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The South Pole, Volume 2 by Roald Amundsen

Part 2 out of 6

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to consist of four mountains; one of these -- Mount Helmer Hanssen --
lay separated from the rest. The other three -- Mounts Oscar Wisting,
Sverre Hassel, and Olav Bjaaland -- lay closer together. Behind this
group the air had been heavy and black the whole time, showing that
more land must be concealed there. Suddenly, in one of the brightest
intervals, there came a rift in this curtain, and the summits of
a colossal mountain mass appeared. Our first impression was that
this mountain -- Mount Thorvald Nilsen -- must be something over
20,000 feet high; it positively took our breath away, so formidable
did it appear. But it was only a glimpse that we had, and then the
fog enclosed it once more. We had succeeded in taking a few meagre
bearings of the different summits of the nearest group; they were not
very grand, but better ones were not to be obtained. For that matter,
the site of the depot was so well marked by its position under the
foot of the glacier that we agreed it would be impossible to miss it.

Having finished the edifice, which rose at least 6 feet into the air,
we put one of our black provision cases on the top of it, so as to be
able to see it still more easily on the way back. An observation we had
contrived to take while the work was in progress gave us our latitude
as 86 21' S. This did not agree very well with the latitude of our
dead reckoning -- 86 23' S. Meanwhile the fog had again enveloped
everything, and a fine, light snow was falling. We had taken a
bearing of the line of glacier that was most free of crevasses,
and so we moved on again. It was some time before we felt our way
up to the glacier. The crevasses at its foot were not large, but we
had no sooner entered upon the ascent than the fun began. There was
something uncanny about this perfectly blind advance among crevasses
and chasms on all sides. We examined the compass from time to time,
and went forward cautiously.

Hassel and I went in front on a rope; but that, after all, was not much
of a help to our drivers. We naturally glided lightly on our ski over
places where the dogs would easily fall through. This lowest part of
the glacier was not entirely free from danger, as the crevasses were
often rendered quite invisible by a thin overlying layer of snow. In
clear weather it is not so bad to have to cross such a surface,
as the effect of light and shade is usually to show up the edges of
these insidious pitfalls, but on a day like this, when everything
looked alike, one's advance is doubtful. We kept it going, however,
by using the utmost caution. Wisting came near to sounding the depth
of one of these dangerous crevasses with sledge, dogs and all, as
the bridge he was about to cross gave way. Thanks to his presence
of mind and a lightning-like movement -- some would call it luck --
he managed to save himself. In this way we worked up about 200 feet,
but then we came upon such a labyrinth of yawning chasms and open
abysses that we could not move. There was nothing to be done but to
find the least disturbed spot, and set the tent there.

As soon as this was done Hanssen and I set out to explore. We were
roped, and therefore safe enough. It required some study to find a
way out of the trap we had run ourselves into. Towards the group of
mountains last described -- which now lay to the east of us -- it had
cleared sufficiently to give us a fairly good view of the appearance of
the glacier in that direction. What we had before seen at a distance,
was now confirmed. The part extending to the mountains was so ground
up and broken that there was positively not a spot where one could
set one's foot. It looked as if a battle had been fought here, and
the ammunition had been great blocks of ice. They lay pell-mell,
one on the top of another, in all directions, and evoked a picture of
violent confusion. Thank God we were not here while this was going on,
I thought to myself, as I stood looking out over this battlefield;
it must have been a spectacle like doomsday, and not on a small scale
either. To advance in that direction, then, was hopeless, but that
was no great matter, since our way was to the south. On the south we
could see nothing; the fog lay thick and heavy there. All we could
do was to try to make our way on, and we therefore crept southward.

On leaving our tent we had first to cross a comparatively narrow
snow-bridge, and then go along a ridge or saddle, raised by pressure,
with wide open crevasses on both sides. This ridge led us on to
an icewave about 25 feet high -- a formation which was due to the
pressure having ceased before the wave had been forced to break and
form hummocks. We saw well enough that this would be a difficult place
to pass with sledges and dogs, but in default of anything better it
would have to be done. From the top of this wave-formation we could see
down on the other side, which had hitherto been hidden from us. The
fog prevented our seeing far, but the immediate surroundings were
enough to convince us that with caution we could beat up farther. From
the height on which we stood, every precaution would be required to
avoid going down on the other side; for there the wave ended in an
open crevasse, specially adapted to receive any drivers, sledges or
dogs that might make a slip.

This trip that Hanssen and I took to the south was made entirely at
random, as we saw absolutely nothing; our object was to make tracks for
the following day's journey. The language we used about the glacier
as we went was not altogether complimentary; we had endless tacking
and turning to get on. To go one yard forward, I am sure we had to
go at least ten to one side. Can anyone be surprised that we called
it the Devil's Glacier? At any rate, our companions acknowledged the
justness of the name with ringing acclamations when we told them of it.

At Hell's Gate Hanssen and I halted. This was a very remarkable
formation; the glacier had here formed a long ridge about 20 feet
high; then, in the middle of this ridge, a fissure had opened,
making a gateway about 6 feet wide. This formation -- like every --
thing else on the glacier-was obviously very old, and for the most
part filled with snow. From this point the glacier, as far as our
view extended to the south, looked better and better; we therefore
turned round and followed our tracks in the comforting conviction
that we should manage to get on.

Our companions were no less pleased with the news we brought of our
prospects. Our altitude that evening was 8,650 feet above the sea --
that is to say, at the foot of the glacier we had reached an altitude
of 8,450 feet, or a drop from the Butcher's of 2,570 feet. We now knew
very well that we should have this ascent to make again, perhaps even
more; and this idea did not arouse any particular enthusiasm. In my
diary I see that I conclude the day with the following words "What
will the next surprise be, I wonder?"

It was, in fact, an extraordinary journey that we were undertaking,
through new regions, new mountains, glaciers, and so on, without being
able to see. That we were prepared for surprises was perhaps quite
natural. What I liked least about this feeling one's way forward in
the dark was that it would be difficult -- very difficult indeed --
to recognize the ground again on the way back. But with this glacier
lying straight across our line of route, and with the numerous beacons
we had erected, we reassured ourselves on this score. It would take
a good deal to make us miss them on the return. The point for us,
of course, was to find our descent on to the Barrier again -- a
mistake there might be serious enough. And it will appear later in
this narrative that my fear of our not being able to recognize the
way was not entirely groundless. The beacons we had put up came to
our aid, and for our final success we owe a deep debt of gratitude
to our prudence and thoughtfulness in adopting this expedient.

Next morning, November 29, brought considerably clearer weather,
and allowed us a very good survey of our position. We could now see
that the two mountain ranges uniting in 86 S. were continued in a
mighty chain running to the south-east, with summits from 10,000 to
15,000 feet. Mount Thorvald Nilsen was the most southerly we could
see from this point. Mounts Hanssen, Wisting, Bjaaland, and Hassel
formed, as we had thought the day before, a group by themselves,
and lay separated from the main range.

The drivers had a warm morning's work. They had to drive with great
circumspection and patience to grapple with the kind of ground we
had before us; a slight mistake might be enough to send both sledge
and dogs with lightning rapidity into the next world. It took,
nevertheless, a remarkably short time to cover the distance we had
explored on the previous evening; before we knew it, we were at
Hell's Gate.

Bjaaland took an excellent photograph here, which gives a very good
idea of the difficulties this part of the journey presented. In the
foreground, below the high snow-ridge that forms one side of a very
wide but partly filled-up crevasse, the marks of ski can be seen in the
snow. This was the photographer, who, in passing over this snow-bridge,
struck his ski into it to try the strength of the support. Close to
the tracks can be seen an open piece of the crevasse; it is a pale
blue at the top, but ends in the deepest black -- in a bottomless
abyss. The photographer got over the bridge and back with a whole skin,
but there could be no question of risking sledges and dogs on it, and
it can be seen in the photograph that the sledges have been turned
right round to try another way. The two small black figures in the
distance, on the right, are Hassel and I, who are reconnoitring ahead.

It was no very great distance that we put behind us that day-nine
and a quarter miles in a straight line. But, taking into account all
the turns and circuits we had been compelled to make, it was not so
short after all. We set our tent on a good, solid foundation, and were
well pleased with the day's work. The altitude was 8,960 feet above
the sea. The sun was now in the west, and shining directly upon the
huge mountain masses. It was a fairy landscape in blue and white, red
and black, a play of colours that defies description. Clear as it now
appeared to be, one could understand that the weather was not all that
could be wished, for the south-eastern end of Mount Thorvald Nilsen
lost itself in a dark, impenetrable cloud, which led one to suspect
a continuation in that direction, though one could not be certain.

Mount Nilsen -- ah! anything more beautiful, taking it altogether,
I have never seen. Peaks of the most varied forms rose high into the
air, partly covered with driving clouds. Some were sharp, but most
were long and rounded. Here and there one saw bright, shining glaciers
plunging wildly down the steep sides, and merging into the underlying
ground in fearful confusion. But the most remarkable of them all was
Mount Helmer Hanssen; its top was as round as the bottom of a bowl,
and covered by an extraordinary ice-sheet, which was so broken up and
disturbed that the blocks of ice bristled in every direction like the
quills of a porcupine. It glittered and burned in the sunlight -- a
glorious spectacle. There could only be one such mountain in the world,
and as a landmark it was priceless. We knew that we could not mistake
that, however the surroundings might appear on the return journey,
when possibly the conditions of lighting might be altogether different.

After camping, two of us went out to explore farther. The prospect from
the tent was not encouraging, but we might possibly find things better
than we expected. We were lucky to find the going so fine as it was
on the glacier; we had left our crampons behind at the Butcher's Shop,
and if we had found smooth ice, instead of a good, firm snow surface,
such as we now had, it would have caused us much trouble. Up --
still up, among monsters of crevasses, some of them hundreds of feet
wide and possibly thousands of feet deep. Our prospects of advancing
were certainly not bright; as far as we could see in the line of our
route one immense ridge towered above another, concealing on their
farther sides huge, wide chasms, which all had to be avoided. We went
forward -- steadily forward -- though the way round was both long and
troublesome. We had no rope on this time, as the irregularities were
so plain that it would have been difficult to go into them. It turned
out, however, at several points, that the rope would not have been
out of place. We were just going to cross over one of the numerous
ridges -- the surface here looked perfectly whole -- when a great
piece broke right under the back half of Hanssen's ski. We could
not deny ourselves the pleasure of glancing down into the hole. The
sight was not an inviting one, and we agreed to avoid this place when
we came on with our dogs and sledges. Every day we had occasion to
bless our ski. We often used to ask each other where we should now
have been without these excellent appliances. The usual answer was:
Most probably at the bottom of some crevasse. When we first read
the different accounts of the aspect and nature of the Barrier, it
was clear to all of us, who were born and bred with ski on our feet,
that these must be regarded as indispensable. This view was confirmed
and strengthened every day, and I am not giving too much credit to our
excellent ski when I say that they not only played a very important
part, but possibly the most important of all, on our journey to the
South Pole. Many a time we traversed stretches of surface so cleft
and disturbed that it would have been an impossibility to get over
them on foot. I need scarcely insist on the advantages of ski in deep,
loose snow.

After advancing for two hours, we decided to return. From the raised
ridge on which we were then standing, the surface ahead of us looked
more promising than ever; but we had so often been deceived on the
glacier that we had now become definitely sceptical. How often,
for instance, had we thought that beyond this or that undulation
our trials would be at an end, and that the way to the south would
lie open and free; only to reach the place and find that the ground
behind the ridge was, if possible, worse than what we had already been
struggling with. But this time we seemed somehow to feel victory in
the air. The formations appeared to promise it, and yet -- had we been
so often deceived by these formations that we now refused to offer
them a thought? Was it possibly instinct that told us this? I do not
know, but certain it is that Hanssen and I agreed, as we stood there
discussing our prospects, that behind the farthest ridge we saw, we
should conquer the glacier. We had a feverish desire to go and have
a look at it; but the way round the many crevasses was long, and --
I may as well admit it -- we were beginning to get tired. The return,
downhill as it was, did not take long, and soon we were able to tell
our comrades that the prospects for the morrow were very promising.

While we had been away, Hassel had measured the Nilsen Mountain,
and found its height to be 15,500 feet above the sea. How well
I remember that evening, when we stood contemplating the glorious
sight that Nature offered, and believing the air to be so clear that
anything within range of vision must have shown itself; and how well,
too, I remember our astonishment on the return journey on finding
the whole landscape completely transformed! If it had not been for
Mount Helmer Hanssen, it would have been difficult for us to know
where we were. The atmosphere in these regions may play the most
awkward tricks. Absolutely clear as it seemed to us that evening,
it nevertheless turned out later that it had been anything but
clear. One has, therefore, to be very careful about what one sees
or does not see. In most cases it has proved that travellers in the
Polar regions have been more apt to see too much than too little;
if, however, we had charted this tract as we saw it the first time,
a great part of the mountain ranges would have been omitted.

