THE WESTERN BASE--WINTER AND SPRING
On Easter Sunday, April 7, 1912, a furious blizzard
kept us close prisoners. To meet the occasion, Dovers prepared a
special dinner, the principal item being roast mutton, from one
of the six carcases landed with the stores. Divine service was held
in the forenoon.
The blizzard raged with such force all Sunday
and Monday that I dared not let any one go out to feed the dogs,
although we found, later, that a fast of three days did not hurt
them at all.
I now thought it time to establish a winter
routine. Each member had his particular duties to perform, in addition
to general work, in which all hands were engaged. Harrisson took
charge of the lamps and checked consumption of oil. Hoadley had
the care of the provisions, making out lists showing the amount
the cook might use of each article of food, besides opening cases
and stowing a good assortment on convenient shelves in the veranda.
Jones and Kennedy worked the acetylene plant. In connexion with
this, I should mention that several parts were missing, including
T-pieces for joints and connexions for burners. However Jones, in
addition to his ability as a surgeon, showed himself to be an excellent
plumber, brazier and tinsmith, and the Hut was well lighted all
the time we occupied it. Moyes' duties as meteorologist took
him out at all hours. Watson looked after the dogs, while Dovers
relieved other members when they were cooks. The duty of cook was
taken for a week at a time by every one except myself. A night watch
was kept by each in turn. The watchman went on duty at 9 P.M., usually
taking advantage of this night to have a bath and wash his clothes.
He prepared breakfast, calling all hands at 8.30 A.M. for this meal
at nine o'clock. The cook for the week was exempt from all other
work. In the case of Kennedy, whose magnetic work was done principally
at night, arrangements were made to assist him with the cooking.
Work commenced during the winter months at ten o'clock and,
unless anything special had to be done, finished at 1 P.M., when
lunch was served. The afternoon was usually devoted to sport and
The frequent blizzards and heavy snowfall had
by this time buried the Hut so deeply that only the top of the pointed
roof was visible and all the outside stores were covered.
My diary for April 9 says:
``The blizzard'' (which
had commenced on the evening of the 6th) ``played itself out during
the night and we got to work immediately after breakfast. There
was still a fresh breeze and low drift, but this gradually died
``We were an hour digging an exit from the Hut. The
day has been occupied in cutting a tunnel entrance, forty feet long,
through the drift, so that driving snow cannot penetrate, and we
shall be able to get out with less trouble.
``As we get time
I intend to excavate caverns in the huge drifts packed round the
house and stow all our stores inside; also a good supply of ice
for use during blizzards.
``I had intended to make a trip
to Masson Island before the winter properly set in, but with the
weather behaving as it does, I don't think it would be wise.''
The 10th, 11th and 12th being fine, good progress was made in
digging out store-rooms on either side of the tunnel, but a blizzard
on the 13th and 14th stopped us again.
On going to feed the
dogs during the afternoon of the 14th, Watson found that Nansen
was dead; this left us with seven, as Crippen had already died.
Of the remainder, only four were of any value; Sweep and the two
bitches, Tiger and Tich, refusing to do anything in harness, and,
as there was less than sufficient food for them, the two latter
had to be shot. Sweep would have shared the same fate but he disappeared,
probably falling down a crevasse or over the edge of the glacier.
Until the end of April almost all our time was spent in making
store-rooms and in searching for buried stores; sometimes a shaft
would have to be sunk eight to twelve feet. Bamboo poles stuck in
the snow marked the positions of the different stacks. The one marking
the carbide was blown away, and it was two days before Dovers finally
unearthed it. By the 30th, caves roomy enough to contain everything
were completed, all being connected by the tunnel. We were now self-contained,
and everything was accessible and immune from the
The entrance, by the way, was a trap-door built over the tunnel
and raised well above the outside surface to prevent it being drifted
over. From below it was approached by a ladder, but the end of the
tunnel was left open, so that in fine weather we could run sledges
in and out with loads of ice. With each blizzard the entrance was
completely choked, and it gave two men a day's work to clear
it out once more.
On April 16 Kennedy had a term day. A fresh
breeze was blowing and the temperature was -20 degrees F. Some of
his observations had to be taken in the open and the remainder in
a tent. The series took three hours to complete and by that time
he was thoroughly chilled through, his feet and fingers were frost-bitten
and his language had grown more incisive than usual.
the 10th and the 19th we made a search for penguins and seals. Hoadley
and Moyes staying behind, the rest of us with tents and equipment
journeyed along the edge of the glacier to the south, without seeing
the smallest sign of life. The edge of the shelf-ice was very much
fissured, many of the breaches giving no sign of their presence,
in consequence of which several falls were sustained. It should
be remarked that the Shackleton Shelf-Ice runs mainly in a southerly
direction from the Winter Quarters, joining the mainland at a point,
afterwards named Junction Corner. The map of Queen Mary Land illustrates
this at a glance.
From the 25th to the 29th, Kennedy, Harrisson
and Jones were employed building an igloo to be used as a magnetic
observatory. On the afternoon of the 30th, the magnetician invited
every one to a tea-party in the igloo to celebrate the opening.
