A SECOND WINTER
During the first busy year in Adelie Land, when the Hut
was full of life and work, there were few moments for reflection. Yet, over
the speculative pipe at home after a successful day's labour on the wireless
masts, or out on the turbulent plateau when the hour of hoosh brought the
strenuous day to a close, more than one man was heard to say, ``One year
in this country is enough for me.'' Still, in the early days, no one could
predict what would happen, and therefore a change in the perverse climate
was always considered probable. So great was the emulation, and so keen
were all to extend our geographical boundaries, that the year sped away
almost before the meagre opportunity came. With the cheery support of numbers,
we did not find it a difficult matter ``to drive dull care away.''
Now there were only seven of us; we knew what was ahead; the weather had
already given ample proof of the early approach of winter; the field of
work which once stretched to the west, east and south had no longer the
mystery of the ``unknown''; the Ship had gone and there was scant hope of
relief in March.
Against all this. There remained the Hut--a proven shelter from the wind;
and, most vital of all, there was abundant food for another year. Every
avenue of scientific work was not yet closed. Even the routine of meteorological
and magnetic work was adding in no slight degree to the sum of human knowledge.
Our short mile of rocks still held some geological secrets, and there were
biological discoveries yet to make. A wireless telegraphic station had at
last been established, and we could confidently expect communication with
the outside world at an early date. These were some of the obvious assurances
which no one had the heart to think about at first; and then there was always
our comradeship, most enduring of all.
February, during 1912, was a tolerable month with a fair proportion of sunny,
moderately calm days. A year later, the first eight days of this month were
signalized by the blizzard in which the `Aurora' had such a perilous experience.
While the winter began in 1912 with the advent of March, now in 1913 it
came on definitely in early February. Autumn was a term which applied to
a few brilliant days which would suddenly intervene in the dense rack of
We set to work to make the Hut, if anything, safer and snugger. Bage put
finishing touches to the break-wind of rock and cases, and with Hodgeman
and McLean nailed battens of wood over a large sheet of canvas which had
been stretched across the windward side of the roof, overlapping rolls of
black paper, scraps of canvas and bagging, which were also battened down
to make the eastern and western faces more air-tight.
Before the Ship left us, the remaining coal briquettes had been dug out
of a bed of ice and carefully piled on a high point of the rocks. Round
them all the spare timber and broken cases were gathered to provide sufficient
fuel for the ensuing winter. The penguins' eggs, which had been stored in
boxes, were stacked together on the windward side of the Hut, and a choice
selection of steaks of seal and penguin for our own use were at the storeman's
disposal in the veranda.
Madigan, in addition to his meteorological duties, took charge of the new
sledging-dogs which had been presented by Captain Amundsen. A good many
seals had been already killed, and a big cache of meat and blubber was made
alongside the Hut to last throughout the winter.
Bickerton found many odd jobs to occupy his time in connexion with the petrol-engine
and the wireless installations. He was also busied with the anemometer,
which had broken down and needed a strong start
for its second year of usefulness.
Bage, following the parting instructions of Webb, became the owner of the
Magnetograph House and the Absolute Hut, continuing to keep the magnetic
records. As storeman, Bage looked after the food-supplies. The canvas coverings
had made the veranda drift-tight, so the storeman could arrange his tins
and cases on the shelves with some degree of comfort, and the daily task
of shovelling out snow was now at an end. Further, Hodgeman and he built
an annex out of spare timber to connect the entrance veranda with the store.
This replaced the old snow-tunnel which had melted away, and, when completed
and padded outside with old mattresses, was facetiously styled the ``North-West
Passage.'' The only thing which later arose to disturb the composure of
the storeman was the admission of the dogs to a compartment in the veranda
on the eastern side. His constant care then became a heap of mutton carcases
which the dogs in passing or during the occasional escapades from their
shelter were always eager to attack.