During the night a gale sprang up from the south-east, and blew so
that it howled in the guy-ropes of the tent; it was well that the
tent-pegs had a good hold. In the morning, while we were at breakfast,
it was still blowing, and we had some thoughts of waiting for a time;
but suddenly, without warning, the wind dropped to such an extent
that all our hesitation vanished. What a change the south-east wind
had produced! The splendid covering of snow that the day before had
made ski-running a pleasure, was now swept away over great stretches
of surface, exposing the hard substratum. Our thoughts flew back;
the crampons we had left behind seemed to dance before my eyes,
backwards and forwards, grinning and pointing fingers at me. It would
be a nice little extra trip back to the Butcher's to fetch them.

Meanwhile, we packed and made everything ready. The tracks of the day
before were not easy to follow; but if we lost them now and again
on the smooth ice surface, we picked them up later on a snow-wave
that had resisted the attack of the wind. It was hard and strenuous
work for the drivers. The sledges were difficult to manage over the
smooth, sloping ice; sometimes they went straight, but just as often
cross-wise, requiring sharp attention to keep them from capsizing. And
this had to be prevented at all costs, as the thin provision cases
would not stand many bumps on the ice; besides which, it was such
hard work righting the sledges again that for this reason alone
the drivers exercised the greatest care. The sledges were put to a
severe test that day, with the many great and hard irregularities we
encountered on the glacier; it is a wonder they survived it, and is
a good testimonial for Bjaaland's work.

The glacier that day presented the worst confusion we had yet had
to deal with. Hassel and I went in front, as usual, with the rope
on. Up to the spot Hanssen and I had reached the evening before our
progress was comparatively easy; one gets on so much quicker when one
knows that the way is practicable. After this point it became worse;
indeed, it was often so bad that we had to stop for a long time and
try in various directions, before finding a way. More than once the
axe had to be used to hack away obstructions. At one time things
looked really serious; chasm after chasm, hummock after hummock, so
high and steep that they were like mountains. Here we went out and
explored in every direction to find a passage; at last we found one,
if, indeed, it deserved the name of a passage. It was a bridge so
narrow that it scarcely allowed room for the width of the sledge;
a fearful abyss on each side. The crossing of this place reminded
me of the tight-rope walker going over Niagara. It was a good thing
none of us was subject to giddiness, and that the dogs did not know
exactly what the result of a false step would be.

On the other side of this bridge we began to go downhill, and our
course now lay in a long valley between lofty undulations on each
side. It tried our patience severely to advance here, as the line of
the hollow was fairly long and ran due west. We tried several times
to lay our course towards the south and clamber up the side of the
undulation, but these efforts did not pay us. We could always get up on
to the ridge, but we could not come down again on the other side; there
was nothing to be done but to follow the natural course of the valley
until it took us into the tract lying to the south. It was especially
the drivers whose patience was sorely tried, and I could see them now
and then take a turn up to the top of the ridge, not satisfied with
the exploration Hassel and I had made. But the result was always the
same; they had to submit to Nature's caprices and follow in our tracks.

Our course along this natural line was not entirely free from
obstruction; crevasses of various dimensions constantly crossed our
path. The ridge or undulation, at the top of which we at last arrived,
had quite an imposing effect. It terminated on the east in a steep drop
to the underlying surface, and attained at this point a height of over
100 feet. On the west it sloped gradually into the lower ground and
allowed us to advance that way. In order to have a better view of the
surroundings we ascended the eastern and highest part of the ridge,
and from here we at once had a confirmation of our supposition of the
day before. The ridge we had then seen, behind which we hoped to find
better conditions, could now be seen a good way ahead. And what we
then saw made our hearts beat fast with joy. Could that great white,
unbroken plain over there be real, or was it only an illusion? Time
would show.

Meanwhile Hassel and I jogged on, and the others followed. We had
to get through a good many difficulties yet before we reached that
point, but, compared with all the breakneck places we had already
crossed, these were of a comparatively tame description. It was
with a sigh of relief that we arrived at the plain that promised so
well; its extent was not very great, but we were not very exacting
either in this respect, after our last few days' march over the
broken surface. Farther to the south we could still see great masses
piled up by pressure, but the intervals between them were very great
and the surface was whole. This was, then, the first time since we
tackled the Devil's Glacier that we were able to steer true south
for a few minutes.

As we progressed, it could be seen that we had really come upon another
kind of ground; for once we had not been made fools of. Not that we
had an unbroken, level surface to go upon -- it would be a long time
before we came to that -- but we were able to keep our course for long
stretches at a time. The huge crevasses became rarer, and so filled up
at both ends that we were able to cross them without going a long way
round. There was new life in all of us, both dogs and men, and we went
rapidly southward. As we advanced, the conditions improved more and
more. We could see in the distance some huge dome-shaped formations,
that seemed to tower high into the air: these turned out to be the
southernmost limit of the big crevasses and to form the transition
to the third phase of the glacier.

It was a stiff climb to get up these domes, which were fairly high
and swept smooth by the wind. They lay straight in our course, and
from their tops we had a good view. The surface we were entering upon
was quite different from that on the northern side of the domes. Here
the big crevasses were entirely filled with snow and might be crossed
anywhere. What specially attracted one's attention here was an immense
number of small formations in the shape of haycocks. Great stretches
of the surface were swept bare, exposing the smooth ice.

It was evident that these various formations or phases in the glacier
were due to the underlying ground. The first tract we had passed,
where the confusion was so extreme, must be the part that lay
nearest the bare land; in proportion as the glacier left the land,
it became less disturbed: In the haycock district the disturbance
had not produced cracks in the surface to any extent, only upheaval
here and there. How these haycocks were formed and what they looked
like inside we were soon to find out. It was a pleasure to be able to
advance all the time, instead of constantly turning and going round;
only once or twice did we have to turn aside for the larger haycocks,
otherwise we kept our course. The great, clean-swept stretches of
surface that we came upon from time to time were split in every
direction, but the cracks were very narrow -- about half an inch wide.

We had difficulty in finding a place for the tent that evening;
the surface was equally hard everywhere, and at last we had to set
it on the bare ice. Luckily for our tent-pegs, this ice was not of
the bright, steely variety; it was more milky in appearance and
not so hard, and we were thus able to knock in the pegs with the
axe. When the tent was up, Hassel went out as usual to fetch snow
for the cooker. As a rule he performed this task with a big knife,
specially made for snow; but this evening he went out armed with an
axe. He was very pleased with the abundant and excellent material
that lay to his hand; there was no need to go far. Just outside the
tent door, two feet away, stood a fine little haycock, that looked
as if it would serve the purpose well. Hassel raised his axe and
gave a good sound blow; the axe met with no resistance, and went in
up to the haft. The haycock was hollow. As the axe was pulled out
the surrounding part gave way, and one could hear the pieces of ice
falling down through the dark hole. It appeared, then, that two feet
from our door we had a most convenient way down into the cellar. Hassel
looked as if he enjoyed the situation. "Black as a sack," he smiled;
"couldn't see any bottom." Hanssen was beaming; no doubt he would
have liked the tent a little nearer. The material provided by the
haycock was of the best quality, and well adapted for cooking purposes.

The next day, December 1, was a very fatiguing one for us all. From
early morning a blinding blizzard raged from the south-east,
with a heavy fall of snow. The going was of the very worst kind --
polished ice. I stumbled forward on ski, and had comparatively easy
work. The drivers had been obliged to take off their ski and put
them on the loads, so as to walk by the side, support the sledges,
and give the dogs help when they came to a difficult place; and that
was pretty often, for on this smooth ice surface there were a number
of small scattered sastrugi, and these consisted of a kind of snow
that reminded one more of fish-glue than of anything else when the
sledges came in contact with it. The dogs could get no hold with
their claws on the smooth ice, and when the sledge came on to one
of these tough little waves, they could not manage to haul it over,
try as they might. The driver then had to put all his strength into
it to prevent the sledge stopping. Thus in most cases the combined
efforts of men and dogs carried the sledge on.

In the course of the afternoon the surface again began to be more
disturbed, and great crevasses crossed our path time after time. These
crevasses were really rather dangerous; they looked very innocent,
as they were quite filled up with snow, but on a nearer acquaintance
with them we came to understand that they were far more hazardous
than we dreamed of at first. It turned out that between the loose
snow-filling and the firm ice edges there was a fairly broad, open
space, leading straight down into the depths. The layer of snow
which covered it over was in most cases quite thin. In driving out
into one of these snow-filled crevasses nothing happened as a rule;
but it was in getting off on the other side that the critical moment
arrived. For here the dogs came up on to the smooth ice surface, and
could get no hold for their claws, with the result that it was left
entirely to the driver to haul the the sledge up. The strong pull he
then had to give sent him through the thin layer of snow. Under these
circumstances he took a good, firm hold of the sledge-lashing, or of
a special strap that had been made with a view to these accidents. But
familiarity breeds contempt, even with the most cautious, and some of
the drivers were often within an ace of going down into "the cellar."

If this part of the journey was trying for the dogs, it was certainly
no less so for the men. If the weather had even been fine, so that we
could have looked about us, we should not have minded it so much, but
in this vile weather it was, indeed, no pleasure. Our time was also
a good deal taken up with thawing noses and cheeks as they froze --
not that we stopped; we had no time for that. We simply took off a mit,
and laid the warm hand on the frozen spot as we went; when we thought
we had restored sensation, we put the hand back into the mit. By
this time it would want warming. One does not keep one's hands bare
for long with the thermometer several degrees below zero and a storm
blowing. In spite of the unfavourable conditions we had been working
in, the sledge-meters that evening showed a distance of fifteen and a
half miles. We were well satisfied with the day's work when we camped.

Let us cast a glance into the tent this evening. It looks cosy
enough. The inner half of the tent is occupied by three sleeping-bags,
whose respective owners have found it both comfortable and expedient
to turn in, and may now be seen engaged with their diaries. The outer
half -- that nearest the door -- has only two sleeping-bags, but
the rest of the space is taken up with the whole cooking apparatus
of the expedition. The owners of these two bags are still sitting
up. Hanssen is cook, and will not turn in until the food is ready and
served. Wisting is his sworn comrade and assistant, and is ready to
lend him any aid that may be required. Hanssen appears to be a careful
cook; he evidently does not like to burn the food, and his spoon stirs
the contents of the pot incessantly. "Soup!" The effect of the word
is instantaneous. Everyone sits up at once with a cup in one hand and
a spoon in the other. Each one in his turn has his cup filled with
what looks like the most tasty vegetable soup. Scalding hot it is,
as one can see by the faces, but for all that it disappears with
surprising rapidity. Again the cups are filled, this time with more
solid stuff pemmican. With praiseworthy despatch their contents are
once more demolished, and they are filled for the third time. There is
nothing the matter with these men's appetites. The cups are carefully
scraped, and the enjoyment of bread and water begins. It is easy to
see, too, that it is an enjoyment -- greater, to judge by the pleasure
on their faces, than the most skilfully devised menu could afford. They
positively caress the biscuits before they eat them. And the water --
ice-cold water they all call for -- this also disappears in great
quantities, and procures, I feel certain from their expression,
a far greater pleasure and satisfaction than the finest wine that
was ever produced. The Primus hums softly during the whole meal,
and the temperature in the tent is quite pleasant.

When the meal is over, one of them calls for scissors and
looking-glass, and then one may see the Polar explorers dressing their
hair for the approaching Sunday. The beard is cut quite short with the
clipper every Saturday evening; this is done not so much from motives
of vanity as from considerations of utility and comfort. The beard
invites an accumulation of ice, which may often be very embarrassing. A
beard in the Polar regions seems to me to be just as awkward and
unpractical as -- well, let us say, walking with a tall hat on each
foot. As the beard-clipper and the mirror make their round, one
after the other disappears into his bag, and with five "Good-nights,"
silence falls upon the tent. The regular breathing soon announces that
the day's work demands its tribute. Meanwhile the south-easter howls,
and the snow beats against the tent. The dogs have curled themselves
up, and do not seem to trouble themselves about the weather.

