Then the ship just held her own and only just; the engines alone would not send her to windward in the teeth of the gale. Once around Hut Point, Scott knew that they would be safe with open sea before them; and the end of the Point was only a quarter of a mile out, though off the end there was a shallow patch which had to be cleared before safety could be reached. So finding that no headway was being made he began to edge out towards the Point, and all seemed well until, nearly opposite to the Point itself, he saw to his alarm that a strong current was sweeping past.
[Page 192] 'Nothing remained but to make a dash for it, and I swung the helm over and steered for the open. But the moment our bows entered the fast-running stream we were swung round like a top, and the instant after we crashed head foremost onto the shoal and stopped dead with our masts shivering. We were in the worst possible position, dead to windward of the bank with wind, sea, and current all tending to set us faster ashore.
'We took the shore thus at about 11 A.M., and the hours that followed were truly the most dreadful I have ever spent. Each moment the ship came down with a sickening thud which shook her from stem to stern, and each thud seemed to show more plainly that, strong as was her build, she could not long survive such awful blows.'
Hour after hour passed while the ship quivered and trembled and crashed again and again into her rocky bed. Nothing more could be done for her until the gale abated, but seeing the impossibility of doing anything at the time, Scott recognized that the next best thing was to be prepared to act promptly when the weather moderated. Then he discovered once more how absolutely he could rely on the support and intelligence of his companions. Skelton already had made a list of weights by the removal of which the ship could be lightened, and when the boatswain was summoned to discuss the manner in which the anchors could be laid out he also had his scheme cut and dried.
The first sign of a lull came at 7 P.M., and soon after [Page 193] they assembled to the dreariest dinner ever remembered in the Discovery. But when they were half-way through this silent meal Mulock, the officer of the watch, suddenly burst in and said, 'The ship's working astern, sir.'
In record time Scott reached the bridge, and found that both wind and sea had dropped in the most extraordinary manner. But what surprised him even more was that the current, which had been running strongly to the north, had turned and was running with equal speed to the south. Each time that the ship lifted on a wave she worked two or three inches astern, and though she was still grinding heavily she no longer struck the bottom with such terrific force. Scarcely, however, had these facts been observed when Skelton rushed up to say that the inlets were free again.
'Every soul was on deck and in a moment they were massed together and running from side to side in measured time. The telegraphs were put full speed astern; soon the engines began to revolve, and the water foamed and frothed along the side. For a minute or two the ship seemed to hesitate, but then there came a steady grating under the bottom, which gradually traveled forward, and ceased as the ship, rolling heavily, slid gently into deep water.... Rarely, if ever, can a ship have appeared in such an uncomfortable plight as ours to find herself free and safe within the space of an hour.... To be in ten feet of water in a ship that draws fourteen feet cannot be a pleasant position—nor can there be a doubt [Page 194] that the shocks which the Discovery sustained would have very seriously damaged a less stoutly built vessel.'
None too soon were they clear of the shoal, for in a very short time the wind was again blowing from the south; but as, on the 18th, the wind though still blowing strong had gone round to the southeast and brought smoother water in the Sound, it was decided to make for the inlets of the glacier tongue to the north, and complete the coaling operations.
On occasions when haste was necessary there was, by mutual consent, no distinction between officers and men. And Scott mentions 'as a sight for the gods' the scene of biologists, vertebrate zoologists, lieutenants, and A.B.'s with grimed faces and chafed hands working with all their might on the coaling whips.
The Morning handed over twenty-five tons of coal, and this was all the more a generous gift since it reduced Colbeck to the narrowest margin, and compelled him to return directly homeward without joining in any attempt at further exploration. 'His practical common sense told him he could be of little use to us, and with his usual loyalty he never hesitated to act for the best, at whatever sacrifice to his own hopes and wishes.'
Before they left the glacier in McMurdo Sound it was arranged that the three ships should journey up the coast together and then separate, the Morning proceeding to the north, while the Discovery and the Terra Nova turned west. The companies of both relief [Page 195] ships, however, expressed a strong desire to be with the Discovery when she entered her first civilized port; so Scott fixed upon Port Ross, in the Auckland Islands, as a spot at which they might meet before the final return to New Zealand.
February 20 saw the Discovery speeding along a stretch of coast that had been quite unknown until she had two years previously made her way south along it, and at that time she had been obliged to keep a long distance out on account of the pack-ice. But now gaps which had been missed could be filled in; and even more than this was done, for Mulock remained on deck night and day taking innumerable angles to peaks and headlands, while Wilson, equally indefatigable, transferred this long panorama of mountain scenery to his sketch-book.
Two days later the pumps refused to act, and the whole of the engine-room staff were on duty for twenty-four hours on end; and on the 24th the carpenter called attention to the rudder. On inspection Scott saw that the solid oak rudder-head was completely shattered, and was held together by little more than its weight; as the tiller was moved right or left the rudder followed it, but with a lag of many degrees, so that the connection between the two was evidently insecure. In such a condition it was obvious that they could not hope to weather a gale without losing all control over the ship, and that no time was to be lost in shipping their spare rudder in place of the damaged one. So Scott determined to seek shelter in Robertson [Page 196] Bay, and by night the damaged rudder had been hoisted on deck and the spare one prepared for lowering into its place. Since the Discovery had left winter quarters an almost incredible amount of work had been done to bring her into sea trim. Difficulty after difficulty had arisen, but the energy of the company had never slackened, and by February 25 Scott was able to say that everything was once more in order, though he was a little doubtful about the steering power of their spare rudder.
At this time it was all the more important that the ship should give no further trouble, because according to their program they were about to penetrate a new region, and expected to find quite enough to do without considering internal difficulties. With high hopes that steam power would enable them to pass beyond the point reached by Sir James Ross in his sailing ships they turned to the west, and at first all went well with them. Pack-ice, however, was destined to be an insuperable obstacle to their advance, and on the 26th they decided to turn to the north-east and try to find a way around this formidable barrier. 'It is grievously disappointing to find the pack so far to the east; Ross carried the open water almost to Cape North.' And again on March 1, Scott sounds a note of lamentation: 'There can be no doubt that since leaving Victoria Land we have been skirting a continuous mass of pack, which must cover the whole sea south of the Balleny Islands. That it should have lain so far to the eastward this year is very annoying; [Page 197] however, if we can push on upon this course we ought to strike the islands.'
Early in the morning of the following day land was reported, and by noon they were abreast of it; but what this island, and others that were dimly to be seen to the north, could be, puzzled them considerably, and not until some time later was the problem solved. In 1839 Balleny discovered a group of islands in this region, and three years later Ross saw land which he imagined was to the southward of Balleny's discoveries, and believing it to be divided into three distinct masses named it the Russell Islands. Consequently Scott arrived expecting to see two groups of islands, and was naturally perplexed when only one group was to be seen. After, however, studying the accounts of these islands and comparing them with what he could actually see, he recognized that they had just passed Balleny's Sturge Island, which Balleny had seen from the north, and so could have had no idea of its length in a north-and-south line. Later Ross must have seen this same island, and, as Scott saw to be quite possible, from a great distance must have thought that it was divided into three, and hence made the mistake of naming it as a separate group. Fortunately Mulock was able to obtain sufficient bearings to fix accurately the position of each island.
Now that the knotty question as to the geography of the Balleny Islands was settled, they went on to look for the land that Wilkes claimed to have discovered in 1840, but not a glimpse nor a vestige of it could they [Page 198] see; and, on March 4, they had to conclude that Wilkes Land was once and for all definitely disposed of. With this negative, but nevertheless important, result, the exploring work ended, and although a lack of coal had prevented their cherished plan of rounding Cape North, they had at least the satisfaction of clearing up some geographical misconceptions in a more northerly latitude.
From the 6th to the 14th continuous gales brought conditions of greater physical discomfort than had ever been experienced on board the Discovery, for she was in very light trim and tossed about the mountainous seas like a cork. It was, therefore, the greatest relief to furl their sails off the entrance of Ross Harbour on the 15th, and to steam into the calm waters of the Bay.
Neither the Terra Nova nor the Morning had yet arrived, and the days of waiting were spent in making their ship as smart as possible before the eyes of the multitude gazed upon her. Thus, in a few days, the Discovery looked as though she had spent her adventurous years in some peaceful harbor.
On March 19 the Terra Nova hove in sight, and was followed on the next day by the Morning. Both ships had experienced the most terrible weather, and everyone on board the little Morning declared that she had only been saved from disaster by the consummate seamanship of Captain Colbeck.
A few days later the small fleet again set sail, and after a most favorable voyage was at daybreak on April 1 [Page 199] off the Heads of Lyttelton Harbor; and before noon they were safely berthed alongside the jetty, from which they had sailed with such hearty wishes more than two years before.
