple of days of bitter cold with fog, so that we did not see much of our surroundings. We followed the fish and the marks most of the way. We had already begun to find the fish useful as extra food; the dogs took it greedily. The forerunner had to take up each fish and throw it on one side; then one of the drivers went out, took it up, and put it on his sledge. If the dogs had come upon the fish standing in the snow we should soon have had fierce fights. Even now, before we reached the depot in 80deg. S., the dogs began to show signs of exhaustion, probably as a result of the cold weather (-16.6deg. F.) and the hard work. They were stiff in the legs in the morning and difficult to set going.

On February 27, at 10.30 a.m., we reached the depot in 80deg. S. The depot was standing as we had left it, and no snow-drifts had formed about it, from which we concluded that the weather conditions had been quiet. The snow, which we had found very loose when we were there before, was now hardened by the cold. We were lucky with the sun, and got the position of the depot accurately determined.

On our way across these endless plains, where no landmarks of any kind are to be found, we had repeatedly thought of a means of marking our depots so that we might be perfectly sure of finding them again. Our fight for the Pole was entirely dependent on this autumn work, in laying down large supplies of provisions as far to the south as possible in such a way that we could be certain of finding them again. If we missed them, the battle would probably be lost. As I have said, we had discussed the question thoroughly, and come to the conclusion that we should have to try to mark our depots at right angles to the route, in an east and west direction, instead of in a line with the route, north and south. These marks along the line of the route may easily be missed in fog, if they are not close enough together; and if one thus gets out of the line, there is a danger of not picking it up again. According to this new arrangement we therefore marked this depot in 80deg. S. with high bamboo poles carrying black flags. We used twenty of these — ten on each side of the depot. Between each two flags there was a distance of 984 yards (900 metres), so that the distance marked on each side of the depot was five and a half miles (nine kilometres). Each bamboo was marked with a number, so that we should always be able to tell from this number on which side the depot lay, and how far off. This method was entirely new and untried, but proved afterwards to work with absolute certainty. Our compasses and sledge-meters had, of course, been carefully adjusted at the station, and we knew that we could rely on them.

Having put this in order, we continued our journey on the following day. The temperature fell steadily as we went inland; if it continued in this way it would be cold before one got to the Pole. The surface remained as before — flat and even. We ourselves had a feeling that we were ascending, but, as the future will show, this was only imagination. We had had no trouble with fissures, and it almost looked as if we should avoid them altogether, since, of course, it might be supposed that the part of the Barrier nearest the edge would be the most fissured, and we had already left that behind us. South of 80deg. we found the going easier, but the dogs were now beginning to be stiff and sore-footed, and it was hard work to get them started in the morning. The sore feet I am speaking of here are not nearly so bad as those the dogs are liable to on the sea-ice of the Arctic regions. What caused sore feet on this journey was the stretches of snow-crust we had to cross; it was not strong enough to bear the dogs, and they broke through and cut their paws. Sore feet were also caused by the snow caking and sticking between the toes. But the dog that has to travel on sea-ice in spring and summer is exposed to worse things — the sharp ice cuts the paws and the salt gets in. To prevent this kind of sore feet one is almost obliged to put socks on the dogs. With the kind of foot-trouble our dogs experienced it is not necessary to take any such precautions. As a result of the long sea voyage their feet had become unusually tender and could not stand much. On our spring journey we noticed no sore-footedness, in spite of the conditions being worse rather than better; probably their feet had got into condition in the course of the winter.

On March 3 we reached 81deg. S. The temperature was then -45.4deg. F., and it did not feel pleasant. The change had come too rapidly; this could be seen both in men and in dogs. We pitched our camp at three in the afternoon, and went straight into the tents. The following day was employed in building and marking the depot. That night was the coldest we observed on the trip, as the temperature was -49deg. F. when we turned out in the morning. If one compares the conditions of temperature in the Arctic and Antarctic regions, it will be seen that this temperature is an exceptionally low one. The beginning of March corresponds, of course, to the beginning of September in the northern hemisphere — a time of year when summer still prevails. We were astonished to find this low temperature while summer ought still to have lasted, especially when I remembered the moderate temperatures Shackleton had observed on his southern sledge journey. The idea at once occurred to me of the existence of a local pole of maximum cold extending over the central portion of the Ross Barrier. A comparison with the observations recorded at Captain Scott's station in McMurdo Sound might to some extent explain this. In order to establish it completely one would require to have information about the conditions in King Edward Land as well. The observations Dr. Mawson is now engaged upon in Adelie Land and on the Barrier farther west will contribute much to the elucidation of this question.

In 81deg. S. we laid down a depot consisting of fourteen cases of dogs' pemmican — 1,234 pounds. For marking this depot we had no bamboo poles, so there was nothing to be done but to break up some cases and use the pieces as marks; this was, at any rate, better than nothing. Personally, I considered these pieces of wood, 2 feet high, good enough, considering the amount of precipitation I had remarked since our arrival in these regions. The precipitation we had observed was very slight, considering the time of year — spring and summer. If, then, the snowfall was so inconsiderable at this time of the year and along the edge of the Barrier, what might it not be in autumn and winter in the interior? As I have said, something was better than nothing, and Bjaaland, Hassel, and Stubberud, who were to return to Lindstrom's flesh-pots on the following day, were given the task of setting up these marks. As with the former depot, this one was marked for nine kilometres on each side from east to west. So that we might know where the depot was, in case we should come upon one of these marks in a fog, all those on the east were marked with a little cut of an axe. I must confess they looked insignificant, these little bits of wood that were soon lost to sight on the boundless plain, and the idea that they held the key of the castle where the fair one slept made me smile. They looked altogether too inconsiderable for such an honour. Meanwhile, we others, who were to go on to the south, took it easy. The rest was good for the dogs especially, though the cold prevented their enjoying it as they should have done.

At eight o'clock next morning we parted company with the three who went north. I had to send home one of my dogs, Odin, who had got an ugly raw place — I was using Greenland harness on him — and I went on with five dogs. These were very thin, and apparently worn out; but in any case we had to reach 82deg. S. before we gave up. I had had some hope that we might have got to 83deg., but it began to look as if we had a poor chance of that. After 81deg. S. the Barrier began to take on a slightly different appearance instead of the absolutely flat surface, we saw on the first day a good many small formations of the shape of haycocks. At that time we did not pay much attention to these apparently insignificant irregularities, but later on we learned to keep our eyes open and our feet active when passing in their vicinity. On this first day southward from 81deg. S. we noticed nothing; the going was excellent, the temperature not so bad as it had been, -27.4deg. F., and the distance covered very creditable. The next day we got our first idea of the meaning of these little mounds, as the surface was cut up by crevasse after crevasse. These fissures were not particularly wide, but were bottomless, as far as we could see. About noon Hanssen's three leading dogs, Helge, Mylius, and Ring, fell into one of them, and remained hanging by their harness; and it was lucky the traces held, as the loss of these three would have been severely felt. When the rest of the team saw these three disappear, they stopped short. Fortunately, they had a pronounced fear of these fissures, and always stopped when anything happened. We understood now that the haycock formations were the result of pressure, and that crevasses were always found in their neighbourhood.

That day was for the most part thick and hazy, with a northerly wind, and snow-showers from time to time. Between the showers we caught sight of lofty — very lofty — pressure ridges, three or four of them, to the eastward. We estimated their distance at about six miles. Next day, March 7, we had the same experience that Shackleton mentions on several occasions. The morning began clear and fine, with a temperature of -40deg. F. In the course of the forenoon a breeze sprang up from the south-east, and increased to a gale during the afternoon. The temperature rose rapidly, and when we pitched our camp at three in the afternoon it was only -0.4deg. F. At our camping-place that morning we left a case of dogs' pemmican, for use on the homeward journey, and marked the way to the south with splinters of board at every kilometre. Our distance that day was only twelve and a half miles. Our dogs, especially mine, looked miserable — terribly emaciated. It was clear that they could only reach 82deg. S. at the farthest. Even then the homeward journey would be a near thing.

We decided that evening to be satisfied with reaching 82deg., and then return. During this latter part of the trip we put up our two tents front to front, so that the openings joined; in this way we were able to send the food direct from one tent to the other without going outside, and that was a great advantage. This circumstance led to a radical alteration in our camping system, and gave us the idea of the best five-man tent that has probably yet been seen in the Polar regions. As we lay dozing that evening in our sleeping-bags, thinking of everything and nothing, the idea suddenly occurred to us that if the tents were sewed together as they now stood — after the fronts had been cut away — we should get one tent that would give us far more room for five than the two separate tents as they were. The idea was followed up, and the fruit of it was the tent we used on the journey to the Pole — an ideal tent in every way. Yes, circumstances work wonders; for I suppose one need not make Providence responsible for these trifles?