He had the place very nicely decorated with flags, and after the
reception and the formal inspection of the instruments, we were
served with quite a good tea. The outside temperature was -33 degrees
F. and it was not much higher inside the igloo. As a result, no
one extended his visit beyond the bounds of politeness.
May 1, Harrisson, Hoadley and Watson went away south towards the
land at the head of the bay, which curved round to Junction Corner,
to examine icebergs, take photographs and to search for seals. They
took the four dogs with them and, as the load was a light one--three
hundred and forty-two pounds--the dogs pulled it easily.
I went with the others to the north, hoping that we might find a
portion of the glacier low enough to give access to the sea-ice.
There were several spots where the ice-cliffs were not more than
forty to fifty feet high, but no convenient ramps led down from
the cliffs. In any case neither penguins nor seals were to be had
in the vicinity. A great, flat sheet of frozen sea stretched away
to the north for quite thirty miles.
May 2 was fine, but
the 3rd and 4th were windy once more and we had to remain indoors.
Saturday, the 4th, was clean-up day, when the verandas, tunnel and
cave were swept and tidied, the stove cleaned, the hut and darkroom
scrubbed and the windows cleared. The last was a job which was generally
detested. During the week, the windows in the roof collected a coat
of ice, from an inch to three inches thick, by condensation of moisture.
Chipping this off was a most tedious piece of work, while in the
process one's clothes became filled with ice.
Harrisson, Hoadley and Watson returned from their short trip; they
had missed the strong winds which had been blowing at the Base,
although less than twenty miles away. Some very fine old icebergs
were discovered which were of interest to the two geologists and
made good subjects for Harrisson's sketches. Watson had had
a nasty fall while crossing a patch of rough ice, his nose being
rather badly cut in the accident.
On May 7 another blizzard
stopped all outside work. Moyes ventured as far as the meteorological
screen at noon and got lost, but luckily only for a short time.
The barometer behaved very strangely during the blow, rising abruptly
during a little more than an hour, and then slowly falling once
more. For a few hours on the 8th there was a lull and the store
of ice was replenished, but the 9th and 10th were again spent indoors,
repairing and refitting tents, poles and other sledging gear during
the working hours, and reading or playing chess and bridge in the
leisure time. Harrisson carved an excellent set of chessmen, distinguishing
the ``black'' ones by a stain of permanganate of potash.
Bridge was the favourite game all through the winter, and a
continuous record of the scores was kept. Two medals were struck:
a neat little thing for the highest scorer and a huge affair as
large as a plate, slung on a piece of three-and-a-half-inch rope,
with ``Jonah'' inscribed on it, to be worn by the player
at the foot of the list.
Divine service was held every Sunday,
Moyes and I taking it in turn. There was only one hymn book amongst
the party, which made it necessary to write out copies of the hymns
The sleeping-bags used on the first sledging journey
had been hung up near the roof. They were now taken down to be thoroughly
overhauled. As a consequence of their severe soaking, they had shrunk
considerably and required enlarging. Dovers's bag, besides contracting
a good deal, had lost much hair and was cut up to patch the others.
He received a spare one to replace it.
May 15 was a beautiful
bright morning and I went over to an icy cape two miles southward,
with Harrisson, Hoadley, Dovers and Watson, to find a road down
to the sea-ice. Here, we had good fortune at last, for, by following
down a crevasse which opened out at sea-level into a magnificent
cave, we walked straight out on to the level plain. Along the edge
of the glacier there was not even a seal's blow-hole. Watson
took some photos of the cave and cliff.
It was Kennedy's
term night; the work keeping him in the igloo from 10 P.M. until
2.30 A.M. He had had some difficulty in finding a means of warming
the observatory--an urgent necessity, since he found it impossible
to manipulate delicate magnetic instruments for three or four hours
with the temperature from -25 degrees F. to -30 degrees F. The trouble
was to make a non-magnetic lamp and the problem was finally solved
by using one of the aluminium cooking pots; converting it into a
blubber stove. The stove smoked a great deal and the white walls
were soon besmirched with a layer of soot.
The 17th, 18th
and 19th were all calm but dull. One day I laid out a ten-hole golf
course and with some homemade balls and hockey sticks for clubs
played a game, not devoid of interest and excitement.
a blizzard which descended on the evening of the 20th, Zip and Sweep
disappeared and on the 21st, a search on the glacier having been
in vain, Dovers and Hoadley made their way down to the floe. They
found Zip well and hearty in spite of having had a drop of at least
forty feet off the glacier. A further search for Sweep proved fruitless.
We were forced to conclude that he was either killed by falling
over the precipice or he had gone far away hunting for penguins.
The regular blizzard immured us on May 22, 23 and 24; the wind
at times of terrific force, approaching one hundred miles per hour.
It was impossible to secure meteorological observations or to feed
the dogs until noon on the 24th. Moyes and I went out during a slight
cessation and, with the aid of a rope from the trap-door, managed
to find the dogs, and gave them some biscuits. The drift was then
so thick that six feet was as far as one could see.
not forget Empire Day and duly ``spliced the mainbrace.''