Hodgeman helped to change the appearance of the living-hut by cutting the
table in two and, since there was now plenty of room, by putting in more
shelves for a larder on which the storeman displayed his inviting wares
to the cook, who could think of nothing original for the next meal.
McLean undertook the duties of ice-cutting and coal-carrying throughout
the year, kept the biological log and assisted in general observations.
He also sent off sealed messages in bottles, regularly, on the chance of
their being picked up on the high seas, thereby giving some indication of
the direction of currents.
Jeffryes was occupied regularly every night listening attentively for wireless
signals and calling at intervals. The continuous winds soon caused many
of the wire stays of the main wireless mast to become slack,
and these Jeffryes pulled taut on his daily rounds.
Looking back and forward, we could not but feel that the sledging programme
of the previous summer had been so comprehensive that the broad features
of the land were ascertained over a wide radius; beyond what we, with our
weakened resources of the second year, could reach. The various observations
we were carrying on were adding to the value of the scientific results,
but we could not help feeling disappointed that our lot was not cast in
a new and more clement region.
It was to be a dreary and difficult time for the five men who had volunteered
to remain behind in order to make a thorough search for myself and comrades.
They were men whom I had learned to appreciate during the first year, and
I now saw their sterling characters in a new light. To Jeffryes all was
fresh, and we envied him the novelties of a new world, rough and inhospitable
though it was. As for me, it was sufficient to feel that
...He that tossed thee down into the Field, He knows about it all--He knows,
On the night of February 15, Jeffryes suddenly surprised us with the exciting
intelligence that he had heard Macquarie Island send a coded weather report
to Hobart. The engine was immediately set going, but though repeated attempts
were made, no answer could be elicited. Each night darkness was more pronounced
and signals became more distinct, until, on the 20th, our call reached Sawyer
at Macquarie Island, who immediately responded by saying ``Good evening.''
The insulation of a Leyden jar broke down at this point, and nothing more
could be done until it was remedied.
At last, on February 21, signals were exchanged, and by the 23rd a message
had been dispatched to Lord Denman, Governor-General of the Commonwealth,
acquainting him with our situation and the loss of our comrades and, through
him, one to his Majesty the King requesting his royal permission to name
a tract of newly discovered country to the east, ``King George V Land.''
Special messages were also sent to the relatives of Lieutenant B. E. S.
Ninnis and Dr. X. Mertz.
The first news received from the outside world was the bare statement that
Captain Scott and four of his companions had perished on their journey to
the South Pole. It was some time before we knew the tragic details which
came home, direct and poignant, to us in Adelie Land.
To Professor David a fuller account of our own calamity was sent and, following
this, many kind messages of sympathy and congratulation were received from
all over the world. On February 26 Lord Denman sent an acknowledgment of
our message to him, expressing his sorrow at the loss of our two companions;
and on March 7 his Majesty the King added his gracious sympathy, with permission
to affix the name, King George V Land, to that part of the Antarctic continent
lying between Adelie Land and Oates Land.
On February 23 there was a spell of dead calm; heavy nimbus clouds and fog
lowering over sea and plateau. Fluffy grains of sago snow fell most of the
day, covering the dark rocks and the blue glacier. A heaving swell came
in from the north, and many seals landed within the boat harbour, where
a high tide lapped over the ice-foot. The bergs and islands showed pale
and shadowy as the snow ceased or the fog lifted. Then the wind arose and
blew hard from the east-south-east for a day, swinging round with added
force to its old quarter--south-by-east.
March began in earnest with much snow and monotonous days
of wind. By contrast, a few hours of sunny calm were appreciated to the
full. The face of the landscape changed; the rocky crevices filling flush
with the low mounds of snow which trailed along and off the ridges.
On March 16 every one was relieved to hear that the `Aurora' had arrived
safely in Hobart, and that Wild and his party were all well. But the news
brought disappointment too, for we had always a lingering ray of hope that
there might be sufficient coal to bring the vessel back to Adelie Land.
Later on we learned that on account of the shortage of funds the Ship was
to be laid up at Hobart until the following summer. In the meantime, Professors
David and Masson were making every effort to raise the necessary money.