'New Zealand,' Scott said, 'welcomed us as its own, and showered on us a wealth of hospitality and kindness which assuredly we can never forget, however difficult we may have found it to express our thanks. In these delightful conditions, with everything that could make for perfect rest and comfort, we abode for two full months before we set out on our last long voyage.'
June 8, however, found them at sea again, and a month or so later they anchored in Port Stanley (Falkland Islands), where they replenished their stock of coal and took the last series of magnetic observations in connection with their Southern Survey. And from the Falkland Islands, Scott wrote a letter which is yet another testimony of the admiration he felt for his companions. 'The praise,' he wrote, 'for whatever success we have had is really due to the ship's company as a whole rather than to individuals. That is not very clear, perhaps; what I mean is that the combination of individual effort for the common good has achieved our results, and the absence of any spirit of self-seeking. The motto throughout has been "share and share alike," and its most practical form lies, perhaps, in the fact that throughout our three years there has been no distinction between the food served to officers and men.
[Page 200] 'Under these circumstances I naturally feel that I can claim no greater share of achievement than those who have stood by me so loyally, and so I regard myself merely as the lucky figure-head.
'But it is good news to hear that the Admiralty are sympathetic, for I feel that no effort should be spared to gain their recognition of the splendid qualities displayed by officers and men.'
Early on the morning of September 9 the homeland was sighted, and for those who gazed longingly over the bulwarks and waited to welcome and be welcomed, there was only one cloud to dim the joy of their return. For with the happiness came also the sad thought that the end had come to those ties, which had held together the small band of the Discovery in the closest companionship and most unswerving loyalty.
[Page 201] THE LAST EXPEDITION
[Page 203] PREFACE TO 'SCOTT'S LAST EXPEDITION'
By Sir CLEMENTS R. MARKHAM, K.C.B.
Fourteen years ago Robert Falcon Scott was a rising naval officer, able, accomplished, popular, highly thought of by his superiors, and devoted to his noble profession. It was a serious responsibility to induce him to take up the work of an explorer; yet no man living could be found who was so well fitted to command a great Antarctic Expedition. The undertaking was new and unprecedented. The object was to explore the unknown Antarctic Continent by land. Captain Scott entered upon the enterprise with enthusiasm tempered by prudence and sound sense. All had to be learnt by a thorough study of the history of Arctic traveling, combined with experience of different conditions in the Antarctic Regions. Scott was the initiator and founder of Antarctic sledge-traveling.
His discoveries were of great importance. The survey and soundings along the Barrier cliffs, the discovery of King Edward Land, the discovery of Ross Island and the other volcanic islets, the examination of the Barrier surface, the discovery of the Victoria Mountains—a range of great height and many hundreds [Page 204] of miles in length, which had only before been seen from a distance out at sea—and above all the discovery of the great ice cap on which the South Pole is situated, by one of the most remarkable Polar journeys on record. His small but excellent scientific staff worked hard and with trained intelligence, their results being recorded in twelve large quarto volumes.
The great discoverer had no intention of losing touch with his beloved profession though resolved to complete his Antarctic work. The exigencies of the naval service called him to the command of battleships and to confidential work of the Admiralty; so that five years elapsed before he could resume his Antarctic labours.
The object of Captain Scott's second expedition was mainly scientific, to complete and extend his former work in all branches of science. It was his ambition that in his ship there should be the most completely equipped expedition for scientific purposes connected with the Polar regions, both as regards men and material, that ever left these shores. In this he succeeded. He had on board a fuller complement of geologists, one of them especially trained for the study, of physiography, biologists, physicists, and surveyors than ever before composed the staff of a Polar expedition. Thus Captain Scott's objects were strictly scientific, including the completion and extension of his former discoveries. The results will be explained in the second volume of this work. They will be found to be extensive and important. Never before, in the [Page 205] Polar regions, have meteorological, magnetic and tidal observations been taken, in one locality, during five years. It was also part of Captain Scott's plan to reach the South Pole by a long and most arduous journey, but here again his intention was, if possible, to achieve scientific results on the way, especially hoping to discover fossils which would throw light on the former history of the great range of mountains which he had made known to science.
The principal aim of this great man—for he rightly has his niche among the Polar Dii Majores—was the advancement of knowledge. From all aspects Scott was among the most remarkable men of our time, and the vast number of readers of his journal will be deeply impressed with the beauty of his character. The chief traits which shone forth through his life were conspicuous in the hour of death. There are few events in history to be compared, for grandeur and pathos, with the last closing scene in that silent wilderness of snow. The great leader, with the bodies of his dearest friends beside him, wrote and wrote until the pencil dropped from his dying grasp. There was no thought of himself, only the earnest desire to give comfort and consolation to others in their sorrow. His very last lines were written lest he who induced him to enter upon Antarctic work should now feel regret for what he had done.
'If I cannot write to Sir Clements, tell him I thought much of him, and never regretted his putting me in command of the Discovery.'
[Page 206] The following appointments were held in the Royal Navy by Captain Scott between 1905 and 1910:
January to July, 1906 Admiralty (Assistant Director of Naval Intelligence.) Aug. 21, 1906, to Jan. 1, 1907 Victorious (Flag Captain to Rear-Admiral Egerton, Rear-Admiral in the Atlantic Fleet). Jan. 2, 1907, to Aug. 24, 1907 Albermarle (Flag Captain to Rear-Admiral Egerton, Rear-Admiral in the Atlantic Fleet). Aug. 25, 1907, to Jan. 24, 1908 Not actively employed afloat between these dates. Jan. 25, 1908, to May 29, 1908 Essex (Captain). May 30, 1908, to March 23, 1909 Bulwark (Flag Captain to Rear-Admiral Colville, Rear-Admiral the Nore Division, Home Fleet).
Then Naval Assistant to Second Sea Lord of the Admiralty. Appointed to H.M.S. President for British Antarctic Expedition June 1, 1910.
[Page 207] On September 2, 1908, at Hampton Court Palace, Captain Scott was married to Kathleen, daughter of the late Canon Lloyd Bruce. Peter Markham Scott was born on September 14, 1909.
On September 13, 1909, Captain Scott published his plans for the British Antarctic Expedition of the following year, and his appeal resulted in L10,000 being collected as a nucleus fund. Then the Government made a grant of L20,000, and grants followed from the Governments of Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.
Nine days after the plans were published arrangements were made to purchase the steamship Terra Nova, the largest and strongest of the old Scottish whalers. The original date chosen for sailing was August 1, 1910, but owing to the united efforts of those engaged upon the fitting out and stowing of the ship, she was able to leave Cardiff on June 15. Business, however, prevented Captain Scott from leaving England until a later date, and in consequence he sailed in the Saxon to South Africa, and there awaited the arrival of the Terra Nova.
[Page 208] BRITISH ANTARCTIC EXPEDITION, 1910
Name Rank, &c. Robert Falcon Scott Captain, C.V.O., R.N. Edward R. G. R. Evans Lieutenant, R.N. Victor L. A. Campbell Lieutenant, R.N. (Emergency List) Henry R. Bowers Lieutenant, R.I.M. Lawrence E. G. Oates Captain 6th Inniskilling Dragoons. G. Murray Levick Surgeon, R.N. Edward L. Atkinson Surgeon, R.N., Parasitologist.
Edward Adrian Wilson B.A., M.B. (Cantab), Chief of the Scientific Staff, and Zoologist. George C. Simpson D.Sc., Meteorologist. T. Griffith Taylor B.A., B.Sc., B.E., Geologist. Edward W. Nelson Biologist. Frank Debenham B.A., B.Sc., Geologist. Charles S. Wright B.A., Physicist. Raymond E. Priestley Geologist. Herbert G. Ponting F.R.G.S, Camera Artist. Cecil H. Meares In Charge of Dogs. Bernard C. Day Motor Engineer. Apsley Cherry-Garrard B.A., Asst. Zoologist. Tryggve Gran Sub-Lieutenant, Norwegian N.R., B.A., Ski Expert.
[Page 209] Men
W. Lashly Chief Stoker, R.N. W. W. Archer Chief Steward, late R.N. Thomas Clissold Cook, late R.N. Edgar Evans Petty Officer, R.N. Robert Forde Petty Officer, R.N. Thomas Crean Petty Officer, R.N. Thomas S. Williamson Petty Officer, R.N. Patrick Keohane Petty Officer, R.N. George P. Abbott Petty Officer, R.N. Frank V. Browning Petty Officer, 2nd class, R.N. Harry Dickason Able Seaman, R.N. F. J. Hooper Steward, late R.N. Anton Omelchenko Groom. Demetri Gerof Dog Driver.
Harry L. L. Pennell Lieutenant, R.N. Henry E. de P. Rennick Lieutenant, R.N. Wilfred M. Bruce Lieutenant, R.N.R. Francis R. H. Drake Asst. Paymaster, R.N. (Retired), Secretary and Meteorologist in Ship. Denis G. Lillie M.A., Biologist in Ship.
