Web Text-ures Logo
Web and Book design,
Copyright, Kellscraft Studio

(Return to Web Text-ures)
Click Here to return to
The Heart of the Antarctic
Content Page

 Return to the Previous Chapter
Kellscraft Studio Logo


View from Winter Quarters over the Sound and the Western Mountains: Field for Scientific Work: The Hut completed and Out-buildings erected: Interior arrangements:
The bed question: Acetylene Gas-plant

 THE next four or five days were spent in using pick and shovel and iron crowbars on the envelope of ice that covered our cases, corners of which only peeped out from the mass. The whole had the appearance of a piece of the sweet known as almond rock, and there was as much difficulty in getting the cases clear of the ice as would be experienced if one tried to separate almonds from that sticky conglomerate without injury. Occasionally the breaking out of a case would disclose another which could be easily extracted, but more often each case required the pick or crowbars. A couple of earnest miners might be seen delving and hewing the ice off a case, of which only the corner could be seen, and after ten minutes' hard work it would be hauled up, and the stencilled mark of its contents exposed to view. Brocklehurst took great interest in the recovery of the chocolate, and during this work took charge of one particular case which had been covered by the ice. He carried it himself up to the hut so as to be sure of its safety, and he was greeted with joy by the Professor, who recognised in the load some of his scientific instruments which were playing the part of the cuckoo in an old chocolate box. Needless to say Brocklehurst's joy was not as heartfelt as the Professor's.

After about four days' hard work at the Front Door Bay landing-place, the bulk of the stores was recovered, and I think we may say that there was not much lost permanently, though, as time went on, and one or two cases that were required did not turn up, we used to wonder whether they had been left on board the ship, or lay buried under the ice. We do know for certain that our only case of beer lies to this day under the ice, and it was not until a few days before our final departure that one of the scientists of the expedition dug out some volumes of the Challenger reports, which had been intended to provide us with useful reading matter during the winter nights. A question often debated during the long, dark days was which of these stray sheep, the Challenger reports or the case of beer, any particular individual would dig for if the time and opportunity were available. In moving up the recovered stores, as soon as a load arrived within fifteen yards of the hut, where, at this time of the year, the snow ended, and the bare earth lay uncovered, the sledges were unpacked, and one party carried the stuff up to the south side of the hut, whilst the sledges returned to the landing-place for more. We were now utilising the ponies every day, and they proved of great assistance in moving things to and fro. The stores on the top of the hill at Derrick Point were fortunately quite clear of snow, so we did not trouble to transport them, contenting ourselves with getting down things that were of immediate importance. Day by day we continued collecting our scattered goods, and within ten days after the departure of the ship we had practically everything handy to the hut, excepting the coal. The labour had been both heavy and fertile in minor accidents. Most of us at one time or another had wounds and bruises to be attended to by Marshall, who was kept busy part of every day dressing the injuries. Adams was severely cut in handling some iron-bound cases, and I managed to jamb my fingers in the motor-car. The annoying feature about these simple wounds was the length of time it took for them to heal in our special circumstances. The irritation seemed to be more pronounced if any of the earth got into the wound, so we always took care, after our first experiences, to go at once to Marshall for treatment, when the skin was broken. The day after the ship left we laid in a supply of fresh meat for the winter, killing about a hundred penguins and burying them in a snow-drift close to the hut. By February 28 we were practically in a position to feel contented with ourselves, and to look further afield and explore the neighbourhood of our winter quarters.


