[Page 318] All of the ponies were reported to be very well, but Scott's joy at this news vanished on October 3 when Atkinson reported that Jehu was still too weak to pull a load. Oates also was having great trouble with Christopher, who did not appreciate being harnessed and generally bolted at the mere sight of a sledge. 'He is going,' Scott, in referring to this most intractable pony, wrote, 'to be a trial, but he is a good strong pony and should do yeoman service. Day is increasingly hopeful about the motors. He is an ingenious person and has been turning up new rollers out of a baulk of oak supplied by Meares, and with Simpson's small motor as a lathe. The motors may save the situation.'
On the 5th Scott made a thorough inspection of Jehu and became convinced that he was useless. Chinaman and James Pigg were also no towers of strength. 'But the other seven are in fine form and must bear the brunt of the work somehow. If we suffer more loss we shall depend on the motor, and then!... well, one must face the bad as well as the good.'
During the following day, after Christopher had given his usual exhibition at the start, Wilson, Oates, Cherry-Garrard and Crean went over to Hut Point with their ponies; and late on the same afternoon the Hut Point telephone bell suddenly rang. The line had been laid by Meares some time before, but hitherto there had been no communication. Now, however, Scott heard a voice and found himself able to hold long [Page 319] conversations with Meares and Oates. 'Not a very wonderful fact, perhaps, but it seems wonderful in this primitive land to be talking to one's fellow beings 15 miles away. Oates told me that the ponies had arrived in fine order, Christopher a little done, but carrying the heaviest load. If we can keep the telephone going it will be a great boon, especially to Meares later in the season.'
After service on Sunday morning Scott, continuing his course of photography under the excellent instruction of Ponting, went out to the Pressure Ridge, and thoroughly enjoyed himself. Worries, however, were in store, for later in the afternoon, by which time Scott had returned to the hut, a telephone message from Nelson's igloo brought the news that Clissold had fallen from a berg and hurt his back. In three minutes Bowers had organized a sledge party, and fortunately Atkinson was on the spot and able to join it. Scott himself at once hurried over the land, and found Ponting very distressed and Clissold practically insensible.
It appeared that Clissold had been acting as Ponting's 'model,' and that they had been climbing about the berg to get pictures. Ponting had lent his crampons and ice-axe to Clissold, but the latter nevertheless missed his footing after one of the 'poses,' and after sliding over a rounded surface of ice for some twelve feet, had dropped six feet on to a sharp angle in the wall of the berg. Unquestionably Clissold was badly hurt, and although neither Wilson nor Atkinson [Page 320] thought that anything very serious had happened, there was no doubt that the accident would prevent him from taking the place allotted to him in the motor sledge party. Thus there were two men on the sick list, and after all the trouble that had been taken to get things ready for the summer journeys Scott naturally felt that these misfortunes were more than a little deplorable. On the other hand, all was going well with the ponies, though Christopher's dislike to sledges seemed rather to increase than to lessen. When once he was in the sledge he had always behaved himself until October 13, when he gave a really great exhibition of perversity. On this occasion a dog frightened him, and having twisted the rope from Oates' hands he bolted for all he was worth. When, however, he had obtained his freedom, he set about most systematically to get rid of his load. At first he gave sudden twists and thus dislodged two bales of hay, but when he caught sight of some other sledges a better idea at once struck him, and he dashed straight at them with the evident intention of getting free of his load at one fell swoop. Two or three times he ran for Bowers and then he turned his attention to Keohane, his plan being to charge from a short distance with teeth bared and heels flying. By this time his antics had brought a small group to the scene, and presently Oates, Bowers, Nelson and Atkinson managed to clamber on to the sledge. Undaunted, however, by this human burden, he tried to treat it as he had the bales of hay, and he did manage to [Page 321] dispose of Atkinson with violence; but the others dug their heels into the snow and succeeded at last in tiring him out. 'I am exceedingly glad,' Scott says, 'there are not other ponies like him. These capers promise trouble, but I think a little soft snow on the Barrier may effectually cure them.'
On Tuesday, October 17, the motors were to be taken on to the floe, but the attempt was not successful, the axle casing (aluminum) splitting soon after the trial had begun. Once again Scott expressed his conviction that the motors would be of little assistance, though at the same time retaining his opinion that with more experience they might have been of the greatest service. 'The trouble is that if they fail, no one will ever believe this.'
The days at Cape Evans were now rapidly drawing to a close. Plans and preparations occupied the attention of everyone, and Scott's time was almost wholly occupied in preparing details and in writing. 'Words,' he said in a letter dated October, 1912, 'must always fail me when I talk of Bill Wilson. I believe he really is the finest character I ever met—the closer one gets to him the more there is to admire. Every quality is so solid and dependable; cannot you imagine how that counts down here? Whatever the matter, one knows Bill will be sound, shrewdly practical, intensely loyal, and quite unselfish. Add to this a wider knowledge of persons and things than is at first guessable, a quiet vein of humour and really consummate tact, and you have some idea of his values. I think [Page 322] he is the most popular member of the party, and that is saying much.
'Bowers is all and more than I ever expected of him. He is a positive treasure, absolutely trustworthy, and prodigiously energetic. He is about the hardest man amongst us, and that is saying a good deal—nothing seems to hurt his tough little body, and certainly no hardship daunts his spirit. I shall have a hundred little tales to tell you of his indefatigable zeal, his unselfishness, and his inextinguishable good humor. He surprises always, for his intelligence is of quite a high order and his memory for details most exceptional. You can imagine him, as he is, an indispensable assistant to me in every detail concerning the management and organization of our sledding work and a delightful companion on the march.
'One of the greatest successes is Wright. He is very hard working, very thorough, and absolutely ready for anything. Like Bowers he has taken to sledding like a duck to water, and although he hasn't had such severe testing, I believe he would stand it pretty nearly as well. Nothing ever seems to worry him, and I can't imagine he ever complained of anything in his life.
'The Soldier is very popular with all—a delightfully humorous cheery old pessimist—striving with the ponies night and day and bringing woeful accounts of their small ailments into the hut.
'Atkinson will go far, I think; he has a positive passion for helping others. It is extraordinary what pains he will take to do a kind thing unobtrusively.
[Page 323] 'Cherry-Garrard is clean grit right through; one has caught glimpses of him in tight places.
'Day has the sweetest temper and all sorts of other nice characteristics. Moreover he has a very remarkable mechanical ability, and I believe is about as good a man as could have been selected for his job.
'I don't think I will give such long descriptions of the others, though most of them deserve equally high praise. Taken all round, they are a perfectly excellent lot.
'The men are equally fine. P.O. Evans looks after our sledges and sledge equipment with a care of management and a fertility of resource which is truly astonishing. On "trek" he is just as sound and hard as ever, and has an inexhaustible store of anecdote. Crean is perfectly happy, ready to do anything and go anywhere, the harder the work, the better. Evans and Crean are great friends. Lashly is his old self in every respect, hard working to the limit, quiet, abstemious and determined. You see altogether I have a good set of people with me, and it will go hard if we don't achieve something.
'The study of individual characters is a pleasant pastime in such a mixed community of thoroughly nice people... men of the most diverse upbringing and experience are really pals with one another, and the subjects which would be delicate ground of discussion between acquaintances are just those which are most freely used for jest.... I have never seen a temper lost in these discussions. So as I sit [Page 324] here I am very satisfied with these things. I think that it would have been difficult to better the organization of the party—every man has his work and is especially adapted for it; there is no gap and no overlap. It is all that I desired, and the same might well be said of the men selected to do the work....
'I don't know what to think of Amundsen's chances. If he gets to the Pole, it must be before we do, as he is bound to travel fast with dogs and pretty certain to start early. On this account I decided at a very early date to act exactly as I should have done had he not existed. Any attempt to race must have wrecked my plan, besides which it doesn't appear the sort of thing one is out for.
'Possibly you will have heard something before this reaches you. Oh! and there are all sorts of possibilities. In any case you can rely on my not doing or saying anything foolish—only I'm afraid you must be prepared for the chance of finding our venture much belittled.
'After all, it is the work that counts, not the applause that follows.'