James R. Dennistoun In Charge of Mules in Ship. Alfred B. Cheetham R.N.R., Boatswain. William Williams Chief Engine-room Artificer, R.N., 2nd Engineer. William A. Horton Eng. Rm. Art. 3rd Class, R.N. 2nd Engineer. Francis E. C. Davies Leading Shipwright, R.N. Frederick Parsons Petty Officer, R.N. [Page 210] William L. Heald Late P.O., R.N. Arthur S. Bailey Petty Officer, 2nd Class, R.N. Albert Balson Leading Seaman, R.N. Joseph Leese Able Seaman, R.N. John Hugh Mather Petty Officer, R.N.V.R. Robert Oliphant Able Seaman. Thomas F. McLeod Able Seaman. Mortimer McCarthy Able Seaman. William Knowles Able Seaman. Charles Williams Able Seaman. James Skelton Able Seaman. William McDonald Able Seaman. James Paton Able Seaman. Robert Brissenden Leading Stoker, R.N. Edward A. McKenzie Leading Stoker, R.N. William Burton Leading Stoker, R.N. Bernard J. Stone Leading Stoker, R.N. Angus McDonald Fireman. Thomas McGillon Fireman. Charles Lammas Fireman. W. H. Neale Steward.
[Page 211] CHAPTER I
THROUGH STORMY SEAS
The ice was here, the ice was there, The ice was all around: It cracked and growled, and roared and howled, Like noises in a swound.—COLERIDGE.
No sooner was it known that Scott intended to lead another Antarctic expedition than he was besieged by men anxious to go with him. The selection of a small company from some eight thousand volunteers was both a difficult and a delicate task, but the fact that the applications were so numerous was at once a convincing proof of the interest shown in the expedition, and a decisive answer to the dismal cry that the spirit of romance and adventure no longer exists in the British race.
On June 15, 1910, the Terra Nova left Cardiff upon her great mission, and after a successful voyage arrived, on October 28, at Lyttelton. There an enormous amount of work had to be done before she could be ready to leave civilization, but as usual the kindness received in New Zealand was 'beyond words.'
A month of strenuous labour followed, and then, on [Page 212] November 26, they said farewell to Lyttelton, and after calling at Port Chalmers set out on Tuesday, the 29th, upon the last stage of their voyage. Two days later they encountered a stiff wind from the N. W. and a confused sea.
'The ship a queer and not altogether cheerful sight under the circumstances.
'Below one knows all space is packed as tight as human skill can devise—and on deck! Under the forecastle fifteen ponies close side by side, seven one side, eight the other, heads together and groom between—swaying, swaying continually to the plunging, irregular motion.'
Outside the forecastle and to leeward of the fore hatch were four more ponies, and on either side of the main hatch were two very large packing-cases containing motor sledges, each 16 X 5 X 4. A third sledge stood across the break of the poop in the space hitherto occupied by the after winch, and all these cases were so heavily lashed with heavy chain and rope lashings that they were thought to be quite secure. The petrol for the sledges was contained in tins and drums protected in stout wooden packing-cases, which were ranged across the deck immediately in front of the poop and abreast the motor sledges.
Round and about these packing-cases, stretching from the galley forward to the wheel aft, coal bags containing the deck cargo of coal were stacked; and upon the coal sacks, and upon and between the motor sledges, and upon the ice-house were the thirty-three dogs. Perforce they had to be chained up, and although [Page 213] they were given as much protection as possible, their position was far from pleasant. 'The group formed,' in Scott's opinion, 'a picture of wretched dejection: such a life is truly hard for these poor creatures.'
The wind freshened with great rapidity on Thursday evening, and very soon the ship was plunging heavily and taking much water over the lee rail. Cases of all descriptions began to break loose on the upper deck, the principal trouble being caused by the loose coal bags, which were lifted bodily by the seas and swung against the lashed cases. These bags acted like battering rams, no lashings could possibly have withstood them, and so the only remedy was to set to work and heave coal sacks overboard and re-lash the cases. During this difficult and dangerous task seas continually broke over the men, and at such times they had to cling for dear life to some fixture to prevent themselves from being washed overboard. No sooner was some appearance of order restored than another unusually heavy wave tore away the lashings, and the work had to be done allover again.
As the night wore on the sea and wind continued to rise, and the ship to plunge more and more. 'We shortened sail to main topsail and staysail, stopped engines and hove to, but to little purpose.'
From Oates and Atkinson, who worked through the entire night, reports came that it was impossible to keep the ponies on their legs. But worse news was to follow, for in the early morning news came from the engine-room that the pumps had choked, and that the water had risen over the gratings.
[Page 214] From that moment, about 4 A.M., the engine-room became the center of interest, but in spite of every effort the water still gained. Lashly and Williams, up to their necks in rushing water, stuck gamely to the work of clearing suctions, and for a time, with donkey engine and bilge pump sucking, it looked as if the water might be got under. But the hope was short-lived; five minutes of pumping invariably led to the same result—a general choking of the pumps.
The ship was very deeply-laden and was in considerable danger of becoming waterlogged, in which condition anything might have happened. The hand pump produced nothing more than a dribble and its suction could not be reached, for as the water crept higher it got in contact with the boiler and eventually became so hot that no one could work at the suctions. A great struggle to conquer these misfortunes followed, but Williams had at last to confess that he was beaten and must draw fires.
'What was to be done? Things for the moment appeared very black. The sea seemed higher than ever; it came over lee rail and poop, a rush of green water; the ship wallowed in it; a great piece of the bulwark carried clean away. The bilge pump is dependent on the main engine. To use the pump it was necessary to go ahead. It was at such times that the heaviest seas swept in over the lee rail; over and over again the rail, from the forerigging to the main, was covered by a solid sheet of curling water which swept aft and high on the poop. On one [Page 215] occasion I was waist deep when standing on the rail of the poop.'
All that could be done for the time being was to organize the afterguard to work buckets, and to keep the men steadily going on the choked hand-pumps, which practically amounted to an attempt to bale out the ship! For a day and a night the string of buckets was passed up a line from the engine-room; and while this arduous work was going on the officers and men sang chanteys, and never for a moment lost their good spirits.
In the meantime an effort was made to get at the suction of the pumps; and by 10 P.M. on Friday evening a hole in the engine-room bulkhead had been completed. Then E. R. Evans, wriggling over the coal, found his way to the pump shaft and down it, and cleared the suction of the coal balls (a mixture of coal and oil) which were choking it. Soon afterwards a good stream of water came from the pump, and it was evident that the main difficulty had been overcome. Slowly the water began to decrease in the engine-room, and by 4 A.M. on Saturday morning the bucket-parties were able to stop their labours.
The losses caused by this gale were serious enough, but they might easily have been worse. Besides the damage to the bulwarks of the ship, two ponies, one dog, ten tons of coal, sixty-five gallons of petrol, and a case of biologists' spirit were lost. Another dog was washed away with such force that his chain broke and he disappeared, but the next wave miraculously [Page 216] washed him back on board. In a few hours everyone was hopeful again, but anxiety on account of the ponies remained. With the ship pitching heavily to a south-westerly swell, at least two of these long-suffering animals looked sadly in need of a spell of rest, and Scott's earnest prayer was that there might be no more gales. 'December ought to be a fine month in the Ross Sea; it always has been, and just now conditions point to fine weather. Well, we must be prepared for anything, but I'm anxious, anxious about these animals of ours.'
Meanwhile Bowers and Campbell had worked untiringly to put things straight on deck, and with the coal removed from the upper deck and the petrol re-stored, the ship was in much better condition to fight the gales. 'Another day,' Scott wrote on Tuesday, December 6, 'ought to put us beyond the reach of westerly gales'; but two days later the ship was once more plunging against a stiff breeze and moderate sea, and his anxiety about the ponies was greater than ever. The dogs, however, had recovered wonderfully from the effects of the great gale, their greatest discomfort being that they were almost constantly wet.
During Friday, December 9, some very beautiful bergs were passed, the heights of which varied from sixty to eighty feet. Good progress was made during this day, but the ice streams thickened as they advanced, and on either side of them fields of pack began to appear. Yet, after the rough weather they had [Page 217] been having, the calm sea was a blessing even if the ice had arrived before it was expected. 'One can only imagine the relief and comfort afforded to the ponies, but the dogs are visibly cheered and the human element is full of gaiety. The voyage seems full of promise in spite of the imminence of delay.'
