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THE CONQUEST OF MOUNT EREBUS
March 5: Party starts from Winter Quarters to ascend Mount Erebus: Camp 2750 ft. above Sea-level: March 6, altitude 6630 ft. and Depot made: March 7, Fierce Blizzard, Brocklehurst badly frost-bitten: March 8, Camp 11,400 ft.: March 9, Highest Point reached 13,370 ft.: Descent safely accomplished
There was one journey possible, a somewhat difficult undertaking certainly, yet gaining an interest and, excitement from that very reason, and this was an attempt to reach the summit of Mount Erebus. For many reasons the accomplishment of this work seemed to be desirable. In the first place the observations of temperature and wind currents at the summit of this great mountain would have an important bearing on the movements of the upper air, a meteorological problem as yet but imperfectly understood. From a geological point of view the mountain ought to reveal some interesting facts, and apart from scientific considerations, the ascent of a mountain over 13,000 ft. in height, situated so far south, would be a matter of pleasurable excitement both to those who were selected as climbers and to the rest of us who wished for our companions' success. After consideration I decided that Professor David, Mawson, and Mackay should constitute the party that was to try to reach the summit, and they were to be provisioned for ten days. A supporting-party, consisting of Adams, Marshall, and Brocklehurst, was to assist the main-party as far as feasible. The whole expedition was to be under Adams' charge until he decided that it was time for his party to return, and the Professor was then to be in charge of the advance party. In my written instructions to Adams, he was given the option of going on to the summit if he thought it feasible for his party to push on; and, he actually did so, though the supporting-party was not so well equipped for the mountain work as the advance-party, and was provisioned for six days only. Instructions were given that the supporting-party was not to hamper the main-party, especially as regarded the division of provisions, but, as a matter of fact, instead of hampering, the three men became of great assistance to the advance division, and lived entirely on their own stores and equipment during the whole trip. No sooner was it decided to make the ascent, which was arranged for, finally, on March 4, than the winter quarters became busy with the bustle of preparation. There were crampons to be made, food-bags to be prepared and filled, sleeping-bags to be overhauled, ice-axes to be got out and a hundred and one things to be seen to; yet such was the energy thrown into this work that the men were ready for the road and made a start at 8.30 A.M. on the 5th.
In a previous chapter I have described the nature and extent of equipment necessary for a sledging trip, so that it is not necessary now to go into details regarding the preparations for this particular journey, the only variation from the usual standard arrangement being in the matter of quantity of food. In the ascent of a mountain such as Erebus it was obvious that a limit would soon be reached beyond which it would be impossible to use a sledge. To meet these circumstances the advance-party had made an arrangement of straps by which their single sleeping-bags could be slung in the form of a knapsack upon their backs, and inside the bags the remainder of their equipment could be packed. The men of the supporting-party, in case they should journey beyond ice over which they could drag the sledge, had made the same preparations for transferring their load to their shoulders. When they started I must confess that I saw but little prospect of the whole party reaching the top, yet when, from the hut, on the third day out, we saw through Armytage's powerful telescope six tiny black spots slowly crawling up the immense deep snow-field to the base of the rugged rocky spurs that descended to the edge of the field, and when I saw next day out on the sky-line the same small figures, I realised that the supporting-party were going the whole way. On the return of this expedition Adams and the Professor made a full report, with the help of which I will follow the progress of the party, the members of which were winning their spurs not only on their first Antarctic campaign, but in their first attempt at serious mountaineering.
Mount Erebus bears a name that has loomed large in the history of polar exploration both north and south. Sir James Clark Ross, on January 28, 1841, named the great volcano at whose base our winter quarters were placed after the leading ship of his expedition. The final fate of that ship is linked with the fate of Sir John Franklin and one of the most tragic stories of Arctic exploration, but though both the Erebus and Terror have sunk far from the scenes of their first exploration, that brilliant period of Antarctic discovery will ever be remembered by the mountains which took their names from those stout ships. Standing as a sentinel at the gate of the Great Ice Barrier, Erebus forms a magnificent picture. The great mountain rises from sea-level to an altitude of over 13,000 ft., looking out across the Barrier, with its enormous snow-clad bulk towering above the white slopes that run up from the coast. At the top of the mountain an immense depression marks the site of the old crater, and from the side of this rises the active cone, generally marked by steam or smoke. The ascent of such a mountain would be a matter of difficulty in any part of the world, hardly to be attempted without experienced guides, but the difficulties were accentuated by the latitude of Erebus, and the party started off with the full expectation of encountering very low temperatures. The men all recognised, however, the scientific value of the achievement at which they were aiming, and they were determined to do their utmost to reach the crater itself. How they fared and what they found will be told best by extracts from the report which was made to me.