 From the door of our hut, which faced the north-west, we commanded a splendid view of the sound and the western mountains. Right in front of us, at our door, lay a small lake, which came to be known as Pony Lake; to the left of that was another sheet of ice that became snow-covered in the autumn, and it was here in the dark months that we exercised the ponies, and also ourselves. Six times up and down the "Green Park," as it was generally called, made a mile, and it was here, before darkness came on, that we played hockey and football. To the left of Green Park was a gentle slope leading down between two cliffs to the sea, and ending in a little bay known as Dead Horse Bay. On either side of this valley lay the penguin rookery, the slopes being covered with guano, and during the fairly high temperatures that held sway up to April, the smell from these deserted quarters of the penguins was extremely unpleasant. On coming out of the hut one had only to go round the corner of the building in order to catch a glimpse of Mount Erebus, which lay directly behind us. Its summit was about fifteen miles from our winter quarters, but its slopes and foothills commenced within three-quarters of a 'mile of the hut. Our view was cut off in all directions from the east to the south-west by the ridge at the head of the valley where the hut stood. On ascending this ridge, one looked over the bay to the south-east,. where lay Cape Berne. To the right was Flagstaff Point, and to the left lay, at the head of the Bay, the slopes of Erebus. There were many localities which became favourite places for walks, and these are shown on the Plan. Sandy Beach, about a mile away to the north-west of the hut, was generally the goal of any one taking exercise, when the uncertainty of the weather warned us against venturing further afield, and while-the dwindling light still permitted us to go so far. It was here that we sometimes exercised the ponies, and they much enjoyed rolling in the soft sand. The beach was formed of black volcanic sand, blown from the surrounding hills, and later on the pressed-up ice, which had been driven ashore by the southward movement of the pack, also became covered with the wind-borne dust and sand. The coast-line from Flagstaff Point right round to Horse Shoe Bay, on the north side of Cape Royds, was jagged and broken up. At some points ice-cliffs, in others. bare rocks, jutted out into the sea, and here and there small beaches composed of volcanic sand were interposed. Our local scenery, though not on a grand scale, loomed large in the light of the moon as the winter nights lengthened. Fantastic shadows made the heights appear greater and the valleys deeper, casting a spell of unreality around the place, which never seemed to touch it by day. The greatest height of any of the numerous sharp-pointed spurs of volcanic rock was not more than three hundred feet, but we were infinitely better off as regards the interest and the scenery of our winter quarters than the expedition which wintered in McMurdo Sound between 1901 and 1904. Our walks amongst the hills and across the frozen lakes were a great source of health and enjoyment, and as a field of work for geologists and biologists, Cape Royds far surpassed Hut Point. The largest lake, which lay about half a mile to the north-east, was named Blue Lake, from the intensely vivid blue of the ice. This lake was peculiarly interesting to Mawson, who made the study of ice part of his work. Beyond Blue Lake, to the northward, lay Clear Lake, the deepest inland body of water in our vicinity. To the left as one looked north, close to the coast, was a circular basin which we called Coast Lake, where, when we first arrived, hundreds of skua gulls were bathing and flying about. Following the coast from this point back towards winter quarters was another body of water called Green Lake. In all these various lakes something of interest to science was discovered, and though they were quite small, they were very important to our work and in our eyes, and were a source of continuous interest to us during our stay in the vicinity. Beyond Blue Lake, to the east, rose the lower slopes of Mount Erebus, covered with ice and snow. After passing one or two ridges of volcanic rocks, there stretched a long snow plain, across which sledges could travel without having their runners torn by gravel. The slope down to Blue Lake was picked out for ski-ing, and it was here, in the early days, when work was over, that some of our party used to slide from the top of the slope for about two hundred feet, arriving at the bottom in a few seconds, and shooting out across the frozen surface of the Lake, until brought up by the rising slope on the other side. To the north of Clear Lake the usual hills of volcanic rock separated by valleys filled more or less with snow-drifts, stretched for a distance of about a mile. Beyond this lay the coast, to the right of which, looking north, was Horse Shoe Bay, about four miles from our winter quarters; further to the right of the northern end of Cape Royds the slopes of Erebus were reached again. From the northern coast a good view could be obtained of Cape Bird, and from the height we could see Castle Rock to the south, distant about eighteen miles from the winter quarters. The walk from Hut Point to Castle Rock was familiar to us on the last expedition. It seemed much nearer than it really was, for in the Antarctic the distances are most deceptive, curiously different effects being produced by the variations of light and the distortion of mirage.