On March 8 we reached 82deg. S., and it was the utmost my five dogs could manage. Indeed, as will shortly be seen, it was already too much. They were completely worn out, poor beasts. This is the only dark memory of my stay in the South — the over-taxing of these fine animals — I had asked more of them than they were capable of doing. My consolation is that I did not spare myself either. To set this sledge, weighing nearly half a ton, in motion with tired-out dogs was no child's play. And setting it in motion was not always the whole of it: sometimes one had to push it forward until one forced the dogs to move. The whip had long ago lost its terrors. When I tried to use it, they only crowded together, and got their heads as much out of the way as they could; the body did not matter so much. Many a time, too, I failed altogether to get them to go, and had to have help. Then two of us shoved the sledge forward, while the third used the whip, shouting at the same time for all he was worth. How hard and unfeeling one gets under such conditions; how one's whole nature may be changed! I am naturally fond of all animals, and try to avoid hurting them. There is none of the "sportsman's" instinct in me; it would never occur to me to kill an animal — rats and flies excepted — unless it was to support life. I think I can say that in normal circumstances I loved my dogs, and the feeling was undoubtedly mutual. But the circumstances we were now in were not normal — or was it, perhaps, myself who was not normal? I have often thought since that such was really the case. The daily hard work and the object I would not give up had made me brutal, for brutal I was when I forced those five skeletons to haul that excessive load. I feel it yet when I think of Thor — a big, fine, smooth-haired dog — uttering his plaintive howls on the march, a thing one never hears a dog do while working. I did not understand what it meant — would not understand, perhaps. On he had to go — on till he dropped. When we cut him open we found that his whole chest was one large abscess.

The altitude at noon gave us 81deg. 54' 30'', and we therefore went the other six miles to the south, and pitched our camp at 3.30 p.m. in 82deg. S. We had latterly had a constant impression that the Barrier was rising, and in the opinion of all of us we ought now to have been at a height of about 1,500 feet and a good way up the slope leading to the Pole. Personally I thought the ground continued to rise to the south. It was all imagination, as our later measurements showed.

We had now reached our highest latitude that autumn, and had reason to be well satisfied. We laid down 1,370 pounds here, chiefly dogs' pemmican. We did nothing that afternoon, only rested a little. The weather was brisk, clear and calm, -13deg. F. The distance this last day was thirteen and a half miles.

Next day we stayed where we were, built our depot, and marked it. The marking was done in the same way as in 81deg. S., with this difference, that here the pieces of packing-case had small, dark blue strips of cloth fastened to the top, which made them easier to see. We made this depot very secure, so that we could be certain it would stand bad weather in the course of the winter. I also left my sledge behind, as I saw the impossibility of getting it home with my team; besides which, an extra sledge at this point might possibly be useful later. This depot — 12 feet high — was marked with a bamboo and a flag on the top, so that it could be seen a great way off.

On March 10 we took the road for home. I had divided my dogs between Wisting and Hanssen, but they got no assistance from these bags of bones, only trouble. The other three teams had held out well. There was hardly anything wrong to be seen with Hanssen's. Wisting's team was looked upon as the strongest, but his dogs had got very thin; however, they did their work well. Wisting's sledge had also been overloaded; it was even heavier than mine. Johansen's animals had originally been regarded as the weakest, but they proved themselves very tough in the long-run. They were no racers, but always managed to scramble along somehow. Their motto was: "If we don't get there to-day, we'll get there to-morrow." They all came home.

Our original idea was that the homeward journey should be a sort of pleasure trip, that we should sit on the sledges and take it easy; but in the circumstances this was not to be thought of. The dogs had quite enough to do with the empty sledges. The same day we reached the place where we had left a case of dogs' pemmican, and camped there, having done twenty-nine and three-quarter miles. The weather was cold and raw; temperature, -25.6deg. F. This weather took the last remnant of strength out of my dogs; instead of resting at night, they lay huddled together and freezing. It was pitiful to see them. In the morning they had to be lifted up and put on their feet; they had not strength enough to raise themselves. When they had staggered on a little way and got some warmth into their bodies, they seemed to be rather better — at any rate, they could keep up with us. The following day we did twenty-four and three-quarter miles; temperature, -32.8deg. F.

On the 12th we passed the depot in 81deg. S. The big pressure ridges to the east were easily visible, and we got a good bearing, which would possibly come in useful later for fixing the position of the depot. That day we did twenty-four and three-quarter miles; temperature, -39deg. F. March 13 began calm and fine, but by half-past ten in the morning a strong wind had sprung up from the east-south-east with thick driving snow. So as not to lose the tracks we had followed so far, we pitched our camp, to wait till the storm was over. The wind howled and took hold of the tents, but could not move them. The next day it blew just as hard from the same quarter, and we decided to wait. The temperature was as usual, with the wind in this quarter; -11.2deg. F. The wind did not moderate till 10.30 a.m. on the 15th, when we were able to make a start.

What a sight there was outside! How were we going to begin to bring order out of this chaos? The sledges were completely snowed up; whips, ski-bindings, and harness largely eaten up. It was a nice predicament. Fortunately we were well supplied with Alpine rope, and that did for the harness; spare straps came in for ski-bindings, but the whips were not so easy to make good. Hanssen, who drove first, was bound to have a fairly serviceable whip; the others did not matter so much, though it was rather awkward for them. In some way or other he provided himself with a whip that answered his purpose. I saw one of the others armed with a tent-pole, and he used it till we reached Framheim. At first the dogs were much afraid of this monster of a whip, but they soon found out that it was no easy matter to reach them with the pole, and then they did not care a scrap for it.

At last everything seemed to be in order, and then we only had to get the dogs up and in their places. Several of them were so indifferent that they had allowed themselves to be completely snowed under, but one by one we got them out and put them on their feet. Thor, however, refused absolutely. It was impossible to get him to stand up; he simply lay and whined. There was nothing to be done but to put an end to him, and as we had no firearms, it had to be done with an axe. It was quite successful; less would have killed him. Wisting took the carcass on his sledge to take it to the next camp, and there cut it up. The day was bitterly cold — fog and snow with a southerly breeze; temperature, -14.8deg. F. We were lucky enough to pick up our old tracks of the southern journey, and could follow them. Lurven, Wisting's best dog, fell down on the march, and died on the spot. He was one of those dogs who had to work their hardest the whole time; he never thought of shirking for a moment; he pulled and pulled until he died.

All sentimental feeling had vanished long ago; nobody thought of giving Lurven the burial he deserved. What was left of him, skin and bones, was cut up and divided among his companions.

On March 16 we advanced seventeen miles; temperature, -29.2deg. F. Jens, one of my gallant "Three Musketeers," had been given a ride all day on Wisting's sledge; he was too weak to walk any longer. Thor was to have been divided among his companions that evening, but, on account of the abscess in his chest, we changed our minds. He was put into an empty case and buried. During the night we were wakened by a fearful noise. The dogs were engaged in a fierce fight, and it was easy to guess from their howls that it was all about food. Wisting, who always showed himself quickest in getting out of the bag, was instantly on the spot, and then it was seen that they had dug up Thor, and were now feasting on him. It could not be said that they were hard to please in the way of food. Associations of ideas are curious things; "sauce hollandaise" suddenly occurred to my mind. Wisting buried the carcass again, and we had peace for the rest of the night.

On the 17th it felt bitterly cold, with -41.8deg. F., and a sharp snowstorm from the south-east. Lassesen, one of my dogs, who had been following the sledges loose, was left behind this morning at the camping-place; we did not miss him till late in the day. Rasmus, one of the "Three Musketeers," fell to-day. Like Lurven, he pulled till he died. Jens was very ill, could not touch food, and was taken on Wisting's sledge. We reached our depot in 80deg. S. that evening, and were able to give the dogs a double ration. The distance covered was twenty-one and three-quarter miles. The surface about here had changed in our absence; great, high snow-waves were now to be seen in all directions. On one of the cases in the depot Bjaaland had written a short message, besides which we found the signal arranged with Hassel — a block of snow on the top of the depot to show that they had gone by, and that all was well. The cold continued persistently. The following day we had -41.8deg. F. Ola and Jens, the two survivors of the "Three Musketeers," had to be put an end to that day; it was a shame to keep them alive any longer. And with them the "Three Musketeers" disappear from this history. They were inseparable friends, these three; all of them almost entirely black. At Flekkero, near Christiansand, where we kept our dogs for several weeks before taking them on board, Rasmus had got loose, and was impossible to catch. He always came and slept with his two friends, unless he was being hunted. We did not succeed in catching him until a few days before we took them on board, and then he was practically wild. They were all three tied up on the bridge on board, where I was to have my team, and from that day my closer acquaintance with the trio is dated. They were not very civilly disposed for the first month. I had to make my advances with a long stick — scratch them on the back. In this way I insinuated myself into their confidence, and we became very good friends. But they were a terrible power on board; wherever these three villains showed themselves, there was always a row. They loved fighting. They were our fastest dogs. In our races with empty sledges, when we were driving around Framheim, none of the others could beat these three. I was always sure of leaving the rest behind when I had them in my team.

