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last part of the morning watch was spent in a long recently frozen
lead or pool, and the ship went well ahead again.

These changes sound tame enough, but they are a great strain on
one's nerves - one is for ever wondering whether one has done right
in trying to come down so far east, and having regard to coal, what
ought to be done under the circumstances.

In the first watch came many alterations of opinion; time and again it
looks as though we ought to stop when it seemed futile to be pushing
and pushing without result; then would come a stretch of easy going and
the impression that all was going very well with us. The fact of the
matter is, it is difficult not to imagine the conditions in which one
finds oneself to be more extensive than they are. It is wearing to have
to face new conditions every hour. This morning we met at breakfast
in great spirits; the ship has been boring along well for two hours,
then Cheetham suddenly ran her into a belt of the worst and we were
held up immediately. We can push back again, I think, but meanwhile
we have taken advantage of the conditions to water ship. These big
floes are very handy for that purpose at any rate. Rennick got a
sounding 2124 fathoms, similar bottom _including_ volcanic lava.

_December_ 13 (_cont_.). - 67° 30' S. 177° 58' W. Made good S. 20
E. 27'. C. Crozier S. 21 W. 644'. - We got in several tons of ice,
then pushed off and slowly and laboriously worked our way to one of
the recently frozen pools. It was not easily crossed, but when we came
to its junction with the next part to the S.W. (in which direction I
proposed to go) we were quite hung up. A little inspection showed that
the big floes were tending to close. It seems as though the tenacity of
the 6 or 7 inches of recent ice over the pools is enormously increased
by lateral pressure. But whatever the cause, we could not budge.

We have decided to put fires out and remain here till the conditions
change altogether for the better. It is sheer waste of coal to make
further attempts to break through as things are at present.

We have been set to the east during the past days; is it the normal
set in the region, or due to the prevalence of westerly winds? Possibly
much depends on this as concerns our date of release. It is annoying,
but one must contain one's soul in patience and hope for a brighter
outlook in a day or two. Meanwhile we shall sound and do as much
biological work as is possible.

The pack is a sunless place as a rule; this morning we had bright
sunshine for a few hours, but later the sky clouded over from the
north again, and now it is snowing dismally. It is calm.

_Wednesday, December_ 14. - Position, N. 2', W. 1/2'. The pack still
close around. From the masthead one can see a few patches of open
water in different directions, but the main outlook is the same
scene of desolate hummocky pack. The wind has come from the S.W.,
force 2; we have bright sunshine and good sights. The ship has swung
to the wind and the floes around are continually moving. They change
their relative positions in a slow, furtive, creeping fashion. The
temperature is 35°, the water 29.2° to 29.5°. Under such conditions
the thin sludgy ice ought to be weakening all the time; a few inches
of such stuff should allow us to push through anywhere.

One realises the awful monotony of a long stay in the pack, such as
Nansen and others experienced. One can imagine such days as these
lengthening into interminable months and years.

For us there is novelty, and everyone has work to do or makes work,
so that there is no keen sense of impatience.

Nelson and Lillie were up all night with the current meter; it is not
quite satisfactory, but some result has been obtained. They will also
get a series of temperatures and samples and use the vertical tow net.

The current is satisfactory. Both days the fixes have been good - it
is best that we should go north and west. I had a great fear that we
should be drifted east and so away to regions of permanent pack. If
we go on in this direction it can only be a question of time before
we are freed.

We have all been away on ski on the large floe to which we anchored
this morning. Gran is wonderfully good and gives instruction well. It
was hot and garments came off one by one - the Soldier [2] and Atkinson
were stripped to the waist eventually, and have been sliding round
the floe for some time in that condition. Nearly everyone has been
wearing goggles; the glare is very bad. Ponting tried to get a colour
picture, but unfortunately the ice colours are too delicate for this.

To-night Campbell, Evans, and I went out over the floe, and each in
turn towed the other two; it was fairly easy work - that is, to pull
310 to 320 lbs. One could pull it perhaps more easily on foot, yet
it would be impossible to pull such a load on a sledge. What a puzzle
this pulling of loads is! If one could think that this captivity was
soon to end there would be little reason to regret it; it is giving
practice with our deep sea gear, and has made everyone keen to learn
the proper use of ski.

