In a moment the whole team were sinking; two by two they vanished from sight, each pair struggling for foothold. Osman, the leader, put forth all his strength and most wonderfully kept a foothold. The sledge stopped on the brink of the crevasse, and Scott and Meares jumped aside.
In another moment the situation was realized. They had actually been traveling along the bridge of a crevasse, the sledge had stopped on it, while the dogs hung in their harness in the abyss. 'Why the sledge and ourselves didn't follow the dogs we shall never know. I think a fraction of a pound of added weight must have taken us down.' Directly the sledge had been hauled clear of the bridge and anchored, they peered into the depths of the cracks. The dogs, suspended in all sorts of fantastic positions, were howling dismally and almost frantic with terror. Two of them had dropped out of their harness and, far below, could be seen indistinctly on a snow-bridge. The rope at either end of the chain had bitten deep into the snow at the side of the crevasse and with the weight below could not possibly be moved.
By this time assistance was forthcoming from Wilson and Cherry-Garrard, the latter hurriedly [Page 256] bringing the Alpine rope, the exact position of which on the sledge he most fortunately knew. The prospect, however, of rescuing the team was not by any means bright, and for some minutes every attempt failed. In spite of their determined efforts they could get not an inch on the main trace of the sledge or on the leading rope, which with a throttling pressure was binding poor Osman to the snow.
Then, as their thoughts became clearer, they set to work on a definite plan of action. The sledge was unloaded, and the tent, cooker, and sleeping-bags were carried to a safe place; then Scott, seizing the lashing off Meares' sleeping-bag, passed the tent-poles across the crevasse, and with Meares managed to get a few inches on the leading line. This freed Osman, whose harness was immediately cut. The next step was to secure the leading rope to the main trace and haul up together. By this means one dog was rescued and unlashed, but the rope already had cut so far back at the edge that efforts to get more of it were useless.
'We could now unbend the sledge and do that for which we should have aimed from the first, namely, run the sledge across the gap and work from it.' So the sledge was put over the crevasse and pegged down on both sides, Wilson holding on to the anchored trace while the others worked at the leader end. The leading rope, however, was so very small that Scott was afraid of its breaking, and Meares was lowered down to secure the Alpine rope to the leading end of [Page 257] the trace; when this had been done the chance of rescuing the dogs at once began to improve.
Two by two the dogs were hauled up until eleven out of the thirteen were again in safety. Then Scott began to wonder if the two other dogs could not be saved, and the Alpine rope was paid down to see if it was long enough to reach the bridge on which they were coiled. The rope was 90 feet, and as the amount remaining showed that the depth of the bridge was about 65 feet, Scott made a bowline and insisted upon being lowered down. The bridge turned out to be firm, and he quickly got hold of the dogs and saw them hauled to the surface. But before he could be brought up terrific howls arose above, and he had to be left while the rope-tenders hastened to stop a fight between the dogs of the two teams.
'We then hauled Scott up,' Cherry-Garrard says; 'it was all three of us could do, my fingers a good deal frost-bitten in the end. That was all the dogs, Scott has just said that at one time he never hoped to get back with the thirteen, or even half of them. When he was down in the crevasse he wanted to go off exploring, but we dissuaded him.... He kept on saying, "I wonder why this is running the way it is, you expect to find them at right angles."'
For over two hours the work of rescue had continued, and after it was finished the party camped and had a meal, and congratulated themselves on a miraculous escape. Had the sledge gone down Scott and Meares must have been badly injured, if not killed [Page 258] outright, but as things had turned out even the dogs showed wonderful signs of recovery after their terrible experience.
On the following day Safety Camp was reached, but the dogs were as thin as rakes and so ravenously hungry that Scott expressed a very strong opinion that they were underfed. 'One thing is certain, the dogs will never continue to drag heavy loads with men sitting on the sledges; we must all learn to run with the teams and the Russian custom must be dropped.'
At Safety Camp E. Evans, Forde and Keohane were found, but to Scott's great sorrow two of their ponies had died on the return journey. Forde had spent hour after hour in nursing poor Blucher, and although the greatest care had also been given to Blossom, both of them were left on the Southern Road. The remaining one of the three, James Pigg, had managed not only to survive but actually to thrive, and, severe as the loss of the two ponies was, some small consolation could be gained from the fact that they were the oldest of the team, and the two which Oates considered to be the least useful.
After a few hours' sleep Scott, Wilson, Meares, Cherry-Garrard and Evans started off to Hut Point, and on arrival were astonished to find that, although the hut had been cleared and made habitable, no one was there. A pencil line on the wall stated that a bag containing a mail was inside, but no bag was to be found. But presently what turned out to be the true [Page 259] solution of this curious state of affairs was guessed, namely, that Atkinson and Crean had been on their way from the hut to Safety Camp as the others had come from the camp to the hut, and later on Scott saw their sledge track leading round on the sea-ice.
Feeling terribly anxious that some disaster might have happened to Atkinson and Crean owing to the weakness of the ice round Cape Armitage, Scott and his party soon started back to Safety Camp, but it was not until they were within a couple of hundred yards of their destination that they saw three tents instead of two, and knew that Atkinson and Crean were safe. No sooner, however, had Scott received his letters than his feelings of relief were succeeded by sheer astonishment.
'Every incident of the day pales before the startling contents of the mail bag which Atkinson gave me—a letter from Campbell setting out his doings and the finding of Amundsen established in the Bay of Whales.
'One thing only fixes itself definitely in my mind. The proper, as well as the wiser, course for us is to proceed exactly as though this had not happened. To go forward and do our best for the honour of the country without fear or panic.
'There is no doubt that Amundsen's plan is a very serious menace to ours. He has a shorter distance to the Pole by 60 miles—I never thought he could have got so many dogs  safely to the ice. His [Page 260] plan for running them seems excellent. But above and beyond all he can start his journey early in the season—an impossible condition with ponies.'
The ship, to which Scott had said good-by a month before, had, after landing the Western Geological Party at Butter Point, proceeded along the Barrier, and on February 5 had come across Amundsen camped in the Bay of Whales. No landing place, however, for Campbell's party could be found. 'This,' Campbell says, 'was a great disappointment to us all, but there was nothing for it but to return to McMurdo Sound to communicate with the main party, and then try to effect a landing in the vicinity of Smith's Inlet or as far to the westward as possible on the north coast of Victoria Land, and if possible to explore the unknown coast west of Cape North. We therefore made the best of our way to Cape Evans, and arrived on the evening of the 8th. Here I decided to land the two ponies, as they would be very little use to us on the mountainous coast of Victoria Land, and in view of the Norwegian expedition I felt the Southern Party would require all the transport available. After landing the ponies we steamed up to the sea-ice by Glacier Tongue, and from there, taking Priestley and Abbott, I went with letters to Hut Point, where the depot party would call on their way back.'
Thus Scott came on Wednesday, February 22, to receive the news which was bound to occupy his thoughts, however resolutely he refused to allow it to interfere in any way with his plans.
[Page 261] Thursday was spent preparing sledges to meet Bowers, Oates and Gran at Corner Camp, and on the following day Scott, Crean and Cherry-Garrard with one sledge and tent, E. Evans, Atkinson and Forde with second sledge and tent, and Keohane leading James Pigg, started their march. At 3 P.M. on Saturday Scott turned out and saw a short black line on the horizon towards White Island. Presently he made certain that it was Bowers and his companions, but they were traveling fast and failed to see Scott's camp; so when the latter reached Corner Camp he did not find Bowers, but was glad to see five pony walls and consequently to know that all the animals were still alive.
Having depoted six full weeks' provisions, Scott, Cherry-Garrard and Crean started for home, leaving the others to bring James Pigg by easier stages. The next day, however, had to be spent in the tent owing to a howling blizzard, and not until the Tuesday did Scott reach Safety Camp, where he found that the ponies were without exception terribly thin, and that Weary Willy was especially in a pitiable condition.
As no advantage was to be gained by staying at Safety Camp, arrangements were made immediately for a general shift to Hut Point, and about four o'clock the two dog teams driven by Wilson and Meares got safely away. Then the ponies were got ready to start, the plan being for them to follow in the tracks of the dogs; the route was over about six miles of sea-ice, which, owing to the spread of water holes, caused Scott to feel gravely anxious.
[Page 262] At the very start, however, Weary Willy fell down, and his plight was so critical that Bowers, Cherry-Garrard and Crean were sent on with Punch, Cuts, Uncle Bill and Nobby to Hut Point, while Scott, with Oates and Gran, decided to stay behind and attend to the sick pony. But despite all the attempts to save him, Weary Willy died during the Tuesday night. 'It makes a late start necessary for next year,' Scott wrote in his diary on Wednesday, March 1, but on the following day he had to add to this, 'The events of the past 48 hours bid fair to wreck the expedition, and the only one comfort is the miraculous avoidance of loss of life.'
Early on the morning following Weary Willy's death, Scott, Oates and Gran started out and pulled towards the forage depot, which was at a point on the Barrier half a mile from the edge, in a S.S.E. direction from Hut Point. On their approach the sky looked black and lowering, and mirage effects of huge broken floes loomed out ahead. At first Scott thought that this was one of the strange optical illusions common in the Antarctic, but as he drew close to the depot all doubt was dispelled. The sea was full of broken pieces of Barrier edge, and at once his thoughts flew to the ponies and dogs.