I had quite given up Lassesen, who had been left behind that morning, and I was very sorry for it, as he was my strongest and most willing beast. I was glad, therefore, when he suddenly appeared again, apparently fit and well. We presumed that he had dug up Thor again, and finished him. It must have been food that had revived him. From 80deg. S. home he did remarkably good work in Wisting's team.

That day we had a curious experience, which was useful for the future. The compass on Hanssen's sledge, which had always been reliability itself, suddenly began to go wrong; at any rate, it did not agree with the observations of the sun, which we fortunately had that day. We altered our course in accordance with our bearings. In the evening, when we took our things into the tent, the housewife, with scissors, pins, needles, etc., had lain close against the compass. No wonder it turned rebellious.

On March 19 we had a breeze from the south-east and -45.4deg. F. "Rather fresh," I find noted in my diary. Not long after we had started that morning, Hanssen caught sight of our old tracks. He had splendid eyesight — saw everything long before anyone else. Bjaaland also had good sight, but he did not come up to Hanssen. The way home was now straightforward, and we could see the end of our journey. Meanwhile a gale sprang up from the south-east, which stopped us for a day; temperature, -29.2deg. F. Next day the temperature had risen, as usual, with a south-east wind; we woke up to find it +15.8deg. F. on the morning of the 21st. That was a difference that could be felt, and not an unpleasant one; we had had more than enough of -40deg.. It was curious weather that night: violent gusts of wind from the east and south-east, with intervals of dead calm — just as if they came off high land. On our way northward that day we passed our flag No. 6, and then knew that we were fifty-three miles from Framheim. Pitched our camp that evening at thirty-seven miles from the station. We had intended to take this stretch of the way in two days, seeing how tired the dogs were; but it turned out otherwise, for we lost our old tracks during the forenoon, and in going on we came too far to the east, and high up on the ridge mentioned before. Suddenly Hanssen sang out that he saw something funny in front — what it was he did not know. When that was the case, we had to apply to the one who saw even better than Hanssen, and that was my glass. Up with the glass, then — the good old glass that has served me for so many years. Yes, there was certainly something curious. It must be the Bay of Whales that we were looking down into, but what were those black things moving up and down? They are our fellows hunting seals, someone suggested, and we all agreed. Yes, of course, it was so clear that there was no mistaking it. "I can see a sledge — and there's another — and there's a third." We nearly had tears in our eyes to see how industrious they were. "Now they're gone. No; there they are again. Strange how they bob up and down, those fellows!" It proved to be a mirage; what we saw was Framheim with all its tents. Our lads, we were sure, were just taking a comfortable midday nap, and the tears we were nearly shedding were withdrawn. Now we could survey the situation calmly. There lay Framheim, there was Cape Man's Head, and there West Cape, so that we had come too far to the east. "Hurrah for Framheim! half-past seven this evening," shouted one. "Yes, that's all we can do," cried another; and away we went. We set our course straight for the middle of the bay. We must have got pretty high up, as we went down at a terrific pace. This was more than the forerunner could manage; he flung himself on a sledge as it went by. I had a glimpse of Hanssen, who was busy making a whip-handle, as I passed; the soles of his feet were then very prominent. I myself was lying on Hanssen's sledge, shaking with laughter; the situation was too comical. Hanssen picked himself up again just as the last sledge was passing and jumped on. We all collected in a mass below the ridge — sledges and dogs mixed up together.

The last part of the way was rather hard work. We now found the tracks that we had lost early in the day; one dried fish after another stuck up out of the snow and led us straight on. We reached Framheim at seven in the evening, half an hour earlier than we had thought. It was a day's march of thirty-seven miles — not so bad for exhausted dogs. Lassesen was the only one I brought home out of my team. Odin, whom I had sent home from 81deg. S., died after arriving there. We lost altogether eight dogs on this trip; two of Stubberud's died immediately after coming home from 81deg. S. Probably the cold was chiefly responsible; I feel sure that with a reasonable temperature they would have come through. The three men who came home from 81deg. S. were safe and sound. It is true that they had run short of food and matches the last day, but if the worst came to the worst, they had the dogs. Since their return they had shot, brought in, cut up, and stowed away, fifty seals — a very good piece of work.

Lindstrom had been untiring during our absence; he had put everything in splendid order. In the covered passage round the hut he had cut out shelves in the snow and filled them with slices of seal meat. Here alone there were steaks enough for the whole time we should spend here. On the outer walls of the hut, which formed the other side of the passage, he had put up shelves, and there all kinds of tinned foods were stored. All was in such perfect order that one could put one's hand on what one wanted in the dark. There stood salt meat and bacon by themselves, and there were fish-cakes. There you read the label on a tin of caramel pudding, and you could be sure that the rest of the caramel puddings were in the vicinity. Quite right; there they stood in a row, like a company of soldiers. Oh, Lindstrom, how long will this order last?

Well, that was, of course, a question I put to myself in the strictest secrecy. Let me turn over my diary. On Thursday, July 27, I find the following entry: "The provision passage turns our days into chaotic confusion. How my mind goes back to the time when one could find what one wanted without a light of any kind! If you put out your hand to get a plum-pudding and shut it again, you could be sure it was a plum-pudding you had hold of. And so it was throughout Lindstrom's department. But now — good Heavens! I am ashamed to put down what happened to me yesterday. I went out there in the most blissful ignorance of the state of things now prevailing, and, of course, I had no light with me, for everything had its place. I put out my hand and grasped. According to my expectation I ought to have been in possession of a packet of candles, but the experiment had failed. That which I held in my hand could not possibly be a packet of candles. It was evident from the feel that it was something of a woollen nature. I laid the object down, and had recourse to the familiar expedient of striking a match. Do you know what it was? A dirty old — pair of pants! and do you want to know where I found it? Well, it was between the butter and the sweetmeats. That was mixing things up with a vengeance." But Lindstrom must not have all the blame. In this passage everyone was running backwards and forwards, early and late, and as a rule in the dark. And if they knocked something down on the way, I am not quite sure that they always stopped to pick it up again.

Then he had painted the ceiling of the room white. How cosy it looked when we put our heads in that evening! He had seen us a long way off on the Barrier, the rascal, and now the table was laid with all manner of dainties. But seal-steaks and the smell of coffee were what attracted us, and it was no small quantity that disappeared that evening. Home! — that word has a good sound, wherever it may be, at sea, on land, or on — the Barrier. How comfortable we made ourselves that night! The first thing we did now was to dry all our reindeer-skin clothes; they were wet through. This was not to be done in a hurry. We had to stretch the garments that were to be dried on lines under the ceiling of the room, so that we could not dry very much at a time.

We got everything ready, and made some improvements in our outfit for a last depot journey before the winter set in. This time the destination was 80deg. S., with about a ton and a quarter of fresh seal meat. How immensely important it would be on the main journey if we could give our dogs as much seal meat as they could eat at 80deg. S.; we all saw the importance of this, and were eager to carry it out. We set to work once more at the outfit; the last trip had taught us much that was new. Thus Prestrud and Johansen had come to the conclusion that a double sleeping-bag was preferable to two single ones. I will not enter upon the discussion that naturally arose on this point. The double bag has many advantages, and so has the single bag; let it therefore remain a matter of taste. Those two were, however, the only ones who made this alteration. Hanssen and Wisting were busy carrying out the new idea for the tents, and it was not long before they had finished. These tents are as much like a snow hut in form as they can be; instead of being entirely round, they have a more oblong form, but there is no flat side, and the wind has no point of attack. Our personal outfit also underwent some improvements.

The Bay of Whales — the inner part of it, from Man's Head to West Cape — was now entirely frozen over, but outside the sea lay immense and dark. Our house was now completely covered with snow. Most of this was Lindstrom's work; the blizzard had not helped him much. This covering with snow has a great deal to do with keeping the hut snug and warm. Our dogs — 107 in number — mostly look like pigs getting ready for Christmas; even the famished ones that made the last trip are beginning to recover. It is an extraordinary thing how quickly such an animal can put on flesh.

It was interesting to watch the home-coming of the dogs from the last trip. They showed no sign of surprise when we came into camp; they might have been there all the time. It is true they were rather more hungry than the rest. The meeting between Lassesen and Fix was comic. These two were inseparable friends; the first-named was boss, and the other obeyed him blindly. On this last trip I had left Fix at home, as he did not give me the impression of being quite up to the work; he had therefore put on a lot of flesh, big eater as he was. I stood and watched their meeting with intense curiosity. Would not Fix take advantage of the occasion to assume the position of boss? In such a mass of dogs it took some little time before they came across each other. Then it was quite touching. Fix ran straight up to the other, began to lick him, and showed every sign of the greatest affection and joy at seeing him again. Lassesen, on his part, took it all with a very superior air, as befits a boss. Without further ceremony, he rolled his fat friend in the snow and stood over him for a while — no doubt to let him know that he was still absolute master, beyond dispute. Poor Fix! — he looked quite crestfallen. But this did not last long; he soon avenged himself on the other, knowing that he could tackle him with safety.

