Part 9 out of 10
Sverre H. Hassel
16 Dec. 1911.
The tent is fine--a small compact affair supported by a single
bamboo. A note from Amundsen, which I keep, asks me to forward a
letter to King Haakon!
The following articles have been left in the tent: 3 half bags of
reindeer containing a miscellaneous assortment of mits and sleeping
socks, very various in description, a sextant, a Norwegian artificial
horizon and a hypsometer without boiling-point thermometers, a sextant
and hypsometer of English make.
Left a note to say I had visited the tent with companions. Bowers
photographing and Wilson sketching. Since lunch we have marched
6.2 miles S.S.E. by compass (i.e. northwards). Sights at lunch
gave us 1/2 to 3/4 of a mile from the Pole, so we call it the Pole
Camp. (Temp. Lunch -21 deg..) We built a cairn, put up our poor slighted
Union Jack, and photographed ourselves--mighty cold work all of
it--less than 1/2 a mile south we saw stuck up an old underrunner
of a sledge. This we commandeered as a yard for a floorcloth sail. I
imagine it was intended to mark the exact spot of the Pole as near as
the Norwegians could fix it. (Height 9500.) A note attached talked of
the tent as being 2 miles from the Pole. Wilson keeps the note. There
is no doubt that our predecessors have made thoroughly sure of their
mark and fully carried out their programme. I think the Pole is about
9500 feet in height; this is remarkable, considering that in Lat. 88 deg.
we were about 10,500. We carried the Union Jack about 3/4 of a mile
north with us and left it on a piece of stick as near as we could fix
it. I fancy the Norwegians arrived at the Pole on the 15th Dec. and
left on the 17th, ahead of a date quoted by me in London as ideal,
viz. Dec. 22. It looks as though the Norwegian party expected colder
weather on the summit than they got; it could scarcely be otherwise
from Shackleton's account. Well, we have turned our back now on the
goal of our ambition and must face our 800 miles of solid dragging--and
good-bye to most of the daydreams!
The Return from the Pole
_Friday, January_ 19.--Lunch 8.1, T. -22.6 deg.. Early in the march we
picked up a Norwegian cairn and our outward tracks. We followed
these to the ominous black flag which had first apprised us of
our predecessors' success. We have picked this flag up, using the
staff for our sail, and are now camped about 1 1/2 miles further
back on our tracks. So that is the last of the Norwegians for the
present. The surface undulates considerably about this latitude;
it was more evident to-day than when we were outward bound.
Night camp R. 2.  Height 9700. T. -18.5 deg., Minimum -25.6 deg.. Came
along well this afternoon for three hours, then a rather dreary finish
for the last 1 1/2. Weather very curious, snow clouds, looking very
dense and spoiling the light, pass overhead from the S., dropping
very minute crystals; between showers the sun shows and the wind goes
to the S.W. The fine crystals absolutely spoil the surface; we had
heavy dragging during the last hour in spite of the light load and a
full sail. Our old tracks are drifted up, deep in places, and toothed
sastrugi have formed over them. It looks as though this sandy snow
was drifted about like sand from place to place. How account for the
present state of our three day old tracks and the month old ones of
It is warmer and pleasanter marching with the wind, but I'm not sure
we don't feel the cold more when we stop and camp than we did on the
outward march. We pick up our cairns easily, and ought to do so right
through, I think; but, of course, one will be a bit anxious till the
Three Degree Depot is reached.  I'm afraid the return journey is
going to be dreadfully tiring and monotonous.
_Saturday, January 20._--Lunch camp, 9810. We have come along very
well this morning, although the surface was terrible bad--9.3 miles
in 5 hours 20 m. This has brought us to our Southern Depot, and we
pick up 4 days' food. We carry on 7 days from to-night with 55 miles
to go to the Half Degree Depot made on January 10. The same sort of
weather and a little more wind, sail drawing well.
Night Camp R. 3. 9860. Temp. -18 deg.. It was blowing quite hard and
drifting when we started our afternoon march. At first with full sail
we went along at a great rate; then we got on to an extraordinary
surface, the drifting snow lying in heaps; it clung to the ski, which
could only be pushed forward with an effort. The pulling was really
awful, but we went steadily on and camped a short way beyond our cairn
of the 14th. I'm afraid we are in for a bad pull again to-morrow,
luckily the wind holds. I shall be very glad when Bowers gets his
ski; I'm afraid he must find these long marches very trying with
short legs, but he is an undefeated little sportsman. I think Oates
is feeling the cold and fatigue more than most of us. It is blowing
pretty hard to-night, but with a good march we have earned one good
hoosh and are very comfortable in the tent. It is everything now to
keep up a good marching pace; I trust we shall be able to do so and
catch the ship. Total march, 18 1/2 miles.
_Sunday, January_ 21.--R. 4. 10,010. Temp, blizzard, -18 deg. to -11 deg.,
to -14 deg. now. Awoke to a stiff blizzard; air very thick with snow
and sun very dim. We decided not to march owing to likelihood of
losing track; expected at least a day of lay up, but whilst at lunch
there was a sudden clearance and wind dropped to light breeze. We
got ready to march, but gear was so iced up we did not get away till
3.45. Marched till 7.40--a terribly weary four-hour drag; even with
helping wind we only did 5 1/2 miles (6 1/4 statute). The surface bad,
horribly bad on new sastrugi, and decidedly rising again in elevation.
We are going to have a pretty hard time this next 100 miles I
expect. If it was difficult to drag downhill over this belt, it
will probably be a good deal more difficult to drag up. Luckily the
cracks are fairly distinct, though we only see our cairns when less
than a mile away; 45 miles to the next depot and 6 days' food in
hand--then pick up 7 days' food (T. -22 deg.) and 90 miles to go to the
'Three Degree' Depot. Once there we ought to be safe, but we ought
to have a day or two in hand on arrival and may have difficulty with
following the tracks. However, if we can get a rating sight for our
watches to-morrow we shall be independent of the tracks at a pinch.
_Monday, January_ 22.--10,000. Temp. -21 deg.. I think about the most
tiring march we have had; solid pulling the whole way, in spite of
the light sledge and some little helping wind at first. Then in the
last part of the afternoon the sun came out, and almost immediately
we had the whole surface covered with soft snow.
We got away sharp at 8 and marched a solid 9 hours, and thus we have
covered 14.5 miles (geo.) but, by Jove! it has been a grind. We
are just about on the 89th parallel. To-night Bowers got a rating
sight. I'm afraid we have passed out of the wind area. We are within
2 1/2 miles of the 64th camp cairn, 30 miles from our depot, and with
5 days' food in hand. Ski boots are beginning to show signs of wear;
I trust we shall have no giving out of ski or boots, since there are
yet so many miles to go. I thought we were climbing to-day, but the
barometer gives no change.
_Tuesday, January_ 23.--Lowest Minimum last night -30 deg., Temp, at
start -28 deg.. Lunch height 10,100. Temp, with wind 6 to 7, -19 deg.. Little
wind and heavy marching at start. Then wind increased and we did 8.7
miles by lunch, when it was practically blowing a blizzard. The old
tracks show so remarkably well that we can follow them without much
difficulty--a great piece of luck.
In the afternoon we had to reorganise. Could carry a whole sail. Bowers
hung on to the sledge, Evans and Oates had to lengthen out. We came
along at a great rate and should have got within an easy march of
our depot had not Wilson suddenly discovered that Evans' nose was
frostbitten--it was white and hard. We thought it best to camp at
6.45. Got the tent up with some difficulty, and now pretty cosy after
There is no doubt Evans is a good deal run down--his fingers are badly
blistered and his nose is rather seriously congested with frequent
frost bites. He is very much annoyed with himself, which is not a good
sign. I think Wilson, Bowers and I are as fit as possible under the
circumstances. Oates gets cold feet. One way and another, I shall be
glad to get off the summit! We are only about 13 miles from our 'Degree
and half' Depot and should get there to-morrow. The weather seems to
be breaking up. Pray God we have something of a track to follow to
the Three Degree Depot--once we pick that up we ought to be right.
_Wednesday, January_ 24.--Lunch Temp. -8 deg.. Things beginning to look a
little serious. A strong wind at the start has developed into a full
blizzard at lunch, and we have had to get into our sleeping-bags. It
was a bad march, but we covered 7 miles. At first Evans, and then
Wilson went ahead to scout for tracks. Bowers guided the sledge alone
for the first hour, then both Oates and he remained alongside it;
they had a fearful time trying to make the pace between the soft
patches. At 12.30 the sun coming ahead made it impossible to see
the tracks further, and we had to stop. By this time the gale was
at its height and we had the dickens of a time getting up the tent,
cold fingers all round. We are only 7 miles from our depot, but I
made sure we should be there to-night. This is the second full gale
since we left the Pole. I don't like the look of it. Is the weather
breaking up? If so, God help us, with the tremendous summit journey
and scant food. Wilson and Bowers are my standby. I don't like the
easy way in which Oates and Evans get frostbitten.
_Thursday, January_ 25.--Temp. Lunch -11 deg., Temp. night -16 deg.. Thank
God we found our Half Degree Depot. After lying in our bags yesterday
afternoon and all night, we debated breakfast; decided to have it
later and go without lunch. At the time the gale seemed as bad as
ever, but during breakfast the sun showed and there was light enough
to see the old track. It was a long and terribly cold job digging out
our sledge and breaking camp, but we got through and on the march
without sail, all pulling. This was about 11, and at about 2.30,
to our joy, we saw the red depot flag. We had lunch and left with 9
1/2 days' provisions, still following the track--marched till 8 and
covered over 5 miles, over 12 in the day. Only 89 miles (geogr.) to
the next depot, but it's time we cleared off this plateau. We are
not without ailments: Oates suffers from a very cold foot; Evans'
fingers and nose are in a bad state, and to-night Wilson is suffering
tortures from his eyes. Bowers and I are the only members of the party
without troubles just at present. The weather still looks unsettled,
and I fear a succession of blizzards at this time of year; the wind is
strong from the south, and this afternoon has been very helpful with
the full sail. Needless to say I shall sleep much better with our
provision bag full again. The only real anxiety now is the finding
of the Three Degree Depot. The tracks seem as good as ever so far,
sometimes for 30 or 40 yards we lose them under drifts, but then they
reappear quite clearly raised above the surface. If the light is good
there is not the least difficulty in following. Blizzards are our
bugbear, not only stopping our marches, but the cold damp air takes it
out of us. Bowers got another rating sight to-night--it was wonderful
how he managed to observe in such a horribly cold wind. He has been
on ski to-day whilst Wilson walked by the sledge or pulled ahead of it.
_Friday, January_ 26.--Temp. -17 deg.. Height 9700, must be high
barometer. Started late, 8.50--for no reason, as I called the hands
rather early. We must have fewer delays. There was a good stiff breeze
and plenty of drift, but the tracks held. To our old blizzard camp
of the 7th we got on well, 7 miles. But beyond the camp we found the
tracks completely wiped out. We searched for some time, then marched
on a short way and lunched, the weather gradually clearing, though the
wind holding. Knowing there were two cairns at four mile intervals,
we had little anxiety till we picked up the first far on our right,
then steering right by a stroke of fortune, and Bowers' sharp eyes
caught a glimpse of the second far on the left. Evidently we made a bad
course outward at this part. There is not a sign of our tracks between
these cairns, but the last, marking our night camp of the 6th, No. 59,
is in the belt of hard sastrugi, and I was comforted to see signs of
the track reappearing as we camped. I hope to goodness we can follow it
to-morrow. We marched 16 miles (geo.) to-day, but made good only 15.4.
Saturday, January 27.--R. 10. Temp. -16 deg. (lunch), -14.3 deg.
