If the ``winter calms'' were a delusion,
there were at least several beautifully clear, moderately calm days
in June. The expectation of colder weather had been realized, and
by the end of the month it was a perceptible fact that the sun had
definitely turned, describing a longer arc when skimming the distant
fleets of bergs along the northern horizon. Thus on June 28 the
refracted image of the sun rose into visibility about eleven o'clock,
heralded by a vivid green sky and damask cloud and by one o'clock
On the same day every one was abroad, advancing
the wireless masts another stage and digging ice-shafts. Stillwell
commenced a contoured plane-table survey of the neighbourhood of
Winter Quarters. He continued this with many breaks during the next
few months and eventually completed an accurate and valuable map,
undeterred by the usual series of frost-bites.
much anticipated of July, but the wind soughed on and the temperature
decreased. Just to demonstrate its resource, the wind maintained
ninety-seven miles per hour for six hours on July 19, while the
puff-anemometer indicated several ``breaks'' of one hundred
and fifty miles per hour.
July 21 was cold, calm and clear.
For the first time after many weeks the sun was mildly warm, and
all felt with a spring of optimism that a new era had begun. The
sea which had been kept open by the wind was immediately overspread
with thin, dark ice, which in a few hours was dotted with many ice-flowers
aggregates of fern-like, sprouting fronds similar to small bouquets
or rosettes. Soon the surface had whitened and thickened and by
next morning was firm enough to hold a man out beyond the nearest
island. The wind did not allow this state of affairs to last for
long, for by lunch-time it had hurried away the wide floes and raged
across a foaming sea.
We still considered the question of
sledging, and I decided that if there were the slightest prospect
of accomplishing anything, several of us would start before the
end of July on a short journey. The month, however, closed with
nothing to commend it. The night-watchman for July 29 says:
``The moon was wonderfully bright to-night, encircled by a complete
halo. It appeared to hang suspended like a silver globe in the dark
blue sky. The stars flash and sparkle and seem much nearer here
than in Australia. At midnight the wind blew at ninety miles per
hour, so that it was no easy job getting to the screen in slippery
finnesko. Away in the north there was a dense cloud of spray and
sea-smoke, and the wind screamed past the Hut. The `St. Elmoscope'
was buzzing merrily in the roof all the time.''
and Mertz with a team of dogs managed, on the morning of the 29th,
to get several loads of forty pounds over the first steep rise of
the glacier to Webb's magnetic ice-cave against a ``blow''
of seventy miles per hour.
August 1 was marked by a hurricane,
and the celebration in the evening of Swiss Confederation Day. Mertz
was the hero of the occasion as well as cook and master of ceremonies.
From a mysterious box he produced all kinds of quaint conserves,
and the menu soared to unknown delicacies like ``Potage a la Suisse,
Choucroute garnie aux saucission de Berne, Puree de foie gras trufee,
and Leckerley de Bale.'' Hanging above the buoyant assembly
were the Cross of Helvetia and the Jack of Britannia.
was not till August 8 that there was any indication of improvement.
The sun was bright, the barometer was steady, the wind fell to forty
miles an hour and a fine radiant of cirrus cloud spread out fan-like
from the north; the first from that direction for months.
On the afternoon of August 9, Ninnis, Madigan and I set off
with a team of dogs against a forty-mile wind in an attempt to push
to the south. Darkness was coming on when we sighted a bamboo pole,
three and a quarter miles south of the Hut, and camped. The dogs
pulled well up the steep slopes, but the feet of several were cut
by the sharp edges of the wind-worn ice.
Very heavy gusts
swept by in the early morning hours of the 10th. and when the time
came to get out of our sleeping-bags it fell calm for a short space.
We had taken down the tent and had started to move away, when back
rushed the wind, strong and steady. Still we pushed on with our
willing team and by a piece of good fortune reached the sledge which
had been abandoned in the autumn, five and a half miles from the
Hut, and of whose fate in the winter's hurricanes we had made
all kind of conjectures.
On its leeward side there was a
ramp of very hard snow slanting down from the top of the sledge.
To windward the low pedestal of ice on which the runners stood was
hollowed out, and the wood of the rails and cross-bars, the leather
straps, tent, floor-cloth and canvas food-tanks were all bleached
and worn. The aluminium cooker, strapped on its box, was brightly
polished on the weather side by the dry, drifting snow impelled
by the furious winds. A thermograph, left behind in the autumn,
was found to be intact and indicated a temperature of -35 degrees
F.--the lowest for the eight days during which it had run. The remains
of Madigan's plum-pudding of the autumn were unearthed and found
in splendid condition. That evening it was thawed out over
the primus and we demolished it, after a pause of over five months
since having the first cut.