The storm continued unabated on the following day, and on account of
the dangerous nature of the ground we decided to wait awhile. In the
course of the morning -- towards noon, perhaps -- the wind dropped
a little, and out we went. The sun peeped through at times, and
we took the welcome opportunity of getting an altitude -- 86 47'
S. was the result.

At this camp we left behind all our delightful reindeer-skin clothing,
as we could see that we should have no use for it, the temperature
being far too high. We kept the hoods of our reindeer coats, however;
we might be glad of them in going against the wind. Our day's march
was not to be a long one; the little slackening of the wind about
midday was only a joke. It soon came on again in earnest, with a
sweeping blizzard from the same quarter -- the south-east. If we
had known the ground, we should possibly have gone on; but in this
storm and driving snow, which prevented our keeping our eyes open,
it was no use. A serious accident might happen and ruin all. Two and
half miles was therefore our whole distance. The temperature when we
camped was -5.8 F. Height above the sea, 9,780 feet.

In the course of the night the wind veered from south-east to north,
falling light, and the weather cleared. This was a good chance for us,
and we were not slow to avail ourselves of it. A gradually rising ice
surface lay before us, bright as a mirror. As on the preceding days,
I stumbled along in front on ski, while the others, without their ski,
had to follow and support the sledges. The surface still offered filled
crevasses, though perhaps less frequently than before. Meanwhile small
patches of snow began to show themselves on the polished surface,
and soon increased in number and size, until before very long they
united and covered the unpleasant ice with a good and even layer of
snow. Then ski were put on again, and we continued our way to the
south with satisfaction.

We were all rejoicing that we had now conquered this treacherous
glacier, and congratulating ourselves on having at last arrived on
the actual plateau. As we were going along, feeling pleased about
this, a ridge suddenly appeared right ahead, telling us plainly that
perhaps all our sorrows were not yet ended. The ground had begun
to sink a little, and as we came nearer we could see that we had to
cross a rather wide, but not deep, valley before we arrived under the
ridge. Great lines of hummocks and haycock-shaped pieces of ice came
in view on every side; we could see that we should have to keep our
eyes open.

And now we came to the formation in the glacier that we called the
Devil's Ballroom. Little by little the covering of snow that we had
praised in such high terms disappeared, and before us lay this wide
valley, bare and gleaming. At first it went well enough; as it was
downhill, we were going at a good pace on the smooth ice. Suddenly
Wisting's sledge cut into the surface, and turned over on its
side. We all knew what had happened -- one of the runners was in
a crevasse. Wisting set to work, with the assistance of Hassel,
to raise the sledge, and take it out of its dangerous position;
meanwhile Bjaaland had got out his camera and was setting it
up. Accustomed as we were to such incidents, Hanssen and I were
watching the scene from a point a little way in advance, where we had
arrived when it happened. As the photography took rather a long time,
I assumed that the crevasse was one of the filled ones and presented no
particular danger, but that Bjaaland wanted to have a souvenir among
his photographs of the numerous crevasses and ticklish situations
we had been exposed to. As to the crack being filled up, there was
of course no need to inquire. I hailed them, and asked how they were
getting on. "Oh, all right," was the answer; "we've just finished." --
"What does the crevasse look like?" -- "Oh, as usual," they shouted
back; "no bottom." I mention this little incident just to show how
one can grow accustomed to anything in this world. There were these
two -- Wisting and Hassel -- lying over a yawning, bottomless abyss,
and having their photograph taken; neither of them gave a thought
to the serious side of the situation. To judge from the laughter and
jokes we heard, one would have thought their position was something
quite different.

When the photographer had quietly and leisurely finished his work
-- he got a remarkably good picture of the scene -- the other two
together raised the sledge, and the journey was continued. It was at
this crevasse that we entered his Majesty's Ballroom. The surface
did not really look bad. True, the snow was blown away, which made
it difficult to advance, but we did not see many cracks. There were
a good many pressure-masses, as already mentioned, but even in the
neighbourhood of these we could not see any marked disturbance. The
first sign that the surface was more treacherous than it appeared to
be was when Hanssen's leading dogs went right through the apparently
solid floor. They remained hanging by their harness, and were easily
pulled up again. When we looked through the hole they had made in the
crust, it did not give us the impression of being very dangerous, as,
2 or 3 feet below the outer crust, there lay another surface, which
appeared to consist of pulverized ice. We assumed that this lower
surface was the solid one, and that therefore there was no danger
in falling through the upper one. But Bjaaland was able to tell us
a different story. He had, in fact, fallen through the outer crust,
and was well on his way through the inner one as well, when he got
hold of a loop of rope on his sledge and saved himself in the nick of
time. Time after time the dogs now fell through, and time after time
the men went in. The effect of the open space between the two crusts
was that the ground under our feet sounded unpleasantly hollow as we
went over it. The drivers whipped up their dogs as much as they could,
and with shouts and brisk encouragement they went rapidly over the
treacherous floor. Fortunately this curious formation was not of great
extent, and we soon began to observe a change for the better as we came
up the ridge. It soon appeared that the Ballroom was the glacier's last
farewell to us. With it all irregularities ceased, and both surface
and going improved by leaps and bounds, so that before very long we
had the satisfaction of seeing that at last we had really conquered
all these unpleasant difficulties. The surface at once became fine
and even, with a splendid covering of snow everywhere, and we went
rapidly on our way to the south with a feeling of security and safety.

CHAPTER XII

At the Pole

In lat. 87 S. -- according to dead reckoning -- we saw the last of the
land to the north-east. The atmosphere was then apparently as clear
as could be, and we felt certain that our view covered all the land
there was to be seen from that spot. We were deceived again on this
occasion, as will be seen later. Our distance that day (December 4)
was close upon twenty-five miles; height above the sea, 10,100 feet.

The weather did not continue fine for long. Next day (December 5) there
was a gale from the north, and once more the whole plain was a mass
of drifting snow. In addition to this there was thick falling snow,
which blinded us and made things worse, but a feeling of security had
come over us and helped us to advance rapidly and without hesitation,
although we could see nothing. That day we encountered new surface
conditions -- big, hard snow-waves (sastrugi). These were anything
but pleasant to work among, especially when one could not see them. It
was of no use for us "forerunners" to think of going in advance under
these circumstances, as it was impossible to keep on one's feet. Three
or four paces was often the most we managed to do before falling
down. The sastrugi were very high, and often abrupt; if one came on
them unexpectedly, one required to be more than an acrobat to keep on
one's feet. The plan we found to work best in these conditions was to
let Hanssen's dogs go first; this was an unpleasant job for Hanssen,
and for his dogs too, but it succeeded, and succeeded well. An upset
here and there was, of course, unavoidable, but with a little patience
the sledge was always righted again. The drivers had as much as they
could do to support their sledges among these sastrugi, but while
supporting the sledges, they had at the same time a support for
themselves. It was worse for us who had no sledges, but by keeping
in the wake of them we could see where the irregularities lay, and
thus get over them. Hanssen deserves a special word of praise for his
driving on this surface in such weather. It is a difficult matter to
drive Eskimo dogs forward when they cannot see; but Hanssen managed it
well, both getting the dogs on and steering his course by compass. One
would not think it possible to keep an approximately right course
when the uneven ground gives such violent shocks that the needle flies
several times round the compass, and is no sooner still again than it
recommences the same dance; but when at last we got an observation,
it turned out that Hanssen had steered to a hair, for the observations
and dead reckoning agreed to a mile. In spite of all hindrances,
and of being able to see nothing, the sledge-meters showed nearly
twenty-five miles. The hypsometer showed 11,070 feet above the sea;
we had therefore reached a greater altitude than the Butcher's.

December 6 brought the same weather: thick snow, sky and plain all
one, nothing to be seen. Nevertheless we made splendid progress. The
sastrugi gradually became levelled out, until the surface was
perfectly smooth; it was a relief to have even ground to go upon
once more. These irregularities that one was constantly falling over
were a nuisance; if we had met with them in our usual surroundings
it would not have mattered so much; but up here on the high ground,
where we had to stand and gasp for breath every time we rolled over,
it was certainly not pleasant.

That day we passed 88 S., and camped in 88 9' S. A great surprise
awaited us in the tent that evening. I expected to find, as on the
previous evening, that the boiling-point had fallen somewhat; in
other words, that it would show a continued rise of the ground, but
to our astonishment this was not so. The water boiled at exactly the
same temperature as on the preceding day. I tried it several times,
to convince myself that there was nothing wrong, each time with the
same result. There was great rejoicing among us all when I was able
to announce that we had arrived on the top of the plateau.

December 7 began like the 6th, with absolutely thick weather, but, as
they say, you never know what the day is like before sunset. Possibly
I might have chosen a better expression than this last -- one
more in agreement with the natural conditions -- but I will let it
stand. Though for several weeks now the sun had not set, my readers
will not be so critical as to reproach me with inaccuracy. With a
light wind from the north-east, we now went southward at a good
speed over the perfectly level plain, with excellent going. The
uphill work had taken it out of our dogs, though not to any serious
extent. They had turned greedy -- there is no denying that -- and the
half kilo of pemmican they got each day was not enough to fill their
stomachs. Early and late they were looking for something -- no matter
what -- to devour. To begin with they contented themselves with such
loose objects as ski-bindings, whips, boots, and the like; but as
we came to know their proclivities, we took such care of everything
that they found no extra meals lying about. But that was not the end
of the matter. They then went for the fixed lashings of the sledges,
and -- if we had allowed it -- would very quickly have resolved the
various sledges into their component parts. But we found a way of
stopping that: every evening, on halting, the sledges were buried
in the snow, so as to hide all the lashings. That was successful;
curiously enough, they never tried to force the "snow rampart." I
may mention as a curious thing that these ravenous animals, that
devoured everything they came across, even to the ebonite points of
our ski-sticks, never made any attempt to break into the provision
cases. They lay there and went about among the sledges with their
noses just on a level with the split cases, seeing and scenting the
pemmican, without once making a sign of taking any. But if one raised
a lid, they were not long in showing themselves. Then they all came
in a great hurry and flocked about the sledges in the hope of getting
a little extra bit. I am at a loss to explain this behaviour; that
bashfulness was not at the root of it, I am tolerably certain.

During the forenoon the thick, grey curtain of cloud began to grow
thinner on the horizon, and for the first time for three days we could
see a few miles about us. The feeling was something like that one has
on waking from a good nap, rubbing one's eyes and looking around. We
had become so accustomed to the grey twilight that this positively
dazzled us. Meanwhile, the upper layer of air seemed obstinately
to remain the same and to be doing its best to prevent the sun
from showing itself. We badly wanted to get a meridian altitude,
so that we could determine our latitude. Since 86 47' S. we had
had no observation, and it was not easy to say when we should get
one. Hitherto, the weather conditions on the high ground had not
been particularly favourable. Although the prospects were not very
promising, we halted at 11 a.m. and made ready to catch the sun if
it should be kind enough to look out. Hassel and Wisting used one
sextant and artificial horizon, Hanssen and I the other set.

I don't know that I have ever stood and absolutely pulled at the sun
to get it out as I did that time. If we got an observation here which
agreed with our reckoning, then it would be possible, if the worst came
to the worst, to go to the Pole on dead reckoning; but if we got none
now, it was a question whether our claim to the Pole would be admitted
on the dead reckoning we should be able to produce. Whether my pulling
helped or not, it is certain that the sun appeared. It was not very
brilliant to begin with, but, practised as we now were in availing
ourselves of even the poorest chances, it was good enough. Down it
came, was checked by all, and the altitude written down. The curtain
of cloud was rent more and more, and before we had finished our work --
that is to say, caught the sun at its highest, and convinced ourselves
that it was descending again -- it was shining in all its glory. We had
put away our instruments and were sitting on the sledges, engaged in
the calculations. I can safely say that we were excited. What would the
result be, after marching blindly for so long and over such impossible
ground, as we had been doing? We added and subtracted, and at last
there was the result. We looked at each other in sheer incredulity:
the result was as astonishing as the most consummate conjuring trick
-- 88 16' S., precisely to a minute the same as our reckoning, 88
16' S. If we were forced to go to the Pole on dead reckoning, then
surely the most exacting would admit our right to do so. We put away
our observation books, ate one or two biscuits, and went at it again.