(evening). Minimum -19 deg.. Height 9900. Barometer low? Called the hands
half an hour late, but we got away in good time. The forenoon march
was over the belt of storm-tossed sastrugi; it looked like a rough
sea. Wilson and I pulled in front on ski, the remainder on foot. It
was very tricky work following the track, which pretty constantly
disappeared, and in fact only showed itself by faint signs anywhere--a
foot or two of raised sledge-track, a dozen yards of the trail of
the sledge-meter wheel, or a spatter of hard snow-flicks where feet
had trodden. Sometimes none of these were distinct, but one got an
impression of lines which guided. The trouble was that on the outward
track one had to shape course constantly to avoid the heaviest mounds,
and consequently there were many zig-zags. We lost a good deal over a
mile by these halts, in which we unharnessed and went on the search
for signs. However, by hook or crook, we managed to stick on the
old track. Came on the cairn quite suddenly, marched past it, and
camped for lunch at 7 miles. In the afternoon the sastrugi gradually
diminished in size and now we are on fairly level ground to-day, the
obstruction practically at an end, and, to our joy, the tracks showing
up much plainer again. For the last two hours we had no difficulty at
all in following them. There has been a nice helpful southerly breeze
all day, a clear sky and comparatively warm temperature. The air is
dry again, so that tents and equipment are gradually losing their
icy condition imposed by the blizzard conditions of the past week.
Our sleeping-bags are slowly but surely getting wetter and I'm afraid
it will take a lot of this weather to put them right. However, we
all sleep well enough in them, the hours allowed being now on the
short side. We are slowly getting more hungry, and it would be an
advantage to have a little more food, especially for lunch. If we get
to the next depot in a few marches (it is now less than 60 miles and
we have a full week's food) we ought to be able to open out a little,
but we can't look for a real feed till we get to the pony food depot. A
long way to go, and, by Jove, this is tremendous labour.
_Sunday, January_ 28.--Lunch, -20 deg.. Height, night,
10,130. R. 11. Supper Temp. -18 deg.. Little wind and heavy going in
forenoon. We just ran out 8 miles in 5 hours and added another 8
in 3 hours 40 mins. in the afternoon with a good wind and better
surface. It is very difficult to say if we are going up or down hill;
the barometer is quite different from outward readings. We are 43
miles from the depot, with six days' food in hand. We are camped
opposite our lunch cairn of the 4th, only half a day's march from
the point at which the last supporting party left us.
Three articles were dropped on our outward march--(Oates' pipe, Bowers'
fur mits, and Evans' night boots. We picked up the boots and mits on
the track, and to-night we found the pipe lying placidly in sight on
the snow. The sledge tracks were very easy to follow to-day; they
are becoming more and more raised, giving a good line shadow often
visible half a mile ahead. If this goes on and the weather holds we
shall get our depot without trouble. I shall indeed be glad to get it
on the sledge. We are getting more hungry, there is no doubt. The lunch
meal is beginning to seem inadequate. We are pretty thin, especially
Evans, but none of us are feeling worked out. I doubt if we could
drag heavy loads, but we can keep going well with our light one. We
talk of food a good deal more, and shall be glad to open out on it.
_Monday, January_ 29.--R. 12. Lunch Temp. -23 deg.. Supper
Temp. -25 deg.. Height 10,000. Excellent march of 19 1/2 miles, 10.5
before lunch. Wind helping greatly, considerable drift; tracks for the
most part very plain. Some time before lunch we picked up the return
track of the supporting party, so that there are now three distinct
sledge impressions. We are only 24 miles from our depot--an easy day
and a half. Given a fine day to-morrow we ought to get it without
difficulty. The wind and sastrugi are S.S.E. and S.E. If the weather
holds we ought to do the rest of the inland ice journey in little over
a week. The surface is very much altered since we passed out. The loose
snow has been swept into heaps, hard and wind-tossed. The rest has
a glazed appearance, the loose drifting snow no doubt acting on it,
polishing it like a sand blast. The sledge with our good wind behind
runs splendidly on it; it is all soft and sandy beneath the glaze. We
are certainly getting hungrier every day. The day after to-morrow we
should be able to increase allowances. It is monotonous work, but,
thank God, the miles are coming fast at last. We ought not to be
delayed much now with the down-grade in front of us.
_Tuesday, January_ 30.--R. 13. 9860. Lunch Temp.-25 deg., Supper
Temp. -24.5 deg.. Thank the Lord, another fine march--19 miles. We have
passed the last cairn before the depot, the track is clear ahead,
the weather fair, the wind helpful, the gradient down--with any luck
we should pick up our depot in the middle of the morning march. This
is the bright side; the reverse of the medal is serious. Wilson
has strained a tendon in his leg; it has given pain all day and is
swollen to-night. Of course, he is full of pluck over it, but I don't
like the idea of such an accident here. To add to the trouble Evans
has dislodged two finger-nails to-night; his hands are really bad,
and to my surprise he shows signs of losing heart over it. He hasn't
been cheerful since the accident. The wind shifted from S.E. to S. and
back again all day, but luckily it keeps strong. We can get along with
bad fingers, but it (will be) a mighty serious thing if Wilson's leg
_Wednesday, January_ 31.--9800. Lunch Temp. -20 deg., Supper
Temp. -20 deg.. The day opened fine with a fair breeze; we marched on the
depot,  picked it up, and lunched an hour later. In the afternoon
the surface became fearfully bad, the wind dropped to light southerly
air. Ill luck that this should happen just when we have only four men
to pull. Wilson rested his leg as much as possible by walking quietly
beside the sledge; the result has been good, and to-night there
is much less inflammation. I hope he will be all right again soon,
but it is trying to have an injured limb in the party. I see we had a
very heavy surface here on our outward march. There is no doubt we are
travelling over undulations, but the inequality of level does not make
a great difference to our pace; it is the sandy crystals that hold us
up. There has been very great alteration of the surface since we were
last here--the sledge tracks stand high. This afternoon we picked up
Bowers' ski --the last thing we have to find on the summit, thank
Heaven! Now we have only to go north and so shall welcome strong winds.
_Thursday, February_ 1.--R. 15. 9778. Lunch Temp. -20 deg., Supper
Temp. -19.8 deg.. Heavy collar work most of the day. Wind light. Did 8
miles, 4 3/4 hours. Started well in the afternoon and came down a
steep slope in quick time; then the surface turned real bad--sandy
drifts--very heavy pulling. Working on past 8 P.M. we just fetched
a lunch cairn of December 29, when we were only a week out from the
depot.  It ought to be easy to get in with a margin, having 8 days'
food in hand (full feeding). We have opened out on the 1/7th increase
and it makes a lot of difference. Wilson's leg much better. Evans'
fingers now very bad, two nails coming off, blisters burst.
_Friday, February_ 2.--9340. R. 16. Temp.: Lunch -19 deg., Supper -17 deg.. We
started well on a strong southerly wind. Soon got to a steep grade,
when the sledge overran and upset us one after another. We got
off our ski, and pulling on foot reeled off 9 miles by lunch at
1.30. Started in the afternoon on foot, going very strong. We noticed
a curious circumstance towards the end of the forenoon. The tracks
were drifted over, but the drifts formed a sort of causeway along
which we pulled. In the afternoon we soon came to a steep slope--the
same on which we exchanged sledges on December 28. All went well
till, in trying to keep the track at the same time as my feet, on a
very slippery surface, I came an awful 'purler' on my shoulder. It is
horribly sore to-night and another sick person added to our tent--three
out of fine injured, and the most troublesome surfaces to come. We
shall be lucky if we get through without serious injury. Wilson's
leg is better, but might easily get bad again, and Evans' fingers.
At the bottom of the slope this afternoon we came on a confused sea
of sastrugi. We lost the track. Later, on soft snow, we picked up
E. Evans' return track, which we are now following. We have managed
to get off 17 miles. The extra food is certainly helping us, but we
are getting pretty hungry. The weather is already a trifle warmer and
the altitude lower, and only 80 miles or so to Mount Darwin. It is
time we were off the summit--Pray God another four days will see us
pretty well clear of it. Our bags are getting very wet and we ought
to have more sleep.
_Saturday, February_ 3.--R. 17. Temp.: Lunch -20 deg.; Supper -20 deg.. Height
9040 feet. Started pretty well on foot; came to steep slope with
crevasses (few). I went on ski to avoid another fall, and we took the
slope gently with our sail, constantly losing the track, but picked
up a much weathered cairn on our right. Vexatious delays, searching
for tracks, &c., reduced morning march to 8.1 miles. Afternoon, came
along a little better, but again lost tracks on hard slope. To-night
we are near camp of December 26, but cannot see cairn. Have decided
it is waste of time looking for tracks and cairn, and shall push on
due north as fast as we can.
The surface is greatly changed since we passed outward, in most
places polished smooth, but with heaps of new toothed sastrugi which
are disagreeable obstacles. Evans' fingers are going on as well as
can be expected, but it will be long before he will be able to help
properly with the work. Wilson's leg much better, and my shoulder also,
though it gives bad twinges. The extra food is doing us all good, but
we ought to have more sleep. Very few more days on the plateau I hope.
_Sunday, February_ 4.--R. 18. 8620 feet. Temp.: Lunch -22 deg.; Supper
-23 deg.. Pulled on foot in the morning over good hard surface and
covered 9.7 miles. Just before lunch unexpectedly fell into crevasses,
Evans and I together--a second fall for Evans, and I camped. After
lunch saw disturbance ahead, and what I took for disturbance (land)
to the right. We went on ski over hard shiny descending surface. Did
very well, especially towards end of march, covering in all 18.1. We
have come down some hundreds of feet. Half way in the march the land
showed up splendidly, and I decided to make straight for Mt. Darwin,
which we are rounding. Every sign points to getting away off this
plateau. The temperature is 20 deg. lower than when we were here before;
the party is not improving in condition, especially Evans, who is
becoming rather dull and incapable.  Thank the Lord we have
good food at each meal, but we get hungrier in spite of it. Bowers
is splendid, full of energy and bustle all the time. I hope we are
not going to have trouble with ice-falls.
_Monday, February_ 5.--R. 19. Lunch, 8320 ft., Temp. -17 deg.; Supper,
8120 ft, Temp.-17.2 deg.. A good forenoon, few crevasses; we covered 10.2
miles. In the afternoon we soon got into difficulties. We saw the
land very clearly, but the difficulty is to get at it. An hour after
starting we came on huge pressures and great street crevasses partly
open. We had to steer more and more to the west, so that our course
was very erratic. Late in the march we turned more to the north and
again encountered open crevasses across our track. It is very difficult
manoeuvring amongst these and I should not like to do it without ski.
We are camped in a very disturbed region, but the wind has fallen
very light here, and our camp is comfortable for the first time for
many weeks. We may be anything from 25 to 30 miles from our depot,
but I wish to goodness we could see a way through the disturbances
ahead. Our faces are much cut up by all the winds we have had, mine
least of all; the others tell me they feel their noses more going with
than against the wind. Evans' nose is almost as bad as his fingers. He
is a good deal crocked up.
_Tuesday, February_ 6.--Lunch 7900; Supper 7210. Temp. -15 deg.. We've
had a horrid day and not covered good mileage. On turning out found
sky overcast; a beastly position amidst crevasses. Luckily it cleared
just before we started. We went straight for Mt. Darwin, but in half
an hour found ourselves amongst huge open chasms, unbridged, but not
very deep, I think. We turned to the north between two, but to our
chagrin they converged into chaotic disturbance. We had to retrace
our steps for a mile or so, then struck to the west and got on to
a confused sea of sastrugi, pulling very hard; we put up the sail,
Evans' nose suffered, Wilson very cold, everything horrid. Camped
for lunch in the sastrugi; the only comfort, things looked clearer
to the west and we were obviously going downhill. In the afternoon we
struggled on, got out of sastrugi and turned over on glazed surface,
crossing many crevasses--very easy work on ski. Towards the end of
the march we realised the certainty of maintaining a more or less
straight course to the depot, and estimate distance 10 to 15 miles.
