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WINTER QUARTERS DURING POLAR NIGHT 1908:
NOTES ON SPRING SLEDGING JOURNEYS
Meteorological Observations: The Anemometer: Night Watchman's Duties: Fierce Blizzard on March 13: Preliminary Journey on the Barrier Surface starts August 12: Hut Point reached August 14: Party starts for Hut Point on September 1, to leave there some Gear and Provisions in readiness for the Southern Journey
The meteorological screen had been set up and observations begun before the Erebus party left. Now that all hands were back at the hut, a regular system of recording the observations was arranged. Adams, who was the meteorologist of the expedition, took all the observations from 8 A.M. to 8 P.M. The night-watchman took them from 10 P.M. to 6 A.M. These observations were taken every two hours, and it may interest the reader to learn what was done in this way, though I do not wish to enter here into a lengthy dissertation on meteorology. The observations on air temperature, wind, and direction of cloud have an important bearing on similar observations taken in more temperate climes, and in a place like the Antarctic, where up till now our knowledge has been so meagre, it was most essential that every bit of information bearing on meteorological phenomena should be noted. We were in a peculiarly favourable position for observing not only the changes that took place in the lower atmosphere but also those which took place in the higher strata of the atmosphere. Erebus, with steam and smoke always hanging above it, indicated by the direction assumed by the cloud what the upper air-currents were doing, and thus we were in touch with an excellent high-level observatory.
The instruments under Adams' care were as complete as financial considerations had permitted. The meteorological screen contained a maximum thermometer, that is, a thermometer which indicates the highest temperature reached during the period elapsing between two observations. It is so constructed that when the mercury rises in the tube it remains at its highest point, though the temperature might fall greatly shortly afterwards. After reading the recorded height, the thermometer is shaken, and this operation causes the mercury to drop to the actual temperature obtaining at the moment of observation; the thermometer is then put back into the screen and is all ready for the next reading taken two hours later. A minimum thermometer registered the lowest temperature that occurred between the two-hourly readings, but this thermometer was not a mercury one, as mercury freezes at a temperature of about 39° below zero, and we therefore used spirit thermometers. When the temperature drops the surface of the column of spirit draws down a little black indicator immersed in it, and if the temperature rises and the spirit advances in consequence, the spirit flows past the indicator, which remains at the lowest point, and on the observations being taken its position is read on the graduated scale. By these instruments we were always able to ascertain what the highest temperature and what the lowest temperature had been throughout the two hours during which the observation screen had not been visited. In addition to the maximum and minimum thermometers, there were the wet and dry bulb thermometers. The dry bulb records the actual temperature of the air at the moment, and we used a spirit thermometer for this purpose. The wet bulb consisted of an ordinary thermometer, round the bulb of which was tied a little piece of muslin that had been dipped in water and of course froze at once on exposure to the air. The effect of the evaporation from the ice which covered the bulb was to cause the temperature recorded to be lower than that recorded by the dry-bulb thermometer in proportion to the amount of water present in the atmosphere at the time. To ensure accuracy the wet bulb thermometers were changed every two hours, the thermometer which was read being brought back to the hut and returned to the screen later freshly sheathed in ice. It was, of course, impossible to wet the exposed thermometer with a brush dipped in water, as is the practice in temperate climates, for water could not be carried from the hut. to the screen without freezing into solid ice. To check the thermometers there was also kept in the screen a self-recording thermometer, or thermograph. This is a delicate instrument fitted with metal discs, which expand or contract readily with every fluctuation of the temperature. Attached to these discs is a delicately poised lever carrying a pen charged with ink, and the point of this pen rests against a graduated roll of paper fastened to a drum, which is revolved by clockwork once in every seven days. The pen thus draws a line on the paper, rising and falling in sympathy with the changes in the temperature of the air.
THE "AURORA AUSTRALIS"
In addition to the meteorological screen, there was another erection built on the top of the highest ridge by Mawson, who placed there an anemometer of his own construction to register the strength of the heaviest gusts of wind during a blizzard. We found that the squalls frequently blew with a force of over a hundred miles an hour. There remained still one more outdoor instrument connected with weather observation, that was the snow gauge. The Professor, by utilising some spare lengths of stove chimney, erected a snow gauge into which was collected the falling snow whenever a blizzard blew. The snow was afterwards taken into the hut in the vessel into which it had been deposited, and when it was melted down we were able to calculate fairly accurately the amount of the snowfall. This observation was an important one, for much depends on the amount of precipitation in the Antarctic regions. It is on the precipitation in the form of snow, and on the rate of evaporation, that calculations regarding the formation of the huge snow-fields and glaciers depend. We secured our information regarding the rate of evaporation by suspending measured cubes of ice and snow from rods projecting at the side of the hut, where they were free from the influence of the interior warmth. Inside the hut was kept a standard mercurial barometer, which was also read every two hours, and in addition to this there was a barograph which registered the varying pressure of the atmosphere in a curve for a week at a time. Every Monday morning Adams changed the paper on both thermograph and barograph, and every day recorded the observations in the meteorological log. It will be seen that the meteorologist had plenty to occupy his time, and generally when the men came in from a walk they had some information to record.