In this they were assisted by Captain Davis, who went to London to obtain
It was now a common thing for those of us who had gone to bed before midnight
to wake up in the morning and find that quite a budget of wireless messages
had been received. It took the place of a morning paper and we made the
most of the intelligence, discussing it from every possible point of view.
Jeffryes and Bickerton worked every night from 8 P.M. until 1 A.M., calling
at short intervals and listening attentively at the receiver. In fact, notes
were kept of the intensity of the signals, the presence of local atmospheric
electrical discharges--``static''--or intermittent sounds due to discharges
from snow particles--St. Elmo's fire--and, lastly, of interference in the
signals transmitted. The latter phenomenon should lead to interesting deductions,
for we had frequent evidence to show that the wireless waves were greatly
impeded or completely abolished
during times of auroral activity.
Listening at the wireless receiver must have been very tedious
and nerve-racking work, as so many adventitious sounds had to be neglected.
There was, first of all, the noise of the wind as it swept by the Hut; then
there was the occasional crackling of ``St. Elmo's fire''; the dogs in the
veranda shelter were not always remarkable for their quietness; while within
the Hut it was impossible to avoid slight sounds which were often sufficient
to interrupt the sequence of a message. At times, when the aurora was visible,
signals would often die away, and the only alternative was to wait until
they recurred, meanwhile keeping up calls at regular intervals in case the
ether was not ``blocked.'' So Jeffryes would sometimes spend the whole evening
trying to transmit a single message, or, conversely, trying to receive one.
By experience it was found easier to transmit and receive wireless messages
between certain hours in the evening, while not infrequently, during the
winter months, a whole week would go by and nothing could be done. During
such a period auroral displays were usually of nightly occurrence. Then
a ``freak night'' would come along and business would be brisk at both terminals.
It was often possible for Jeffryes to ``hear'' Wellington, Sydney, Melbourne
and Hobart, and once he managed to communicate directly with the last-named.
Then there were numerous ships passing along the southern shores of Australia
or in the vicinity of New Zealand whose ``calls'' were audible on ``good
nights.'' The warships were at times particularly distinct, and occasionally
the ``chatter in the ether'' was so confusing that Sawyer, at Macquarie
Island, would signal that he was ``jammed.''
The ``wireless'' gave us another interest in life, and plenty of outside
occupation when the stays became loose or an accident occurred. It served
to relieve some of the tedium of that second year:
Day after day the same Only a little worse.
On March 13 there was a tremendous fall of snow, and worst ``pea-souper''
we had had during the previous year. Next day everything was deluged, and
right up the glacier there were two-foot drifts, despite a sixty-mile wind.
It was very interesting to follow the changes which occurred from day to
day. First of all, under the flail of the incessant wind, a crust would
form on the surface of the snow of the type we knew as ``piecrust,'' when
out sledging. It was never strong enough to bear a man, but the sledge-runners
would clear it fairly well if the load were not too heavy. Next day the
crust would be etched, and small flakes and pellets would be carried away
until the snow was like fleece. Assuming that the wind kept up (which it
always did) long, shallow concavities would now be scooped out as the ``lobules''
of the fleece were carried away piecemeal. These concavities became deeper,
hour by hour and day by day, becoming at last the troughs between the crests
of the snow-waves or sastrugi. All this time the surface would be gradually
hardening and, if the sun chanced to shine for even a few hours every day,
a shining glaze would gradually form on the long, bevelled mounds. It was
never a wise thing to walk on these polished areas in finnesko and
this fact was always learnt by experience.
Above the Hut, where the icy slopes fell quickly to the sea, the snow would
lie for a few days at the very most, but, lower down, where the glacier
ran almost level for a short distance to the harbour ice, the drifts would
lie for months at the mercy of the wind, furrowed and cut into miniature
can~ons; wearing away in fragments until the blue ice showed once more,
clear and wind-swept.