The transport of emergency stores to Hut Point was delayed by the weather until October 22, but on that day the most important stores—which were for the returning depots and to provision the Discovery hut in case the Terra Nova did not arrive—were taken by Wilson, Bowers and P.O. Evans and their ponies to Glacier Tongue. Accidents, however, were still to happen, for while Bowers was holding the ponies so [Page 325] that Wilson and Evans could unload them, Victor got the hook, which fastened the harness to the trace of another pony, into his nose. At that moment a lot of drift swept upon them, and immediately all three of the ponies stampeded, Snatcher making for home and Nobby for the Western Mountains, while Victor, with Bowers still hanging on to him, just bolted here, there and everywhere. Wilson and P.O. Evans at once started after their ponies, and the former by means of a biscuit as a bait managed to catch Nobby west of Tent Island, but Snatcher arrived, with a single trace and dangling sledge, by himself at Cape Evans. Half an hour after Wilson had returned Bowers brought in Victor, who had a gash in his nose, and was very much distressed. 'I don't know,' Scott says, 'how Bowers managed to hang on to the frightened animal; I don't believe anyone else would have done so.... Two lessons arise. First, however quiet the animals appear they must not be left by their drivers—no chance must be taken; secondly, the hooks on the hames of the harness must be altered in shape. I suppose such incidents as this were to be expected, one cannot have ponies very fresh and vigorous and expect them to behave like lambs, but I shall be glad when we are off and can know more definitely what resources we can count on.'
In addition to this mishap, a football match had been got up two days before, in which Debenham hurt his knee. Thus the Western Party was again delayed, the only compensation for this accident [Page 326] being that Forde's hand would have a better chance of recovery while Debenham's knee was given time to improve.
On the following day the motors seemed to be ready for the start, but various little defects again cropped up, and not until the next morning did they get away. At first there were frequent stops, but on the whole satisfactory progress was made, and as even a small measure of success would, in Scott's opinion, be enough to show their ability to revolutionize Polar transport, and so help to prevent the cruelty that is a necessary condition of animal transport, he was intensely anxious about the result of this trial trip. As this subject was one which was of the most supreme interest to Scott, it is well to quote the opinion of an expert upon these motor sledges. 'It has been said that Captain Scott's sledges failed, and without further consideration the design has been totally condemned, but this is quite unfair to the design; and it must be admitted by everyone who has had anything to do with the sledges, and has any sort of knowledge of mechanical principles, that it was the engine that failed, not the transmission gear at all. The engine used was a four-cylinder air-cooled one, and most unexpectedly in the cold climate of the Antarctic it over-heated and broke various parts, beyond possibility of repair under the severe conditions. The reason of the breakdown therefore applies to any and every form of motor sledge, and should a satisfactory engine be available for one form of sledge, it is equally [Page 327] available for another. It therefore shows a lack of fair judgment to condemn the Scott sledge for a breakdown, which would have applied equally to every form of motor transport which could have been designed.'
Unquestionably the motor sledges did enough to make this unique experiment infinitely worth trying, and on Friday, October 27, Scott declared that the machines had already vindicated themselves. Even the seamen, who had been very doubtful about them, were profoundly impressed, and P.O. Evans admitted that, 'if them things can go on like that, I reckon you wouldn't want nothing else.'
As the days passed by, it was obvious that the Western Party—which consisted of Taylor, Debenham, Gran and Forde—would have to leave after the Southern Party. 'It is trying that they should be wasting the season in this way. All things considered, I shall be glad to get away and put our fortune to the test,' Scott wrote on the 28th. And two days later he added: 'Meares and Ponting are just off to Hut Point. Atkinson and Keohane will probably leave in an hour or so as arranged, and if the weather holds, we shall all get off to-morrow. So here end the entries in this diary with the first chapter of our History. The future is in the lap of the gods; I can think of nothing left undone to deserve success.'
[Page 328] CHAPTER VII
THE SOUTHERN JOURNEY BEGINS
Free men freely work. Whoever fears God, fears to sit at ease. E. B. BROWNING.
'As we are just off on our Southern journey, with a good chance of missing the ship on our return,' Scott wrote before leaving Cape Evans on November 1, 'I send a word of greeting. We are going away with high hopes of success and for the moment everything smiles, but where risks must be taken the result must be dependent on chance to some extent.
'I am lucky in having with me the right men for the work; we have lived most happily together through the long winter, and now all are fit, ready, and eager to go forward, and, apart from the result, the work itself is extraordinarily fascinating.'
The march to Hut Point was begun in detachments, Scott leading Snippets and soon finding himself where he wished to be, at the tail of the team. After all Jehu had refuted predictions by being allowed to start, although so little confidence was still [Page 329] placed in him that on the previous day he had been sent at his own pace to Hut Point. Chinaman was also 'an unknown quantity,' but the chief trouble on the opening march was caused by the persistently active Christopher, who kicked and bucked the whole way.
On this march, which reminded Scott of a regatta or a somewhat disorganized fleet with ships of very unequal speed, a good knowledge was obtained of the various paces of the ponies, and the plan of advance was, after some trouble, arranged. The start was to be made from Hut Point in three parties—the very slow ponies, the medium paced, and the fliers. The motors with Day, E. R. Evans, Lashly and Hooper (who had taken Clissold's place) were already on the way, and the dogs, with Meares and Demetri, were to follow the main detachments.
Night marching was decided upon, and after supper good-bye was said to Hut Point, and Atkinson, Wright and Keohane led off with Jehu, Chinaman and Jimmy Pigg. Two hours later Scott, Wilson and Cherry-Garrard left, their ponies marching steadily and well together on the sea-ice. At Safety Camp they found Atkinson, who reported that Chinaman and Jehu were already tired. Soon after Scott's party had camped for lunch, Ponting arrived with Demetri and a small dog team, and the cinematograph was up in time to catch the flying rearguard, which came along in fine form with Snatcher, 'a wonderful little beast,' leading. Christopher had given his customary exhibition when [Page 330] harnessed, and although the Barrier surface had sobered him a little it was not thought advisable for him to stop, and so the party fled through in the wake of the advance guard, and were christened 'the through train.'
'After lunch,' Scott, writing from Camp 1 on November 3, says, 'we packed up and marched steadily on as before. I don't like these midnight lunches, but for man the march that follows is pleasant when, as today, the wind falls and the sun steadily increases its heat. The two parties in front of us camped five miles beyond Safety Camp, and we reached their camp some half or three-quarters of an hour later. All the ponies are tethered in good order, but most of them are tired—Chinaman and Jehu very tired.... A petrol tin is near the camp and a note stating that the motors passed at 9 P.M. 28th, going strong—they have from four to five days' lead and should surely keep it.'
On the next march they started in what for some time was to be the settled order—Atkinson's contingent at 8 P.M., Scott's at 10, Oates' an hour and a quarter later. Just after starting they picked up cheerful notices saying that all was well with both the motors, and Day wrote, 'Hope to meet in 80 deg. 30' Lat.' But very soon afterwards a depot of petrol was found; and worse was to follow, as some four miles out from Camp 1 they came across a tin bearing the sad announcement, 'Big end Day's motor No. 2 cylinder broken.' Half a mile beyond was the motor, its tracking sledges, &c.; and notes from E. Evans and Day to [Page 331] tell the tale of the mishap. The only spare big end had been used for Lashly's machine, and as it would have taken a long time to strip Day's engine so that it could run on three cylinders, they had decided to abandon it and push on with the other alone. 'So the dream of help from the machines is at an end! The track of the remaining motor goes steadily forward, but now, of course, I shall expect to see it every hour of the march.'
On the second and third marches the ponies did fairly well on a bad surface, but as yet they had only light loads to pull; and not until they were tested was Scott prepared to express much confidence in them. At Camp 3 he found a troubled note from E. Evans saying that their maximum speed was about 7 miles a day. 'They have taken on nine bags of forage, but there are three black dots to the south which we can only imagine are the deserted motor with its loaded sledges. The men have gone on as a supporting party, as directed. It is a disappointment. I had hoped better of the machines once they got away on the Barrier Surface.'
From this camp they started in the usual order, having arranged that full loads should be carried if the black dots proved to be the motors, and very soon they found their fears confirmed. Another note from E. Evans stated a recurrence of the old trouble. The big end of No. 1 cylinder had cracked, otherwise the machine was in good order. 'Evidently,' Scott wrote in reference to this misfortune, 'the engines are not [Page 332] fitted for working in this climate, a fact that should be certainly capable of correction. One thing is proved: the system of propulsion is altogether satisfactory. The motor party has proceeded as a man-hauling party as arranged.'
As they came to Camp 4 a blizzard threatened, and snow walls were at once built for the ponies. The last march, however, was more than a compensation for bad weather. Jehu and Chinaman with loads of over 450 lbs. had stepped out well and had finished as fit as they had started, while the better ponies had made nothing of their loads, Scott's Snippets having pulled over 700 lbs., sledge included. 'We are all much cheered by this performance. It shows a hardening up of ponies which have been well trained; even Oates is pleased!'