As soon as the ice was strong enough to bear in the bay, Murray commenced his operations there. His object was the collection of the different marine creatures that rest on the bottom of the sea or creep about there, and he made extensive preparations for their capture. A hole was dug through the ice, and a trap let down to the bottom; this trap was baited with a piece of penguin or seal, and the shell-fish, crustacea, and other marine animals found their way in through the opening in the top, and the trap was usually left down for a couple of days. When it was hauled up, the contents were transferred to a tin containing water, and then taken to the hut and thawed out, for the contents always froze during the quarter of a mile walk homeward. As soon as the animals thawed out they were sorted into bottles and then killed by various chemicals, put into spirits and bottled up for examination when they reached England. Later on Murray found that the trap business was not fruitful enough, so whenever a crack opened in the bay ice, a line was let down, one end being made fast at one end of the crack, and the length of the line allowed to sink in the water horizontally for a distance of sixty yards. A hole was dug at each end of the line and a small dredge was let down and pulled along the bottom, being hauled up through the hole at the far end. By this means much richer collections were made, and rarely did the dredge come up without some interesting specimens. When the crack froze over again, the work could still be continued so long as the ice was broken at each end of the line, and Priestley for a long time acted as Murray's assistant, helping him to open the holes and pull the dredge.
When we took our walks abroad, every one kept his eyes open for any interesting specimen of rock or any signs of plant-life, and Murray was greatly pleased one day when we brought back some moss. This was found in a fairly sheltered spot beyond Back Door Bay and was the only specimen that we obtained in the neighbourhood of the winter quarters before the departure of the sun. Occasionally we came across a small lichen and some curious algae growing in the volcanic earth, but these measured the extent of the terrestrial vegetation in this latitude. In the north polar regions, in a corresponding latitude, there are eighteen different kinds of flowering plants, and there even exists a small stunted tree, a species of willow.
Although terrestrial vegetation is so scanty in the Antarctic, the same cannot be said of the sub-aqueous plant-life. When we first arrived and some of us walked across the north shore of Cape Royds, we saw a great deal of open water in the lakes, and a little later, when all these lakes were frozen over, we walked across them, and looking down through the clear ice, could see masses of brilliantly coloured algae and fungi. The investigation of the plant-life in the lakes was one of the principal things undertaken by Murray, Priestley, and the Professor during the winter months. The reader has the plan of our winter quarters and can follow easily the various places that are mentioned in the course of this narrative.
A GROUP OF THE SHORE PARTY AT THE WINTER QUARTERS
Standing (from left): Joyce, Day, Wild, ADams, Brocklehurst, Shackleton, Marshall, David, Armitage, Marston
Sitting: Priestley, Murray, Roberts
After the Erebus party returned, a regular winter routine was arranged for the camp. Brocklehurst took no part in the duties at this time, for his frost-bitten foot prevented his moving about, and shortly after his return Marshall saw that it would be necessary to amputate at least part of the big toe. The rest of the party all had a certain amount of work for the common weal, apart from their own scientific duties. From the time we arrived we always had a night-watchman, and we now took turns to carry out this important duty. Roberts was exempt from night-watchman's duties, as he was busy with the cooking all day, so for the greater part of the winter every thirteenth night each member took the night watch. The ten-o'clock observations was the night-watchman's first duty, and from that hour till nine o'clock next morning he was responsible for the wellbeing and care of the hut, ponies, and dogs. His most important duties were the two-hourly meteorological observations, the upkeep of the fire and the care of the acetylene gas-plant. The fire was kept going all through the night, and hot water was ready for making the breakfast when Roberts was called at 7.30 in the morning. The night watch was by no means an unpleasant duty, and gave each of us an opportunity, when his turn came round, of washing clothes, darning socks, writing and doing little odd jobs which could not receive much attention during the day. The night-watchman generally took his bath either once a fortnight or once a month, as his inclination prompted him.