They turned to follow the sea-edge, and suddenly discovering a working crack, dashed over it and hastened on until they were in line between Safety Camp and Castle Rock. Meanwhile Scott's first thought was to warn E. Evans' party which was traveling [Page 263] back from Corner Camp with James Pigg. 'We set up tent, and Gran went to the depot with a note as Oates and I disconsolately thought out the situation. I thought to myself that if either party had reached safety either on the Barrier or at Hut Point they would immediately have sent a warning messenger to Safety Camp. By this time the messenger should have been with us. Some half-hour passed, and suddenly with a "Thank God!" I made certain that two specks in the direction of Pram Point were human beings.'
When, however, Scott hastened in their direction he discovered them to be Wilson and Meares, who were astonished to see him, because they had left Safety Camp before the breakdown of Weary Willy had upset the original program. From them Scott heard alarming reports that the ponies were adrift on the sea-ice.
The startling incidents that had led to this state of affairs began very soon after Bowers, Crean and Cherry-Garrard had left Safety Camp with the ponies. 'I caught Bowers up at the edge of the Barrier,' Cherry-Garrard wrote in his diary, 'the dogs were on ahead and we saw them turn and make right round Cape Armitage. "Uncle Bill" got done, and I took up the dog tracks which we followed over the tide crack and well on towards Cape Armitage.
'The sea-ice was very weak, and we came to fresh crack after fresh crack, and at last to a big crack with water squelching through for many feet on both [Page 264] sides. We all thought it impossible to proceed and turned back.... The ponies began to get very done, and Bowers decided to get back over the tide crack, find a snowy place, and camp.
'This had been considered with Scott as a possibility and agreed to. Of course according to arrangements then Scott would have been with the ponies.
'We camped about 11 P.M. and made walls for the ponies. Bowers cooked with a primus of which the top is lost, and it took a long time. He mistook curry powder for cocoa, and we all felt very bad for a short time after trying it. Crean swallowed all his. Otherwise we had a good meal.
'While we were eating a sound as though ice had fallen outside down the tent made us wonder. At 2 A.M. we turned in, Bowers went out, and all was quiet. At 4.30 A.M. Bowers was wakened by a grinding sound, jumped up, and found the situation as follows:—
'The whole sea-ice had broken up into small floes, from ten to thirty or forty yards across. We were on a small floe, I think about twenty yards across, two sledges were on the next floe, and "Cuts" had disappeared down the opening. Bowers shouted to us all and hauled the two sledges on to our floe in his socks. We packed anyhow, I don't suppose a camp was ever struck quicker. It seemed to me impossible to go on with the ponies and I said so, but Bowers decided to try.
'We decided that to go towards White Island [Page 265] looked best, and for five hours traveled in the following way:—we jumped the ponies over floe to floe as the cracks joined.... We then man-hauled the sledges after them, then according to the size of the floe sometimes harnessed the ponies in again, sometimes man-hauled the sledge to the next crack, waited our chance, sometimes I should think five or ten minutes, and repeated the process.'
At length they worked their way to heavier floes lying near the Barrier edge, and at one time thought that it was possible to get up; but very soon they discovered that there were gaps everywhere off the high Barrier face. In this dilemma Crean volunteered to try and reach Scott, and after traveling a great distance and leaping from floe to floe, he found a thick floe from which with the help of his ski stick he could climb the Barrier face. 'It was a desperate venture, but luckily successful.'
And so while Scott, Oates, Wilson, Meares and Gran were discussing the critical situation, a man, who proved to be Crean, was seen rapidly making for the depot from the west.
As soon as Scott had considered the latest development of the situation he sent Gran back to Hut Point with Wilson and Meares, and started with Oates, Crean, and a sledge for the scene of the mishap. A halt was made at Safety Camp to get some provisions and oil, and then, marching carefully round, they approached the ice-edge, and to their joy caught sight of Bowers and Cherry-Garrard. With the help [Page 266] of the Alpine rope both the men were dragged to the surface, and after camp had been pitched at a safe distance from the edge all hands started upon salvage work. The ice at this time lay close and quiet against the Barrier edge, and some ten hours after Bowers and Cherry-Garrard had been hauled up, the sledges and their contents were safely on the Barrier. But then, just as the last loads were saved, the ice began to drift again, and so, for the time, nothing could be done for the ponies except to leave them well-fed upon their floes.
'None of our party had had sleep the previous night and all were dog tired. I decided we must rest, but turned everyone out at 8.30 yesterday morning [after three or four hours]. Before breakfast we discovered the ponies had drifted away. We had tried to anchor their floes with the Alpine rope, but the anchors had drawn. It was a sad moment.'
Presently, however, Bowers, who had taken the binoculars, announced that he could see the ponies about a mile to the N. W. 'We packed and went on at once. We found it easy enough to get down to the poor animals and decided to rush them for a last chance of life. Then there was an unfortunate mistake: I went along the Barrier edge and discovered what I thought and what proved to be a practicable way to land a pony, but the others meanwhile, a little overwrought, tried to leap Punch across a gap. The poor beast fell in; eventually we had to kill him—it was awful. I recalled all hands and pointed out my [Page 267] road. Bowers and Oates went out on it with a sledge and worked their way to the remaining ponies, and started back with them on the same track.... We saved one pony; for a time I thought we should get both, but Bowers' poor animal slipped at a jump and plunged into the water: we dragged him out on some brash ice— killer whales all about us in an intense state of excitement. The poor animal couldn't rise, and the only merciful thing was to kill it. These incidents were too terrible. At 5 P.M. (Thursday, March 2), we sadly broke our temporary camp and marched back to the one I had just pitched.... So here we are ready to start our sad journey to Hut Point. Everything out of joint with the loss of our ponies, but mercifully with all the party alive and well.'
At the start on the march back the surface was so bad that only three miles were covered in four hours, and in addition to this physical strain Scott was also deeply anxious to know that E. Evans and his party were safe; but while they were camping that night on Pram Point ridges, Evans' party, all of whom were well, came in. Then it was decided that Atkinson should go on to Hut Point in the morning to take news to Wilson, Meares and Gran, who were looking after the dogs, and having a wretched time in trying to make two sleeping-bags do the work of three.
On March 2 Wilson wrote in his journal: 'A very bitter wind blowing and it was a cheerless job waiting for six hours to get a sleep in the bag.... As the ice had all gone out of the strait we were cut off from [Page 268] any return to Cape Evans until the sea should again freeze over, and this was not likely until the end of April. We rigged up a small fireplace in the hut and found some wood and made a fire for an hour or so at each meal, but as there was no coal and not much wood we felt we must be economical with the fuel, and so also with matches and everything else, in case Bowers should lose his sledge loads, which had most of the supplies for the whole party to last twelve men for two months.... There was literally nothing in the hut that one could cover oneself with to keep warm, and we couldn't run to keeping the fire going. It was very cold work. There were heaps of biscuit cases here which we had left in Discovery days, and with these we built up a small inner hut to live in.'
On Saturday Scott and some of his party reached the hut, and on Sunday he was able to write: 'Turned in with much relief to have all hands and the animals safely housed.' Only two ponies, James Pigg and Nobby, remained out of the eight that had started on the depot journey, but disastrous as this was to the expedition there was reason to be thankful that even greater disasters had not happened.
[Page 269] CHAPTER IV
A HAPPY FAMILY
By mutual confidence and mutual aid Great deeds are done and great discoveries made. ANON.
With the certainty of having to stay in the Discovery hut for some time, the party set to work at once to make it as comfortable as possible. With packing-cases a large L-shaped inner apartment was made, the intervals being stopped with felt, and an empty kerosene tin and some firebricks were made into an excellent little stove which was connected to the old stove-pipe.
As regards food almost an unlimited supply of biscuit was available, and during a walk to Pram Point on Monday, March 6, Scott and Wilson found that the sea-ice in Pram Point Bay had not gone out and was crowded with seals, a happy find that guaranteed the party as much meat as they wanted. 'We really have everything necessary for our comfort and only need a little more experience to make the best of our resources.... It is splendid to see the way in which everyone is learning the ropes, and the resource which [Page 270] is being shown. Wilson as usual leads in the making of useful suggestions and in generally providing for our wants. He is a tower of strength in checking the ill-usage of clothes—what I have come to regard as the greatest danger with Englishmen.'
On Saturday night a blizzard sprang up and gradually increased in force until it reminded Scott and Wilson of the gale which drove the Discovery ashore. The blizzard continued until noon on Tuesday, on which day the Western Geological Party (Griffith Taylor, Wright, Debenham and P.O. Evans) returned to the hut after a successful trip.
Two days later another depot party started to Corner Camp, E. Evans, Wright, Crean and Forde in one team; Bowers, Oates, Cherry-Garrard and Atkinson in the other. 'It was very sporting of Wright to join in after only a day's rest. He is evidently a splendid puller.'