THE FIRST SLOPES OF EREBUS
Pulling the sledge proved fairly heavy work in places; at one spot, on the steep slope of a small glacier, the party had a hard struggle, mostly on their hands and knees, in their efforts to drag the sledge up the surface of smooth blue ice thinly coated with loose snow. This difficulty surmounted, they encountered some sastrugi, which impeded their progress somewhat. " Sastrugi " means wind furrow, and is the name given to those annoying obstacles to sledging, due to the action of the wind on the snow. A blizzard has the effect of scooping out hollows in the snow, and this is especially the case when local currents are set up owing to some rock or point of land intercepting the free run of the wind. These sastrugi vary in depth from two or three inches to three or four feet, according to the position of any rock masses that may be near and to the force of the wind forming them. The raised masses of snow between the hollows are difficult to negotiate with a sledge, especially when they run more or less parallel to the course of the traveller. Though they have many disadvantages, still there are times when their presence is welcome; especially is this the case when the sky is overcast and the low stratus cloud obliterates all landmarks. At these times a dull grey light is over everything, and it is impossible to see the way to steer unless one takes the line of sastrugi and notes the angle it makes with the compass course, the compass for the moment being placed on the snow to obtain the direction. In this way one can steer a fairly accurate course, occasionally verifying it by calling a halt and laying off the course again with the compass, a precaution that is very necessary, for at times the sastrugf alter in direction.
The sledgers, at this particular juncture, had much trouble in keeping their feet, and the usual equanimity of some of the men was disturbed, their remarks upon the subject of sastrugi being audible above the soft pad of the finnesko, the scrunch of the ski-boots, and the gentle sawing sound of the sledge-runners on the soft snow. About 6 P.M. the party camped at a small nunatak of black rock, about 2750 ft. above sea-level and a distance of seven miles from winter quarters. After a good hot dinner they turned into their sleeping-bags in the tents and were soon sound asleep. The following morning, when the men got up for breakfast, the temperature was 10° below zero Fahr., whilst at our winter quarters at the same time it was zero. They found, on starting, that the gradient was becoming much steeper, being 1 in 5, and sastrugi, running obliquely to their course, caused the sledge to capsize frequently. The temperature was 8° below zero Fahr., but the pulling was heavy work and kept the travellers warm. They camped that night, March 6, at an altitude of 5630 ft., having travelled only three miles during the whole day, but they had ascended over 2800 ft. above their previous camp. The temperature that night was 28° below zero Fahr. The second camp was in a line with the oldest crater of Erebus, and from the nature of the volcanic fragments lying around, the Professor was of the opinion that Erebus had been producing a little lava within its crater quite recently.
On the following morning Adams decided that the supporting-party should make the attempt with the forward-party to reach the summit. I had left the decision in this matter to his discretion, but I myself had not considered there would be much shance of the three men of the supporting-party gaining the summit, and had not arranged their equipment with that object in view. They were thus handicapped by having a three-man sleeping-bag, which bulky article one man had to carry; they also were not so well equipped for carrying packs, bits of rope having to act as substitutes for the broad straps provided for the original advance party. The supporting-party had no crampons, and so found it more difficult, in places, to get a grip with their feet on the slippery surface of the snow slopes. However, the Professor, who had put bars of leather on his ski-boots, found that these answered as well as crampons, and lent the latter to Marshall. Both Adams and the Professor wore ski-booth during the whole of the ascent. Ski could not be used for such rough climbing, and had not been taken. All the men were equipped with both finnesko and ski-boots and with the necessaries for camping, and individual tastes had been given some latitude in the matter of the clothing worn and carried.
The six men made a depot of the sledge, some of the provisions and part of the cooking-utensils at the second camp, and then resumed the climb again. They started off with tent-poles amongst other equipment, but after going for half a mile they realised it would be impossible to climb the mountain with these articles, which were taken back to the depot. Each man carried a weight of about 40 lb., the party's gear consisting chiefly of sleeping-bags, two tents, cooking apparatus, and provisions for three days. The snow slopes became steeper, and at one time Mackay, who was cutting steps on the hard snow with his ice-axe, slipped and glissaded with his load for about a hundred feet, but his further downward career was checked by a projecting ledge of snow, and he was soon up again. On the third evening, March 7, the party camped about 8750 ft. above sea-level, the temperature at that time being 20* below zero Fahr.