As time went on we felt more arid more satisfied with our location, for there was work of interest for every one. The Professor and Priestley saw open before them a new chapter of geological history of great interest, for Cape Royds was a happier hunting-ground for the geologist than was Hut Point. Hundreds of erratic boulders lay scattered on the slopes of the adjacent hills, and from these the geologists hoped to learn something of the past conditions of Ross Island. For Murray, the lakes were a fruitful field for new research. The gradually deepening bay was full of marine animal life, the species varying with the depth, and here also an inexhaustible treasure-ground stretched before the biologist. Adams, the meteorologist, could not complain, for Mount Erebus was in full view of the meteorological station, and this fortunate proximity to Erebus and its smoke-cloud led, in a large measure, to important results in this branch. For the physicist the structure of the ice, varying on various lakes, the different salts in the earth, and the magnetic conditions of the rocks claimed investigation, though, indeed, the magnetic nature of the rocks proved a disadvantage in carrying out magnetic observations, for the delicate instruments were often affected by the local attraction. From every point of view I must say that we were extremely fortunate in the winter quarters to which we had been led by the state of the sea ice, for no other spot could have afforded more scope for work and exercise.

Before we had been ten days ashore the hut was practically completed, though it was over a month before it had been worked up from the state of an empty shell to attain the fully furnished appearance it assumed after every one had settled down and arranged his belongings. It was not a very spacious dwelling for the accommodation of fifteen persons, but our narrow quarters were warmer than if the hut had been larger. The coldest part of the house when we first lived in it was undoubtedly the floor, which was formed of inch tongue-and-groove boarding, but was not double-lined. There was a space of about four feet under the hut at the north-west end, the other end resting practically on the ground, and it was obvious to us that as long as this space remained we would suffer from the cold, so we decided to make an airlock of the area under the hut. To this end we decided to build a wall round the south-east and southerly sides, which were to windward, with the bulk of the provision cases. To make certain that no air would penetrate from these sides we built the first two or three tiers of cases a little distance out from the walls of the hut, pouring in volcanic earth until no gaps could be seen, and the earth was level with the cases; then the rest of the stores were piled up to a height of six or seven feet. This accounted for one side and one end. On either side of the porch two other buildings were gradually erected. One, built out of biscuit cases, the roof covered with felt and canvas, was a store-room for Wild, who looked after the issue of all foodstuffs. The building on the other aide of the porch was a much more ambitious affair, and was built by Mawson, to serve as a chemical and physical laboratory. It was destined, however, to be used solely as a store-room, for the temperature within its walls was practically the same as that of the outside air, and the warm, moist atmosphere rushing out from the hut covered everything inside this store-room with fantastic ice crystals.

The lee side of the hut ultimately became the wall of the stables, for we decided to keep the ponies sheltered during the winter. During the blizzard we experienced on February 18, and for the three following days, the animals suffered somewhat, mainly owing to the knocking about they had received whilst on the way south in the ship. We found that a shelter, not necessarily warmed to a high temperature, would keep the ponies in better condition than if they were allowed to stand in the open, and by February 9 the stable building was complete. A double row of cases of maize, built at one end to a height of five feet eight inches, made one end, and then the longer side of the shelter was composed of bales of fodder. A wide plank at the other end was cemented into the ground, and a doorway left. Over all this was stretched the canvas tarpauling which we had previously used in the fodder hut, and with planks and battens on both sides to make it wind-proof, the stable was complete. A wire rope was stretched from one end to the other on the side nearest to the hut, and the ponies' head-ropes were made fast to this. The first night that they were placed in the stable there was little rest for any of us, and during the night some of the animals broke loose and returned to their valley. Shortly afterwards Grisi, one of the most high-spirited of the lot, pushed his head through a window, so the lower halves of the hut windows bad to be boarded up. The first strong breeze we had shook the roof of the stable so much that we expected every moment it would blow away, so after the gale all the sledges except those which were in use were laid on the top of the stable, and a stout rope passed from one end to the other. The next snowfall covered the sledges and made a splendid roof, upon which no subsequent wind had any effect. Later, another addition was made to the dwellings outside the hut in the shape of a series of dog-houses for those animals about to pup, and as that was not an uncommon thing down there, the houses were constantly occupied.