At this spot the steepest grades
of the ascent to the plateau were left behind, and it appeared to
be a strategic point from which to extend our sledging efforts.
The main difficulty was that of pitching camp in the prevailing
winds on a surface of ice. To obviate this, the only expedient was
to excavate a shelter beneath the ice itself; and there was the
further consideration that all sledging parties would be able to
make use of such a haven and save extra wear on their tents.
On the morning of August 11 Madigan and Ninnis commenced to
sink a deep vertical trench, at one end of which a room was hewn
out large enough to accommodate three men. The job was finished
on the following day, and we struck the tent and moved to our new
abode. The tent was spread over the vertical shaft which served
as the entrance.
It was a great relief to be in a strong
room, with solid walls of ice, in place of the cramped tent flapping
violently in the wind. Inside, the silence was profound; the blizzard
was banished. Aladdin's Cave it was dubbed--a truly magical
world of glassy facets and scintillating crystals.
were chipped out at a moment's notice for primus stove, spirit
bottle, matches, kerosene and other oddments. At one side a small
hole was cut to communicate with a narrow fissure which provided
ventilation without allowing the entrance of drift snow. Whatever
daylight there was filtered through the roof and walls without hindrance.
A small crevasse opened near at hand and was a natural receptacle
for rubbish. The purest ice for cooking could be immediately hacked
from the walls without the inconvenience of having to don one's
burberrys and go outside for it. Finally, one neatly disposed of
spare clothes by moistening the corner of each garment and pressing
it against the wall for a few seconds, where it would remain hanging
until required. The place, in fact, was simply replete with conveniences.
We thoroughly enjoyed the night's rest in Aladdin's Cave,
notwithstanding alarming cracks proceeding occasionally from the
Madigan and Ninnis dug a shelter for the
dogs, which spent their time curled up so as to expose as little
surface as possible to the biting wind. Their thick coats did not
adhere to a snow surface, but readily became frozen down to ice,
so that an ice-axe would have to be used to chip them free.
On August 13, though there was a steady, strong wind blowing,
we continued our advance to the south. The dogs hated to face wind,
but, on the whole, did better than expected. In the afternoon, when
only eight miles south of Winter Quarters and at an altitude of
two thousand feet, dark and lowering clouds formed overhead, and
I decided to give up any idea of going farther out, for the time
being. We had provisions for a few days only, and there was every
indication of thick, drifting weather, during which, in the crevassed
ice of that vicinity, it would not be advisable to travel.
After depoting a pick, shovel and some pemmican, we started
back, thinking it might be possible to reach the Hut the same night.
However, driven by a strong wind over a polished, slippery surface
split into small crevasses, down a grade which steepened quickly,
we required to have all our senses vigilant. Two of the dogs remained
in harness and the rest were allowed to run loose ahead. These two
strained every effort to catch up to their companions.
retarded the sledge as much as possible and all went well for a
few minutes. Then the wind slewed the sledge, the runners struck
an irregularity in the surface and the whole capsized. This happened
repeatedly, until there was nothing to do but loose the two remaining
dogs and drag the sledge ourselves. The dogs were soon lost to sight,
except Pavlova, who remained with us all the time. As the hours
of light were short in August, darkness had come before Aladdin's
Cave was reached, and it was with some relief that we saw the sledge,
flag-pole and the expectant dogs suddenly loom up in front. The
sleeping-bags and other gear were passed down into the Cave and
the dogs were fed.
When the doorway was opened in the morning, August
14, a blizzard with dense drifting snow was in full progress. As
it was not possible to see any distance, and as our quarters were
very comfortable, we decided to wait for another day. Madigan and
Ninnis went out and fed the dogs, who were all snugly curled up
in beds of snow.
The weather was no better on the l5th, but,
as we were only five and a half miles from the Hut, which was more
comfortable and where there was much work to be done, it seemed
a shame to remain cooped up in idleness. Madigan and Ninnis were
both strongly in favour of making a dash for the Hut, so we set
The sledge having been dug out, one man went in front
to keep the course and two men brought up the rear, holding back
the load. With long-spiked Swiss crampons we could hold up very
well on the ice. In dense drift it was not a simple matter to steer
a correct course for the Hut and it was essential not to deviate,
as the rocky foreshores near which it stood extended only for a
mile east and west; on either side abutting on vertical ice-cliffs.