The swell has increased considerably, but it is impossible to tell
from what direction it comes; one can simply note that the ship and
brash ice swing to and fro, bumping into the floe.

We opened the ice-house to-day, and found the meat in excellent
condition - most of it still frozen.

_Thursday, December_ 15. - 66° 23' S. 177° 59' W. Sit. N. 2', E. 5
1/2'. - In the morning the conditions were unaltered. Went for a ski
run before breakfast. It makes a wonderful difference to get the
blood circulating by a little exercise.

After breakfast we served out ski to the men of the landing party. They
are all very keen to learn, and Gran has been out morning and afternoon
giving instruction.

Meares got some of his dogs out and a sledge - two lots of seven - those
that looked in worst condition (and several are getting very fat) were
tried. They were very short of wind - it is difficult to understand
how they can get so fat, as they only get two and a half biscuits
a day at the most. The ponies are looking very well on the whole,
especially those in the outside stalls.

Rennick got a sounding to-day 1844 fathoms; reversible thermometers
were placed close to bottom and 500 fathoms up. We shall get a very
good series of temperatures from the bottom up during the wait. Nelson
will try to get some more current observations to-night or to-morrow.

It is very trying to find oneself continually drifting north, but
one is thankful not to be going east.

To-night it has fallen calm and the floes have decidedly opened;
there is a lot of water about the ship, but it does not look to extend
far. Meanwhile the brash and thinner floes are melting; everything
of that sort must help - but it's trying to the patience to be delayed
like this.

We have seen enough to know that with a north-westerly or westerly
wind the floes tend to pack and that they open when it is calm. The
question is, will they open more with an easterly or south-easterly
wind - that is the hope.

Signs of open water round and about are certainly increasing rather
than diminishing.

_Friday, December_ 16. - The wind sprang up from the N.E. this morning,
bringing snow, thin light hail, and finally rain; it grew very thick
and has remained so all day.

Early the floe on which we had done so much ski-ing broke up, and
we gathered in our ice anchors, then put on head sail, to which she
gradually paid off. With a fair wind we set sail on the foremast,
and slowly but surely she pushed the heavy floes aside. At lunch
time we entered a long lead of open water, and for nearly half an
hour we sailed along comfortably in it. Entering the pack again,
we found the floes much lighter and again pushed on slowly. In all
we may have made as much as three miles.

I have observed for some time some floes of immense area forming a
chain of lakes in this pack, and have been most anxious to discover
their thickness. They are most certainly the result of the freezing
of comparatively recent pools in the winter pack, and it follows
that they must be getting weaker day by day. If one could be certain
firstly, that these big areas extend to the south, and, secondly,
that the ship could go through them, it would be worth getting up
steam. We have arrived at the edge of one of these floes, and the
ship will not go through under sail, but I'm sure she would do so
under steam. Is this a typical floe? And are there more ahead?

One of the ponies got down this afternoon - Oates thinks it was probably
asleep and fell, but the incident is alarming; the animals are not
too strong. On this account this delay is harassing - otherwise we
should not have much to regret.

_Saturday, December_ 17. - 67° 24'. 177° 34'. Drift for 48 hours S. 82
E. 9.7'. It rained hard and the glass fell rapidly last night with
every sign of a coming gale. This morning the wind increased to force
6 from the west with snow. At noon the barograph curve turned up and
the wind moderated, the sky gradually clearing.

To-night it is fairly bright and clear; there is a light south-westerly
wind. It seems rather as though the great gales of the Westerlies must
begin in these latitudes with such mild disturbances as we have just
experienced. I think it is the first time I have known rain beyond
the Antarctic circle - it is interesting to speculate on its effect
in melting the floes.

We have scarcely moved all day, but bergs which have become quite
old friends through the week are on the move, and one has approached
and almost circled us. Evidently these bergs are moving about in an
irregular fashion, only they must have all travelled a little east in
the forty-eight hours as we have done. Another interesting observation
to-night is that of the slow passage of a stream of old heavy floes
past the ship and the lighter ice in which she is held.