In order to give a picture of our life as it was at this time, I will quote a day from my diary. March 25 — Saturday: "Beautiful mild weather, +6.8deg. F. all day. Very light breeze from the south-east. Our seal-hunters — the party that came home from 81deg. S. — were out this morning, and brought back three seals. This makes sixty-two seals altogether since their return on March 11. We have now quite enough fresh meat both for ourselves and for all our dogs. We get to like seal-steak more and more every day. We should all be glad to eat it at every meal, but we think it safer to make a little variety. For breakfast — eight o'clock — we now have regularly hot cakes with jam, and Lindstrom knows how to prepare them in a way that could not be surpassed in the best American houses. In addition, we have bread, butter, cheese, and coffee. For dinner we mostly have seal meat (we introduced rather more tinned meat into the menu in the course of the winter), and sweets in the form of tinned Californian fruit, tarts, and tinned puddings. For supper, seal-steak, with whortleberry jam, cheese, bread, butter, and coffee. Every Saturday evening a glass of toddy and a cigar. I must frankly confess that I have never lived so well. And the consequence is that we are all in the best of health, and I feel certain that the whole enterprise will be crowned with success.

"It is strange indeed here to go outside in the evening and see the cosy, warm lamp-light through the window of our little snow-covered hut, and to feel that this is our snug, comfortable home on the formidable and dreaded Barrier. All our little puppies — as round as Christmas pigs — are wandering about outside, and at night they lie in crowds about the door. They never take shelter under a roof at night. They must be hardy beasts. Some of them are so fat that they waddle just like geese."

The aurora australis was seen for the first time on the evening of March 28. It was composed of shafts and bands, and extended from the south-west to the north-east through the zenith. The light was pale green and red. We see many fine sunsets here, unique in the splendour of their colour. No doubt the surroundings in this fairyland of blue and white do much to increase their beauty.

The departure of the last depot journey was fixed for Friday, March 31. A few days before, the seal-hunting party went out on the ice and shot six seals for the depot. They were cleaned and all superfluous parts removed, so that they should not be too heavy. The weight of these six seals was then estimated at about 2,400 pounds.

On March 31, at 10 a.m., the last depot party started. It consisted of seven men, six sledges, and thirty-six dogs. I did not go myself this time. They had the most beautiful weather to begin their journey — dead calm and brilliantly clear. At seven o'clock that morning, when I came out of the hut, I saw a sight so beautiful that I shall never forget it. The whole surroundings of the station lay in deep, dark shadow, in lee of the ridge to the east. But the sun's rays reached over the Barrier farther to the north, and there the Barrier lay golden red, bathed in the morning sun. It glittered and shone, red and gold, against the jagged row of mighty masses of ice that bounds our Barrier on the north. A spirit of peace breathed over all. But from Framheim the smoke ascended quietly into the air, and proclaimed that the spell of thousands of years was broken.

The sledges were heavily loaded when they went southward. I saw them slowly disappear over the ridge by the starting-place. It was a quiet time that followed after all the work and hurry of preparation. Not that we two who stayed at home sat still doing nothing. We made good use of the time. The first thing to be done was to put our meteorological station in order. On April 1 all the instruments were in use. In the kitchen were hung our two mercury barometers, four aneroids, barograph, thermograph, and one thermometer. They were placed in a well-protected corner, farthest from the stove. We had no house as yet for our outside instruments, but the sub-director went to work to prepare one as quickly as possible, and so nimble were his hands that when the depot party returned there was the finest instrument-screen standing ready on the hill, painted white so that it shone a long way off: The wind-vane was a work of art, constructed by our able engineer, Sundbeck. No factory could have supplied a more handsome or tasteful one. In the instrument-screen we had a thermograph, hygrometer, and thermometers. Observations were made at 8 a.m., 2 p.m., and 8 p.m. When I was at home I took them, and when I was away it was Lindstrom's work.

On the night before April 11 something or other fell down in the kitchen — according to Lindstrom, a sure sign that the travellers might be expected home that day. And, sure enough, at noon we caught sight of them up at the starting-place. They came across at such a pace that the snow was scattered all round them, and in an hour's time we had them back. They had much to tell us. In the first place, that everything had been duly taken to the depot in 80deg.S. Then they surprised me with an account of a fearfully crevassed piece of surface that they had come upon, forty-six and a half miles from the station, where they had lost two dogs. This was very strange; we had now traversed this stretch of surface four times without being particularly troubled with anything of this sort, and then, all of a sudden, when they thought the whole surface was as solid as a rock, they found themselves in danger of coming to grief altogether. In thick weather they had gone too far to the west; then, instead of arriving at the ridge, as we had done before, they came down into the valley, and there found a surface so dangerous that they nearly had a catastrophe. It was a precisely similar piece of surface to that already mentioned to the south of 81deg. S., but full of small hummocks everywhere. The ground was apparently solid enough, and this was just the most dangerous thing about it; but, as they were crossing it, large pieces of the surface fell away just in rear of them, disclosing bottomless crevasses, big enough to swallow up everything — men, dogs, and sledges. With some difficulty they got out of this ugly place by steering to the east. Now we knew of it, and we should certainly be very careful not to come that way again. In spite of this, however, we afterwards had an even more serious encounter with this nasty trap.

One dog had also been left behind on the way; it had a wound on one of its feet, and could not be harnessed in the sledge. It had been let loose a few miles to the north of the depot, doubtless with the idea that it would follow the sledges. But the dog seemed to have taken another view of the matter, and was never seen again. There were some who thought that the dog had probably returned to the depot, and was now passing its days in ease and luxury among the laboriously transported seals' carcasses. I must confess that this idea was not very attractive to me; there was, indeed, a possibility that such a thing had happened, and that the greater part of our seal meat might be missing when we wanted it. But our fears proved groundless; Cook — that was the name of the dog; we had a Peary as well, of course — was gone for ever.

The improved outfit was in every way successful. Praises of the new tent were heard on every hand, and Prestrud and Johansen were in the seventh heaven over their double sleeping-bag. I fancy the others were very well satisfied with their single ones.

And with this the most important part of the autumn's work came to an end. The foundation was solidly laid; now we had only to raise the edifice. Let us briefly sum up the work accomplished between January 14 and April 11: The complete erection of the station, with accommodation for nine men for several years; provision of fresh meat for nine men and a hundred and fifteen dogs for half a year — the weight of the seals killed amounted to about 60 tons; and, finally, the distribution of 3 tons of supplies in the depots in latitudes 80deg., 81deg., and 82deg.S. The depot in 80deg.S. contained seal meat, dogs' pemmican, biscuits, butter, milk-powder, chocolate, matches, and paraffin, besides a quantity of outfit. The total weight of this depot was 4,200 pounds. In 81deg.S., 1/2 ton of dogs' pemmican. In 82deg.S., pemmican, both for men and dogs, biscuits, milk-powder, chocolate, and paraffin, besides a quantity of outfit. The weight of this depot amounted to 1,366 pounds.



CHAPTER VII

Preparing for Winter

Winter! I believe most people look upon winter as a time of storms, cold, and discomfort. They look forward to it with sadness, and bow before the inevitable — Providence ordains it so. The prospect of a ball or two cheers them up a little, and makes the horizon somewhat brighter; but, all the same — darkness and cold — ugh, no! let us have summer, they say. What my comrades thought about the winter that was approaching I cannot say; for my part, I looked forward to it with pleasure. When I stood out there on the snow hill, and saw the light shining out of the kitchen window, there came over me an indescribable feeling of comfort and well-being. And the blacker and more stormy the winter night might be, the greater would be this feeling of well-being inside our snug little house. I see the reader's questioning look, and know what he will say: "But weren't you awfully afraid the Barrier would break off, and float you out to sea?" I will answer this question as frankly as possible. With one exception, we were all at this time of the opinion that the part of the Barrier on which the hut stood rested on land, so that any fear of a sea voyage was quite superfluous. As to the one who thought we were afloat, I think I can say very definitely that he was not afraid. I believe, as a matter of fact, that he gradually came round to the same view as the rest of us.

If a general is to win a battle, he must always be prepared. If his opponent makes a move, he must see that he is able to make a counter-move; everything must be planned in advance, and nothing unforeseen. We were in the same position; we had to consider beforehand what the future might bring, and make our arrangements accordingly while there was time. When the sun had left us, and the dark period had set in, it would be too late. What first of all claimed our attention and set our collective brain-machinery to work was the female sex. There was no peace for us even on the Barrier. What happened was that the entire feminine population — eleven in number — had thought fit to appear in a condition usually considered "interesting," but which, under the circumstances, we by no means regarded in that light. Our hands were indeed full enough without this. What was to be done? Great deliberation. Eleven maternity hospitals seemed rather a large order, but we knew by experience that they all required first aid. If we left several of them in the same place there would be a terrible scene, and it would end in their eating up each other's pups. For what had happened only a few days before? Kaisa, a big black-and-white bitch, had taken a three-months-old pup when no one was looking, and made a meal off it. When we arrived we saw the tip of its tail disappearing, so there was not much to be done. Now, it fortunately happened that one of the dog-tents became vacant, as Prestrud's team was divided among the other tents; as "forerunner," he had no use for dogs. Here, with a little contrivance, we could get two of them disposed of; a dividing wall could be put up. When first laying out the station, we had taken this side of life into consideration, and a "hospital" in the shape of a sixteen-man tent had been erected; but this was not nearly enough. We then had recourse to the material of which there is such superabundance in these parts of the earth-snow. We erected a splendid big snow-hut. Besides this, Lindstrom in his leisure hours had erected a little building, which was ready when we returned from the second depot journey. We had none of us asked what it was for, but now we knew Lindstrom's kind heart. With these arrangements at our disposal we were able to face the winter.