The most bigoted teetotaller could not call us an intemperate party.
On each Saturday night, one drink per man was served out, the popular
toast being ``Sweethearts and Wives.'' The only other convivial
meetings of our small symposium were on the birthdays of each member,
Midwinter's Day and King's Birthday.
On the 25th
we were able to make an inventory of a whole series of damages effected
outside. The dogs' shelter had entirely carried away; a short
mast which had been erected some weeks previously as a holdfast
for sledges was snapped off short and the sledges buried, and, worst
of all, Kennedy's igloo had parted with its roof, the interior
being filled with snow, underneath which the instruments were buried.
The dogs were, however, all quite well and lively. It was fortunate
for them that the temperature always rose during the blizzards.
At this period, when on fine days it was usual to experience -25
degrees to-37 degrees F., the temperature rose in the snowstorms
to 25 degrees or even 30 degrees F.
Monday the 27th was beautifully
clear. The tunnel entrance was opened and some of the party brought
in ice while others undid the rope lashings which had been placed
over the hut. This was so compactly covered in snow that the lashings
were not required and I wanted to make a rope ladder to enable us
to get down to the sea-ice and also to be used by Watson and Hoadley,
who were about to dig a shaft in the glacier to examine the structure
of the ice.
Fine weather continued until June 2. During this
time we were occupied in digging a road from the glacier down to
the sea-ice in the forenoons and hunting for seals or skiing in
the afternoons. Kennedy and Harrisson rebuilt the magnetic igloo.
A seal-hole was eventually found near the foot of the glacier and
this was enlarged to enable the seals to come up.
end of May, daylight lasted from 9 A.M. until 3 P.M., and the sunrise
and sunset were a marvel of exquisite colour. The nightly displays
of aurora australis were not very brilliant as the moon was nearing
On the days of blizzards, there was usually sufficient
work to be found to keep us all employed. Thus on June 2, Watson
and I were making a ladder, Jones was contriving a harpoon for seals,
Hoadley was opening cases and stowing stores in the veranda, Dovers
cleaning tools, Moyes repairing a thermograph and writing up the
meteorological log, Harrisson cooking and Kennedy sleeping after
Between June 4 and 22 there was a remarkably
fine spell. It was not calm all the time, as drift flew for a few
days, limiting the horizon to a few hundred yards. An igloo was
built as a shelter for those sinking the geological shaft, and seal-hunting
was a daily recreation. On June 9, Dovers and Watson found a Weddell
seal two and a half miles to the west on the sea-ice. They killed
the animal but did not cut it up as there were sores on the skin.
Jones went over with them afterwards and pronounced the sores to
be wounds received from some other animal, so the meat was considered
innocuous and fifty pounds were brought in, being very welcome after
tinned foods. Jones took culture tubes with him and made smears
for bacteria. The tubes were placed in an incubator and several
kinds of organisms grew, very similar to those which infect wounds
in ordinary climates.
The snowstorms had by this time built
up huge drifts under the lee of the ice-cliffs, some of them more
than fifty feet in height and reaching almost to the top of the
ice-shelf. An exhilarating sport was to ski down these ramps. The
majority of them were very steep and irregular and it was seldom
that any of us escaped without a fall at one time or another. Several
of the party were thrown from thirty to forty feet, and, frequently
enough, over twenty feet, without being hurt. The only accident
serious enough to disable any one happened to Kennedy on June 19,
when he twisted his knee and was laid up for a week.
were many fine displays of the aurora in June, the best being observed
on the evening of the 18th. Curtains and streamers were showing
from four o'clock in the afternoon. Shortly after midnight,
Kennedy, who was taking magnetic observations, called me to see
the most remarkable exhibition I have so far seen. There was a double
curtain 30 degrees wide unfolded from the eastern horizon through
the zenith, with waves shimmering along it so rapidly that they
travelled the whole length of the curtain in two seconds. The colouring
was brilliant and evanescent. When the waves reached the end of
the curtain they spread out to the north and rolled in a voluminous
billow slowly back to the east. Kennedy's instruments showed
that a very great magnetic disturbance was in progress during the
auroral displays, and particularly on this occasion.
and Watson set up a line of bamboos, a quarter of a mile apart and
three miles long, on the 20th, and from thence onwards took measurements
for snowfall every fortnight.
On Midwinter's Day the
temperature ranged from -38 degrees F. to -25 degrees F. and daylight
lasted from 10 A.M. until 4 P.M. We proclaimed a universal holiday
throughout Queen Mary Land. Being Saturday, there were a few necessary
jobs to be done, but all were finished by 11 A.M. The morning was
fine and several of us went down to the floe for skiing, but after
twelve o'clock the sky became overcast and the light was dimmed.
A strong breeze brought along a trail of drift, and at 6 P.M. a
heavy blizzard was in full career. Inside, the hut was decorated
with flags and a savoury dinner was in the throes of preparation.