With a compelling force like a prance at our backs, it was not a
nice thing to contemplate finding ourselves on the brink of a precipice.
The wind, however, was steady, and we knew at what angle to
steer to keep a rough course; and we were also helped by a number
of small crevasses between three and five and a half miles which
ran approximately north and south.
Half a mile had been covered
before we remarked the absence of the dogs which had been left to
follow. We had taken for granted that they would follow us, and
were so fully occupied after starting that their absence had passed
unnoticed. It would be difficult to locate them if we returned;
the weather would improve in a few days; if they felt hungry they
would come down of their own accord. So we decided to go on without
At two miles from the Hut the drift thinned out and
the wind became more gusty. Between the gusts the view ahead opened
out for a considerable distance, and the rocks soon showed black
below the last steep fall.
Back at the Hut it was arranged
that if the dogs did not return in a reasonable time, Bage, Mertz
and Hurley should go up to Aladdin's Cave in search of them.
They made a great effort to get away next morning. The sledge
was hauled for one thousand one hundred yards up to the magnetic
ice-cave against a bitter torrent of air rushing by at eighty-two
miles an hour. Here they retreated exhausted.
On the 17th
the wind was gauged at eighty-four miles an hour, and nothing could
be done. Dense drift and ferocious wind continued until the morning
of August 21, and still none of the dogs had come home.
Hurley and Mertz took advantage of a slight lull to start off at
6.30 A.M. As they did not return that night we presumed they were
making good headway.
The drift was thick and the wind high
for four days, and it was not until the morning of the 25th that
the weather showed clearer and more promising. At 2 P.M. Bage and
his companions arrived at the Hut bringing all the dogs except Grandmother,
who had died of exhaustion. Aladdin's Cave had been difficult
to find in the driving snow, which had thickened after the first
few miles. They actually passed close to it when Mertz, between
the gusts, sighted Castor jumping about, fully alive to the approaching
relief. The other dogs were found curled up in the snow, in a listless,
apathetic state; apparently in the same positions when left seven
days before. They had made no attempt to break into several bags
of provisions lying close at hand, preferring to starve rather than
expose their faces to the pelting drift. All were frozen down except
Basilisk and Castor. Pavlova was in the best condition, possibly
because her last meal had been an extra full one; a reward for remaining
with us when the others had bolted. Grandmother was in the worst
condition, and, despite all efforts at revival, died four hours
after. As the poor brutes were very weak after their long fast and
exposure, they were taken into the Cave and fed on warm hoosh. Everything
possible was done for them, and in return the party passed a very
miserable time cramped in such a small space with six dogs. The
accommodation was slightly increased by enlarging the Cave.
Five days of calm weather! It could scarcely be credited, yet
September came with such a spell. They gave us great opportunities,
and, for once, a vision of what perfect Antarctic days might be.
The sea speedily froze over and extended our territory to the north.
Every day we dredged among the tide-cracks, until Hunter and Laseron
had material enough to sort and bottle for weeks. Seals came up
everywhere, and the dogs gorged on much-needed meat and blubber.
Three large Weddells were shot near the ``Eastern Barrier''
on September 1, and hauled up an ice-cliff eighty feet high to the
rocks above. Work on the wireless masts went on apace, and the geologist
was abroad with his plane-table every day. Webb and Bage, after
a protracted interval, were able to take star observations for time,
in order to check the chronometers.
Mertz, Ninnis, Whetter
and Laseron, with a team of dogs sledged a big load of food-stuffs
to Aladdin's Cave on September 1. At the Cave the dogs were
let loose, but instead of running back to the Hut, lingered about
and finally had to be led down the slope. On being loosed again,
several rushed back to the Cave and were only brought along by force.
That night, Scott and Franklin, two kindred spirits, were not present
On September 3, McLean, Whetter
and Close took more provisions to Aladdin's Cave. They reported
light drift and wind on the highlands, while at sea-level it was
clear and calm.
The sea-ice was by then thick and safe. About
haIf a mile off shore a very successful dredging was made in fifty
fathoms; the bottom at this depth simply teemed with life. At first,
the dredge, rope-coils, tub, picks and other necessary implements
were dragged about on a sledge, but the sledge was hauled only with
great difficulty and much exertion over the sticky, new sea-ice.
