Robert Falcon Scott.

Scott's Last Expedition Volume I online

. (page 2 of 41)
Online LibraryRobert Falcon ScottScott's Last Expedition Volume I → online text (page 2 of 41)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


_Ice-foot_. Properly the low fringe of ice formed about Polar lands
by the sea spray. More widely, the banks of ice of varying height
which skirt many parts of the Antarctic shores.
_Piedmont_. Coastwise stretches of the ancient ice sheet which once
covered the Antarctic Continent, remaining either on the land, or
wholly or partially afloat.
_Pram_. A Norwegian skiff, with a spoon bow.
_Primus_. A portable stove for cooking.
_Ramp_. A great embankment of morainic material with ice beneath,
once part of the glacier, on the lowest slopes of Erebus at the
landward end of C. Evans.
_Saennegras_. A kind of fine Norwegian hay, used as packing in the
finnesko to keep the feet warm and to make the fur boot fit firmly.
_Sastrugus_. An irregularity formed by the wind on a snowplain. 'Snow
wave' is not completely descriptive, as the sastrugus has often a
fantastic shape unlike the ordinary conception of a wave.
_Skua_. A large gull.
_Working_ _crack_. An open crack which leaves the ice free to move
with the movement of the water beneath.





NOTE.

Passages enclosed in inverted commas are taken from home letters of
Captain Scott.

A number following a word in the text refers to a corresponding note
in the Appendix to this volume.




SCOTT'S LAST EXPEDITION

CHAPTER I

Through Stormy Seas


The Final Preparations in New Zealand

The first three weeks of November have gone with such a rush that I
have neglected my diary and can only patch it up from memory.

The dates seem unimportant, but throughout the period the officers
and men of the ship have been unremittingly busy.

On arrival the ship was cleared of all the shore party stores,
including huts, sledges, &c. Within five days she was in dock. Bowers
attacked the ship's stores, surveyed, relisted, and restowed them,
saving very much space by unstowing numerous cases and stowing the
contents in the lazarette. Meanwhile our good friend Miller attacked
the leak and traced it to the stern. We found the false stem split, and
in one case a hole bored for a long-stem through-bolt which was much
too large for the bolt. Miller made the excellent job in overcoming
this difficulty which I expected, and since the ship has been afloat
and loaded the leak is found to be enormously reduced. The ship still
leaks, but the amount of water entering is little more than one would
expect in an old wooden vessel.

The stream which was visible and audible inside the stern has been
entirely stopped. Without steam the leak can now be kept under with
the hand pump by two daily efforts of a quarter of an hour to twenty
minutes. As the ship was, and in her present heavily laden condition,
it would certainly have taken three to four hours each day.

Before the ship left dock, Bowers and Wyatt were at work again in the
shed with a party of stevedores, sorting and relisting the shore party
stores. Everything seems to have gone without a hitch. The various
gifts and purchases made in New Zealand were collected - butter,
cheese, bacon, hams, some preserved meats, tongues.

Meanwhile the huts were erected on the waste ground beyond the
harbour works. Everything was overhauled, sorted, and marked afresh
to prevent difficulty in the South. Davies, our excellent carpenter,
Forde, Abbott, and Keohane were employed in this work. The large
green tent was put up and proper supports made for it.

When the ship came out of dock she presented a scene of great
industry. Officers and men of the ship, with a party of stevedores,
were busy storing the holds. Miller's men were building horse stalls,
caulking the decks, resecuring the deckhouses, putting in bolts and
various small fittings. The engine-room staff and Anderson's people
on the engines; scientists were stowing their laboratories; the cook
refitting his galley, and so forth - not a single spot but had its
band of workers.

We prepared to start our stowage much as follows: The main hold
contains all the shore party provisions and part of the huts;
above this on the main deck is packed in wonderfully close fashion
the remainder of the wood of the huts, the sledges, and travelling
equipment, and the larger instruments and machines to be employed by
the scientific people; this encroaches far on the men's space, but
the extent has been determined by their own wish; they have requested,
through Evans, that they should not be considered: they were prepared
to pig it anyhow, and a few cubic feet of space didn't matter - such
is their spirit.

The men's space, such as it is, therefore, extends from the fore
hatch to the stem on the main deck.

Under the forecastle are stalls for fifteen ponies, the maximum the
space would hold; the narrow irregular space in front is packed tight
with fodder.

