tealin: (terranova)

While the men of the Terra Nova Expedition were still getting reacquainted with trees and grass and civilisation in Christchurch, on the other side of the world, a memorial service was held at St Paul's Cathedral, London. The church was packed. Even the king attended. The nation and the Empire were deeply moved by the tragedy. The Sphere published a copiously illustrated memorial edition and there were calls for a monument to be built. It was similar mass-mourning to the previous year's Titanic disaster, a phenomenon facilitated by ubiquitous telegraph wires and the dispersal of Scott's moving and eloquent Message to the Public.

Kathleen Scott, on a ship from San Francisco to Christchurch to meet her returning husband, wouldn't receive the news until February 19th.

And so I bring the OHYATs to a close – everyone's stories continue, of course, some of them quite heroically, but the Expeditionary anniversaries are effectually at an end. Thanks to all you readers for following along with me, it's been quite the journey!
tealin: (terranova)
ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO YESTERDAY, after a safe margin for receipt and dispersal of the telegram with news of the expedition, the Terra Nova arrived at Lyttelton, the port for Christchurch, and found quite the reception.
At dawn the next morning, with white ensign at half-mast, we crept through Lyttelton Heads. Always we looked for trees, people and houses. How different it was from the day we left and yet how much the same: as though we had dreamed some horrible nightmare and could scarcely believe we were not dreaming still.

The Harbour-master came out in the tug and with him Atkinson and Pennell. "Come down here a minute," said Atkinson to me, and "It's made a tremendous impression, I had no idea it would make so much," he said. And indeed we had been too long away, and the whole thing was so personal to us, and our perceptions had been blunted: we never realized. We landed to find the Empire — almost the civilized world — in mourning. It was as though they had lost great friends.

Apsley Cherry-Garrard, The Worst Journey in the World

tealin: (terranova)
ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO TODAY, more than two years since many of the men had seen any people but their fellow explorers, any human habitation but the scattering of huts around McMurdo Sound, and any trees or grass or green growing things at all, the Terra Nova arrived off the coast of New Zealand.

Owing to press contracts and the necessity of preventing leakage of news the Terra Nova had to remain at sea for twenty-four hours after a cable had been sent to England. Also it was of the first importance that the relatives should be informed of the facts before the newspapers published them.

And so at 2:30 a.m. on February 10 we crept like a phantom ship into the little harbour of Oamaru on the east coast of New Zealand. With what mixed feelings we smelt the old familiar woods and grassy slopes, and saw the shadowy outlines of human homes. With untiring persistence the little lighthouse blinked out the message, "What ship's that?" "What ship's that?" They were obviously puzzled and disturbed at getting no answer. A boat was lowered and Pennell and Atkinson were rowed ashore and landed. The seamen had strict orders to answer no questions. After a little the boat returned, and Crean announced: "We was chased, sorr, but they got nothing out of us."

We put out to sea.

— Apsley Cherry-Garrard, The Worst Journey in the World

Photo of the coast south of Oamaru originally from Go See Do and used with the kind permission of the photographer.
tealin: (terranova)
ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO TODAY, as the Terra Nova was steaming her way back to New Zealand, Frank Debenham was bringing his diary up to date in the wardroom when he heard a commotion on deck. When he went up to see what it was, he found they had entered a fog bank so thick the world was an impenetrable white immediately the ship ended.

Or at least ... he thought it was a fog bank ... until he saw shadows slide past.
There was a heavy mist indeed, but the 'white fog' was the sheer face of an iceberg a few yards to starboard, the top of which disappeared into the mist. ... The slab sides of the berg continued to glide past and our course seemed to be steady, but at any moment we might come to a re-entrant corner in the berg and as visibility was barely 50 yards we should have some difficulty in avoiding collision.
    [The crew in command] looked perfectly calm, if perhaps a trifle earnest,so the situation must be well in hand. Still, that berg was beastly close and at times our yard-arms only seemed to clear it by a few feet. So when a fellow-scientist came along from forard I said with a humour which I did not really feel, 'Hullo Charles, we seem to be hugging this jolly old berg somewhat closely, what's the bright idea?' His laconic answer was, 'Have a look on the port side and you'll see'; and off he went to rate his clock or measure atmospheric potential or whatever lawful occasion befitted that hour for a physicist at sea.