As a substitute a portable, steel handcart was advantageously employed,
although, owing to its weight, tide-cracks and rotten areas had
to be crossed at a run. On one occasion a flimsy surface collapsed
under it, and Hunter had a wetting before it was hauled on to firmer
On September 4 there was a cloud radiant from the northwest,
indicative of a change in the weather. Ninnis, Mertz and Murphy
transported more food-bags and kerosene to Aladdin's Cave. They
found Franklin one and a half miles south of the Hut lying on the
ice quite well, but there was no sign of Scott. Both dogs were seen
on the 1st of the month, when they were in a locality south-east
of the Hut, where crevasses were numerous. It seemed most probable
that Scott had lost his life in one of them. The party visiting
the Cave reported a considerable amount of snow drifting above a
level of one thousand feet.
There was another day of successful
dredging, and, about four o'clock, while several men were still
out on the ice, whirlies with great columns of drift came steadily
down the glacier, pouring over the seaward cliffs. In a few minutes
the snow-clouds were round the Hut and the wind was not long in
working up to eighty miles per hour. The dredging party reached
the land just in time; and the sea-ice drifted away to the north.
Thus ended one of the most remarkable periods of fine weather experienced
by us in Adelie Land, only to be excelled in the height of summer.
The possibility of such a spell being repeated fired us with
the hope that after all a reasonable amount of sledging could be
accomplished in the spring. Three parties were chosen to reconnoitre
in different directions and to test the sledging gear. As we were
far from being confident in the weather, I made it clear that no
party should penetrate farther than fifty miles from the Hut, nor
remain away longer than a fortnight.
Webb, McLean and Stillwell,
the southern reconnoitring party, were the first to set off, leaving
on September 7 against a wind of fifty-six miles per hour. Between
them they had only one pair of good spiked crampons, and it was
a hard, five hours' drag up to Aladdin's Cave. A tent which
had been spread over the entrance to keep out snow was picked up
here. It had suffered punctures and small tears from crampons, and,
as the next day was one of boisterous wind, the party spent it repairing
the tent and endeavouring to take magnetic observations. The latter
had to be abandoned owing to the instrument becoming iced up.
Next afternoon the wind fell to the forties, and the party struggled
on to the south for three miles two hundred yards and camped, as
it was necessary to make a search for a small depot of pemmican
tins, a pick and a shovel left by us in the vicinity in August.
The drift cleared at noon on the 11th, and the bamboo pole marking
the depot appeared a quarter of a mile away on the right. The pick,
shovel and flag were secured and another afternoon's march against
a fifty-mile wind with a temperature at -20 degrees F. brought the
party three and
a quarter miles further, to a point eleven and
three-quarter miles south of the Hut. The wind rose to the eighties
during the night, and there were many small holes in the tent which
provided more ventilation than was agreeable. As the wind was too
strong for travelling on the 12th, it was decided to make a cave
in case of accident to the tent.
A tunnel was driven into
the sloping surface of the ice towards a crevasse about a foot wide.
It was a good ten hours' job in tough ice before the crevasse
was reached. Into the fissure all the hewn ice was thrown instead
of being laboriously shovelled up through the tunnel. The ``Cathedral
Grotto'' was soon finished, the tent was struck and the
party made themselves comfortable inside. The cavern was found to
be a very draughty place with a crevasse along one wall, and it
was difficult to keep warm in one-man sleeping-bags. The crevasse
was accordingly closed with ice and snow. That evening and on several
subsequent occasions McLean took blood-pressure observations.
During the next three days the wind was so strong that Webb's
were the only crampons in which any efficient marching could be
done. The time was spent in building a high break-wind of ice-blocks,
a pit being excavated on the windward side in which Webb took a
full set of magnetic observations. Within the ``Grotto''
the instrument rapidly became coated with ice-crystals; in the open
air this difficulty did not arise, but others had to be overcome.
It was exceedingly cold work at -20 degrees F. in a sixty-mile wind,
both for Webb and
his recorder Stillwell.
no hope of going forward, so the depot flag was hoisted and a fortnight's
provisions and kerosene stowed in the lee of the break-wind. It
was a furious race back to the Hut via Aladdin's Cave with a
gusty, seventy-five-mile wind in the rear. McLean and Stillwell
actually skied along on their short blunt crampons, while Webb did
his best to brake behind.
The second party comprised Ninnis,
Mertz, and Murphy, who went to the south-east, leaving on September
11. After a hard fight to Aladdin's Cave, the wind approaching
fifty miles an hour, they diverged to the south-east. On the 12th
they made steady progress up the slope of the glacier, delayed by
many small crevasses. The surface was so rough that the nuts on
the sledge-meter soon became loose and it was necessary to stop
every quarter of a mile to adjust them. The day's march was
a solid five and three quarter miles against a fifty-mile wind.