During the absence of this party the comforts of the hut were constantly being increased, but continuous bad weather was both depressing to the men and very serious for the dogs. Every effort had been made to make the dogs comfortable, but the changes of wind made it impossible to give them shelter in all directions. At least five of them were in a sorry plight, and half a dozen others were by no means strong, but whether because they were constitutionally harder or whether better fitted by nature to protect themselves the other ten or a dozen animals were as fit as they could be. As it was found to be impossible to keep the dogs comfortable in the traces, the majority [Page 271] of them were allowed to run loose; for although Scott feared that this freedom would mean that there would be some fights to the death, he thought it preferable to the risk of losing the animals by keeping them on the leash. The main difficulty with them was that when the ice once got thoroughly into the coats their hind legs became half paralyzed with cold, but by allowing them to run loose it was hoped that they would be able to free themselves of this serious trouble. 'Well, well, fortune is not being very kind to us. This month will have sad memories. Still I suppose things might be worse; the ponies are well housed and are doing exceedingly well....'
The depot party returned to the hut on March 23, but though the sea by this time showed symptoms of wanting to freeze, there was no real sign that the ice would hold for many a long day. Stock therefore was taken of their resources, and arrangements were made for a much longer stay than had been anticipated. A week later the ice, though not thickening rapidly, held south of Hut Point, but the stretch from Hut Point to Turtle Back Island still refused to freeze even in calm weather, and Scott began to think that they might not be able to get back to Cape Evans before May. Soon afterwards, however, the sea began to freeze over completely, and on Thursday evening, April 6, a program, subject to the continuance of good weather, was arranged for a shift to Cape Evans. 'It feels good,' Cherry-Garrard wrote, 'to have something doing in the air.' But the weather prevented them from starting on the appointed day, [Page 272] and although Scott was most anxious to get back and see that all was well at Cape Evans, the comfort achieved in the old hut was so great that he confessed himself half-sorry to leave it.
Describing their life at Hut Point he says, 'We gather around the fire seated on packing-cases, with a hunk of bread and butter and a steaming pannikin of tea, and life is well worth living. After lunch we are out and about again; there is little to tempt a long stay indoors, and exercise keeps us all the fitter.
'The failing light and approach of supper drives us home again with good appetites about 5 or 6 o'clock, and then the cooks rival one another in preparing succulent dishes of fried seal liver.... Exclamations of satisfaction can be heard every night—or nearly every night; for two nights ago (April 4) Wilson, who has proved a genius in the invention of "plats," almost ruined his reputation. He proposed to fry the seal liver in penguin blubber, suggesting that the latter could be freed from all rankness.... The "fry" proved redolent of penguin, a concentrated essence of that peculiar flavour which faintly lingers in the meat and should not be emphasized. Three heroes got through their pannikins, but the rest of us decided to be contented with cocoa and biscuit after tasting the first mouthful.
[Footnote 1: Wilson, referring to this incident in his Journal, showed no signs of contrition. 'Fun over a fry I made in my new penguin lard. It was quite a success and tasted like very bad sardine oil.']
'After supper we have an hour or so of smoking [Page 273] and conversation—a cheering, pleasant hour—in which reminiscences are exchanged by a company which has very literally had world-wide experience. There is scarce a country under the sun which one or another of us has not traveled in, so diverse are our origins and occupations.
'An hour or so after supper we tail off one by one.... Everyone can manage eight or nine hours' sleep without a break, and not a few would have little difficulty in sleeping the clock round, which goes to show that our exceedingly simple life is an exceedingly healthy one, though with faces and hands blackened with smoke, appearances might not lead an outsider to suppose it.'
On Tuesday, April 11, a start could be made for Cape Evans, the party consisting of Scott, Bowers, P.O. Evans and Taylor in one tent; E. Evans, Gran, Crean, Debenham and Wright in another; Wilson being left in charge at Hut Point, with Meares, Forde, Keohane, Oates, Atkinson and Cherry-Garrard.
In fine weather they marched past Castle Rock, and it soon became evident that they must go well along the ridge before descending, and that the difficulty would be to get down over the cliffs. Seven and a half miles from the start they reached Hutton Rocks, a very icy and wind-swept spot, and as the wind rose and the light became bad at the critical moment they camped for a short time. Half an hour later the weather cleared and a possible descent to the ice cliffs could be seen, but between Hutton Rock [Page 274] and Erebus all the slope was much cracked and crevassed. A clear track to the edge of the cliffs was chosen, but on arriving there no low place could be found (the lowest part being 24 feet sheer drop), and as the wind was increasing and the snow beginning to drift off the ridge a quick decision had to be made.
Then Scott went to the edge, and having made standing places to work the Alpine rope, Bowers., E. Evans and Taylor were lowered. Next the sledges went down fully packed and then the remainder of the party, Scott being the last to go down. It was a neat and speedy piece of work, and completed in twenty minutes without serious frost-bites.
The surface of ice covered with salt crystals made pulling very heavy to Glacier Tongue, which they reached about 5.30 P.M. A stiff incline on a hard surface followed, but as the light was failing and cracks were innumerable, several of the party fell in with considerable risk of damage. The north side, however, was well snow-covered, with a good valley leading to a low ice cliff in which a broken piece provided an easy descent. Under the circumstances Scott decided to push on to Cape Evans, but darkness suddenly fell upon them, and after very heavy pulling for many hours they were so totally unable to see anything ahead, that at 10 P.M. they were compelled to pitch their camp under little Razor Back Island. During the night the wind began to rise, and in the morning a roaring blizzard was blowing, and obviously the ice on which they had pitched [Page 275] their camp was none too safe. For hours they waited vainly for a lull, until at 3 P.M. Scott and Bowers went round the Island, with the result that they resolved to shift their camp to a little platform under the weather side. This operation lasted for two very cold hours, but splendid shelter was gained, the cliffs rising almost sheer from the tents. 'Only now and again a whirling wind current eddied down on the tents, which were well secured, but the noise of the wind sweeping over the rocky ridge above our heads was deafening; we could scarcely hear ourselves speak.' Provisions for only one more meal were left, but sleep all the same was easier to get than on the previous night, because they knew that they were no longer in danger of being swept out to sea.
The wind moderated during the night, and early in the morning the party in a desperately cold and stiff breeze and with frozen clothes were again under weigh. The distance, however, was only two miles, and after some very hard pulling they arrived off the point and found that the sea-ice continued around it. 'It was a very great relief to see the hut on rounding it and to hear that all was well.'
In choosing the site of the hut Scott had thought of the possibility of northerly winds bringing a swell, but had argued, first, that no heavy northerly swell had ever been recorded in the Sound; secondly, that a strong northerly wind was bound to bring pack which would damp the swell; thirdly, that the locality was well protected by the Barne Glacier; and, lastly, [Page 276] that the beach itself showed no signs of having been swept by the sea. When, however, the hut had been erected and he found that its foundation was only eleven feet above the level of the sea-ice, he could not rid himself entirely of misgivings.
As events turned out the hut was safe and sound enough, but not until Scott reached it, on April 13, did he realize how anxious he had been. 'In a normal season no thoughts of its having been in danger would have occurred to me, but since the loss of the ponies and the breaking of Glacier Tongue, I could not rid myself of the fear that misfortune was in the air and that some abnormal swell had swept the beach.' So when he and his party turned the small headland and saw that the hut was intact, a real fear was mercifully removed. Very soon afterwards the travelers were seen by two men at work near the stables, and then the nine occupants (Simpson, Day, Nelson, Ponting, Lashly, Clissold, Hooper, Anton and Demetri) came rapidly to meet and welcome them. In a minute the most important events of the quiet station life were told, the worst news being that one pony, named Hacken-schmidt, and one dog had died. For the rest the hut arrangements had worked admirably, and the scientific routine of observations was in full swing.
After their primitive life at the Discovery hut the interior space of the home at Cape Evans seemed palatial, and the comfort luxurious. 'It was very good to eat in civilized fashion, to enjoy the first bath for three months, and have contact with clean, dry [Page 277] clothing. Such fleeting hours of comfort (for custom soon banished their delight) are the treasured remembrance of every Polar traveler.' Not for many hours or even minutes, however, was Scott in the hut before he was taken round to see in detail the transformation that had taken place in his absence, and in which a very proper pride was taken by those who had created it.
First of all a visit was paid to Simpson's Corner, where numerous shelves laden with a profusion of self-recording instruments, electric batteries and switchboards were to be seen, and the tickings of many clocks, the gentle whir of a motor and occasionally the trembling note of an electric bell could be heard. 'It took me days and even months to realize fully the aims of our meteorologist and the scientific accuracy with which he was achieving them.'
From Simpson's Corner Scott was taken on his tour of inspection into Ponting's dark room, and found that the art of photography had never been so well housed within the Polar regions and rarely without them. 'Such a palatial chamber for the development of negatives and prints can only be justified by the quality of the work produced in it, and is only justified in our case by such an artist as Ponting.'