Food is low and weather uncertain, so that many hours of the day
were anxious; but this evening, though we are not as far advanced as
I expected, the outlook is much more promising. Evans is the chief
anxiety now; his cuts and wounds suppurate, his nose looks very bad,
and altogether he shows considerable signs of being played out. Things
may mend for him on the glacier, and his wounds get some respite under
warmer conditions. I am indeed glad to think we shall so soon have
done with plateau conditions. It took us 27 days to reach the Pole
and 21 days back--in all 48 days--nearly 7 weeks in low temperature
with almost incessant wind.
End of the Summit Journey
_Wednesday, February 7_.--Mount Darwin [or Upper Glacier] Depot,
R. 21. Height 7100. Lunch Temp. -9 deg.; Supper Temp, [a blank here]. A
wretched day with satisfactory ending. First panic, certainty that
biscuit-box was short. Great doubt as to how this has come about,
as we certainly haven't over-issued allowances. Bowers is dreadfully
disturbed about it. The shortage is a full day's allowance. We started
our march at 8.30, and travelled down slopes and over terraces covered
with hard sastrugi--very tiresome work--and the land didn't seem to
come any nearer. At lunch the wind increased, and what with hot tea
and good food, we started the afternoon in a better frame of mind,
and it soon became obvious we were nearing our mark. Soon after 6.30
we saw our depot easily and camped next it at 7.30.
Found note from Evans to say the second return party passed through
safely at 2.30 on January 14--half a day longer between depots than
we have been. The temperature is higher, but there is a cold wind
Well, we have come through our 7 weeks' ice camp journey and most of
us are fit, but I think another week might have had a very bad effect
on Evans, who is going steadily downhill.
It is satisfactory to recall that these facts give absolute proof of
both expeditions having reached the Pole and placed the question of
priority beyond discussion.
_Thursday, February_ 8.--R. 22. Height 6260. Start Temp. -11 deg.; Lunch
Temp. -5 deg.; Supper, zero. 9.2 miles. Started from the depot rather
late owing to weighing biscuit, &c., and rearranging matters. Had a
beastly morning. Wind very strong and cold. Steered in for Mt. Darwin
to visit rock. Sent Bowers on, on ski, as Wilson can't wear his at
present. He obtained several specimens, all of much the same type,
a close-grained granite rock which weathers red. Hence the pink
limestone. After he rejoined we skidded downhill pretty fast, leaders
on ski, Oates and Wilson on foot alongside sledge--Evans detached. We
lunched at 2 well down towards Mt. Buckley, the wind half a gale and
everybody very cold and cheerless. However, better things were to
follow. We decided to steer for the moraine under Mt. Buckley and,
pulling with crampons, we crossed some very irregular steep slopes
with big crevasses and slid down towards the rocks. The moraine was
obviously so interesting that when we had advanced some miles and
got out of the wind, I decided to camp and spend the rest of the day
geologising. It has been extremely interesting. We found ourselves
under perpendicular cliffs of Beacon sandstone, weathering rapidly
and carrying veritable coal seams. From the last Wilson, with his
sharp eyes, has picked several plant impressions, the last a piece of
coal with beautifully traced leaves in layers, also some excellently
preserved impressions of thick stems, showing cellular structure. In
one place we saw the cast of small waves on the sand. To-night Bill
has got a specimen of limestone with archeo-cyathus--the trouble is
one cannot imagine where the stone comes from; it is evidently rare,
as few specimens occur in the moraine. There is a good deal of pure
white quartz. Altogether we have had a most interesting afternoon,
and the relief of being out of the wind and in a warmer temperature
is inexpressible. I hope and trust we shall all buck up again now
that the conditions are more favourable. We have been in shadow all
the afternoon, but the sun has just reached us, a little obscured by
night haze. A lot could be written on the delight of setting foot on
rock after 14 weeks of snow and ice and nearly 7 out of sight of aught
else. It is like going ashore after a sea voyage. We deserve a little
good bright weather after all our trials, and hope to get a chance
to dry our sleeping-bags and generally make our gear more comfortable.
_Friday, February 9_.--R. 23. Height 5,210 ft. Lunch Temp. +10 deg.;
Supper Temp. +12.5 deg.. About 13 miles. Kept along the edge of moraine
to the end of Mt. Buckley. Stopped and geologised. Wilson got great
find of vegetable impression in piece of limestone. Too tired to write
geological notes. We all felt very slack this morning, partly rise of
temperature, partly reaction, no doubt. Ought to have kept close in
to glacier north of Mt. Buckley, but in bad light the descent looked
steep and we kept out. Evidently we got amongst bad ice pressure and
had to come down over an ice-fall. The crevasses were much firmer
than expected and we got down with some difficulty, found our night
camp of December 20, and lunched an hour after. Did pretty well in
the afternoon, marching 3 3/4 hours; the sledge-meter is unshipped,
so cannot tell distance traversed. Very warm on march and we are
all pretty tired. To-night it is wonderfully calm and warm, though
it has been overcast all the afternoon. It is remarkable to be able
to stand outside the tent and sun oneself. Our food satisfies now,
but we must march to keep in the full ration, and we want rest,
yet we shall pull through all right, D.V. We are by no means worn out.
_Saturday, February_ 10.--R. 24. Lunch Temp. +12 deg.; Supper
Temp. +10 deg.. Got off a good morning march in spite of keeping too
far east and getting in rough, cracked ice. Had a splendid night
sleep, showing great change in all faces, so didn't get away till
10 A.M. Lunched just before 3. After lunch the land began to be
obscured. We held a course for 2 1/2 hours with difficulty, then
the sun disappeared, and snow drove in our faces with northerly
wind--very warm and impossible to steer, so camped. After supper,
still very thick all round, but sun showing and less snow falling. The
fallen snow crystals are quite feathery like thistledown. We have
two full days' food left, and though our position is uncertain,
we are certainly within two outward marches from the middle glacier
depot. However, if the weather doesn't clear by to-morrow, we must
either march blindly on or reduce food. It is very trying. Another
night to make up arrears of sleep. The ice crystals that first fell
this afternoon were very large. Now the sky is clearer overhead,
the temperature has fallen slightly, and the crystals are minute.
_Sunday, February_ 11.--R. 25. Lunch Temp. -6.5 deg.; Supper -3.5 deg.. The
worst day we have had during the trip and greatly owing to our
own fault. We started on a wretched surface with light S.W. wind,
sail set, and pulling on ski--horrible light, which made everything
look fantastic. As we went on light got worse, and suddenly we found
ourselves in pressure. Then came the fatal decision to steer east. We
went on for 6 hours, hoping to do a good distance, which in fact
I suppose we did, but for the last hour or two we pressed on into
a regular trap. Getting on to a good surface we did not reduce our
lunch meal, and thought all going well, but half an hour after lunch
we got into the worst ice mess I have ever been in. For three hours
we plunged on on ski, first thinking we were too much to the right,
then too much to the left; meanwhile the disturbance got worse and my
spirits received a very rude shock. There were times when it seemed
almost impossible to find a way out of the awful turmoil in which we
found ourselves. At length, arguing that there must be a way on our
left, we plunged in that direction. It got worse, harder, more icy
and crevassed. We could not manage our ski and pulled on foot, falling
into crevasses every minute--most luckily no bad accident. At length
we saw a smoother slope towards the land, pushed for it, but knew it
was a woefully long way from us. The turmoil changed in character,
irregular crevassed surface giving way to huge chasms, closely packed
and most difficult to cross. It was very heavy work, but we had grown
desperate. We won through at 10 P.M. and I write after 12 hours on the
march. I _think_ we are on or about the right track now, but we are
still a good number of miles from the depot, so we reduced rations
to-night. We had three pemmican meals left and decided to make them
into four. To-morrow's lunch must serve for two if we do not make big
progress. It was a test of our endurance on the march and our fitness
with small supper. We have come through well. A good wind has come
down the glacier which is clearing the sky and surface. Pray God the
wind holds to-morrow. Short sleep to-night and off first thing, I hope.
_Monday, February_ 12.--R. 26. In a very critical situation. All
went well in the forenoon, and we did a good long march over a fair
surface. Two hours before lunch we were cheered by the sight of our
night camp of the 18th December, the day after we made our depot--this
showed we were on the right track. In the afternoon, refreshed by tea,
we went forward, confident of covering the remaining distance, but by
a fatal chance we kept too far to the left, and then we struck uphill
and, tired and despondent, arrived in a horrid maze of crevasses and
fissures. Divided councils caused our course to be erratic after this,
and finally, at 9 P.M. we landed in the worst place of all. After
discussion we decided to camp, and here we are, after a very short
supper and one meal only remaining in the food bag; the depot doubtful
in locality. We must get there to-morrow. Meanwhile we are cheerful
with an effort. It's a tight place, but luckily we've been well fed
up to the present. Pray God we have fine weather to-morrow.
[At this point the bearings of the mid-glacier depot are given,
but need not be quoted.]
_Tuesday, February_ 13.--Camp R. 27, beside
Cloudmaker. Temp. -10 deg.. Last night we all slept well in spite of
our grave anxieties. For my part these were increased by my visits
outside the tent, when I saw the sky gradually closing over and snow
beginning to fall. By our ordinary time for getting up it was dense
all around us. We could see nothing, and we could only remain in our
sleeping-bags. At 8.30 I dimly made out the land of the Cloudmaker. At
9 we got up, deciding to have tea, and with one biscuit, no pemmican,
so as to leave our scanty remaining meal for eventualities. We started
marching, and at first had to wind our way through an awful turmoil
of broken ice, but in about an hour we hit an old moraine track,
brown with dirt. Here the surface was much smoother and improved
rapidly. The fog still hung over all and we went on for an hour,
checking our bearings. Then the whole place got smoother and we turned
outward a little. Evans raised our hopes with a shout of depot ahead,
but it proved to be a shadow on the ice. Then suddenly Wilson saw
the actual depot flag. It was an immense relief, and we were soon in
possession of our 3 1/2 days' food. The relief to all is inexpressible;
needless to say, we camped and had a meal.
Marching in the afternoon, I kept more to the left, and closed the
mountain till we fell on the stone moraines. Here Wilson detached
himself and made a collection, whilst we pulled the sledge on. We
camped late, abreast the lower end of the mountain, and had nearly
our usual satisfying supper. Yesterday was the worst experience of
the trip and gave a horrid feeling of insecurity. Now we are right
up, we must march. In future food must be worked so that we do not
run so short if the weather fails us. We mustn't get into a hole like
this again. Greatly relieved to find that both the other parties got
through safely. Evans seems to have got mixed up with pressures like
ourselves. It promises to be a very fine day to-morrow. The valley is
gradually clearing. Bowers has had a very bad attack of snow blindness,
and Wilson another almost as bad. Evans has no power to assist with
_Wednesday, February_ 14.--Lunch Temp. 0 deg.; Supper Temp. -1 deg.. A
fine day with wind on and off down the glacier, and we have done a
fairly good march. We started a little late and pulled on down the
moraine. At first I thought of going right, but soon, luckily, changed
my mind and decided to follow the curving lines of the moraines. This
course has brought us well out on the glacier. Started on crampons;
one hour after, hoisted sail; the combined efforts produced only slow
speed, partly due to the sandy snowdrifts similar to those on summit,
partly to our torn sledge runners. At lunch these were scraped and
sand-papered. After lunch we got on snow, with ice only occasionally
showing through. A poor start, but the gradient and wind improving,
we did 6 1/2 miles before night camp.
There is no getting away from the fact that we are not going
strong. Probably none of us: Wilson's leg still troubles him and he
doesn't like to trust himself on ski; but the worst case is Evans,
who is giving us serious anxiety. This morning he suddenly disclosed
a huge blister on his foot. It delayed us on the march, when he had
to have his crampon readjusted. Sometimes I fear he is going from bad
to worse, but I trust he will pick up again when we come to steady
work on ski like this afternoon. He is hungry and so is Wilson. We
can't risk opening out our food again, and as cook at present I am
serving something under full allowance. We are inclined to get slack
and slow with our camping arrangements, and small delays increase. I
have talked of the matter to-night and hope for improvement. We
cannot do distance without the ponies. The next depot  some 30
miles away and nearly 3 days' food in hand.