We had a great piece of work before us that day nothing less than
carrying our flag farther south than the foot of man had trod. We
had our silk flag ready; it was made fast to two ski-sticks and laid
on Hanssen's sledge. I had given him orders that as soon as we had
covered the distance to 88S., which was Shackleton's farthest south,
the flag was to be hoisted on his sledge. It was my turn as forerunner,
and I pushed on. There was no longer any difficulty in holding one's
course; I had the grandest cloud-formations to steer by, and everything
now went like a machine. First came the forerunner for the time being,
then Hanssen, then Wisting, and finally Bjaaland. The forerunner who
was not on duty went where he liked; as a rule he accompanied one
or other of the sledges. I had long ago fallen into a reverie --
far removed from the scene in which I was moving; what I thought
about I do not remember now, but I was so preoccupied that I had
entirely forgotten my surroundings. Then suddenly I was roused from
my dreaming by a jubilant shout, followed by ringing cheers. I turned
round quickly to discover the reason of this unwonted occurrence,
and stood speechless and overcome.

I find it impossible to express the feelings that possessed me at
this moment. All the sledges had stopped, and from the foremost of
them the Norwegian flag was flying. It shook itself out, waved and
flapped so that the silk rustled; it looked wonderfully well in the
pure, clear air and the shining white surroundings. 88 23' was past;
we were farther south than any human being had been. No other moment
of the whole trip affected me like this. The tears forced their way
to my eyes; by no effort of will could I keep them back. It was the
flag yonder that conquered me and my will. Luckily I was some way in
advance of the others, so that I had time to pull myself together and
master my feelings before reaching my comrades. We all shook hands,
with mutual congratulations; we had won our way far by holding
together, and we would go farther yet -- to the end.

We did not pass that spot without according our highest tribute of
admiration to the man, who -- together with his gallant companions
-- had planted his country's flag so infinitely nearer to the
goal than any of his precursors. Sir Ernest Shackleton's name will
always be written in the annals of Antarctic exploration in letters
of fire. Pluck and grit can work wonders, and I know of no better
example of this than what that man has accomplished.

The cameras of course had to come out, and we got an excellent
photograph of the scene which none of us will ever forget. We went
on a couple of miles more, to 88 25', and then camped. The weather
had improved, and kept on improving all the time. It was now almost
perfectly calm, radiantly clear, and, under the circumstances, quite
summer-like: -0.4 F. Inside the tent it was quite sultry. This was
more than we had expected.

After much consideration and discussion we had come to the conclusion
that we ought to lay down a depot -- the last one -- at this spot. The
advantages of lightening our sledges were so great that we should
have to risk it. Nor would there be any great risk attached to it,
after all, since we should adopt a system of marks that would lead
even a blind man back to the place. We had determined to mark it not
only at right angles to our course -- that is, from east to west --
but by snow beacons at every two geographical miles to the south.

We stayed here on the following day to arrange this depot. Hanssen's
dogs were real marvels, all of them; nothing seemed to have any effect
on them. They had grown rather thinner, of course, but they were still
as strong as ever. It was therefore decided not to lighten Hanssen's
sledge, but only the two others; both Wisting's and Bjaaland's teams
had suffered, especially the latter's. The reduction in weight that
was effected was considerable -- nearly 110 pounds on each of the
two sledges; there was thus about 220 pounds in the depot. The snow
here was ill-adapted for building, but we put up quite a respectable
monument all the same. It was dogs' pemmican and biscuits that
were left behind; we carried with us on the sledges provisions for
about a month. If, therefore, contrary to expectation, we should be
so unlucky as to miss this depot, we should nevertheless be fairly
sure of reaching our depot in 86 21' before supplies ran short. The
cross-marking of the depot was done with sixty splinters of black
packing-case on each side, with 100 paces between each. Every other
one had a shred of black cloth on the top. The splinters on the east
side were all marked, so that on seeing them we should know instantly
that we were to the east of the depot. Those on the west had no marks.

The warmth of the past few days seemed to have matured our frost-sores,
and we presented an awful appearance. It was Wisting, Hanssen, and
I who had suffered the worst damage in the last south-east blizzard;
the left side of our faces was one mass of sore, bathed in matter and
serum. We looked like the worst type of tramps and ruffians, and would
probably not have been recognized by our nearest relations. These
sores were a great trouble to us during the latter part of the
journey. The slightest gust of wind produced a sensation as if one's
face were being cut backwards and forwards with a blunt knife. They
lasted a long time, too; I can remember Hanssen removing the last
scab when we were coming into Hobart -- three months later. We were
very lucky in the weather during this depot work; the sun came out
all at once, and we had an excellent opportunity of taking some good
azimuth observations, the last of any use that we got on the journey.

December 9 arrived with the same fine weather and sunshine. True,
we felt our frost-sores rather sharply that day, with -18.4 F. and
a little breeze dead against us, but that could not be helped. We
at once began to put up beacons -- a work which was continued with
great regularity right up to the Pole. These beacons were not so big
as those we had built down on the Barrier; we could see that they
would be quite large enough with a height of about 3 feet, as it
was, very easy to see the slightest irregularity on this perfectly
flat surface. While thus engaged we had an opportunity of becoming
thoroughly acquainted with the nature of the snow. Often -- very often
indeed -- on this part of the plateau, to the south of 88 25', we had
difficulty in getting snow good enough -- that is, solid enough for
cutting blocks. The snow up here seemed to have fallen very quietly,
in light breezes or calms. We could thrust the tent-pole, which was
6 feet long, right down without meeting resistance, which showed that
there was no hard layer of snow. The surface was also perfectly level;
there was not a sign of sastrugi in any direction.

Every step we now took in advance brought us rapidly nearer the goal;
we could feel fairly certain of reaching it on the afternoon of the
14th. It was very natural that our conversation should be chiefly
concerned with the time of arrival. None of us would admit that he
was nervous, but I am inclined to think that we all had a little
touch of that malady. What should we see when we got there? A vast,
endless plain, that no eye had yet seen and no foot yet trodden; or --
No, it was an impossibility; with the speed at which we had travelled,
we must reach the goal first, there could be no doubt about that. And
yet -- and yet -- Wherever there is the smallest loophole, doubt creeps
in and gnaws and gnaws and never leaves a poor wretch in peace. "What
on earth is Uroa scenting?" It was Bjaaland who made this remark,
on one of these last days, when I was going by the side of his sledge
and talking to him. "And the strange thing is that he's scenting to
the south. It can never be -- " Mylius, Ring, and Suggen, showed the
same interest in the southerly direction; it was quite extraordinary
to see how they raised their heads, with every sign of curiosity,
put their noses in the air, and sniffed due south. One would really
have thought there was something remarkable to be found there.

From 88 25' S. the barometer and hypsometer indicated slowly but
surely that the plateau was beginning to descend towards the other
side. This was a pleasant surprise to us; we had thus not only found
the very summit of the plateau, but also the slope down on the far
side. This would have a very important bearing for obtaining an idea
of the construction of the whole plateau. On December 9 observations
and dead reckoning agreed within a mile. The same result again on
the 10th: observation 2 kilometres behind reckoning. The weather
and going remained about the same as on the preceding days: light
south-easterly breeze, temperature -18.4 F. The snow surface was
loose, but ski and sledges glided over it well. On the 11th, the same
weather conditions. Temperature -13 F. Observation and reckoning
again agreed exactly. Our latitude was 89 15' S. On the 12th we
reached 89 30', reckoning 1 kilometre behind observation. Going and
surface as good as ever. Weather splendid -- calm with sunshine. The
noon observation on the 13th gave 89 37' S. Reckoning 89 38.5'
S. We halted in the afternoon, after going eight geographical miles,
and camped in 89 45', according to reckoning.

The weather during the forenoon had been just as fine as before;
in the afternoon we had some snow-showers from the south-east. It
was like the eve of some great festival that night in the tent. One
could feel that a great event was at hand. Our flag was taken out
again and lashed to the same two ski-sticks as before. Then it was
rolled up and laid aside, to be ready when the time came. I was
awake several times during the night, and had the same feeling that
I can remember as a little boy on the night before Christmas Eve --
an intense expectation of what was going to happen. Otherwise I think
we slept just as well that night as any other.

On the morning of December 14 the weather was of the finest, just as
if it had been made for arriving at the Pole. I am not quite sure,
but I believe we despatched our breakfast rather more quickly than
usual and were out of the tent sooner, though I must admit that we
always accomplished this with all reasonable haste. We went in the
usual order -- the forerunner, Hanssen, Wisting, Bjaaland, and the
reserve forerunner. By noon we had reached 89 53' by dead reckoning,
and made ready to take the rest in one stage. At 10 a.m. a light
breeze had sprung up from the south-east, and it had clouded over,
so that we got no noon altitude; but the clouds were not thick, and
from time to time we had a glimpse of the sun through them. The going
on that day was rather different from what it had been; sometimes the
ski went over it well, but at others it was pretty bad. We advanced
that day in the same mechanical way as before; not much was said,
but eyes were used all the more. Hanssen's neck grew twice as long
as before in his endeavour to see a few inches farther. I had asked
him before we started to spy out ahead for all he was worth, and he
did so with a vengeance. But, however keenly he stared, he could not
descry anything but the endless flat plain ahead of us. The dogs had
dropped their scenting, and appeared to have lost their interest in
the regions about the earth's axis.

At three in the afternoon a simultaneous "Halt!" rang out from the
drivers. They had carefully examined their sledge-meters, and they
all showed the full distance -- our Pole by reckoning. The goal
was reached, the journey ended. I cannot say -- though I know it
would sound much more effective -- that the object of my life was
attained. That would be romancing rather too bare-facedly. I had
better be honest and admit straight out that I have never known any
man to be placed in such a diametrically opposite position to the
goal of his desires as I was at that moment. The regions around the
North Pole -- well, yes, the North Pole itself -- had attracted me
from childhood, and here I was at the South Pole. Can anything more
topsy-turvy be imagined?

We reckoned now that we were at the Pole. Of course, every one of us
knew that we were not standing on the absolute spot; it would be an
impossibility with the time and the instruments at our disposal to
ascertain that exact spot. But we were so near it that the few miles
which possibly separated us from it could not be of the slightest
importance. It was our intention to make a circle round this camp,
with a radius of twelve and a half miles (20 kilometres), and to be
satisfied with that. After we had halted we collected and congratulated
each other. We had good grounds for mutual respect in what had been
achieved, and I think that was just the feeling that was expressed in
the firm and powerful grasps of the fist that were exchanged. After
this we proceeded to the greatest and most solemn act of the whole
journey -- the planting of our flag. Pride and affection shone in the
five pairs of eyes that gazed upon the flag, as it unfurled itself
with a sharp crack, and waved over the Pole. I had determined that
the act of planting it -- the historic event -- should be equally
divided among us all. It was not for one man to do this; it was for
all who had staked their lives in the struggle, and held together
through thick and thin. This was the only way in which I could show my
gratitude to my comrades in this desolate spot. I could see that they
understood and accepted it in the spirit in which it was offered. Five
weather-beaten, frost-bitten fists they were that grasped the pole,
raised the waving flag in the air, and planted it as the first at the
geographical South Pole. "Thus we plant thee, beloved flag, at the
South Pole, and give to the plain on which it lies the name of King
Haakon VII.'s Plateau." That moment will certainly be remembered by
all of us who stood there.

One gets out of the way of protracted ceremonies in those regions
-- the shorter they are the better. Everyday life began again at
once. When we had got the tent up, Hanssen set about slaughtering
Helge, and it was hard for him to have to part from his best
friend. Helge had been an uncommonly useful and good-natured dog;
without making any fuss he had pulled from morning to night, and had
been a shining example to the team. But during the last week he had
quite fallen away, and on our arrival at the Pole there was only a
shadow of the old Helge left. He was only a drag on the others, and
did absolutely no work. One blow on the skull, and Helge had ceased
to live. "What is death to one is food to another," is a saying that
can scarcely find a better application than these dog meals. Helge
was portioned out on the spot, and within a couple of hours there
was nothing left of him but his teeth and the tuft at the end of his
tail. This was the second of our eighteen dogs that we had lost. The
Major, one of Wisting's fine dogs, left us in 88)deg) 25' S., and
never returned. He was fearfully worn out, and must have gone away
to die. We now had sixteen dogs left, and these we intended to divide
into two equal teams, leaving Bjaaland's sledge behind.

Of course, there was a festivity in the tent that evening -- not that
champagne corks were popping and wine flowing -- no, we contented
ourselves with a little piece of seal meat each, and it tasted well
and did us good. There was no other sign of festival indoors. Outside
we heard the flag flapping in the breeze. Conversation was lively in
the tent that evening, and we talked of many things. Perhaps, too,
our thoughts sent messages home of what we had done.