It was the same view on the port side – a wall of ice a few yards away, disappearing into the mist. At the start of the adventure the skipper of the watch (Rennick) had deemed it easier to keep going through than to back out, but as the minutes crawled by with no exit in sight 'his nerves of steel must have been strained somewhat.'

"For twenty tense minutes we threaded that channel, praying inwardly that it was a channel and not a cul-de-sac," Deb wrote, but at last the way widened out to starboard so they turned away from "our very large friend, the port berg." Shortly after, though, more bergs were sighted to starboard, or the way was blocked with brash ice, so they had to go back to hugging the wall again. This they did for three hours, the port berg continuous all the time, and the starboard side an unnavigable jumble. Deb estimated the giant berg – or at least the side they followed – to be eight to ten miles long, and they passed over twenty smaller bergs to starboard.
Now the moral of this tale is this: that you must never think you have finished with icebergs until you are north of 55°S.; but the reflexions of those who were in the incident would probably provide another set of morals, each of some value and interest. Possibly if Admiral Evans were asked he would say, "No, next time I see a narrow opening between bergs, I'll not take it; the suspense is too great and it might not be a channel". The reflections of the lookouts would take the form of "Lor' lumme, I never thought there was that much ice in the ocean, and I'm blowed if it didn't seem to get in our way a purpose."
    The Canadian physicist's reflexions would be of no value for they would refer to the adjectival nuisance of bergs interfering with the measurements of the day.
    The reflexions of the author are sage in the extreme, for they are to the effect that it was a very apt and thrilling adieu to the Antarctic Regions, but that he would rather not have it over again.

– Frank Debenham, In the Antarctic

tealin: (terranova)
As the Terra Nova made its way up the coast of Victoria Land, out of the Ross Sea, they stopped a few times, to leave depots for future travellers, and to pick up the Northern Party's specimens. While they were at it they got a look at the ice cave in which Campbell and his men had suffered through the winter of 1912, which made quite an impression on all who saw it.

On January 26th they finally sailed out of sight of the White Continent:
... those who were on deck watched the familiar rocky, snow-capped shores fast disappearing from view. We had been happy there before disaster overtook our Expedition, but now we were glad to leave... When we left it was a good-night scene for most of us. The great white plateau and peaks were grimly awaiting winter, and they seemed to mock our departing exploring ship as though glad to be left in their loneland Silence.

– Teddy Evans, South With Scott

Then ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO YESTERDAY, Teddy Evans "called all the staff in the wardroom and read out my plans for the future, officially assumed the command and control of the Expedition." He appointed a committee "to assist me in satisfactorily terminating the Expedition," solicited suggestions from the rest of the staff, and as they sailed back to New Zealand they set about wrapping up and dismantling their endeavour of the last three years.
tealin: (terranova)
It had been decided before the ship's arrival to erect a memorial cross for the Polar Party; with the ship came wood and a carpenter. On January 20th a party sledged the prepared pieces across the sea ice (some of it dangerously slushy) to the land at Hut Point, for Observation Hill was decided upon as the place for it.
Three of them were Discovery men who had lived three years under its shadow: they had seen it time after time as they came back from hard journeys on the Barrier: Observation Hill and Castle Rock were the two which always welcomed them in. It commanded McMurdo Sound on one side, where they had lived: and the Barrier on the other, where they had died. No more fitting pedestal, a pedestal which itself is nearly 1000 feet high, could have been found.

– Apsley Cherry-Garrard, The Worst Journey in the World

ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO TODAY, they got the pieces up the hill and mounted the construction, facing south, which had been carved with the names of the Polar Party and (at Cherry's suggestion) the closing line from Tennyson's Ulysses: "To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."

Then they sledged back to the ship and turned their backs on McMurdo Sound forever.