From the dark room he went on to the biologists' cubicle, shared, to their mutual satisfaction, by Day and Nelson. There the prevailing note was neatness, and to Day's mechanical skill everyone paid tribute. The heating, lighting and ventilating arrangements [Page 278] of the hut had been left entirely in his charge, and had been carried out with admirable success. The cook's corner was visited next, and Scott was very surprised to see the mechanical ingenuity shown by Clissold. 'Later,' he says, 'when I found that Clissold was called in to consult on the ailments of Simpson's motor, and that he was capable of constructing a dog sledge out of packing-cases, I was less surprised, because I knew by this time that he had had considerable training in mechanical work before he turned his attention to pots and pans.'
The tour ended with an inspection of the shelters for the animals, and when Scott saw the stables he could not help regretting that some of the stalls would have to remain empty, though he appreciated fully the fact that there was ample and safe harborage for the ten remaining ponies. With Lashly's help, Anton had completed the furnishing of the stables in a way that was both neat and effective.
Only five or six dogs had been left in Demetri's charge, and it was at once evident that every care had been taken of them; not only had shelters been made, but a small 'lean to' had also been built to serve as a hospital for any sick animal. The impressions, in short, that Scott received on his return to Cape Evans were almost wholly pleasant, and in happy contrast with the fears that had assailed him on the homeward route.
Not for long, however, did he, Bowers and Crean stay to enjoy the comforts of Cape Evans, as on [Page 279] Monday, April 17, they were off again to Hut Point with two 10-foot sledges, a week's provisions of sledding food, and butter, oatmeal, &c., for the hut. Scott, Lashly, Day and Demetri took the first sledge; Bowers, Nelson, Crean and Hooper the second; and after a rather adventurous journey, in which 'Lashly was splendid at camp work as of old,' they reached Hut Point at 1 P.M. on the following day, and found everyone well and in good spirits. The party left at the hut were, however, very short of seal-meat, a cause of anxiety, because until the sea froze over there was no possibility of getting the ponies back to Cape Evans. But three seals were reported on the Wednesday and promptly killed, and so Scott, satisfied that this stock was enough for twelve days, resolved to go back as soon as the weather would allow him.
Leaving Meares in charge of the station with Demetri to help with the dogs, Lashly and Keohane to look after the ponies, and Nelson, Day and Forde to get some idea of the life and experience, the homeward party started on Friday morning. On this journey Scott, Wilson, Atkinson and Crean pulled one sledge, and Bowers, Oates, Cherry-Garrard and Hooper the other. Scott's party were the leaders, and their sledge dragged so fearfully that the men with the second sledge had a very easy time in keeping up. Then Crean declared that although the loads were equal there was a great difference in the sledges. 'Bowers,' Scott says, 'politely assented when I voiced this sentiment, but I am sure he and his party thought it the [Page 280] plea of tired men. However, there was nothing like proof, and he readily assented to change sledges. The difference was really extraordinary; we felt the new sledge a featherweight compared with the old, and set up a great pace for the home quarters regardless of how much we perspired.'
All of them arrived at Cape Evans with their garments soaked through, and as they took off their wind clothes showers of ice fell upon the floor. The accumulation was almost beyond belief and showed the whole trouble of sledding in cold weather. Clissold, however, was at hand with 'just the right meal,' an enormous dish of rice and figs, and cocoa in a bucket. The sledding season was at an end, and Scott admitted that in spite of all the losses they had sustained it was good to be home again, while Wilson, Oates, Atkinson and Cherry-Garrard, who had not seen the hut since it had been fitted out, were astonished at its comfort.
On Sunday, April 23, two days after the return from Hut Point, the sun made it's last appearance and the winter work was begun. Ponies for exercise were allotted to Bowers, Cherry-Garrard, Hooper, Clissold, P.O. Evans and Crean, besides Oates and Anton, but in making this allotment Scott was obliged to add a warning that those who exercised the ponies would not necessarily lead them in the spring.
Wilson at once began busily to paint, and Atkinson was equally busy unpacking and setting up his sterilizers and incubators. Wright began to wrestle with the electrical instruments; Oates started to make bigger stalls in the stables; Cherry-Garrard employed himself [Page 281] in building a stone house for taxidermy and with a view to getting hints for a shelter at Cape Crozier during the winter, while Taylor and Debenham took advantage of the last of the light to examine the topography of the peninsula. E. Evans surveyed the Cape and its neighborhood, and Simpson and Bowers, in addition to their other work, spent hours over balloon experiments. In fact everyone was overflowing with energy.
On Friday, April 28, Scott, eager to get the party safely back from Hut Point, hoped that the sea had at last frozen over for good, but a gale on the following day played havoc with the ice; and although the strait rapidly froze again, the possibility of every gale clearing the sea was too great to be pleasant. Obviously, however, it was useless to worry over a state of affairs that could not be helped, and the arrangements for passing the winter steadily progressed.
At Scott's request Cherry-Garrard undertook the editorship of the South Polar Times and the following notice was issued:
The first number of the South Polar Times will be published on Midwinter Day.
All are asked to send in contributions, signed anonymously, and to place these contributions in this box as soon as possible. No contributions for this number will be accepted after May 31.
A selection of these will be made for publication. It is not intended that the paper shall be too scientific.
[Page 282] Contributions may take the form of prose, poetry or drawing. Contributors whose writings will lend themselves to illustration are asked to consult with the Editor as soon as possible.
The Editor, S. P. T.
The editor, warned by Scott that the work was not easy and required a lot of tact, at once placed great hopes in the assistance he would receive from Wilson, and how abundantly these hopes were fulfilled has been widely recognized not only by students of Polar literature, but also by those who admire art merely for art's sake.
On the evening of Tuesday, May 2, Wilson opened the series of winter lectures with a paper on 'Antarctic Flying Birds,' and in turn Simpson, Taylor, Ponting, Debenham and others lectured on their special subjects. But still the Discovery hut party did not appear, although the strait (by May 9) had been frozen over for nearly a week; and repeatedly Scott expressed a wish that they would return. In the meantime there was work and to spare for everyone, and as the days went by Scott was also given ample opportunities to get a thorough knowledge of his companions.
'I do not think,' he wrote, 'there can be any life quite so demonstrative of character as that which we had on these expeditions. One sees a remarkable reassortment of values. Under ordinary conditions it is so easy to carry a point with a little bounce; self-assertion is a mask which covers many a weakness.... [Page 283] Here the outward show is nothing, it is the inward purpose that counts. So the "gods" dwindle and the humble supplant them. Pretence is useless.
'One sees Wilson busy with pencil and colour box, rapidly and steadily adding to his portfolio of charming sketches and at intervals filling the gaps in his zoological work of Discovery times; withal ready and willing to give advice and assistance to others at all times; his sound judgment appreciated and therefore a constant referee.
'Simpson, master of his craft... doing the work of two observers at least... So the current meteorological and magnetic observations are taken as never before on Polar expeditions.'
'Wright, good-hearted, strong, keen, striving to saturate his mind with the ice problems of this wonderful region...'
And then after referring in terms of praise to the industry of E. Evans, the versatile intellect of Taylor, and the thoroughness and conscientiousness of Debenham, Scott goes on to praise unreservedly the man to whom the whole expedition owed an immense debt of gratitude.
'To Bowers' practical genius is owed much of the smooth working of our station. He has a natural method in line with which all arrangements fall, so that expenditure is easily and exactly adjusted to supply, and I have the inestimable advantage of knowing the length of time which each of our possessions will last us and the assurance that there can be no waste. [Page 284] Active mind and active body were never more happily blended. It is a restless activity admitting no idle moments and ever budding into new forms.
'So we see the balloon ascending under his guidance and anon he is away over the floe tracking the silk thread which held it. Such a task completed, he is away to exercise his pony, and later out again with the dogs, the last typically self-suggested, because for the moment there is no one else to care for these animals.... He is for the open air, seemingly incapable of realizing any discomfort from it, and yet his hours within doors spent with equal profit. For he is intent on tracking the problems of sledding food and clothes to their innermost bearings and is becoming an authority on past records. This will be no small help to me and one which others never could have given.
'Adjacent to the physicists' corner of the hut Atkinson is quietly pursuing the subject of parasites. Already he is in a new world. The laying out of the fish trap was his action and the catches are his field of labour.... His bench with its array of microscopes, etc., is next the dark room in which Ponting spends the greater part of his life. I would describe him as sustained by artistic enthusiasm....
'Cherry-Garrard is another of the open-air, self-effacing, quiet workers; his whole heart is in the life, with profound eagerness to help everyone. One has caught glimpses of him in tight places; sound all through and pretty hard also....
'Oates' whole heart is in the ponies. He is really [Page 285] devoted to their care, and I believe will produce them in the best possible form for the sledding season. Opening out the stores, installing a blubber stove, etc., has kept him busy, whilst his satellite, Anton, is ever at work in the stables—an excellent little man.
'P.O. Evans and Crean are repairing sleeping-bags, covering felt boots, and generally working on sledding kit. In fact there is no one idle, and no one who has the least prospect of idleness.