Everything we had with us had now to be marked with the words "South
Pole" and the date, to serve afterwards as souvenirs. Wisting proved
to be a first-class engraver, and many were the articles he had to
mark. Tobacco -- in the form of smoke -- had hitherto never made its
appearance in the tent. From time to time I had seen one or two of
the others take a quid, but now these things were to be altered. I
had brought with me an old briar pipe, which bore inscriptions from
many places in the Arctic regions, and now I wanted it marked "South
Pole." When I produced my pipe and was about to mark it, I received
an unexpected gift Wisting offered me tobacco for the rest of the
journey. He had some cakes of plug in his kit-bag, which he would
prefer to see me smoke. Can anyone grasp what such an offer meant at
such a spot, made to a man who, to tell the truth, is very fond of a
smoke after meals? There are not many who can understand it fully. I
accepted the offer, jumping with joy, and on the way home I had a pipe
of fresh, fine-cut plug every evening. Ah! that Wisting, he spoiled
me entirely. Not only did he give me tobacco, but every evening --
and I must confess I yielded to the temptation after a while, and
had a morning smoke as well -- he undertook the disagreeable work of
cutting the plug and filling my pipe in all kinds of weather.

But we did not let our talk make us forget other things. As we had got
no noon altitude, we should have to try and take one at midnight. The
weather had brightened again, and it looked as if midnight would be
a good time for the observation. We therefore crept into our bags to
get a little nap in the intervening hours. In good time -- soon after
11 p.m. -- we were out again, and ready to catch the sun; the weather
was of the best, and the opportunity excellent. We four navigators
all had a share in it, as usual, and stood watching the course of the
sun. This was a labour of patience, as the difference of altitude
was now very slight. The result at which we finally arrived was of
great interest, as it clearly shows how unreliable and valueless a
single observation like this is in these regions. At 12.30 a.m. we
put our instruments away, well satisfied with our work, and quite
convinced that it was the midnight altitude that we had observed. The
calculations which were carried out immediately afterwards gave us 89
56' S. We were all well pleased with this result.

The arrangement now was that we should encircle this camp with a
radius of about twelve and a half miles. By encircling I do not, of
course, mean that we should go round in a circle with this radius;
that would have taken us days, and was not to be thought of. The
encircling was accomplished in this way: Three men went out in
three different directions, two at right angles to the course we
had been steering, and one in continuation of that course. To carry
out this work I had chosen Wisting, Hassel, and Bjaaland. Having
concluded our observations, we put the kettle on to give ourselves
a drop of chocolate; the pleasure of standing out there in rather
light attire had not exactly put warmth into our bodies. As we were
engaged in swallowing the scalding drink, Bjaaland suddenly observed:
"I'd like to tackle this encircling straight away. We shall have
lots of time to sleep when we get back." Hassel and Wisting were
quite of the same opinion, and it was agreed that they should start
the work immediately. Here we have yet another example of the good
spirit that prevailed in our little community. We had only lately
come in from our day's work -- a march of about eighteen and a half
miles -- and now they were asking to be allowed to go on another
twenty-five miles. It seemed as if these fellows could never be
tired. We therefore turned this meal into a little breakfast --
that is to say, each man ate what he wanted of his bread ration,
and then they began to get ready for the work. First, three small
bags of light windproof stuff were made, and in each of these was
placed a paper, giving the position of our camp. In addition, each
of them carried a large square flag of the same dark brown material,
which could be easily seen at a distance. As flag-poles we elected
to use our spare sledge-runners, which were both long -- 12 feet --
and strong, and which we were going to take off here in any case,
to lighten the sledges as much as possible for the return journey.

Thus equipped, and with thirty biscuits as an extra ration, the three
men started off in the directions laid down. Their march was by no
means free from danger, and does great honour to those who undertook
it, not merely without raising the smallest objection, but with the
greatest keenness. Let us consider for a moment the risk they ran. Our
tent on the boundless plain, without marks of any kind, may very well
be compared with a needle in a haystack. From this the three men were
to steer out for a distance of twelve and a half miles. Compasses would
have been good things to take on such a walk, but our sledge-compasses
were too heavy and unsuitable for carrying. They therefore had to
go without. They had the sun to go by, certainly, when they started,
but who could say how long it would last? The weather was then fine
enough, but it was impossible to guarantee that no sudden change would
take place. If by bad luck the sun should be hidden, then their own
tracks might help them. But to trust to tracks in these regions is a
dangerous thing. Before you know where you are the whole plain may be
one mass of driving snow, obliterating all tracks as soon as they are
made. With the rapid changes of weather we had so often experienced,
such a thing was not impossible. That these three risked their lives
that morning, when they left the tent at 2.30, there can be no doubt at
all, and they all three knew it very well. But if anyone thinks that
on this account they took a solemn farewell of us who stayed behind,
he is much mistaken. Not a bit; they all vanished in their different
directions amid laughter and chaff.

The first thing we did -- Hanssen and I -- was to set about arranging
a lot of trifling matters; there was something to be done here,
something there, and above all we had to be ready for the series of
observations we were to carry out together, so as to get as accurate
a determination of our position as possible. The first observation
told us at once how necessary this was. For it turned out that this,
instead of giving us a greater altitude than the midnight observation,
gave us a smaller one, and it was then clear that we had gone out of
the meridian we thought we were following. Now the first thing to be
done was to get our north and south line and latitude determined,
so that we could find our position once more. Luckily for us, the
weather looked as if it would hold. We measured the sun's altitude at
every hour from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., and from these observations found,
with some degree of certainty, our latitude and the direction of
the meridian.

By nine in the morning we began to expect the return of our comrades;
according to our calculation they should then have covered the distance
-- twenty-five miles. It was not till ten o'clock that Hanssen made
out the first black dot on the horizon, and not long after the second
and third appeared. We both gave a sigh of relief as they came on;
almost simultaneously the three arrived at the tent. We told them
the result of our observations up to that time; it looked as if our
camp was in about 89 54' 30'' S., and that with our encircling we
had therefore included the actual Pole. With this result we might
very well have been content, but as the weather was so good and gave
the impression that it would continue so, and our store of provisions
proved on examination to be very ample, we decided to go on for the
remaining ten kilometres (five and a half geographical miles), and
get our position determined as near to the Pole as possible. Meanwhile
the three wanderers turned in -- not so much because they were tired,
as because it was the right thing to do -- and Hanssen and I continued
the series of observations.

In the afternoon we again went very carefully through our provision
supply before discussing the future. The result was that we had food
enough for ourselves and the dogs for eighteen days. The surviving
sixteen dogs were divided into two teams of eight each, and the
contents of Bjaaland's sledge were shared between Hanssen's and
Wisting's. The abandoned sledge was set upright in the snow, and proved
to be a splendid mark. The sledge-meter was screwed to the sledge,
and we left it there; our other two were quite sufficient for the
return journey; they had all shown themselves very accurate. A couple
of empty provision cases were also left behind. I wrote in pencil on
a piece of case the information that our tent -- "Polheim" -- would
be found five and a half geographical miles north-west quarter west
by compass from the sledge. Having put all these things in order the
same day, we turned in, very well satisfied.

Early next morning, December 16, we were on our feet again. Bjaaland,
who had now left the company of the drivers and been received with
jubilation into that of the forerunners, was immediately entrusted
with the honourable task of leading the expedition forward to the Pole
itself. I assigned this duty, which we all regarded as a distinction,
to him as a mark of gratitude to the gallant Telemarkers for their
pre-eminent work in the advancement of ski spot. The leader that
day had to keep as straight as a line, and if possible to follow the
direction of our meridian. A little way after Bjaaland came Hassel,
then Hanssen, then Wisting, and I followed a good way behind. I could
thus check the direction of the march very accurately, and see that no
great deviation was made. Bjaaland on this occasion showed himself a
matchless forerunner; he went perfectly straight the whole time. Not
once did he incline to one side or the other, and when we arrived
at the end of the distance, we could still clearly see the sledge we
had set up and take its bearing. This showed it to be absolutely in
the right direction.

It was 11 a.m. when we reached our destination. While some of us
were putting up the tent, others began to get everything ready for
the coming observations. A solid snow pedestal was put up, on which
the artificial horizon was to be placed, and a smaller one to rest
the sextant on when it was not in use. At 11.30 a.m. the first
observation was taken. We divided ourselves into two parties --
Hanssen and I in one, Hassel and Wisting in the other. While one
party slept, the other took the observations, and the watches were
of six hours each. The weather was altogether grand, though the sky
was not perfectly bright the whole time. A very light, fine, vaporous
curtain would spread across the sky from time to time, and then quickly
disappear again. This film of cloud was not thick enough to hide the
sun, which we could see the whole time, but the atmosphere seemed
to be disturbed. The effect of this was that the sun appeared not to
change its altitude for several hours, until it suddenly made a jump.

Observations were now taken every hour through the whole
twenty-four. It was very strange to turn in at 6 p.m., and then on
turning out again at midnight to find the sun apparently still at
the same altitude, and then once more at 6 a.m. to see it still no
higher. The altitude had changed, of course, but so slightly that it
was imperceptible with the naked eye. To us it appeared as though the
sun made the circuit of the heavens at exactly the same altitude. The
times of day that I have given here are calculated according to the
meridian of Framheim; we continued to reckon our time from this. The
observations soon told us that we were not on the absolute Pole,
but as close to it as we could hope to get with our instruments. The
observations, which have been submitted to Mr. Anton Alexander,
will be published, and the result given later in this book.

On December 17 at noon we had completed our observations, and it is
certain that we had done all that could be done. In order if possible
to come a few inches nearer to the actual Pole, Hanssen and Bjaaland
went out four geographical miles (seven kilometres) in the direction
of the newly found meridian.

Bjaaland astonished me at dinner that day. Speeches had not hitherto
been a feature of this journey, but now Bjaaland evidently thought the
time had come, and surprised us all with a really fine oration. My
amazement reached its culmination when, at the conclusion of his
speech, he produced a cigar-case full of cigars and offered it
round. A cigar at the Pole! What do you say to that? But it did not end
there. When the cigars had gone round, there were still four left. I
was quite touched when he handed the case and cigars to me with the
words: "Keep this to remind you of the Pole." I have taken good care
of the case, and shall preserve it as one of the many happy signs of my
comrades' devotion on this journey. The cigars I shared out afterwards,
on Christmas Eve, and they gave us a visible mark of that occasion.

When this festival dinner at the Pole was ended, we began our
preparations for departure. First we set up the little tent we had
brought with us in case we should be compelled to divide into two
parties. It had been made by our able sailmaker, Rionne, and was of
very thin windproof gabardine. Its drab colour made it easily visible
against the white surface. Another pole was lashed to the tent-pole,
making its total height about 13 feet. On the top of this a little
Norwegian flag was lashed fast, and underneath it a pennant, on which
"Fram" was painted. The tent was well secured with guy-ropes on all
sides. Inside the tent, in a little bag, I left a letter, addressed
to H.M. the King, giving information of what we had accomplished. The
way home was a long one, and so many things might happen to make it
impossible for us to give an account of our expedition. Besides this
letter, I wrote a short epistle to Captain Scott, who, I assumed,
would be the first to find the tent. Other things we left there were
a sextant with a glass horizon, a hypsometer case, three reindeer-skin
foot-bags, some kamiks and mits.

When everything had been laid inside, we went into the tent,
one by one, to write our names on a tablet we had fastened to the
tent-pole. On this occasion we received the congratulations of our
companions on the successful result, for the following messages were
written on a couple of strips of leather, sewed to the tent

"Good luck," and "Welcome to 90." These good wishes, which we
suddenly discovered, put us in very good spirits. They were signed
by Beck and Rnne. They had good faith in us. When we had finished
this we came out, and the tent-door was securely laced together,
so that there was no danger of the wind getting a hold on that side.

And so good-bye to Polheim. It was a solemn moment when we bared
our heads and bade farewell to our home and our flag. And then
the travelling tent was taken down and the sledges packed. Now the
homeward journey was to begin -- homeward, step by step, mile after
mile, until the whole distance was accomplished. We drove at once into
our old tracks and followed them. Many were the times we turned to
send a last look to Polheim. The vaporous, white air set in again,
and it was not long before the last of Polheim, our little flag,
disappeared from view.

CHAPTER XIII

The Return to Framheim

The going was splendid and all were in good spirits, so we went along
at a great pace. One would almost have thought the dogs knew they were
homeward bound. A mild, summer-like wind, with a temperature of -22
F., was our last greeting from the Pole.