Camilla, the sly old fox, had taken things in time; she knew what it meant to bring up children in the dark, and, in truth, it was no pleasure. She had therefore made haste, and was ready as soon as the original "hospital" was prepared. She could now look forward to the future with calmness in the last rays of the disappearing sun; when darkness set in, her young ones would be able to look after themselves. Camilla, by the way, had her own views of bringing up her children. What there was about the hospital that she did not like I do not know, but it is certain that she preferred any other place. It was no rare thing to come across Camilla in a tearing gale and a temperature twenty below zero with one of her offspring in her mouth. She was going out to look for a new place. Meanwhile, the three others, who had to wait, were shrieking and howling. The places she chose were not, as a rule, such as we should connect with the idea of comfort; a case, for instance, standing on its side, and fully exposed to the wind, or behind a stack of planks, with a draught coming through that would have done credit to a factory chimney. But if she liked it, there was nothing to be said. If the family were left alone in such a place, she would spend some days there before moving on again. She never returned to the hospital voluntarily, but it was not a rare thing to see Johansen, who was guardian to the family, hauling off the lady and as many of her little ones as he could get hold of in a hurry. They then disappeared into the hospital with words of encouragement.

At the same time we introduced a new order of things with our dogs. Hitherto we had been obliged to keep them tied up on account of seal-hunting; otherwise they went off by themselves and ravaged. There were certain individuals who specially distinguished themselves in this way, like Wisting's Major. He was a born hunter, afraid of nothing. Then there was Hassel's Svarten; but a good point about him was that he went off alone, while the Major always had a whole staff with him. They usually came back with their faces all covered with blood. To put a stop to this sport we had been obliged to keep them fast; but now that the seals had left us, we could let them loose. Naturally the first use to which they put their liberty was fighting. In the course of time — for reasons impossible to discover — bitter feelings and hatred had arisen between certain of the dogs, and now they were offered an opportunity of deciding which was the stronger, and they seized upon it with avidity. But after a time their manners improved, and a regular fight became a rarity. There were, of course, a few who could never see each other without flying at one another's throats, like Lassesen and Hans, for instance; but we knew their ways, and could keep an eye on them. The dogs soon knew their respective tents, and their places in them. They were let loose as soon as we came out in the morning, and were chained up again in the evening when they were to be fed. They got so used to this that we never had much trouble; they all reported themselves cheerfully when we came in the evening to fasten them up, and every animal knew his own master and tent, and knew at once what was expected of him. With howls of delight the various dogs collected about their masters, and made for the tents in great jubilation. We kept up this arrangement the whole time. Their food consisted of seal's flesh and blubber one day, and dried fish the next; as a rule, both disappeared without any objection, though they certainly preferred the seal. Throughout the greater part of the winter we had carcasses of seals lying on the slope, and these were usually a centre of great interest. The spot might be regarded as the market-place of Framheim, and it was not always a peaceful one. The customers were many and the demand great, so that sometimes lively scenes took place. Our own store of seal's flesh was in the "meat-tent." About a hundred seals had been cut up and stacked there. As already mentioned, we built a wall of snow, two yards high, round this tent, as a protection against the dogs. Although they had as much to eat as they wanted, and although they knew they were not allowed to try to get in — or possibly this prohibition was just the incentive — they were always casting longing eyes in that direction, and the number of claw-marks in the wall spoke eloquently of what went on when we were not looking. Snuppesen, in particular, could not keep herself away from that wall, and she was extremely light and agile, so that she had the best chance. She never engaged in this sport by herself, but always enticed out her attendant cavaliers, Fix and Lasse; these, however, were less active, and had to be content with looking on. While she jumped inside the wall — which she only succeeded in doing once or twice — they ran round yelling. As soon as we heard their howls, we knew exactly what was happening, and one of us went out, armed with a stick. It required some cunning to catch her in the act, for as soon as one approached, her cavaliers stopped howling, and she understood that something was wrong. Her red fox's head could then be seen over the top, looking round. It need scarcely be said that she did not jump into the arms of the man with the stick, but, as a rule, he did not give up until he had caught and punished her. Fix and Lasse also had their turns; it was true they had done nothing wrong, but they might. They knew this, and watched Snuppesen's chastisement at a distance. The tent where we kept the dried fish stood always open; none of them attempted to take fish.

The sun continued its daily course, lower and lower. We did not see much of it after the return from the last depot journey; on April 11 it came, and vanished again at once. Easter came round on the Barrier, as in other parts of the globe, and had to be kept. Holidays with us were marked by eating a little more than usual; there was no other sign. We did not dress differently, nor did we introduce any other change. In the evening of a holiday we generally had a little gramophone, a glass of toddy, and a cigar; but we were careful with the gramophone. We knew we should soon get tired of it if we used it too often; therefore we only brought it out on rare occasions, but we enjoyed its music all the more when we heard it. When Easter was over, a sigh of relief escaped us all; these holidays are always tiring. They are tedious enough in places which have more amusements to offer than the Barrier, but here they were insufferably long.

Our manner of life was now completely in order, and everything worked easily and well. The chief work of the winter would be the perfecting of our outfit for the coming sledge journey to the South. Our object was to reach the Pole — everything else was secondary. The meteorological observations were in full swing and arranged for the winter. Observations were made at 8 a.m., 2 p.m., and 8 p.m. We were so short-handed that I could not spare anyone for night duty, besides which, living as we did in a small space, it would have a disturbing effect if there were always someone moving about; there would never be any peace. My special aim was that everyone should be happy and comfortable, so that, when the spring came, we might all be fresh and well and eager to take up the final task. It was not my intention that we should spend the winter in idleness — far from it. To be contented and well, a man must always be occupied. I therefore expected everyone to be busy during the hours that were set apart for work. At the end of the day each man was free to do what he pleased. We had also to keep some sort of order and tidiness, as well as circumstances permitted. It was therefore decided that each of us should take a week's duty as "orderly." This duty consisted in sweeping the floor every morning, emptying ash-trays, etc. To secure plenty of ventilation — especially in our sleeping-places — a rule was made that no one might have anything under his bunk except the boots he had in wear. Each man had two pegs to hang his clothes on, and this was sufficient for what he was wearing every day; all superfluous clothing was stuffed into our kit-bags and put out. In this way we succeeded in maintaining some sort of tidiness; in any case, the worst of the dirt was got rid of. Whether a fastidious housekeeper would have found everything in order is doubtful.

Everyone had his regular work. Prestrud, with the assistance of Johansen, looked after the astronomical observations and the pendulum observations. Hassel was set in authority over coal, wood, and paraffin; he was responsible for the supply lasting out. As manager of the Framheim coal and wood business, he, of course, received the title of Director, and this dignity might possibly have gone to his head if the occupation of errand-boy had not been combined with it. But it was. Besides receiving the orders, he had to deliver the goods, and he discharged his duties with distinction. He succeeded in hoodwinking his largest customer — Lindstrom — to such an extent that, in the course of the winter, he saved a good deal of coal. Hanssen had to keep the depot in order and bring in everything we required. Wisting had charge of the whole outfit, and was responsible that nothing was touched without permission. Bjaaland and Stubberud were to look after the pent-house and the passage round the hut. Lindstrom was occupied in the kitchen — the hardest and most thankless work on an expedition like this. No one says anything so long as the food is good; but let the cook be unlucky and burn the soup one day, and he will hear something. Lindstrom had the excellent disposition of a man who is never put out; whatever people might say, it was "all the same" to him.