To make the repast still more appetising, Harrisson, Hoadley and
Dovers devised some very pretty and clever menus. Speeches, toasts
and a gramophone concert made the evening pass quickly and enjoyably.
From this time dated our preparations for spring sledging, which
I hoped would commence about August 15. Jones made some experiments
with ``glaxo,'' of which we had a generous supply. His aim
was to make biscuits which would be suitable for sledging, and,
after several failures, he succeeded in compressing with a steel
die a firm biscuit of glaxo and butter mixed, three ounces of which
was the equivalent in theoretical food value to four and a half
ounces of plasmon biscuit; thereby affording a pleasant variety
in the usual ration.
July came in quietly, though it was
dull and cloudy, and we were able to get out on the first two days
for work and exercise. On the 2nd a very fine effect was caused
by the sun shining through myriads of fog-crystals which a light
northerly breeze had brought down from the sea. The sun, which was
barely clear of the horizon, was itself a deep red, on either side
and above it was a red mock sun and a rainbow-tinted halo connected
the three mock suns.
On the 5th and 6th the wind blew a terrific
hurricane (judged to reach a velocity of one hundred miles per hour)
and, had we not known that nothing short of an earthquake could
move the hut, we should have been very uneasy.
All were now
busy making food-bags, opening and breaking up pemmican and emergency
rations, grinding biscuits, attending to personal gear and doing
odd jobs many and various.
In addition to recreations like
chess, cards and dominoes, a competition was started for each member
to write a poem and short article, humorous or otherwise, connected
with the Expedition. These were all read by the authors after dinner
one evening and caused considerable amusement. One man even preferred
to sing his poem. These literary efforts were incorporated in a
small publication known as ``The Glacier Tongue.''
Watson and Hoadley put in a good deal of time digging their
shaft in the glacier. As a roofed shelter had been built over the
top, they were able to work in all but the very worst weather. While
the rest of us were fitting sledges on the 17th and 18th, they succeeded
in getting down to a level of twenty-one feet below the surface
of the shelf-ice.
Sandow, the leader of the dogs, disappeared
on the 18th. Zip, who had been missed for two days, returned, but
Sandow never came back, being killed, doubtless, by a fall of snow
from the cliffs. All along the edge of the ice-shelf were snow cornices,
some weighing hundreds of tons; and these often broke away, collapsing
with a thunderous sound.
On July 31, Harrisson and Watson had a narrow escape.
After finishing their day's work, they climbed down to the floe
by a huge cornice and sloping ramp. A few seconds later, the cornice
fell and an immense mass of hard snow crashed down, cracking the
sea-ice for more than a hundred yards around.
July had been
an inclement month with three really fine and eight tolerable days.
In comparison with June's, which was -14.5 degrees F., the mean
temperature of July was high at -1.5 degrees F. and the early half
of August was little better.
Sunday August 11 was rather
an eventful day. Dovers and I went out in the wind to attend to
the dogs and clear the chimney and, upon our return, found the others
just recovering from rather an exciting accident. Jones had been
charging the acetylene generators and by some means one of them
caught fire. For a while there was the danger of a general conflagration
and explosion, as the gas-tank was floating in kerosene. Throwing
water over everything would have made matters worse, so blankets
were used to smother the flames. As this failed to extinguish them,
the whole plant was pulled down and carried into the tunnel, where
the fire was at last put out. The damage amounted to two blankets
singed and dirtied, Jones's face scorched and hair singed, and
Kennedy, one finger jammed. It was a fortunate escape from a calamity.
A large capsized berg had been noticed for some time, eleven
miles to the north. On the 14th, Harrisson, Dovers, Hoadley and
Watson took three days' provisions and equipment and went off
to examine it. A brief account is extracted from Harrisson's
``It was a particularly fine, mild morning; we made
good progress, three dogs dragging the loaded sledge over the smooth
floe without difficulty, requiring assistance only when crossing
banks of soft snow. One and a half miles from `The Steps,' we
saw the footprints of a penguin.
``Following the cliffs of
the shelf-ice for six and three quarter miles, we sighted a Weddell
seal sleeping on a drift of snow. Killing the animal, cutting off
the meat and burying it in the drift delayed us for about one hour.
Continuing our journey under a fine bluff, over floe-ice much cracked
by tide-pressure, we crossed a small bay cutting wedge-like into
the glacier and camped on its far side.
``After our midday
meal we walked to the berg three miles away. When seen on June 28,
this berg was tilted to the north-east, but the opposite end, apparently
in contact with the ice-cliffs, had lifted higher than the glacier-shelf
itself. From a distance it could be seen that the sides, for half
their height, were wave-worn and smooth. Three or four acres of
environing floe were buckled, ploughed up and in places heaped twenty
feet high, while several large fragments of the broken floe were
poised aloft on the old `water-line' of the berg.
on this visit, we found that the berg had turned completely over
towards the cliffs and was now floating on its side surrounded by
large separate chunks; all locked fast in the floe. In what had
been the bottom of the berg Hoadley and Watson made an interesting
find of stones and pebbles--the first found in this dead land!