Already Scott was being worried by the pace at which the coal was going, and he determined if the pack became thick to put out the fires and wait for the ice to open. Very carefully all the evidence of former voyages had been examined so that the best meridian to go south on might be chosen, and the conclusion arrived at was that the 178 W. was the best. They entered the pack more or less on this meridian, and were rewarded by meeting worse conditions than any ship had ever experienced—worse, indeed, than Scott imagined to be possible on any meridian which they might have chosen. But as very little was known about the movements of the pack the difficulties of making a choice may very easily be imagined, and, in spite of disappointments, Scott's opinion that the 178 W. was the best meridian did not change. 'The situation of the main bodies of pack,' he says, 'and the closeness with which the floes are packed depend almost entirely on the prevailing winds. One cannot tell what winds have prevailed before one's arrival; therefore one cannot know much about the situation or density. Within limits the density is changing from day to day and even from hour to hour; such changes depend on the wind, but it may not necessarily be a local [Page 218] wind, so that at times they seem almost mysterious. One sees the floes pressing closely against one another at a given time, and an hour or two afterwards a gap of a foot or more may be seen between each. When the floes are pressed together it is difficult and sometimes impossible to force a way through, but when there is release of pressure the sum of many little gaps allows one to take a zigzag path.'
During Sunday they lay tight in the pack, and after service at 10 A.M. all hands exercised themselves on ski over the floes and got some delightful exercise. 'I have never thought of anything as good as this life. The novelty, interest, colour, animal life, and good fellowship go to make up an almost ideal picnic just at present,' one of the company wrote on that same day—an abundant proof that if delays came they brought their compensations with them.
With rapid and complete changes of prospect they managed to progress—on the Monday—with much bumping and occasional stoppages, but on the following day they were again firmly and tightly wedged in the pack. To most of them, however, the novelty of the experience prevented any sense of impatience, though to Scott the strain of waiting and wondering what he ought to do as regards the question of coal was bound to be heavy.
This time of waiting was by no means wasted, for Gran gave hours of instruction in the use of ski, and Meares took out some of the fattest dogs and exercised them with a sledge. Observations were also constantly [Page 219] taken, while Wilson painted some delightful pictures and Ponting took a number of beautiful photographs of the pack and bergs. But as day followed day and hopes of progress were not realized, Scott, anxious to be free, decided on Monday, December 19, to push west. 'Anything to get out of these terribly heavy floes. Great patience is the only panacea for our ill case. It is bad luck.'
Over and over again when the end of their troubles seemed to be reached, they found that the thick pack was once more around them. And what to do under the circumstances called for most difficult decisions. If the fires were let out it meant a dead loss of two tons of coal when the boilers were again heated. But these two tons only covered a day under banked fires, so that for anything longer than twenty-four hours it was a saving to put out the fires. Thus at each stoppage Scott was called upon to decide how long it was likely to last.
Christmas Day came with the ice still surrounding the ship, but although the scene was 'altogether too Christmassy,' a most merry evening was spent. For five hours the officers sat round the table and sang lustily, each one of them having to contribute two songs to the entertainment. 'It is rather a surprising circumstance,' Scott remarks, 'that such an unmusical party should be so keen on singing.'
Christmas, however, came and went without any immediate prospect of release, the only bright side of this exasperating delay being that everyone was [Page 220] prepared to exert himself to the utmost, quite regardless of the results of his labours. But on Wednesday, December 28, the ponies, despite the unremitting care and attention that Oates gave to them, were the cause of the gravest anxiety. 'These animals are now the great consideration, balanced as they are against the coal expenditure.'
By this time, although the ice was still all around them, many of the floes were quite thin, and even the heavier ice appeared to be breakable. So, after a consultation with Wilson, Scott decided to raise steam, and two days later the ship was once more in the open sea.
From the 9th to the 30th they had been in the pack, and during this time 370 miles had been covered in a direct line. Sixty-one tons of coal had been used, an average of six miles to the ton, and although these were not pleasant figures to contemplate, Scott considered that under the exceptional conditions they might easily have been worse. For the ship herself he had nothing but praise to give. 'No other ship, not even the Discovery, would have come through so well.... As a result I have grown strangely attached to the Terra Nova. As she bumped the floes with mighty shocks, crushing and grinding her way through some, twisting and turning to avoid others, she seemed like a living thing fighting a great fight. If only she had more economical engines she would be suitable in all respects.'
[Footnote 1: When the Terra Nova left Lyttelton she had 460 tons of coal on board.]
[Page 221] Scientifically as much as was possible had been done, but many of the experts had of necessity been idle in regard to their own specialties, though none of them were really idle; for those who had no special work to do were magnificently eager to find any kind of work that required to be done. 'Everyone strives to help everyone else, and not a word of complaint or anger has been heard on board. The inner life of our small community is very pleasant to think upon, and very wonderful considering the extremely small space in which we are confined. The attitude of the men is equally worthy of admiration. In the forecastle as in the wardroom there is a rush to be first when work is to be done, and the same desire to sacrifice selfish consideration to the success of the expedition. It is very good to be able to write in such high praise of one's companions, and I feel that the possession of such support ought to ensure success. Fortune would be in a hard mood indeed if it allowed such a combination of knowledge, experience, ability, and enthusiasm to achieve nothing.'
Fortune's wheel, however, was not yet prepared to turn in their favor, for after a very few hours of the open sea a southern blizzard met them. In the morning watch of December 31, the wind and sea increased and the outlook was very distressing, but at 6 A.M. ice was sighted ahead. Under ordinary conditions the safe course would have been to go about and stand to the east, but on this occasion [Page 222] Scott was prepared to run the risk of trouble if he could get the ponies into smoother water. Soon they passed a stream of ice over which the sea was breaking heavily, and the danger of being among loose floes in such a sea was acutely realized. But presently they came to a more compact body of floes, and running behind this they were agreeably surprised to find themselves in comparatively smooth water. There they lay to in a sort of ice bay, and from a dangerous position had achieved one that was safe as long as their temporary shelter lasted.
As the day passed their protection, though still saving them from the heavy swell, gradually diminished, but 1910 did not mean to depart without giving them an Old Year's gift and surprise. 'At 10 P.M. to-night as the clouds lifted to the west a distant but splendid view of the great mountains was obtained. All were in sunshine; Sabine and Whewell were most conspicuous—the latter from this view is a beautiful sharp peak, as remarkable a landmark as Sabine itself. Mount Sabine was 110 miles away when we saw it. I believe we could have seen it at a distance of thirty or forty miles farther—such is the wonderful clearness of the atmosphere.'
The New Year brought better weather with it, and such good progress was made that by mid-day on Tuesday, January 3, the ship reached the Barrier five miles east of Cape Crozier. During the voyage they had often discussed the idea of making their winter station at this Cape, and the prospect had [Page 223] seemed to become increasingly fascinating the more they talked of it.
But a great disappointment awaited them, for after one of the whale boats had been lowered and Scott, Wilson, Griffith Taylor, Priestley, and E. R. Evans had been pulled towards the shore, they discovered that the swell made it impossible for them to land.
'No good!! Alas! Cape Crozier with all its attractions is denied us.'
On the top of a floe they could see an old Emperor penguin molting and a young one shedding its down. This was an age and stage of development of the Emperor chick of which they were ignorant, but fortune decreed that this chick should be undisturbed. Of this incident Wilson wrote in his Journal: 'A landing was out of the question.... But I assure you it was tantalizing to me, for there, about 6 feet above us on a small dirty piece of the old bay ice about ten feet square, one living Emperor penguin chick was standing disconsolately stranded, and close by stood one faithful old Emperor parent asleep. This young Emperor was still in the down, a most interesting fact in the bird's life history at which we had rightly guessed, but which no one had actually observed before.... This bird would have been a treasure to me, but we could not risk life for it, so it had to remain where it was.'
Sadly and reluctantly they had to give up hopes of making their station at Cape Crozier, and this [Page 224] was all the harder to bear because every detail of the shore promised well for a wintering party. There were comfortable quarters for the hut, ice for water snow for the animals, good slopes for skiing, proximity to the Barrier and to the rookeries of two types of penguins, good ground for biological work, a fairly easy approach to the Southern Road with no chance of being cut off, and so forth. 'It is a thousand pities to have to abandon such a spot.'
The Discovery's post-office was still standing as erect as when it had been planted, and comparisons between what was before their eyes and old photographs showed that no change at all seemed to have occurred anywhere—a result that in the case of the Barrier caused very great surprise.
In the meantime all hands were employed in making a running survey, the program of which was:
Bruce continually checking speed with hand log.
Bowers taking altitudes of objects as they come abeam. Nelson noting results.
Pennell taking verge plate bearings on bow and quarter. Cherry-Garrard noting results.
Evans taking verge plate bearings abeam. Atkinson noting results.
Campbell taking distances abeam with range finder. Wright noting results.
Rennick sounding with Thomson machine. Drake noting results.
[Page 225] 'We plotted the Barrier edge from the point at which we met it to the Crozier cliffs; to the eye it seems scarcely to have changed since Discovery days, and Wilson thinks it meets the cliff in the same place.'