_Thursday, February_ 15.--R. 29. Lunch Temp. -10 deg.; Supper
Temp. -4 deg.. 13.5 miles. Again we are running short of provision. We
don't know our distance from the depot, but imagine about 20
miles. Heavy march--did 13 3/4 (geo.). We are pulling for food
and not very strong evidently. In the afternoon it was overcast;
land blotted out for a considerable interval. We have reduced food,
also sleep; feeling rather done. Trust 1 1/2 days or 2 at most will
see us at depot.
_Friday, February_ 16.--12.5 m. Lunch Temp.-6.1 deg.; Supper Temp. -7 deg.. A
rather trying position. Evans has nearly broken down in brain,
we think. He is absolutely changed from his normal self-reliant
self. This morning and this afternoon he stopped the march on some
trivial excuse. We are on short rations with not very short food;
spin out till to-morrow night. We cannot be more than 10 or 12 miles
from the depot, but the weather is all against us. After lunch we were
enveloped in a snow sheet, land just looming. Memory should hold the
events of a very troublesome march with more troubles ahead. Perhaps
all will be well if we can get to our depot to-morrow fairly early,
but it is anxious work with the sick man. But it's no use meeting
troubles half way, and our sleep is all too short to write more.
_Saturday, February_ 17.--A very terrible day. Evans looked a little
better after a good sleep, and declared, as he always did, that he was
quite well. He started in his place on the traces, but half an hour
later worked his ski shoes adrift, and had to leave the sledge. The
surface was awful, the soft recently fallen snow clogging the ski
and runners at every step, the sledge groaning, the sky overcast,
and the land hazy. We stopped after about one hour, and Evans came up
again, but very slowly. Half an hour later he dropped out again on the
same plea. He asked Bowers to lend him a piece of string. I cautioned
him to come on as quickly as he could, and he answered cheerfully as
I thought. We had to push on, and the remainder of us were forced to
pull very hard, sweating heavily. Abreast the Monument Rock we stopped,
and seeing Evans a long way astern, I camped for lunch. There was no
alarm at first, and we prepared tea and our own meal, consuming the
latter. After lunch, and Evans still not appearing, we looked out,
to see him still afar off. By this time we were alarmed, and all four
started back on ski. I was first to reach the poor man and shocked
at his appearance; he was on his knees with clothing disarranged,
hands uncovered and frostbitten, and a wild look in his eyes. Asked
what was the matter, he replied with a slow speech that he didn't
know, but thought he must have fainted. We got him on his feet, but
after two or three steps he sank down again. He showed every sign of
complete collapse. Wilson, Bowers, and I went back for the sledge,
whilst Oates remained with him. When we returned he was practically
unconscious, and when we got him into the tent quite comatose. He
died quietly at 12.30 A.M. On discussing the symptoms we think he
began to get weaker just before we reached the Pole, and that his
downward path was accelerated first by the shock of his frostbitten
fingers, and later by falls during rough travelling on the glacier,
further by his loss of all confidence in himself. Wilson thinks it
certain he must have injured his brain by a fall. It is a terrible
thing to lose a companion in this way, but calm reflection shows that
there could not have been a better ending to the terrible anxieties of
the past week. Discussion of the situation at lunch yesterday shows
us what a desperate pass we were in with a sick man on our hands at
such a distance from home.
At 1 A.M. we packed up and came down over the pressure ridges,
finding our depot easily.
The Last March_25_
_Sunday, February_ 18.--R. 32. Temp. -5.5 deg.. At Shambles Camp. We
gave ourselves 5 hours' sleep at the lower glacier depot after the
horrible night, and came on at about 3 to-day to this camp, coming
fairly easily over the divide. Here with plenty of horsemeat we have
had a fine supper, to be followed by others such, and so continue
a more plentiful era if we can keep good marches up. New life seems
to come with greater food almost immediately, but I am anxious about
the Barrier surfaces.
_Monday, February_ 19.--Lunch T. -16 deg.. It was late (past noon)
before we got away to-day, as I gave nearly 8 hours sleep, and much
camp work was done shifting sledges  and fitting up new one with
mast, &c., packing horsemeat and personal effects. The surface was
every bit as bad as I expected, the sun shining brightly on it and
its covering of soft loose sandy snow. We have come out about 2'
on the old tracks. Perhaps lucky to have a fine day for this and our
camp work, but we shall want wind or change of sliding conditions to
do anything on such a surface as we have got. I fear there will not
be much change for the next 3 or 4 days.
R. 33. Temp. -17 deg.. We have struggled out 4.6 miles in a short day over
a really terrible surface--it has been like pulling over desert sand,
not the least glide in the world. If this goes on we shall have a bad
time, but I sincerely trust it is only the result of this windless
area close to the coast and that, as we are making steadily outwards,
we shall shortly escape it. It is perhaps premature to be anxious
about covering distance. In all other respects things are improving. We
have our sleeping-bags spread on the sledge and they are drying, but,
above all, we have our full measure of food again. To-night we had
a sort of stew fry of pemmican and horseflesh, and voted it the best
hoosh we had ever had on a sledge journey. The absence of poor Evans
is a help to the commissariat, but if he had been here in a fit state
we might have got along faster. I wonder what is in store for us,
with some little alarm at the lateness of the season.
_Monday, February_ 20.--R. 34. Lunch Temp. -13 deg.; Supper
Temp. -15 deg.. Same terrible surface; four hours' hard plodding in
morning brought us to our Desolation Camp, where we had the four-day
blizzard. We looked for more pony meat, but found none. After lunch
we took to ski with some improvement of comfort. Total mileage for day
7--the ski tracks pretty plain and easily followed this afternoon. We
have left another cairn behind. Terribly slow progress, but we hope for
better things as we clear the land. There is a tendency to cloud over
in the S.E. to-night, which may turn to our advantage. At present
our sledge and ski leave deeply ploughed tracks which can be seen
winding for miles behind. It is distressing, but as usual trials are
forgotten when we camp, and good food is our lot. Pray God we get
better travelling as we are not fit as we were, and the season is
_Tuesday, February_ 21.--R. 35. Lunch Temp. -9 1/2 deg.; Supper
Temp. -11 deg.. Gloomy and overcast when we started; a good deal
warmer. The marching almost as bad as yesterday. Heavy toiling all
day, inspiring gloomiest thoughts at times. Rays of comfort when
we picked up tracks and cairns. At lunch we seemed to have missed
the way, but an hour or two after we passed the last pony walls,
and since, we struck a tent ring, ending the march actually on our
old pony-tracks. There is a critical spot here with a long stretch
between cairns. If we can tide that over we get on the regular cairn
route, and with luck should stick to it; but everything depends on the
weather. We never won a march of 8 1/2 miles with greater difficulty,
but we can't go on like this. We are drawing away from the land and
perhaps may get better things in a day or two. I devoutly hope so.
_Wednesday, February_ 22.--R. 36. Supper Temp. -2 deg.. There is little
doubt we are in for a rotten critical time going home, and the
lateness of the season may make it really serious. Shortly after
starting to-day the wind grew very fresh from the S.E. with strong
surface drift. We lost the faint track immediately, though covering
ground fairly rapidly. Lunch came without sight of the cairn we had
hoped to pass. In the afternoon, Bowers being sure we were too far
to the west, steered out. Result, we have passed another pony camp
without seeing it. Looking at the map to-night there is no doubt we
are too far to the east. With clear weather we ought to be able to
correct the mistake, but will the weather get clear? It's a gloomy
position, more especially as one sees the same difficulty returning
even when we have corrected the error. The wind is dying down to-night
and the sky clearing in the south, which is hopeful. Meanwhile it
is satisfactory to note that such untoward events fail to damp the
spirit of the party. To-night we had a pony hoosh so excellent and
filling that one feels really strong and vigorous again.
_Thursday, February_ 23.--R. 37. Lunch Temp.-9.8 deg.; Supper
Temp. -12 deg.. Started in sunshine, wind almost dropped. Luckily
Bowers took a round of angles and with help of the chart we fogged
out that we must be inside rather than outside tracks. The data
were so meagre that it seemed a great responsibility to march out
and we were none of us happy about it. But just as we decided to
lunch, Bowers' wonderful sharp eyes detected an old double lunch
cairn, the theodolite telescope confirmed it, and our spirits rose
accordingly. This afternoon we marched on and picked up another cairn;
then on and camped only 2 1/2 miles from the depot. We cannot see
it, but, given fine weather, we cannot miss it. We are, therefore,
extraordinarily relieved. Covered 8.2 miles in 7 hours, showing we
can do 10 to 12 on this surface. Things are again looking up, as we
are on the regular line of cairns, with no gaps right home, I hope.
_Friday, February_ 24.--Lunch. Beautiful day--too beautiful--an
hour after starting loose ice crystals spoiling surface. Saw depot
and reached it middle forenoon. Found store in order except shortage
oil_26_--shall have to be _very_ saving with fuel--otherwise have ten
full days' provision from to-night and shall have less than 70 miles
to go. Note from Meares who passed through December 15, saying surface
bad; from Atkinson, after fine marching (2 1/4 days from pony depot),
reporting Keohane better after sickness. Short note from Evans,
not very cheerful, saying surface bad, temperature high. Think he
must have been a little anxious.  It is an immense relief to
have picked up this depot and, for the time, anxieties are thrust
aside. There is no doubt we have been rising steadily since leaving
the Shambles Camp. The coastal Barrier descends except where glaciers
press out. Undulation still but flattening out. Surface soft on top,
curiously hard below. Great difference now between night and day
temperatures. Quite warm as I write in tent. We are on tracks with
half-march cairn ahead; have covered 4 1/2 miles. Poor Wilson has a
fearful attack snow-blindness consequent on yesterday's efforts. Wish
we had more fuel.
Night camp R. 38. Temp. -17 deg.. A little despondent again. We had a
really terrible surface this afternoon and only covered 4 miles. We
are on the track just beyond a lunch cairn. It really will be a bad
business if we are to have this pulling all through. I don't know
what to think, but the rapid closing of the season is ominous. It
is great luck having the horsemeat to add to our ration. To-night
we have had a real fine 'hoosh.' It is a race between the season and
hard conditions and our fitness and good food.
_Saturday, February_ 25.--Lunch Temp. -12 deg.. Managed just 6 miles this
morning. Started somewhat despondent; not relieved when pulling seemed
to show no improvement. Bit by bit surface grew better, less sastrugi,
more glide, slight following wind for a time. Then we began to travel
a little faster. But the pulling is still _very_ hard; undulations
disappearing but inequalities remain.
Twenty-six Camp walls about 2 miles ahead, all tracks in sight--Evans'
track very conspicuous. This is something in favour, but the
pulling is tiring us, though we are getting into better ski drawing
again. Bowers hasn't quite the trick and is a little hurt at my
criticisms, but I never doubted his heart. Very much easier--write
diary at lunch--excellent meal--now one pannikin very strong tea--four
biscuits and butter.
Hope for better things this afternoon, but no improvement
apparent. Oh! for a little wind--E. Evans evidently had plenty.
R. 39. Temp. -20 deg.. Better march in afternoon. Day yields 11.4
miles--the first double figure of steady dragging for a long time,
but it meant and will mean hard work if we can't get a wind to help
us. Evans evidently had a strong wind here, S.E. I should think. The
temperature goes very low at night now when the sky is clear as at
present. As a matter of fact this is wonderfully fair weather--the
only drawback the spoiling of the surface and absence of wind. We
see all tracks very plain, but the pony-walls have evidently been
badly drifted up. Some kind people had substituted a cairn at last
camp 27. The old cairns do not seem to have suffered much.