On the 13th Ninnis's record proceeds as follows:
``The sky was still clear but the wind had increased
to sixty-five miles per hour, the temperature standing
at -17 degrees F.
``We kept on the same course; the glacier's
slope being steeper. Mertz was as usual wearing leather boots
and mountaineering crampons, otherwise progress would have been
practically impossible; the finnesko crampons worn by Murphy
and myself giving very little foothold. Travelling was very
slow indeed, and when we camped at 4 P.M., two and a half miles
was all that had been covered.
``At 9.15 A.M. (September
14) the wind practically dropped, and we advanced under perfect
They had not gone far, however, before the wind
suddenly increased so that only about four and a half miles were
completed in the day. That evening, curiously enough, it fell calm
for a time; then there was a period of alternating violent winds
On Sunday, September 15, it was impossible for
them to move, as a hurricane raged outside. The tent was very much
damaged by the wind, but in that state it managed to stand up till
next morning. In the meantime all three fully dressed themselves
and lay in their three-man sleeping-bag ready to take to the road
at a moment's notice.
The next morning, at a distance
of eighteen miles southeast of the Hut, there was nothing for it
but to make for Aladdin's Cave, which was safely reached by
a forced march of twelve and three-quarter miles, with a furious
wind partly abeam. On the way the sledge was blown sideways on to
the lids of many wide crevasses, which,
fortunately for the party,
were strong at that season of the year.
From the realistic
reports of the two parties which had returned it was evident that
Madigan and his companions, Close and Whetter who had set out on
the 12th to the west were having a bad time. But it was not till
the 23rd, after a week of clear skies, low temperatures and unceasing
drift-free wind that we began to feel apprehensive about them.
September 24 and 25 were punctuated by several intervals of
calm during which it was judged the party would have been able to
On the morning of September 26 Ninnis and Mertz,
with a team of dogs, set off up the hill to Aladdin's Cave to
deposit some provisions and to scan the horizon for any sign of
the sledgers. On the way they fell in with them descending the slopes,
very worn and frost-bitten.
They had a thrilling story to
tell, and, when it was known that the party had reached fifty miles
to the west, everybody crowded round to listen.
average at the Hut during their fortnight of absence was fifty-eight
miles per hour, implying worse conditions on the plateau. Madigan
gave the facts:
``After leaving Aladdin's Cave on the 12th
we continued due south, lunching at 2 P.M. on the site of Webb's
first camp. Our troubles had already begun; the wind averaging
sixty miles an hour all day with a temperature at noon of -14
``As a few tears appeared in the tent during
the night, we saw that it would not be advisable to put it up
next day for lunch, so we had a cold meal, crouched in the lee
of the sledge. This custom was found to economize time, as we
became so cold eating our fare of biscuit, chocolate and butter
that we got moving again as soon as possible. The great disadvantage
was that there was nothing to drink between the morning and
``We sewed up the rents in the tent during
the halt, having to use bare fingers in the open. About four
stitches at a time were as much as one man could manage, and
then the other two took their turns.
``The next day was
the only comparatively calm period of the two weeks of travelling.
The wind was in the vicinity of thirty miles per hour, and,
going west, we reached a spot, twenty miles `out,' on a
snow-covered surface, by nightfall.
``A steady seventy-five-mile
wind blew all day on the 15th at right angles to our course,
accompanied by a thick, low drift. The surface was partially
consolidated snow, very hard and smooth. Sometimes the sledge
would grip and we could pull straight ahead. Then, suddenly,
it would slide away sideways down wind and often pull us off
our feet with a sudden vicious jerk. Most of the time we were
dragging in a south-westerly direction to make the sledge run
west, stumbling through the drift with the sledge now behind
us, now sliding away to leeward, often capsizing and requiring
to be laboriously righted and sometimes repacked.
many experiments, we found the best device was to have two men
on the bow-rope, about twenty feet long, and one with about
ten feet of rope attached to the rear of the sledge. The man
on the tail-rope, usually Whetter, found it very difficult to
keep his feet, and, after a score of falls in stinging drift
with incidental frost-bites on fingers and cheeks, he did not
feel exactly cheerful.
``By 4 P.M. on the 15th we had
reached twenty-five miles and were exhausted. We pitched camp
at an early hour, partly influenced by the fact that it was
a special occasion--Close's birthday! Some port wine had
been slipped in to provide against that ` emergency.' On
taking the precious bottle from the instrument-box, I found
that the cork was out, and, for one awful moment, thought the
bottle was empty. Then I realized that the wine had frozen solid
and had pushed the cork out by its expansion on solidification.