On the south-east side of the hut a store-room was built, constructed entirely of cases, and roofed with hammocks sewn together. Here we kept the tool-chest, shoe-makers' outfit, which was in constant requisition, and any general stores that had to be issued at stated times. The first heavy blizzard found this place out, and after the roof had been blown off, the wall fell down, and we had to organise a party, when the weather got fine, to search for anything that might be lost, such as mufflers, woollen helmets, and so on. Some things were blown more than a mile away. I found a Russian felt boot, weighing five pounds, lying three-quarters of a mile from the crate in which it had been stowed, and it must have had a clear run in the air for the whole of this distance, for there was not a scratch on the leather; if it had been blown along the rocks, which lay in the way, the leather would certainly have been scratched all over. The chimney, which was an iron pipe, projecting two or three feet above the roof of the hut, and capped by a cowl, was let through the rocf at the south-east end, and secured by numerous rope stays supporting it at every point from which the wind could blow.

We were quite free from the trouble of down draughts or choking with snow, such as had been of common occurrence in the large hut on the Discovery expedition. Certainly the revolving cowl blew off during the first blizzard, and this happened again in the second, so we took the hint and left it off for good, without detriment, as it happened, to the efficiency of the stove.

The dog kennels were placed close to the porch of the hut, but only three of the dogs were kept. constantly chained up. The meteorological station was on the weather side of the hut on the top of a small ridge, about, twenty feet above the hut and forty feet above sea-level, and a natural path led to it. Adams laid it out, and the regular readings of the instruments began on March 22. The foundation of the thermometer screen consisted of a heavy wooden case resting on rocks. The case was three-quarters filled with rock, and round the outside were piled more blocks of kenyte; the crevices between them were filled with volcanic earth on to which water was poured, the result being a structure as rigid its the ground itself. On each side of the box a heavy upright was secured by the rocks inside the case and by bolts at the sides, and to these uprights the actual meteorological screen, one of the Stevenson pattern and of standard size, was bolted. As readings of the instruments were to be taken day and night at intervals of two hours, and as it was quite possible that the weather might be so thick that a person might be lost in making his way between the screen and the hut, a line was rigged up on posts, which were cemented into the ground by ice, so that in the thickest weather the observer could be sure of finding his way by following this very substantial clue.

The inside of the hut was not long in being fully furnished, and a, great change it was from the bare shell of our first days of occupancy. The first thing done was to peg out a space for each individual, and we saw that the best plan would be to have the space allotted in sections, allowing two persons to share one cubicle. This space for two men amounted to six feet six inches in length and seven feet in depth from the wall of the hut towards the centre. There were seven of these cubicles, and a space for the leader of the expedition; thus providing for the fifteen who made up the shore-party. The accompanying photographs will give an idea of the hut as finished. One of the most important parts of the interior construction was the dark-room for the photographers. We were very short of wood, so cases of bottled fruit, which had to be kept inside the hut to prevent them freezing, were utilised for building the walls. The dark-room was constructed in the left-hand corner of the hut as one entered, and the fruit-cases were turned with their lids facing out, so that the contents could be removed without demolishing the walls of the building. These cases, as they were emptied, were turned into lockers, where we stowed our spare gear and so obtained more room in the little cubicles. The interior of the dark-room was fitted up by Mawson and the Professor. The sides and roof were lined with the felt left over after the hut was completed. Mawson made the fittings complete in every detail, with shelves, tanks, &c., and the result was as good as any one could desire in the circumstances.