When we came to our last camp, where the sledge was left, we stopped
and took a few things with us. From this point we came into the line
of beacons. Our tracks had already become very indistinct, but, thanks
to his excellent sight, Bjaaland kept in them quite well. The beacons,
however, served their purpose so satisfactorily that the tracks were
almost superfluous. Although these beacons were not more than about 3
feet high, they were extremely conspicuous on the level surface. When
the sun was on them, they shone like electric lighthouses; and when
the sun was on the other side, they looked so dark in the shadow that
one would have taken them for black rocks. We intended in future to
travel at night; the advantages of this were many and great. In the
first place, we should have the sun behind us, which meant a good deal
to our eyes. Going against the sun on a snow surface like this tells
fearfully on the eyes, even if one has good snow-goggles; but with
the sun at one's back it is only play. Another great advantage --
which we did not reap till later -- was that it gave us the warmest
part of the twenty-four hours in the tent, during which time we had
an opportunity of drying wet clothes, and so on. This last advantage
was, however, a doubtful one, as we shall see in due course.

It was a great comfort to turn our backs to the south. The wind,
which had nearly always been in this quarter, had often been very
painful to our cracked faces; now we should always have it at our
backs, and it would help us on our way, besides giving our faces
time to heal. Another thing we were longing for was to come down
to the Barrier again, so that we could breathe freely. Up here we
were seldom able to draw a good long breath; if we only had to say
"Yes," we had to do it in two instalments. The asthmatic condition in
which we found ourselves during our six weeks' stay on the plateau
was anything but pleasant. We had fixed fifteen geographical miles
(seventeen and three-eighths statute miles) as a suitable day's march
on the homeward journey. We had, of course, many advantages now as
compared with the southward journey, which would have enabled us to
do longer marches than this; but we were afraid of overworking the
dogs, and possibly using them up before we had gone very far, if we
attempted too great a distance daily. It soon proved, however, that
we had underestimated our dogs' powers; it only took us five hours
to cover the appointed distance, and our rest was therefore a long one.

On December 19 we killed the first dog on the homeward trip. This was
Lasse, my own favourite dog. He had worn himself out completely, and
was no longer worth anything. He was divided into fifteen portions,
as nearly equal as possible, and given to his companions. They had
now learnt to set great store by fresh meat, and it is certain that
the extra feeds, like this one, that took place from time to time
on the way home, had no small share in the remarkably successful
result. They seemed to benefit by these meals of fresh meat for
several days afterwards, and worked much more easily.

December 20 began with bitter weather, a breeze from the south-east,
grey and thick. We lost the trail, and for some time had to go by
compass. But as usual it suddenly cleared, and once more the plain
lay before us, light and warm. Yes, too warm it was. We had to take
off everything -- nearly -- and still the sweat poured off us. It was
not for long that we were uncertain of the way: our excellent beacons
did us brilliant service, and one after another they came up on the
horizon, flashed and shone, and drew us on to our all-important depot
in 88 25' S. We were now going slightly uphill, but so slightly that
it was unnoticeable. The hypsometer and barometer, however, were
not to be deceived, and both fell in precisely the same degree as
they had risen before. Even if we had not exactly noticed the rise,
the feeling of it was present. It may perhaps be called imagination,
but I certainly thought I could notice the rise by my breathing.

Our appetite had increased alarmingly during the last few days. It
appeared that we ski-runners evinced a far greater voracity than
the drivers. There were days -- only a few days, be it said --
when I believe any of us three -- Bjaaland, Hassel, and myself --
would have swallowed pebbles without winking. The drivers never
showed such signs of starvation. It has occurred to me that this may
possibly have been due to their being able to lean on the sledges
as they went along, and thus have a rest and support which we had
to do without. It seems little enough simply to rest one's hand on
a sledge on the march, but in the long run, day after day, it may
perhaps make itself felt. Fortunately we were so well supplied that
when this sensation of hunger came over us, we could increase our
daily rations. On leaving the Pole we added to our pemmican ration,
with the result that our wild-beast appetites soon gave way and
shrank to an ordinary good, everyday twist. Our daily programme on
entering upon the return journey was so arranged that we began to get
breakfast ready at 6 p.m., and by 8 p.m. we were usually quite ready
to start the day's march. An hour or so after midnight the fifteen
geographical miles were accomplished, and we could once more put
up our tent, cook our food, and seek our rest. But this rest soon
became so insufferably long. And then there was the fearful heat --
considering the circumstances -- which often made us get out of our
sleeping-bags and lie with nothing over us. These rests of twelve,
fourteen, sometimes as much as sixteen hours, were what most tried our
patience during the early part of the return journey. We could see
so well that all this rest was unnecessary, but still we kept it up
as long as we were on the high ground. Our conversation at this time
used to turn very often on the best way of filling up these long,
unnecessary waits.

That day -- December 20 -- Per -- good, faithful, conscientious Per --
broke down utterly and had to be taken on the sledge the last part
of the way. On arrival at the camping-ground he had his reward. A
little blow of the back of the axe was enough for him; without making
a sound the worn-out animal collapsed. In him Wisting lost one of
his best dogs. He was a curious animal -- always went about quietly
and peaceably, and never took part in the others' battles; from his
looks and behaviour one would have judged him, quite mistakenly, to
be a queer sort of beast who was good for nothing. But when he was
in harness he showed what he could do. Without needing any shouts or
cuts of the whip, he put himself into it from morning to night, and was
priceless as a draught dog. But, like others of the same character, he
could not keep it going any longer; he collapsed, was killed and eaten.

Christmas Eve was rapidly approaching. For us it could not be
particularly festive, but we should have to try to make as much of it
as circumstances would permit. We ought, therefore, to reach our depot
that evening, so as to keep Christmas with a dish of porridge. The
night before Christmas Eve we slaughtered Svartflekken. There was no
mourning on this occasion Svartflekken was one of Hassel's dogs, and
had always been a reprobate. I find the following in my diary, written
the same evening: "Slaughtered Svartflekken this evening. He would
not do any more, although there was not much wrong with his looks. Bad
character. If a man, he would have ended in penal servitude." He was
comparatively fat, and was consumed with evident satisfaction.

Christmas Eve came; the weather was rather changeable -- now overcast,
now clear -- when we set out at 8 p.m. the night before. We had not far
to go before reaching our depot. At 12 midnight we arrived there in the
most glorious weather, calm and warm. Now we had the whole of Christmas
Eve before us, and could enjoy it at our ease. Our depot was at once
taken down and divided between the two sledges. All crumbs of biscuit
were carefully collected by Wisting, the cook for the day, and put into
a bag. This was taken into the tent and vigorously beaten and kneaded;
the result was pulverized biscuit. With this product and a sausage of
dried milk, Wisting succeeded in making a capital dish of Christmas
porridge. I doubt whether anyone at home enjoyed his Christmas dinner
so much as we did that morning in the tent. One of Bjaaland's cigars
to follow brought a festival spirit over the whole camp.

Another thing we had to rejoice about that day was that we had again
reached the summit of the plateau, and after two or three more days'
march would begin to go downhill, finally reaching the Barrier and our
old haunts. Our daily march had hitherto been interrupted by one or
two halts; we stopped to rest both the dogs and ourselves. On Christmas
Eve we instituted a new order of things, and did the whole distance --
fifteen geographical miles -- without a stop. We liked this arrangement
best, after all, and it seemed as if the dogs did the same. As a rule
it was hard to begin the march again after the rest; one got rather
stiff lazy, too, perhaps -- and had to become supple again.

On the 26th we passed 88 S., going well. The surface appeared to have
been exposed to powerful sunshine since we left it, as it had become
quite polished. Going over these polished levels was like crossing
smooth ice, but with the important difference that here the dogs had
a good foothold. This time we sighted high land even in 88, and it
had great surprises in store for us. It was clear that this was the
same mighty range running to the south-east as we had seen before,
but this time it stretched considerably farther to the south. The
weather was radiantly clear, and we could see by the land that the
range of vision was very great. Summit after summit the range extended
to the south-east, until it gradually disappeared; but to judge from
the atmosphere, it was continued beyond our range of vision in the
same direction. That this chain traverses the Antarctic continent I
therefore consider beyond a doubt. Here we had a very good example
of how deceptive the atmosphere is in these regions. On a day that
appeared perfectly clear we had lost sight of the mountains in 87,
and now we saw them as far as the eye could reach in 88. That we
were astonished is a mild expression. We looked and looked, entirely
unable to recognize our position; little did we guess that the huge
mountain-mass that stood up so high and clear on the horizon was Mount
Thorvald Nilsen. How utterly different it had looked in the misty air
when we said good-bye to it. It is amusing to read my diary of this
time and see how persistently we took the bearings of land every day,
and thought it was new. We did not recognize that vast mountain until
Mount Helmer Hanssen began to stick up out of the plain.

On December 28 we left the summit of the plateau, and began the
descent. Although the incline was not perceptible to the naked eye,
its effect could easily be seen in the dogs. Wisting now used a sail on
his sledge, and was thus able to keep up with Hanssen. If anyone had
seen the procession that came marching over the plateau at that time,
he would hardly have thought we had been out for seventy days at a
stretch, for we came at a swinging pace. We always had the wind at
our backs, with sunshine and warmth the whole time. There was never
a thought of using the whip now; the dogs were bursting with health,
and tugged at their harness to get away. It was a hard time for our
worthy forerunner; he often had to spurt as much as he could to keep
clear of Hanssen's dogs. Wisting in full sail, with his dogs howling
for joy, came close behind. Hassel had his work cut out to follow,
and, indeed, I had the same. The surface was absolutely polished,
and for long stretches at a time we could push ourselves along with
our sticks. The dogs were completely changed since we had left the
Pole; strange as it may sound, it is nevertheless true that they
were putting on flesh day by day, and getting quite fat. I believe
it must have been feeding them on fresh meat and pemmican together
that did this. We were again able to increase our ration of pemmican
from December 28; the daily ration was 1 pound (450 grams) per man,
and we could not manage more -- at least, I think not.

On December 29 we went downhill more and more, and it was indeed
tough work being a ski-runner. The drivers stood so jauntily by the
side of their sledges, letting themselves be carried over the plain
at a phenomenal pace. The surface consisted of sastrugi, alternating
with smooth stretches like ice. Heaven help me, how we ski-runners
had to struggle to keep up! It was all very well for Bjaaland; he
had flown faster on even worse ground. But for Hassel and me it was
different. I saw Hassel put out, now an arm; now a leg, and make the
most desperate efforts to keep on his feet. Fortunately I could not
see myself; if I had been able to, I am sure I should have been in
fits of laughter. Early that day Mount Helmer Hanssen appeared. The
ground now went in great undulations -- a thing we had not noticed
in the mist when we were going south. So high were these undulations
that they suddenly hid the view from us. The first we saw of Mount
Hanssen was from the top of one of these big waves; it then looked
like the top of a pressure hummock that was just sticking up above
the surface. At first we did not understand at all what it was; it
was not till the next day that we really grasped it, when the pointed
blocks of ice covering the top of the mountain came into view. As I
have said, it was only then that we made sure of being on the right
course; all the rest of the land that we saw was so entirely strange
to us. We recognized absolutely nothing.

On the 30th we passed 87 S., and were thus rapidly nearing the Devil's
Ballroom and Glacier. The next day was brilliantly fine-temperature
-2.2 F. -- with a good breeze right aft. To our great joy, we got
sight of the land around the Butcher's Shop. It was still a long way
off, of course, but was miraged up in the warm, sunny air. We were
extraordinarily lucky on our homeward trip; we escaped the Devil's
Ballroom altogether.

On January 1 we ought, according to our reckoning, to reach the Devil's
Glacier, and this held good. We could see it at a great distance;
huge hummocks and ice-waves towered into the sky. But what astonished
us was that between these disturbances and on the far side of them,
we seemed to see an even, unbroken plain, entirely unaffected by the
broken surface. Mounts Hassel, Wisting, and Bjaaland, lay as we had
left them; they were easy to recognize when we came a little nearer
to them. Now Mount Helmer Hanssen again towered high into the air;
it flashed and sparkled like diamonds as it lay bathed in the rays of
the morning sun. We assumed that we had come nearer to this range than
when we were going south, and that this was the reason of our finding
the ground so changed. When we were going south, it certainly looked
impassable between us and the mountains; but who could tell? Perhaps
in the middle of all the broken ground that we then saw there was a
good even stretch, and that we had now been lucky enough to stumble
upon it. But it was once more the atmosphere that deceived us, as we
found out on the following day, for instead of being nearer the range
we had come farther out from it, and this was the reason of our only
getting a little strip of this undesirable glacier.