Towards the end of March the wind gave a few exhibitions of its power, which
did not augur well for the maximum periods of the winter. A few diary jottings
are enough to show this:
``March 23. During the previous night the wind steadily rose to an eighty-mile
`touch' and upwards. It was one of those days when it is a perpetual worry
to be outside.
``March 24. Doing at least seventy miles per hour during the morning. About
8 P.M. there was a temporary lull and a rise of .15 in the barometer. Now,
9.30 P.M., it is going `big guns.' The drift is fairly thick and snow is
``March 25. Much the same as yesterday.
``March 28. In a seventy-five-mile wind, Hodgeman had several fingers frost-bitten
this morning while attending to the anemograph.
``March 29. It was quite sunny when we opened the trap-door,
though it blew about sixty miles per hour with light drift.
``March 30. The wind is doing itself full justice. About 8 P.M. it ranged
between ninety-five and one hundred miles per hour, and now the whole hut
is tremulous and the stove-pipe vibrates so that the two large pots on the
At the beginning of April, McLean laid the foundations of The Adelie Blizzard
which recorded our life for the next seven months. It was a monthly publication,
and contributions were invited from all on every subject but the wind. Anything
from light doggerel to heavy blank verse was welcomed, and original articles,
letters to the Editor, plays, reviews on books and serial stories were accepted
within the limits of our supply of foolscap paper and type-writer ribbons.
THE ADELIE BLIZZARD
Registered at the General Plateau Office
for transmission by wind as a newspaper
|Southern Sledging Song
|A Phantasm of the Snow
|The Romance of Exploration First Crossing of
|Ode to Tobacco
|Punch, the dinner epilogue
|To the Editor
|Scott's British Antarctic Expedition
|Statics and Antarctics
|Birth's, Deaths and Marriages
|The Evolution of Women
|A Concise Narrative
|The Daylight Proposition
|Meteorological and Magnetic Notes
|Answers to Correspondents
VOL-I--No. I April, 1913
It was the first Antarctic publication which could boast
a real cable column of news of the day. Extracts from the April number were
read after dinner one evening and excited much amusement. An ``Ode to Tobacco''
was very popular, and seemed to voice the enthusiasm of our small community,
while ``The Evolution of Women'' introduced us to a once-familiar subject.
The Editor was later admitted by wireless to the Journalists' Association
Many have asked the question, ``What did you do to fill in the time during
the second year?''
The duties of cook and night-watchman came to each man once every week,
and meteorological and magnetic observations went on daily. Then we were
able to devote a good deal of time to working up the scientific work accomplished
during the sledging journeys. The wireless watches kept two men well occupied,
and in spare moments the chief recreation was reading. There was a fine
supply of illustrated journals and periodicals which had arrived by the
`Aurora', and with papers like the `Daily Graphic', `Illustrated London
News', `Sphere' and `Punch', we tried to make up the arrears of a year in
exile. The ``Encyclopaedia Britannica'' was a great boon, being always ``the
last word'' in the settlement of a debated point. Chess and cards were played
on several occasions. Again, whenever the weather gave the smallest opportunity,
there were jobs outside, digging for cases, attending to the wireless mast
and, in the spring, geological collecting and dredging. If the air was clear
of drift, and the wind not over fifty miles per hour, one could spend a
pleasant hour or more walking along the shore watching the birds and noting
the changes in ``scenery'' which were always occurring along our short ``selection''
of rocks. During 1912 we had been able to study all the typical features
of our novel and beautiful environment, but 1913 was the period of ``intensive
cultivation'' and we would have gladly forgone much of it. Divine service
was usually held on Sunday mornings, but in place of it we sometimes sang
hymns during the evening, or arranged a programme of sacred selections on
the gramophone. There was a great loss in our singing volume after the previous
year, which Hodgeman endeavoured to remedy by striking up an accompaniment
on the organ.