Between 9 and 10 P.M. that night a strong wind sprang up, and when the men awoke the following morning they found a fierce blizzard blowing from the south-east. It increased in fury as the day wore on, and swept with terrific force down the rocky ravine where they were camped. The whirling snow was so dense and the roaring wind so loud that, although the two sections were only about ten yards apart, they could neither see nor hear each other. Being without tent-poles, the tents were just doubled over the top ends of the sleeping-bags so as to protect the openings from the drifting snow, but, in spite of this precaution, a great deal of snow found its way into the bags. In the afternoon Brocklehurst emerged from the three-man sleeping-bag, and instantly a fierce gust whirled away one of his wolfskin mite; he dashed after it, and the force of the wind swept him some way down the ravine. Adams, who had left the bag at the same time as Brocklehurst, saw the latter vanish suddenly, and in endeavouring to return to the bag to fetch Marshall to assist in finding Brocklehurst he also was blown down by the wind. Meanwhile, Marshall, the only remaining occupant of the bag, had much ado to keep himself from being blown, sleeping-bag and all, down the ravine. Adams had just succeeded in reaching the sleeping-bag on his hands and knees when Brocklehurst appeared, also on his hands and knees, having, by desperate efforts, pulled himself back over the rocks. It was a close call, for he was all but completely gone, so biting was the cold, before he reached the haven of the sleeping-bag. He and Adams crawled in, and then, as the bag had been much twisted up and drifted with snow while Marshall had been holding it down, Adams and Marshall got out to try and straighten it out. The attempt was not very successful, as they were numb with cold and the bag, with only one person inside, blew about, so they got into it again. Shortly afterwards Adams made another attempt, and whilst he was working at it the wind got inside the bag, blowing it open right way up. Adams promptly got in again, and the adventure thus ended satisfactorily. The men could do nothing now but lie low whilst the blizzard lasted. At times they munched a plasmon biscuit or some chocolate. They had nothing to drink all that day, March 8, and during the following night, as it would have been impossible to have wept a lamp alight to thaw out the snow. They got some sleep during the night in spite of the storm. On awaking at 4 A.M. the following day, the travellers found that the blizzard was over, so, after breakfast, they started away again at about 5.30 A.M.
The angle of ascent was now steeper.than ever, being thirty-four degrees, that is, a rise of 1 in 1i. As the hard snow slopes were much too steep to climb without cutting steps with an ice-axe, they kept as much as possible to the bare rocks. Occasionally the artte would terminate upwards in a large snow slope, and when this was the case they cut steps across the slope to any other bare rocks which seemed to persist for some distance in an upward direction. Brocklehurst, who was wearing ski-boots, began to feel the cold attacking his feet, but did not think it was serious enough to change into finnesko. At noon they found a fair camping-ground, and made some tea. They were, at this time, some 800 ft. below the rim of the old crater and were feeling the effects of the high altitude and the extreme cold. Below them was a magnificent panorama of clouds, coast and Barrier snow, but they could not afford to spend much time admiring it. After a hasty meal they tackled the ascent again. When they were a little distance from the top of the rim of the main crater, Mackay elected to work his way alone with his ice-axe up a long and very steep nova slope instead of following the less difficult and safer route by the rocks where the rest of the party were proceeding. He pasbed out of sight, and then the others heard him call out that he was getting weak and did not think he could carry oa much longer... They made haste to the top of the ridge, and Marshall and the Professor dropped to the point where he was likely to be found. Happily, they met him coming towards them, and Marshall took his load, for he looked much done up. It appeared that Mackay had found the work of cutting steps with his heavy load more difficult than he had anticipated, and he only just managed to reach safety when he fell and fainted. No doubt this was due, in part, to mountain sickness, which, under the severe conditions and at the high altitude the party had attained, also affected Brocklehurst.