``At last, the tent safely pitched and hoosh and cocoa finished,
the moment came to drink to Close's health and happiness.
The bottle had stood on the top of the cooker while the meal
was being prepared, but the wine was still as solid as ever.
After being shaken and held over the primus for a good half-hour
it began to issue in lumps. Once the lumps were secured in mugs
the rest of the thawing was easy. Finally, we toasted Close
and his wife (in far Australia) in what we voted to be the finest
draught it had ever been our good fortune to drink. In the morning
a cairn was made of the snow-blocks which were taken from the
tent-skirt, and it was surmounted with the bottle, being called
``During September 16 my right eyelid
became frostbitten. I noticed that it was hard and refused to
shut, so I rubbed vigorously to bring it round. However, it
swelled and blistered badly and the eye remained closed for
``From twenty to fifty miles `out', the
surface was neve with areas of sastrugi up to three feet in
height. No crevasses were noticed. At twenty-eight miles out,
we lost sight of the sea, and at forty miles an altitude of
four thousand five hundred feet was reached.
out at 6 A.M. every morning and were on the move by 9 A.M. Lunch
only took half an hour and was a most uncomfortable meal. As
we sat in the lee of the sledge, the surface-drift swirled up
in our faces like fine sand. We never camped before 6 P.M. and
were obliged to consider five miles a good day's run.
``Pitching camp took nearly an hour. Blocks of snow were
cut and arranged in a semicircle, within which the tent was
laid with its peak upwind. It sounds simple enough, but, as
we had to take off crampons so as not to tread on the tent,
our difficulties were enormously increased by having to move
about wearing finnesko on a smooth surface in a high wind.
One man crawled into the tent, and, at a given signal, the other
two raised the peak while the former held on to the upwind leg
and kicked the other legs into place with his feet. The others
then quickly piled food-tanks and blocks of snow on to the skirt,
calling out as soon as there was enough to hold it down, as
the man gripping the bamboo leg inside would soon have `deadly
cold' fingers. It was always a great relief when the tent
``Almost every night there was some sewing to
do, and it was not long before every one's fingers were
in a bad state. They became, especially near the tips, as hard
as wood and devoid of sensation. Manipulating toggles and buttons
on one's clothing gave an immense amount of trouble, and
it always seemed an interminable time before we got away in
the morning. Our lowest temperature was -35 degrees F.,
on September 18.
``We were fifty miles `out' on September
19 on a white, featureless plain. Through low drift we had seen
very little of our surroundings on the march. A bamboo pole
with a black flag was raised, a mound was built, and a week's
provisions for three men and two gallons of kerosene were cached.
``In the morning there was a howling eighty-mile blizzard
with dense drift, and our hopes of an early start homeward were
dispelled. We feared for the safety of the tent, knowing that
if it had gone during that `blow' our hopes of getting back
to the Hut would have been small.
``The wind continued
all day and the next night, but, to our joy, abated on the 21st
to fifty miles an hour, permitting us to travel.
a seventy-five-miler on the 22nd and a quieter day on the 23rd,
we picked up our half-way mound at Birthday Camp on September
24. On the same night the long-suffering sledge-meter, much
battered, gave up recording.
``At 3 A.M. I was awakened
by something striking me on the head. I looked out of the sleeping-bag
and found that the tent had fallen in on us. The lashing at
the apex had carried away and the poles upwind were almost flat.
The cap was gone, and one side of the tent was split from top
to bottom. I awakened the others, and Whetter and I got out,
leaving Close inside to hang on to the bag. Luckily we had kept
on our burberrys in case of accidents. For once the entrance
had not to be unfastened, as there was a ready-made exit. The
poles were roughly bound together with an alpine rope and anchored
to a pick on the windward side. It was blowing about eighty
miles an hour, but fortunately there was no drift. When daylight
came the tent was found to be hopelessly ruined, and to light
the primus was impossible, though the wind had abated to thirty-five
miles an hour.
``We ate some frozen food and pushed on,
hoping to find Aladdin's Cave before dark, so that we should
not have to spend a night without a tent. After a struggle of
thirteen miles over rough ice we came, footsore and worn out,
to Aladdin's Cave. Close's feet were badly blistered,
and both my big toes had become frost-bitten at the fifty-mile
camp, giving me a good deal of trouble on the way back.