Cooking reached its acme, according to our standard, and each man became
remarkable for some particular dish. Bage was the exponent of steam puddings
of every variety, and Madigan could always be relied upon for an unfailing
batch of puff-pastry. Bickerton once started out with the object of cooking
a ginger pudding, and in an unguarded moment used mixed spices instead of
ginger. The result was rather appetizing, and ``mixed-spice pudding'' was
added to an original list. McLean specialized in yeast waffles, having acquired
the art of tossing pancakes. Jeffryes had come on the scene with a limited
experience, but his first milk scones gained him a reputation which he managed
to make good. Hodgeman fell back on the cookery book before embarking on
the task of preparing dinner, but the end-product, so to speak, which might
be invariably expected for ``sweets'' was tapioca pudding. Penguin meat
had always been in favour. Now special care was devoted to seal meat, and,
after a while, mainly owing to the rather copious use of onion powder, no
one could say for certain which was which.
During the previous year, yeast had been cultivated successfully from Russian
stout. The experiments were continued, and all available information was
gathered from cookery books and the Encyclopaedia. Russian stout, barley
wine, apple rings, sugar, flour and mould from potatoes were used in several
mixtures and eventually fermentation was started. Bread-making was the next
difficulty, and various instructions were tried in succession. The method
of ``trial and error'' was at last responsible for the first light spongy
loaf, and then every night- watchman cultivated the art and baked for the
On April 8 the snow had gathered deeply everywhere and we had some exercise
on skis. Several of the morainic areas were no longer visible, and it was
possible to run between the rocks for a considerable distance. A fresh breeze
came up during the afternoon and provided a splendid impetus for some good
slides. During the short calm, twenty-six seals landed on the harbour-ice.
On the morning of the same day Mary gave birth to five pups in the Transit
House. The place was full of cracks, through which snow and wind were always
driving, and so we were not surprised when four of them were found to have
died. The survivor was named ``Hoyle'' (a cognomen for our old friend Hurley)
and his doings gave us a new fund of entertainment.
The other dogs had been penned in the veranda and in tolerable weather were
brought outside to be fed. Carrying an axe, Madigan usually went down to
the boat harbour, followed by the expectant pack, to where there were several
seal carcases. These lay immovably frozen to the ice, and were cut about
and hacked so that the meat in section reminded one of the grain of a log
of red gum, and it was certainly quite as hard. When Madigan commenced to
chop, the dogs would range themselves on the lee side and ``field'' the
On April 16 the last penguin was seen on a ledge overhanging an icy cove
to the east. Apparently its moulting time had not expired, but it was certainly
a very miserable bird, smothered in small icicles and snow and partly exposed
to a sixty-five mile wind with the temperature close to -10 degrees F. Petrels
were often seen flying along the foreshores and no wind appeared to daunt
them. It was certainly a remarkable thing to witness a snow-petrel, small,
light and fragile, making headway over the sea in the face of an eighty-mile
fluttering down through the spindrift to pick up a morsel of food which
it had detected. Close to the western cliffs there was a trail of brash-ice
where many birds were often observed feeding on Euphausia (crustaceans)
in weather when it scarcely seemed possible for any living creature to be
The meteorological chart for April 12, 1913, compiled
Commonwealth Meteorological Bureau
Mr. Hunt appends the following explanation:
``A very intense cyclone passing south of Macquarie Island, where the barometer
fell on the 11th from 29.49 at 9 A.M. to 29.13 at 6 P.M., and the next day
to 28.34 at 9 A.M. and 27.91 at 6 P.M. At Adelie Land the barometer was
not greatly affected, but rose in sympathy with the passage of the `low'
from 28.70 to 28.90 during the twenty-four hours. The influence of this
cyclone was very wide and probably embraced both Adelie Land and Tasmania.''
Throughout April news by wireless came in slowly and spasmodically, and
Jeffryes was becoming resigned to the eccentricities of the place. As an
example of the unfavourable conditions which sometimes prevailed: on April
14 the wind was steady, in the nineties, with light drift and, at times,
the aurora would illumine the north-west sky. Still, during ``quiet'' intervals,
two messages came through and were acknowledged.