``Leaving them collecting, I climbed the pitted wave-worn ice,
brittle and badly cracked on the higher part. The highest point
was fifty feet above the level of the top of the shelf-ice. There
was no sign of open water to the north, but a few seals were observed
sleeping under the cliffs.''
Next morning the weather
thickened and the wind arose, so a start was made for the Base.
All that day the party groped along in the comparative shelter of
the cliff-face until forced to camp. It was not till the next afternoon
in moderate drift that a pair of skis which had been left at the
foot of `The Steps' were located and the hut reached once again.
After lunch on August 1l, while we were excavating some buried
kerosene, Jones sighted a group of seven Emperor penguins two miles
away over the western floe. Taking a sledge and camera we made after
them. A mile off, they saw us and advanced with their usual stately
bows. It seemed an awful shame to kill them, but we were sorely
in need of fresh meat. The four we secured averaged seventy pounds
in weight and were a heavy load up the steep rise to the glacier;
but our reward came at dinner-time.
With several fine days
to give us confidence, everything was made ready for the sledge
journey on August 20. The party was to consist of six men and three
dogs, the object of the journey being to lay out a food-depot to
the east in view of the long summer journey we were to make in that
direction. Hoadley and Kennedy were to remain at the Base, the former
to finish the geological shaft and the latter for magnetic work.
There remained also a good deal to do preparing stores for later
The load was to be one thousand four hundred
and forty pounds distributed over three sledges; two hundred pounds
heavier than on the March Journey, but as the dogs pulled one sledge,
the actual weight per man was less.
The rations were almost
precisely the same as those used by Shackleton during his Expedition,
and the daily allowance was exactly the same-- thirty-four ounces
per man per day. For his one ounce of oatmeal, the same weighs of
ground biscuit was substituted; the food value being the same. On
the second depot journey and the main summer journeys, a three-ounce
glaxo biscuit was used in place of four and a half ounces of plasmon
biscuit. Instead of taking cheese and chocolate as the luncheon
ration, I took chocolate alone, as on Shackleton's southern
journey it was found more satisfactory than the cheese, though the
food value was practically the same.
The sledging equipment
and clothing were identical with that used by Shackleton. Jaeger
fleece combination suits were included in the outfit but, though
excellent garments for work at the Base, they were much too heavy
for sledging. We therefore wore Jaeger underclothing and burberry
wind clothing as overalls.
The weather was not propitious
for a start until Thursday, August 22. We turned out at 5.30 A.M.,
had breakfast, packed up and left the Hut at seven o'clock.
After two good days' work under a magnificently clear sky,
with the temperature often as low as -34 degrees F., we sighted
two small nunataks among a cluster of pressure-ridges, eight miles
to the south. It was the first land, in the sense of rocks, seen
for more than seven months. We hoped to visit the outcrops--Gillies
Nunataks--on our return.
The course next day was due east
and parallel to the mainland, then ten miles distant. To the north
was Masson Island, while at about the same distance and ahead was
a smaller island, entirely ice-covered like the former--Henderson
A blizzard of three days' duration kept us in
camp between August 27 and 30. Jones, Moyes and I had a three-man
sleeping-bag, and the temperature being high, 11 degrees to 15 degrees
F., we were very warm, but thoroughly tired of lying down for so
long. Harrisson, Dovers and Watson had single bags and therefore
less room in the other tent.
The last day of August was beautifully
bright: temperature -12 degrees to -15 degrees F. We passed Henderson
Island in the forenoon, and, hauling up a rise to the south of it,
had a good view of the surroundings. On the right, the land ran
back to form a large bay, seventeen miles wide. This was later named
the Bay of Winds, as a ``blow'' was always encountered while
In the centre of the bay was a nunatak, which
from its shape at once received the name of the Alligator. In front,
apparently fifteen miles off, was another nunatak, the Hippo, and
four definite outcrops--Delay Point and Avalanche Rocks--could be
seen along the mainland. The sight of this bare rock was very pleasing,
as we had begun to think we were going to find nothing but ice-sheathed
land. Dovers took a round of angles to all the prominent points.
The Hippo was twenty-two miles away, so deceptive is distance
in these latitudes; and in one and a half days, over very heavy
sastrugi, we were in its vicinity. The sledges could not be brought
very near the rock as it was surrounded by massive ridges of pressure-ice.
We climbed to the top of the nunatak which was four hundred
and twenty feet high, four hundred yards long and two hundred yards
wide. It was composed of gneissic granite and schists. Dovers took
angles from an eminence, Watson collected geological specimens and
Harrisson sketched until his fingers were frost-bitten. Moss and
lichens were found and a dead snow petrel--a young one--showing
that the birds must breed in the vicinity.
To the south,
the glacier shelf appeared to be very little broken, but to the
north it was terribly torn and twisted. At each end of the nunatak
there was a very fine bergschrund.** Twenty miles to the east there
appeared to be an uncovered rocky islet; the mainland turning to
the southward twelve miles away. During the night the minimum thermometer
registered -47 degrees F.