Some individuals had a regular programme which they adhered to strictly. For instance, one member, directly the rest of the staff had gone to bed, cleared the small table in front of the stove, spread a rug on it and settled down to a complicated game of patience, having first armed himself with a supply of coffee against the wiles of the drowsy god. After the regulation number of games had been played, the despatch-box was opened, and letters, private papers and odds and ends were carefully inspected and replaced in their proper order, after which the journal was written up. These important matters over, a ponderous book on historical subjects received its share of attention.
Socks were the only articles of clothing that had constantly to be repaired, and various were the expedients used to replace the heels, which, owing to the hard footgear, were always showing gaping holes. These holes had to be constantly covered, for we were not possessed of an unlimited number of any sort of clothes, and many and varied were the patches. Some men used thin leather, others canvas, and others again a sort of coarse flannel to sew on instead of darning the heels of the socks. Towards the end of the winter, the wardrobes of the various members of the expedition were in a very patched condition.
During the earlier months the night-watchman was kept pretty busy, for the ponies took a long time to get used to the stable and often tried to break loose and upset things out there generally. These sudden noises took the watchman out frequently during the night, and it was a comfort to us when the animals at last learned to keep fairly quiet in their stable. The individual was fortunate who obtained a good bag of coal for his night watch, with plenty of lumps in it, for there was then no difficulty in keeping the temperature of the hut up to 40° Fahr., but a great deal of our coal was very fine and caused much trouble during the night. To meet this difficulty we had recourse to lumps of seal blubber, the watchman generally laying in a stock for himself before his turn came for night duty. When placed on top of the hot coal the blubber burned fiercely, and it was a comfort to know that with the large supply of seals that could easily be obtained in these latitudes, no expedition need fear the lack of emergency fuel. There was no perceptible smell from the blubber in burning, though fumes same from the bit of hairy hide generally attached to it. The thickness of the blubber varied from two to four inches. Some watchmen during the night felt disinclined to do anything but read and take the observations, and I was amongst this number, for though I often made plans and resolutions as to washing and other necessary jobs, when the time came, these plans fell through, with the exception of the bath.
Towards the middle of winter some of our party stayed up later than during the time when there was more work outside, and there gradually grew into existence an institution known as eleven o'clock tea. The Professor was greatly attached to his sup of tea and generally undertook the work of making it for men who were still out of bed. Some of us preferred a cup of hot fresh milk, which was easily made from the excellent dried milk of which we had a large quantity. By one o'clock in the morning, however, nearly all the occupants of the hut were wrapped in deep and more or less noisy slumber. Some had a habit of talking in their sleep, and their fitful phrases were carefully treasured up by the night-watchman for retailing at the breakfast-table next morning; sometimes also the dreams of the night before were told by the dreamer to his own great enjoyment, if not to that of his audience. About five o'clock in the morning came the most trying time for the watchman. Then one's eyes grew heavy and leaden, and it took a deal of effort to prevent oneself from falling fast asleep. Some of us went in for cooking more or less elaborate meals. Marshall, who had been to a school of cookery before we left England, turned out some quite respectable bread and cakes. Though people jeered at the latter when placed on the table, one noticed that next day there were never any left. At 7.30 A.M. Roberts was called, and the watchman's night was nearly over. At this hour also Armytage or Mackay was called to look after the feeding of the ponies, but before mid-winter day Armytage had taken over the entire responsibility of the stables and ponies, and he was the only one to get up. At 8.30 A.M. all hands were called, special attention being paid to turning out the messman for the day, and after some minutes of luxurious half-wakefulness, people began to get up, expressing their opinions forcibly if the temperature of the hut was below freezing-point, and informing the night-watchman of his affinity to Jonah if his report was that it was a windy morning. Dressing was for some of the men a very simple affair, consisting merely in putting on their boots and giving themselves a shake; others, who undressed entirely, got out of their pyjamas into their cold underclothing. At a quarter to nine the call came to let down the table from its position near the roof, and the messman then bundled the knives, forks and spoons on to the board, and at nine o'clock sharp every one sat down to breakfast.
The night-watchman's duties were over for a fortnight, and the messman took on his work. The duties of the messmau were more onerous than those of the night-watchman. He began, as I have stated, by laying the table — a simple operation owing to the primitive conditions under which we lived. He then garnished this with three or four sorts of hot sauces to tickle the tough palates of some of our party. At nine o'clock, when we sat down, the messman passed up the bowls of porridge and the big jug of hot milk, which was the standing dish every day. Little was heard in the way of conversation until this first course had been disposed of. Then came the order from the messman, " Up bowls," and reserving our spoons for future use, the bowls were passed along. If it were a " fruit day," that is, a day when the second course consisted of bottled fruit, the bowls were retained for this popular dish.