Very early on Wednesday morning they rounded Cape Bird and came in sight of Mount Discovery and the Western Mountains. 'It was good to see them again, and perhaps after all we are better this side of the Island. It gives one a homely feeling to see such a familiar scene.' Scott's great wish now was to find a place for winter quarters that would not easily be cut off from the Barrier, and a cape, which in the Discovery days had been called 'the Skuary,' was chosen. 'It was separated from old Discovery quarters by two deep bays on either side of the Glacier Tongue, and I thought that these bays would remain frozen until late in the season, and that when they froze over again the ice would soon become firm.'
There Scott, Wilson, and E. R. Evans landed, and at a glance saw, as they expected, that the place was ideal for their wintering station. A spot for the hut was chosen on a beach facing northwest and well protected behind by numerous small hills; but the most favorable circumstance of all in connection with this cape, which was re-christened Cape Evans, was the strong chance of communication being established at an early date with Cape Armitage. Not a moment was wasted, and while Scott was [Page 226] on shore Campbell took the first steps towards landing the stores.
[Footnote 1: The extreme south point of the Island, 12 miles further, on one of whose minor headlands, Hut Point, stood the Discovery hut.]
Fortunately the weather was gloriously calm and fine, and the landing began under the happiest conditions. Two of the motors were soon hoisted out, and in spite of all the bad weather and the tons of sea-water that had washed over them the sledges and all the accessories appeared to be in perfect condition. Then came the turn of the ponies, and although it was difficult to make some of them enter the horse box, Oates rose to the occasion and got most of them in by persuasion, while the ones which refused to be persuaded were simply lifted in by the sailors. 'Though all are thin and some few looked pulled down I was agreeably surprised at the evident vitality which they still possessed—some were even skittish. I cannot express the relief when the whole seventeen were safely picketed on the floe.'
Meares and the dogs were out early on the Wednesday morning, and ran to and fro during most of the day with light loads. The chief trouble with the dogs was due to the fatuous conduct of the penguins, the latter showing a devouring curiosity in the proceedings and a total disregard for their own safety, with the result that a number of them were killed in spite of innumerable efforts to teach the penguins to keep out of reach, they only squawked and ducked as much as to say, 'What's it got to do with you, you silly ass? Let us alone.' These incidents naturally demoralized the dogs and annoyed Meares, who [Page 227] while trying to stop one sledge, fell into the middle of the dogs and was carried along until they reached the penguins of their desire.
The motor sledges were running by the afternoon, Day managing one and Nelson the other. 'It is early to call them a success, but they are certainly extremely promising.' Before night the site for the hut was leveled, and the erecting party was encamped on shore in a large tent with a supply of food for eight days. Nearly all the timber, &c., for the hut and a supply of food for both ponies and dogs had also been landed.
Despite this most strenuous day's labour, all hands were up again at 5 A.M. on Thursday.
'Words cannot express the splendid way in which everyone works and gradually the work gets organized. I was a little late on the scene this morning, and thereby witnessed a most extraordinary scene. Some six or seven killer whales, old and young, were skirting the fast floe edge ahead of the ship; they seemed excited and dived rapidly, almost touching the floe. As we watched, they suddenly appeared astern, raising their snouts out of water. I had heard weird stories of these beasts, but had never associated serious danger with them. Close to the water's edge lay the wire stern rope of the ship, and our two Esquimaux dogs were tethered to this. I did not think of connecting the movements of the whales with this fact, and seeing them so close I shouted to Ponting, who was standing abreast of the ship. He seized his camera and ran [Page 228] towards the floe edge to get a close picture of the beasts, which had momentarily disappeared. The next moment the whole floe under him and the dogs heaved up and split into fragments. One could hear the "booming" noise as the whales rose under the ice and struck it with their backs. Whale after whale rose under the ice, setting it rocking fiercely; luckily Ponting kept his feet and was able to fly to security; by an extraordinary chance also, the splits had been made around and between the dogs, so that neither of them fell into the water. Then it was clear that the whales shared our astonishment, for one after another their huge hideous heads shot vertically into the air through the cracks which they had made... There cannot be a doubt that they looked up to see what had happened to Ponting and the dogs....
'Of course, we have known well that killer whales continually skirt the edge of the floes and that they would undoubtedly snap up anyone who was unfortunate enough to fall into the water; but the facts that they could display such deliberate cunning, that they were able to break ice of such thickness (at least 2-1/2 feet), and that they could act in unison, were a revelation to us. It is clear that they are endowed with singular intelligence, and in future we shall treat that intelligence with every respect.'
On Thursday the motor sledges did good work, and hopes that they might prove to be reliable began to increase. Infinite trouble had been taken to obtain [Page 229] the most suitable material for Polar work, and the three motor sledge tractors were the outcome of experiments made at Lantaret in France and at Lillehammer and Fefor in Norway, with sledges built by the Wolseley Motor Company from suggestions offered principally by B. T. Hamilton, R. W. Skelton, and Scott himself. With his rooted objection to cruelty in any shape or form, Scott had an intense, and almost pathetic, desire that these sledges should be successful; over and over again he expressed his hopes and fears of them.
With ponies, motor sledges, dogs, and men parties working hard, the transportation progressed rapidly on the next two days, the only drawback being that the ice was beginning to get thin in the cracks and on some of the floes. Under these circumstances the necessity for wasting no time was evident, and so on the Sunday the third motor was got out and placed on the ice, and Scott, leaving Campbell to find the best crossing for the motor, started for the shore with a single man load.
Soon after the motor had been brought out Campbell ordered that it should be towed on to the firm ice, because the ice near the ship was breaking up. And then, as they were trying to rush the machine over the weak place, Williamson suddenly went through; and while he was being hauled out the ice under the motor was seen to give, and slowly the machine went right through and disappeared. The men made strenuous efforts to keep hold of the rope, but it cut through the ice towards them with an increasing strain, [Page 230] and one after another they were obliged to let go. Half a minute later nothing remained but a big hole, and one of the two best motors was lying at the bottom of the sea.
The ice, too, was hourly becoming more dangerous, and it was clear that those who were on shore were practically cut off from the ship. So in the evening Scott went to the ice-edge farther to the north, and found a place where the ship could come and be near ice heavy enough for sledding. Then he semaphored directions to Pennell, and on the following morning the ship worked her way along the ice-edge to the spot that had been chosen.
A good solid road was formed right up to the ship, and again the work of transportation went on with the greatest energy. In this Bowers proved 'a perfect treasure,' there was not a single case he did not know nor a single article on which he could not at once place his hand, and every case as it came on shore was checked by him.
On Tuesday night, January 10, after six days in McMurdo Sound, the landing was almost completed, and early in the afternoon of Thursday a message was sent from the ship that nothing remained on board except mutton, books, pictures, and the pianola. 'So at last we really are a self-contained party ready for all emergencies. We are LANDED eight days after our arrival—a very good record.'
[Page 231] CHAPTER II
DEPOT LAYING TO ONE TON CAMP
And the deed of high endeavour Was no more to the favoured few. But brain and heart were the measure Of what every man might do. RENNELL RODD.
While the landing was being carried out, the building party had worked so rapidly that, if necessity had arisen, the hut could have been inhabited by the 12th; at the same time another small party had been engaged in making a cave in the ice which was to serve as a larder, and this strenuous work continued until the cave was large enough to hold all the mutton, and a considerable quantity of seal and penguin. Close to this larder Simpson and Wright were busy in excavating for the differential magnetic hut.
In every way indeed such good progress had been made that Scott could begin to think about the depot journey. The arrangements of this he discussed with Bowers, to whose grasp of the situation he gives the highest praise. 'He enters into one's idea's at once, and evidently thoroughly understands the principles of the game.'
Of these arrangements Wilson wrote in his journal: [Page 232] 'He (Scott) wants me to be a driver with himself, Meares, and Teddie Evans, and this is what I would have chosen had I had a free choice of all. The dogs run in two teams and each team wants two men. It means a lot of running as they are being driven now, but it is the fastest and most interesting work of all, and we go ahead of the whole caravan with lighter loads and at a faster rate.... About this time next year may I be there or thereabouts! With so many young bloods in the heyday of youth and strength beyond my own I feel there will be a most difficult task in making choice towards the end and a most keen competition—and a universal lack of selfishness and self-seeking, with a complete absence of any jealous feeling in any single one of any of the comparatively large number who at present stand a chance of being on the last piece next summer.... I have never been thrown in with a more unselfish lot of men—each one doing his utmost fair and square in the most cheery manner possible.'