** The term not used in the usual
sense. Referring to a wide, imposing crevasse caused by the division
of the ice as it presses past the nunatak.--ED.
to get away next morning was frustrated by a strong gale. We were
two hundred yards from the shelter of the Hippo and were forced
to turn back, since it was difficult to keep one's feet, while
the sledges were blown sideways over the neve surface.
resolved to leave the depot in this place and return to the Base,
for our sleeping-bags were getting very wet and none of the party
were having sufficient sleep. We were eighty-four miles from the
hut; I had hoped to do one hundred miles, but we could make up for
that by starting the summer journey a few days earlier. One sledge
was left here as well as six weeks' allowance of food for three
men, except tea, of which there was sufficient for fifty days, seventy
days oil and seventy-eight days' biscuit. The sledge was placed
on end in a hole three feet deep and a mound built up around it,
six feet high; a bamboo and flag being lashed to the top.
On September 4 we were homeward bound, heading first to the
mainland leaving Delay Point on our left, to examine some of the
outcrops of rock. Reaching the coast about 3 P.M., camp was shortly
afterwards pitched in a most beautiful spot. A wall of solid rock
rose sheer for over four hundred feet and was crowned by an ice-cap
half the thickness. Grand ice-falls surged down on either side.
The tents were erected in what appeared to be a sheltered hollow,
a quarter of a mile from Avalanche Rocks. One tent was up and we
were setting the other in position when the wind suddenly veered
right round to the east and flattened out both tents. It was almost
as humorous as annoying. They were soon raised up once more, facing
the other way.
While preparing for bed, a tremendous avalanche
came down. The noise was awful and seemed so close that we all turned
to the door and started out. The fastening of the entrance was knotted,
the people from the other tent were yelling to us to come out, so
we dragged up the bottom of the tent and dived beneath it.
The cliff was entirely hidden by a cloud of snow, and, though
the crashing had now almost ceased, we stood ready to run, Dovers
thoughtfully seizing a food-bag. However, none of the blocks had
come within a hundred yards of us, and as it was now blowing hard,
all hands elected to remain where they were.
avalanches, which had broken away near the edge of the mainland,
disturbed our sleep through the night, but they were not quite so
alarming as the first one. A strong breeze was blowing at daybreak;
still the weather was not too bad for travelling, and so I called
the party. Moyes and I lashed up our bags, passed them out and strapped
them on the sledge; Jones, in the meantime, starting the cooker.
Suddenly a terrific squall struck the front of our tent, the poles
burst through the apex, and the material split from top to bottom.
Moyes and I were both knocked down. When we found our feet again,
we went to the aid of the other men, whose tent had survived the
gust. The wind rushed by more madly than ever, and the only thing
to do was to pull away the poles and allow the tent to collapse.
Looking around for a lee where it could be raised, we found
the only available shelter to be a crevasse three hundred yards
to windward, but the wind was now so strong that it was impossible
to convey the gear even to such a short distance. All were frequently
upset and blown along the surface twenty or thirty yards, and, even
with an ice-axe, one could not always hold his own. The only resort
was to dig a shelter.
Setting to work, we excavated a hole
three feet deep, twelve feet long and six feet wide; the snow being
so compact that the job occupied three hours. The sledges and tent-poles
were placed across the hole, the good tent being laid on top and
weighted down with snow and blocks of ice. All this sounds very
easy, but it was a slow and difficult task. Many of the gusts must
have exceeded one hundred miles per hour, since one of them lifted
Harrisson who was standing beside me, clean over my head and threw
him nearly twenty feet. Everything movable was stowed in the hole,
and at noon we had a meal and retired into sleeping- bags. At three
o'clock a weighty avalanche descended, its fearful crash resounding
above the roar of the wind. I have never found anything which gave
me a more uncomfortable feeling than those avalanches.
gale continued on September 6, and we still remained packed in the
trench. If the latter had been deeper and it had been possible to
sit upright, we should have been quite comfortable. To make matters
worse, several more avalanches came down, and all of them sounded
We were confined in our burrow for five days,
the wind continuing to blow with merciless force. Through being
closed up so much, the temperature of the hole rose above freezing-point,
consequently our sleeping-bags and clothes became very wet.
On Sunday September 8, Moyes went out to feed the dogs and to
bring in some biscuit. He found a strong gusty wind with falling
snow, and drift so thick that he could not see five yards. We had
a cold lunch with nothing to drink, so that the primus should not
raise the temperature. In the evening we sang hymns and between
us managed to remember the words of at least a dozen.
long confinement was over on the 10th; the sky was blue and the
sun brilliant, though the wind still pulsated with racking gusts.
As soon as we were on the ice, away from the land, two men had to
hold on to the rear of each sledge, and even then capsizes often
occurred. The sledge would turn and slide broadside-on to leeward,
tearing the runners badly on the rough ice. Still, by 9.30 A.M.
the surface changed to snow and the travelling improved. That night
we camped with twenty miles one hundred yards on the meter.
There was a cold blizzard on the 11th with a temperature of
-30 degrees F. Confined in the tents, we found our sleeping-bags
still sodden and uncomfortable.