There are signs of water sky to the south, and I'm impatient to
be off, but still one feels that waiting may be good policy, and I
should certainly contemplate waiting some time longer if it weren't
for the ponies.

Everyone is wonderfully cheerful; there is laughter all day
long. Nelson finished his series of temperatures and samples to-day
with an observation at 1800 metres.

Series of Sea Temperatures

Metres Temp. (uncorrected)

Dec. 14 0 -1.67
,, 10 -1.84
,, 20 -1.86
,, 30 -1.89
,, 50 -1.92
,, 75 -1.93
,, 100 -1.80
,, 125 -1.11
,, 150 -0.63
,, 200 0.24
,, 500 1.18
,, 1500 0.935
Dec. 17 1800 0.61
,, 2300 0.48
Dec. 15 2800 0.28
,, 3220 0.11
,, 3650 -0.13 no sample
,, 3891 bottom
Dec. 20 2300 (1260 fms.) 0.48° C.
,, 3220 (1760 fms.) 0.11° C.
,, 3300 bottom

A curious point is that the bottom layer is 2 tenths higher on the
20th, remaining in accord with the same depth on the 15th.

_Sunday, December_ 18. - In the night it fell calm and the floes
opened out. There is more open water between the floes around us,
yet not a great deal more.

In general what we have observed on the opening of the pack means a
very small increase in the open water spaces, but enough to convey
the impression that the floes, instead of wishing to rub shoulders
and grind against one another, desire to be apart. They touch lightly
where they touch at all - such a condition makes much difference to
the ship in attempts to force her through, as each floe is freer to
move on being struck.

If a pack be taken as an area bounded by open water, it is evident
that a small increase of the periphery or a small outward movement
of the floes will add much to the open water spaces and create a
general freedom.

The opening of this pack was reported at 3 A.M., and orders were given
to raise steam. The die is cast, and we must now make a determined
push for the open southern sea.

There is a considerable swell from the N.W.; it should help us to
get along.

_Evening_. - Again extraordinary differences of fortune. At first
things looked very bad - it took nearly half an hour to get started,
much more than an hour to work away to one of the large area floes to
which I have referred; then to my horror the ship refused to look at
it. Again by hard fighting we worked away to a crack running across
this sheet, and to get through this crack required many stoppages
and engine reversals.

Then we had to shoot away south to avoid another unbroken floe of
large area, but after we had rounded this things became easier; from 6
o'clock we were almost able to keep a steady course, only occasionally
hung up by some thicker floe. The rest of the ice was fairly recent
and easily broken. At 7 the leads of recent ice became easier still,
and at 8 we entered a long lane of open water. For a time we almost
thought we had come to the end of our troubles, and there was much
jubilation. But, alas! at the end of the lead we have come again to
heavy bay ice. It is undoubtedly this mixture of bay ice which causes
the open leads, and I cannot but think that this is the King Edward's
Land pack. We are making S.W. as best we can.

What an exasperating game this is! - one cannot tell what is going
to happen in the next half or even quarter of an hour. At one moment
everything looks flourishing, the next one begins to doubt if it is
possible to get through.

_New Fish_. - Just at the end of the open lead to-night we capsized
a small floe and thereby jerked a fish out on top of another one. We
stopped and picked it up, finding it a beautiful silver grey, genus
_Notothenia_ - I think a new species.

Snow squalls have been passing at intervals - the wind continues in
the N.W. It is comparatively warm.

We saw the first full-grown Emperor penguin to-night.

_Monday, December_ 19. - On the whole, in spite of many bumps, we made
good progress during the night, but the morning (present) outlook is
the worst we've had. We seem to be in the midst of a terribly heavy
screwed pack; it stretches in all directions as far as the eye can see,
and the prospects are alarming from all points of view. I have decided
to push west - anything to get out of these terribly heavy floes. Great
patience is the only panacea for our ill case. It is bad luck.