Well, most of them; Silas came back briefly in 1960, but the story's better when you leave that out.
tealin: (terranova)
ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO TODAY, at 4 p.m., the men of the British Antarctic Expedition 1910 left for good the building which had been their base, home, and fragment of civilisation for the last two years.
It is quite wonderful now to be travelling a day's journey in an hour: we went to Cape Royds in about that time and took off geological and zoological specimens. I should like to sit up and sketch all these views, which would have meant long travelling without the ship, but I feel very tired. The mail is almost too good for words. Now, with the latest waltz on the gramophone, beer for dinner and apples and fresh vegetables to eat, life is more bearable than it has been for many a long weary week and month. I leave Cape Evans with no regret: I never want to see the place again. The pleasant memories are all swallowed up in the bad ones.

– Apsley Cherry-Garrard's diary

The hut is, now, more or less exactly as they left it one hundred years ago, thanks to its isolation, deep-freeze, and the Antarctic Heritage Trust. And thanks to the magic and seemingly endless financial resources of Google, you can have a poke around in it, yourself:

View Larger Map

And you can hear from people who've been there themselves, too, thanks to the Natural History Museum putting their in-exhibit videos online.
tealin: (terranova)
On January 17th, two years and thirteen days after they'd landed at Cape Evans, there was still no sign of the ship which was to come and take them home. No doubt unpleasantly reminded of the ship's failure to land at his camp the previous autumn, and the consequences thereof, Lt. Campbell (who had taken over command from Atch) ordered rationing to begin, and a slaughter of seals to lay up for a winter meat supply.


I went off seal hunting after breakfast, and having killed and cut up two, came back across the Cape at midday. All the men were out working in the camp. There was nothing to be seen in the Sound, and then, quite suddenly, the bows of the ship came out from behind the end of the Barne Glacier, two or three miles away. We watched her cautious approach with immense relief.

– Apsley Cherry-Garrard, The Worst Journey in the World

Teddy Evans was back in command of the Terra Nova – he had returned to England and made a full recovery from his scurvy, and as someone who had been in the outside world for the past year, he bore the news of Amundsen's triumph. Still, being reunited with old friends and seeing to the close of a mighty endeavour was cause for a party, and the Terra Nova was decked out.
A tremendous feast was prepared, the table in the wardroom decked with little flags and silk ribbons. Letters were done up in neat packets for each member, and even champagne was got up from the store: chocolates, cigarettes, cigars, and all manner of luxury placed in readiness.
    The ship was specially scrubbed and cleaned, yards were squared, ropes hauled taut and neatly coiled down, and our best Jacks and Ensigns hoisted in gala fashion to meet and acclaim our leader and our comrades. Glasses were levelled on the beach, and soon we discerned little men running hither and thither in wild excitement; a lump stuck in my throat at the idea of greeting the Polar Party with the knowledge that Amundsen had anticipated us, it was something like having to congratulate a dear friend on winning second prize in a great hard-won race – which is exactly what it was. But it was not even to be that: the ship rapidly closed the beach, engines were stopped, and a thrill of excitement ran through us. The shore party gave three cheers, which we on board replied to, and espying Campbell I was overjoyed, for I feared more on his behalf than on the others, owing to the small amount of provisions we had left him at Evans Coves. I shouted out, "Campbell, is every one well?"

– Teddy Evans, South With Scott

"The Polar Party died on the return from the Pole, we have their records." A pause, and then a boat.

– Worst Journey

The boat brought Campbell and Atkinson to the ship, where they told Evans & Co. the whole story, while the champagne was put away, the flags lowered, and the celebratory table settings clattered back into their cupboards.

They couldn't linger on mournful silence, though – the tardiness of the ship meant that a lot had to be done in a hurry, and in a 28-hour sprint they loaded the ship with the equipment, possessions, and specimens they wished to take back to civilisation. There were errands to be run and loose ends to be tied up in the other locations, but those come later ...

*This photo is actually from 1911, but I couldn't find one from 1913, and it did a good job of illustrating. Now you know.
tealin: (terranova)
It is time for a very special OHYAT: The Tealin's Been A Flake And Hasn't Kept Up: Catching Up With The Guys Edition!