The blizzard only just gave them time to get everything done in the camp before it arrived. The ponies, however, in their new rugs and with sheltering walls as high as themselves could scarcely feel the wind, and as this protection was a direct result of experience gained in the previous year, Scott was glad to feel that some good had been obtained from that disastrous journey. But when the snow began to fall the ponies as usual suffered, because it was impossible to devise any means of keeping them comfortable in thick and driving snow. 'We men are snug and comfortable enough, but it is very evil to lie here and know that the weather is steadily sapping the strength of the beasts on which so [Page 333] much depends. It requires much philosophy to be cheerful on such occasions.' In the midst of the drift during the forenoon of the 7th Meares and Demetri with the dogs arrived, and camped about a quarter of a mile away. In catching the main party up so soon Scott considered that Meares had played too much for safety, but at the same time it was encouraging to know that the dogs would pull the loads assigned to them, and that they could face such terrific winds.
The threatening weather continued until late on Tuesday night, and the question of starting was left open for a long time, several of the party thinking it unwise to march. At last, however, the decision was made to go, and the advance guard got away soon after midnight. Then, to Scott's surprise and delight, he discovered that his fears about the ponies were needless. Both Jehu and Chinaman took skittish little runs when their rugs were removed, and Chinaman even betrayed a not altogether irresistible desire to buck. In fact the only pony that gave any trouble was Christopher, and this not from any fatigue but from excessive spirit. Most of the ponies halted now and again to get a mouthful of snow, but Christopher had still to be sent through with a non-stop run, for his tricks and devices were as innumerable as ever. Oates had to cling like grim death to his bridle until the first freshness had worn off, and this was a long rather than a light task, as even after ten miles he was prepared to misbehave himself if he got the smallest chance.
[Page 334] A few hundred yards from Camp 5 Bowers picked up a bale of forage and loaded it on his sledge, bringing the weight to nearly 800 lbs. Victor, however, went on as though nothing had happened, and although the surface was for the time wonderfully good, and it still remained a question how the ponies would get on under harder conditions, Scott admitted that so far the outlook was very encouraging. The cairns built in the previous year showed up very distinctly and were being picked up with the greatest ease, and this also was an additional cause for satisfaction because with pony walls, camp sites and cairns, the track on the homeward march seemed as if it must be easy to follow. Writing at Camp 5, Scott says, 'Everyone is as fit as can be. It was wonderfully warm as we camped this morning at 11 o'clock; the wind has dropped completely and the sun shines gloriously. Men and ponies revel in such weather. One devoutly hopes for a good spell of it as we recede from the windy Northern region. The dogs came up soon after we had camped, traveling easily.'
On the next march they remained faithful to their program of advancing a little over ten geographical miles nightly. But during the last two miles of this stage all of the ponies were together. 'It looked like a meet of the hounds, and Jehu ran away!!' was Cherry-Garrard's account of this scene in his diary. But in Scott's opinion it was clearly not advantageous to march in one detachment, because the slow advance-guard ponies were forced out of their pace by joining [Page 335] with the others, while the fast rearguard had their speed reduced. This, however, was a great day for Jehu, whose attempt to bolt, though scarcely amounting to more than a sprawling canter, was freely acknowledged to be a creditable performance for a pony who at the start had been thought incapable of doing a single march.
The weather now began to change rapidly for the worse, and in consequence the pleasure of marching as rapidly vanished. In arriving at Camp 7 they had to struggle at first against a strong head wind, and afterwards in a snowstorm. Wright, who was leading, found it so impossible to see where he was going that he decided to camp some two miles short of the usual ten, but the ponies continued to do well and this was a compensation for the curtailed distance.
A worse surface was in store for them when they started from Camp 7, in fact Scott and Wilson described it as one of the worst they had ever seen. The snow that had fallen in the day remained soft, and added to this they had entered upon an area of soft crust between a few scattered hard sastrugi. In pits between these the snow lay in sandy heaps, making altogether the most difficult conditions for the ponies. Nevertheless the stronger ponies continued to pull excellently, and even the poor old crocks succeeded in covering 9-1/2 miles. 'Such a surface makes one anxious in spite of the rapidity with which changes take place. I expected these marches to be a little difficult, but not near so bad as to-day's.... In spite of the surface, the dogs ran up from the camp before last, [Page 336] over 20 miles, in the night. They are working splendidly.'
The surface was still bad and the weather horrid on the following day, but 5 miles out the advance party came straight and true upon the last year's Bluff depot. Here Scott found a note, from which he learned the cheering news that E. Evans and his party must be the best part of five days ahead. On the other hand, Atkinson had a very gloomy report to make of Chinaman, who could, he thought, only last a few more miles. Oates, however, much more optimistic than usual, considered that Chinaman would last for several days; and during another horrid march to Camp 10 all the ponies did well, Jehu especially distinguishing himself.
'We shall be,' Scott wrote from this camp on Monday, November 13, 'in a better position to know how we stand when we get to One Ton Camp, now only 17 or 18 miles, but I am anxious about these beasts—very anxious, they are not the ponies they ought to have been, and if they pull through well, all the thanks will be due to Oates. I trust the weather and surface conditions will improve; both are rank bad at present.' The next stage took them within 7 or 8 miles of One Ton Camp, and with a slightly improved surface and some sun the spirits of the party revived. But, although the ponies were working splendidly, it was painful work for them to struggle on through the snow, and Christopher's antics when harnessed were already a thing of the past—a fact which [Page 337] would have been totally unregretted had it not been evidence that his strength was also beginning to diminish.
One Ton Camp was found without any difficulty, and having pushed on to Camp 12 it was decided to give the animals a day's rest there, and afterwards to go forward at the rate of 13 geographical miles (15 statute miles) a day. 'Oates thinks the ponies will get through, but that they have lost condition quicker than he expected. Considering his usually pessimistic attitude this must be thought a hopeful view. Personally I am much more hopeful. I think that a good many of the beasts are actually in better form than when they started, and that there is no need to be alarmed about the remainder, always excepting the weak ones which we have always regarded with doubt. Well, we must wait and see how things go.'
Another note from E. Evans was found at One Ton Camp, stating that his party had taken on four boxes of biscuits, and would wait for the main detachment at Lat. 80 deg. 30'. The minimum thermometer left there in the previous year showed -73 deg., which was rather less than Scott had expected.
After the day's rest the loads were re-organized, the stronger ponies taking on about 580 lbs., while the others had rather over 400 lbs. as their burden; and refreshed by their holiday all of them marched into the next camp without any signs of exhaustion. By this time frost-bites were frequent, both Oates and P.O. Evans being victims, while Meares, when told [Page 338] that his nose was 'gone,' remarked that he was tired of it and that it would thaw out by and by!
Hopes and fears concerning the ponies naturally alternated on such a journey, and the latter predominated when Scott wrote on November 18 from Camp 14. 'The ponies are not pulling well. The surface is, if anything, a little worse than yesterday, but I should think about the sort of thing we shall have to expect henceforward.... It's touch and go whether we scrape up to the Glacier; meanwhile we get along somehow.'
During the next two marches, however, the ponies, in spite of rather bad surfaces, did wonderfully well, and both Jehu and Chinaman began to be regarded with real admiration, Jehu being re-christened 'The Barrier Wonder' and Chinaman 'The Thunderbolt.' Again Scott began to take a hopeful view of getting through, unless the surfaces became infinitely worse.
While on the way to Camp 17 Scott's detachment found E. Evans and his party in Lat. 80 deg. 32', and heard that they had been waiting for six days, which they had spent in building a tremendous cairn. All of them looked very fit, but they were also very hungry—an informing fact, as it proved conclusively that a ration which was ample for the needs of men leading ponies, was nothing like enough for those who were doing hard pulling work. Thus the provision that Scott had made for summit work received a full justification, though even with the rations that were [Page 339] to be taken he had no doubt that hunger would attack the party.
After some discussion it was decided to take Evans' motor party on in advance for three days, and then that Day and Hooper should return.
Good, steady progress was made on the next two marches, and at Camp 19 they were within 150 geographical miles of the Glacier. 'But it is still rather touch and go. If one or more ponies were to go rapidly down hill we might be in queer street.'
Then at Camp 20 came the end of the gallant Jehu. 'We did the usual march very easily over a fairly good surface, the ponies now quite steady and regular. Since the junction with the Motor Party the procedure has been for the man-hauling people to go forward just ahead of the crocks, the other party following two or three hours later. To-day we closed less than usual, so the crocks must have been going very well. However, the fiat had already gone forth, and this morning (November 24) after the march poor old Jehu was led back on the track and shot. After our doubts as to his reaching Hut Point, it is wonderful to think that he has actually got eight marches beyond our last year limit, and could have gone more. However, towards the end he was pulling very little, and on the whole it is merciful to have ended his life. Chinaman seems to improve and will certainly last a good many days yet. I feel we ought to get through now. Day and Hooper leave us to-night.'
[Page 340] Referring to Jehu in his diary Cherry-Garrard re-marked how much Scott felt 'this kind of thing,' and how cut up Atkinson was at the loss of his pony.