A coded weather report, which had priority over all other messages, was
sent out each night, and it is surprising how often Jeffryes managed to
transmit this important intelligence. On evenings when receiving was an
impossibility, owing to a continual stream of St. Elmo's fire, the three
code words for the barometric reading, the velocity and direction of the
wind were signalled repeatedly and, on the following night, perhaps, Macquarie
Island would acknowledge them. Of course we had to use new signs for the
higher wind velocities, as no provision had been made for them in our meteorological
code-book. The reports from Macquarie Island and Adelie Land were communicated
to Mr. Hunt of the Commonwealth Weather Bureau and to Mr. Bates of the Dominion
Meteorological Office, who plotted them out for their daily weather forecasts.
It was very gratifying to learn that the Macquarie Island party to a
man had consented to remain at their lonely post and from Ainsworth, their
leader, I received a brief report of the work which had been accomplished
by each member. We all could appreciate the sacrifice they were making.
Then, too, an account was received of the great sledging efforts which had
been made by Wild and his men to the west. But it was not till the end of
the year that their adventurous story was related to us in detail.
On the 23rd Lassie, one of the dogs, was badly wounded in a fight and had
to be shot. Quarrels amongst the dogs had to be quelled immediately, otherwise
they would probably mean the death of some unfortunate animal which
happened to be thrown down amongst the pack. Whenever a dog was down, it
was the way of these brutes to attack him irrespective of whether they were
friends or foes.
Among our dogs there were several groups whose members always consorted
together. Thus, George and Lassie were friends and, when the latter was
killed, George, who was naturally a miserable, downtrodden creature, became
a kind of pariah, morose and solitary and at war with all except Peary and
Fix, with whom he and Lassie had been associated in fights against the rest.
The other dogs lived together in some kind of harmony, Jack and Amundsen
standing out as particular chums, while the ``pups,'' as we called them--D'Urville,
Ross and Wilkes (``Monkey'')--were a trio born in Adelie Land and, therefore,
comrades in misfortune. Hoyle, as a pup, was treated benevolently by all
the others, and entered the fellowship of the other three when he grew up.
Among the rest, Mikkel stood out as a good fighter, Colonel as the biggest
dog and ringleader against the Peary-Fix faction, Fram as a nervous intractable
animal, and Mary as the sole representative of the sex.
It was remarkable that Peary, Fix and George in their hatred of the others,
who were penned up in the dog shelter during bad weather, would absent themselves
for days on a snow ramp near the Magnetograph House, where they were partly
protected from the wind by rocks. George, from being a mere associate of
Peary and Fix, became more amiable as the year went by, and at times it
was quite pathetic to see his attempts at friendliness.
We became very fond of the dogs despite their habit of howling at night
and their wolfish ferocity. They always gave one a welcome, in drift or
sunshine, and though ruled by the law of force, they had a few domestic
traits to make them civilized.
May was a dreaded month because it had been the period of worst wind and
drift during 1912. On this occasion the wind velocities over four weeks
were not so high and constant, though the snowfall was just as persistent.
On the 17th and 18th, however, there was an unexpected ``jump'' to the nineties.
The average over the first twenty-four hours was eighty-three, and on the
18th it attained 93.7 miles per hour. One terrific rise between 6.30 and
7.30 on the night of the 17th was shown as one hundred and three miles on
the anemometer--the record up to that time.
Madigan was thrown over and had a hard fall on his arm, smashing a bottle
of the special ink which was used for the anemograph pen. Bage related how
he had sailed across the Magnetic Flat by sitting down and raising his arms
in the air. He was accompanied by Fix, Peary and George, who were blown
along the slippery surface for yards. McLean had a ``lively time'' cutting
ice and bringing in the big blocks. Often he would slide away with a large
piece, and ``pull up'' on a snow patch twenty yards to leeward.