With a strong beam wind and
in moderate drift big marches were made for two days, during which
the compass and sastrugi determined our course.
of September 14 runs as follows:
``On the march at 7 A.M.;
by noon we had done twelve miles one thousand five hundred yards.
Lunch was hurried, as we were all anxious to get to the hut to-night,
especially we in the three-man bag, as it got so wet while we were
living underground that we have had very little sleep and plenty
of shivering for the last four nights. Last night I had no sleep
at all. By some means, in the afternoon, we got on the wrong course.
Either the compass was affected or a mistake had been made in some
of the bearings, as instead of reaching home by 5 P.M. we were travelling
till 8 P.M. and have done thirty-two miles one thousand one hundred
yards. Light loads, good surface and a fair wind account for
the good travelling, the sail doing almost all the work on the man-hauled
``The last two hours we were in the dark, except
for a young moon, amongst a lot of crevasses and pressure-ridges
which none of us could recognize. At one time, we found ourselves
on a slope within a dozen yards of the edge of the glacier; this
decided me to camp. Awfully disappointing; anticipating another
wretched night. Temperature -35 degrees F.''
day we reached home. The last camp had been four and a half miles
north of the hut. I found that we had gone wrong through using 149
degrees as the bearing of Masson Island from the Base, when it should
have been 139 degrees. I believe it was my own mistake, as I gave
the bearing to Dovers and he is very careful.
a meal, we were all weighed and found the average loss to be eight
pounds. In the evening, Moyes and I weighed ourselves again; he
had gained seven pounds and I five and three-quarter pounds.
Comparing notes with Hoadley and Kennedy, I found that the weather
at the Base had been similar to that experienced on the sledging
It was now arranged that Jones was to take charge
of the main western journey in the summer. While looking for a landing-place
in the Aurora', we had noted to the west an expanse of
old, fast floe, extending for at least fifty miles. The idea was
for Jones and party to march along this floe and lay a depot on
the land as far west as was possible in four weeks. The party included
Dovers, Harrisson, Hoadley and Moyes. They were to be assisted by
It was my intention to take Kennedy and Watson
up to the depot we had left on the hills in March, bringing back
the minimum thermometer and probably some of the food. Watson was
slightly lame at the time, as he had bruised his foot on the last
Until Jones made a start on September 26, there were
ten days of almost continuous wind and drift. The equinox may have
accounted for this prolonged period of atrocious weather. No time,
however, was wasted indoors. Weighing and bagging food, repairing
tents, poles, cookers and other gear damaged on the last journey
and sewing and mending clothes gave every man plenty of employment.
At 6 A.M. on the 26th, Jones reported that there was only a
little low drift and that the wind was dying away. All hands were
therefore called and breakfast served.
Watson, Kennedy and
I assisted the others down to the sea-ice by a long sloping snow-drift
and saw them off to a good start in a south-westerly direction.
We found that the heavy sledge used for carrying ice had been blown
more then five hundred yards to the edge of the glacier, capsized
among the rough pressure-slabs and broken. Two heavy boxes which
were on the sledge had disappeared altogether.
The rest of
the day was devoted to clearing stores out of the tunnels. It was
evident to us that with the advent of warmer weather, the roof of
the caves or grottoes (by the way, the hut received the name of
``The Grottoes'') would sink, and so it was advisable to
repack the cases outside rather than dig them out of the deep snow.
By 6 P.M. nearly two hundred boxes were passed up through the trap-
door and the caverns were all empty.
After two days of blizzard,
Watson, Kennedy and I broke trail with loads of one hundred and
seventy pounds per man. Right from the start the surface was so
soft that pulling became very severe. On the first day, September
29, we managed to travel more than nine miles, but during the next
six days the snow became deeper and more impassable, and only nineteen
miles were covered. Crevasses were mostly invisible, and on the
slope upwards to the ice-cap more troublesome than usual. The weather
kept up its invariable wind and drift. Finally, after making laborious
headway to two thousand feet, Kennedy strained his Achilles tendon
and I decided to return to ``The Grottoes.''
P.M. on October 8, the mast was sighted and we climbed down into
the Hut, finding it very cold, empty and dark. The sun had shone
powerfully that day and Kennedy and Watson had a touch of snow-
Two weeks went by and there was no sign of the
western depot party. In fact, out of sixteen days, there were thirteen
of thick drift and high wind, so that our sympathies went out to
the men in tents with soaking bags, waiting patiently for a rift
in the driving wall of snow. On October 23 they had been away for
four weeks; provisions for that time having been taken. I had no
doubt that they would be on reduced rations, and, if the worst came,
they could eat the dogs.
During a lull on October 24, I went
to the masthead with the field-glasses but saw nothing of the party.
On that day we weighed out provisions and made ready to go in search
of them. It was my intention to go on the outward track for a week.
I wrote instructions to Jones to hoist a large flag on the mast,
and to burn flares each night at 10 P.M. if he should return while
I was away.