On November 25th the dog parties, who were the first to return from the Search Journey, pulled up to Cape Evans to find that Lt. Campbell and his five men had arrived safely from where they had overwintered up the coast. They'd picked their way down the sea ice from the north, and turned up just five days after the main party had left in search of traces of the Polar Party. The hut at Cape Evans had been empty when they found it, as Debenham and Archer, the only men remaining at base, were out on some errand. The six of them settled back into 'civilised' life and all its untold luxuries – according to Silas, Priestley gained 33lbs in the six days after their homecoming. In a note to the returning parties, Campbell said he was disappointed they were too late to join the main search party. Cherry would later write, “If I had lived through ten months such as those men had just endured, wild horses would not have dragged me out sledging again.”

A large party of scientists and a few of the ratings went out to Shackleton's old hut at Cape Royds in December, to study the Adélie penguins at their rookery, do some parasitology, properly survey the area, and make as large a dent as possible in the luxurious stores left by the Nimrod Expedition – canned chicken, ginger, Garibaldi biscuits, an assortment of soups – though they never found the crates of whisky that have been so famous these last few years. It also served as base camp for Debenham, Priestley, Gran, and a few others to make an ascent of 13,400ft Mt Erebus, which had loomed over them for nearly two years. Deb had picked out a route up the mountain by telescope from Cape Evans, and the climb turned out to be fairly easy, just long. Deb and one of the others got altitude sickness a couple days into the climb but he got a good amount of geological work done before he had to turn back; Priestley and Gran were the ones who made it all the way to the lip of the second crater, on December 12th. It was decided to leave a record there in a tin, but on the way back down they realised they'd left the tin of exposed film rather than the one with the record in it. Gran volunteered to go back and swap the two, and while he was up there the second time, Erebus coughed up a small eruption of gas and pumice. He made it down OK but it must have been very exciting for both of them.

When they returned to Cape Evans in the latter half of the month, they commenced packing up, with the intent of shipping everything as quickly as possible the moment the Terra Nova appeared. The remaining stores weren't sufficient to have much of a Christmas feast, and they had to consider the possibility that the ship might not arrive in time – or at all – and that they should be prepared to sit out another winter. None of them relished the idea much. By the 29th, Gran wrote, they were ready to leave at a moment's notice.
tealin: (terranova)
The original plan had been to continue south and do scientific/cartographic work in or along the Transantarctic Mountains, but I suspect that in light of the recent discovery everyone's thoughts turned to Campbell and his men, who were, as far as anyone knew, still stranded up the coast. Any effort must be made to reach them, either to rescue them or find out what had happened, so after building Titus' cairn they turned back towards the coast, battling through a blizzard to reach the great cairn yesterday. ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO TODAY, Cherry wrote in his diary:

I think we are all going crazy together – at any rate things are pretty difficult. The latest scheme is to try and find a way over the plateau to Evans Coves, trying to strike the top of a glacier and go down it. There can be no good in it: if ever men did it, they would arrive about the time the ship arrived there too, and their labour would be in vain. If they got there and the ship did not arrive, there is another party stranded. They would have to wait till February 15 or 20 to see if the ship was coming, and then there would be no travelling back over the plateau: even if we could do it those men there could not.