We had our camp that evening in the middle of a big, filled-up
crevasse. We were a trifle anxious as to what kind of surface we
should find farther on; that these few hummocks and old crevasses
were all the glacier had to offer us this time, was more than we
dared to hope. But the 2nd came, and brought -- thank God! -- no
disappointment. With incredible luck we had slipped past all those
ugly and dangerous places, and now, before we knew where we were,
we found ourselves safe and sound on the plain below the glacier. The
weather was not first-rate when we started at seven in the evening. It
was fairly thick, and we could only just distinguish the top of Mount
Bjaaland. This was bad, as we were now in the neighbourhood of our
depot, and would have liked clear weather to find out where it lay;
but instead of clearing, as we hoped, it grew thicker and thicker,
and when we had gone about six and three-quarter miles, it was so bad
that we thought it best to stop and wait for a while. We had all the
time been going on the erroneous assumption that we had come too far to
the east-that is, too near the mountains -- and under the circumstances
-- in the short gleams that had come from time to time -- we had not
been able to recognize the ground below the glacier. According to
our idea, we were on the east of the depot. The bearings, which had
been taken in thick air, and were now to guide us in this heavy mist,
gave no result whatever. There was no depot to be seen.

We had just swallowed the grateful warm pemmican when the sun suddenly
showed itself. I don't think the camp was ever broken and the sledges
packed in such a short time. From the moment we jumped out of our
bags till the sledges were ready, it only took us fifteen minutes,
which is incredibly quick. "What on earth is that shining over there
through the fog?" The question came from one of the lads. The mist
had divided, and was rolling away on both sides; in the western bank
something big and white peeped through -- along ridge running north
and south. Hurrah! it's Helland Hansen. Can't possibly be anything
else. Our only landmark on the west. We all shouted with joy on meeting
this old acquaintance. But in the direction of the depot the fog hung
thick. We held a brief consultation, and agreed to let it go, to steer
for the Butcher's and put on the pace. We had food enough, anyhow. No
sooner said than done, and we started off. It rapidly cleared, and
then, on our way towards Helland Hansen, we found out that we had
come, not too far to the east, but too far to the west. But to turn
round and begin to search for our depot was not to our liking. Below
Mount Helland Hansen we came up on a fairly high ridge. We had now
gone our fixed distance, and so halted.

Behind us, in the brightest, clearest weather, lay the glacier, as we
had seen it for the first time on our way to the south: break after
break, crevasse after crevasse. But in among all this nastiness there
ran a white, unbroken line, the very path we had stood and looked at a
few weeks back. And directly below that white stripe we knew, as sure
as anything could be, that our depot lay. We stood there expressing our
annoyance rather forcibly at the depot having escaped us so easily,
and talking of how jolly it would have been to have picked up all
our depots from the plain we had strewed them over. Dead tired as I
felt that evening, I had not the least desire to go back the fifteen
miles that separated us from it. "If anybody would like to make the
trip, he shall have many thanks." They all wanted to make it -- all
as one man. There was no lack of volunteers in that company. I chose
Hanssen and Bjaaland. They took nearly everything off the sledge,
and went away with it empty.

It was then five in the morning. At three in the afternoon they
came back to the tent, Bjaaland running in front, Hanssen driving
the sedge. That was a notable feat, both for men and dogs. Hanssen,
Bjaaland, and that team had covered about fifty miles that day,
at an average rate of three to three and a half miles an hour. They
had found the depot without much search. Their greatest difficulty
had been in the undulating surface; for long stretches at a time
they were in the hollows between the waves, which shut in their view
entirely. Ridge succeeded ridge, endlessly. We had taken care that
everything was ready for their return -- above all great quantities
of water. Water, water was the first thing, and generally the last,
that was in request. When their thirst was a little quenched,
great interest was shown in the pemmican. While these two were
being well looked after, the depot they had brought in was divided
between the two sledges, and in a short time all was ready for our
departure. Meanwhile, the weather had been getting finer and finer,
and before us lay the mountains, sharp and clear. We thought we
recognized Fridtjof Nansen and Don Pedro Christophersen, and took
good bearings of them in case the fog should return. With most of us
the ideas of day and night began to get rather mixed. "Six o'clock,"
someone would answer, when asked the time. "Yes, in the morning,"
remarks the other. "No; what are you talking about?" answers the
first one again; "it's evening, of course." The date was hopeless;
it was a good thing if we remembered the year. Only when writing in
our diaries and observation books did we come across such things as
dates; while at work we had not the remotest idea of them.

Splendid weather it was when we turned out on the morning of January
3. We had now agreed to go as it suited us, and take no notice of day
or night; for some time past we had all been sick of the long hours
of rest, and wanted to break them up at any price. As I have said,
the weather could not have been finer brilliantly clear and a dead
calm. The temperature of -2.2 F. felt altogether like summer in
this bright, still air. Before we began our march all unnecessary
clothes were taken off and put on the sledges. It almost looked as
if everything would be considered superfluous, and the costume in
which we finally started would no doubt have been regarded as somewhat
unseemly in our latitudes. We smiled and congratulated ourselves that
at present no ladies had reached the Antarctic regions, or they might
have objected to our extremely comfortable and serviceable costume. The
high land now stood out still more sharply. It was very interesting
to see in these conditions the country we had gone through on,
the southward trip in the thickest blizzard. We had then been going
along the foot of this immense mountain chain without a suspicion
of how near we were to it, or how colossal it was. The ground was
fortunately quite undisturbed in this part. I say fortunately, as
Heaven knows what would have happened to us if we had been obliged
to cross a crevassed surface in such weather as we then had. Perhaps
we should have managed it -- perhaps not.

The journey before us was a stiff one, as the Butcher's lay 2,680
feet higher than the place where we were. We had been expecting to
stumble upon one of our beacons before long, but this did not happen
until we had gone twelve and a half miles. Then one of them suddenly
came in sight, and was greeted with joy. We knew well enough that we
were on the right track, but an old acquaintance like this was very
welcome all the same. The sun had evidently been at work up here while
we were in the south, as some of the beacons were quite bent over,
and great icicles told us clearly enough how powerful the sunshine
had been. After a march of about twenty-five miles we halted at the
beacon we had built right under the hill, where we had been forced
to stop by thick weather on November 25.

January 4 was one of the days to which we looked forward with anxiety,
as we were then due at our depot at the Butcher's, and had to find
it. This depot, which consisted of the finest, fresh dogs' flesh, was
of immense importance to us. Not only had our animals got into the way
of preferring this food to pemmican, but, what was of still greater
importance, it had an extremely good effect on the dogs' state of
health. No doubt our pemmican was good enough -- indeed, it could not
have been better -- but a variation of diet is a great consideration,
and seems, according to my experience, to mean even more to the dogs
than to the men on a long journey like this. On former occasions I have
seen dogs refuse pemmican, presumably because they were tired of it,
having no variety; the result was that the dogs grew thin and weak,
although we had food enough. The pemmican I am referring to on that
occasion was made for human use, so that their distaste cannot have
been due to the quality.

It was 1.15 a.m. when we set out. We had not had a long sleep, but it
was very important to avail ourselves of this fine, clear weather while
it lasted; we knew by experience that up here in the neighbourhood of
the Butcher's the weather was not to be depended upon. From the outward
journey we knew that the distance from the beacon where our camp was
to the depot at the Butcher's was thirteen and a half miles. We had
not put up more than two beacons on this stretch, but the ground was
of such a nature that we thought we could not go wrong. That it was
not so easy to find the way, in spite of the beacons, we were soon to
discover. In the fine, clear weather, and with Hanssen's sharp eyes,
we picked up both our beacons. Meanwhile we were astonished at the
appearance of the mountains. As I have already mentioned, we thought
the weather was perfectly clear when we reached the Butcher's for
the first time, on November 20. I then took a bearing from the tent
of the way we had come up on to the plateau between the mountains,
and carefully recorded it. After passing our last beacon, when we
were beginning to approach the Butcher's -- as we reckoned -- we were
greatly surprised at the aspect of our surroundings. Last time --
on November 20 -- we had seen mountains on the west and north, but
a long way off: Now the whole of that part of the horizon seemed
to be filled with colossal mountain masses, which were right over
us. What in the world was the meaning of this? Was it witchcraft? I
am sure I began to think so for a moment. I would readily have taken
my most solemn oath that I had never seen that landscape before in my
life. We had now gone the full distance, and according to the beacons
we had passed, we ought to be on the spot. This was very strange; in
the direction in which I had taken the bearing of our ascent, we now
only saw the side of a perfectly unknown mountain, sticking up from
the plain. There could be absolutely no way down in that precipitous
wall. Only on the north-west did the ground give the impression of
allowing a descent; there a natural depression seemed to be formed,
running down towards the Barrier, which we could see far, far away.

We halted and discussed the situation. "Hullo!" Hanssen suddenly
exclaimed, "somebody has been here before." -- "Yes," broke in Wisting;
"I'm hanged if that isn't my broken ski that I stuck up by the
depot." So it was Wisting's broken ski that brought us out of this
unpleasant situation. It was a good thing he put it there -- very
thoughtful, in any case. I now examined the place with the glasses,
and by the side of a snow mound, which proved to be our depot, but
might easily have escaped our notice, we could see the ski sticking
up out of the snow. We cheerfully set our course for the spot, but
did not reach it until we had gone three miles.

There was rejoicing in our little band when we arrived and saw that
what we had considered the most important point of our homeward
journey had been reached. It was not so much for the sake of the food
it contained that we considered it so necessary to find this spot,
as for discovering the way down to the Barrier again. And now that
we stood there, we recognized this necessity more than ever. For
although we now knew, from our bearings, exactly where the descent
lay, we could see nothing of it at all. The plateau there seemed to go
right up to the mountain, without any opening towards the lower ground
beyond; and yet the compass told us that such an opening must exist,
and would take us down. The mountain, on which we had thus walked all
day on the outward journey, without knowing anything of it, was Mount
Fridtjof Nansen. Yes, the difference in the light made a surprising
alteration in the appearance of things.

The first thing we did on reaching the depot was to take out the
dogs' carcasses that lay there and cut them into big lumps, that
were divided among the dogs. They looked rather surprised; they
had not been accustomed to such rations. We threw three carcasses
on to the sledges, so as to have a little extra food for them on
the way down. The Butcher's was not a very friendly spot this time,
either. True, it was not the same awful weather as on our first visit,
but it was blowing a fresh breeze with a temperature of -9.4 F.,
which, after the heat of the last few days, seemed to go to one's
marrow, and did not invite us to stay longer than was absolutely
necessary. Therefore, as soon as we had finished feeding the dogs
and putting our sledges in order, we set out.

Although the ground had not given us the impression of sloping, we
soon found out that it did so when we got under way. It was not only
downhill, but the pace became so great that we had to stop and put
brakes under the sledges. As we advanced, the apparently unbroken
wall opened more and more, and showed us at last our old familiar
ascent. There lay Mount Ole Engelstad, snowclad and cold, as we saw
it the first time. As we rounded it we came on to the severe, steep
slope, where, on the way south, I had so much admired the work done
by my companions and the dogs that day. But now I had an even better
opportunity of seeing how steep this ascent really had been. Many
were the brakes we had to put on before we could reduce the speed
to a moderate pace, but even so we came down rapidly, and soon the
first part of the descent lay behind us. So as not to be exposed to
possible gusts from the plain, we went round Mount Engelstad and
camped under the lee of it, well content with the day's work. The
snow lay here as on our first visit, deep and loose, and it was
difficult to find anything like a good place for the tent. We could
soon feel that we had descended a couple of thousand feet and come
down among the mountains. It was still, absolutely still, and the
sun broiled us as on a day of high summer at home. I thought, too,
that I could notice a difference in my breathing; it seemed to work
much more easily and pleasantly -- perhaps it was only imagination.

At one o'clock on the following morning we were out again. The sight
that met our eyes that morning, when we came out of the tent, was one
of those that will always live in our memories. The tent stood in the
narrow gap between Fridtjof Nansen and Ole Engelstad. The sun, which
now stood in the south, was completely hidden by the latter mountain,
and our camp was thus in the deepest shadow; but right against us
on the other side the Nansen mountain raised its splendid ice-clad
summit high towards heaven, gleaming and sparkling in the rays of
the midnight sun. The shining white passed gradually, very gradually,
into pale blue, then deeper and deeper blue, until the shadow swallowed
it up. But down below, right on the Heiberg Glacier, its ice-covered
side was exposed -- dark and solemn the mountain mass stood out. Mount
Engelstad lay in shadow, but on its summit rested a beautiful light
little cirrus cloud, red with an edge of gold. Down over its side
the blocks of ice lay scattered pell-mell. And farther down on the
east rose Don Pedro Christophersen, partly in shadow, partly gleaming
in the sun -- a marvellously beautiful sight. And all was so still;
one almost feared to disturb the incomparable splendour of the scene.