_Sunday, February_ 26.--Lunch Temp. -17 deg.. Sky overcast at start, but
able see tracks and cairn distinct at long distance. Did a little
better, 6 1/2 miles to date. Bowers and Wilson now in front. Find
great relief pulling behind with no necessity to keep attention on
track. Very cold nights now and cold feet starting march, as day
footgear doesn't dry at all. We are doing well on our food, but we
ought to have yet more. I hope the next depot, now only 50 miles,
will find us with enough surplus to open out. The fuel shortage still
R. 40. Temp. -21 deg. Nine hours' solid marching has given us 11 1/2
miles. Only 43 miles from the next depot. Wonderfully fine weather but
cold, very cold. Nothing dries and we get our feet cold too often. We
want more food yet and especially more fat. Fuel is woefully short. We
can scarcely hope to get a better surface at this season, but I wish
we could have some help from the wind, though it might shake us badly
if the temp. didn't rise.
_Monday, February_ 27.--Desperately cold last night: -33 deg. when we
got up, with -37 deg. minimum. Some suffering from cold feet, but all got
good rest. We _must_ open out on food soon. But we have done 7 miles
this morning and hope for some 5 this afternoon. Overcast sky and good
surface till now, when sun shows again. It is good to be marching the
cairns up, but there is still much to be anxious about. We talk of
little but food, except after meals. Land disappearing in satisfactory
manner. Pray God we have no further set-backs. We are naturally always
discussing possibility of meeting dogs, where and when, &c. It is
a critical position. We may find ourselves in safety at next depot,
but there is a horrid element of doubt.
Camp R. 41. Temp. -32 deg.. Still fine clear weather but very
cold--absolutely calm to-night. We have got off an excellent march
for these days (12.2) and are much earlier than usual in our bags. 31
miles to depot, 3 days' fuel at a pinch, and 6 days' food. Things
begin to look a little better; we can open out a little on food from
to-morrow night, I think.
Very curious surface--soft recent sastrugi which sink underfoot,
and between, a sort of flaky crust with large crystals beneath.
_Tuesday, February_ 28.--Lunch. Thermometer went below -40 deg. last night;
it was desperately cold for us, but we had a fair night. I decided
to slightly increase food; the effect is undoubtedly good. Started
marching in -32 deg. with a slight north-westerly breeze--blighting. Many
cold feet this morning; long time over foot gear, but we are
earlier. Shall camp earlier and get the chance of a good night, if
not the reality. Things must be critical till we reach the depot, and
the more I think of matters, the more I anticipate their remaining so
after that event. Only 24 1/2 miles from the depot. The sun shines
brightly, but there is little warmth in it. There is no doubt the
middle of the Barrier is a pretty awful locality.
Camp 42. Splendid pony hoosh sent us to bed and sleep happily after a
horrid day, wind continuing; did 11 1/2 miles. Temp. not quite so low,
but expect we are in for cold night (Temp. -27 deg.).
_Wednesday, February_ 29.--Lunch. Cold night. Minimum Temp. -37.5 deg.;
-30 deg. with north-west wind, force 4, when we got up. Frightfully
cold starting; luckily Bowers and Oates in their last new finnesko;
keeping my old ones for present. Expected awful march and for first
hour got it. Then things improved and we camped after 5 1/2 hours
marching close to lunch camp--22 1/2. Next camp is our depot and it is
exactly 13 miles. It ought not to take more than 1 1/2 days; we pray
for another fine one. The oil will just about spin out in that event,
and we arrive 3 clear days' food in hand. The increase of ration has
had an enormously beneficial result. Mountains now looking small. Wind
still very light from west--cannot understand this wind.
_Thursday, March_ 1.--Lunch. Very cold last night--minimum -41.5 deg.. Cold
start to march, too, as usual now. Got away at 8 and have marched
within sight of depot; flag something under 3 miles away. We did 11
1/2 yesterday and marched 6 this morning. Heavy dragging yesterday
and _very_ heavy this morning. Apart from sledging considerations
the weather is wonderful. Cloudless days and nights and the wind
trifling. Worse luck, the light airs come from the north and keep us
horribly cold. For this lunch hour the exception has come. There is
a bright and comparatively warm sun. All our gear is out drying.
_Friday, March_ 2.--Lunch. Misfortunes rarely come singly. We marched
to the (Middle Barrier) depot fairly easily yesterday afternoon, and
since that have suffered three distinct blows which have placed us
in a bad position. First we found a shortage of oil; with most rigid
economy it can scarce carry us to the next depot on this surface (71
miles away). Second, Titus Oates disclosed his feet, the toes showing
very bad indeed, evidently bitten by the late temperatures. The third
blow came in the night, when the wind, which we had hailed with some
joy, brought dark overcast weather. It fell below -40 deg. in the night,
and this morning it took 1 1/2 hours to get our foot gear on, but
we got away before eight. We lost cairn and tracks together and made
as steady as we could N. by W., but have seen nothing. Worse was to
come--the surface is simply awful. In spite of strong wind and full
sail we have only done 5 1/2 miles. We are in a very queer street
since there is no doubt we cannot do the extra marches and feel the
_Saturday, March_ 3.--Lunch. We picked up the track again yesterday,
finding ourselves to the eastward. Did close on 10 miles and things
looked a trifle better; but this morning the outlook is blacker
than ever. Started well and with good breeze; for an hour made good
headway; then the surface grew awful beyond words. The wind drew
forward; every circumstance was against us. After 4 1/4 hours things
so bad that we camped, having covered 4 1/2 miles. (R. 46.) One
cannot consider this a fault of our own--certainly we were pulling
hard this morning--it was more than three parts surface which held
us back--the wind at strongest, powerless to move the sledge. When
the light is good it is easy to see the reason. The surface, lately
a very good hard one, is coated with a thin layer of woolly crystals,
formed by radiation no doubt. These are too firmly fixed to be removed
by the wind and cause impossible friction on the runners. God help us,
we can't keep up this pulling, that is certain. Amongst ourselves we
are unendingly cheerful, but what each man feels in his heart I can
only guess. Pulling on foot gear in the morning is getter slower and
slower, therefore every day more dangerous.
_Sunday, March_ 4.--Lunch. Things looking _very_ black indeed. As usual
we forgot our trouble last night, got into our bags, slept splendidly
on good hoosh, woke and had another, and started marching. Sun shining
brightly, tracks clear, but surface covered with sandy frostrime. All
the morning we had to pull with all our strength, and in 4 1/2 hours we
covered 3 1/2 miles. Last night it was overcast and thick, surface bad;
this morning sun shining and surface as bad as ever. One has little
to hope for except perhaps strong dry wind--an unlikely contingency
at this time of year. Under the immediate surface crystals is a hard
sustrugi surface, which must have been excellent for pulling a week or
two ago. We are about 42 miles from the next depot and have a week's
food, but only about 3 to 4 days' fuel--we are as economical of the
latter as one can possibly be, and we cannot afford to save food and
pull as we are pulling. We are in a very tight place indeed, but none
of us despondent _yet_, or at least we preserve every semblance of
good cheer, but one's heart sinks as the sledge stops dead at some
sastrugi behind which the surface sand lies thickly heaped. For the
moment the temperature is on the -20 deg.--an improvement which makes
us much more comfortable, but a colder snap is bound to come again
soon. I fear that Oates at least will weather such an event very
poorly. Providence to our aid! We can expect little from man now
except the possibility of extra food at the next depot. It will be
real bad if we get there and find the same shortage of oil. Shall we
get there? Such a short distance it would have appeared to us on the
summit! I don't know what I should do if Wilson and Bowers weren't
so determinedly cheerful over things.
_Monday, March_ 5.--Lunch. Regret to say going from bad to worse. We
got a slant of wind yesterday afternoon, and going on 5 hours we
converted our wretched morning run of 3 1/2 miles into something
over 9. We went to bed on a cup of cocoa and pemmican solid with the
chill off. (R. 47.) The result is telling on all, but mainly on Oates,
whose feet are in a wretched condition. One swelled up tremendously
last night and he is very lame this morning. We started march on tea
and pemmican as last night--we pretend to prefer the pemmican this
way. Marched for 5 hours this morning over a slightly better surface
covered with high moundy sastrugi. Sledge capsized twice; we pulled on
foot, covering about 5 1/2 miles. We are two pony marches and 4 miles
about from our depot. Our fuel dreadfully low and the poor Soldier
nearly done. It is pathetic enough because we can do nothing for him;
more hot food might do a little, but only a little, I fear. We none
of us expected these terribly low temperatures, and of the rest of us
Wilson is feeling them most; mainly, I fear, from his self-sacrificing
devotion in doctoring Oates' feet. We cannot help each other, each has
enough to do to take care of himself. We get cold on the march when
the trudging is heavy, and the wind pierces our warm garments. The
others, all of them, are unendingly cheerful when in the tent. We
mean to see the game through with a proper spirit, but it's tough
work to be pulling harder than we ever pulled in our lives for long
hours, and to feel that the progress is so slow. One can only say
'God help us!' and plod on our weary way, cold and very miserable,
though outwardly cheerful. We talk of all sorts of subjects in the
tent, not much of food now, since we decided to take the risk of
running a full ration. We simply couldn't go hungry at this time.
_Tuesday, March_ 6.--Lunch. We did a little better with help of wind
yesterday afternoon, finishing 9 1/2 miles for the day, and 27 miles
from depot. (R. 48.) But this morning things have been awful. It was
warm in the night and for the first time during the journey I overslept
myself by more than an hour; then we were slow with foot gear; then,
pulling with all our might (for our lives) we could scarcely advance
at rate of a mile an hour; then it grew thick and three times we had
to get out of harness to search for tracks. The result is something
less than 3 1/2 miles for the forenoon. The sun is shining now and
the wind gone. Poor Oates is unable to pull, sits on the sledge when
we are track-searching--he is wonderfully plucky, as his feet must
be giving him great pain. He makes no complaint, but his spirits
only come up in spurts now, and he grows more silent in the tent. We
are making a spirit lamp to try and replace the primus when our oil
is exhausted. It will be a very poor substitute and we've not got
much spirit. If we could have kept up our 9-mile days we might have
got within reasonable distance of the depot before running out,
but nothing but a strong wind and good surface can help us now,
and though we had quite a good breeze this morning, the sledge came
as heavy as lead. If we were all fit I should have hopes of getting
through, but the poor Soldier has become a terrible hindrance, though
he does his utmost and suffers much I fear.
_Wednesday, March_ 7.--A little worse I fear. One of Oates' feet _very_
bad this morning; he is wonderfully brave. We still talk of what we
will do together at home.
We only made 6 1/2 miles yesterday. (R. 49.) This morning in 4 1/2
hours we did just over 4 miles. We are 16 from our depot. If we only
find the correct proportion of food there and this surface continues,
we may get to the next depot [Mt. Hooper, 72 miles farther] but not
to One Ton Camp. We hope against hope that the dogs have been to
Mt. Hooper; then we might pull through. If there is a shortage of oil
again we can have little hope. One feels that for poor Oates the crisis
is near, but none of us are improving, though we are wonderfully fit
considering the really excessive work we are doing. We are only kept
going by good food. No wind this morning till a chill northerly air
came ahead. Sun bright and cairns showing up well. I should like to
keep the track to the end.
_Thursday, March_ 8.--Lunch. Worse and worse in morning; poor Oates'
left foot can never last out, and time over foot gear something
awful. Have to wait in night foot gear for nearly an hour before I
start changing, and then am generally first to be ready. Wilson's feet
giving trouble now, but this mainly because he gives so much help to
others. We did 4 1/2 miles this morning and are now 8 1/2 miles from
the depot--a ridiculously small distance to feel in difficulties,
yet on this surface we know we cannot equal half our old marches,
and that for that effort we expend nearly double the energy. The
great question is, What shall we find at the depot? If the dogs have
visited it we may get along a good distance, but if there is another
short allowance of fuel, God help us indeed. We are in a very bad way,
I fear, in any case.
_Saturday, March_ 10.--Things steadily downhill. Oates' foot worse. He
has rare pluck and must know that he can never get through. He asked
Wilson if he had a chance this morning, and of course Bill had to say
he didn't know. In point of fact he has none. Apart from him, if he
went under now, I doubt whether we could get through. With great care
we might have a dog's chance, but no more. The weather conditions are
awful, and our gear gets steadily more icy and difficult to manage. At
the same time of course poor Titus is the greatest handicap. He keeps
us waiting in the morning until we have partly lost the warming effect
of our good breakfast, when the only wise policy is to be up and away
at once; again at lunch. Poor chap! it is too pathetic to watch him;
one cannot but try to cheer him up.