At twenty-five minutes to ten breakfast was over and we had had our smokes. All dishes were passed up, the table hoisted out of the way, and the messman started to wash up the breakfast-things, assisted by his cubicle companion and by one or two volunteers who would help him to dry up. Another of the party swept out the hut; and this operation was performed three times a day, so as to keep the building in a tidy state. After finishing the breakfast-things, the duty of the man in the house was to replenish the melting-pots with ice, empty the ashes and tins into the dust-box outside, and get in a bag of coal. By half-past ten the morning work was accomplished and the messman was free until twenty minutes to one, when he put the water on for the mid-day tea. At one o'clock tea was served and we had a sort of counter lunch. This was a movable feast, for scientific and other duties often made some of our party late, and after it was over there was nothing for the messman to do in the afternoon except to have sufficient water ready to provide tea at four o'clock. At a quarter past six the table was brought down again and dinner, the longest meal of the day, was served sharp at 6.30. One often heard the messman anxiously inquiring what the dinner dishes were going to consist of, the most popular from his point of view being those which resulted in the least amount of grease on the plates. Dinner was over soon after seven o'clock and then tea was served. Tobacco and conversation kept us at table until 7.30, after which the same routine of washing up and sweeping out the hut was gone through. By 8.30 the messman had finished his duties for the day, and his turn did not come round again for another thirteen days. The state of the weather made the duties lighter or heavier, for if the day happened to be windy, the emptying of dish-water and ashes and the getting in of fresh ice was an unpleasant job. In a blizzard it was necessary to put on one's Burberries even to walk the few yards to the ice-box and back.
In addition to the standing jobs of night-watchman and mess-man there were also special duties for various members of the expedition who had particular departments to look after. Adams every morning, directly after breakfast, wound up the chronometers and chronometer watches, and rated the instruments. He then attended to the meteorological work and took out his pony for exercise. If he were going far afield he delegated the readings to some members of the scientific staff who were generally in the vicinity of winter quarters. Marshall, as surgeon, attended to any wounds, and issued necessary pills, and then took out one of the ponies for exercise. Wild, who was storekeeper, was responsible for the issuing of all stores to Roberts, and had to open the cases_of tinned food and dig out of the snowdrifts in which it was buried the meat required for the day, either penguin, seal, or mutton. Joyce fed the dogs after breakfast, the puppies getting a dish of scraps over from our meals after breakfast and after dinner. When daylight returned after our long night, he worked at training the dogs to pull a sledge every morning. The Professor generally went off to " geologise " or to continue the plane-table survey of our winter quarters, whilst Priestley and Murray worked on the floe dredging or else took the temperatures of the ice in shafts which the former had energetically sunk in the various lakes around us. Mawson was occupied with his physical work, which included auroral observations and the study of the structure of the ice, the determination of atmospheric electricity and many other things. In fact, we were all busy, and there was little cause for us to find the time hang heavy on our hands; the winter months sped by and this without our having to sleep through them, as has often been done before by polar expeditions. This was due to the fact that we were only a small party and that our household duties, added to our scientific work, fully occupied our time.