 On the other side of the doorway, opposite the dark-room, was my room, six feet long, seven feet deep, built of boards and roofed, the roof being seven feet above the floor. I lined the walls inside with canvas, and the bed-place was constructed of fruit-boxes, which, when emptied, served, like those outside, for lockers. My room contained the bulk of our library, the chronometers, the chronometer watches, barograph, and the electric-recording thermometer; there was ample room for a table, and the whole made a most comfortable cabin. On the roof we stowed those of our scientific instruments which were not in use, such as theodolites, spare thermometers, dip circles, dce. The gradual accumulation of weight produced a distinct sag in the roof, which sometimes seemed to threaten collapse as I sat inside, but no notice was taken, and nothing happened. On the roof of the dark-room we stowed all our photographic gear and our few cases of wine, which were only drawn upon on special occasions, such as Mid-winter Day. The acetylene gas-plant was set up or a platform between my room and the dark room. We had tried to work it from the porch, but the temperature was so low there that the water froze and the gas would not come, so we shifted it inside the hut, and had no further trouble. Four burners, including a portable standard light in my room, gave ample illumination. The simplicity and portability of the apparatus and the high efficiency of the light represented the height of luxury under polar conditions and did much to render our sojourn more tolerable than would have been possible in earlier days. The particular form that we used was supplied by Mr. Morrison, who had been chief engineer on the Morning on her voyage to the relief of the Discovery. The only objectionable feature, due to having the generating-plant in our living-room was the unpleasant smell given off when the carbide tanks were being recharged, but we soon got used to this, though the daily changing always drew down strong remarks on the unlucky head of Day who had the acetylene plant especially under his charge. He did not have a hitch with it all the time. Flexible steel tubes were carried from the tank, and after being wound round the beams of the roof, served to suspend the lights at the required positions.

A long ridge of rope wire was stretched from one end of the hut to the other on each side, seven feet out from the wall; then at intervals of six feet another wire was brought out from the wall of the hut, and made fast to the fore and aft wire. These lines marked the boundaries of the cubicles, and sheets of duck sewn together hung from them, making a good division. Blankets were served out to hang in the front of the cubicle, in case the inhabitants wanted at any time to "sport their oak." As each of the cubicles had distinctive features in the furnishing and general design, especially as regards beds, it is worth while to describe them fully. This is not so trivial a matter as it may appear to some readers, for during the winter months the inside of the hut was the whole inhabited world to us. The wall of Adams and Marshall's cubicle, which was next to my room, was fitted with shelves made out of Venesta cases, and there was so much neatness and order about this apartment that it was known by the address, "No. 1 Park Lane." In front of the shelves hung little gauze curtains, tied up with blue ribbon, and the literary tastes of the occupants could be seen at a glance from the bookshelves. In Adams' quarter the period of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic era filled most of his bookshelves, though a complete edition of Dickens came in a good second. Marshall's shelves were stocked with bottles of medicine, medical works, and some general literature. The dividing curtain of duck was adorned by Marston with life-sized coloured drawings of Napoleon and Joan of Aro. Adams and Marshall did Sandow exercises daily, and their example was followed by other men later on, when the darkness and bad weather made open-air work difficult. The beds of this particular cubicle were the most comfortable in the hut, but took a little longer to rig up at night than most of the others. This disadvantage was more than compensated for by the free space gained during the day, and by permission of the owners it was used as consulting-room, dispensary, and operating theatre. The beds consisted of bamboos lashed together for extra strength, to which strips of canvas were attached, so that each bed looked like a stretcher. The wall end rested on stout cleats screwed on to the side of the hut, the other ends on chairs, and so supported, the occupants slept soundly and comfortably.

The next cubicle on the same side was occupied by Marston and Day, and as the former was the artist and the latter the general handy man of the expedition, one naturally found an ambitious scheme of decoration. The shelves were provided with beading, and the Venesta boxes were stained brown. This idea was copied from "No. 1 Park Lane," where they had stained all their walls with Condy's Fluid. Marston and Day's cubicle was known as "The Gables," presumably from the gabled appearance of the shelves. Solid wooden beds, made out of old packing-cases and upholstered with wood shavings covered witE blankets, made very comfortable couches, one of which could be pushed during meal times out of the way of the chairs. The artist's curtain was painted to represent a fireplace and mantelpiece in civilisation; a cheerful fire burned in the grate, and a bunch of flowers stood on the mantelpiece. The dividing curtain between it and No. 1 Park Lane, on the other side of the cubicle, did not require to be decorated, for the colour of Joan of Aro, and also portions of Napoleon, had oozed through the canvas. In "The Gables" was set up the lithographic press, which was used for producing pictures for the book which was printed at our winter quarters.