After Day and Hooper had turned back the party was re-arranged and started together. The man-haulers, Atkinson, E. Evans and Lashly, went ahead with their gear on the 10-foot sledge, then came Wright with Chinaman and Keohane with James Pigg, the rest following close behind them. But although the two crocks had not been given their usual start, they stuck to their work so gallantly that at the finish they were less than a quarter of a mile behind.
At Camp 22, in Lat. 81 deg. 35' the Middle Barrier Depot was made, and as they did not leave until 3 A.M. they were gradually getting back to day-marching. The next stage, however, of their journey was struggled through under the greatest difficulties. At the start the surface was bad, and the man-haulers in front made such heavy weather of it that they were repeatedly overtaken. This threw the ponies out and prolonged the march so much that six hours were spent in reaching the lunch camp. But bad as the first part of the march had been, the latter part was even worse. The advance party started on ski, but had the greatest difficulty in keeping a course; and presently snow began to fall heavily with a rise of temperature, and the ski became hopelessly clogged. At this time the surface was terribly hard for pulling, and the man-haulers also found it impossible to steer. The march of 13 miles was eventually completed, but under [Page 341] the most harassing circumstances and with very tired animals.
'Our forage supply necessitates that we should plug on the 13 (geographical) miles daily under all conditions, so that we can only hope for better things. It is several days since we had a glimpse of land, which makes conditions especially gloomy. A tired animal makes a tired man, I find, and none of us are very bright now after the day's march.'
No improvement in the weather was in store for them on the following day (November 28), for snowstorms swept over them, the driving snow not only preventing them from seeing anything, but also hitting them stingingly in their faces. Chinaman was shot on this night, but in struggling on until he was within go miles of the Glacier he had done more than was ever expected of him; and with only four bags of forage left the end of all the ponies was very near at hand.
During the march to Camp 25, Lat. 82 deg. 21', 'the most unexpected and trying summer blizzard yet experienced in this region' ceased, and prospects improved in every respect. While they were marching the land showed up hazily, and at times looked remarkably close to them. 'Land shows up almost ahead now,' Scott wrote on the 29th, 'and our pony goal is less than 70 miles away. The ponies are tired, but I believe all have five days' work left in them, and some a great deal more.... It follows that the dogs can be employed, rested and fed well on the homeward track. We could really get through now [Page 342] with their help and without much delay, yet every consideration makes it desirable to save the men from heavy hauling as long as possible. So I devoutly hope the 70 miles will come in the present order of things.'
Snippets and Nobby by this time walked by themselves, but both of them kept a continually cunning eye upon their driver, and if he stopped they at once followed his example. It was, Scott admitted, a relief no longer to have to lead his animal, for fond of Snippets as he was, the vagaries of the animal were annoying when on the march. Thursday, November 30, brought most pleasant weather with it, but the surface was so bad that all of the ponies, with the exception of Nobby, began to show obvious signs of failure. A recurrence of 'sinking crusts' (areas which gave way with a report) was encountered, and the ponies very often sank nearly to their knees.
At Camp 27 Nobby was the only pony who did not show signs of extreme exhaustion, but forage was beginning to get so scarce that even Nobby had nearly reached the end of his life. On this night (December 1) Christopher was shot, and by no possibility could he be much regretted, for he had given nothing but trouble at the outset, and as soon as his spirits began to fail his strength had also disappeared. 'He has been a great disappointment,' Cherry-Garrard wrote, 'even James Pigg has survived him.'
A depot, called the Southern Barrier Depot, was left at Camp 27, so that no extra weight was added to the loads of the other ponies. 'Three more marches [Page 343] ought to carry us through. With the seven crocks and the dog teams we must get through, I think. The men alone ought not to have heavy loads on the surface, which is extremely trying.'
On the morning of the 1st Nobby had been tried in snow-shoes, and for about four miles had traveled splendidly upon them, but then the shoes racked and had to be taken off; nevertheless, in Scott's opinion, there was no doubt that snow-shoes were the thing for ponies, and that if his ponies had been able to use them from the beginning their condition would have been very different from what it was.
From Camp 28, Lat. 83 deg., Scott wrote, 'Started under very bad weather conditions. The stratus spreading over from the S.E. last night meant mischief, and all day we marched in falling snow with a horrible light.... The ponies were sinking deep in a wretched surface. I suggested to Oates that he should have a roving commission to watch the animals, but he much preferred to lead one, so I handed over Snippets very willingly and went on ski myself.' This he found such easy work, that he had time to take several photographs of the ponies as they plunged through the snow. But in the afternoon they found a better surface, and Scott, who was leading, had to travel at a very steady pace to keep the lead.
When this march had finished they had reached the 83rd parallel, and were 'practically safe to get through.' But with forage becoming scarcer and scarcer poor Bictor—to the great sorrow of Bowers, [Page 344] who was very fond of him—had to be shot. Six ponies remained, and as the dogs were doing splendidly, the chances of the party reaching the Glacier were excellent if only they could see their way to it. Wild in his diary of Shackleton's journey remarked on December 15 that it was the first day for a month on which he could not record splendid weather. With Scott's party, however, a fine day had been the exception rather than the rule, and the journey had been one almost perpetual fight against bad weather and bad surfaces.
The tent parties at this date were made up of (1) Scott, Wilson, Oates and Keohane; (2) Bowers, P.O. Evans, Cherry-Garrard and Crean; (3) man-haulers, E. R. Evans, Atkinson, Wright and Lashly. 'We have all taken to horse meat and are so well fed that hunger isn't thought of.'
At 2.30 A.M. on Sunday, December 3, Scott, intending to get away at 5, roused all hands, but their bad luck in the way of weather once more delayed the start. At first there seemed to be just a chance that they might be able to march, but while they were having breakfast a full gale blew up from the south; 'the strongest wind I have known here in summer.' In a very short time the pony wall was blown down, the sledges were buried, and huge drifts had collected. In heavy drift everyone turned out to make up the pony walls, but the flanking wall was blown down three times before the job was completed. About mid-day the weather improved and soon afterwards the clouds broke and the land appeared; and when they got away at [Page 345] 2 P.M., the sun was shining brightly. But this pleasant state of affairs was only destined to last for one short hour; after that snow again began to fall, and marching conditions became supremely horrible. The wind increased from the S.E., changed to S. W., where for a time it remained, and then suddenly shifted to W.N.W., and afterwards to N.N.W., from which direction it continued to blow with falling and drifting snow. But in spite of these rapid and absolutely bewildering changes of conditions they managed to get 11-1/2 miles south and to Camp 29 at 7 P.M. The man-haulers, however, camped after six miles, for they found it impossible to steer a course. 'We (Scott and Bowers) steered with compass, the drifting snow across our ski, and occasional glimpses of southeasterly sastrugi under them, till the sun showed dimly for the last hour or so. The whole weather conditions seem thoroughly disturbed, and if they continue so when we are on the Glacier, we shall be very awkwardly placed. It is really time the luck turned in our favor—we have had all too little of it. Every mile seems to have been hardly won under such conditions. The ponies did splendidly and the forage is lasting a little better than expected... we should have no difficulty whatever as regards transport if only the weather was kind.' On the following day the weather was still in a bad mood, for no sooner had they got on their gear for the start than a thick blizzard from the S.S.E. arrived. Quickly everyone started to build fresh walls for the ponies, an uninviting task enough in a regular white flowing blizzard, but one which added [Page 346] greatly to the comfort of the animals, who looked sleepy and bored, but not at all cold. Just as the walls were finished the man-haulers came into camp, having been assisted in their course by the tracks that the other parties had made.
Fortunately the wind moderated in the forenoon and by 2 P.M. they were off and in six hours had placed 13 more miles to their credit. During this march the land was quite clearly in view, and several uncharted glaciers of large dimensions were seen. The mountains were rounded in outline, very massive, with excrescent peaks, one or two of the peaks on the foothills standing bare and almost perpendicular. Ahead of them was the ice-rounded, boulder-strewn Mount Hope and the gateway to the Glacier. 'We should reach it easily enough on to-morrow's march if we can compass 12 miles.... We have only lost 5 or 6 miles on these two wretched days, but the disturbed condition of the weather makes me anxious with regard to the Glacier, where more than anywhere we shall need fine days. One has a horrid feeling that this is a real bad season. However, sufficient for the day is the evil thereof. We are practically through with the first stage of our journey. Looking from the last Camp (29) towards the S.S.E., where the farthest land can be seen, it seemed more than probable that a very high latitude could be reached on the Barrier, and if Amundsen journeying that way has a stroke of luck, he may well find his summit journey reduced to 100 miles or so. In any case it is a fascinating direction for next year's work, if only fresh transport arrives.'