We now knew the ground well enough to be able to go straight ahead
without any detours. The huge avalanches were more frequent than on
the outward journey. One mass of snow after another plunged down;
Don Pedro was getting rid of his winter coat. The going was precisely
the same -- loose, fairly deep snow. We went quite easily over it,
however, and it was all downhill. On the ridge where the descent to
the glacier began we halted to make our preparations. Brakes were
put under the sledges, and our two ski-sticks were fastened together
to make one strong one; we should have to be able to stop instantly
if surprised by a crevasse as we were going. We ski-runners went in
front. The going was ideal here on the steep slope, just enough loose
snow to give one good steering on ski. We went whizzing down, and it
was not many minutes before we were on the Heiberg Glacier. For the
drivers it was not quite such plain sailing: they followed our tracks,
but had to be extremely careful on the steep fall.

We camped that evening on the selfsame spot where we had had our tent
on November 18, at about 3,100 feet above the sea. From here one could
see the course of the Axel Heiberg Glacier right down to its junction
with the Barrier. It looked fine and even, and we decided to follow
it instead of climbing over the mountain, as we had done on the way
south. Perhaps the distance would be somewhat longer, but probably we
should make a considerable saving of time. We had now agreed upon a new
arrangement of our time; the long spells of rest were becoming almost
unbearable. Another very important side of the question was that,
by a reasonable arrangement, we should be able to save a lot of time,
and reach home several days sooner than we had reckoned. After a great
deal of talk on one side and on the other, we agreed to arrange matters
thus: we were to do our fifteen geographical miles, or twenty-eight
kilometres, and then have a sleep of six hours, turn out again and do
fifteen miles more, and so on. In this way we should accomplish a very
good average distance on our day's march. We kept to this arrangement
for the rest of the journey, and thus saved a good many days.

Our progress down the Heiberg Glacier did not encounter any
obstructions; only at the transition from the glacier to the Barrier
were there a few crevasses that had to be circumvented. At 7 a.m. on
January 6 we halted at the angle of land that forms the entrance to
the Heiberg Glacier, and thence extends northward. We had not yet
recognized any of the land we lay under, but that was quite natural,
as we now saw it from the opposite side. We knew, though, that we
were not far away from our main depot in 85 5' S. On the afternoon
of the same day we were off again.

From a little ridge we crossed immediately after starting, Bjaaland
thought he could see the depot down on the Barrier, and it was not
very long before we came in sight of Mount Betty and our way up. And
now we could make sure with the glasses that it really was our depot
that we saw -- the same that Bjaaland thought he had seen before. We
therefore set our course straight for it, and in a few minutes we
were once more on the Barrier -- January 6, 11 p.m. -- after a stay
of fifty-one days on land. It was on November 17 that we had begun
the ascent.

We reached the depot, and found everything in order. The heat here
must have been very powerful; our lofty, solid depot was melted by
the sun into a rather low mound of snow. The pemmican rations that
had been exposed to the direct action of the sun's rays had assumed
the strangest forms, and, of course, they had become rancid. We
got the sledges ready at once, taking all the provisions out of the
depot and loading them. We left behind some of the old clothes we
had been wearing all the way from here to the Pole and back. When
we had completed all this repacking and had everything ready, two
of us went over to Mount Betty, and collected as many different
specimens of rock as we could lay our hands on. At the same time we
built a great cairn, and left there a can of 17 litres of paraffin,
two packets of matches -- containing twenty boxes -- and an account
of our expedition. Possibly someone may find a use for these things
in the future.

We had to kill Frithjof, one of Bjaaland's dogs, at this camp. He had
latterly been showing marked signs of shortness of breath, and finally
this became so painful to the animal that we decided to put an end
to him. Thus brave Frithjof ended his career. On cutting him open
it appeared that his lungs were quite shrivelled up; nevertheless,
the remains disappeared pretty quickly into his companions'
stomachs. What they had lost in quantity did not apparently affect
their quality. Nigger, one of Hassel's dogs, had been destroyed on
the way down from the plateau. We thus reached this point again with
twelve dogs, as we had reckoned on doing, and left it with eleven. I
see in my diary the following remark: "The dogs look just as well
as when we left Framheim." On leaving the place a few hours later
we had provisions for thirty-five days on the sledges. Besides this,
of course, we had a depot at every degree of latitude up to 80.

It looked as though we had found our depot at the right moment, for
when we came out to continue our journey the whole Barrier was in a
blizzard. A gale was blowing from the south, with a sky completely
clouded over; falling snow and drift united in a delightful dance, and
made it difficult to see. The lucky thing was that now we had the wind
with us, and thus escaped getting it all in our eyes, as, we had been
accustomed to. The big crevasse, which, as we knew, lay right across
the line of our route, made us go very carefully. To avoid any risk,
Bjaaland and Hassel, who went in advance, fastened an alpine rope
between them. The snow was very deep and loose, and the going very
heavy. Fortunately, we were warned in time of our approach to the
expected cracks by the appearance of some bare ice ridges. These told
us clearly enough that disturbances had taken place here, and that even
greater ones might be expected, probably near at hand. At that moment
the thick curtain of cloud was torn asunder, and the sun pierced the
whirling mass of snow. Instantly Hanssen shouted: "Stop, Bjaaland!" He
was just on the edge of the yawning crevasse. Bjaaland himself has
splendid sight, but his excellent snow-goggles -- his own patent --
entirely prevented his seeing. Well, Bjaaland would not have been in
any serious danger if he had fallen into the crevasse, as he was roped
to Hassel, but it would have been confoundedly unpleasant all the same.

As I have said before, I assume that these great disturbances here
mark the boundary between the Barrier and the land. This time,
curiously enough, they seemed also to form a boundary between good
and bad weather, for on the far side of them -- to the north -- the
Barrier lay bathed in sunshine. On the south the blizzard raged worse
than ever. Mount Betty was the last to send us its farewell. South
Victoria Land had gone into hiding, and did not show itself again. As
soon as we came into the sunshine, we ran upon one of our beacons;
our course lay straight towards it. That was not bad steering in the
dark. At 9 p.m. we reached the depot in 85 S. Now we could begin to be
liberal with the dogs' food, too; they had double pemmican rations,
besides as many oatmeal biscuits as they would eat. We had such
masses of biscuits now that we could positively throw them about. Of
course, we might have left a large part of these provisions behind;
but there was a great satisfaction in being so well supplied with
food, and the dogs did not seem to mind the little extra weight in
the least. As long as things went so capitally as they were going --
that is, with men and dogs exactly keeping pace with one another --
we could ask for nothing better. But the weather that had cheered us
was not of long duration. "Same beastly weather," my diary says of
the next stage. The wind had shifted to the north-west, with overcast,
thick weather, and very troublesome drifting snow. In spite of these
unfavourable conditions, we passed beacon after beacon, and at the
end of our march had picked up all the beacons we had erected on
this distance of seventeen miles and three-eighths. But, as before,
we owed this to Hanssen's good eyes.

On our way southward we had taken a good deal of seal meat and had
divided it among the depots we built on the Barrier in such a way that
we were now able to eat fresh meat every day. This had not been done
without an object; if we should be visited with scurvy, this fresh meat
would be invaluable. As we were -- sound and healthy as we had never
been before -- the seal-beef was a pleasant distraction in our menu,
nothing more. The temperature had risen greatly since we came down
on to the Barrier, and kept steady at about + 14 F. We were so warm
in our sleeping-bags that we had to turn them with the hair out. That
was better; we breathed more freely and felt happier. "Just like going
into an ice-cellar," somebody remarked. The same feeling as when on
a really warm summer day one comes out of the hot sun into cool shade.

January 9. -- "Same beastly weather; snow, snow, snow, nothing but
snow. Is there no end to it? Thick too, so that we have not been able
to see ten yards ahead. Temperature + 17.6 F. Thawing everywhere
on the sledges. Everything getting wet. Have not found a single
beacon in this blind man's weather. The snow was very deep to begin
with and the going exceedingly heavy, but in spite of this the dogs
managed their sledges very well." That evening the weather improved,
fortunately, and became comparatively clear by the time we resumed our
journey at 10 p.m. Not long after we sighted one of our beacons. It
lay to the west, about 200 yards away. We were thus not far out of
our course; we turned aside and went up to it, as it was interesting
to see whether our reckoning was in order. The beacon was somewhat
damaged by sunshine and storms, but we found the paper left in it,
which told us that this beacon was erected on November 14, in 84 26'
S. It also told us what course to steer by compass to reach the next
beacon, which lay five kilometres from this one.

As we were leaving this old friend and setting our course as it
advised, to our unspeakable astonishment two great birds -- skua gulls
-- suddenly came flying straight towards us. They circled round us
once or twice and then settled on the beacon. Can anyone who reads
these lines form an idea of the effect this had upon us? It is hardly
likely. They brought us a message from the living world into this realm
of death -- a message of all that was dear to us. I think the same
thoughts filled us all. They did not allow themselves a long rest,
these first messengers from another world; they sat still a while,
no doubt wondering who we were, then rose aloft and flew on to the
south. Mysterious creatures! they were now exactly half-way between
Framheim and the Pole, and yet they were going farther inland. Were
they going over to the other side?

Our march ended this time at one of our beacons, in 84 15'. It
felt so good and safe to lie beside one of these; it always gave
us a sure starting-point for the following stage. We were up at
4 a.m. and left the place a few hours later, with the result that
the day's march brought us thirty-four miles nearer Framheim. With
our present arrangement, we had these long-day marches every other
day. Our dogs need no better testimonial than this -- one day
seventeen miles, the next day thirty-four, and fresh all the way
home. The two birds, agreeably as their first appearance had affected
me, led my thoughts after a while in another direction, which was
anything but agreeable. It occurred to me that these two might only
be representatives of a larger collection of these voracious birds,
and that the remainder might now be occupied in consuming all the fresh
meat we had so laboriously transported with us and spread all over the
plain in our depots. It is incredible what a flock of these birds of
prey can get rid of; it would not matter if the meat were frozen as
hard as iron, they would have managed it, even if it had been a good
deal harder than iron. Of the seals' carcasses we had lying in 80,
I saw in my thoughts nothing but the bones. Of the various dogs we
had killed on our way south and laid on the tops of beacons I did not
see even so much as that. Well, it was possible that my thoughts had
begun to assume too dark a hue; perhaps the reality would be brighter.

Weather and going began by degrees to right themselves; it looked as if
things would improve in proportion to our distance from land. Finally,
both became perfect; the sun shone from a cloudless sky, and the
sledges ran on the fine, even surface with all the ease and speed
that could be desired. Bjaaland, who had occupied the position of
forerunner all the way from the Pole, performed his duties admirably;
but the old saying that nobody is perfect applied even to him. None
of us -- no matter who it may be -- can keep in a straight line, when
he has no marks to follow. All the more difficult is this when, as so
often happened with us, one has to go blindly. Most of us, I suppose,
would swerve now to one side, now to the other, and possibly end,
after all this groping, by keeping pretty well to the line. Not so
with Bjaaland; he was a right-hand man. I can see him now; Hanssen
has given him the direction by compass, and Bjaaland turns round,
points his ski in the line indicated and sets of with decision. His
movements clearly show that he has made up his mind, cost what it
may, to keep in the right direction. He sends his ski firmly along,
so that the snow spurts from them, and looks straight before him. But
the result is the same; if Hanssen had let Bjaaland go on without any
correction, in the course of an hour or so the latter would probably
have described a beautiful circle and brought himself back to the spot
from which he had started. Perhaps. after all, this was not a fault to
complain of, since we always knew with absolute certainty that, when
we had got out of the line of beacons, we were to the right of it and
had to search for the beacons to the west. This conclusion proved very
useful to us more than once, and we gradually became so familiar with
Bjaaland's right-handed tendencies that we actually counted on them.

On January 13, according to our reckoning, we ought to reach the depot
in 83 S. This was the last of our depots that was not marked at right
angles to the route, and therefore the last critical point. The day
was not altogether suited for finding the needle in the haystack. It
was calm with a thick fog, so thick that we could only see a few yards
in front of us. We did not see a single beacon on the whole march. At
4 p.m. we had completed the distance, according to the sledge-meters,
and reckoned that we ought to be in 83 S., by the depot; but there
was nothing to be seen. We decided, therefore, to set our tent and
wait till it cleared. While we were at work with this, there was a
rift in the thick mass of fog, and there, not many yards away -- to

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