On the 22nd there were hours of gusts which came down like thunderbolts,
making us apprehensive for the safety of the wireless masts; we had grown
to trust the stability of the Hut. Every one who went outside came back
with a few experiences. Jeffryes was roughly handled through not wearing
crampons, and several cases of kerosene, firmly stacked on the break-wind,
were dislodged and thrown several yards.
Empire Day was celebrated in Adelie Land with a small display. At 2.30 P.M.
the Union Jack was hoisted to the topmast and three cheers were given for
the King. The wind blew at fifty miles an hour with light drift, temperature
-3 degrees F. Empire greetings were sent to the Colonial Secretary, London,
and to Mr Fisher, Prime Minister of Australia. These were warmly reciprocated
a few days afterwards.
Preceded by a day of whirlies on the 7th and random gusts on the same evening,
the wind made a determined attack next morning and carried away the top
and part of the middle section of the main wireless mast. It was a
very unexpected event, lulled as we were into security by the fact that
May, the worst month, had passed. On examination it was found that two of
the topmast wire stays had chafed through, whilst another had parted. At
first it seemed a hopeless task to re-erect the mast, but gradually ways
and means were discussed, and we waited for the first calm day to put the
theories into execution.
Meanwhile, it was suggested that if a heavy kite were made and induced to
fly in the continuous winds, the aerial thus provided would be sufficient
to receive wireless messages. To this end, Bage and Bickerton set to work,
and the first invention was a Venesta-box kite which was tried in a steady
seventy-mile wind. Despite its weight,--at least ten pounds --the kite rose
immediately, steadied by guys on either side, and then suddenly descended
with a crash on to the glacier ice. After the third fall the kite was too
battered to be of any further use. Another device, in which an empty carbide
tin was employed, and still another, making use of an old propeller, shared
the same fate.
On the evening of the 19th a perfect coloured corona, three degrees in diameter,
was observed encircling the moon in a sky which lit up at intervals with
dancing auroral curtains. Coronae or ``glories,'' which closely invest the
luminary, are due to diffraction owing to immense numbers of very minute
water or ice particles floating in the air between the observer and the
source of light. The larger the particles the smaller the corona, so that
by a measurement of the diameter of a corona the size of the particles can
be calculated. Earlier in the year, a double corona had been seen when the
moon was shining through cirro-cumulus clouds. Haloes, on the other hand,
are wide circles (or arcs of circles) in the sky surrounding the sun or
moon, and arising from light-refraction in myriads of tiny ice-crystals
suspended in the atmosphere. They were very commonly noted in Adelie Land
where the conditions were so ideal for their production.
Midwinter's Day 1913! we had reached a turning-point in the season. The
Astronomer Royal told us that at eight o'clock on June 22 the sun commenced
to return, and every one took note of the fact. The sky was overcast, the
air surcharged with drifting snow, and the wind was forty miles an hour--a
representative day as far as the climate was concerned. The cook made a
special effort and the menu bore the following foreword:
Now is the winter of our discontent Made glorious summer....
On July 6 the wind moderated, and we set about repairing once more the fortunes
of the ``wireless.'' The shattered topmast used to sway about in the heavy
winds, threatening to bring down the rest of the mast. Bickerton, therefore,
climbed up with a saw and cut it almost through above the doubling. All
hands then pulled hard, and the upper part cracked off, the lower section
being easily removed from the cross-trees. The mast now looked ``shipshape''
and ready for future improvements.
It was decided to use as a topmast the mast which had been formerly employed
to support the northern half of the aerial. So on the 29th this was lowered
and removed to the veranda to be fitted for erection.
Almost a fortnight now elapsed, during which the weather
was ``impossible.'' In fact, the wind was frightful throughout the whole
month of July, surpassing all its previous records and wearing out our much-tried
patience. All that one could do was to work on and try grimly to ignore
it. On July 2 we noted: ``Thick as a wall outside with an eighty-five miler.''