On April 19 we saw the sun for the last time, since it then went below our horizon — the ridge to the north. It was intensely red, and surrounded by a sea of flame, which did not disappear altogether until the 21st. Now everything was well. As far as the hut was concerned, it could not be better; but the pent-house, which it was originally intended to use as a workroom, soon proved too small, dark, and cold, besides which all the traffic went through that room, so that work would be constantly interrupted or stopped altogether at times. Except this dark hole we had no workroom, and we had a lot of work to do. Of course, we might use our living-room, but then we should be in each other's way all day long; nor would it be a good plan to give up the only room where we could sometimes find peace and comfort to be a workshop. I know it is the usual custom to do so, but I have always found it a bad arrangement. Now, indeed, we were at our wits' end, but circumstances once more came to our aid. For we may just as well confess it: we had forgotten to bring out a tool which is a commonplace necessity on a Polar expedition — namely, a snow-shovel. A well-equipped expedition, as ours was to a certain extent, ought to have at least twelve strong, thick iron spades. We had none. We had two remnants, but they did not help us very far. Fortunately, however, we had a very good, solid iron plate with us, and now Bjaaland stepped into the breach, and made a whole dozen of the very best spades. Stubberud managed the handles, and they might all have been turned out by a big factory. This circumstance had very important results for our future well-being, as will be seen. If we had had the shovels with us from the start, we should have cleared the snow away from our door every morning, like tidy people. But as we had none, the snow had increased daily before our door, and, before Bjaaland was ready with the spades, had formed a drift extending from the entrance along the western side of the house. This snow-drift, which was as big as the house itself, naturally caused some frowns, when one morning all hands turned out, armed with the new shovels, to make a clearance. As we stood there, afraid to begin, one of us — it must have been Lindstrom, or Hanssen perhaps, or was it myself? well, it doesn't matter — one of us had the bright idea of taking Nature in hand, and working with her instead of against her. The proposal was that we should dig out a carpenter's shop in the big snow-drift, and put it in direct communication with the hut. This was no sooner suggested than adopted unanimously. And now began a work of tunnelling which lasted a good while, for one excavation led to another, and we did not stop until we had a whole underground village — probably one of the most interesting works ever executed round a Polar station. Let us begin with the morning when we thrust the first spade into the drift; it was Thursday, April 20. While three men went to work to dig right into the drift from the hut door westward, three more were busy connecting it with the hut. This was done by stretching boards — the same that we had used on the Fram as a false deck for the dogs — from the drift up to the roof of the pent-house. The open part between the drift and the pent-house on the northern side was filled up entirely into a solid wall, which went up to join the roof that had just been put on. The space between the pent-house and the drift on the south wall was left open as an exit. But now we had the building fever on us, and one ambitious project succeeded another. Thus we agreed to dig a passage the whole length of the drift, and terminate it by a large snow-hut, in which we were to have a vapour bath. That was something like a plan — a vapour bath in 79deg.S. Hanssen, snow-hut builder by profession, went to work at it. He built it quite small and solid, and extended it downward, so that, when at last it was finished, it measured 12 feet from floor to roof. Here we should have plenty of room to fit up a vapour bath. Meanwhile the tunnellers were advancing; we could hear the sound of their pickaxes and spades coming nearer and nearer. This was too much for Hanssen. As he had now finished the hut, he set to work to dig his way to the others; and when he begins a thing, it does not take him very long. We could hear the two parties continually nearing each other. The excitement increases. Will they meet? Or are they digging side by side on different lines? The Simplon, Mont Cenis, and other engineering works, flashed through my brain. If they were going to hit it off, we must be — hullo! I was interrupted in my studies by a glistening face, which was thrust through the wall just as I was going to dig my spade into it. It was Wisting, pioneer of the Framheim tunnel. He had good reason to be glad he escaped with his nose safe and sound. In another instant I should have had it on my spade. It was a fine sight, this long, white passage, ending in the high, shining dome. As we dug forward, we dug down at the same time so as not to weaken the roof. There was plenty to take down below; the Barrier was deep enough.

When this was finished, we began to work on the carpenter's shop. This had to be dug considerably deeper, as the drift was rounded off a little to the side. We therefore dug first into the drift, and then right down; as far as I remember, we went 6 feet down into the Barrier here. The shop was made roomy, with space enough for both carpenters and length enough for our sledges. The planing-bench was cut out in the wall and covered with boards. The workshop terminated at its western end in a little room, where the carpenters kept their smaller tools. A broad stairway, cut in the snow and covered with boards, led from the shop into the passage. As soon as the workshop was finished, the workmen moved in, and established themselves under the name of the Carpenters' Union. Here the whole sledging outfit for the Polar journey was remodelled. Opposite the carpenters came the smithy, dug to the same depth as the other; this was less used. On the other side of the smithy, nearer to the hut, a deep hole was dug to receive all the waste water from the kitchen. Between the Carpenters' Union and the entrance to the pent-house, opposite the ascent to the Barrier, we built a little room, which, properly speaking, deserves a very detailed explanation; but, for want of space, this must be deferred till later. The ascent to the Barrier, which had been left open while all these works were in progress, was now closed by a contrivance which is also worth mentioning. There are a great many people who apparently have never learnt to shut a door after them; where two or three are gathered together, you generally find at least one who suffers from this defect. How many would there be among us, who numbered nine? It is no use asking a victim of this complaint to shut the door after him; he is simply incapable of doing it. I was not yet well enough acquainted with my companions as regards the door-shutting question, and in order to be on the safe side we might just as well put up a self-closing door. This was done by Stubberud, by fixing the door-frame into the wall in an oblique position just like a cellar-door at home. Now the door could not stay open; it had to fall to. I was glad when I saw it finished; we were secured against an invasion of dogs. Four snow steps covered with boards led from the door down into the passage. In addition to all these new rooms, we had thus gained an extra protection for our house.

While this work was in progress, our instrument-maker had his hands full; the clockwork mechanism of the thermograph had gone wrong: the spindle was broken, I believe. This was particularly annoying, because this thermograph had been working so well in low temperatures. The other thermograph had evidently been constructed with a view to the tropics; at any rate, it would not go in the cold. Our instrument-maker has one method of dealing with all instruments — almost without exception. He puts them in the oven, and stokes up the fire. This time it worked remarkably well, since it enabled him to ascertain beyond a doubt that the thing was useless. The thermograph would not work in the cold. Meanwhile he got it cleared of all the old oil that stuck to it everywhere, on wheels and pins, like fish-glue; then it was hung up to the kitchen ceiling. The temperature there may possibly revive it, and make it think it is in the tropics. In this way we shall have the temperature of the "galley" registered, and later on we shall probably be able to reckon up what we have had for dinner in the course of the week. Whether Professor Mohn will be overjoyed with this result is another question, which the instrument-maker and director did not care to go into. Besides these instruments we have a hygrograph — we are well supplied; but this takes one of us out of doors once in the twenty-four hours. Lindstrom has cleaned it and oiled it and set it going. In spite of this, at three in the morning it comes to a stop. But I have never seen Lindstrom beaten yet. After many consultations he was given the task of trying to construct a thermograph out of the hygrograph and the disabled thermograph; this was just the job for him. The production he showed me a few hours later made my hair stand on end. What would Steen say? Do you know what it was? Well, it was an old meat-tin circulating inside the thermograph case. Heavens! what an insult to the self-registering meteorological instruments! I was thunderstruck, thinking, of course, that the man was making a fool of me. I had carefully studied his face all the time to find the key to this riddle, and did not know whether to laugh or weep. Lindstrom's face was certainly serious enough; if it afforded a measure of the situation, I believe tears would have been appropriate. But when my eye fell upon the thermograph and read, "Stavanger Preserving Co.'s finest rissoles," I could contain myself no longer. The comical side of it was too much for me, and I burst into a fit of laughter. When my laughter was subdued, I heard the explanation. The cylinder did not fit, so he had tried the tin, and it went splendidly. The rissole-thermograph worked very well as far as -40deg. C., but then it gave up.

Our forces were now divided into two working parties. One of them was to dig out some forty seals we had lying about 3 feet under the snow; this took two days. The heavy seals' carcasses, hard as flint, were difficult to deal with. The dogs were greatly interested in these proceedings. Each carcass, on being raised to the surface, was carefully inspected; they were piled up in two heaps, and would provide food enough for the dogs for the whole winter. Meanwhile the other party were at work under Hassel's direction on a petroleum cellar. The barrels which had been laid up at the beginning of February were now deep below the snow. They now dug down at both ends of the store, and made a passage below the surface along the barrels; at the same time they dug far enough into the Barrier to give the requisite height for the barrels. When the snow had been thrown out, one hole was walled up again, while a large entrance was constructed over the other. Stubberud's knowledge of vaulting came in useful here, and he has the credit of having built the splendid arched entrance to the oil-store. It was a pleasure to go down into it; probably no one has had so fine a storehouse for petroleum before. But Hassel did not stop here; he had the building fever on him in earnest. His great project of connecting the coal and wood store with the house below the surface nearly took my breath away; it seemed to me an almost superhuman labour, but they did it. The distance from the coal-tent to the house was about ten yards. Here Hassel and Stubberud laid out their line so that it would strike the passage round the house at the south-east angle. When they had done this, they dug a gigantic hole down into the Barrier half-way between the tent and the house, and then dug in both directions from here and soon finished the work. But now Prestrud had an idea. While the hole remained open he wished to avail himself of the opportunity of arranging an observatory for his pendulum apparatus, and he made a very good one. He did it by digging at right angles to the passage, and had his little observatory between the coal-tent and the house. When all the snow was cleared out, the big hole was covered over again, and now we could go from the kitchen direct to the coal-store without going out. First we followed the passage round the house — you remember where all the tinned provisions stood in such perfect order — then, on reaching the south-east angle of the house, this new passage opened out and led across to the coal-tent. In the middle of the passage, on the right-hand side, a door led into the pendulum observatory. Continuing along the passage, one came first to some steps leading down, and then the passage ended in a steep flight of steps which led up through a hole in the snow surface. On going up this one suddenly found oneself in the middle of the coal-tent. It was a fine piece of work, and did all honour to its designers. It paid, too — Hassel could now fetch coal at any time under cover, and escaped having to go out of doors.