Yesterday we marched up the depot, Mt. Hooper. Cold comfort. Shortage
on our allowance all round. I don't know that anyone is to blame. The
dogs which would have been our salvation have evidently failed. 
Meares had a bad trip home I suppose.
This morning it was calm when we breakfasted, but the wind came
from W.N.W. as we broke camp. It rapidly grew in strength. After
travelling for half an hour I saw that none of us could go on facing
such conditions. We were forced to camp and are spending the rest of
the day in a comfortless blizzard camp, wind quite foul. (R. 52.)
_Sunday, March_ ll.--Titus Oates is very near the end, one feels. What
we or he will do, God only knows. We discussed the matter after
breakfast; he is a brave fine fellow and understands the situation,
but he practically asked for advice. Nothing could be said but to
urge him to march as long as he could. One satisfactory result to
the discussion; I practically ordered Wilson to hand over the means
of ending our troubles to us, so that anyone of us may know how to
do so. Wilson had no choice between doing so and our ransacking the
medicine case. We have 30 opium tabloids apiece and he is left with
a tube of morphine. So far the tragical side of our story. (R. 53.)
The sky completely overcast when we started this morning. We could see
nothing, lost the tracks, and doubtless have been swaying a good deal
since--3.1 miles for the forenoon--terribly heavy dragging--expected
it. Know that 6 miles is about the limit of our endurance now, if we
get no help from wind or surfaces. We have 7 days' food and should be
about 55 miles from One Ton Camp to-night, 6 x 7 = 42, leaving us 13
miles short of our distance, even if things get no worse. Meanwhile
the season rapidly advances.
_Monday, March_ 12.--We did 6.9 miles yesterday, under our necessary
average. Things are left much the same, Oates not pulling much, and
now with hands as well as feet pretty well useless. We did 4 miles
this morning in 4 hours 20 min.--we may hope for 3 this afternoon,
7 x 6 = 42. We shall be 47 miles from the depot. I doubt if we can
possibly do it. The surface remains awful, the cold intense, and
our physical condition running down. God help us! Not a breath of
favourable wind for more than a week, and apparently liable to head
winds at any moment.
_Wednesday, March_ 14.--No doubt about the going downhill, but
everything going wrong for us. Yesterday we woke to a strong northerly
wind with temp. -37 deg.. Couldn't face it, so remained in camp (R. 54)
till 2, then did 5 1/4 miles. Wanted to march later, but party feeling
the cold badly as the breeze (N.) never took off entirely, and as
the sun sank the temp. fell. Long time getting supper in dark. (R. 55.)
This morning started with southerly breeze, set sail and passed another
cairn at good speed; half-way, however, the wind shifted to W. by
S. or W.S.W., blew through our wind clothes and into our mits. Poor
Wilson horribly cold, could not get off ski for some time. Bowers and
I practically made camp, and when we got into the tent at last we
were all deadly cold. Then temp, now midday down -43 deg. and the wind
strong. We _must_ go on, but now the making of every camp must be
more difficult and dangerous. It must be near the end, but a pretty
merciful end. Poor Oates got it again in the foot. I shudder to think
what it will be like to-morrow. It is only with greatest pains rest
of us keep off frostbites. No idea there could be temperatures like
this at this time of year with such winds. Truly awful outside the
tent. Must fight it out to the last biscuit, but can't reduce rations.
_Friday, March_ 16 _or Saturday_ 17.--Lost track of dates, but
think the last correct. Tragedy all along the line. At lunch, the
day before yesterday, poor Titus Oates said he couldn't go on; he
proposed we should leave him in his sleeping-bag. That we could not
do, and induced him to come on, on the afternoon march. In spite of
its awful nature for him he struggled on and we made a few miles. At
night he was worse and we knew the end had come.
Should this be found I want these facts recorded. Oates' last
thoughts were of his Mother, but immediately before he took pride
in thinking that his regiment would be pleased with the bold way in
which he met his death. We can testify to his bravery. He has borne
intense suffering for weeks without complaint, and to the very last
was able and willing to discuss outside subjects. He did not--would
not--give up hope to the very end. He was a brave soul. This was the
end. He slept through the night before last, hoping not to wake; but
he woke in the morning--yesterday. It was blowing a blizzard. He said,
'I am just going outside and may be some time.' He went out into the
blizzard and we have not seen him since.
I take this opportunity of saying that we have stuck to our sick
companions to the last. In case of Edgar Evans, when absolutely out
of food and he lay insensible, the safety of the remainder seemed to
demand his abandonment, but Providence mercifully removed him at this
critical moment. He died a natural death, and we did not leave him
till two hours after his death. We knew that poor Oates was walking
to his death, but though we tried to dissuade him, we knew it was the
act of a brave man and an English gentleman. We all hope to meet the
end with a similar spirit, and assuredly the end is not far.
I can only write at lunch and then only occasionally. The cold is
intense, -40 deg. at midday. My companions are unendingly cheerful, but we
are all on the verge of serious frostbites, and though we constantly
talk of fetching through I don't think anyone of us believes it in
We are cold on the march now, and at all times except meals. Yesterday
we had to lay up for a blizzard and to-day we move dreadfully
slowly. We are at No. 14 pony camp, only two pony marches from
One Ton Depot. We leave here our theodolite, a camera, and Oates'
sleeping-bags. Diaries, &c., and geological specimens carried at
Wilson's special request, will be found with us or on our sledge.
_Sunday, March_ 18.--To-day, lunch, we are 21 miles from the depot. Ill
fortune presses, but better may come. We have had more wind and
drift from ahead yesterday; had to stop marching; wind N.W., force 4,
temp. -35 deg.. No human being could face it, and we are worn out _nearly_.
My right foot has gone, nearly all the toes--two days ago I was proud
possessor of best feet. These are the steps of my downfall. Like an ass
I mixed a small spoonful of curry powder with my melted pemmican--it
gave me violent indigestion. I lay awake and in pain all night; woke
and felt done on the march; foot went and I didn't know it. A very
small measure of neglect and have a foot which is not pleasant to
contemplate. Bowers takes first place in condition, but there is not
much to choose after all. The others are still confident of getting
through--or pretend to be--I don't know! We have the last _half_ fill
of oil in our primus and a very small quantity of spirit--this alone
between us and thirst. The wind is fair for the moment, and that is
perhaps a fact to help. The mileage would have seemed ridiculously
small on our outward journey.
_Monday, March_ 19.--Lunch. We camped with difficulty last night,
and were dreadfully cold till after our supper of cold pemmican and
biscuit and a half a pannikin of cocoa cooked over the spirit. Then,
contrary to expectation, we got warm and all slept well. To-day we
started in the usual dragging manner. Sledge dreadfully heavy. We are
15 1/2 miles from the depot and ought to get there in three days. What
progress! We have two days' food but barely a day's fuel. All our
feet are getting bad--Wilson's best, my right foot worst, left all
right. There is no chance to nurse one's feet till we can get hot
food into us. Amputation is the least I can hope for now, but will
the trouble spread? That is the serious question. The weather doesn't
give us a chance--the wind from N. to N.W. and -40 deg. temp, to-day.
_Wednesday, March_ 11.--Got within 11 miles of depot Monday night;
 had to lay up all yesterday in severe blizzard._27_ To-day
forlorn hope, Wilson and Bowers going to depot for
_Thursday, March_ 22 _and_ 23.--Blizzard bad as ever--Wilson and
Bowers unable to start--to-morrow last chance--no fuel and only one
or two of food left--must be near the end. Have decided it shall be
natural--we shall march for the depot with or without our effects
and die in our tracks.
_Thursday, March_ 29.--Since the 21st we have had a continuous gale
from W.S.W. and S.W. We had fuel to make two cups of tea apiece and
bare food for two days on the 20th. Every day we have been ready to
start for our depot _11 miles_ away, but outside the door of the tent
it remains a scene of whirling drift. I do not think we can hope for
any better things now. We shall stick it out to the end, but we are
getting weaker, of course, and the end cannot be far.
It seems a pity, but I do not think I can write more.
For God's sake look after our people.
Wilson and Bowers were found in the attitude of sleep, their
sleeping-bags closed over their heads as they would naturally close
Scott died later. He had thrown back the flaps of his sleeping-bag
and opened his coat. The little wallet containing the three notebooks
was under his shoulders and his arm flung across Wilson. So they were
found eight months later.
With the diaries in the tent were found the following letters:
TO MRS. E. A. WILSON
MY DEAR MRS. WILSON,
If this letter reaches you Bill and I will have gone out together. We
are very near it now and I should like you to know how splendid he
was at the end--everlastingly cheerful and ready to sacrifice himself
for others, never a word of blame to me for leading him into this
mess. He is not suffering, luckily, at least only minor discomforts.
His eyes have a comfortable blue look of hope and his mind is peaceful
with the satisfaction of his faith in regarding himself as part of
the great scheme of the Almighty. I can do no more to comfort you
than to tell you that he died as he lived, a brave, true man--the
best of comrades and staunchest of friends. My whole heart goes out
to you in pity,
TO MRS. BOWERS
MY DEAR MRS. BOWERS,
I am afraid this will reach you after one of the heaviest blows of
I write when we are very near the end of our journey, and I am
finishing it in company with two gallant, noble gentlemen. One of
these is your son. He had come to be one of my closest and soundest
friends, and I appreciate his wonderful upright nature, his ability
and energy. As the troubles have thickened his dauntless spirit ever
shone brighter and he has remained cheerful, hopeful, and indomitable
to the end.
The ways of Providence are inscrutable, but there must be some reason
why such a young, vigorous and promising life is taken.
My whole heart goes out in pity for you.
To the end he has talked of you and his sisters. One sees what a
happy home he must have had and perhaps it is well to look back on
nothing but happiness.
He remains unselfish, self-reliant and splendidly hopeful to the end,
believing in God's mercy to you.
TO SIR J. M. BARRIE
MY DEAR BARRIE,
We are pegging out in a very comfortless spot. Hoping this letter
may be found and sent to you, I write a word of farewell. ... More
practically I want you to help my widow and my boy--your godson. We are
showing that Englishmen can still die with a bold spirit, fighting it
out to the end. It will be known that we have accomplished our object
in reaching the Pole, and that we have done everything possible,
even to sacrificing ourselves in order to save sick companions. I
think this makes an example for Englishmen of the future, and that
the country ought to help those who are left behind to mourn us. I
leave my poor girl and your godson, Wilson leaves a widow, and Edgar
Evans also a widow in humble circumstances. Do what you can to get
their claims recognised. Goodbye. I am not at all afraid of the end,
but sad to miss many a humble pleasure which I had planned for the
future on our long marches. I may not have proved a great explorer,
but we have done the greatest march ever made and come very near to
great success. Goodbye, my dear friend,
We are in a desperate state, feet frozen, &c. No fuel and a long
way from food, but it would do your heart good to be in our tent,
to hear our songs and the cheery conversation as to what we will do
when we get to Hut Point.
_Later_.--We are very near the end, but have not and will not lose
our good cheer. We have four days of storm in our tent and nowhere's
food or fuel. We did intend to finish ourselves when things proved
like this, but we have decided to die naturally in the track.
As a dying man, my dear friend, be good to my wife and child. Give
the boy a chance in life if the State won't do it. He ought to have
good stuff in him. ... I never met a man in my life whom I admired
and loved more than you, but I never could show you how much your
friendship meant to me, for you had much to give and I nothing.
TO THE RIGHT HON. SIR EDGAR SPEYER, BART.
Dated March 16, 1912. Lat. 79.5 deg..
MY DEAR SIR EDGAR,
I hope this may reach you. I fear we must go and that it leaves the
Expedition in a bad muddle. But we have been to the Pole and we shall
die like gentlemen. I regret only for the women we leave behind.