t Having found a camping-place, they dropped their loads, and the members of the party were at leisure to observe the nature of their surroundings. They had imagined an even plain of neve or glacier ice filling the extinct crater to the brim and sloping up gradually to the active cone at its southern end, but instead of this they found themselves on the very brink of a precipice of black rock, forming the inner edge of the old crater. This wall of dark lava was mostly vertical, while, in some places, it overhung, and was from eighty to a hundred feet in height. The base of the cliff was separated from the snow plain beyond by a deep ditch like a huge dry moat, which was evidently due to the action of blizzards. These winds, striking fiercely from the south-east against the great inner wall of the old crater, had given rise to a powerful back eddy at the edge of the cliff, and it was this eddy which had scooped out the deep trench in the hard snow. The trench was from thirty to forty feet deep, and was bounded by more or less vertical sides. Around our winter quarters any isolated rock or cliff face that faced the south-east blizzard-wind exhibited a similar phenomenon, though, of course, on a much smaller scale. Beyond the wall and trench was an extensive snow-field with the active cone and crater at its southern end, the latter emitting great volumes of steam, but what shrprised the travellers most were the extraordinary structures which rose here snd there above the surface of the snow-field. They were in the form of mounds and pinnacles of the most varied and fantastic appearance. Some resembled beehives, others were like huge ventilating cowls, others like isolated turrets, and others again resembled various animals in shape. The men were unable at first sight to understand the origin of these remarkable structures, and as it was time for food, they left the closer investigation for later in the day.
As they walked along the rampart of the old crater.wall to find a camping-ground, their figures were thrown up against the sky-line, and down at our winter quarters they were seen by us, having been sighted by Armytage with his telescope. He had followed the party for the first two days with the glasses, but they were lost to view when they began to work through the rocky ground, and it was just on the crater edge that they were picked up again by the telescope.
ONE THOUSAND FEET BELOW THE ACTIVE CONE
The camp chosen for the meal was in a little rocky gully on the north-west slope of the main cone, and about fifty feet below the rim of the old crater. Whilst some cooked the meal, Marshall examined Brocklehurst's feet, as the latter stated that for some time past he had lost all feeling in them. When his ski-boots and socks had been taken off, it was found that both his big toes were black, and that four more toes, though less severely affected were also frost-bitten. From their appearance it was evident that some hours must have elapsed since this had occurred. Marshall and Mackay set at work at once to restore circulation in the feet by warming and chafing them. Their efforts were, under the circumstances, fairly successful, but it was clear that ultimate recovery from so severe a frost-bite would be both slow and tedious. Brocklehurst's feet, having been thoroughly warmed were put into dry socks and finnesko stuffed with sennegrass, and then all hands went to lunch at 3.30 P.M. It must have required great pluck and determination on his part to have climbed almost continuously for nine hours up the steep and difficult track they had followed with his feet so badly frost-bitten. After lunch Brockiehurst was left safely tucked up in the three-man sleeping-bag, and the remaining five members of the party started off to explore the floor of the old crater. Ascending to the crater rim, they climbed along it until they came to a spot where there was a practicable breach in the crater wall and where a narrow tongue of snow bridged the neve trench at its base.
They all roped up directly they arrived on the hard snow in the crater and advanced cautiously over the snow-plain, keeping a sharp look-out for crevasses. They steered for some of the remarkable mounds already mentioned, and when the nearest was reached and examined, they noticed some curious hollows, like partly roofed-in drains, running towards the mound. Pushing on slowly, they reached eventually a small parasitic cone, about 1000 ft. above the level of their camp, and over a mile distant from it. Sticking out from under the snow were lumps of lava, large felspar crystals, from one to three inches in length, and fragments of pumice; both felspar and pumice were in many cases coated with sulphur. Having made as complete an examination as time permitted, they started to return to camp, no longer roped together, as they had not met any definite crevasses on their way Aut. They directed their steps towards one of the ice mounds, which bore a whimsical resemblance to a lion couch-ant, and from which smoke appeared to be issuing. To the Professor the origin of these peculiar structures was now no longer a mystery, for he recognised that they were the outward and visible signs of fumaroles. In ordinary climates, a fumarole, or volcanic vapour-well, may be detected by the thin cloud of steam above it, and usually one can at once feel the warmth by passing one's hand into the vapour column, but in the rigour of the Antarctic climate the fumaroles of Erebus have their vapour turned into ice as soon as it reaches the surface of the snow-plain. Thus ice mounds, somewhat similar in shape to the sinter mounds formed by the geysers of New Zealand, of Iceland and of Yellowstone Park, are built up round the orifices of the fumaroles of Erebus. Whilst exploring one of these fumaroles, Mackay fell suddenly up to his thighs into one of its concealed conduits, and only saved himself from falling in deeper still by means of his ice-axe. Marshall had a similar experience at about the same time.