Immediately behind the forecastle bulkhead is the small booby hatch,
the only entrance to the men's mess deck in bad weather. Next comes
the foremast, and between that and the fore hatch the galley and winch;
on the port side of the fore hatch are stalls for four ponies - a very
stout wooden structure.

Abaft the fore hatch is the ice-house. We managed to get 3 tons of ice,
162 carcases of mutton, and three carcases of beef, besides some boxes
of sweetbreads and kidneys, into this space. The carcases are stowed
in tiers with wooden battens between the tiers - it looks a triumph
of orderly stowage, and I have great hope that it will ensure fresh
mutton throughout our winter.

On either side of the main hatch and close up to the ice-house are
two out of our three motor sledges; the third rests across the break
of the poop in a space formerly occupied by a winch.

In front of the break of the poop is a stack of petrol cases; a
further stack surmounted with bales of fodder stands between the main
hatch and the mainmast, and cases of petrol, paraffin, and alcohol,
arranged along either gangway.

We have managed to get 405 tons of coal in bunkers and main hold,
25 tons in a space left in the fore hold, and a little over 30 tons
on the upper deck.

The sacks containing this last, added to the goods already mentioned,
make a really heavy deck cargo, and one is naturally anxious concerning
it; but everything that can be done by lashing and securing has
been done.

The appearance of confusion on deck is completed by our thirty-three
dogs_1_ chained to stanchions and bolts on the ice-house and on the
main hatch, between the motor sledges.

With all these stores on board the ship still stood two inches
above her load mark. The tanks are filled with compressed forage,
except one, which contains 12 tons of fresh water, enough, we hope,
to take us to the ice.

_Forage_. - I originally ordered 30 tons of compressed oaten hay from
Melbourne. Oates has gradually persuaded us that this is insufficient,
and our pony food weight has gone up to 45 tons, besides 3 or 4 tons
for immediate use. The extra consists of 5 tons of hay, 5 or 6 tons
of oil-cake, 4 or 5 tons of bran, and some crushed oats. We are not
taking any corn.

We have managed to wedge in all the dog biscuits, the total weight
being about 5 tons; Meares is reluctant to feed the dogs on seal,
but I think we ought to do so during the winter.

We stayed with the Kinseys at their house 'Te Han' at Clifton. The
house stands at the edge of the cliff, 400 feet above the sea, and
looks far over the Christchurch plains and the long northern beach
which limits it; close beneath one is the harbour bar and winding
estuary of the two small rivers, the Avon and Waimakariri. Far away
beyond the plains are the mountains, ever changing their aspect, and
yet farther in over this northern sweep of sea can be seen in clear
weather the beautiful snow-capped peaks of the Kaikouras. The scene is
wholly enchanting, and such a view from some sheltered sunny corner
in a garden which blazes with masses of red and golden flowers tends
to feelings of inexpressible satisfaction with all things. At night
we slept in this garden under peaceful clear skies; by day I was off
to my office in Christchurch, then perhaps to the ship or the Island,
and so home by the mountain road over the Port Hills. It is a pleasant
time to remember in spite of interruptions - and it gave time for many
necessary consultations with Kinsey. His interest in the expedition
is wonderful, and such interest on the part of a thoroughly shrewd
business man is an asset of which I have taken full advantage. Kinsey
will act as my agent in Christchurch during my absence; I have given
him an ordinary power of attorney, and I think have left him in
possession of all facts. His kindness to us was beyond words.


The Voyage Out

_Saturday, November 26_. - We advertised our start at 3 P.M., and
at three minutes to that hour the _Terra Nova_ pushed off from
the jetty. A great mass of people assembled. K. and I lunched with
a party in the New Zealand Company's ship _Ruapehu_. Mr. Kinsey,
Ainsley, the Arthur and George Rhodes, Sir George Clifford, &c._2_
K. and I went out in the ship, but left her inside the heads after
passing the _Cambrian_, the only Naval ship present. We came home in
the Harbour Tug; two other tugs followed the ship out and innumerable
small boats. Ponting busy with cinematograph. We walked over the
hills to Sumner. Saw the Terra Nova, a little dot to the S.E.

_Monday, November_ 28. - Caught 8 o'clock express to Port Chalmers,
Kinsey saw us off. Wilson joined train. Rhodes met us Timaru. Telegram
to say _Terra Nova_ had arrived Sunday night. Arrived Port Chalmers
at 4.30. Found all well.