On May 8 as one of the series of lectures Scott gave an outline of his plans for next season, and hinted that in his opinion the problem of reaching the Pole could best be solved by relying on the ponies and man haulage. With this opinion there was general agreement, for as regards glacier and summit work everyone seemed to distrust the dogs. At the end of the lecture he asked that the problem should be thought over and freely discussed, and that any suggestions should be brought to his notice. 'It's going to be a tough job; that is better realized the more one dives into it.'
At last, on May 13, Atkinson brought news that the dogs were returning, and soon afterwards Meares and his team arrived, and reported that the ponies were not far behind. For more than three weeks the weather at Hut Point had been exceptionally calm and fine, and with joy Scott saw that all of the dogs were looking remarkably well, and that the two ponies also seemed to have improved. 'It is a great comfort to have the men and dogs back, and a greater to [Page 286] contemplate all the ten ponies comfortably stabled for the winter. Everything seems to depend on these animals.'
With their various occupations, lectures in the evening, and games of football—when it was not unusual for the goal-keepers to get their toes frost-bitten—in the afternoons, the winter passed steadily on its way; the only stroke of misfortune being that one of the dogs died suddenly and that a post-mortem did not reveal any sufficient cause of death. This was the third animal that had died without apparent reason at winter-quarters, and Scott became more than ever convinced that to place any confidence in the dog teams would be a mistake.
On Monday, May 22, Scott, Wilson, Bowers, Atkinson, P.O. Evans and Clissold went off to Cape Royds with a go-cart which consisted of a framework of steel tubing supported on four bicycle wheels— and sleeping-bags, a cooker and a small quantity of provisions. The night was spent in Shackleton's hut, where a good quantity of provisions was found; but the most useful articles that the party discovered were five hymn-books, for hitherto the Sunday services had not been fully choral because seven hymn-books were all that could be mustered.
June 6 was Scott's birthday, a fact which his small company did not forget. At lunch an immense birthday cake appeared, the top of which had been decorated by Clissold with various devices in chocolate and crystallized fruit, a flag and photographs of Scott. [Page 287] A special dinner followed, and to this sumptuous meal they sat down with their sledge banners hung around them. 'After this luxurious meal everyone was very festive and amiably argumentative. As I write there is a group in the dark room discussing political progress with large discussions, another at one corner of the dinner table airing its views on the origin of matter and the probability of its ultimate discovery, and yet another debating military problems.... Perhaps these arguments are practically unprofitable, but they give a great deal of pleasure to the participants.... They are boys, all of them, but such excellent good-natured ones; there has been no sign of sharpness or anger, no jarring note, in all these wordy contests; all end with a laugh. Nelson has offered Taylor a pair of socks to teach him some geology! This lulls me to sleep!'
On Monday evening, June 12, E. Evans gave a lecture on surveying, and Scott took the opportunity to note a few points to which he wanted especial attention to be directed. The essential points were:
1. Every officer who takes part in the Southern journey ought to have in his memory the approximate variation of the compass at various stages of the journey and to know how to apply it to obtain a true course from the compass....
2. He ought to know what the true course is to reach one depot from another.
3. He should be able to take an observation with the theodolite.
[Page 288] 4. He should be able to work out a meridian altitude observation.
5. He could advantageously add to his knowledge the ability to work out a longitude observation or an ex-meridian altitude.
6. He should know how to read the sledgemeter.
7. He should note and remember the error of the watch he carries and the rate which is ascertained for it from time to time.
8. He should assist the surveyor by noting the coincidences of objects, the opening out of valleys, the observation of new peaks, &c.
That these hints upon Polar surveying did not fall upon deaf ears is proved by a letter Scott wrote home some four months later. In it he says '"Cherry" has just come to me with a very anxious face to say that I must not count on his navigating powers. For the moment I didn't know what he was driving at, but then I remembered that some months ago I said that it would be a good thing for all the officers going South to have some knowledge of navigation so that in emergency they would know how to steer a sledge home. It appears that "Cherry" thereupon commenced a serious and arduous course of abstruse navigational problems which he found exceedingly tough and now despaired mastering. Of course there is not one chance in a hundred that he will ever have to consider navigation on our journey and in that one chance the problem must be of the simplest nature, but it makes it much easier for me to have men who [Page 289] take the details of one's work so seriously and who strive so simply and honestly to make it successful.'
In Wilson's diary there is also this significant entry: 'Working at latitude sights—mathematics which I hate—till bedtime. It will be wiser to know a little navigation on the Southern sledge journey.'
Some time before Scott's suggestions stimulated his companions to master subjects which they found rather difficult and irksome, a regular daily routine had begun. About 7 A.M. Clissold began to prepare breakfast, and half an hour later Hooper started to sweep the floor and lay the table. Between 8 and 8.30 the men were out and about doing odd jobs, Anton going off to feed the ponies, Demetri to see to the dogs. Repeatedly Hooper burst upon the slumberers with announcements of the time, and presently Wilson and Bowers met in a state of nature beside a washing basin filled with snow and proceeded to rub glistening limbs with this chilly substance. A little later others with less hardiness could be seen making the most of a meager allowance of water. A few laggards invariably ran the nine o'clock rule very close, and a little pressure had to be applied so that they should not delay the day's work.
By 9.20 breakfast was finished, and in ten minutes the table was cleared. Then for four hours the men were steadily employed on a program of preparation for sledding. About 1.30 a cheerful half-hour was spent over the mid-day meal, and afterwards, if the [Page 290] weather permitted, the ponies were exercised, and those who were not employed in this way generally exercised themselves in some way or other. After this the officers went steadily on with their special work until 6.30, when dinner was served and finished within the hour. Then came reading, writing, games, and usually the gramophone, but three nights of the week were given up to lectures. At 11 P.M. the acetylene lights were put out, and those who wished to stay up had to depend on candle-light. The majority of candles, however, were extinguished by midnight, and the night watchman alone remained awake to keep his vigil by the light of an oil lamp.
Extra bathing took place either on Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning; chins were shaven, and possibly clean clothes put on. 'Such signs, with the regular service on Sunday, mark the passage of the weeks. It is not a very active life, perhaps, but certainly not an idle one. Few of us sleep more than eight hours of the twenty-four.'
On June 19, Day gave a lecture on his motor sledge and was very hopeful of success, but Scott again expressed his doubts and fears. 'I fear he is rather more sanguine in temperament than his sledge is reliable in action. I wish I could have more confidence in his preparations, as he is certainly a delightful companion.' Three days later Midwinter was celebrated with great festivities, and after lunch the Editor handed over the first number of the S. P. T. to Scott. Everyone at once gathered at the top of [Page 291] the table; 'It was like a lot of schoolgirls round a teacher' is the editor's description of the scene, and Scott read aloud most of the contents. An article called 'Valhalla,' written by Taylor, some verses called 'The Sleeping Bag,' and Wilson's illustrations to 'Antarctic Archives' were the popular favorites; indeed the editor attributed the success of the paper mainly to Wilson, though Day's delightful cover of carved venesta wood and sealskin was also 'a great help.' As all the contributions were anonymous great fun was provided by attempts to guess the various authors, and some of the denials made by the contributors were perhaps more modest than strictly truthful.
These festive proceedings, however, were almost solemn when compared with the celebrations of the evening. In preparation for dinner the 'Union Jacks' and sledge flags were hung about the large table, and at seven o'clock everyone sat down to a really good dinner.
Scott spoke first, and drew attention to the nature of the celebration as a half-way mark not only in the winter but in the plans of the expedition. Fearing in his heart of hearts that some of the company did not realize how rapidly the weeks were passing, and that in consequence work which ought to have been in full swing had barely been begun, he went on to say that it was time they knew how they stood in every respect, and especially thanked the officer in charge of the stores and those who looked after the [Page 292] animals, for knowing the exact position as regards provision and transport. Then he said that in respect to the future chance must play a great part, but that experience showed him that no more fitting men could have been chosen to support him on the journey to the South than those who were to start in that direction in the following spring. Finally he thanked all of his companions for having put their shoulders to the wheel and given him so much confidence.
Thereupon they drank to the Success of the Expedition, and afterwards everyone was called to speak in turn.
'Needless to say, all were entirely modest and brief; unexpectedly, all had exceedingly kind things to say of me—in fact I was obliged to request the omissions of compliments at an early stage. Nevertheless it was gratifying to have a really genuine recognition of my attitude towards the scientific workers of the expedition, and I felt very warmly towards all these kind, good fellows for expressing it. If good will and fellowship count towards success, very surely shall we deserve to succeed. It was matter for comment, much applauded, that there had not been a single disagreement between any two members of our party from the beginning. By the end of dinner a very cheerful spirit prevailed.'
The table having been cleared and upended and the chairs arranged in rows, Ponting displayed a series of slides from his own local negatives, and then, after the healths of Campbell's party and of [Page 293] those on board the Terra Nova had been drunk, a set of lancers was formed. In the midst of this scene of revelry Bowers suddenly appeared, followed by satellites bearing an enormous Christmas tree, the branches of which bore flaming candles, gaudy crackers, and little presents for everyone; the distribution of which caused infinite amusement. Thus the high festival of Midwinter was celebrated in the most convivial way, but that it was so reminiscent of a Christmas spent in England was partly, at any rate, due to those kind people who had anticipated the celebration by providing presents and other tokens of their interest in the expedition.