The party arrived at camp shortly after 6 P.M., and found Brocklehurst progressing as well as could be expected. They sat on the rocks after tea admiring the glorious view to the west. Below them was a vast rolling sea of cumulus cloud, and far away the western mountains glowed in the setting sun. Next morning, when they got up at 4 A.M., they had a splendid view of the shadow of Erebus projected on the field of cumulus cloud below them by the rising sun. Every detail of the profile of the mountain as outlined on the clouds could readily be recognised. After breakfast, while Marshall was attending to Brocklehurst's feet, the hypsometer, which had become frozen on the way up, was thawed out and a determination of the boiling-point made. This, when reduced and combined with the mean of the aneroid levels, glade the altitude of the old crater rim, just above the vamp, 11,400 ft. At 6 A.M. the party left the camp and made all speed to reach the summit of the present crater. On their way across the old crater, Mawson photographed the fumarole that resembled the lion and also took a view of the active crater about one and a half miles distant, though there was considerable difficulty in taking photographs owing to the focal plane shutter having become jammed by frost. Near the furthest point reached by the travellers on the preceding afternoon they observed several patches of yellow ice and found on examination that the colour was due to sulphur. They next ascended several rather steep slopes formed of alternating beds of hard snow and vast quantities of large and perfect felspar crystals, mixed with pumice. A little farther on they reached the base of the volcano's active cone. Their progress was now painfully slow, as the altitude and cold combined to make respiration difficult. The cone of Erebus is built up chiefly of blocks of pumice, from a few inches to a few feet in diameter. Externally these were grey or often yellow owing to incrustations of sulphur, but when broken they were of a resinous brown colour. At last, a little after 10 A.M., on March 10, the edge of the active crater was reached, and the little party stood on the summit of Erebus, the first men to conquer perhaps the most remarkable summit in the world. They had travelled about two and a half miles from the last camp, and had ascended just 2000 ft., and this journey had taken them over four hours. The report describes most vividly the magnificent and awe-inspiring scene before them.
"We stood on the verge of a vast abyss, and at first could see neither to the bottom nor across it on account of the huge mass of steam filling the crater and soaring aloft in a column 500 to 1000 ft. high. After a continuous loud hissing sound, lasting for some minutes, there would come from below a big dull boom, and immediately great globular masses of steam would rush upwards to swell the volume of the snow-white cloud which ever sways over the crater. This phenomenon recurred at intervals during the whole of our stay at the crater. Meanwhile, the air around us was extremely redolent of burning sulphur. Presently a pleasant northerly breeze fanned away the steam cloud, and ab once the whole crater stood revealed to us in all its vast extent and depth. Mawson's angular measurement made the depth 900 ft. and the greatest width about half a mile. There were ab least three well-defined openings at the bottom of the cauldron, and it was from these that the steam explosions proceeded. Near the south-west portion of the crater there was an immense rift in the rim, perhaps 300 to 400 ft. deep. The crater wall opposite the one at the top of which we were standing presented features of special interest. Beds of dark pumiceous lava or pumice alternated with white zones of snow. There was no direct evidence that the snow was bedded with the lava, though it was possible that such may have been the case. From the top of one of the thickest of the lava or pumice beds, just where it touched the belt of snow, there rose scores of small steam jets all in a row. They were too numerous and too close together to have been each an independent fumarole; the appearance was rather suggestive of the snow being converted into steam by the heat of the layer of rock immediately below it."
While at the crater's edge the party made a boiling-point determination by the hypsometer, but the result was not so satisfactory as that made earlier in the morning at the camp. As the result of averaging aneroid levels, together with the hypsometer determination at the top of the old crater, Erebus may be calculated to rise to a height of 13,370 ft. above sea-level. As soon as the measurements had been made and some photographs had been taken by Mawson, the party returned to the camp, as it had been decided to descend to the base of the main cone that day, a drop of 8000 ft.