THE TYPE-CASE AND PRINTING PRESS FOR THE PRODUCTION OF THE "AURORA AUSTRALIS" IN JOYCE'S AND WILD'S CUBICLE, KNOWN AS "THE ROGUES' RETREAT"
It would only be repetition to chronicle our doings from day to day during the months that elapsed from the disappearance of the sun until the time arrived when the welcome daylight came back to us. We lived under conditions of steady routine, affected only by short spells of bad weather, and found amply sufficient to occupy ourselves in our daily work, so that the spectre known as " polar ennui " never made its appearance. Mid-winter's day and birthdays were the occasions of festivals, when our teetotal regime was broken through and a sort of mild spree indulged in. Before the sun finally went hockey and football were the outdoor games, while indoors at night some of us played bridge, poker, and dominoes. Joyce, Wild, Marston, and Day during the winter months spent much time in the production of the "Aurora Australia," the first book ever written, printed, illustrated, and bound in the Antarctic. Through the generosity of Messrs. Joseph Causton and Sons, Limited, we had been provided with a complete printing outfit and the necessary paper for the book, and Joyce and Wild had been given instruction in the art of type-setting and printing, Marston being taught etching and lithography. They had hardly become skilled craftsmen, but they had gained a good working knowledge of the branches of the business. When we had settled down in the winter quarters, Joyce and Wild set up the little hand-press and sorted out the type, these preliminary operations taking up all their spare time for some days, and then they started to set and print the various contributions that were sent in by members of the expedition. The early days of the printing department were not exactly happy, for the two amateur typesetters found themselves making many mistakes, and when they had at last "set up" a page, made all the necessary corrections, and printed off the required number of copies, they had to undertake the laborious work of "dissing," that is, of distributing the type again. They plodded ahead steadily, however, and soon became more skilful, until at the end of a fortnight or three weeks they could print two pages in a day. A lamp had to be placed under the type-rack to keep it warm, and a lighted candle was put under the inking-plate, so that the ink would keep reasonably thin in consistency. The great trouble experienced by the printers at first was in securing the right pressure on the printing-plate and even inking of the page, but experience showed them where they had been at fault. Day meanwhile prepared the binding by cleaning, planing, and polishing wood taken from the Venesta cases-in which our provisions were packed. Marston reproduced the illustrations by algraphy, or printing from aluminium plates. He had not got a proper lithographing press, so had to use an ordinary etching press, and he was handicapped by the fact that all our water had a trace of salt in it. This mineral acted on the sensitive plates, but Marston managed to produce what we all regarded as creditable pictures. In its final form the book had about one hundred and twenty pages, and it had at least assisted materially to guard us from the danger of lack of occupation during the polar night.
On March 13 we experienced a very fierce blizzard. The hut shook and rocked in spite of our sheltered position, and articles that we had left lying loose outside were scattered far and wide. Even cases weighing from fifty to eighty pounds were shifted from where they had been resting, showing the enormous velocity of the wind. When the gale was over we put everything that was likely to blow away into positions of greater safety. It was on this day also that Murray found living microscopical animals on some fungus that had been thawed out from a lump of ice taken from the bottom of one of the lakes. This was one of the most interesting biological discoveries that had been made in the Antarctic, for the study of these minute creatures occupied our biologist for a great part of his stay in the south, and threw a new light on the capability of life to exist under conditions of extreme cold and in the face of great variations of temperature. We all became vastly interested in the rotifers during our stay, and the work of the biologist in this respect was watched with keen attention. From our point of view there was an element of humour in the endeavours of Murray to slay the little animals he had found. He used to thaw them out from a block of ice, freeze them up again, and repeat this process several times without producing any result as far as the rotifers were concerned. Then he tested them in brine so strongly saline that it would not freeze at a temperature above minus 7° Fahr., and still the animals lived. A good proportion of them survived a temperature of 200° Fahr. It became a contest between rotifers and scientist, and generally the rotifers seemed to triumph.
At the end of March there was still open water in the bay and we observed a killer whale chasing a seal. About this time we commenced digging a trench in Clear Lake and obtained, when we came to water, samples of the bottom mud and fungus, which was simply swarming with living organisms. The sunsets at the beginning of April were wonderful; arches of prismatic colours, crimson and golden-tinged clouds, hung in the heavens nearly all day, for time was going on and soon the sun would have deserted us. The days grew shorter and shorter, and the twilight longer. During these sunsets the western mountains stood out gloriously and the summit of Erebus was wrapped in crimson when the lower slopes had faded into grey. To Erebus and the western mountains our eyes turned when the end of the long night grew near in the month of August, for the mighty peaks are the first to catch up and tell the tale of the coming glory and the last to drop the crimson mantle from their high shoulders as night draws on. Tongue and pencil would sadly fail in attempting to describe the magic of the colouring in the days when the sun was leaving us. The very clouds at this time were iridescent with rainbow hues. The sunsets were poems. The change from twilight into night, sometimes lit by a crescent moon, was extraordinarily beautiful, for the white cliffs gave no part of their colour away, and the rocks beside them did not part with their blackness, so the effect of deepening night over these contrasts was singularly weird. In my diary I noted that throughout April hardly a day passed without an auroral display. On more than one occasion the auroral showed distinct lines of colour, merging from a deep red at the base of the line of light into a greenish hue on top. About the beginning of April the temperature began to drop considerably, and for some days in calm, still weather the thermometer often registered 40° below zero.