[Page 347] On this day, December 4, the ponies marched splendidly, crossing the deep snow in the undulations without any difficulty, and had food been plentiful enough there was no doubt that they could have gone on for many more miles. As it was 'gallant little Michael' had to be sacrificed when the march was over. 'He walked away,' Cherry-Garrard wrote, 'and rolled on the way down, not having done so when we got in. He died quite instantaneously. He was just like a naughty child all the way and pulled all out; he has been a good friend and has a good record, 83 deg. 22' S. He was a bit done to-day, the blizzard had knocked him.'
By night the weather looked very uninviting, and they woke to find a raging, howling blizzard. Previously the winds that had so constantly bothered them had lacked that very fine powdery snow which is usually an especial feature of a blizzard, but on this occasion they got enough and to spare of it. Anyone who went into the open for a minute or two was covered from head to foot, and as the temperature was high the snow stuck where it fell. The heads, tails and legs of the ponies were covered with ice, and they had to stand deep in snow. The sledges were almost covered, and there were huge drifts about the tent. It was a scene on which no one wanted to look longer than he could help, and after they had rebuilt the pony walls they retreated sadly and soppingly into their bags. Even the small satisfaction of being able to see from one tent to another was denied them, and Scott, while asking what on earth such weather could mean at this [Page 348] time of year, stated emphatically that no party could possibly travel against such a wind.
'Is there,' he asked, 'some widespread atmospheric disturbance which will be felt everywhere in this region as a bad season, or are we merely the victims of exceptional local conditions? If the latter, there is food for thought in picturing our small party struggling against adversity in one place whilst others go smilingly forward in sunshine. How great may be the element of luck! No foresight—no procedure—could have prepared us for this state of affairs. Had we been ten times as experienced or certain of our aim we should not have expected such rebuffs.'
The snowfall on this day (December 5) was quite the greatest that Scott remembered, the drifts about the tents being colossal. And to add to their misery and misfortune the temperature remained so high that the snow melted if it fell on anything except snow, with the result that tents, wind clothes, night boots, &c., were all wet through; while water, dripping from the tent poles and door, lay on the floor, soaked the sleeping-bags, and made the situation inconceivably miserable. In the midst of this slough, however, Keohane had the spirit to make up a rhyme, which is worth quoting mainly, if not solely, because of the conditions under which it was produced:
The snow is all melting and everything's afloat, If this goes on much longer we shall have to turn the tent upside down and use it as a boat.
The next day Scott described as 'miserable, [Page 349] utterly miserable. We have camped in the "Slough of Despond."' When within twelve miles of the Glacier it was indeed the most cruel fortune to be held up by such a raging tempest. The temperature at noon had risen to 33 deg., and everything was more soakingly wet than ever, if that was possible. The ponies, too, looked utterly desolate, and the snow climbed higher and higher about the walls, tents and sledges. At night signs of a break came, but hopes of marching again were dashed on the following morning, when the storm continued and the situation became most serious; after this day only one small feed remained for the ponies, so that they had either to march or to sacrifice all the animals. That, however, was not the most serious part, for with the help of the dogs they could without doubt have got on. But what troubled Scott most intensely was that they had on this morning (December 7) started on their summit rations, or, in other words, the food calculated to take them on from the Glacier depot had been begun.
In the meantime the storm showed no signs of abatement, and its character was as unpleasant as ever. 'I can find no sign of an end, and all of us agree that it is utterly impossible to move. Resignation to this misfortune is the only attitude, but not an easy one to adopt. It seems undeserved where plans were well laid, and so nearly crowned with a first success.... The margin for bad weather was ample according to all experience, and this stormy December—our finest month—is a thing that the most cautious organizer [Page 350] might not have been prepared to encounter.... There cannot be good cheer in the camp in such weather, but it is ready to break out again. In the brief spell of hope last night one heard laughter.'
Hour after hour passed with little or no improvement, and as every hour of inactivity was a real menace to the success of their plans, no one can wonder that they chafed over this most exasperating delay. Under ordinary circumstances it would have been melancholy enough to watch the mottled, wet, green walls of their tents and to hear the everlasting patter of the falling snow and the ceaseless rattle of the fluttering canvas, but when the prospect of failure of their cherished plan was added to the acute discomforts of the situation, it is scarcely possible to imagine how totally miserable they must have been both in body and mind. Nevertheless in the midst of these distressing conditions Scott managed to write, 'But yet, after all, one can go on striving, endeavoring to find a stimulation in the difficulties that arise.'
Friday morning, however, did not bring any cause for hope. The snow was still falling heavily, and they found themselves lying in pools of water that squelched whenever they moved. Under such circumstances it was a relief to get outside, shift the tents and dig out the sledges. All of the tents had been reduced to the smallest space by the gradual pressure of snow, the old sites being deep pits with hollowed, icy, wet centers. The re-setting of them at least made things more comfortable, and as the [Page 351] wind dropped about mid-day and a few hours later the sky showed signs of breaking, hope once more revived; but soon afterwards snow was falling again, and the position was rapidly becoming absolutely desperate.
To test the surface the man-haulers tried to pull a load during the afternoon, and although it proved a tough job they managed to do it by pulling in ski. On foot the men sank to their knees, and an attempt to see what Nobby could do under such circumstances was anything but encouraging.
Writing in the evening Scott said, 'Wilson thinks the ponies finished, but Oates thinks they will get another march in spite of the surface, if it comes to-morrow. If it should not, we must kill the ponies to-morrow and get on as best we can with the men on ski and the dogs. But one wonders what the dogs can do on such a surface. I much fear they also will prove inadequate. Oh! for fine weather, if only to the Glacier.'
By 11 P.M. the wind had gone to the north, and the sky at last began really to break. The temperature also helped matters by falling to +26 deg., and in consequence the water nuisance began to abate; and at the prospect of action on the following morning cheerful sounds were once more heard in the camp. 'The poor ponies look wistfully for the food of which so very little remains, yet they are not hungry, as recent savings have resulted from food left in their nose-bags. They look wonderfully fit, all things [Page 352] considered. Everything looks more hopeful to-night, but nothing can recall four lost days.' During the night Scott turned out two or three times to find the weather slowly improving, and at 8 o'clock on December 9 they started upon a most terrible march to Camp 31.
The tremendous snowfall had made the surface intolerably soft, and the half-fed animals sank deeper and deeper. None of them could be led for more than a few minutes, but if they were allowed to follow the poor beasts did fairly well. Soon, however, it began to seem as if no real headway could be made, and so the man-haulers were pressed into the service to try and improve matters.
Bowers and Cherry-Garrard went ahead with one 10-foot sledge and made a track—thus most painfully a mile or so was gained. Then when it seemed as if the limit had been reached P.O. Evans saved the situation by putting the last pair of snow-shoes upon Snatcher, who at once began to go on without much pressure, and was followed by the other ponies.
No halt was made for lunch, but after three or four laborious miles they found themselves engulfed in pressures which added to the difficulties of their march. Still, however, they struggled on, and by 8 P.M. they were within a mile of the slope ascending to the gap, which Shackleton called the Gateway. This gateway was a neck or saddle of drifted snow lying in a gap of the mountain rampart which flanked the last curve of the Glacier, and Scott had hoped to be through it at a much earlier date, as indeed he [Page 353] would have been had not the prolonged storm delayed him.
By this time the ponies, one and all, were quite exhausted. 'They came on painfully slowly a few hundred yards at a time.... I was hauling ahead, a ridiculously light load, and yet finding the pulling heavy enough. We camped, and the ponies have been shot. Poor beasts! they have done wonderfully well considering the terrible circumstances under which they worked.'
On December 8 Wilson wrote in his journal, 'I have kept Nobby all my biscuits to-night as he has to try to do a march to-morrow, and then happily he will be shot and all of them, as their food is quite done.' And on the following day he added: 'Nobby had all my biscuits last night and this morning, and by the time we camped I was just ravenously hungry.... Thank God the horses are now all done with and we begin the heavy work ourselves.'
This Camp 31 received the name of Shambles Camp, and although the ponies had not, owing to the storm, reached the distance Scott had expected, yet he, and all who had taken part in that distressing march, were relieved to know that the sufferings of their plucky animals had at last come to an end.
[Page 354] CHAPTER VIII
ON THE BEARDMORE GLACIER
In thrilling region of thick ribbed ice To be imprison'd in the viewless winds And blown with restless violence round about. —SHAKESPEARE.
On the death of the ponies at Camp 31 the party was reorganized, and for some days advanced in the following order:
Sledge 1. Scott, Wilson, Oates and P.O. Evans. Sledge 2. E. Evans, Atkinson, Wright and Lashly. Sledge 3. Bowers, Cherry-Garrard, Crean and Keohane; with Meares and Demetri continuing to drive the dogs.