I thank you a thousand times for your help and support and your
generous kindness. If this diary is found it will show how we stuck
by dying companions and fought the thing out well to the end. I think
this will show that the Spirit of pluck and power to endure has not
passed out of our race ...
Wilson, the best fellow that ever stepped, has sacrificed himself
again and again to the sick men of the party ...
I write to many friends hoping the letters will reach them some time
after we are found next year.
We very nearly came through, and it's a pity to have missed it,
but lately I have felt that we have overshot our mark. No one is
to blame and I hope no attempt will be made to suggest that we have
Good-bye to you and your dear kind wife.
Yours ever sincerely,
TO VICE-ADMIRAL SIR FRANCIS CHARLES BRIDGEMAN, K.C.V.O., K.C.B.
MY DEAR SIR FRANCIS,
I fear we have shipped up; a close shave; I am writing a few
letters which I hope will be delivered some day. I want to thank
you for the friendship you gave me of late years, and to tell you
how extraordinarily pleasant I found it to serve under you. I want
to tell you that I was not too old for this job. It was the younger
men that went under first... After all we are setting a good example
to our countrymen, if not by getting into a tight place, by facing
it like men when we were there. We could have come through had we
neglected the sick.
Good-bye, and good-bye to dear Lady Bridgeman.
Excuse writing--it is -40 deg., and has been for nigh a month.
TO VICE-ADMIRAL SIR GEORGE LE CLEARC EGERTON. K.C.B.
MY DEAR SIR GEORGE,
I fear we have shot our bolt--but we have been to Pole and done the
longest journey on record.
I hope these letters may find their destination some day.
Subsidiary reasons of our failure to return are due to the sickness of
different members of the party, but the real thing that has stopped
us is the awful weather and unexpected cold towards the end of the
This traverse of the Barrier has been quite three times as severe as
any experience we had on the summit.
There is no accounting for it, but the result has thrown out my
calculations, and here we are little more than 100 miles from the
base and petering out.
Good-bye. Please see my widow is looked after as far as Admiralty
My kindest regards to Lady Egerton. I can never forget all your
TO MR. J.J. KINSEY--CHRISTCHURCH
March 24th, 1912.
MY DEAR KINSEY,
I'm afraid we are pretty well done--four days of blizzard just as
we were getting to the last depot. My thoughts have been with you
often. You have been a brick. You will pull the expedition through,
My thoughts are for my wife and boy. Will you do what you can for
them if the country won't.
I want the boy to have a good chance in the world, but you know the
circumstances well enough.
If I knew the wife and boy were in safe keeping I should have little
regret in leaving the world, for I feel that the country need not be
ashamed of us--our journey has been the biggest on record, and nothing
but the most exceptional hard luck at the end would have caused us to
fail to return. We have been to the S. pole as we set out. God bless
you and dear Mrs. Kinsey. It is good to remember you and your kindness.
Letters to his Mother, his Wife, his Brother-in-law (Sir William
Ellison Macartney), Admiral Sir Lewis Beaumont, and Mr. and
Mrs. Reginald Smith were also found, from which come the following
The Great God has called me and I feel it will add a fearful blow to
the heavy ones that have fallen on you in life. But take comfort in
that I die at peace with the world and myself--not afraid.
Indeed it has been most singularly unfortunate, for the risks I have
taken never seemed excessive.
... I want to tell you that we have missed getting through by
a narrow margin which was justifiably within the risk of such a
journey ... After all, we have given our lives for our country--we
have actually made the longest journey on record, and we have been
the first Englishmen at the South Pole.
You must understand that it is too cold to write much.
... It's a pity the luck doesn't come our way, because every detail
of equipment is right.
I shall not have suffered any pain, but leave the world fresh from
harness and full of good health and vigour.
Since writing the above we got to within 11 miles of our depot, with
one hot meal and two days' cold food. We should have got through but
have been held for _four_ days by a frightful storm. I think the best
chance has gone. We have decided not to kill ourselves, but to fight to
the last for that depot, but in the fighting there is a painless end.
Make the boy interested in natural history if you can; it is better
than games; they encourage it at some schools. I know you will keep
him in the open air.
Above all, he must guard and you must guard him against indolence. Make
him a strenuous man. I had to force myself into being strenuous as
you know--had always an inclination to be idle.
There is a piece of the Union Jack I put up at the South Pole in
my private kit bag, together with Amundsen's black flag and other
trifles. Send a small piece of the Union Jack to the King and a small
piece to Queen Alexandra.
What lots and lots I could tell you of this journey. How much better
has it been than lounging in too great comfort at home. What tales
you would have for the boys. But what a price to pay.
Tell Sir Clements--I thought much of him and never regretted him
putting me in command of the _Discovery_.
Message to the Public
The causes of the disaster are not due to faulty organisation, but
to misfortune in all risks which had to be undertaken.
1. The loss of pony transport in March 1911 obliged me to start later
than I had intended, and obliged the limits of stuff transported to
2. The weather throughout the outward journey, and especially the
long gale in 83 deg. S., stopped us.
3. The soft snow in lower reaches of glacier again reduced pace.
We fought these untoward events with a will and conquered, but it
cut into our provision reserve.
Every detail of our food supplies, clothing and depots made on the
interior ice-sheet and over that long stretch of 700 miles to the
Pole and back, worked out to perfection. The advance party would
have returned to the glacier in fine form and with surplus of food,
but for the astonishing failure of the man whom we had least expected
to fail. Edgar Evans was thought the strongest man of the party.
The Beardmore Glacier is not difficult in fine weather, but on our
return we did not get a single completely fine day; this with a sick
companion enormously increased our anxieties.
As I have said elsewhere we got into frightfully rough ice and Edgar
Evans received a concussion of the brain--he died a natural death,
but left us a shaken party with the season unduly advanced.
But all the facts above enumerated were as nothing to the surprise
which awaited us on the Barrier. I maintain that our arrangements
for returning were quite adequate, and that no one in the world would
have expected the temperatures and surfaces which we encountered at
this time of the year. On the summit in lat. 85 deg. 86 deg. we had -20 deg.,
-30 deg.. On the Barrier in lat. 82 deg., 10,000 feet lower, we had -30 deg.
in the day, -47 deg. at night pretty regularly, with continuous head
wind during our day marches. It is clear that these circumstances
come on very suddenly, and our wreck is certainly due to this sudden
advent of severe weather, which does not seem to have any satisfactory
cause. I do not think human beings ever came through such a month as
we have come through, and we should have got through in spite of the
weather but for the sickening of a second companion, Captain Oates,
and a shortage of fuel in our depots for which I cannot account,
and finally, but for the storm which has fallen on us within 11 miles
of the depot at which we hoped to secure our final supplies. Surely
misfortune could scarcely have exceeded this last blow. We arrived
within 11 miles of our old One Ton Camp with fuel for one last meal
and food for two days. For four days we have been unable to leave the
tent--the gale howling about us. We are weak, writing is difficult,
but for my own sake I do not regret this journey, which has shown
that Englishmen can endure hardships, help one another, and meet death
with as great a fortitude as ever in the past. We took risks, we knew
we took them; things have come out against us, and therefore we have
no cause for complaint, but bow to the will of Providence, determined
still to do our best to the last. But if we have been willing to give
our lives to this enterprise, which is for the honour of our country,
I appeal to our countrymen to see that those who depend on us are
properly cared for.
Had we lived, I should have had a tale to tell of the hardihood,
endurance, and courage of my companions which would have stirred the
heart of every Englishman. These rough notes and our dead bodies must
tell the tale, but surely, surely, a great rich country like ours
will see that those who are dependent on us are properly provided for.
_Note_ 1, _p._ 3.--Dogs. These included thirty-three sledging dogs
and a collie bitch, 'Lassie.' The thirty-three, all Siberian dogs
excepting the Esquimaux 'Peary' and 'Borup,' were collected by
Mr. Meares, who drove them across Siberia to Vladivostok with the
help of the dog-driver Demetri Gerof, whom he had engaged for the
expedition. From Vladivostok, where he was joined by Lieutenant Wilfred
Bruce, he brought them by steamer to Sydney, and thence to Lyttelton.
The dogs were the gift of various schools, as shown by the following
Dogs Presented by Schools, &c.
School's, &c., Russian name Translation, Name of School, &c.,
name for Dog. of Dog. description, or that presented Dog.
nickname of Dog.
Beaumont Kumgai Isle off Beaumont College.
Bengeo Mannike Noogis Little Leader Bengeo, Herts.
Bluecoat Giliak Indian tribe Christ's Hospital.
Bristol Lappa Uki Lop Ears Grammar, Bristol.
Bromsgrove 'Peary' 'Peary' Bromsgrove School
(cost of transport).
Colston's Bullet Bullet Colston's School.
Danum Rabchick Grouse Doncaster Grammar Sch.
Derby I. Suka Lassie Girls' Secondary School,
Derby II. Silni Stocky Secondary Technical School,
Devon Jolti Yellowboy Devonshire House Branch
of Navy League.
Duns Brodiaga Robber Berwickshire High School.
Falcon Seri Grey High School, Winchester.
Felsted Visoli Jollyboy Felsted School.
Glebe Pestry Piebald Glebe House School.
Grassendale Suhoi II. Lanky Grassendale School.
Hal Krisravitsa Beauty Colchester Royal
Hampstead Ishak Jackass South Hampstead High
Hughie Gerachi Ginger Master H. Gethin Lewis.
Ilkley Wolk Wolf Ilkley Grammar.
Innie Suhoi I. Lanky Liverpool Institute.
Jersey Bear Bear Victoria College, Jersey.
John Bright Seri Uki Grey Ears Bootham.
Laleham Biela Noogis White Leader Laleham.
Leighton Pudil Poodle Leighton Park, Reading.
Lyon Tresor Treasure Lower School of J. Lyon.
Mac Deek I. Wild One Wells House.
Manor Colonel Colonel Manor House.
Mount Vesoi One Eye Mount, York.
Mundella Bulli Bullet Mundella Secondary.
Oakfield Ruggiola Sabaka 'Gun Dog' (Hound) Oakfield School, Rugby.
Oldham Vaida Christian name Hulme Grammar School,
Perse Vaska Lady's name Perse Grammar.
Poacher Malchick Black Old Man Grammar School, Lincoln.
Price Llewelyn Hohol Little Russian Intermediate, Llan-dudno Wells.
Radlyn Czigane Gipsy Radlyn, Harrogate.
Richmond Osman Christian name Richmond, Yorks.
Regent Marakas seri Grey Regent Street Polytechnic
Steyne Petichka Little Bird Steyne, Worthing.
Sir Andrew Deek II. Wild One Sir Andrew Judd's
Somerset Churnie kesoi One eye A Somerset School.
Tiger Mukaka Monkey Bournemouth School.
Tom Stareek Old Man Woodbridge.
Tua r Golleniai Julik Scamp Intermediate School, Cardiff.
Vic Glinie Long Nose Modern, Southport.
Whitgift Mamuke Rabchick Little Grouse Whitgift Grammar.
Winston Borup Borup Winston Higher Grade School
(cost of transport).
Meduate Lion N.Z. Girls' School.
_Note_ 2, _p_. 4.--Those who are named in these opening pages
were all keen supporters of the Expedition. Sir George Clifford,
Bart., and Messrs. Arthur and George Rhodes were friends from
Christchurch. Mr. M. J. Miller, Mayor of Lyttelton, was a master
shipwright and contractor, who took great interest in both the
_Discovery_ and the _Terra Nova_, and stopped the leak in the latter
vessel which had been so troublesome on the voyage out. Mr. Anderson
belonged to the firm of John Anderson & Sons, engineers, who own
Lyttelton Foundry. Mr. Kinsey was the trusted friend and representative
who acted as the representative of Captain Scott in New Zealand
during his absence in the South. Mr. Wyatt was business manager to
_Note_ 3. _p_. 11.--Dr. Wilson writes: I must say I enjoyed it all from
beginning to end, and as one bunk became unbearable after another,
owing to the wet, and the comments became more and more to the point
as people searched out dry spots here and there to finish the night
in oilskins and greatcoats on the cabin or ward-room seats, I thought
things were becoming interesting.