_Tuesday, November_ 29. - Saw Fenwick _re Central News_ agreement - to
town. Thanked Glendenning for handsome gift, 130 grey jerseys. To
Town Hall to see Mayor. Found all well on board.

We left the wharf at 2.30 - bright sunshine - very gay scene. If anything
more craft following us than at Lyttelton - Mrs. Wilson, Mrs. Evans,
and K. left at Heads and back in Harbour Tug. Other tugs followed
farther with Volunteer Reserve Gunboat - all left about 4.30. Pennell
'swung' the ship for compass adjustment, then 'away.'

_Evening_. - Loom of land and Cape Saunders Light blinking.

_Wednesday, November_ 30. - Noon no miles. Light breeze from northward
all day, freshening towards nightfall and turning to N.W. Bright
sunshine. Ship pitching with south-westerly swell. All in good spirits
except one or two sick.

We are away, sliding easily and smoothly through the water, but
burning coal - 8 tons in 24 hours reported 8 P.M.

_Thursday, December_ 1. - The month opens well on the whole. During
the night the wind increased; we worked up to 8, to 9, and to 9.5
knots. Stiff wind from N.W. and confused sea. Awoke to much motion.

The ship a queer and not altogether cheerful sight under the
circumstances.

Below one knows all space is packed as tight as human skill can
devise - and on deck! Under the forecastle fifteen ponies close side
by side, seven one side, eight the other, heads together and groom
between - swaying, swaying continually to the plunging, irregular
motion.

One takes a look through a hole in the bulkhead and sees a row
of heads with sad, patient eyes come swinging up together from the
starboard side, whilst those on the port swing back; then up come the
port heads, whilst the starboard recede. It seems a terrible ordeal
for these poor beasts to stand this day after day for weeks together,
and indeed though they continue to feed well the strain quickly drags
down their weight and condition; but nevertheless the trial cannot be
gauged from human standards. There are horses which never lie down,
and all horses can sleep standing; anatomically they possess a ligament
in each leg which takes their weight without strain. Even our poor
animals will get rest and sleep in spite of the violent motion. Some 4
or 5 tons of fodder and the ever watchful Anton take up the remainder
of the forecastle space. Anton is suffering badly from sea-sickness,
but last night he smoked a cigar. He smoked a little, then had an
interval of evacuation, and back to his cigar whilst he rubbed his
stomach and remarked to Oates 'no good' - gallant little Anton!

There are four ponies outside the forecastle and to leeward of the
fore hatch, and on the whole, perhaps, with shielding tarpaulins,
they have a rather better time than their comrades. Just behind
the ice-house and on either side of the main hatch are two enormous
packing-cases containing motor sledges, each 16 × 5 × 4; mounted as
they are several inches above the deck they take a formidable amount
of space. A third sledge stands across the break of the poop in the
space hitherto occupied by the after winch. All these cases are covered
with stout tarpaulin and lashed with heavy chain and rope lashings,
so that they may be absolutely secure.

The petrol for these sledges is contained in tins and drums protected
in stout wooden packing-cases which are ranged across the deck
immediately in front of the poop and abreast the motor sledges. The
quantity is 2 1/2 tons and the space occupied considerable.

Round and about these packing-cases, stretching from the galley forward
to the wheel aft, the deck is stacked with coal bags forming our deck
cargo of coal, now rapidly diminishing.

We left Port Chalmers with 462 tons of coal on board, rather a
greater quantity than I had hoped for, and yet the load mark was
3 inches above the water. The ship was over 2 feet by the stern,
but this will soon be remedied.

Upon the coal sacks, upon and between the motor sledges and upon
the ice-house are grouped the dogs, thirty-three in all. They must
perforce be chained up and they are given what shelter is afforded
on deck, but their position is not enviable. The seas continually
break on the weather bulwarks and scatter clouds of heavy spray over
the backs of all who must venture into, the waist of the ship. The
dogs sit with their tails to this invading water, their coats wet and
dripping. It is a pathetic attitude, deeply significant of cold and
misery; occasionally some poor beast emits a long pathetic whine. The
group forms a picture of wretched dejection; such a life is truly
hard for these poor creatures.