When leaving this Camp Scott was very doubtful whether the loads could be pulled over such an appalling surface, and that success attended their efforts was due mainly to the ski. The start was delayed by the readjustments that had to be made, but when they got away at noon, and with a 'one, two, three together' Scott's party began to pull their sledge, they were most agreeably surprised to find it running fairly easily [Page 355] behind them. The first mile was gained in about half an hour, but then they began to rise, and soon afterwards with the slope becoming steeper and the surface getting worse they had to take off their ski. After this the pulling was extraordinarily exhausting, for they sank above their finnesko, and in some places nearly up to their knees.
The runners of the sledges became coated with a thin film of ice from which it was impossible to free them, and the sledges themselves sank in soft spots to the cross-bars. At 5 P.M. they reached the top of the slope, and after tea started on the down grade. On this they had to pull almost as vigorously as on the upward slope, but they could just manage to get along on ski.
Evans and his party, however, were unable to keep up the pace set by the leaders, and when they camped at 9.15 Scott heard some news that thoroughly alarmed him. 'It appears,' he wrote, 'that Atkinson says that Wright is getting played out, and Lashly is not so fit as he was owing to the heavy pulling since the blizzard. I have not felt satisfied about this party. The finish of the march to-day showed clearly that something was wrong.... True, the surface was awful and growing worse every moment. It is a very serious business if the men are going to crack up. As for myself, I never felt fitter and my party can easily hold its own. P.O. Evans, of course, is a tower of strength, but Oates and Wilson are doing splendidly also.'
Round the spot where Camp 32 had been pitched [Page 356] the snow was appallingly deep and soft. 'Every step here one sinks to the knees, and the uneven surface is obviously insufficient to support the sledges.' A wind, however, had sprung up, and though under ordinary circumstances it would have been far from welcome, on this occasion it was a blessing because it hardened the snow; and a good surface was all the more necessary because, after half another march, Meares and Demetri were to return with the dogs, and in consequence 200 lbs. would have to be added to each sledge-load.
Before starting from Camp 32 they built a depot (the Lower Glacier depot), made it very conspicuous, and left a good deal of gear there. Then at the very beginning of their march they got into big pressure, and must have passed over several crevasses. After four hours, however, they were clear of the pressure, and then they said good-bye to Meares and Demetri, who took back a note from Scott to say that 'Things are not so rosy as they might be, but we keep our spirits up and say the luck must turn. This is only to tell you that I find I can keep up with the rest as well as of old.'
The start after lunch was anxious work, for the question whether they could pull their loads had to be answered. Scott's party went away first, and, to their joy, found that they could make fairly good headway. Every now and again the sledge sank in a soft patch which brought them up, and then they got sideways to the sledge and hauled it out. 'We learned,' Scott wrote on December 11, at Camp 33, [Page 357] 'to treat such occasions with patience.... The great thing is to keep the sledge moving, and for an hour or more there were dozens of critical moments when it all but stopped, and not a few when it brought up altogether. The latter were very trying and tiring. But suddenly the surface grew more uniform and we more accustomed to the game, for after a long stop to let the other parties come up, I started at 6 and ran on till 7, pulling easily without a halt at the rate of about 2 miles an hour. I was very jubilant; all difficulties seemed to be vanishing; but unfortunately our history was not repeated with the other parties. Bowers came up half an hour after us. They also had done well at the last, and I'm pretty sure they will get on all right. Keohane is the only weak spot, and he only, I think, because temporarily blind. But Evans' party didn't get up till 10. They started quite well, but got into difficulties, did just the wrong thing by straining again and again, and so, tiring themselves, went from bad to worse. Their ski shoes, too, are out of trim.'
During the morning of the 12th they steered for the Commonwealth Range until they reached about the middle of the glacier and then the course was altered for the 'Cloudmaker,' and afterwards still further to the west. In consequence they got a much better view of the southern side of the main glacier than Shackleton's party had obtained, and a number of peaks not noticed previously were observed. On the first stage of this march Scott's party was bogged time after [Page 358] time, and do what they could their sledge dragged like a huge lump of lead. Evans' team had been sent off in advance and kept well ahead until lunch-time. Then, when Scott admits being 'pretty well cooked,' the secret of their trouble was disclosed in a thin film with some hard knots of ice on the runners of the sledge; these impediments having been removed they went ahead without a hitch, and in a mile or two resumed their leading position. As they advanced it became more and more evident that, with the whole of the lower valley filled with snow from the storm, they would have been bogged had they been without ski. 'On foot one sinks to the knees, and if pulling on a sledge to half-way between knee and thigh.'
Scott's hope was that they would get better conditions as they rose, but on the next march the surface became worse instead of better, the sledges simply plunging into the soft places and stopping dead. So slow in fact was the progress they made, that on his sledge Scott decided at lunch to try the 10-foot runners under the cross-bars, for the sledge was sinking so deeply that the cross-pieces were on the surface and acting as brakes. Three hours were spent in securing the runners, and then Scott's party started and promptly saw what difficulties the other teams were having.
In spite of the most desperate efforts to get along, Bowers and his men were so constantly bogged that Scott soon passed them. But the toil was awful, because the snow with the sun shining and a high temperature [Page 359] had become very wet and sticky, and again and again the sledge got one runner on harder snow than the other, canted on its side, and refused to move. At the top of the rise Evans' party was reduced to relay work, and shortly afterwards Bowers was compelled to adopt the same plan. 'We,' Scott says, 'got our whole load through till 7 P.M., camping time, but only with repeated halts and labour which was altogether too strenuous. The other parties certainly cannot get a full load along on the surface, and I much doubt if we could continue to do so, but we must try again to-morrow. I suppose we have advanced a bare four miles to-day and the aspect of things is very little changed. Our height is now about 1,500 feet.'
On the following morning Evans' party got off first from Camp 35, and after stiff hauling for an hour or so found the work much easier than on the previous day. Bowers' contingent followed without getting along so well, and so Scott, whose party were having no difficulty with their load, exchanged sledges with them, and a satisfactory morning's march was followed by still better work in the afternoon, eleven or twelve miles being gained. 'I think the soft snow trouble is at an end, and I could wish nothing better than a continuance of the present surface. Towards the end of the march we were pulling our load with the greatest ease. It is splendid to be getting along and to find some adequate return for the work we are putting into the business.'
At Camp 37, on Friday, December 15, they had [Page 360] reached a height of about 2,500 feet, after a march on which the surface steadily improved and the snow covering over the blue ice became thinner and thinner. During the afternoon they found that at last they could start their sledges by giving one good heave, and so, for the first time, they were at liberty to stop when they liked without the fear of horrible jerks before they could again set the sledge going. Patches of ice and hard neve were beginning to show through in places, and had not the day's work been interrupted by a snowstorm at 5 P.M. their march would have been a really good one, but, as it was, eleven more miles had to be put to their credit. The weather looked, however, very threatening as they turned in for the night, and Scott expressed a fervent hope that they were not going to be afflicted by snowstorms as they approached the worst part of the glacier.
As was to be expected after the storm they found the surface difficult when the march was resumed, but by sticking to their work for over ten hours—'the limit of time to be squeezed into one day'—they covered eleven miles, and altered greatly the aspect of the glacier. Beginning the march as usual on ski, they had to take them off in the afternoon because they struck such a peculiarly difficult surface that the sledges were constantly being brought up. Then on foot they made better progress, though no advance could be made without the most strenuous labour. The brittle crust would hold for a pace or two, and then let them down with a bump, while now and again a leg went down a crack in the hard ice underneath. So [Page 361] far, since arriving among the disturbances, which increased rapidly towards the end of the march, they had not encountered any very alarming crevasses, though a large quantity of small ones could be seen.
At the end of the march to Camp 39, Scott was able to write, 'For once we can say "Sufficient for the day is the good thereof." Our luck may be on the turn—I think we deserve it. In spite of the hard work everyone is very fit and very cheerful, feeling well fed and eager for more toil. Eyes are much better except poor Wilson's; he has caught a very bad attack. Remembering his trouble on our last Southern journey, I fear he is in for a very bad time.... I'm inclined to think that the summit trouble will be mostly due to the chill falling on sunburned skins. Even now one feels the cold strike directly one stops. We get fearfully thirsty and chip up ice on the march, as well as drinking a great deal of water on halting. Our fuel only just does it, but that is all we want, and we have a bit in hand for the summit.... We have worn our crampons all day (December 17) and are delighted with them. P.O. Evans, the inventor of both crampons and ski shoes, is greatly pleased, and certainly we owe him much.'
On the 19th, although snow fell on and off during the whole day and crevasses were frequent, a splendid march of 14 miles was accomplished. The sledges ran fairly well if only the haulers could keep their feet, but on the rippled ice which they were crossing it was impossible to get anything like a firm foothold. Still, however, they stuck most splendidly to their [Page 362] task, and on the following day even a better march was made to Camp 41.