The real reason I've singled out today for special notice, though, is a more personal one. There is one response I hear over and over again from people just encountering this story: I've heard it from people who just watched Mark Gatiss' Worst Journey in the World, people who've listened to Stef Penney's radio play, read it in comments on this blog, and overheard it at the Scott exhibits in New York, London, and Cambridge; it was my reaction when I first got into this madness, after hearing the radio play at work while the building's air conditioning blasted its defiance of the 100°F summer outside, and it prompted me to put a photo of the Polar Party on my desk as a constant reproof. That reaction is this:
I will never complain about being cold again.
Which is why, over a year after my own recitation of the refrain, I was so staggered to find the next line in Cherry's diary entry for the 17th of November, 1912, because his response is the mirror image of the norm, and thereby revealing:
It was almost oppressively hot yesterday – but I'll never grumble about heat again.
For all the high tragedy of the Polar Party's demise, and the vicarious heartbreak of the search party finding them, it was this line that most affected me when I sat down to read The Worst Journey in the World for the first time, and after all my research and immersion since then, it still does.
tealin: (terranova)
Captain Scott's journal, as found and read to the expedition by Atch, was fairly specific about where they had camped when Titus Oates walked to his death, so they decided to go try to find his body and give it some degree of a proper burial. Two days (26 miles) south of the Last Camp, they found one of the walls of snow that had been built on the outward journey last year, to shelter the ponies from the wind, and which had served as landmarks for the returning parties to keep the trail. On it was draped some sacking and Oates' sleeping bag – evidently the surviving Polar Party had taken it with them a few miles in case they found him. Inside it were his socks and finnesko (one of which had been slit a long way down to accommodate his frozen foot), his socks, and the theodolite. They continued a few miles, hoping to find his body. "When we arrived at the place where he had left them," Atch wrote in his report, "we saw that there was no chance of doing so. The kindly snow had covered his body, giving him a fitting burial. Here, again, as near to the site of the death as we could judge, we built another cairn to his memory, and placed thereon a small cross and the following record: Hereabouts died a very gallant gentleman, Captain L.E.G. Oates of the Inniskilling Dragoons. In March 1912, returning from the Pole, he walked willingly to his death in a blizzard, to try and save his comrades, beset by hardships. This note is left by the Relief Expedition of 1912."
tealin: (terranova)
November 12. Nearly mid-day. 11-12 miles south of One Ton.
We have found them – to say it has been a ghastly day cannot express it – it is too bad for words. The tent was there, about a half-mile west of our course ... It was covered in snow and looked just like a cairn, only an extra gathering of snow showing where the ventilator was, and so we found the door.

Apsley Cherry-Garrard's diary

Silas had been the one to spot the tent. He had seen something unusual in the distance to the right of the mule party's course and eventually left the party to go investigate. "It was the 6 inches or so of the tip of a tent and was a great shock," he wrote in his memoir. He signalled to the party to stop, and they camped about 100 yards away from the object, waiting for Atch and Cherry's dogteams to arrive. When they did, he delivered his message: "It is the tent."

They cleared the snow away and stepped in. The three bodies lay as they had since March, sheltered by a tent pitched so well no snow had gotten in. Bill lay on the left, with his hands quietly folded over his chest and a peaceful look on his face. Birdie was to the right, much the same. Scott lay in the middle with one arm flung across Bill. The search party knew that documents were of the utmost importance so they set about collecting all they could find: diaries, letters, records ... Cherry found his book of Tennyson poetry which he'd lent Bill on the outward journey. "There was a letter there from Amundsen to King Haakon. There were the personal chatty little notes we had left for them on the Beardmore – how much more important to us than all the royal letters in the world."* Scott's diaries, which had been tucked in their cloth satchel underneath Scott's head, instructed the finder to read them, then to bring them home. Atch spent what seemed like hours in his tent, getting the gist of what had happened, then reported the story to the search party, and read Scott's Message to the Public and account of Oates' death, "which Scott had expressly wished to be known."
*This and subsequent quotes are from The Worst Journey in the World

Eventually all the documents, specimens, equipment, spare clothing, and assorted artefacts were collected and sorted, and it came time to put their comrades to rest. "We never moved them. We took the bamboos of the tent away, and the tent itself covered them. And over them we built the cairn." It grew to nearly 12 ft, and was topped by a cross made of skis.
I do not know how long we were there, but when all was finished, and the chapter of Corinthians had been read, it was Midnight of some day. The sun was dipping low above the Pole, and the Barrier was almost in shadow. And the sky was blazing – sheets and sheets of iridescent clouds. The cairn and Cross stood dark against a glory of burnished gold.
tealin: (terranova)
ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO TODAY, the mules and dogs and men of the search party reached One Ton Depot, where Cherry and Dimitri had waited for the Polar Party back in March.
I had a fair panic as we came up to the depot. I did not see that one body of the ponies had gone ahead of the others and camped, but ahead of the travelling ponies was a depot, looking very black, and I thought there was a tent. It would be too terrible to find that, though one knew that we had done all we could, if we had done something different we could have saved them.