We manage somehow to find a seat for everyone at our cabin table,
although the wardroom contains twenty-four officers. There are
generally one or two on watch, which eases matters, but it is a
squash. Our meals are simple enough, but it is really remarkable to
see the manner in which our two stewards, Hooper and Neald, provide
for all requirements, washing up, tidying cabin, and making themselves
generally useful in the cheerfullest manner.

With such a large number of hands on board, allowing nine seamen in
each watch, the ship is easily worked, and Meares and Oates have their
appointed assistants to help them in custody of dogs and ponies, but
on such a night as the last with the prospect of dirty weather, the
'after guard' of volunteers is awake and exhibiting its delightful
enthusiasm in the cause of safety and comfort - some are ready to
lend a hand if there is difficulty with ponies and dogs, others in
shortening or trimming sails, and others again in keeping the bunkers
filled with the deck coal.

I think Priestley is the most seriously incapacitated by
sea-sickness - others who might be as bad have had some experience
of the ship and her movement. Ponting cannot face meals but sticks
to his work; on the way to Port Chalmers I am told that he posed
several groups before the cinematograph, though obliged repeatedly
to retire to the ship's side. Yesterday he was developing plates with
the developing dish in one hand and an ordinary basin in the other!

We have run 190 miles to-day: a good start, but inconvenient in one
respect - we have been making for Campbell Island, but early this
morning it became evident that our rapid progress would bring us to
the Island in the middle of the night, instead of to-morrow, as I had
anticipated. The delay of waiting for daylight would not be advisable
under the circumstances, so we gave up this item of our programme.

Later in the day the wind has veered to the westward, heading us
slightly. I trust it will not go further round; we are now more
than a point to eastward of our course to the ice, and three points
to leeward of that to Campbell Island, so that we should not have
fetched the Island anyhow.

_Friday, December_ 1. - A day of great disaster. From 4 o'clock last
night the wind freshened with great rapidity, and very shortly we were
under topsails, jib, and staysail only. It blew very hard and the sea
got up at once. Soon we were plunging heavily and taking much water
over the lee rail. Oates and Atkinson with intermittent assistance from
others were busy keeping the ponies on their legs. Cases of petrol,
forage, etc., began to break loose on the upper deck; the principal
trouble was caused by the loose coal-bags, which were bodily lifted by
the seas and swung against the lashed cases. 'You know how carefully
everything had been lashed, but no lashings could have withstood the
onslaught of these coal sacks for long'; they acted like battering
rams. 'There was nothing for it but to grapple with the evil,
and nearly all hands were labouring for hours in the waist of the
ship, heaving coal sacks overboard and re-lashing the petrol cases,
etc., in the best manner possible under such difficult and dangerous
circumstances. The seas were continually breaking over these people
and now and again they would be completely submerged. At such times
they had to cling for dear life to some fixture to prevent themselves
being washed overboard, and with coal bags and loose cases washing
about, there was every risk of such hold being torn away.'

'No sooner was some semblance of order restored than some exceptionally
heavy wave would tear away the lashing and the work had to be done
all over again.'

The night wore on, the sea and wind ever rising, and the ship ever
plunging more distractedly; we shortened sail to main topsail and
staysail, stopped engines and hove to, but to little purpose. Tales
of ponies down came frequently from forward, where Oates and Atkinson
laboured through the entire night. Worse was to follow, much worse - a
report from the engine-room that the pumps had choked and the water
risen over the gratings.

From this moment, about 4 A.M., the engine-room became the centre
of interest. The water gained in spite of every effort. Lashley,
to his neck in rushing water, stuck gamely to the work of clearing
suctions. For a time, with donkey engine and bilge pump sucking,
it looked as though the water would be got under; but the hope was
short-lived: five minutes of pumping invariably led to the same
result - a general choking of the pumps.

The outlook appeared grim. The amount of water which was being made,
with the ship so roughly handled, was most uncertain. 'We knew that
normally the ship was not making much water, but we also knew that a
considerable part of the water washing over the upper deck must be
finding its way below; the decks were leaking in streams. The ship
was very deeply laden; it did not need the addition of much water
to get her water-logged, in which condition anything might have
happened.' The hand pump produced only a dribble, and its suction
could not be got at; as the water crept higher it got in contact
with the boiler and grew warmer - so hot at last that no one could
work at the suctions. Williams had to confess he was beaten and must
draw fires. What was to be done? Things for the moment appeared very
black. The sea seemed higher than ever; it came over lee rail and poop,
a rush of green water; the ship wallowed in it; a great piece of the
bulwark carried clean away. The bilge pump is dependent on the main
engine. To use the pump it was necessary to go ahead. It was at such
times that the heaviest seas swept in over the lee rail; over and over
[again] the rail, from the forerigging to the main, was covered by a
solid sheet of curling water which swept aft and high on the poop. On
one occasion I was waist deep when standing on the rail of the poop.