Starting on a good surface they soon came to a number of criss-cross cracks, into two of which Scott fell and badly bruised his knee and thigh. Then they reached an admirably smooth ice surface over which they traveled at an excellent pace. A long hour was spent over the halt for lunch, during which angles, photographs and sketches were taken, and continuing to make progress in the second part of the day's march they finished up with a gain of 17 miles. 'It has not been a strain except perhaps for me with my wounds received early in the day. The wind has kept us cool on the march, which has in consequence been very much pleasanter.... Days like this put heart in one.'
On Wednesday, December 20, however, the good marches of the previous two days were put entirely into the shade by one of nearly 23 miles, during which they rose 800 feet. Pulling the sledges in crampons was not at all difficult on the hard snow and on hard ice with patches of snow. At night they camped in Lat. 84 deg. 59' 6", and then Scott had to perform a task that he most cordially disliked. 'I have just told off the people to return to-morrow night: Atkinson, Wright, Cherry-Garrard and Keohane. All are disappointed—poor Wright rather bitterly, I fear. I dreaded this necessity of choosing—nothing could be more heartrending. I calculated our program to start from 85 deg. 10' with twelve units of food and [Page 363] eight men. We ought to be in this position to-morrow night, less one day's food. After all our harassing trouble one cannot but be satisfied with such a prospect.'
[Footnote 1: A unit of food means a week's supplies for four men.]
The next stage of the journey, though accomplished without accident, was too exciting to be altogether pleasant, for crevasses were frequent and falls not at all uncommon. And at mid-day, while they were in the worst of places, a fog rolled up and kept them in their tents for nearly three hours.
During this enforced delay, Scott wrote a letter which was taken back by the returning party.
'December 21, 1911, Lat. 85 deg. S. We are struggling on, considering all things, against odds. The weather is a constant anxiety, otherwise arrangements are working exactly as planned.
'For your ear also I am exceedingly fit and can go with the best of them.
'It is a pity the luck doesn't come our way, because every detail of equipment is right... but all will be well if we can get through to the Pole.
'I write this sitting in our tent waiting for the fog to clear, an exasperating position as we are in the worst crevassed region. Teddy Evans and Atkinson were down to the length of their harness this morning, and we have all been half-way down. As first man I get first chance, and it's decidedly exciting not knowing which step will give way. Still all this is interesting enough if one could only go on.
'Since writing the above I made a dash for it; got out of the valley out of the fog and away from [Page 364] crevasses. So here we are practically on the summit and up to date in the provision line. We ought to get through.'
After the fog had cleared off they soon got out of the worst crevasses, and on to a snow slope that led past Mount Darwin. The pull up the slope was long and stiff, but by holding on until 7.30 P.M. they got off a good march and found a satisfactory place for their depot. Fortunately the weather was both calm and bright, and all the various sorting arrangements that had to be made before the returning party left them were carried out under most favorable conditions. 'For me,' Scott says, 'it is an immense relief to have the indefatigable little Bowers to see to all detail arrangements of this sort,' and on the following day he added, 'we said an affecting farewell to the returning party, who have taken things very well, dear good fellows as they are.'
Then the reorganized parties (Scott, Wilson, Oates and P.O. Evans; Bowers, E. R. Evans, Crean and Lashly) started off with their heavy loads, and any fears they had about their ability to pull them were soon removed.
'It was a sad job saying good-bye,' Cherry-Garrard wrote in his diary, 'and I know some eyes were a bit dim. It was thick and snowing when we started after making the depot, and the last we saw of them as we swung the sledge north, was a black dot just disappearing over the next ridge, and a big white pressure wave ahead of them.'
[Page 365] Then the returning party set off on their homeward march, and arrived at Cape Evans on January 28, 1912, after being away for three months.
Repairs to the sledgemeter delayed the advancing party for some time during their first march under the new conditions, but they managed to cover twelve miles, and, with the loads becoming lighter every day, Scott hoped to march longer hours and to make the requisite progress. Steering, however, south-west on the next morning they soon found themselves among such bad crevasses and pressure, that they were compelled to haul out to the north, and then to the west. One comfort was that all the time they were rising. 'It is rather trying having to march so far to the west, but if we keep rising we must come to the end of the disturbance some time.' During the second part of this march great changes of fortune awaited them. At first they started west up a slope, and on the top another pressure appeared on the left, but less lofty and more snow-covered than that which had troubled them in the morning. There was temptation to try this, but Scott resisted it and turned west up yet another slope, on the top of which they reached a most extraordinary surface. Narrow crevasses, that were quite invisible, ran in all directions. All of these crevasses were covered with a thin crust of hardened neve which had not a sign of a crack in it. One after another, and sometimes two at a time, they all fell in; and though they were getting fairly accustomed to unexpected falls through being unable to mark the run of [Page 366] the surface appearances of cracks, or where such cracks were covered with soft snow, they had never expected to find a hardened crust formed over a crack, and such a surface was as puzzling as it was dangerous and troublesome.
For about ten minutes or so, while they were near these narrow crevasses, they came on to snow which had a hard crust and loose crystals below it, and each step was like breaking through a glass-house. And then, quite suddenly, the hard surface gave place to regular sastrugi, and their horizon leveled in every direction. At 6 P.M., when they reached Camp 45 (height about 7,750 feet), 17 miles stood to their credit and Scott was feeling 'very cheerful about everything.' 'My determination,' he said, 'to keep mounting irrespective of course is fully justified, and I shall be indeed surprised if we have any further difficulties with crevasses or steep slopes. To me for the first time our goal seems really in sight.'
On the following day (Christmas Eve) they did not find a single crevasse, but high pressure ridges were still to be seen, and Scott confessed that he should be glad to lose sight of such disturbances. Christmas Day, however, brought more trouble from crevasses—'very hard, smooth neve between high ridges at the edge of crevasses, and therefore very difficult to get foothold to pull the sledges.' To remedy matters they got out their ski sticks, but this did not prevent several of them from going half-down; while Lashly, disappearing completely, had to be pulled out by [Page 367] means of the Alpine rope. 'Lashly says the crevasse was 50 feet deep and 8 feet across, in form U, showing that the word "unfathomable" can rarely be applied. Lashly is 44 to-day and as hard as nails. His fall has not even disturbed his equanimity.'
When, however, they had reached the top of the crevasse ridge a better surface was found, and their Christmas lunch—at which they had such luxuries as chocolate and raisins—was all the more enjoyable because 8 miles or so had already been gained.
In the middle of the afternoon they got a fine view of the land, but more trouble was caused by crevasses, until towards the end of their march they got free of them and on to a slight decline down which they progressed at a swinging pace. Then they camped and prepared for their great Christmas meal. 'I must,' Scott says, 'write a word of our supper last night. We had four courses. The first, pemmican, full whack, with slices of horse meat flavored with onion and curry powder, and thickened with biscuit; then an arrowroot, cocoa and biscuit hoosh sweetened; then a plum-pudding; then cocoa with raisins, and finally a dessert of caramels and ginger. After the feast it was difficult to move. Wilson and I couldn't finish our share of plum-pudding. We have all slept splendidly and feel thoroughly warm—such is the effect of full feeding.'
The advance, possibly owing to the 'tightener' on Christmas night, was a little slow on the following morning, but nevertheless 15 miles were covered [Page 368] in the day and the 86th parallel was reached. Crevasses still appeared, and though they avoided them on this march, they were not so lucky during the next stage to Camp 49.
In fact Wednesday, December 27, was unfortunate owing to several reasons. To begin with, Bowers broke the only hypsometer thermometer, and so they were left with nothing to check their two aneroids. Then during the first part of the march they got among sastrugi which jerked the sledges about, and so tired out the second team that they had great difficulty in keeping up. And, finally, they found more crevasses and disturbances during the afternoon. For an hour the work was as painful as it could be, because they tumbled into the crevasses and got the most painful jerks. 'Steering the party,' Scott wrote at Camp 49, 'is no light task. One cannot allow one's thoughts to wander as others do, and when, as this afternoon, one gets amongst disturbances, I find it very worrying and tiring. I do trust we shall have no more of them. We have not lost sight of the sun since we came on the summit; we should get an extraordinary record of sunshine. It is monotonous work this; the sledgemeter and theodolite govern the situation.'
During the next morning the second sledge made such 'heavy weather' that Scott changed places with E. R. Evans. That, however, did not improve matters much, for Scott soon found that the second team had [Page 369] not the same swing as his own team, so he changed Lashly for P.O. Evans, and then they seemed to get on better. At lunch-time they discussed the difficulties that the second party was having, and several reasons for them were put forward. One was that the team was stale, another that all the trouble was due to bad stepping and want of swing, and yet another was that the first's party's sledge pulled much more easily than the second party's.