– Apsley Cherry-Garrard's diary, Nov. 11th

tealin: (terranova)
On the night of November 4-5, 1912, the dog party caught up with the mule party, despite having an unexpectedly hard time with what should have been good surfaces. Between them they had one working sledgemeter and one intermittently functional one – only one had survived the previous year's trips but they'd cobbled together another from a bicycle wheel and spare parts.

The mules were in better condition than last year's ponies, though like the ponies they preferred to eat anything but their food – rope, cloth, and "unconsidered trifles" according to Silas – and had figured out how to unpicket themselves. On the other hand, they seemed to enjoy marching into a headwind, which was just as well, as there was a blizzard around this time.
November 6. Early morning. We had a really good lie-in yesterday, and after the hard slogging with the dogs during the last few days I for one was very glad of it. We came on behind, and in sight of the mules this last march, and the change in the dogs was wonderful. Where it had been a job to urge them on over quite as good a surface yesterday, to-day for some time we could not get off the sledge except for short runs: although we had taken 312 lbs. weight off the mules and loaded it on to the dogs.

We had a most glorious night for marching, and it is now bright sunlight, and the animals' fur is quite warm where the sun strikes it. We have just had a bit of a fight over the dog-food, Vaida going for Dyk, and now the others are somewhat excited, and there are constant growlings and murmurings.

– Apsley Cherry-Garrard's diary

ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO TODAY, there was a small incident of little note, but any student of literary techniques might have an appreciation of it:
November 7. ... We started in a bad light and the surface ... was covered by a thin layer of crystals which were then falling. ... At lunch Atkinson thought he saw a tent away to our right, — the very thought of it came as a shock, — but it proved to be a false alarm.

– ibid.

tealin: (terranova)
ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO TONIGHT, almost exactly a year after twelve core members of the Expedition set out to reach the South Pole, the main part of the remaining party set out from Hut Point to find out what had happened to the five who hadn't returned. They had Indian mules instead of Siberian ponies, but they were following the same line of depots, travelling at night* just as they had the year before, in order to give the animals rest during the warmest part of the day. The mule parties, under the leadership of Silas Wright, set out at 8pm on October 30th – the dogs, being driven by Atch, Cherry, and Dimitri, would follow a few days behind, with the intent of catching up. Only Frank Debenham, who was still suffering from the bad knee that had precluded him from last year's journey, and William Archer, the new cook who had landed with the Terra Nova, were left behind at Cape Evans.

No one knew what to expect, or where (or if) they'd find any sign of the Polar Party. Most thought they'd gotten on the wrong side of a crevasse on the Beardmore, and a few of them were quietly looking forward to having more time in and around the Transantarctic Mountains than they'd had the year previous, when the focus was on the trek itself – Silas had glaciology on his mind, but there was also mapping to be done, and geological surveys to be taken. They planned to be out three months.

*The sun wasn't really setting by this point in the year, but there was part of the day in which it was lower and its effect less powerful.
tealin: (terranova)
I've been really terrible about keeping up with this, but there hasn't been anything of especial significance happening with the men at Cape Evans in September and October of 1912. So here it is, all lumped together: ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO LAST MONTH AND THIS!

Silas Wright with Pyaree, whose name he could not spellIn general there was a continuation of scientific work, Silas having inherited the meteorological side of things as well as his running studies on ice, magnetism, gravity, et al. Debenham was the sole remaining geologist as Griff had gone back with the ship. Nelson and Atch continued their biological work, Atch determining the sudden inexplicable deaths that had stalked the sledge dogs from day one were likely down to a microscopic nematode which they'd probably picked up when originally shipped at Vladivostok. Everyone else was busy with their own projects and with exercising and training the mules which the ship had brought from India to replace the previous year's Siberian ponies. They took to snowshoes much better than the ponies had, and by the second half of October were running short trips with loaded sledges.