'Few,' Scott says, 'could take great exception to so rare an outburst in a long run of quiet days. After all we celebrated the birth of a season, which for weal or woe must be numbered amongst the greatest in our lives.'
[Page 294] CHAPTER V
Come what may Time and the hour runs through the darkest day. SHAKESPEARE.
During the latter part of June the Cape Crozier Party were busy in making preparations for their departure. The object of their journey to the Emperor penguin rookery in the cold and darkness of an Antarctic winter was to secure eggs at such a stage as could furnish a series of early embryos, by means of which alone the particular points of interest in the development of the bird could be worked out. As the Emperor is peculiar in nesting at the coldest season of the year, this journey entailed the risk of sledge traveling in mid-winter, and the travelers had also to traverse about a hundred miles of the Barrier surface, and to cross a chaos of crevasses which had previously taken a party as much as two hours to cross by daylight.
Such was the enterprise for which Wilson, Bowers and Cherry-Garrard were with the help of others making preparations, and apart from the [Page 295] extraordinarily adventurous side of this journey, it was most interesting because the travelers were to make several experiments. Each man was to go on a different food scale, eiderdown sleeping-bags were to be carried inside the reindeer ones, and a new kind of crampon and a double tent were to be tried. 'I came across a hint as to the value of a double tent in Sverdrup's book, "New Land,"' Scott wrote on June 20, 'and P.O. Evans has made a lining for one of the tents, it is secured on the inner side of the poles and provides an air space inside the tent. I think it is going to be a great success.'
By the 26th preparations for the party to start from Cape Evans were completed, their heavy load when they set out on the following morning being distributed on two 9-foot sledges, 'This winter travel is a new and bold venture, but the right men have gone to attempt it. All good luck go with them!'
While the winter travelers were pursuing their strenuous way work went steadily on at Cape Evans, with no exciting nor alarming incident until July 4. On the morning of that day the wind blew furiously, but it moderated a little in the afternoon when Atkinson and Gran, without Scott's knowledge, decided to start over the floe for the North and South Bay thermometers respectively. This happened at 5.30 P.M., and Gran had returned by 6.45, but not until later did Scott hear that he had only gone two or three hundred yards from the land, and that it had taken him nearly an hour to find his way back.
[Page 296] Atkinson's continued absence passed unnoticed until dinner was nearly finished, but Scott did not feel seriously alarmed until the wind sprang up again and still the wanderer did not return. At 9.30, P.O. Evans, Crean and Keohane, who had been out looking for him, returned without any news, and the possibility of a serious accident had to be faced. Organized search parties were at once dispatched, Scott and Clissold alone remaining in the hut. And as the minutes slipped slowly by Scott's fears naturally increased, as Atkinson had started for a point not much more than a mile off and had been away more than five hours. From that fact only one conclusion could be drawn, and there was but small comfort to be got from the knowledge that every spot which was likely to be the scene of an accident would be thoroughly searched.
Thus 11 o'clock came, then 11.30 with its six hours of absence; and the strain of waiting became almost unbearable. But a quarter of an hour later Scott heard voices from the Cape, and presently, to his extreme relief, Meares and Debenham appeared with Atkinson, who was badly frost-bitten in the hand, and, as was to be expected after such an adventure, very confused.
At 2 A.M. Scott wrote in his diary, 'The search parties have returned and all is well again, but we must have no more of these very unnecessary escapades. Yet it is impossible not to realize that this bit of experience has done more than all the talking I could have [Page 297] ever accomplished to bring home to our people the dangers of a blizzard.'
On investigation it was obvious that Atkinson had been in great danger. First of all he had hit Inaccessible Island, and not until he arrived in its lee did he discover that his hand was frost-bitten. Having waited there for some time he groped his way to the western end, and then wandering away in a swirl of drift to clear some irregularities at the ice-foot, he completely lost the island when he could only have been a few yards from it. In this predicament he clung to the old idea of walking up wind, and it must be considered wholly providential that on this course he next struck Tent Island. Round this island he walked under the impression that it was Inaccessible Island, and at last dug himself a shelter on its lee side. When the moon appeared he judged its bearing well, and as he traveled homeward was vastly surprised to see the real Inaccessible Island appear on his left. 'There can be no doubt that in a blizzard a man has not only to safeguard the circulation in his limbs, but must struggle with a sluggishness of brain and an absence of reasoning power which is far more likely to undo him.'
About mid-day on Friday, July 7, the worst gale that Scott had ever known in Antarctic regions began, and went on for a week. The force of the wind, although exceptional, had been equaled earlier in the year, but the extraordinary feature of this gale was the long continuance of a very cold temperature. On [Page 298] Friday night the thermometer registered -39 deg., and throughout Saturday and the greater part of Sunday it did not rise above -35 deg.. It was Scott's turn for duty on Saturday night, and whenever he had to go out of doors the impossibility of enduring such conditions for any length of time was impressed forcibly upon him. The fine snow beat in behind his wind guard, the gusts took away his breath, and ten paces against the wind were enough to cause real danger of a frost-bitten face. To clear the anemometer vane he had to go to the other end of the hut and climb a ladder; and twice while engaged in this task he had literally to lean against the wind with head bent and face averted, and so stagger crab-like on his course.
By Tuesday the temperature had risen to +5 deg. or +7 deg., but the gale still continued and the air was thick with snow. The knowledge, however, that the dogs were comfortable was a great consolation to Scott, and he also found both amusement and pleasure in observing the customs of the people in charge of the stores. The policy of every storekeeper was to have something up his sleeve for a rainy day, and an excellent policy Scott thought it. 'Tools, metal material, leather, straps, and dozens of items are administered with the same spirit of jealous guardianship by Day, Lashly, Oates and Meares, while our main storekeeper Bowers even affects to bemoan imaginary shortages. Such parsimony is the best guarantee that we are prepared to face any serious call.'
For an hour on Wednesday afternoon the wind [Page 299] moderated, and the ponies were able to get a short walk over the floe, but this was only a temporary lull, for the gale was soon blowing as furiously as ever. And the following night brought not only a continuance of the bad weather but also bad news. At mid-day one of the best ponies, Bones, suddenly went off his feed, and in spite of Oates' and Anton's most careful attention he soon became critically ill. Oates gave him an opium pill and later on a second, and sacks were heated and placed on the suffering animal, but hour after hour passed without any improvement. As the evening wore on Scott again and again visited the stable, only to hear the same tale from Oates and Crean, who never left their patient. 'Towards midnight,' Scott says, 'I felt very downcast. It is so certain that we cannot afford to lose a single pony—the margin of safety has already been overstepped, we are reduced to face the circumstance that we must keep all the animals alive or greatly risk failure.'
[Footnote 1: Bones was the pony which had been allotted to Crean.]
Shortly after midnight, however, there were signs of an improvement, and two or three hours afterwards the pony was out of danger and proceeded to make a rapid and complete recovery. So far, since the return to Cape Evans, the ponies had given practically no cause for anxiety, and in consequence Scott's hopes that all would continue to be well with them had steadily grown; but this shock shattered his sense of security, and although various alterations were made in the arrangements of the stables and extra [Page 300] precautions were taken as regards food, he was never again without alarms for the safety of the precious ponies.
Another raging blizzard swept over Cape Evans on July 22 and 23, but the spirit of good comradeship still survived in spite of the atrocious weather and the rather monotonous life. 'There is no longer room for doubt that we shall come to our work with a unity of purpose and a disposition for mutual support which have never been equaled in these paths of activity. Such a spirit should tide us over all minor difficulties.'
By the end of the month Scott was beginning to wonder why the Crozier Party did not return, but on Tuesday, August 1, they came back looking terribly weather-worn and 'after enduring for five weeks the hardest conditions on record.' Their faces were scarred and wrinkled, their eyes dull, and their hands whitened and creased with the constant exposure to damp and cold. Quite obviously the main part of their afflictions arose from sheer lack of sleep, and after a night's rest they were very different people both in mind and body.
Writing on August 2, Scott says, 'Wilson is very thin, but this morning very much his keen, wiry self—Bowers is quite himself to-day. Cherry-Garrard is slightly puffy in the face and still looks worn. It is evident that he has suffered most severely—but Wilson tells me that his spirit never wavered for a moment. Bowers has come through best, all things [Page 301] considered, and I believe that he is the hardest traveler that ever undertook a Polar journey, as well as one of the most undaunted; more by hint than direct statement I gather his value to the party, his untiring energy and the astonishing physique which enables him to continue to work under conditions which are absolutely paralyzing to others. Never was such a sturdy, active, undefeatable little man.'
Gradually Scott gathered an account of this wonderful journey from the three travelers who had made it. For more than a week the thermometer fell below -60 deg., and on one night the minimum showed -71 deg., and on the next -77 deg.. Although in this fearful cold the air was comparatively still, occasional little puffs of wind eddied across the snow plain with blighting effect. 'No civilized being has ever encountered such conditions before with only a tent of thin canvas to rely on for shelter.' Records show that Amundsen when journeying to the N. magnetic pole met temperatures of a similar degree, but he was with Esquimaux who built him an igloo shelter nightly, he had also a good measure of daylight, and finally he turned homeward and regained his ship after five days' absence, while this party went outward and were absent for five weeks.