On the chance that this last suggestion was correct, Scott and his original team took the second party's sledge in the afternoon, and soon found that it was a terrible drag to get it along in soft snow, whereas the second party found no difficulty in pulling the sledge that had been given to them. 'So the sledge is the cause of the trouble, and taking it out, I found that all is due to want of care. The runners ran excellently, but the structure has been distorted by bad strapping, bad loading, &c. The party are not done, and I have told them plainly that they must wrestle with the trouble and get it right for themselves.'
Friday evening found them at Camp 51, and at a height of about 9,000 feet, But they had encountered a very bad surface, on which the strain of pulling was terrific. The hardest work occurred on two rises, because the loose snow had been blown over the rises and had rested on the north-facing slopes, and these heaps were responsible for the worst of their troubles. However, there was one satisfactory result of the [Page 370] march, for now that the second party had seen to the loading of their sledge they had ceased to lag.
But the next stage was so exhausting that Scott's fears for the conditions of the second party again arose. Writing from Camp 52, on December 30, he says: 'To-morrow I'm going to march half a day, make a depot and build the 10-foot sledges. The second party is certainly tiring; it remains to be seen how they will manage with the smaller sledge and lighter load. The surface is certainly much worse than it was 50 miles back. (T. -10 deg..) We have caught up Shackleton's dates. Everything would be cheerful if I could persuade myself that the second party were quite fit to go forward.'
Camp was pitched after the morning's march on December 31, and the process of building up the 10-foot sledges was at once begun by P.O. Evans and Crean. 'It is a very remarkable piece of work. Certainly P.O. Evans is the most invaluable asset to our party. To build a sledge under these conditions is a fact for special record.'
Half a day was lost while the sledges were made, but this they hoped to make up for by advancing at much greater speed. A depot, called 'Three Degree Depot,' consisting of a week's provision for both units, was made at this camp, and on New Year's morning, with lighter loads, Evans' party led the advance on foot, while Scott's team followed on ski. With a stick of chocolate to celebrate the New Year, and with only 170 miles between them and the Pole, prospects [Page 371] seemed to be getting brighter on New Year's night, and on the next evening at Camp 55 Scott decided that E. R. Evans, Lashly and Crean should go back after one more march.
Writing from Camp 56 he says, 'They are disappointed, but take it well. Bowers is to come into our tent, and we proceed as a five-man unit to-morrow. We have 5-1/2 units of food—practically over a month's allowance for five people—it ought to see us through.... Very anxious to see how we shall manage tomorrow; if we can march well with the full load we shall be practically safe, I take it.'
By the returning party Scott sent back a letter, dated January 3, in which he wrote, 'Lat. 87 deg. 32".' A last note from a hopeful position. I think it's going to be all right. We have a fine party going forward and arrangements are all going well.'
On the next morning the returning men followed a little way until Scott was certain that his team could get along, and then farewells were said. In referring to this parting with E. Evans, Crean and Lashly, Scott wrote, 'I was glad to find their sledge is a mere nothing to them, and thus, no doubt, they will make a quick journey back,' and under average conditions they should easily have fulfilled anticipations. But a blizzard held them up for three days before they reached the head of the glacier, and by the time they reached the foot of it E. Evans had developed symptoms of scurvy. At One Ton Camp he was unable to stand without the support of his ski sticks, [Page 372] and although, with the help of his companions, he struggled on for 53 more miles in four days, he could go no farther. Rejecting his suggestion that he should be left alone while they pressed on for help, Crean and Lashly pulled him on the sledge with a devotion matching that of their captain years before, when he and Wilson had brought Shackleton, ill and helpless, safely to the Discovery.
After four days of this pulling they reached Corner Camp, and then there was such a heavy snowfall that the sledge could not travel. In this crisis Crean set out to tramp alone to Hut Point, 34 miles away, while Lashly stayed to nurse E. Evans, and most certainly was the means of keeping him alive until help came. After a remarkable march of 18 hours Crean reached Hut Point, and as soon as possible Atkinson and Demetri started off with both dog teams to relieve Evans and Lashly. Some delay was caused by persistent bad weather, but on February 22 Evans was got back to the Discovery hut, where he was unremittingly tended by Atkinson; and subsequently he was sent by sledge to the Terra Nova. So ended the tale of the last supporting party, though, as a sequel, it is good to record that in reward for their gallant conduct both Lashly and Crean received the Albert Medal.
[Page 373] CHAPTER IX
THE SOUTH POLE
The Silence was deep with a breath like sleep As our sledge runners slid on the snow, And the fate-full fall of our fur-clad feet Struck mute like a silent blow On a questioning 'Hush?' as the settling crust Shrank shivering over the floe. And the sledge in its track sent a whisper back Which was lost in a white fog-bow.
And this was the thought that the Silence wrought, As it scorched and froze us through, For the secrets hidden are all forbidden Till God means man to know. We might be the men God meant should know The heart of the Barrier snow, In the heat of the sun, and the glow, And the glare from the glistening floe, As it scorched and froze us through and through With the bite of the drifting snow.
(These verses, called 'The Barrier Silence,' were written by Wilson for the South Polar Times. Characteristically, he sent them in typewritten, lest the editor should recognize his hand and judge them on personal rather than literary grounds. Many of their readers confess that they felt in these lines Wilson's own premonition of the event. The version given is the final form, as it appeared in the South Polar Times.)
The ages of the five men when they continued the journey to the Pole were: Scott 43, Wilson 39, P.O. Evans 37, Oates 32, Bowers 28.
[Page 374] After the departure of the last supporting party Scott was naturally anxious to get off a good day's march, and he was not disappointed. At first the sledge on which, thanks to P.O. Evans, everything was most neatly stowed away, went easily. But during the afternoon they had to do some heavy pulling on a surface covered with loose sandy snow. Nevertheless they covered some 15 miles before they camped, and so smoothly did everything seem to be going that Scott began to wonder what was in store for them. 'One can scarcely believe that obstacles will not present themselves to make our task more difficult. Perhaps the surface will be the element to trouble us.'
And on the following day his supposition began to prove correct, for a light wind from the N.N.W. brought detached cloud and a constant fall of ice crystals, and in consequence the surface was as bad as it could be. The sastrugi seemed to increase as they advanced, and late in the afternoon they encountered a very rough surface with evidences of hard southerly wind. Luckily the sledge showed no signs of capsizing, but the strain of trying to keep up a rate of a little over a mile and a quarter an hour was very great. However, they were cheered by the thought, when they reached Camp 58 (height 10,320 feet), that they were very close to the 88th parallel, and a little more than 120 miles from the Pole.
Another dreadful surface was their fate during the next march on Saturday, January 6. The sastrugi increased in height as they advanced, and presently [Page 375] they found themselves in the midst of a sea of fishhook waves, well remembered from their Northern experience. And, to add to their trouble, each sastrugus was covered with a beard of sharp branching crystals. They took off their ski and pulled on foot, but both morning and afternoon the work of getting the sledge along was tremendous. Writing at Camp 59, Latitude 88 deg. 7', Scott said, 'We think of leaving our ski here, mainly because of risk of breakage. Over the sastrugi it is all up and down hill, and the covering of ice crystals prevents the sledge from gliding even on the downgrade. The sastrugi, I fear, have come to stay, and we must be prepared for heavy marching, but in two days I hope to lighten loads with a depot. We are south of Shackleton's last camp, so, I suppose, have made the most southerly camp.'
During the next day, January 7, they had good cause to think that the vicissitudes of their work were bewildering. On account of the sastrugi the ski were left at Camp 59, but they had only marched a mile from it when the sastrugi disappeared. 'I kept debating the ski question and at this point stopped, and after discussion we went back and fetched the ski; it cost us 1-1/2 hours nearly. Marching again, I found to my horror we could scarcely move the sledge on ski; the first hour was awful owing to the wretched coating of loose sandy snow.' Consequently this march was the shortest they had made on the summit, and there was no doubt that if things remained for long they were, it would be impossible to keep up the [Page 376] strain of such strenuous pulling. Luckily, however, loads were to be lightened on the following day by a weight of about 100 lbs., and there was also hope of a better surface if only the crystal deposit would either harden up or disappear. Their food, too, was proving ample. 'What luck to have hit on such an excellent ration. We really are an excellently found party.' Indeed, apart from the strain of pulling, Scott's only anxiety on Sunday, January 7, was that Evans had a nasty cut on his hand.
They woke the next morning to find their first summit blizzard; but Scott was not in the least perturbed by this delay, because he thought that the rest would give Evans' hand a better chance of recovery, and he also felt that a day in their comfortable bags within their double-walled tent would do none of them any harm. But, both on account of lost time and food and the slow accumulation of ice, he did not want more than one day's delay.