``Never was the Cave a more luxurious place. The cooker
was kept busy far into the night, while we drank and smoked
and felt happy,''
The successful conclusion of this journey in the
face of the most adverse weather conditions was something upon which
Madigan, Whetter and Close could well feel proud, for in its way
it must be a record in the sledging world. They were indeed badly
frost-bitten; Madigan's great toes having suffered most of all.
Whetter's chief injury was a wound under the chin occasioned
by a pair of scissors handled by Madigan to free Whetter's helmet
on an occasion when it was firmly frozen to his face.
October 1, Mertz, Hurley and Ninnis made a gallant attempt to rescue
two dogs, Basilisk and Franklin, which had remained at Aladdin's
Cave on September 26, after accompanying them there with a load
of provisions. At the Hut there was no drift, but during the ascent
it became thicker, and the wind stronger, forcing them at last to
Two days later another attempt was made by Ninnis
and Mertz, and, in dense drift, after wandering about for a long
time they happened on the Cave, to find that the dogs were not there,
though spots were discovered where they had evidently been sleeping
in the snow. Coming back disconsolately, they found that the dogs
had reached the Hut not long before them. Apparently the two vagrants,
hearing Ninnis and Mertz blundering about in the drift in search
of the depot, had decided that it was time to return home. We concluded
that the ways of these Greenland dogs were past finding out.
October came with a deluge of snow and transient hours of bright
sunlight, during which the seals would make a temporary landing
and retire again to the water when their endurance was exhausted.
Snow petrels flew in great numbers about the rocks in the evening,
seeking out their old nest-crevices. Seeing these signs of returning
life, every one was in great expectation of the arrival of the penguins.
On the night of the 11th, Hurley, Laseron, Hunter and Correll
made an innovation by presenting a small farce to an audience which
had been starved of dramatic entertainment for a long time, and
consequently showed tremendous appreciation.
The first penguin
came waddling up the ice-foot against a seventy-mile wind late on
the afternoon of October 12. McLean brought the bird back to the
Hut and the newcomer received a great ovation. Stimulated by their
success on the previous night and the appearance of the first penguin,
the theatrical company added to their number, and, dispensing with
a rehearsal, produced an opera, ``The Washerwoman's Secret''
(Laseron). Part of the Hut was curtained off as a combined green-room
and dressing-room; the kitchen was the stage; footlights twinkled
on the floor; the acetylene limelight beamed down from the rafters,
while the audience crowded on a form behind the dining-table, making
tactless remarks and steadily eating chocolate.
programmes advertised the following:
THE WASHERWOMAN'S SECRET
(Opera in Five Acts)
DR. STAKANHOISER (Tenor) ``Hoyle'' Hurley
DE TINTAIL (Fiver) ``Johnny'' Hunter
BARON DE BRENT
(Basso) ``Joe'' Laseron
COUNT HOOPENKOFF (Barrowtone)
``Little Willie'' Correll
MADAM FUCLOSE (Don't
Sing) ``Also Joe'' Laseron
JEMIMA FUCLOSE (Soprano)
DR. STAKANHOISER'S Dog `` Monkey''
VILLAGE IDIOT ``Bick'' Bickerton
ORCHESTRA ``Stillwater Willie'' StillWell
SCENE: Room in poorer part of Berlin: MADAM FUCLOSE
in bed dying:
JEMIMA at table washing clothes
``When Sparrows Build'' JEMIMA
[Knock at door.
Enter Dr. STAKANHOISER.
Song: ``I vas a Doctor''
[Attends MADAM FUC10SE, who, when dying, tells him that
JEMIMA is not
her daughter, but the Princess of Adeliana,
whom she has rescued in
Paris during the Revolution.
Death Scene and Chorus: ``Who Killed my Mother?''
SCENE: Beneath JEMIMA'S window
[Enter Dr. STAKANHOISER disguised as organ grinder.
``Vurds der Likum'' Dr. S.
[JEMIMA opens window
and throws flour on DOCTOR.
[Enter BARON DE BRENT, kicks
Song: ``Baron of Brent''
makes love to JEMIMA, who laughs at him.
love me'' JEMIMA and BARON
[Enter CHEVALIER DE
TINTAIL, who denounces the BARON as already
having four wives.
The BARON goes off, muttering revenge.
in love with a wonderful lady'' CHEVALIER
CHEVALIER makes love to JEMIMA, who loves him in return.
[Enter DOCTOR, who hides behind
[Enter COUNT HOOPENKOFF, who amuses himself
playing a piccolo.