We first got amongst the very thick floes at 1 A.M., and jammed
through some of the most monstrous I have ever seen. The pressure
ridges rose 24 feet above the surface - the ice must have extended
at least 30 feet below. The blows given us gave the impression of
irresistible solidity. Later in the night we passed out of this into
long lanes of water and some of thin brash ice, hence the progress
made. I'm afraid we have strained our rudder; it is stiff in one
direction. We are in difficult circumstances altogether. This morning
we have brilliant sunshine and no wind.

Noon 67° 54.5' S., 178° 28' W. Made good S. 34 W. 37'; C. Crozier
606'. Fog has spread up from the south with a very light southerly

There has been another change of conditions, but I scarcely know
whether to call it for the better or the worse. There are fewer heavy
old floes; on the other hand, the one year's floes, tremendously
screwed and doubtless including old floes in their mass, have now
enormously increased in area.

A floe which we have just passed must have been a mile across - this
argues lack of swell and from that one might judge the open water to be
very far. We made progress in a fairly good direction this morning,
but the outlook is bad again - the ice seems to be closing. Again
patience, we must go on steadily working through.

5.30. - We passed two immense bergs in the afternoon watch, the first
of an irregular tabular form. The stratified surface had clearly
faulted. I suggest that an uneven bottom to such a berg giving unequal
buoyancy to parts causes this faulting. The second berg was domed,
having a twin peak. These bergs are still a puzzle. I rather cling
to my original idea that they become domed when stranded and isolated.

These two bergs had left long tracks of open water in the pack. We came
through these making nearly 3 knots, but, alas! only in a direction
which carried us a little east of south. It was difficult to get from
one tract to another, but the tracts themselves were quite clear of
ice. I noticed with rather a sinking that the floes on either side
of us were assuming gigantic areas; one or two could not have been
less than 2 or 3 miles across. It seemed to point to very distant
open water.

But an observation which gave greater satisfaction was a steady
reduction in the thickness of the floes. At first they were still much
pressed up and screwed. One saw lines and heaps of pressure dotted over
the surface of the larger floes, but it was evident from the upturned
slopes that the floes had been thin when these disturbances took place.

At about 4.30 we came to a group of six or seven low tabular
bergs some 15 or 20 feet in height. It was such as these that we
saw in King Edward's Land, and they might very well come from that
region. Three of these were beautifully uniform, with flat tops and
straight perpendicular sides, and others had overhanging cornices,
and some sloped towards the edges.

No more open water was reported on the other side of the bergs,
and one wondered what would come next. The conditions have proved a
pleasing surprise. There are still large floes on either side of us,
but they are not much hummocked; there are pools of water on their
surface, and the lanes between are filled with light brash and only an
occasional heavy floe. The difference is wonderful. The heavy floes and
gigantic pressure ice struck one most alarmingly - it seemed impossible
that the ship could win her way through them, and led one to imagine
all sorts of possibilities, such as remaining to be drifted north
and freed later in the season, and the contrast now that the ice all
around is little more than 2 or 3 feet thick is an immense relief. It
seems like release from a horrid captivity. Evans has twice suggested
stopping and waiting to-day, and on three occasions I have felt my
own decision trembling in the balance. If this condition holds I need
not say how glad we shall be that we doggedly pushed on in spite of
the apparently hopeless outlook.

In any case, if it holds or not, it will be a great relief to feel
that there is this plain of negotiable ice behind one.

Saw two sea leopards this evening, one in the water making short,
lazy dives under the floes. It had a beautiful sinuous movement.

I have asked Pennell to prepare a map of the pack; it ought to give
some idea of the origin of the various forms of floes, and their
general drift. I am much inclined to think that most of the pressure
ridges are formed by the passage of bergs through the comparatively
young ice. I imagine that when the sea freezes very solid it carries
bergs with it, but obviously the enormous mass of a berg would need
a great deal of stopping. In support of this view I notice that
most of the pressure ridges are formed by pieces of a sheet which
did not exceed one or two feet in thickness - also it seems that the
screwed ice which we have passed has occurred mostly in the regions
of bergs. On one side of the tabular berg passed yesterday pressure
was heaped to a height of 15 feet - it was like a ship's bow wave on a
large scale. Yesterday there were many bergs and much pressure; last
night no bergs and practically no pressure; this morning few bergs
and comparatively little pressure. It goes to show that the unconfined
pack of these seas would not be likely to give a ship a severe squeeze.