But this was not the end of our great underground works. We wanted a room where Wisting could store all the things in his charge; he was specially anxious about the reindeer-skin clothing, and wished to have it under a roof. We therefore decided upon a room sufficiently large to house all these articles, and at the same time to provide working-space for Wisting and Hanssen, who would have to lash all the sledges as fast as they came from Bjaaland. Wisting elected to build this room in a big snow-drift that had formed around the tent in which he had kept all his stuff; the spot lay to the north-east of the house. The Clothing Store, as this building was called, was fairly large, and provided space not only for all our equipment, but also for a workshop. From it a door led into a very small room, where Wisting set up his sewing-machine and worked on it all through the winter. Continuing in a north-easterly direction, we came to another big room, called the Crystal Palace, in which all the ski and sledging cases were stored. Here all the provisions for the sledge journey were packed. For the time being this room remained separate from the others, and we had to go out of doors to reach it. Later, when Lindstrom had dug out an enormous hole in the Barrier at the spot where he took all the snow and ice for cooking, we connected this with the two rooms last mentioned, and were thus finally able to go everywhere under the snow.

The astronomical observatory had also arisen; it lay right alongside the Crystal Palace. But it had an air of suffering from debility, and before very long it passed peacefully away. Prestrud afterwards invented many patents; he used an empty barrel for a time as a pedestal, then an old block of wood. His experience of instrument-stands is manifold.

All these undertakings were finished at the beginning of May. One last piece of work remained, and then at last we should be ready. This was the rebuilding of the depot. The small heaps in which the cases were piled proved unsatisfactory, as the passages between the different piles offered a fine site for snow-drifts. All the cases were now taken out and laid in two long rows, with sufficient intervals between them to prevent their offering resistance to the drifting snow. This work was carried out in two days.

The days were now fairly short, and we were ready to take up our indoor work. The winter duties were assigned as follows: Prestrud, scientific observations; Johansen, packing of sledging provisions; Hassel had to keep Lindstrom supplied with coal, wood, and paraffin, and to make whip-lashes — an occupation he was very familiar with from the Fram's second expedition; Stubberud was to reduce the weight of the sledge cases to a minimum, besides doing a lot of other things. There was nothing he could not turn his hand to, so the programme of his winter work was left rather vague. I knew he would manage a great deal more than the sledge cases, though it must be said that it was a tiresome job he had. Bjaaland was allotted the task which we all regarded with intense interest — the alteration of the sledges. We knew that an enormous amount of weight could be saved, but how much? Hanssen and Wisting had to lash together the different parts as they were finished; this was to be done in the Clothing Store. These two had also a number of other things on their programme for the winter.

There are many who think that a Polar expedition is synonymous with idleness. I wish I had had a few adherents of this belief at Framheim that winter; they would have gone away with a different opinion. Not that the hours of work were excessively long, the circumstances forbade that. But during those hours the work was brisk.

On several previous sledge journeys I had made the experience that thermometers are very fragile things. It often happens that at the beginning of a journey one breaks all one's thermometers, and is left without any means of determining the temperature. If in such circumstances one had accustomed oneself to guess the temperature, it would have given the mean temperature for the month with a fair degree of accuracy. The guesses for single days might vary somewhat from reality on one side or the other, but, as I say, one would arrive at a fair estimate of the mean temperature. With this in my mind I started a guessing competition. As each man came in in the morning he gave his opinion of the temperature of the day, and this was entered in a book. At the end of the month the figures were gone through, and the one who had guessed correctly the greatest number of times won the prize — a few cigars. Besides giving practice in guessing the temperature, it was a very good diversion to begin the day with. When one day is almost exactly like another, as it was with us, the first hour of the morning is often apt to be a little sour, especially before one has had one's cup of coffee. I may say at once that this morning grumpiness very seldom showed itself with us. But one never knows — one cannot always be sure. The most amiable man may often give one a surprise before the coffee has had its effect. In this respect the guessing was an excellent thing; it took up everyone's attention, and diverted the critical moments. Each man's entrance was awaited with excitement, and one man was not allowed to make his guess in the hearing of the next — that would undoubtedly have exercised an influence. Therefore they had to speak as they came in, one by one.

"Now, Stubberud, what's the temperature to-day ?" Stubberud had his own way of calculating, which I never succeeded in getting at. One day, for instance, he looked about him and studied the various faces.

"It isn't warm to-day," he said at last, with a great deal of conviction. I could immediately console him with the assurance that he had guessed right. It was -69deg.F. The monthly results were very interesting. So far as I remember, the best performance the competition could show in any month was eight approximately correct guesses. A man might keep remarkably close to the actual temperature for a long time, and then suddenly one day make an error of 25deg.. It proved that the winner's mean temperature agreed within a few tenths of a degree with the actual mean temperature of the month, and if one took the mean of all the competitors' mean temperatures, it gave a result which, practically speaking, agreed with the reality. It was especially with this object in view that this guessing was instituted. If later on we should be so unlucky as to lose all our thermometers, we should not be entirely at a loss. It may be convenient to mention here that on the southern sledge journey we had four thermometers with us. Observations were taken three times daily, and all four were brought home in undamaged condition. Wisting had charge of this scientific branch, and I think the feat he achieved in not breaking any thermometers is unparalleled.



CHAPTER VIII

A Day at Framheim

In order to understand our daily life better, we will now make a tour of Framheim. It is June 23, early in the morning. Perfect stillness lies over the Barrier — such stillness as no one who has not been in these regions has any idea of. We come up the old sledge road from the place where the Fram used to lie. You will stop several times on the way and ask whether this can be real; anything so inconceivably beautiful has never yet been seen. There lies the northern edge of the Fram Barrier, with Mounts Nelson and Ronniken nearest; behind them, ridge after ridge, peak after peak, the venerable pressure masses rise, one higher than another. The light is so wonderful; what causes this strange glow? It is clear as daylight, and yet the shortest day of the year is at hand. There are no shadows, so it cannot be the moon. No; it is one of the few really intense appearances of the aurora australis that receives us now. It looks as though Nature wished to honour our guests, and to show herself in her best attire. And it is a gorgeous dress she has chosen. Perfectly calm, clear with a starry sparkle, and not a sound in any direction. But wait: what is that? Like a stream of fire the light shoots across the sky, and a whistling sound follows the movement. Hush! can't you hear? It shoots forward again, takes the form of a band, and glows in rays of red and green. It stands still for a moment, thinking of what direction it shall take, and then away again, followed by an intermittent whistling sound. So Nature has offered us on this wonderful morning one of her most mysterious, most incomprehensible, phenomena — the audible southern light. "Now you will be able to go home and tell your friends that you have personally seen and heard the southern lights, for I suppose you have no doubt that you have really done so?" "Doubt? How can one be in doubt about what one has heard with one's own ears and seen with one's own eyes? "And yet you have been deceived, like so many others! The whistling northern and southern lights have never existed. They are only a creation of your own yearning for the mystical, accompanied by your own breath, which freezes in the cold air. Goodbye, beautiful dream! It vanishes from the glorious landscape." Perhaps it was stupid of me to call attention to that; my guests have now lost much of the beautiful mystery, and the landscape no longer has the same attraction.

Meanwhile we have come up past Nelson and Ronniken, and are just climbing the first ridge. Not far away a big tent rises before us, and in front of it we see two long, dark lines. It is our main depot that we are coming to, and you can see that we keep our things in good order, case upon case, as if they had been placed in position by an expert builder. And they all point the same way; all the numbers face the north. "What made you choose that particular direction?" is the natural question. "Had you any special object?" "Oh yes, we had. If you will look towards the east, you will notice that on the horizon the sky has a rather lighter, brighter colour there than in any other part. That is the day as we see it now. At present we cannot see to do anything by its light. It would have been impossible to see that these cases were lying with their numbers to the north if it had not been for the brilliant aurora australis. But that light colour will rise and grow stronger. At nine o'clock it will be in the north-east, and we shall be able to trace it ten degrees above the horizon. You would not then think it gave so much light as it really does, but you would be able without an effort to read the numbers. What is more, you would be able to read the makers' names which are marked on several of the cases, and when the flush of daylight has moved to the north, you will be able to see them even more clearly. No doubt these figures and letters are big — about 2 inches high and 14 inches broad — but it shows, nevertheless, that we have daylight here at the darkest time of the year, so there is not the absolute darkness that people think. The tent that stands behind there contains dried fish; we have a great deal of that commodity, and our dogs can never suffer hunger. But now we must hurry on, if we are to see how the day begins at Framheim.