On the way back a traverse was made of the main crater and levels taken for constructing a geological section. Numerous specimens of the unique felspar crystals and of the pumice and sulphur were collected. On arriving in camp the travellers made a hasty meal, packed up, shouldered their burdens once more and started down the steep mountain slope. Brocklehursb insisted on carrying his own heavy load in spite of his frost-bitten feet. They followed a course a little to the west of the one they took when ascending. The rock was rubbly and kept slipping under their feet, so that falls were frequent. After descending a few hundred feet they found that the rubbly spur of rock down which they were floundering ended abruptly in a long and steep neve) slope. Three courses were now open to them: they could retrace their steps to the point above them where the rocky spur had deviated from the main arete; cut steps across the nevi) slope; or glissade down some five or six hundred feet to a rocky ledge below. In their tired state preference was given to the path of least resistance, which was offered by the glissade, and they therefore rearranged their loads so that they would roll down easily. They were now very thirsty, but they found that if they gathered a little snow, squeezed it into a ball and placed it on the surface of a piece of rock, it melted at once almost on account of the heat of the sun and thus they obtained a makeshift drink
They launched their loads down the slope and watched them as they bumped and bounded over the wavy ridges of neve. Brocklehurst's load, which contained the cooking-utensils, made the noisiest descent, and the aluminium cookers were much battered when they finally fetched up against the rocks below. Then the members of the party, grasping their ice-axes firmly, followed their gear. As they gathered speed on the downward course and the chisel-edge of the ice-axe bit deeper into the hard neve, their necks and faces were sprayed with a shower of ice. All reached the bottom of the slope safely, and they repeated this glissade down each succeeding snow slope towards the foot of the main cone. Here and there they bumped heavily on hard sastrugi and both clothes and equipment suffered in the rapid descent; unfortunately also, one of the aneroids was lost and one of the hypsome ter thermometers broken. At last the slope flattened out to the gently inclined terrace where the depot lay, and they reached it by walking. Altogether they had dropped down 5000 ft. between three in the afternoon and seven in the evening.
Adams and Marshall were the first to reach the depot, the rest of the party, with the exception of Brocklehurst, having made a detour to the left in consequence of having to pursue some lost luggage in that direction. At the depot they found that the blizzard of the 8th had played havoc with their gear, for the sledge had been overturned and some of the load scattered to a distance and partly covered with drift-snow. After dumping their packs, Adams and Marshall went to meet Brocklehurst, for they noticed that a slight blizzard was springing up. Fortunately, the wind soon died down, the weather cleared, and the three were able to regain the camp. Tea was got ready, and the remainder of the party arrived about 10 P.M. They camped that night at the depot and at 3 A.M. next day got up to breakfast. After breakfast a hunt was made for some articles that were still missing, and then the sledge was packed and the march homewards commenced at 5.30 A.M. They now found that the sastrugi caused by the late blizzard were very troublesome, as the ridges were from four to five feet above the hollows and lay at an oblique angle to the course. Rope brakes were put on the sledge-runners, and two men went in front to pull when necessary, while two steadied the sledge, and two were stationed behind to pull back when required. It was more than trying to carry on at this juncture, for the sledge either refused to move or suddenly it took charge and overran those who were dragging it, and capsizes occurred every few minutes. Owing to the slippery nature of the ground some members of the party who had not crampons or barred ski-boots were badly shaken up, for they sustained numerous sudden falls. One has to experience a surface like this to realise how severe a jar a fall entails. The only civilised experience that is akin to it is when one steps unknowingly on a slide which some small street boy has made on the pavement. Marshall devised the best means of assisting the progress of the sledge. When it took charge he jumped on behind and steered it with his legs as it bumped and jolted over the sastrugi, but he found sometimes that his thirteen-stone weight did not prevent him from being bucked right over the sledge and flung on the nevi on the other side.
THE "LION" OF EREBUS
Meanwhile, at winter quarters, we had been very busy opening cases and getting things ship-shape outside, with the result that the cubicles of the absentees were more or less filled with a general accumulation of stores. When Armytage reported that he saw the party on their way down the day before they arrived at the hut, we decided to make the cubicles tidy for the travellers. We had just begun on the Professor's cubicle when, about 11 A.M. I left the hut for a moment and was astonished to see within thirty yards of me, coming over the brow of the ridge by the hut, six slowly moving figures. I ran towards them shouting: "Did you get to the top?" There was no answer, and I asked again. Adams pointed with his hand upwards, but this did not satisfy me, so I repeated my question. Then Adams said: "Yes," and I ran back to the hut and shouted to the others, who all came streaming out to cheer the successful venturers. We shook hands all round and opened some champagne, which tasted like nectar to the way-worn people. Marshall prescribed a dose to us stay-at-home ones, so that we might be able to listen quietly to the tale the party had to tell.