On April 6, Marshall decided that it was necessary to amputate Brocklehurat's big toe, as there was no sign of it recovering like the other toes from the frost-bite he had received on the Erebus journey. The patient was put under chloroform and the operation was witnessed by an interested and sympathetic audience. After the bone had been removed, the sufferer was shifted into my room, where he remained till just before Midwinter's Day, when he was able to get out and move about again. We had about April 8 one of the peculiar southerly blizzards so common during our last expedition, the temperature varying rapidly from minus 23° to plus 4° Fahr. This blizzard continued till the evening of the 11th, and when it had abated we found the bay and sound clear of ice again. I began to feel rather worried about this and wished for it to freeze over, for across the ice lay our road to the south. We observed occasionally about this time that peculiar phenomenon of McMurdo Sound called "earth shadows." Long dark bars, projected up into the sky from the western mountains, made their appears nee at sunrise. These lines are due to the shadow of the giant Erebus being cast across the western mountains. Our days were now getting very short and the amount of daylight was a negligible quantity. We boarded up the remainder of the windows, and depended entirely upon the artificial light in the winter quarters. The light given by the acetylene gas was brilliant, the four burners lighting the whole of the hut.
When daylight returned and sledging began about the middle of August, on one of our excursions on the Cape Royds peninsula, we found growing under volcanic earth a large quantity of fungus. This was of great interest to Murray, as plant-life of any sort is extremely rare in the Antarctic. Shortly after this a strong blizzard cast up a quantity of seaweed on our ice-foot; this was another piece of good fortune, for on the last expedition we obtained very little seaweed.
When Midwinter's Day had passed and the twilight, that presaged the return of the sun began to be more marked day by day, I set on foot the arrangements for the sledging work in the forthcoming spring. It was desirable that, at as early a date as possible, we should place a depot of stores at a point to the south, in preparation for the departure of the Southern Party, which was to march towards the Pole. I hoped to make this depot at least one hundred miles from the winter quarters. Then it was desirable that we should secure some definite information regarding the condition of the snow surface on the Barrier, and I was also anxious to afford the various members of the expe- dition some practice in sledging before the serious work commenced. Some of us had been in the Antarctic before, but the majority of the men had not yet had any experience of marching and camping on snow and ice, in low temperatures.
THE AUTUMN SUNSET
During the winter I had given a great deal of earnest consideration to the question of the date at which the party that was to march towards the Pole should start from the hut. The goal that we hoped to attain lay over 880 statute miles to the south, and the brief summer was all too short a time in which to march so far into the unknown and return to winter quarters. The ship would have to leave for the north about the end of February, for the ice would then be closing in, and, moreover, we could not hope to carry on our sledges much more than a three months' supply of provisions, on anything like full rations. I finally decided that the Southern Party should leave the winter quarters about October 28, for if we started earlier it was probable that the ponies would suffer from the severe cold at nights, and we . would gain no advantage from getting away early in the season if, as a result, the ponies were incapacitated before we had made much progress.
The date for the departure of the Southern Party having been fixed, it became necessary to arrange for the laying of the depot during the early spring, and I thought that the first step towards this should be a preliminary journey on the Barrier surface, in order to gain an idea of the conditions that would be met with, and to ascertain whether the motor-car would be of service, at any rate for the early portion of the journey. The sun had not yet returned and the temperature was very low indeed, but we had proved in the course of the Discovery expedition that it is quite possible to travel under these conditions. I therefore started on this preliminary journey on August 12, taking with me Professor David, who was to lead the Northern Party towards the South Magnetic Pole, and Bertram Armytage, who was to take charge of the party that was to make a journey into the mountains of the west later in the year. The reader can imagine that it was not with feelings of unalloyed pleasure that we turned our backs on the warm, well-found hut and faced our little journey out into the semi-darkness and intense cold, but we did get a certain amount of satisfaction from the thought that at last we were actually beginning the work we had come south to undertake.
We were equipped for a fortnight with provisions and camp gear, packed on one sledge, and had three gallons of petroleum in case we should decide to stay out longer. A gallon of oil will last a party of three men for about ten days under ordinary conditions, and we could get more food at Hut Point if we required it. We took three one-man sleeping-bags, believing that they would be sufficiently warm in spite of the low temperature. The larger bags, holding two or three men, certainly give greater warmth, for the occupants warm one another, but, on the other hand, one's rest is very likely to be disturbed by the movements of a companion. We were heavily clothed for this trip, because the sun would not rise above the horizon until another ten days had passed.