Nearly a fortnight was spent in crossing the coldest region, and then rounding C. Mackay they entered the wind-swept area. Blizzard followed blizzard, but in a light that was little better than complete darkness they staggered on. Sometimes they found [Page 302] themselves high on the slopes of Terror on the left of the track, sometimes diving on the right amid crevasses and confused ice disturbance. Having reached the foothills near Cape Crozier they ascended 800 feet, packed their belongings over a moraine ridge, and began to build a hut. Three days were spent in building the stone walls and completing the roof with the canvas brought for the purpose, and then at last they could attend to the main object of their journey.
The scant twilight at mid-day was so short that a start had to be made in the dark, and consequently they ran the risk of missing their way in returning without light. At their first attempt they failed to reach the penguin rookery, but undismayed they started again on the following day, and wound their way through frightful ice disturbances under the high basalt cliffs. In places the rock overhung, and at one spot they had to creep through a small channel hollowed in the ice. At last the sea-ice was reached, but by that time the light was so far spent that everything had to be rushed. Instead of the 2,000 or 3,000 nesting birds that had been seen at this rookery in Discovery days, they could only count about a hundred. As a reason for this a suggestion was made that possibly the date was too early, and that if the birds had not permanently deserted the rookery only the first arrivals had been seen.
With no delay they killed and skinned three penguins to get blubber for their stove, and with six eggs, only three of which were saved, made a hasty dash [Page 303] for their camp, which by good luck they regained.
On that same night a blizzard began, and from moment to moment increased in fury. Very soon they found that the place where they had, with the hope of shelter, built their hut, was unfortunately chosen, for the wind instead of striking them directly was deflected on to them in furious, whirling gusts. Heavy blocks of snow and rock placed on the roof were hurled away and the canvas ballooned up, its disappearance being merely a question of time.
Close to the hut they had erected their tent and had left several valuable articles inside it; the tent had been well spread and amply secured with snow and boulders, but one terrific gust tore it up and whirred it away. Inside the hut they waited for the roof to vanish, and wondered, while they vainly tried to make it secure, what they could do if it went. After fourteen hours it disappeared, as they were trying to pin down one corner. Thereupon the smother of snow swept over them, and all they could do was to dive immediately for their sleeping-bags. Once Bowers put out his head and said, 'We're all right,' in as ordinary tones as he could manage, whereupon Wilson and Cherry-Garrard replied, 'Yes, we're all right'; then all of them were silent for a night and half a day, while the wind howled and howled, and the snow entered every chink and crevice of their sleeping-bags.
'This gale,' Scott says, 'was the same (July 23) in which we registered our maximum wind force, and [Page 304] it seems probable that it fell on Cape Crozier even more violently than on us.'
The wind fell at noon on the following day, and the wretched travelers then crept from their icy nests, spread the floorcloth over their heads, and lit their primus. For the first time in forty-eight hours they tasted food, and having eaten their meal under these extraordinary conditions they began to talk of plans to build shelters on the homeward route. Every night, they decided, they must dig a large pit and cover it as best they could with their floorcloth.
Fortune, however, was now to befriend them, as about half a mile from the hut Bowers discovered their tent practically uninjured. But on the following day when they started homeward another blizzard fell upon them, and kept them prisoners for two more days.
By this time the miserable condition of their effects was beyond description. The sleeping-bags could not be rolled up, in fact they were so thoroughly frozen that attempts to bend them actually broke the skins. All socks, finnesko, and mitts had long been coated with ice, and when placed in breast-pockets or inside vests at night they did not even show signs of thawing. Indeed it is scarcely possible to realize the horrible discomforts of these three forlorn travelers, as they plodded back across the Barrier in a temperature constantly below -60 deg..
'Wilson,' Scott wrote, 'is disappointed at seeing so little of the penguins, but to me and to everyone [Page 305] who has remained here the result of this effort is the appeal it makes to our imagination as one of the most gallant stories of Polar history. That men should wander forth in the depth of a Polar night to face the most dismal cold and the fiercest gales in darkness is something new; that they should have persisted in this effort in spite of every adversity for five full weeks is heroic. It makes a tale for our generation which I hope may not be lost in the telling.
'Moreover the material results are by no means despicable. We shall know now when that extraordinary bird the Emperor penguin lays its eggs, and under what conditions; but even if our information remains meager concerning its embryology, our party has shown the nature of the conditions which exist on the Great Barrier in winter. Hitherto we have only imagined their severity; now we have proof, and a positive light is thrown on the local climatology of our Strait.'
Of the indomitable spirit shown by his companions on this journey Cherry-Garrard gives wonderful and convincing proof in his diary. Bowers, with his capacity for sleeping under the most distressing conditions, was 'absolutely magnificent'; and the story of how he arranged a line by which he fastened the cap of the tent to himself, so that if it went away a second time it should not be unaccompanied, is only one of the many tales of his resource and determination.
In addition to the eggs that the party had brought back and the knowledge of the winter conditions on [Page 306] the Barrier that they had gained, their journey settled several points in connection with future sledding work. They had traveled on a very simple food ration in different and extreme proportions, for the only provisions they took were pemmican, butter, biscuit and tea. After a short experience they found that Wilson, who had arranged for the greatest quantity of fat, had too much of it, while Cherry-Garrard, who had declared for biscuit, had more than he could eat. Then a middle course was struck which gave a proportion agreeable to all of them, and which at the same time suited the total quantities of their various articles of food. The only change that was suggested was the addition of cocoa for the evening meal, because the travelers, thinking that tea robbed them of their slender chance of sleep, had contented themselves with hot water. 'In this way,' Scott decided, 'we have arrived at a simple and suitable ration for the inland plateau.'
Of the sleeping-bags there was little to be said, for although the eiderdown bag might be useful for a short spring trip, it became iced up too quickly to be much good on a long journey. Bowers never used his eiderdown bag, and in some miraculous manner he managed more than once to turn his reindeer bag. The weights of the sleeping-bags before and after the journey give some idea of the ice collected.
[Footnote 1: He insisted upon giving it to Cherry-Garrard. 'It was,' the latter says, 'wonderfully self-sacrificing of him, more than I can write. I felt a brute to take it, but I was getting useless unless I got some sleep, which my big bag would not allow.']
[Page 307] Starting Final Weight Weight Wilson, reindeer and eiderdown. 17 lbs. 40 lbs. Bowers, reindeer only. 17 " 33 " C.-Garrard, reindeer and eiderdown. 18 " 45 "
The double tent was considered a great success, and the new crampons were much praised except by Bowers, whose fondness for the older form was not to be shaken. 'We have discovered,' Scott stated in summing up the results of the journey, 'a hundred details of clothes, mitts, and footwear: there seems no solution to the difficulties which attach to these articles in extreme cold; all Wilson can say, speaking broadly, is "The gear is excellent, excellent." One continues to wonder as to the possibilities of fur clothing as made by the Esquimaux, with a sneaking feeling that it may outclass our more civilized garb. For us this can only be a matter of speculation, as it would have been quite impossible to have obtained such articles. With the exception of this radically different alternative, I feel sure we are as near perfection as experience can direct. At any rate we can now hold that our system of clothing has come through a severer test than any other, fur included.'
With the return of the Cape Crozier Party lectures were resumed, and apart from one or two gales the weather was so good and the returning light so stimulating both to man and beast, that the spirits of the former rose apace while those of the latter became almost riotous when exercised. On August 10, Scott [Page 308] and the new masters were to take charge on September 1, so that they could exercise their respective animals and get to know them as well as possible. The new arrangement was:
Bowers Victor Wilson Nobby Atkinson Jehu Wright Chinaman Cherry-Garrard Michael Evans (P.O.) Snatcher Crean Bones Keohane Jimmy Pigg Oates Christopher Scott and Oates Snippets.
On the same day Oates gave his second excellent lecture on 'Horse Management,' and afterwards the problem of snow-shoes was seriously discussed. Besides the problem of the form of the shoes was also the question of the means of attachment, and as to both points all sorts of suggestions were made. At that time Scott's opinion was that the pony snow-shoes they had, which were made on the grating or racquet principle, would probably be the best, the only alternative seeming to be to perfect the principle of the lawn mowing shoe. 'Perhaps,' he adds, 'we shall come to both kinds: the first for the quiet animals and the last for the more excitable. I am confident the matter is of first importance.'
[Page 309] Ten days later Scott had to admit that the ponies were becoming a handful, and for the time being they would have been quite unmanageable if they had been given any oats. As it was, Christopher, Snippets and Victor were suffering from such high spirits that all three of them bolted on the 21st.