Sunday, January 15, was observed as a 'day of rest,' and at 10 A.M. the men and officers streamed over from the ship, and Scott read Divine Service on the beach. Then he had a necessary but unpalatable task to perform, because some of the ponies had not fulfilled expectations, and Campbell had to be told that the two allotted to him must be exchanged for a pair of inferior animals. At this time the party to be led by Campbell was known as the Eastern Party, but, owing to the impossibility of landing on King [Page 233] Edward's Land, they were eventually taken to the north part of Victoria Land, and thus came to be known as the Northern Party. Scott's reluctance to make the alteration in ponies is evident, but in writing of it he says: 'He (Campbell) took it like the gentleman he is, thoroughly appreciating the reason.'
On that same afternoon Scott and Meares took a sledge and nine dogs, some provisions, a cooker and sleeping-bags, and started to Hut Point; but, on their arrival at the old Discovery hut, a most unpleasant surprise awaited them, for to their chagrin they found that some of Shackleton's party, who had used the hut for shelter, had left it in an uninhabitable state.
'There was something too depressing in finding the old hut in such a desolate condition.... To camp outside and feel that all the old comfort and cheer had departed, was dreadfully heartrending. I went to bed thoroughly depressed. It seems a fundamental expression of civilized human sentiment that men who come to such places as this should leave what comfort they can to welcome those who follow, and finding that such a simple duty had been neglected by our immediate predecessors oppressed me horribly.'
After a bad night they went up the hills, and there Scott found much less snow than he had ever seen. The ski run was completely cut through in two places, the Gap and Observation Hill were almost bare, on the side of Arrival Heights was a great bare slope, and on the top of Crater Heights was an immense bare [Page 234] tableland. The paint was so fresh and the inscription so legible on the cross put up to the memory of Vince that it looked as if it had just been erected, and although the old flagstaff was down it could with very little trouble have been put up again. Late in the afternoon of Monday Scott and Meares returned to Cape Evans, and on the following day the party took up their abode in the hut.
'The word "hut,"' Scott wrote, 'is misleading. Our residence is really a house of considerable size, in every respect the finest that has ever been erected in the Polar regions. The walls and roof have double thickness of boarding and seaweed insulation on both sides of the frames. The roof with all its coverings weighs six tons. The outer shell is wonderfully solid therefore and the result is extraordinary comfort and warmth inside, whilst the total weight is comparatively small. It amply repays the time and attention given to its planning.
'On the south side Bowers has built a long annex, to contain spare clothing and ready provisions, on the north there is a solid stable to hold our fifteen ponies in the winter. At present these animals are picketed on long lines laid on a patch of snow close by, above them, on a patch of black sand and rock, the dogs extend in other long lines. Behind them again is a most convenient slab of hard ice in which we have dug two caverns. The first is a larder now fully stocked with seals, penguins, mutton, and beef. The other is devoted to science in the shape of differential magnetic [Page 235] instruments which will keep a constant photographic record of magnetic changes. Outside these caverns is another little hut for absolute magnetic observations, and above them on a small hill, the dominant miniature peak of the immediate neighborhood, stand the meteorological instruments and a flagstaff carrying the Union Jack.
'If you can picture our house nestling below this small hill on a long stretch of black sand, with many tons of provision cases ranged in neat blocks in front of it and the sea lapping the ice-foot below, you will have some idea of our immediate vicinity. As for our wider surroundings it would be difficult to describe their beauty in sufficiently glowing terms. Cape Evans is one of the many spurs of Erebus and the one that stands closest under the mountain, so that always towering above us we have the grand snowy peak with its smoking summit. North and south of us are deep bays, beyond which great glaciers come rippling over the lower slopes to thrust high blue-walled snouts into the sea. The sea is blue before us, dotted with shining bergs or ice floes, whilst far over the Sound, yet so bold and magnificent as to appear near, stand the beautiful Western Mountains with their numerous lofty peaks, their deep glacial valley and clear-cut scarps, a vision of mountain scenery that can have few rivals.
'Ponting is the most delighted of men; he declares this is the most beautiful spot he has ever seen, and spends all day and most of the night [Page 236] in what he calls "gathering it in" with camera and cinematograph.
'I have told you of the surroundings of our house but nothing of its internal arrangements. They are in keeping with the dignity of the mansion.
'The officers (16) have two-thirds of the interior, the men (9) the remaining third; the dividing line is fixed by a wall of cases containing things which suffer from being frozen.
'In the officers' quarters there is an immense dark room, and next it on one side a space devoted to the physicist and his instruments, and on the other a space devoted to charts, chronometers and instruments generally.
'I have a tiny half cabin of my own, next this Wilson and Evans have their beds. On the other side is a space set apart for five beds, which are occupied by Meares, Oates, Atkinson, Garrard and Bowers. Taylor, Debenham and Gran have another proportional space opposite. Nelson and Day have a little cabin of their own with a bench. Lastly Simpson and Wright occupy beds bordering the space set apart for their instruments and work. In the center is a 12-foot table with plenty of room for passing behind its chairs....
'To sum up, the arrangements are such that everyone is completely comfortable and conveniently placed for his work—in fact we could not be better housed. Of course a good many of us will have a small enough chance of enjoying the comforts of our home. We shall be away sledding late this year and off again [Page 237] early next season, but even for us it will be pleasant to feel that such comfort awaits our return.'
So in less than a fortnight after the arrival in McMurdo Sound they had absolutely settled down, and were anxious to start upon their depot journey as soon as the ponies had recovered thoroughly from the effects of the voyage. These autumn journeys, however, required much thought and preparation, mainly because the prospect of the parties being cut off from their winter quarters necessitated a great deal of food being taken both for men and animals. Sledding gear and wintering boots were served out to the selected travelers, sledges were prepared by P.O. Evans and Crean, and most of the stores were tested and found to be most excellent in quality. 'Our clothing is as good as good. In fact first and last, running through the whole extent of our outfit, I can say with pride that there is not a single arrangement which I would have had altered.... Everything looks hopeful for the depot journey if only we can get our stores and ponies past the Glacier Tongue.'
Thus Scott wrote on the 20th, but the following day brought a serious suspense with it; for during the afternoon came a report that the Terra Nova was ashore, and Scott, hastening to the Cape, saw at once that she was firmly fixed and in a very uncomfortable position.
Visions of the ship being unable to return to New Zealand arose in his mind 'with sickening pertinacity,' and it was characteristic of him that at the moment when there was every prospect of a complete disarrangement of well-laid plans, he found his one [Page 238] consolation in determining that, whatever happened, nothing should interfere with the southern work.
The only possible remedy seemed to be an extensive lightening of the ship with boats, as the tide had evidently been high when she struck. Scott, with two or three companions, watched anxiously from the shore while the men on board shifted cargo aft, but no ray of hope came until the ship was seen to be turning very slowly, and then they saw the men running from side to side and knew that an attempt was being made to roll her off. At first the rolling produced a more rapid turning movement, and then she seemed again to hang though only for a short time. Meanwhile the engines had been going astern and presently a slight movement became apparent, but those who were watching the ship did not know that she was getting clear until they heard the cheers on board. Then she gathered stern way and was clear.
'The relief was enormous. The wind dropped as she came off, and she is now securely moored off the northern ice-edge, where I hope the greater number of her people are finding rest. For here and now I must record the splendid manner in which these men are working. I find it difficult to express my admiration for the manner in which the ship is handled and worked under these very trying circumstances... Pennell has been over to tell me about it to-night; I think I like him more every day.'
On that same day Meares and Oates went to the Glacier Tongue and satisfied themselves that the ice [Page 239] was good; and with the 25th fixed for the date of departure it was not too much to hope that the ice would remain for three or four more days. The ponies for Campbell's party were put on board on the 22nd, but when Scott got up at 5 A.M. on the following morning he saw, to his astonishment, that the ice was going out of the bay in a solid mass. Then everything was rushed on at top speed, and a wonderful day's work resulted. All the forage, food, sledges and equipment were got off to the ship at once, the dogs followed; in short everything to do with the depot party was hurriedly put on board except the ponies, which were to cross the Cape and try to get over the Southern Road on the morning of the 24th.
The Southern Road was the one feasible line of communication between the new station at Cape Evans and the Discovery hut, for the rugged mountains and crevassed ice-slopes of Ross Island prevented a passage by land. The Road provided level going below the cliffs of the ice-foot except where disturbed by the descending glacier; and there it was necessary to cross the body of the glacier itself. It consisted of the more enduring ice in the bays and the sea-ice along the coast, which only stayed fast for the season. Thus it was most important to get safely over the dangerous part of this Road before the seasonal going-out of the sea-ice. To wait until after the ice went out and the ship could sail to Hut Point would have meant both uncertainty and delay. Scott knew well enough that the Road might not hold for many more hours, [Page 240] and it actually broke up on the very day after the party had passed.