Our comrades turned out to see us off, and the pony Quan pulled the sledge with our camp gear over the sea ice until we got close to the glacier south of Cape Barne, about five miles from the winter quarters. Then he was sent back, for the weather was growing thick, and, as already explained, I did not want to run any risk of losing another pony from our sadly diminished team. We proceeded close in by the skuary, and a little further on pitched camp for lunch. Professor David, whose thirst for knowledge could not be quenched, immediately went off to investigate the geology of the neighbourhood. After lunch we started to pull our sledge round the coast towards Hut Point, but the weather became worse, making progress difficult, and at 6 P.M. we camped close to the tide-crack at the south side of Turk's Head. We slept well and soundly, although the temperature was about forty degrees below zero, and the experience made me more than ever convinced of the superiority of one-man sleeping-bags.
On the following morning, August 13, we marched across to Glacier Tongue, having to cross a wide crack that had been ridged up by ice-pressure betweem Tent Island and the Tongue. As soon as we had crossed we saw the depot standing up clear against the sky-line on the Tongue. This was the depot that had been made by the ship soon after our first arrival in the sound. We found no difficulty in getting on to the Tongue, for a fairly gentle slope led up from the sea-ice to the glacier surface. The snow had blown over from the south during the winter and made a good way. We found the depot intact, though the cases, lying on the ice, had been bleached to a light yellow colour by the wind and sun. We had lunch on the south side of the Tongue, and found there another good way down to the sea ice. There is a very awkward crack on the south side, but this can hardly be called a tide-crack. I think it is due to the fact that the tide has more effect on the sea ice than on the heavy mass of the Tongue, though there is no doubt this also is afloat; the rise and fall of the two sections of ice are not coincident, and a crack is produced. The unaccustomed pulling made us tired, and we decided to pitch a camp about four miles off Hut Point, before reaching Castle Rock. Castle Rock is distant three miles and a half from Hut Point, and we had always noticed that after we got abeam of the rock the final march on to the hut seemed very long, for we were always weary by that time.
PREPARING A SLEDGE DURING THE WINTER
We climbed to the top of Crater Hill with a collecting-bag and the Professor's camera, and here we took some photographs and made an examination of the cone. Professor David expressed the opinion that the ice-sheet had certainly passed over this hill, which is about 1100 ft. high, for there was distinct evidence of glaciation. We climbed along the ridge to Castle Rock, about four miles to the north, and made an examination of the formation there. Then wtS returned to the hut to have a square meal and get ready for our journey across the Barrier.
The old hut had never been a very cheerful place, even when we were camped alongside it in the Discovery, and it looked doubly inhospitable now, after having stood empty and neglected for six years. One side was filled with cases of biscuit and tinned meat, and the snow that had found its way in was lying in great piles around the walls. There was no stove, for this had been taken away with the Discovery, and coal was scattered about the floor with other debris and rubbish. Besides the biscuits and the tinned beef and mutton there was some tea and coffee stored in the hut. We cleared a spot on which to sleep, and decided that we would use the cases of biscuit and meat to build another hut inside the main one, so that the quarters would be a little more cosy. I proposed to use this hut as a stores depot in connection with the southern journey, for if the ice broke out in the Sound unexpectedly early, it would be difficult to convey provisions from Cape Royds to the Barrier, and, moreover, Hut Point was twenty miles further south than our winter quarters. We spent that night on the floor of the hut, and slept fairly comfortably, though not as well as on the previous night in the tent, because we were not so close to one another.
On the morning of the following day (August 15) we started away about 9 A.M., crossed the smooth ice to Winter Harbour, and passed close round Cape Armitage. We there found cracks and pressed-up ice, showing that there had been Barrier movement, and about three miles further on we crossed the spot at which the sea ice joins the Barrier, ascending a slope about eight feet high. Directly we got on to the Barrier ice we noticed undulations on the surface. We pushed along and got to a distance of about twelve miles from Hut Point in eight hours. The surface generally was hard, but there were very marked sastrugi, and at times patches of soft snow. The conditions did not seem favourable for the use of the motor-car because we had already found that the machine could not go through soft snow for more than a few yards, and I foresaw that if we brought it out on to the Barrier it would not be able to do much in the soft surface that would have to be traversed. The condition of the surface varied from mile to mile, and it would be impracticable to keep changing the wheels of the car in order to meet the requirements of each new surface.