A prolonged gale arrived just as the return of the sun was due, and for three days everyone was more or less shut up in the hut. Although the temperature was not especially low anyone who went outside for even the briefest moment had to dress in wind clothes, because exposed woolen or cloth materials became so instantaneously covered with powdery crystals, that when they were brought back into the warmth they were soon wringing wet. When, however, there was no drift it was quicker and easier to slip on an overcoat, and for his own garment of this description Scott admits a sentimental attachment. 'I must confess,' he says, 'an affection for my veteran uniform overcoat, inspired by its persistent utility. I find that it is twenty-three years of age and can testify to its strenuous existence. It has been spared neither rain, wind, nor salt sea spray, tropic heat nor Arctic cold; it has outlived many sets of buttons, from their glittering gilded youth to green old age, and it supports its four-stripe shoulder straps as gaily as the single lace ring of the early days which proclaimed it the possession of a humble sub-lieutenant. Withal it is still a very long way from the fate of the "one-horse shay."'
[Page 310] Not until August 26 did the sun appear, and everyone was at once out and about and in the most cheerful frame of mind. The shouts and songs of men could be heard for miles, and the outlook on life of every member of the expedition seemed suddenly to have changed. For if there is little that is new to be said about the return of the sun in Polar regions, it must always be a very real and important event to those who have lived without it for so many months, and who have almost forgotten the sensation of standing in brilliant sunshine.
[Page 311] CHAPTER VI
GOOD-BYE TO CAPE EVANS
So far as I can venture to offer an opinion on such a matter, the purpose of our being in existence, the highest object that human beings can set before themselves, is not the pursuit of any such chimera as the annihilating of the unknown; but it is simply the unwearied endeavour to remove its boundaries a little further from our little sphere of action.—HUXLEY.
With the return of the sun preparations for the summer campaign continued more zealously and industriously than ever, and what seemed like a real start was made when Meares and Demetri went off to Hut Point on September 1 with the dog teams. For such an early departure there was no real reason unless Meares hoped to train the dogs better when he had got them to himself; but he chose to start, and Scott, after setting out the work he had to do, left him to come and go between the two huts as he pleased.
Meanwhile with Bowers' able assistance Scott set to work at sledding figures, and although he felt as the scheme developed that their organization would not be found wanting, he was also a little troubled by the immense amount of detail, and by the fact that every arrangement had to be more than usually elastic, so that both the complete success and the utter failure of [Page 312] the motors could be taken fully into account. 'I think,' he says, 'that our plan will carry us through without the motors (though in that case nothing else must fail), and will take full advantage of such help as the motors may give.'
The spring traveling could not be extensive, because of necessity the majority of the company had to stay at home and exercise the ponies, which was not likely to be a light task when the food of these enterprising animals was increased. E. Evans, Gran and Forde, however, were to go and re-mark Corner Camp, and then Meares with his dogs was to carry as much fodder there as possible, while Bowers, Simpson, P.O. Evans and Scott were to 'stretch their legs' across the Western Mountains.
During the whole of the week ending on September 10, Scott was occupied with making detailed plans for the Southern journey, every figure being checked by Bowers, 'who has been an enormous help.' And later on, in speaking of the transport department, Scott says, 'In spite of all the care I have taken to make the details of my plan clear by lucid explanation, I find that Bowers is the only man on whom I can thoroughly rely to carry out the work without mistakes.' The result of this week's work and study was that Scott came to the conclusion that there would be no difficulty in getting to the Glacier if the motors were successful, and that even if the motors failed they still ought to get there with any ordinary degree of good fortune. To work three units of four men from that point [Page 313] onward would, he admitted, take a large amount of provisions, but with the proper division he thought that they ought to attain their object. 'I have tried,' he said, 'to take every reasonable possibility of misfortune into consideration;... I fear to be too sanguine, yet taking everything into consideration I feel that our chances ought to be good. The animals are in splendid form. Day by day the ponies get fitter as their exercise increases.... But we cannot spare any of the ten, and so there must always be anxiety of the disablement of one or more before their work is done.'
Apart from the great help he would obtain if the motors were successful, Scott was very eager that they should be of some use so that all the time, money and thought which had been given to their construction should not be entirely wasted. But whatever the outcome of these motors, his belief in the possibility of motor traction for Polar work remained, though while it was in an untried and evolutionary state he was too cautious and wise a leader to place any definite reliance upon it.
If, however, Scott was more than a little doubtful about the motors, he was absolutely confident about the men who were chosen for the Southern advance. 'All are now experienced sledge travelers, knit together with a bond of friendship that has never been equaled under such circumstances. Thanks to these people, and more especially to Bowers and Petty Officer Evans, there is not a single detail [Page 314] of our equipment which is not arranged with the utmost care and in accordance with the tests of experience.'
On Saturday, September 9, E. R. Evans, Forde and Gran left for Corner Camp, and then for a few days Scott was busy finishing up the Southern plans, getting instruction in photography, and preparing for his journey to the west. On the Southern trip he had determined to make a better show of photographic work than had yet been accomplished, and with Ponting as eager to help others as he was to produce good work himself an invaluable instructor was at hand.
With the main objects of having another look at the Ferrar Glacier and of measuring the stakes put out by Wright in the previous year, of bringing their sledge impressions up to date, and of practicing with their cameras, Scott and his party started off to the west on the 15th, without having decided precisely where they were going or how long they would stay away.
Two and a half days were spent in reaching Butter Point, and then they proceeded up the Ferrar Glacier and reached the Cathedral Rocks on the 19th. There they found the stakes placed by Wright across the glacier, and spent the remainder of that day and the whole of the next in plotting accurately their position. 'Very cold wind down glacier increasing. In spite of this Bowers wrestled with theodolite. He is really wonderful. I have never seen anyone who could go on so long with bare fingers. My own fingers went every few moments.'
After plotting out the figures it turned out that the [Page 315] movement varied from 24 to 32 feet, an extremely important observation, and the first made on the movements of the coastal glaciers. Though a greater movement than Scott expected to find, it was small enough to show that the idea of comparative stagnation was correct. On the next day they came down the Glacier, and then went slowly up the coast, dipping into New Harbor, where they climbed the moraine, took angles and collected rock specimens. At Cape Bernacchi a quantity of pure quartz was found, and in it veins of copper ore—an interesting discovery, for it was the first find of minerals suggestive of the possibility of working.
On the next day they sighted a long, low ice wall, and at a distance mistook it for a long glacier tongue stretching seaward from the land. But as they approached it they saw a dark mark, and it suddenly dawned upon them that the tongue was detached from the land. Half recognizing familiar features they turned towards it, and as they got close they saw that it was very like their old Erebus Glacier Tongue. Then they sighted a flag upon it, and realized that it was the piece broken off from the Erebus Tongue. Near the outer end they camped, and climbing on to it soon found the depot of fodder left by Campbell, and the line of stakes planted to guide the ponies in the autumn. So there, firmly anchored, was the piece broken from the Glacier Tongue in the previous March, a huge tract about two miles long which had turned through half a circle, so that the old western end was towards [Page 316] the east. 'Considering the many cracks in the ice mass it is most astonishing that it should have remained intact throughout its sea voyage. At one time it was suggested that the hut should be placed on this Tongue. What an adventurous voyage the occupants would have had! The Tongue which was 5 miles south of Cape Evans is now 4 deg. miles W.N.W. of it.'
From the Glacier Tongue they still pushed north, and on the 24th, just before the fog descended upon them, they got a view along the stretch of coast to the north. So far the journey had been more pleasant than Scott had anticipated, but two days after they had turned back a heavy blizzard descended upon them, and although an attempt was made to continue marching, they were soon compelled to camp. After being held up completely on the 27th they started again on the following day in a very frost-biting wind. From time to time they were obliged to halt so that their frozen features could be brought round, Simpson suffering more than the rest of the party; and with drift coming on again they were weather-bound in their tent during the early part of the afternoon. At 3 P.M., however, the drift ceased, and they started off once more in a wind as biting as ever. Then Scott saw an ominous yellow fuzzy appearance on the southern ridges of Erebus, and knew that another snowstorm was approaching; but hoping that this storm would miss them, he kept on until Inaccessible Island was suddenly blotted out. Thereupon a rush was made for a camp site, but the blizzard swept [Page 317] upon them, and in the driving snow they found it utterly impossible to set up their inner tent, and could only just manage to set up the outer one. A few hours later the weather again cleared, and as they were more or less snowed up, they decided to push for Cape Evans in spite of the wind. 'We arrived in at 1.15 A.M., pretty well done. The wind never let up for an instant; the temperature remained about -16 deg., and the 21 statute miles which we marched in the day must be remembered amongst the most strenuous in my memory.... The objects of our little journey were satisfactorily accomplished, but the greatest source of pleasure to me is to realize that I have such men as Bowers and P.O. Evans for the Southern journey. I do not think that harder men or better sledge travelers ever took the trail. Bowers is a little wonder. I realize all that he must have done for the C. Crozier Party in their far severer experience.'
Late as the hour was when the travelers appeared at Cape Evans, everyone was soon up and telling Scott what had happened during his absence. E. Evans, Gran and Forde had reached Corner Camp and found that it showed up well, and consequently all anxiety as to the chance of finding One Ton Camp was removed. Forde, however, had got his hand so badly frost-bitten that he was bound to be incapacitated for some time, and this meant that the arrangements that had already been made for a geological party to go to the west would in all probability have to be altered.