Early on Tuesday, January 24, a boat from the ship fetched Scott and the Western Party; and at the same time the ponies were led out of the camp, Wilson and Meares going ahead of them to test the track. No sooner was Scott on board than he was taken to inspect Lillie's catch of sea animals. 'It was wonderful, quantities of sponges, isopods, pentapods, large shrimps, corals, &c. &c.; but the piece de resistance was the capture of several bucketsful of cephalodiscus of which only seven pieces had been previously caught. Lillie is immensely pleased, feeling that it alone repays the whole enterprise.' In the forenoon the ship skirted the Island, and with a telescope those on board could watch the string of ponies steadily progressing over the sea-ice past the Razor Back Islands; and, as soon as they were seen to be well advanced, the ship steamed on to the Glacier Tongue, and made fast in the narrow angle made by the sea-ice with the glacier.
Then, while Campbell investigated a broad crack in the sea ice on the Southern Road, Scott went to meet the ponies, which, without much difficulty, were got on to the Tongue, across the glacier, and then were picketed on the sea-ice close to the ship. But when Campbell returned with the news that the big crack was 30 feet across, it was evident that they must get past it on the glacier, and Scott asked him to peg out a road clear of cracks.
[Page 241] Soon afterwards Oates reported that the ponies were ready to start again, and they were led along; Campbell's road, their loads having already been taken on the floe. At first all went well, but when the animals got down on the floe level and Oates led across an old snowed-up crack, the third pony made a jump at the edge and sank to its stomach in the middle. Gradually it sank deeper and deeper until only its head and forelegs showed above the slush. With some trouble ropes were attached to these, and the poor animal, looking very weak and miserable, was eventually pulled out.
After this experience the other five ponies were led farther round to the west and were got safely out on the floe; a small feed was given to them, and then they were started off with their loads.
The dogs in the meantime were causing some excitement for, starting on hard ice with a light load, they obviously preferred speed to security. Happily, however, no accident happened, and Scott, writing from Glacier Tongue on January 24, was able to say: 'All have arrived safely, and this evening we start our sledges south. I expect we shall have to make three relays to get all our stores on to the Barrier some fifteen miles away. The ship is to land a geologising party on the west side of the Sound, and then to proceed to King Edward's Land to put the Eastern party on short.'
The geologising party consisted of Griffith Taylor, Debenham, Wright, and P.O. Evans, and for reasons [Page 242] already mentioned the Eastern party were eventually known as the Northern party.
On the night of the 24th Scott camped six miles from the glacier and two miles from Hut Point, he and Wilson having driven one team of dogs, while Meares and E. Evans drove the other. But on the following day Scott drove his team to the ship, and when the men had been summoned aft he thanked them for their splendid work.
'They have behaved like bricks and a finer lot of fellows never sailed in a ship.... It was a little sad to say farewell to all these good fellows and Campbell and his men. I do most heartily trust that all will be successful in their ventures, for indeed their unselfishness and their generous high spirit deserves reward. God bless them.'
* * * * *
How completely Scott's hopes were realized in the case of Campbell's party is now well known. Nothing more miraculous than the story of their adventures has ever been told. The party consisted of Campbell, Levick, Priestley, Abbott, Browning, and Dickason, and the courage shown by the leader and his companions in facing endless difficulties and privations has met with the unstinted admiration that it most thoroughly deserved.
* * * * *
For the depot laying journey Scott's party consisted of 12 men (Wilson, Bowers, Oates, Atkinson, Cherry-Garrard, E. Evans, Gran, Meares, Forde, [Page 243] Keohane, Crean, and himself), 8 ponies and 26 dogs. Of the dogs he felt at this time more than a little doubtful, but the ponies were in his opinion bound to be a success. 'They work with such extraordinary steadiness, stepping out briskly and cheerfully, following in each other's tracks. The great drawback is the ease with which they sink in soft snow: they go through in lots of places where the men scarcely make an impression—they struggle pluckily when they sink, but it is trying to watch them.'
In three days he hoped that all the loads would be transported to complete safety, and on Friday, the 27th, only one load remained to be brought from Hut Point. The strenuous labour of this day tired out the dogs, but the ponies worked splendidly. On the next day, however, both Keohane's and Bowers' ponies showed signs of breaking down, and Oates began to take a gloomy view of the situation. In compensation for these misfortunes the dogs, as they got into better condition, began to do excellent work. During Sunday they ran two loads for over a mile past the stores on the Barrier to the spot chosen for 'Safety Camp,' the big home depot. 'I don't think that any part of the Barrier is likely to go, but it's just as well to be prepared for everything, and our camp must deserve its distinctive title of "Safety."'
By this time the control of the second dog team had been definitely handed over to Wilson, and in his journal he gives an admirable account of his experiences. 'The seals have been giving a lot of [Page 244] trouble, that is just to Meares and myself with our dogs.... Occasionally when one pictures oneself quite away from trouble of that kind, an old seal will pop his head up at a blowhole a few yards ahead of the team, and they are all on top of him before one can say "knife"! Then one has to rush in with the whip—and everyone of the team of eleven jumps over the harness of the dog next to him, and the harnesses become a muddle that takes much patience to unravel, not to mention care lest the whole team should get away with the sledge and its load, and leave one behind.... I never did get left the whole of this depot journey, but I was often very near it, and several times had only time to seize a strap or a part of the sledge, and be dragged along helter-skelter over everything that came in the way, till the team got sick of galloping and one could struggle to one's feet again. One gets very wary and wide-awake when one has to manage a team of eleven dogs and a sledge load by oneself, but it was a most interesting experience, and I had a delightful leader, "Stareek" by name—Russian for "Old Man," and he was the most wise old man.... Dog driving like this in the orthodox manner is a very different thing from the beastly dog driving we perpetrated in the Discovery days.... I got to love all my team and they got to know me well.... Stareek is quite a ridiculous "old man" and quite the nicest, quietest, cleverest old dog I have ever come across. He looks in face as if he knew all the wickedness of all the world [Page 245] and all its cares, and as if he were bored to death by them.'
When Safety Camp was reached there was no need for haste until they started upon their journey. 'It is only when we start that we must travel fast.' Work, however, on the Monday was more strenuous than successful, for the ponies sank very deep and had great difficulty in bringing up their loads. During the afternoon Scott disclosed his plan of campaign, which was to go forward with five weeks' food for men and animals, then to depot a fortnight's supply after twelve or thirteen days and return to Safety Camp. The loads for ponies under this arrangement worked out at a little over 600 lbs., and for the dog teams at 700 lbs., both apart from sledges. Whether the ponies could manage these loads depended on the surface, and there was a great possibility that the dogs would have to be lightened, but under the circumstances it was the best plan they could hope to carry out.
On Tuesday when everything was ready for the start the one pair of snow-shoes was tried on 'Weary Willy' with magical effect. In places where he had floundered woefully without the shoes he strolled round as if he was walking on hard ground. Immediately after this experiment Scott decided that an attempt must be made to get more snow-shoes, and within half an hour Meares and Wilson had started, on the chance that the ice had not yet gone out, to the station twenty miles away. But on the next day they returned with the news that there was no [Page 246] possibility of reaching Cape Evans, and an additional stroke of bad fortune fell when Atkinson's foot, which had been troublesome for some time, was examined and found to be so bad that he had to be left behind with Crean as a companion.
Writing on Wednesday, February 1, from 'Safety Camp, Great Barrier,' Scott said: 'I told you that we should be cut off from our winter station, and that I had to get a good weight of stores on to the Barrier to provide for that contingency. We are safely here with all requisite stores, though it has taken nearly a week. But we find the surface very soft and the ponies flounder in it. I sent a dog team back yesterday to try and get snow-shoes for ponies, but they found the ice broken south of Cape Evans and returned this morning. Everyone is doing splendidly and gaining the right sort of experience for next year. Every mile we advance this year is a help for next.'
At last the start was made on Thursday, February 2, but when, after marching five miles, Scott asked for their one pair of snow-shoes, he found that they had been left behind, and Gran—whose expertness on ski was most useful—immediately volunteered to go back and get them. While he was away the party rested, for at Scott's suggestion they had decided to take to night marching. And so at 12.30 A.M. they started off once more on a surface that was bad at first but gradually improved, until just before camping time Bowers, who was leading, suddenly plunged into soft snow. Several of the others, following close behind [Page 247] him, shared the same fate, and soon three ponies were plunging and struggling in a drift, and had to be unharnessed and led round from patch to patch until firmer ground was reached.
Then came another triumph for the snow-shoes, which were put on Bowers' pony, with the result that after a few minutes he settled down, was harnessed to his load, and brought in not only that but also another over places into which he had previously been plunging. Again Scott expressed his regret that such a great help to their work had been left behind at the station, and it was all the more trying for him to see the ponies half engulfed in the snow, and panting and heaving from the strain, when the remedies for his state of affairs were so near and yet so impossible to reach.