The temperature was very low, although the weather was fine. At 6 P.M. the thermometer showed fifty-six degrees below zero, and the petroleum used for the lamp had become milky in colour and of a creamy consistency. That night the temperature fell lower still, and the moisture in our sleeping-bags, from our breath and Burberries, made us very uncomfortable wheb the bags had thawed out with the warmth of our bodies. Everything we touched was appallingly cold, and we got no sleep at all. The next morning (August 16) the weather was threatening, and there were indications of the approach of a blizzard, and I therefore decided to march back to Hut Point, for there was no good purpose to be served by taking unnecessary risks at that stage of the expedition. We had some warm food, of which we stood sorely in need after the severe night, and then started at 8 A.M. to return to Hut Point. By hard marching, which had the additional advantage of warming us up, we reached the old hut again at three o'clock that afternoon, and we were highly delighted to get into its shelter. The sun had not yet returned, and though there was a strong light in the sky during the day, the Barrier was not friendly under winter conditions.
We reached the hut none too soon, for a blizzard sprang up, and for some days we had to remain in shelter. We utilised the time by clearing up the portion of the hut that we proposed to use, even sweeping it with an old broom we found, and building a shelter of the packing-cases, piling them right up to the roof round a space about twenty feet by ten; and thus we made comparatively cosy quarters. We rigged a table for the cooking-gear, and put everything neatly in order. My two companions were, at this time, having their first experience of polar life under marching conditions as far as equipment was concerned, and they were gaining knowledge that proved very useful to them on the later journeys.
On the morning of August 22, the day on which the sun once more appeared above the horizon, we started back for the winter quarters, leaving Hut Point at 5 A.M. in the face of a bitterly cold wind from the north-east, with low drift. We marched without a stop for nine miles, until we reached Glacier Tongue, and then had an early lunch. An afternoon march of fourteen miles took us to the winter quarters at Cape Royds, where we arrived at 5 P.M. We were not expected at the hut, for the weather was thick and windy, but our comrades were delighted to see us, and we had a hearty dinner and enjoyed the luxury of a good bath.
THE LEADER OF THE EXPEDITION IN WINTER GARB
On September 1, Wild, Day, and Priestley started for Hut Point via Glacier Tongue with 450 lb. of gear and provisions, their instructions being to leave 230 lb. of provisions at the Discovery hut in readiness for the southern journey. They made a start at 10.20 A.M., being accompanied by Brocklehurst with a pony for the first five miles. The weather was fine, but a very low barometer gave an indication that bad weather was coming. I did not hesitate to let these parties face bad weather, because the road they were to travel was well known, and a rough experience would be very useful to the men later in the expedition's work. The party camped in the snow close to the south side of Glacier Tongue.
Next morning (September 2) the weather was still bad, and they were not able to make a start until after noon. At 1.20 P.M. they ran out of the northerly wind into light southerly airs with intervals of calm, and they noticed that at the meeting of the two winds the clouds of drift were formed into whirling columns, some of them over forty feet high. They reached the Discovery hut at 4.30 P.M., and soon turned in, the temperature being forty degrees below zero. When they dressed at 5.30 A.M. (September 3) they found that a southerly wind with heavy drift rendered a start on the return journey inadvisable. After breakfast they walked over to Observation Hill, where they examined a set of stakes which Ferrar and Wild had placed in the Gap glacier in 1902. The stakes showed that the movement of the glacier during the six years since the stakes had been put mto position had amounted to a few inches only. The middle stake had advanced eight inches and those next it on either side about six inches. At noon the wind dropped, and although the drift was still thick, the party started back, steering by the sastrugi till the Tongue was reached. They camped for the night in the lee of the glacier, with a blizzard blowing over them and the temperature rising, the result being that everything was uncomfortably wet. They managed to sleep, however, and when they awoke the next morning the weather was clear, and they had an easy march in, being met beyond Cape Barne by Joyce, Brocklehurst, and the dogs. They had been absent four days.
Each party came back with adventures to relate, experiences to compare, and its own views on various matters of detail connected with sledge-travelling. Curiously enough, every one of the parties encountered bad weather, but there were no accidents, and all the men seemed to enjoy the work.
Early in September a party consisting of Adams, Marshall, and myself started for Hut Point, and we decided to make one march of the twenty-three miles, and not camp on the way. We started at 8 A.M., and when we were nearly at the end of the journey, and were struggling slowly through bad snow towards the hut, close to the end of Hut Point, a strong blizzard came up. Fortunately I knew the bearings of the hut, and how to get over the ice-foot. We abandoned the extra weights we were pulling for the depot, and managed to get to the hut at 10 P.M. in a sorely frost-bitten condition, almost too tired to move. We were able to get ourselves some hot food, however, and were soon all right again. I mention the incident merely to show how constantly one has to be on guard against the onslaughts of the elements in the inhospitable regions of the south.