The next cubicle on the same side belonged to Armytage and Brocklehurst. Here everything in the way of shelves and fittings was very primitive. I lived in Brocklehurst's portion of the cubicle for two months, as he was laid up in my room, and before I left it I constructed a bed of empty petrol cases. The smell from these for the first couple of nights after rigging them up was decidedly unpleasant, but it disappeared after a while. Next to Brocklehurst's and Armytage's quarters came the pantry. The division between the cubicle and the pantry consisted of a tier of cases, making a substantial wall between the food and the heads of the sleepers. The pantry, bakery, and store-room, all combined, measured six feet by three, not very spacious, certainly, but sufficient  to work in. The far end of the hut constituted the other wall of the pantry, and was lined with shelves up to the slope of the roof. These shelves were continued along the wall behind the stove, which stood about four feet out from the end of the house, and an erection of wooden battens and burlap or sacking concealed the biological laboratory. The space taken up by this important department was four feet by four, but lack of ground area was made up for by the shelves, which oontained dozens of bottles soon to be filled with Murray's biological captures.

Beyond the stove, facing the pantry, was Mackay and Roberts' cubicle, the main feature of which was a ponderous shelf, on which rested mostly socks and other light articles, the only thing of weight being our gramophone and records. The bunks were somewhat feeble imitations of those belonging to No. 1 Park Lane, and the troubles that the owners went through before finally getting them into working order afforded the rest of the community a good deal of amusement. I can see before me now the triumphant face of Mackay, as he called all hands round to see his design. The inhabitants of No. 1 Park Lane pointed out that the bamboo was not a rigid piece of wood, and that when Mackay's weight came on it the middle would bend and the ends would jump off the supports unless secured. Mackay undressed before a critical audience, and he got into his bag and expatiated on the comfort and luxury he was experiencing, so different to the hard boards he had been lying on for months. Roberts was anxious to try his couch, which was constructed on the same principle, and the audience were turning away disappointed at not witnessing a catastrophe, when suddenly a crash was heard, followed by a strong expletive. Mackay's bed was half on the ground, one end of it resting at a most uncomfortable angle. Laughter and pointed remarks as to his capacity for making a bed were nothing to him; he tried three times that night to fix it up, but at last had to give it up for a bad job. In due time he arranged fastenings, and after that he slept in comfort.

Between this cubicle and the next there was no division, neither party troubling about the matter. The result was that the four men were constantly at war regarding alleged encroachments on their ground. Priestley, who was long-suffering, and who occupied the cubicle with Murray, said he did not mind a chair or a volume of the "Encyclopaedia Britannica" being occasionally deposited on him while he was asleep, but that he thought it was a little too strong to drop wet boots, newly arrived from the stables, on top of his belongings. Priestley and Murray had no floor-space at all in their cubicle, as their beds were built of empty dog-biscuit boxes. A division of boxes separated the two sleeping-places, and the whole cubicle was garnished on Priestley's side with bits of rock, ice-axes, hammers and chisels, and on Murray's with biological requisites.

Next came one of the first cubicles that had been built. Joyce and Wild occupied the "Rogues' Retreat," a painting of two very tough characters drinking beer out of pint mugs, with the inscription The Rogue's Retreat painted underneath, adorning the entrance to the den. The couches in this house were the first to be built, and those of the opposite dwelling, The Gables, were copied from their design. The first bed had been built in Wild's store-room for secrecy's sake; it was to burst upon the view of every one, and to create mingled feelings of admiration and envy, admiration for the splendid design, envy of the unparalleled luxury provided by it. However, in building it, the designer forgot the size of the doorway he had to take it through, and it had ignominiously to be sawn in half before it could be passed out of the store-room into the hut. The printing press and type case for the polar paper occupied one corner of this cubicle.