Some of the staff were like dead men with sea-sickness. Even so
Cherry-Garrard and Wright and Day turned out with the rest of us and
alternately worked and were sick.
I have no sea-sickness on these ships myself under any conditions,
so I enjoyed it all, and as I have the run of the bridge and can ask
as many questions as I choose, I knew all that was going on.
All Friday and Friday night we worked in two parties, two hours on and
two hours off; it was heavy work filling and handing up huge buckets
of water as fast as they could be given from one to the other from the
very bottom of the stokehold to the upper deck, up little metal ladders
all the way. One was of course wet through the whole time in a sweater
and trousers and sea boots, and every two hours one took these off and
hurried in for a rest in a greatcoat, to turn out again in two hours
and put in the same cold sopping clothes, and so on until 4 A.M. on
Saturday, when we had baled out between four and five tons of water
and had so lowered it that it was once more possible to light fires
and try the engines and the steam pump again and to clear the valves
and the inlet which was once more within reach. The fires had been
put out at 11.40 A.M. and were then out for twenty-two hours while
we baled. It was a weird' night's work with the howling gale and the
darkness and the immense seas running over the ship every few minutes
and no engines and no sail, and we all in the engine-room, black as ink
with the engine-room oil and bilge water, singing chanties as we passed
up slopping buckets full of bilge, each man above' slopping a little
over the heads of all below him; wet through to the skin, so much so
that some of the party worked altogether naked like Chinese coolies;
and the rush of the wave backwards and forwards at the bottom grew
hourly less in the dim light of a couple of engine-room oil lamps whose
light just made the darkness visible, the ship all the time rolling
like a sodden lifeless log, her lee gunwale under water every time.
_December_ 3. We were all at work till 4 A.M. and then were all told
off to sleep till 8 A.M. At 9.30 A.M. we were all on to the main
hand pump, and, lo and behold! it worked, and we pumped and pumped
till 12.30, when the ship was once more only as full of bilge water
as she always is and the position was practically solved.
There was one thrilling moment in the midst of the worst hour on Friday
when we were realising that the fires must be drawn, and when every
pump had failed to act, and when the bulwarks began to go to pieces
and the petrol cases were all afloat and going overboard, and the word
was suddenly passed in a shout from the hands at work in the waist of
the ship trying to save petrol cases that smoke was coming up through
the seams in the after hold. As this was full of coal and patent fuel
and was next the engine-room, and as it had not been opened for the
airing, it required to get rid of gas on account of the flood of water
on deck making it impossible to open the hatchways; the possibility
of a fire there was patent to everyone and it could not possibly have
been dealt with in any way short of opening the hatches and flooding
the ship, when she must have floundered. It was therefore a thrilling
moment or two until it was discovered that the smoke was really steam,
arising from the bilge at the bottom having risen to the heated coal.
_Note_ 4, _p_. 15.--_December_ 26. We watched two or three immense blue
whales at fairly short distance; this is _Balaenoptera Sibbaldi_. One
sees first a small dark hump appear and then immediately a jet of grey
fog squirted upwards fifteen to eighteen feet, gradually spreading as
it rises vertically into the frosty air. I have been nearly in these
blows once or twice and had the moisture in my face with a sickening
smell of shrimpy oil. Then the bump elongates and up rolls an immense
blue-grey or blackish grey round back with a faint ridge along the
top, on which presently appears a small hook-like dorsal fin, and
then the whole sinks and disappears. [Dr. Wilson's Journal.]
_Note_ 5, _p_. 21.--_December_ 18. Watered ship at a tumbled floe. Sea
ice when pressed up into large hummocks gradually loses all its
salt. Even when sea water freezes it squeezes out the great bulk of
its salt as a solid, but the sea water gets into it by soaking again,
and yet when held out of the water, as it is in a hummock, the salt
all drains out and the melted ice is blue and quite good for drinking,
engines, &c. [Dr. Wilson's Journal.]
_Note_ 6, _p_. 32.--It may be added that in contradistinction to
the nicknames of Skipper conferred upon Evans, and Mate on Campbell,
Scott himself was known among the afterguard as The Owner.
_Note_ 7, _p_. 35.--(Penguins.) They have lost none of their
attractiveness, and are most comical and interesting; as curious as
ever, they will always come up at a trot when we sing to them, and
you may often see a group of explorers on the poop singing 'For she's
got bells on her fingers and rings on her toes, elephants to ride upon
wherever she goes,' and so on at the top of their voices to an admiring
group of Adelie penguins. Meares is the greatest attraction; he has
a full voice which is musical but always very flat. He declares that
'God save the King' will always send them to the water, and certainly
it is often successful. [Dr. Wilson's Journal.]
_Note_ 8, _p_. 58.--We were to examine the possibilities of landing,
but the swell was so heavy in its break among the floating blocks of
ice along the actual beach and ice foot that a landing was out of
the question. We should have broken up the boat and have all been
in the water together. But I assure you it was tantalising to me,
for there about 6 feet above us on a small dirty piece of the old
bay ice about ten feet square one living Emperor penguin chick was
standing disconsolately stranded, and close by stood one faithful old
Emperor parent asleep. This young Emperor was still in the down, a most
interesting fact in the bird's life history at which we had rightly
guessed, but which no one had actually observed before. It was in a
stage never yet seen or collected, for the wings were already quite
clean of down and feathered as in the adult, also a line down the
breast was shed of down, and part of the head. This bird would have
been a treasure to me, but we could not risk life for it, so it had to
remain where it was. It was a curious fact that with as much clean ice
to live on as they could have wished for, these destitute derelicts of
a flourishing colony now gone north to sea on floating bay ice should
have preferred to remain standing on the only piece of bay ice left,
a piece about ten feet square and now pressed up six feet above water
level, evidently wondering why it was so long in starting north with
the general exodus which must have taken place just a month ago. The
whole incident was most interesting and full of suggestion as to the
slow working of the brain of these queer people. Another point was most
weird to see, that on the under side of this very dirty piece of sea
ice, which was about two feet thick and which hung over the water as a
sort of cave, we could see the legs and lower halves of dead Emperor
chicks hanging through, and even in one place a dead adult. I hope
to make a picture of the whole quaint incident, for it was a corner
crammed full of Imperial history in the light of what we already knew,
and it would otherwise have been about as unintelligible as any group
of animate or inanimate nature could possibly have been. As it is, it
throws more light on the life history of this strangely primitive bird.
We were joking in the boat as we rowed under these cliffs and saying
it would be a short-lived amusement to see the overhanging cliff part
company and fall over us. So we were glad to find that we were rowing
back to the ship and already 200 or 300 yards away from the place and
in open water when there was a noise like crackling thunder and a huge
plunge into the sea and a smother of rock dust like the smoke of an
explosion, and we realised that the very thing had happened which we
had just been talking about. Altogether it was a very exciting row,
for before we got on board we had the pleasure of seeing the ship
shoved in so close to these cliffs by a belt of heavy pack ice that
to us it appeared a toss-up whether she got out again or got forced
in against the rocks. She had no time or room to turn and get clear
by backing out through the belt of pack stern first, getting heavy
bumps under the counter and on the rudder as she did so, for the ice
was heavy and the swell considerable. [Dr. Wilson's Journal.]
_Note_ 9, _p_. 81.--Dr. Wilson writes in his Journal: _January_
14. He also told me the plans for our depot journey on which we shall
be starting in about ten days' time. He wants me to be a dog driver
with himself, Meares, and Teddie Evans, and this is what I would have
chosen had I had a free choice at all. The dogs run in two teams and
each team wants two men. It means a lot of running as they are being
driven now, but it is the fastest and most interesting work of all,
and we go ahead of the whole caravan with lighter loads and at a faster
rate; moreover, if any traction except ourselves can reach the top
of Beardmore Glacier, it will be the dogs, and the dog drivers are
therefore the people who will have the best chance of doing the top
piece of the ice cap at 10,000 feet to the Pole. May I be there! About
this time next year may I be there or there-abouts! With so many
young bloods in the heyday of youth and strength beyond my own I feel
there will be a most difficult task in making choice towards the end
and a most keen competition--and a universal lack of selfishness and
self-seeking with a complete absence of any jealous feeling in any
single one of the comparatively large number who at present stand a
chance of being on the last piece next summer.
It will be an exciting time and the excitement has already begun in
the healthiest possible manner. I have never been thrown in with a
more unselfish lot of men--each one doing his utmost fair and square
in the most cheery manner possible.
As late as October 15 he writes further: 'No one yet knows who will
be on the Summit party: it is to depend on condition, and fitness
when we get there.' It is told of Scott, while still in New Zealand,
that being pressed on the point, he playfully said, 'Well, I should
like to have Bill to hold my hand when we get to the Pole'; but the
Diary shows how the actual choice was made on the march.
_Note_ 10, _p_. 86.--Campbell, Levick, and Priestly set off to the
old _Nimrod_ hut eight miles away to see if they could find a stove of
convenient size for their own hut, as well as any additional paraffin,
and in default of the latter, to kill some seals for oil.
_Note_ 11, _p_. 92.--The management of stores and transport was
finally entrusted to Bowers. Rennick therefore remained with the
ship. A story told by Lady Scott illustrates the spirit of these
men--the expedition first, personal distinctions nowhere. It was in
New Zealand and the very day on which the order had been given for
Bowers to exchange with Rennick. In the afternoon Captain Scott and
his wife were returning from the ship to the house where they were
staying; on the hill they saw the two men coming down with arms on
each other's shoulders--a fine testimony to both. 'Upon my word,'
exclaimed Scott, 'that shows Rennick in a good light!'
_Note_ 12, _p_. 102.--_January_ 29. The seals have been giving a lot
of trouble, that is just to Meares and myself with our dogs. The whole
teams go absolutely crazy when they sight them or get wind of them,
and there are literally hundreds along some of the cracks. Occasionally
when one pictures oneself quite away from trouble of that kind, an old
seal will pop his head up at a blowhole a few yards ahead of the team,
and they are all on top of him before one can say 'Knife!' Then one
has to rush in with the whip--and every one of the team of eleven
jumps over the harness of the dog next to him and the harnesses
become a muddle that takes much patience to unravel, not to mention
care lest the whole team should get away with the sledge and its
load and leave one behind to follow on foot at leisure. I never did
get left the whole of this depot journey, but I was often very near
it and several times had only time to seize a strap or a part of the
sledge and be dragged along helter-skelter over everything that came
in the way till the team got sick of galloping and one could struggle
to one's feet again. One gets very wary and wide awake when one has
to manage a team of eleven dogs and a sledge load by oneself, but it
was a most interesting experience, and I had a delightful leader,
'Stareek' by name--Russian for 'Old Man,' and he was the most wise
old man. We have to use Russian terms with all our dogs. 'Ki Ki'
means go to the right, 'Chui' means go to the left, 'Esh to' means lie
down--and the remainder are mostly swear words which mean everything
else which one has to say to a dog team. Dog driving like this in the
orthodox manner is a very different thing to the beastly dog driving
we perpetrated in the Discovery days. I got to love all my team and
they got to know me well, and my old leader even now, six months
after I have had anything to do with him, never fails to come and
speak to me whenever he sees me, and he knows me and my voice ever
so far off. He is quite a ridiculous 'old man' and quite the nicest,
quietest, cleverest old dog I have ever come across. He looks in face
as if he knew all the wickedness of all the world and all its cares
and as if he were bored to death by them. [Dr. Wilson's Journal.]
_Note_ 13, _p_. 111.--_February_ 15. There were also innumerable
subsidences of the surface--the breaking of crusts over air spaces
under them, large areas of dropping 1/4 inch or so with a hushing sort
of noise or muffled report.--My leader Stareek, the nicest and wisest
old dog in both teams, thought there was a rabbit under the crust