Saw a young Emperor this morning, and whilst trying to capture it
one of Wilson's new whales with the sabre dorsal fin rose close to
the ship. I estimated this fin to be 4 feet high.

It is pretty to see the snow petrel and Antarctic petrel diving
on to the upturned and flooded floes. The wash of water sweeps the
Euphausia [3] across such submerged ice. The Antarctic petrel has a
pretty crouching attitude.

Notes On Nicknames

Evans Teddy
Wilson Bill, Uncle Bill, Uncle
Simpson Sunny Jim
Ponting Ponco
Campbell The Mate, Mr. Mate
Pennell Penelope

Rennick Parnie
Bowers Birdie
Taylor Griff and Keir Hardy
Nelson Marie and Bronte
Cherry-Garrard Cherry
Wright Silas, Toronto
Priestley Raymond
Debenham Deb
Drake Francis
Atkinson Jane, Helmin, Atchison
Oates Titus, Soldier, 'Farmer Hayseed' (by Bowers)
Levick Toffarino, the Old Sport
Lillie Lithley, Hercules, Lithi_6_

_Tuesday, December_ 20. - Noon 68° 41' S., 179° 28' W. Made good S. 36
W. 58; C. Crozier S. 20 W. 563'. - The good conditions held up to
midnight last night; we went from lead to lead with only occasional
small difficulties. At 9 o'clock we passed along the western edge of
a big stream of very heavy bay ice - such ice as would come out late
in the season from the inner reaches and bays of Victoria Sound,
where the snows drift deeply. For a moment one imagined a return to
our bad conditions, but we passed this heavy stuff in an hour and
came again to the former condition, making our way in leads between
floes of great area.

Bowers reported a floe of 12 square miles in the middle watch. We
made very fair progress during the night, and an excellent run in the
morning watch. Before eight a moderate breeze sprang up from the west
and the ice began to close. We have worked our way a mile or two on
since, but with much difficulty, so that we have now decided to bank
fires and wait for the ice to open again; meanwhile we shall sound
and get a haul with tow nets. I'm afraid we are still a long way from
the open water; the floes are large, and where we have stopped they
seem to be such as must have been formed early last winter. The signs
of pressure have increased again. Bergs were very scarce last night,
but there are several around us to-day. One has a number of big humps
on top. It is curious to think how these big blocks became perched so
high. I imagine the berg must have been calved from a region of hard
pressure ridges. [Later] This is a mistake - on closer inspection it
is quite clear that the berg has tilted and that a great part of the
upper strata, probably 20 feet deep, has slipped off, leaving the
humps as islands on top.

It looks as though we must exercise patience again; progress is more
difficult than in the worst of our experiences yesterday, but the
outlook is very much brighter. This morning there were many dark
shades of open water sky to the south; the westerly wind ruffling
the water makes these cloud shadows very dark.

The barometer has been very steady for several days and we ought to
have fine weather: this morning a lot of low cloud came from the
S.W., at one time low enough to become fog - the clouds are rising
and dissipating, and we have almost a clear blue sky with sunshine.

_Evening_. - The wind has gone from west to W.S.W. and still blows
nearly force 6. We are lying very comfortably alongside a floe with
open water to windward for 200 or 300 yards. The sky has been clear
most of the day, fragments of low stratus occasionally hurry across
the sky and a light cirrus is moving with some speed. Evidently it
is blowing hard in the upper current. The ice has closed - I trust it
will open well when the wind lets up. There is a lot of open water
behind us. The berg described this morning has been circling round
us, passing within 800 yards; the bearing and distance have altered
so un-uniformly that it is evident that the differential movement
between the surface water and the berg-driving layers (from 100 to
200 metres down) is very irregular. We had several hours on the floe
practising ski running, and thus got some welcome exercise. Coal is
now the great anxiety - we are making terrible inroads on our supply - we

Online LibraryRobert Falcon ScottScott's Last Expedition Volume I → online text (page 4 of 41)