[Enter BARON. They discuss plot to
kidnap Princess, which is
overheard by DOCTOR.
Ghost, who frightens conspirators away.
[The CHEVALIER DE TINTAIL is waiting.
``I want you to see my Girl'' CHEVALIER
JEMIMA. Love scene.
[Enter DOCTOR, who discloses the
plot he has heard and tells
JEMIMA of her high descent. The
CHEVALIER and the DOCTOR hide,
and the two villains, by means
of a ladder, enter the room.
The heroes spring from their
hiding-place and the villains are ejected.
is a Wash-House''
[The BARON and COUNT enter by different doors.
They accuse each
other of having betrayed the plot. Duel
follows in which both
Duet: ``Mort de
Botheo'' COUNT and BARON
[All the others rush
in. The two lovers come together and the
DOCTOR says, ``God
bless you, my children.''
Chorus: ``Auld Lang
Syne'' COMPANY and AUDIENCE
GOD SAVE THE KING
Played by the Society for the Prevention of the Blues.
Saturday, October 12, 1912.
Free. Children Half Price.
October 13 was known as Black Sunday. We were all
seated at dinner and the Hut was quivering in the tornado-like gusts
which followed a heavy ``blow'' reaching a maximum hourly
average of ninety-one miles. One mighty blast was followed by a
crack and the sound of a heavy falling body. For a moment it was
thought that something had happened to the Hut. Then the messman
ran out to the trap-door and saw that the northern wireless mast
The weather showed but meagre signs of improvement,
but the penguins came up in great numbers. They were in groups all
along the ice-foot in the lee of rocks and icy pinnacles. They climbed
up to their old resorts, and in a few days commenced to build nests
of small pebbles. Skua gulls mysteriously appeared, snow petrels
hovered along the rocky ridges and odd seals landed on the wind-raked
harbour ice. Silver-grey and Antarctic petrels flew along the shore
with occasional Cape pigeons. If the weather were indifferent to
the birds did not forget that spring had come.
A Weddell seal calved on the bay-ice on October 18. For a week
the pup had a miserable time in winds ranging mostly about the seventies,
with the temperature below zero Fahrenheit. At last it became so
weak that it thawed a hole in the soft, sludgy ice and could not
extricate itself. Both it and the mother were killed and skinned
for the biological collection.
On all but the worst days
a gang of men worked with picks and shovels digging out the Hangar,
so that Bickerton could test the air-tractor sledge. The attack
was concentrated upon a solid bank of snow and ice into which heaps
of tins and rubbish had been compactly frozen. In soft snow enormous
headway can be made in a short space of time, but in that species
of conglomerate, progress is slow. Eventually, a cutting was made
by which the machine could pass out. The rampart of snow was broken
through at the northern end of the Hangar, and the sledge with its
long curved runners was hauled forth triumphantly on the 25th. From
that time onwards Bickerton continued to experiment and to improve
On October 21 there was a marked thaw inside
the Hut. The frost along all the cracks dissolved into water and
ran down the walls over pictures, on to book-shelves and bunks.
The thick caking of ice on the windows dripped continually, coming
away in layers at lunch-time and scattering among the diners at
both ends of the table. Every available bucket and tub was in use,
and small tin-gutters hooked under each window had to be emptied
at frequent intervals.
Stillwell came in during the afternoon
bearing an albino penguin with a prettily mottled head; a curious
freak of which the biologists immediately took possession. The penguins
now swarmed along the foreshores, those not settling down in the
rookeries wandering about in small crowds, occasionally visiting
the Hut and exploring among the rocks or up the slippery glacier.
Murphy was heard, at this time, to advance a theory accounting for
the fact that Adelie penguins never made their nests on a scale
more elaborate than a collection of stones. He submitted that anything
else would be blown away. To support the contention, he stated that
as soon as the female lays her egg, she places a stone on top to
weight it down. The biologists kept a dignified silence during the
On the 21st an Emperor penguin landed on the
harbour ice, and, early in November, two more were captured. These
imperial birds are very rare on the coasts of Adelie Land, owing
to the fact that their winter breeding-grounds in Antarctica are
selected in spots where climatic conditions are comparatively good.
October closed with an average wind velocity of 56.9 miles per
hour. Yet the possibility of summer sledging was no longer remote.
The sun was high, spells of calm were longer and more frequent,
and, with the certain knowledge that we should be on the plateau
in November, the sledging parties were chosen, schemes of exploration
were discussed, and the last details for an extensive campaign completed.
XII - ACROSS KING GEORGE V LAND