And so it commenced and continued for a day, subsiding slowly through the
seventies to the fifties and then suddenly redoubling in strength, rose
to a climax about midnight on the 5th--one hundred and sixteen miles an
hour! For eight hours it maintained an average of one hundred and seven
miles an hour, and the timbers of the Hut seemed to be jarred and wrenched
as the wind throbbed in its mightier gusts. These were the highest wind-velocities
recorded during our two years' residence in Adelie Land and are probably
the highest sustained velocities ever reported from a meteorological station.
With the exception of a few Antarctic and snow petrels flying over the sea
on the calmer days, no life had been seen round the Hut during June. So
it was with some surprise that we sighted a Weddell seal on July 9 attempting
to land on the harbour-ice in a seventy-five-mile wind. Several times it
clambered over the edge and on turning broadside to the wind was actually
tumbled back into the water. Eventually it struggled into the lee of some
icy hummocks, but only remained there for a few minutes, deciding that the
water was much
On the 11th there was an exceptionally low barometer at 27.794 inches. At
the same time the wind ran riot once more--two hundred and ninety-eight
miles in three hours. The highest barometric reading was recorded on September
3, 30.4 inches, and the comparison indicates a wide range for a station
To show how quickly conditions would change, it was almost calm next morning,
and all hands were in readiness to advance the wireless mast another stage.
Previously there had been three masts, one high one in three lengths, and
two smaller ones of one length each, between which the aerial stretched;
the ``lead-in'' wires being connected to the middle of the aerial. This
is known as an ``umbrella aerial.'' Since we were without one short mast
it was resolved to erect a ``directive'' [capital gamma gjc]-shaped aerial.
The mainmast was to be in two instead of three lengths, and we wondered
if the aerial would be high enough. In any case, it was so calm early on
the 11th that we ventured to erect the topmast and had hauled it half-way,
when the wind swooped down from the plateau, and there was just time to
make fast the stays and the hauling rope and to leave things ``snug'' for
the next spell of bad weather.
In eight days another opportunity came, and this time the topmast was hoisted,
wedged and securely stayed. Bickerton had fixed a long bolt through the
middle of the topmast and just above it three additional wire stays were
to be placed. Another fine day and we reckoned to finish the work.
From July 26 onwards the sky was cloudless for a week, and each day the
northern sun would rise a fraction of a degree higher. The wind was very
constant and of high velocity.
It was a grand sight to witness the sea in a hurricane on a driftless, clear
day. Crouched under a rock on Azimuth Hill, and looking across to the west
along the curving brink of the cliffs, one could watch the water close inshore
blacken under the lash of the wind, whiten into foam farther off, and then
disappear into the hurrying clouds of spray and sea-smoke. Over the Mackellar
Islets and the ``Pianoforte Berg'' columns of spray would shoot up like
geysers, and fly away in the mad race to the north.
Early in July Jeffryes became ill, and for some weeks his symptoms were
such as to give every one much anxiety. His work on the wireless had been
assiduous at all times, and there is no doubt that the continual and acute
strain of sending and receiving messages under unprecedented conditions
was such that he eventually had a ``nervous breakdown.'' Unfortunately the
weather was so atrocious, and the conditions under which we were placed
so peculiarly difficult, that nothing could be done to brighten his prospects.
McLean considered that as the spring returned and it became possible to
take more exercise outside, the nervous exhaustion would pass off. In the
meantime Jeffryes took a complete rest, and slowly improved as the months
went by, and our hopes of relief came nearer. It was a great misfortune
for our comrade, especially as it was his first experience of such a climate,
and he had applied himself to work with enthusiasm and perhaps in an over-conscientious
July concluded its stormy career with the astonishing wind-average of 63.6
miles an hour. We were all relieved to see Friday, August 1, appear on the
modest calendar, which it was the particular pleasure of each night-watchman
to change. More light filtered day by day through the ice on the kitchen
window, midwinter lay behind, and we were ready to hail the first signs
of returning spring.
CHAPTER XXIV - NEARING THE