The next and last compartment was the dwelling-place of the Professor and Mawson. It would be difficult to do justice to the picturesque confusion of this compartment; one hardly likes to call it untidy, for the things that covered the bunks by daytime could be placed nowhere else conveniently. A miscellaneous assortment *of cameras, spectroscopes, thermometers, microscopes, electrometers, and the like lay in profusion on the blankets. Mawson's bed consisted of his two boxes, in which he had stowed his scientific apparatus on the way down, and the Professor's bed was made out of kerosene cases. Everything in the way of tin cans or plug-topped, with straw wrappers belonging to the fruit bottles, was collected by these two scientific men. Mawson, as a rule, put his possessions in his store-room outside, but the Professor, not having any retreat like that, made a pile of glittering tins and coloured wrappers at one end of his bunk, and the heap looked like the nest of the Australian bower bird. The straw and the tins were generally cleared away when the Professor and Priestley went in for a day's packing of geological specimens; the straw wrappers were utilised for wrapping round the rocks and the tins were filled with paper wrapped round the more delicate geological specimens. The name given, though not by the owners, to this cubicle was "The Pawn Shop," for not only was there always a heterogeneous mass of things on the bunks, but the wall of the dark-room and the wall of the hut at this spot could not be seen for the multitude of eases ranged as shelves and filled with a varied assortment of note-books and instruments.

In order to give as much free space as possible in the centre of the hut we had the table so arranged that it could be hoisted up over our heads after meals were over. This gave ample room or the various carpentering and engineering efforts that were constantly going on. Murray built the table out of the lids of packing-cases, and though often scrubbed, the stencilling on the cases never came out. We had no table-cloth, but this was an advantage, for a well-scrubbed table had a cleaner appearance than would be obtained with such washing as could be done in an Antarctic laundry. The legs of the table were detachable, being after the fashion of trestles, and the whole affair, when meals were over, was slung by a rope at each end about eight feet from the floor. At first we used to put the boxes containing knives, forks, plates, and bowls on top of the table before hauling it up, but after these had fallen on the unfortunate head of the person trying to get them down, we were content to keep them on the floor.

I had been very anxious as regards the stove, the most important part of the hut equipment, when I heard that, after the blizzard that kept me on board the Nimrod, the temperature of the hut was below zero, and that socks put to dry in the baking-ovens came out as damp as ever the following morning. My anxiety was dispelled after the stove had been taken to pieces again, for it was found that eight important pieces of its structure had not been put in. As soon as this omission was rectified the stove acted splendidly, and the makers deserve our thanks for the particular apparatus they picked out as suitable for us. The stove was put to a severe test, for it was kept going day and night for over nine months without once being out for more than ten minutes, when occasion required it to be cleaned. It supplied us with sufficient heat to keep the temperature of the hut sixty to seventy degrees above the outside air. Enough bread could be baked to satisfy our whole hungry party of fifteen every day; three hot meals a day were also cooked, and water melted from ice at a temperature of perhaps twenty degrees below zero in sufficient quantity to afford as much as we required for ourselves, and to water the ponies twice a day, and all this work was done on a consumption not exceeding five hundredweight of coal per week. After testing the stove by running it on an accurately measured amount of coal for a month, we were reassured about our coal-supply being sufficient to carry us through the winter right on to sledging time.



 As the winter came on and the light grew faint outside, the hut became more and more like a workshop, and it seems strange to me now, looking back to those distant days, to remember the amount of trouble and care that was taken to furnish and beautify what was only to be a temporary home. One of our many kind friends had sent us a number of pictures, which were divided between the various cubicles, and these brightened up the place wonderfully. During our first severe blizzard, the hut shook and trembled so that every moment we expected the whole thing to carry away, and there is not the slightest shadow of a doubt that if we had been located in the open, the hut and everything in it would have been torn up and blown away. Even with our sheltered position I had to lash the chronometers to the shelf in my room, for they were apt to be shaken off when the walls trembled in the gale. When the storm was over we put a stout wire cable over the hut, burying the ends in the ground and freezing them in, so as to afford additional security in case heavier weather was in store for us in the future.

 Divine service was held in the hut on Sundays during the winter months.

Plan ot the Hut at Winter Quarters

Book Chapter Logo Click the book image to turn to the next Chapter.