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CHAPTER XXIII.

SHACKELTON'S "FARTHEST SOUTH"

And now the South Pole Is all there is left to discover. It scarcely can be doubted that in a few years the flag of some nation will be planted at the Antarctic axis of the earth. Already one man an Englishman has come within 100 miles of the goal. A little more grit, a little more food, and a little more luck it will be reached.

Lieut. Ernest H. Shackelton is the man who holds the Antarctic record. He achieved it at the outset of the great year of 1909, and would have attained the pole itself had he not found it necessary to turn back to save his life and those of the men with him.

Shackelton left England in the ship Nimrod in July, 1907. He had already risked his life in the South Polar regions when a member of the party of Capt. Scott, and he had acquired a valuable amount of experience m fighting his way over the ice. On the trip of 1909 he was the leader, and he had the enthusiastic good wishes of all England, with the king and queen cheering him on. When departing on his voyage Shackelton was given a Union Jack the British naval banner and this flag, that has kindled the hearts of Britons for hundreds of years, he was to plant at the pole, or the nearest point thereto attainable. On presenting the flag the king said:

"May this Union Jack, which I entrust to your keeping, lead you safely to the South Pole."

Though Shackelton did not reach the southern axis of the globe, he did these things:

Reached latitude 88:23 south; longitude 162. Traveled 1,708 statute miles within the Arctic circle.

Went 340 miles farther south than his predecessor and preceptor, Capt. Scott.

Found the South Magnetic Pole, declared to be of more value to science than the geographical pole.

Discovered 100 new mountain peaks.

Ascended Mount Erebus, the southernmost volcano of the world, 13,200 feet high, this feat being in the face of a terrific blizzard.

The expedition on leaving New Zealand sailed to a point from which sledge journeys would be favorable, and there split up into investigating parties, one of which, under Shackelton, went south; and the other, with Prof. Edworth Davis at its head, went northward. It was Shackelton's purpose to dash direct to the pole. For this attempt he had as an aid something new in the field of polar effort automobile sledges. The good old dogs that had tried the souls and saved the lives of so many travelers in the ice' realms, were discounted by gasoline. For what the sledges could not do, the explorers had ponies. These proved of chief value as food.

Lieut. Shackelton says in his description of his final dash toward the South Pole:

"The southern party, Adams, Marshall, Wild and I, with four ponies and a supporting party consisting of Sir Philip Brocklehurst and Messrs. Joyce, Marson, Armytage and Priestly, left Cape Royd on October 29, 1908. We left Hutpoint November 3 with ninety-one days' provisions. We were held up at White Island from November 5 for four days by a blizzard. The supporting party returned November 7.

"Owing to the bad light among the ice crevasses, Adams' pony was nearly lost. We reached November 13 the depot laid out in September in latitude 79:36, longitude 168 east. We took on the pony maize, and provisions previously left there and commenced reducing our daily rations. We traveled south along meridian 168 over a varying surface of high ridges and mounds of snow alternating with soft snow. The ponies often sank to their bellies. In latitude 81 we shot the pony, Chinaman, and made a depot for oil, biscuit and pony meat. The remainder of the pony meat we took on to eke out our dried rations.

"On November 26 we reached the Discovery expedition's southernmost latitude. The surface now was extremely soft with large undulations. The ponies were attacked with snow blindness. On November 28 the pony, Christ was shot. We made a depot in latitude 82:45, longitude 170. Pony Quan was shot on November 30.

"Steering south southeast, we now were approaching a high range of new mountains trending to the southeast. We found on December 2 a barrier that, influenced by great pressure and ridges of snow and ice, had turned into land. We discovered a glacier 120 miles long and approximately forty miles wide, running in a south southwesterly direction.

"We started on December 5 to ascend the glacier at latitude of 83:33, longitude 172. The glacier was badly crevassed as a result of the huge pressure. The surface on December 6 was so crevassed that it took a whole day to fight our way 600 yards.

"On December 7 the pony, Socks, breaking through a snow lid, disappeared in a crevasse of unknown depth. The singletree snapping we saved Wild and the sledge, which was badly damaged. The party was now hauling a weight of 250 pounds per man.

"The clouds disappearing on December 8 we discovered new mountain ranges trending south southwest. Moving up the glacier over the treacherous snow covering the crevasses, we frequently fell through but were saved by our harness and were pulled out with an Alpine rope. A second sledge was badly damaged by the knife-edge crevasses.