Except to Joyce, Wild, and myself, who had seen similar things on the former expedition, the eating and drinking capacity of the returned party was a matter of astonishment. In a few minutes Roberts had produced a great saucepan of Quaker oats and milk, the contents of which disappeared in a moment, to be fallowed by the greater part of a fresh-cut ham and home-made bread, with New Zealand fresh butter. The six had evidently found on the slopes of Erebus six fully developed, polar sledging appetites. The meal at last ended, came more talk, smokes and then bed for the weary travellers.
After some days' delay on account of unfavourable weather, a party consisting of Adams, the Professor, Armytage, Joyce, Wild and Marshall, equipped with a seven-foot sledge, tent, and provisions, as a precaution against possible bad weather, started out to fetch in the eleven-foot sledge with the explorers' equipment. After a heavy pull over the soft, new-fallen snow, in cloudy weather, with the temperature at mid-day 20* below zero Fahr., and with a stiff wind blowing from the south-east, they sighted the nunatak, recovered the abandoned sledge and placing the smaller one on top, pulled them both back as far as Blue Lake. I went out to meet the party, and we left the sledge at Blue Lake until the following day, when two of the Manchurian ponies were harnessed to the sledges and the gear was brought into winter quarters.
Professor David gave me a short summary of the scientific results of the ascent, from which I have made the following extracts:
"Among the scientific results may be mentioned the calculation of the height of the mountain. Sir Jas. C. Ross in 1841 estimated the height to be 12,367 ft. The National Antarctic Expedition, 1901, determined its height at first to be 13,120 ft., but this was subsequently altered to 12,922 ft., the height now given on the Admiralty Chart of this region. Our observations for altitude were made partly with aneroids and partly with a hypsometer. All the aneroid levels and hypsometer observations have been calculated by means of simultaneous readings of the barometer taken at our winter quarters, Cape Royds. These observations show that the rim of the second or main crater of Erebus is about 11,350 ft. above sea-level and that the summit of the active crater is about 13,350 ft. above sea-level. The fact may be emphasised that in both the methods adopted by us for estimating the altitude of the mountain, atmospheric pressure was the sole factor on which we relied. The determination arrived at by the Discovery was based on measurements made with a theodolite from sea-level. It is, of course, quite possible that Ross' original estimate may have been correct, as this native volcano may have increased in height by about a thousand feet during the sixty-seven years which have elapsed since his expedition."
"As regards the geological structure of Erebus, there is evidence of the existence of four superimposed craters. The oldest and lowest and at the same time, the largest of these attained an altitude of between 6000 and 7000 ft. above sea-level, and was fully six miles in diameter: the second rises to 11,350 ft. and has a diameter of over two miles: the third crater rises to a height of fully 12,200 ft.; and its former outline has now been almost obliterated by the material of the modern active cone and crater. The latter, which rises about 800 ft. above the former, is composed chiefly of fragments of pumice. These vary in size from an inch or so to a yard in diameter. Quantities of felspar crystals are interspersed with them, and both are incrusted with sulphur.
"The active crater measures about half a mile by one-third of a mile in diameter, and is about 900 ft. in depth. The active crater of Erebus is about three times as deep as that of Vesuvius. The fresh volcanic bombs picked up by us at spots four miles distant from the crater and lying on the surface of comparatively new snow are evidences that Erebus has recently been projecting lava to great heights.
"Two features in the geology of Erebus which are specially distinctive are: the vast quantities of large and perfect felspar crystals, and the ice fumaroles. The crystals are from two to three inches in length; many of them have had their angles and edges slightly rounded by attrition, but numbers of them are beautifully perfect.
"Its remarkable crystals, rare lavas and unique fumaroles are some of its most interesting geological features: it served as a gigantic tide-gauge to record the flood level of the greatest recent glaciation of Antarctica, when the whole of Ross Island was but a nunatak in a gigantic field of ice.
"Its situation between the belt of polar calms and the South Pole; its isolation from the disturbing influence of large land masses; its great height, which enables it to penetrate the whole system of atmospheric circulation, and the constant steam cloud at its summit, swinging to and fro like a huge wind vane, combine to make Erebus one of the most interesting places on earth to the meteorologist."
THE CRATER OF EREBUS, 900 FEET DEEP AND HALF A MILE WIDE. STEAM IS SEEN RISING ON THE LEFT. T
HE PHOTOGRAPH WAS TAKEN FROM THE LOWER PART OF THE CRATER EDGE