During the next march ten miles were covered, and the ponies, on a better surface, easily dragged their loads, but signs of bad weather began to appear in the morning, and by 4 P.M. on Saturday a blizzard arrived and held up the party in Corner Camp for three days. 'No fun to be out of the tent—but there are no shirkers with us. Oates has been out regularly to feed the ponies; Meares and Wilson to attend to the dogs; the rest of us as occasion required.'
The ponies looked fairly comfortable during the blizzard, but when it ceased and another march was made on Tuesday night, the effects of the storm were too clearly seen. All of them finished the march listlessly, and two or three were visibly thinner. [Page 248] But by far the worst sufferer was Forde's 'Blucher' whose load was reduced to 200 lbs., and finally Forde pulled this in and led his pony. Extra food was given in the hope that they would soon improve again; but at all costs most of them had got to be kept alive, and Scott began to fear that very possibly the journey would have to be curtailed.
During the next two marches, however, the ponies seemed to be stronger. 'Surface very good and animals did splendidly,' Scott wrote on Friday, February 10, and then gave in his diary for the day an account of their nightly routine. 'We turn out of our sleeping-bags about 9 P.M. Somewhere about 11.30 I shout to the Soldier "How are things?" There is a response suggesting readiness, and soon after figures are busy amongst sledges and ponies. It is chilling work for the fingers and not too warm for the feet. The rugs come off the animals, the harness is put on, tents and camp equipment are loaded on the sledges, nosebags filled for the next halt; one by one the animals are taken off the picketing rope and yoked to the sledge. Oates watches his animal warily, reluctant to keep such a nervous creature standing in the traces. If one is prompt one feels impatient and fretful whilst watching one's more tardy fellows. Wilson and Meares hang about ready to help with odds and ends.
[Footnote 1: Oates.]
'Still we wait: the picketing lines must be gathered up, a few pony putties need adjustment, a party has been slow striking their tent. With numbed fingers on [Page 249] our horse's bridle and the animal striving to turn its head from the wind one feels resentful. At last all is ready. One says "All right, Bowers, go ahead," and Birdie leads his big animal forward, starting, as he continues, at a steady pace. The horses have got cold and at the word they are off, the Soldier's and one or two others with a rush. Finnesko give poor foothold on the slippery sastrugi, and for a minute or two drivers have some difficulty in maintaining the pace on their feet. Movement is warming, and in ten minutes the column has settled itself to steady marching.
[Footnote 1: Irregularities formed by the wind on a snow-plain.]
'The pace is still brisk, the light bad, and at intervals one or another of us suddenly steps on a slippery patch and falls prone. These are the only real incidents of the march—for the rest it passes with a steady tramp and slight variation of formation. The weaker ponies drop a bit but not far, so that they are soon up in line again when the first halt is made. We have come to a single halt in each half march. Last night it was too cold to stop long and a very few minutes found us on the go again.
'As the end of the half march approaches I get out my whistle. Then at a shrill blast Bowers wheels slightly to the left, his tent mates lead still farther out to get the distance for the picket lines; Oates and I stop behind Bowers and Evans, the two other sledges of our squad behind the two other of Bowers'. So we are drawn up in camp formation. The picket [Page 250] lines are run across at right angles to the line of advance and secured to the two sledges at each end. It a few minutes ponies are on the lines covered, tents up again and cookers going.
'Meanwhile the dog drivers, after a long cold wait at the old camp, have packed the last sledge and come trotting along our tracks. They try to time their arrival in the new camp immediately after our own, and generally succeed well. The mid-march halt runs into an hour to an hour and a half, and at the end we pack up and tramp forth again. We generally make our final camp about 8 o'clock, and within an hour and a half most of us are in our sleeping-bags.... At the long halt we do our best for our animals by building snow walls and improving their rugs, &c.
A softer surface on the 11th made the work much more difficult, and even the dogs, who had been pulling consistently well, showed signs of exhaustion before the march was over. Early on Sunday morning they were near the 79th parallel, and exact bearings had to be taken, since this camp, called Bluff Camp, was expected to play an important part in the future. By this time three of the ponies, Blossom, James Pigg, and Blucher, were so weak that Scott decided to send E. Evans, Forde and Keohane back with them.
Progress on the next march was interrupted by a short blizzard, and Scott, not by any means for the first time, was struck by Bowers' imperviousness to [Page 251] cold. 'Bowers,' he wrote, 'is wonderful. Throughout the night he has worn no head-gear but a common green felt hat kept on with a chin-stay and affording no cover whatever for the ears. His face and ears remain bright red. The rest of us were glad to have thick Balaclavas and wind helmets. I have never seen anyone so unaffected by the cold. To-night he remained outside a full hour after the rest of us had got into the tent. He was simply pottering about the camp doing small jobs to the sledges, &c. Cherry-Garrard is remarkable because of his eyes. He can only see through glasses and has to wrestle with all sorts of inconveniences in consequence. Yet one could never guess it—for he manages somehow to do more than his share of the work.'
Another disappointing day followed, on which the surface was so bad that the ponies frequently sank lower than their hocks, and the soft patches of snow left by the blizzard lay in sandy heaps and made great friction for the runners. Still, however, they struggled on; but Gran with Weary Willy could not go the pace, and when they were three-quarters of a mile behind the others the dog teams (which always left the camp after the others) overtook them. Then the dogs got out of hand and attacked Weary Willy, who put up a sterling fight but was bitten rather badly before Meares and Gran could drive off the dogs. Afterwards it was discovered that Weary Willy's load was much heavier than that of the other ponies, and an attempt to continue the march had quickly [Page 252] to be abandoned owing to his weak condition. As some compensation for his misfortunes he was given a hot feed, a large snow wall, and some extra sacking, and on the following day he showed appreciation of these favors by a marked improvement. Bowers' pony, however, refused work for the first time, and Oates was more despondent than ever; 'But,' Scott says, 'I've come to see that this is a characteristic of him. In spite of it he pays every attention to the weaker horses.'
No doubt remained on the Thursday that both Weary Willy and Bowers' pony could stand very little more, and so it was decided to turn back on the following day. During the last march out the temperature fell to -21 deg. with a brisk south-west breeze, and frost-bites were frequent. Bowers with his ears still uncovered suffered severely, but while Scott and Cherry-Garrard nursed them back he seemed to feel nothing but surprise and disgust at the mere fact of possessing such unruly organs. 'It seems as though some of our party will find spring journeys pretty trying. Oates' nose is always on the point of being frost-bitten; Meares has a refractory toe which gives him much trouble—this is the worse prospect for summit work. I have been wondering how I shall stick the summit again, this cold spell gives ideas. I think I shall be all right, but one must be prepared for a pretty good doing.'
The depot was built during the next day, February 17, Lat. 79 deg. 29' S, and considerably over a ton of stuff was landed.
[Page 253] Stores left in depot:
lbs. 245 7 weeks' full provision bags for 1 unit 12 2 days' provision bags for 1 unit 8 8 weeks' tea 31 6 weeks' extra butter 176 lbs. biscuit (7 weeks' full biscuit) 85 8-1/2 gallons oil (12 weeks' oil for 1 unit) 850 5 sacks of oats 424 4 bales of fodder 250 Tank of dog biscuit 100 2 cases of biscuit —— 2181
1 skein white line 1 set breast harness 2 12 ft. sledges 2 pair ski, 1 pair ski sticks 1 Minimum Thermometer 1 tin Rowntree cocoa 1 tin matches
[Footnote 1: See page 337.]
Sorry as Scott was not to reach 80 deg., he was satisfied that they had 'a good leg up' for next year, and could at least feed the ponies thoroughly up to this point. In addition to a flagstaff and black flag, One Ton Camp was marked with piled biscuit boxes to act as reflectors, and tea-tins were tied on the top of the sledges, which were planted upright in the snow. The depot cairn was more than six feet above the surface, and so the party had the satisfaction of knowing that it could scarcely fail to show up for many miles.
[Page 254] CHAPTER III
...Yet I argue not Against Heaven's hand or will, nor bate a jot Of heart or hope; but still bear up and steer Right onward. MILTON.
On the return journey Scott, Wilson, Meares and Cherry-Garrard went back at top speed with the dog teams, leaving Bowers, Oates and Gran to follow with the ponies. For three days excellent marches were made, the dogs pulling splendidly, and anxious as Scott was to get back to Safety Camp and find out what had happened to the other parties and the ponies, he was more than satisfied with the daily records. But on Tuesday, February 21, a check came in their rapid journey, a check, moreover, which might have been a most serious disaster.
The light though good when they started about 10 P.M. on Monday night quickly became so bad that but little of the surface could be seen, and the dogs began to show signs of fatigue. About an hour and a half after the start they came upon mistily outlined [Page 255] pressure ridges and were running by the sledges when, as the teams were trotting side by side, the middle dogs of the teams driven by Scott and Meares began to disappear. 'We turned,' Cherry-Garrard says, 'and saw their dogs disappearing one after another, like dogs going down a hole after a rat.'