"Similar conditions obtained on our way up the glacier from December 18, when we reached an altitude of 6,800 feet. In latitude 85:10 we made a depot and left everything there but our food, instruments, and camp equipment, and reduced our rations to twenty ounces per man daily.

"We reached on December 26 a plateau after crossing ice falls at an altitude of 9,000 feet, thence rising gradually in long ridges to 10,500 feet. Finishing the relay work, we discarded our second sledge. There was a constant southerly blizzard, the wind drifting the snow, with a temperature ranging from 37 to 70 degrees of frost. We lost sight of the new mountains December 27. Finding the party weakening from the effects of a shortage of food and the rarified air and cold, I decided to risk making a depot on a plateau.

"We proceeded on January 4 with one tent, utilizing the poles of the second tent for guiding marks for our return. The surface became soft and the blizzard continued. For sixty hours during January 7, 8, and 9 a blizzard raged with 72 degrees of frost and the wind blowing seventy miles an hour. It was impossible to move. Members of the party were frequently frostbitten in their sleeping bags."

And then follows this laconic description of the discovery of "farthest south":

"We left camp on January 9 and reached latitude 88:23 longitude 16:32. This is the most southerly point ever reached. Here we hoisted the Union Jack presented to us by the queen. No mountains were visible. We saw a plain stretching to the south."

Continuing the story Shackelton says:

"We returned to pick up our depot on the plateau, guided by our outward tracks, for the flags attached to the tent poles had been blown away. The less violent blizzards blowing on our backs helped us to travel from twenty to twenty-nine miles daily. We reached the upper glacier depot January 19.

"The snow had been blown from the glacier surface, leaving a slippery blue ice. The descent was slow work in the heavy gale. The sledge was lowered by stages by an Alpine rope. On the morning of January 26 our food was finished. It was slow going. Sixteen miles were covered in twenty-two hours' march. The snow was two feet deep, concealing the crevasses. We reached the lower glacier depot in latitude 83:45 on the afternoon of January 27. There we obtained food, and proceeding, reached the Grisi depot, named after a dead pony, on February 2. There was no food remaining.

"The entire party were prostrated on February 4 and were unable to move. This lasted eight days, but helped by strong southerly blizzards we reached the Chinaman depot on February 13. The food had again run out."

By this time the situation so calmly recounted by Shackelton was somewhat alarming. Many men in a similar pinch would have considered it desperate. But these Britons, true to the tradition of their predecessors in braving polar hardships, pushed on.

"The blizzards continued, with fifty degrees of frost. We discarded everything except our camp outfit and geological specimens, and on February 20 reached the next depot, all our food being finished. Helped by a southerly blizzard which was accompanied by sixty-seven degrees of frost, we reached on February 23, the depot at Minna Bluff, which had been laid by the Joyce party in January.

"Here we received news from our ship. Marshall had a relapse and return of illness. We made a forced march of twenty-four miles February 26. Marshall was suffering greatly. On February 27 Marshall was unable to march. I left him in charge of Adams while Wild and I made a forced march to the ship for relief. I returned March i with a relief party and reached the ship at Hut Point March 4 in a blizzard.

"The total distance of the journey, including relays, was 172 statute miles. The time occupied was 126 days. The main result was a geological collection. We also made a complete meteorological record. We discovered eight mountain ranges and over 100 mountains. The geographical South Pole doubtless is situated on a plateau from 10,000 to 11,000 feet above sea level. Violent blizzards in latitude 88 show that if a 'polar calm' exists it must be in a small area or not coincident with the geographical pole."

Prof. Davis, of the northern party, started from Cape Royd October 5, 1908, and with two sledges discovered the South Magnetic Pole in latitude 72:25. He and his companions had experiences akin to Shackelton, though without the severe hardships.

Another feature of the expedition was a viewing of the south aurora borealis, or aurora australis, as it is sometimes called. This is described as brilliant throughout the winter, appearing most frequently in the eastern sky and seldom in the direction of the magnetic pole. The most striking form of the aurora was that of a parallel with draped curtains extending across the heavens, sometimes stationary and sometimes moving rapidly across the remarkable speed.

Shackelton's exploits filled England with pride, and were heralded, until two Americans found the North Pole, as among the greatest achievements of polar travel. When Shackelton cabled to his ruler the results of his journey the king cabled back as follows:

"I congratulate you and your comrades most warmly on the splendid result accomplished by your expedition, and in having hoisted the Union Jack presented by the queen within 111 miles of the South Pole, and the Union Jack on the South Magnetic Pole.

"I gladly assent to the new range of mountains in the far south bearing the name of Queen Alexandra."

EDWARD R. I.


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