There were some small adventures along the way: On September 5th, the chimney of their stove caught fire. "We got the flames under control," wrote Atch in the official report, "by covering the chimney on the outside with large slabs of snow, the inside of the hut meanwhile being full of smoke ... During the worst time the funnel for nearly half its length was red-hot and glowing, and the heat inside the hut was very uncomfortable." Silas added in his memoirs, "Needless to say, the chimney was then scraped clean as should have been done before the winter began." Silas was party to another adventure with ventilation: on October 16 he bent to pick up a ball from their tabletop bagatelle game and fell flat on his face, "drunk with carbon monoxide fumes." The engine which was used to charge batteries for various scientific paraphernalia was designed to vent outside the hut, but with all the blizzards that winter, its exhaust vent had drifted over and it was now backing up into the hut itself.

By the middle of October, serious attention began to be paid to the planned trip south to find what had happened to the Polar Party. Due to the foul weather and general volatility of that year, they didn't know how long the ice in the bay between Cape Evans and Hut Point was going to hold, so they took as many supplies as they could to the more southerly location. Another depot-laying trip was undertaken by Atch, Cherry, Deb, and Dimitri, restocking the route as far as Corner Camp with food for mules and dogs; on the way back one of the teams had a close shave with a crevasse, four of them falling through a snow lid and only being extricated with a great deal of careful work. "As the sledge and team were on the crevasse at the same time, it was fairly anxious work." (Atch)

But they pulled through, and after a few remaining anticipatory errands, the party was ready to head south again on October 29th.
tealin: (terranova)
At long last, another update ... for ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO TODAY, the men holed up in their increasingly snowed-in hut at Cape Evans celebrated the return of the sun. It had been below the horizon since late April, but this was the day it was expected to crest the top of the Barne Glacier, which blocked Cape Evans' view of the northern horizon.

Unfortunately there was yet another blizzard on August 22nd, but they didn't let that get in the way of a good time. Tryggve Gran remembered:
We acted like a pack of schoolboys who had just been set loose on holiday. Nelson and I danced a 'mixed cakewalk Fandango.' [Silas] Wright was the judge of the dance, the last part of which ended as follows: a somersault by Gran knocked Nelson out of the dance, causing the judge, Wright, a paralysis of laughter which resulted in his making acquaintance with the floor of the hut. His hilarity was uncontrollable, and we the artists didn't find it easy to help in this situation. Wright was therefore carries off to bed where he laughed himself to sleep. ... It was 2 a.m. before the fun came to an end.

The next day, the weather cleared enough that they were allowed to see the sun skirt the top of the glacier. Spring was on its way.
tealin: (Default)

It was Midwinter! Somewhat of a more subdued affair than last year, though there was a 'Christmas tree' and a goodly amount of alcohol.

It has been tacitly accepted by all of us that the tragedy of the autumn must not intrude itself upon us, and consequently we are able to throw it off at times and behave as if it were not intruding.

– Frank Debenham

A new edition of The South Polar Times had been presented at lunch so much of the day was spent passing it around. The officers sat down to dinner with their menus on little penguin cards ... the main card, which you can see in the photo above, had quite an adventure over the next hundred years, but is now safely part of the exhibition at the Natural History Museum in London.

After dinner, when various healths had been drunk, Gran jumped out of the dark room dressed as a clown, with his face powdered and painted. His acting was splendid, with a joke for everybody and sometimes a piece of poetry which he declaimed to the men as they came forward to receive their presents. ... Then Debenham put up his lantern and gave us a lot of pictures of all kinds ... he had taken a lot of time and trouble over these slides and they were excellent and added to the enjoyment of everybody.* The evening was closed by a sing-song. Each day now we knew meant one more towards the return of light and usefulness ...