"What we are passing now is the mark-flag. We have five of them standing between the camp and the depot; they are useful on dark days, when the east wind is blowing and the snow falling. And there on the slope of the hill you see Framheim. At present it looks like a dark shadow on the snow, although it is not far away. The sharp peaks you see pointing to the sky are all our dog tents. The but itself you cannot see; it is completely snowed under and hidden in the Barrier.

"But I see you are getting warm with walking. We will go a little more slowly, so that you won't perspire too much. It is not more than -51deg., so you have every reason to be warm walking. With that temperature and calm weather like to-day one soon feels warm if one moves about a little .... The flat place we have now come down into is a sort of basin; if you bend down and look round the horizon, you will be able with an effort to follow the ridges and hummocks the whole way round. Our house lies on the slope we are now approaching. We chose that particular spot, as we thought it would offer the best protection, and it turned out that we were right. The wind we have had has nearly always come from the east, when there was any strength in it, and against such winds the slope provides an excellent shelter. If we had placed our house over there where the depot stands, we should have felt the weather much more severely. But now you must be careful when we come near to the house, so that the dogs don't hear us. We have now about a hundred and twenty of them, and if they once start making a noise, then good-bye to the peaceful Polar morning. Now we are there, and in such daylight as there is, you can see the immediate surroundings. You can't see the house, you say. No; I can quite believe it. That chimney sticking out of the snow is all there is left above the Barrier. This trap-door we are coming to you might take for a loose piece of boarding thrown out on the snow, but that is not the case: it is the way down into our home. You must stoop a bit when you go down into the Barrier. Everything is on a reduced scale here in the Polar regions; we can't afford to be extravagant. Now you have four steps down; take care, they are rather high. Luckily we have come in time to see the day started. I see the passage-lamp is not yet lighted, so Lindstrom has not turned out. Take hold of the tail of my anorak and follow me. This is a passage in the snow that we are in, leading to the pent-house. Oh! I'm so sorry; you must forgive me! Did you hurt yourself? I quite forgot to tell you to look out for the threshold of the pent-house door. It is not the first time someone has fallen over it. That's a trap we have all fallen into; but now we know it, and it doesn't catch us any more.

"If you will wait a second I'll strike a match, and then we shall see our way. Here we are in the kitchen. Now make yourself invisible and follow me all day, and you will see what our life is like. As you know, it is St. John's Eve, so we shall only work during the forenoon; but you will be able to see how we spend a holiday evening. When you send your account home, you must promise me not to paint it in too strong colours. Good-bye for the present."

Br-r-r-r-r-r! There's the alarm-clock. I wait and wait and wait. At home I am always accustomed to hear that noise followed by the passage of a pair of bare feet across the floor, and a yawn or so. Here — not a sound. When Amundsen left me he forgot to say where I could best put myself. I tried to follow him into the room, but the atmosphere there — no thanks! I could easily guess that nine men were sleeping in a room 19 feet by 13 feet; it did not require anyone to tell me that. Still not a sound. I suppose they only keep that alarm-clock to make themselves imagine they are turning out. Wait a minute, though. "Lindtrom! Lindtrom!" He went by the name of Lindtrom, not Lindstrom. "Now, by Jove! you've got to get up! The clock's made row enough." That's Wisting; I know his voice — I know him at home. He was always an early bird. A frightful crash! That's Lindstrom slipping out of his bunk. But if he was late in turning out, it did not take him long to get into his clothes. One! two! three! and there he stood in the doorway, with a little lamp in his hand. It was now six o'clock. He looked well; round and fat, as when I saw him last. He is in dark blue clothes, with a knitted helmet over his head. I should like to know why; it is certainly not cold in here. For that matter, I have often felt it colder in kitchens at home in the winter, so that cannot be the reason. Oh, I have it! He is bald, and doesn't like to show it. That is often the way with bald men; they hate anyone seeing it. The first thing he does is to lay the fire. The range is under the window, and takes up half the 6 feet by 13 feet kitchen. His method of laying a fire is the first thing that attracts my attention. At home we generally begin by splitting sticks and laying the wood in very carefully. But Lindstrom just shoves the wood in anyhow, all over the place. Well, if he can make that barn, he's clever. I am still wondering how he will manage it, when he suddenly stoops down and picks up a can. Without the slightest hesitation, as though it were the most natural thing in the world, he pours paraffin over the wood. Not one or two drops — oh no; he throws on enough to make sure. A match — and then I understood how Lindstrom got it to light. It was smartly done, I must say — but Hassel ought to have seen it! Amundsen had told me something of their arrangements on the way up, and I knew Hassel was responsible for coal, wood, and oil.

The water-pot had been filled the evening before, and he had only to push it to one side to make room for the kettle, and this did not take long to boil with the heat he had set going. The fire burned up so that it roared in the chimney — this fellow is not short of fuel. Strange, what a hurry he is in to get that coffee ready! I thought breakfast was at eight, and it is now not more than a quarter past six. He grinds the coffee till his cheeks shake to and fro — incessantly. If the quality is in proportion to the quantity, it must be good enough. "Devil take it" — Lindstrom's morning greeting — "this coffee-mill is not worth throwing to the pigs! Might just as well chew the beans. It wouldn't take so long." And he is right; after a quarter of an hour's hard work he has only ground just enough. Now it is half-past six. On with the coffee! Ah, what a perfume! I would give something to know where Amundsen got it from. Meanwhile the cook has taken out his pipe, and is smoking away gaily on an empty stomach; it does not seem to do him any harm. Hullo! There's the coffee boiling over.

While the coffee was boiling and Lindstrom smoked, I was still wondering why he was in such a hurry to get the coffee ready. You ass! I thought; can't you see? Of course, he is going to give himself a drink of fresh, hot coffee before the others are up; that's clear enough. When the coffee was ready, I sat down on a camp-stool that stood in a corner, and watched him. But I must say he surprised me again. He pushed the coffee-kettle away from the fire and took down a cup from the wall; then went to a jug that stood on the bench and poured out — would you believe it? — a cup of cold tea! If he goes on in this way, we shall have surprises enough before evening, I thought to myself. Then he began to be deeply interested in an enamelled iron bowl, which stood on a shelf above the range. The heat, which was now intense (I looked at the thermograph which hung from the ceiling; it registered 84deg.F.), did not seem to be sufficient for its mysterious contents. It was also wrapped up in towels and cloths, and gave me the impression of having caught a severe cold. The glances he threw into it from time to time were anxious; he looked at the clock, and seemed to have something on his mind. Then suddenly I saw his face brighten; he gave a long, not very melodious whistle, bent down, seized a dust-pan, and hurried out into the pent-house. Now I was really excited. What was coming next? He came back at once with a happy smile all over his face, and the dust-pan full of — coal! If I had been curious before, I was now anxious. I withdrew as far as possible from the range, sat down on the floor itself, and fixed my eyes on the thermograph. As I thought, the pen began to move upward with rapid steps. This was too bad. I made up my mind to pay a visit to the Meteorological Institute as soon as I got home, and tell them what I had seen with my own eyes. But now the heat seemed intolerable down on the floor, where I was sitting; what must it be like — heavens above, the man was sitting on the stove! He must have gone out of his mind. I was just going to give a cry of terror, when the door opened, and in came Amundsen from the room. I gave a deep sigh. Now it would be all right the time was ten minutes past seven. "'Morning, Fatty!" — "'Morning." — "What's it like outside?" — "Easterly breeze and thick when I was out; but that's a good while ago." This fairly took my breath away He stood there with the coolest air in the world and talked about the weather, and I could take my oath he had not been outside the door that morning. "How's it getting on to-day — is it coming?" Amundsen looks with interest at the mysterious bowl. Lindstrom takes another peep under the cloth. "Yes, it's coming at last; but I've had to give it a lot to-day." — " Yes, it feels like it," answers the other, and goes out. My interest is now divided between "it " in the bowl and Amundsen's return, with the meteorological discussion that will ensue. It is not long before he reappears; evidently the temperature outside is not inviting. "Let's hear again, my friend " — he seats himself on the camp-stool beside which I am sitting on the floor — "what kind of weather did you say it was?" I prick up my ears; there is going to be fun. "It was an easterly breeze and thick as a wall, when I was out at six o'clock." — "Hm! then it has cleared remarkably quickly. It's a dead calm now, and quite clear." — "Ah, that's just what I should have thought! I could see it was falling light, and it was getting brighter in the east." He got out of that well. Meanwhile it was again the turn of the bowl. It was taken down from the shelf over the range and put on the bench; the various cloths were removed one by one until it was left perfectly bare. I could not resist any longer; I had to get up and look. And indeed it was worth looking at. The bowl was filled to the brim with golden-yellow dough, full of air-bubbles, and showing every sign that he had got it to rise. Now I began to respect Lindstrom; he was a devil of a fellow. No confectioner in our native latitudes could have shown a finer dough. It was now 7.25; everything seems to go by the clock here.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14     Next Part
Home - Random Browse