The scene on deck was devastating, and in the engine-room the water,
though really not great in quantity, rushed over the floor plates
and frames in a fashion that gave it a fearful significance.

The afterguard were organised in two parties by Evans to work buckets;
the men were kept steadily going on the choked hand pumps - this
seemed all that could be done for the moment, and what a measure to
count as the sole safeguard of the ship from sinking, practically an
attempt to bale her out! Yet strange as it may seem the effort has not
been wholly fruitless - the string of buckets which has now been kept
going for four hours, [1] together with the dribble from the pump,
has kept the water under - if anything there is a small decrease.

Meanwhile we have been thinking of a way to get at the suction of
the pump: a hole is being made in the engine-room bulkhead, the coal
between this and the pump shaft will be removed, and a hole made in
the shaft. With so much water coming on board, it is impossible to
open the hatch over the shaft. We are not out of the wood, but hope
dawns, as indeed it should for me, when I find myself so wonderfully
served. Officers and men are singing chanties over their arduous
work. Williams is working in sweltering heat behind the boiler to
get the door made in the bulkhead. Not a single one has lost his
good spirits. A dog was drowned last night, one pony is dead and two
others in a bad condition - probably they too will go. 'Occasionally
a heavy sea would bear one of them away, and he was only saved by
his chain. Meares with some helpers had constantly to be rescuing
these wretched creatures from hanging, and trying to find them better
shelter, an almost hopeless task. One poor beast was found hanging
when dead; one was washed away with such force that his chain broke
and he disappeared overboard; the next wave miraculously washed him
on board again and he is now fit and well.' The gale has exacted
heavy toll, but I feel all will be well if we can only cope with the
water. Another dog has just been washed overboard - alas! Thank God,
the gale is abating. The sea is still mountainously high, but the
ship is not labouring so heavily as she was. I pray we may be under
sail again before morning.

_Saturday, December_ 3. - Yesterday the wind slowly fell towards
evening; less water was taken on board, therefore less found its way
below, and it soon became evident that our baling was gaining on the
engine-room. The work was steadily kept going in two-hour shifts. By
10 P.M. the hole in the engine-room bulkhead was completed, and
(Lieut.) Evans, wriggling over the coal, found his way to the pump
shaft and down it. He soon cleared the suction 'of the coal balls
(a mixture of coal and oil) which choked it,' and to the joy of all
a good stream of water came from the pump for the first time. From
this moment it was evident we should get over the difficulty, and
though the pump choked again on several occasions the water in the
engine-room steadily decreased. It was good to visit that spot this
morning and to find that the water no longer swished from side to
side. In the forenoon fires were laid and lighted - the hand pump was
got into complete order and sucked the bilges almost dry, so that
great quantities of coal and ashes could be taken out.

Now all is well again, and we are steaming and sailing steadily south
within two points of our course. Campbell and Bowers have been busy
relisting everything on the upper deck. This afternoon we got out
the two dead ponies through the forecastle skylight. It was a curious
proceeding, as the space looked quite inadequate for their passage. We
looked into the ice-house and found it in the best order.

Though we are not yet safe, as another gale might have disastrous
results, it is wonderful to realise the change which has been wrought
in our outlook in twenty-four hours. The others have confessed
the gravely serious view of our position which they shared with me
yesterday, and now we are all hopeful again.

As far as one can gather, besides the damage to the bulwarks of
the ship, we have lost two ponies, one dog, '10 tons of coal,' 65
gallons of petrol, and a case of the biologists' spirit - a serious
loss enough, but much less than I expected. 'All things considered we
have come off lightly, but it was bad luck to strike a gale at such
a time.' The third pony which was down in a sling for some time in
the gale is again on his feet. He looks a little groggy, but may pull
through if we don't have another gale. Osman, our best sledge dog,



Online LibraryRobert Falcon ScottScott's Last Expedition Volume I → online text (page 2 of 41)