- E.L. Atkinson, Scott's Last Expedition, Vol. II

*Debenham wrote in relation to some slides he had shown in a lecture a week before, '[they] are not good as I have not yet got into the knack of making them.'
tealin: (terranova)
It's been an awfully long time since I've done one of these, but that's because once the mantle of winter pinned them more or less in the hut, the men of the British Antarctic Expedition 1910 didn't really get up to much. This was even more true this winter than last, as the weather was more 'boisterous' as they put it – blizzard after blizzard howled over Cape Evans and the wind at times seemed incessant, so strong that it blew gravel off the beach to rattle against the windows, and ice which had been safely permanent last year at this time kept blowing out to sea.

In the midst of this raging weather, after the Terra Nova failed to reach them on her last trip north, the six men of Campbell's northern party – including Murray Levick, who has been in the news lately – were huddled in a cave they'd dug in a snowbank up the coast, spending most of their time shivering in their summer clothes inside their reindeer bags and eking out their rations from their small store. They tried to hunt seals and penguins, but the animals which would have provided their winter larder tended not to hang around their windswept bay in the middle of winter. It was going to be a very long winter.

Back at the base, life trundled along. )

So it was that we come to ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO TODAY, when Atch called a meeting to discuss what to do in the next sledging season: go north to try to assist Campbell, or south to try to find out what had happened to the Polar Party.

The Dilemma )
On the one hand we might go south, fail entirely to find any trace of the Polar Party, and while we were fruitlessly travelling all the summer Campbell's men might die for want of help. On the other hand we might go north, to find that Campbell's men were safe, and as a consequence the fate of the Polar Party and the result of their efforts might remain for ever unknown. Were we to forsake men who might be alive to look for those whom we knew were dead?

... It is impossible to express and almost impossible to imagine how difficult it was to make this decision. Then we knew nothing: now we know all. And nothing is harder than to realize in the light of facts the doubts which others have experienced in the fog of uncertainty.

— ibid.

Atch made his case – he was for going south – but didn't want to make a unilateral decision so he asked for everyone's opinion. 'No one was for going north,' Cherry wrote, 'one member only did not vote for going south, and he preferred not to give an opinion. Considering the complexity of the question, I was surprised by this unanimity. We prepared for another Southern Journey.'
tealin: (terranova)
ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO TODAY, all the men who were staying for the winter of 1912 were finally reunited at the hut at Cape Evans.

It hadn't been an easy road to get there, though – Atch, Silas, Keohane, and a new man named Williamson who'd previously been on the ship's crew, had gone on a perilous sledge trip across unstable sea ice to try to rescue – or at least resupply – the party of six men under Lt Campbell, who were (for all they knew) stranded up the coast and unprepared to endure an entire winter. It was a very uncomfortable journey as the season was well and truly ending, and aside from the cold and blizzards there was the constant anxiety about whether the ice they were on would break up.

Eventually they reached a point where it was impossible to go any further, so they depoted some supplies in case Campbell's party were to make their way south, and turned back. Some of the ice which they'd crossed on their way up had gone out by the time they retraced their steps and they had to pick their way over a narrow band of fast ice along the rocky coastline. On April 23rd, they returned to Hut Point, where Cherry was convalescing under the stewardship of Gran and Dmitri, quite the worse for wear, and aware they had had a narrow run. In Atch's official report of the second winter, he wrote of Silas:
... he had come on this trip fully believing that there was every possibility of the party being lost, but had never demurred and never offered a contrary opinion...'
He only spoke his mind on the matter when they decided to turn back. I imagine it went something like this: )

It wasn't until the 28th that it was deemed safe to cross the bay to Cape Evans. The man-hauling party which set out that day found the estimate to have been a bit optimistic: Silas recorded that they could feel the ice bend underneath them, and the sledge left a perceptible bow-wake. As they neared Cape Evans a cold blizzard descended, causing the men back at Hut Point some significant anxiety on their behalf, but they found the hut safely. When the weather cleared two days later, a flare was sent up from the hut to signify their safe arrival, and the remaining men and dogs set out on the first of May.
As we neared the Cape Atkinson turned to me: 'Would you go for Campbell or the Polar Party next year?' he said. 'Campbell,' I answered: just then it seemed to me unthinkable that we should leave live men to search for those who were dead.

– Apsley Cherry-Garrard, The Worst Journey in the World


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