There was a fresh gale with blinding drift early
on the following morning; so we postponed the start. At 4 P.M. the
wind subsided to a strong breeze and I again went up the mast to
sweep the horizon. Westward from an icy cape to the south a gale
was still blowing and a heavy cloud of drift, fifty to sixty feet
high, obscured everything.
An hour later Watson saw three
Adelie penguins approaching across the floe and we went down to
meet them, bringing them in for the larder. Four Antarctic petrels
flew above our heads: a sign of returning summer which was very
The previous night had promised a fine day and
we were not disappointed on October 26. A sledge was packed with
fourteen days' provisions for eight men and we started away
on a search expedition at 10 A.M.
After doing a little over
nine miles we camped at 5.30 P.M. Before retiring to bag, I had
a last look round and was delighted to see Jones and his party about
a mile to the south. It was now getting dark and we were within
two hundred yards of them before being seen, and, as they were to
windward, they could not hear our shouts. It was splendid to find
them all looking well. They were anxious to get back to ``The Grottoes,''
considering there was only one serviceable tent between them. Kennedy
and I offered to change with any of them but, being too eager for
warm blankets and a good bed, they trudged on, arriving at the Base
Briefly told, their story was that they were
stopped in their westerly march, when forty-five miles had been
covered, by a badly broken glacier--Helen Glacier--on the far side
of which there was open sea. There was only one thing to do and
that was to set out for the mainland by a course so circuitous that
they were brought a long way eastward, back towards ``The Grottoes.''
They had very rough travelling, bad weather, and were beset with
many difficulties in mounting on to the land-ice, where the depot
had to he placed. Their distance from the Base at this point was
only twenty-eight miles and the altitude was one thousand feet above
sea-level. On the ice-cap they were delayed by a blizzard and for
seventeen days--an unexampled time--they were unable to move from
camp. One tent collapsed and the occupants, Jones, Dovers and Hoadley,
had to dig a hole in the snow and lower the tent into it.
These are a few snatches from Jones's diary:
next sixteen days (following Wednesday, October 9) were spent at
this camp.... Harrisson and Moyes occupied one tent and Dovers,
Hoadley and myself the other.
``On Saturday, the third day
of the blizzard, the wind which had been blowing steadily from the
east-south-east veered almost to east and the tents commenced to
flog terrifically. This change must have occurred early in the night,
for we awoke at 5 A.M. to find clouds of snow blowing under the
skirt on one side: the heavy pile on the flounce having been cut
away by the wind. As it would have been impossible to do anything
outside, we pulled the tent poles together and allowed the tent
to collapse. The rest of the day was spent in confined quarters,
eating dry rations and melting snow in our mugs by the warmth of
our bodies.... Although Harrisson and Moyes were no more than twenty
feet from us, the noise of the gale and the flogging of our tents
rendered communication impossible.
``The terrible flapping
at last caused one of the seams of our tent to tear; we sewed it
as well as we were able and hoped that it would hold till daylight.
``On Monday morning, the same seam again parted and we decided
to let the tent down again, spending the day in a half-reclining
``At 6.30 P.M. the gale eased and, during a
comparative lull, Moyes came out to feed the dogs. Noticing our
position, he helped us to re-erect the tent and Dovers then went
out and piled snow over the torn seam. Moyes said that Harrisson
and he had been fairly comfortable, although the cap of their tent
was slowly tearing with the pressure of the wind and snow on the
``On Friday, the 18th, Swiss, one of the
dogs, returned very thin after six days' absence from the camp.
``On the following Monday the blizzard moderated somewhat and
we proceeded to make our quarters more roomy by digging out the
floor and undercutting the sides, thus lowering the level about
``Our tent now looks as if it were half
blown over. To relieve the tremendous strain on the cap, we lowered
the feet of the two lee poles on to the new floor. The tent now
offered very little resistance to the wind. We were able to communicate
with Harrisson and Moyes and they said they were all right.''
When the snow and wind at last held up, they immediately made
down to the sea-ice and back towards home, and, when they met us,
had done nineteen miles. All were stiff next day, and no wonder;
a march of twenty-eight miles after lying low for seventeen days
is a very strenuous day's work.
Preparations were made
on October 28 for the main eastern summer journey, the object of
which was to survey as much coast-line as possible and at the same
time to carry on geological work, surveying and magnetics. The party
was to consist of Kennedy, Watson and myself.
and Hoadley were to start on the main western journey on November
2. I arranged that Harrisson and Moyes should remain at the Hut,
the latter to carry on meteorological work, and Harrisson biology
and sketching. Later, Harrisson proposed to accompany me as far
as the Hippo depot, bringing the dogs and providing a supporting
party. At first I did not like the idea, as he would have to travel
one hundred miles alone, but he showed me that he could erect a
tent by himself and, as summer and better weather were in sight,
I agreed that he should come.
Each party was taking fourteen
weeks' provisions, and I had an additional four weeks' supply
for Harrisson and the dogs. My total load came to nine hundred and
seventy pounds; the dogs pulling four hundred pounds with the assistance
of one man and three of us dragging five hundred and seventy pounds.
XXI - THE WESTERN BASE--BLOCKED ON THE SHELF-ICE