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Rescue of the ship that went furthest south (1904)

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This is a trouble and danger that has always to be faced on sledge journeys, and in spite of our utmost care we sometimes came across these crevasses unexpectedly. On the same journey, owing to the dogs suddenly jibbing, being unwilling to face one of these crevasses, a man fell in. He hung by his harness, and he was soon pulled up again. It was a lucky escape, for there was no bottom to to be seen in that place.

After the depot had been laid out by Captain Scott and his companions, on November 2, it was decided to start the southern journey, which,was to be one of the most important and, after a great send-off from the ship and crew, with hearty wishes for a good time and for success, the three officers who were to undertake this work started. The southern journey was commenced on November 2 by Captain Scott, who was accompanied by Dr Wilson and myself, and all the dogs, to the number of eighteen. A party under Lieutenant Barne accompanied us for some distance, but it was found that this depot company hindered the speed, so they left the southern party soon after they had started, and the latter proceeded alone.

All went well, the party doing from fifteen to seventeen miles a day until, on November 16, soft snows were encountered, and the strain began to tell on the dogs. From that day, until they eventually all died or were killed for food for the others, they gradually weakened, and from November 16 to December 15 the party had to drag half the sledges on for about four or five miles, as the case might be, then walk back and pull up again the other half of the sledges. This, of course, hindered much progress being made to the south, as fifteen miles had to be done to gain five; but there was the feeling that every mile of advance was new ground, that each day new mountains, land never seen before, rose upon the horizon, and that the hitherto blank, white southern portion of the world was being filled in.

On December 15th, in latitude 80 degrees 30 minutes south, a depot was made about seventeen miles from the land, which could not be approached nearer, owing to huge crevasses and pressure ridges, which were not possible for sledges to cross. Leaving a certain amount of provisions for the return journey, and discarding everything that could possibly be discarded, shortening the ration of provisions, and leaving the dogs’ fish food, which had become bad owing to the hot sun, the party left for a final dash to the south on the same day.

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On Christmas Day, in latitude 81 degrees 45 minutes south, we had our celebrated dinner, which, if not very large, was augmented by a four-ounce plum-pud?ding, that proved a pleasant surprise to two of the officers, the third having carefully hidden it on leaving the ship in his kit-bag of unused socks. To save fuel, it was boiled in the water in which the cocoa was eventually made.

Although the dogs were still weakening so as to become practically useless, on December 30th, latitude 82 degrees 17 minutes south, longitude 163 degrees east was reached, and here the British flag was hoisted at the most southerly point yet reached in the world. To the eastward the Barrier surface stretched away to the horizon, a dead white plain of ice and snow; to the westward rose the great snowy mountains, running up to fourteen thousand feet, with glaciers flowing from them toward the east. To the south extended this range of mountains as far as eye could see.

Had it been possible we could have traveled many miles in a south-by-east direction, but although Captain Scott wished to penetrate still further into the unknown, the health of the party, the lack of provisions, the uselessness of the dogs, and the bad weather necessitated the return; so, through soft snow, fog and drift, the party made their way back, after trying to reach the actual land itself, to obtain, geological specimens. They were frustrated by an ice cliff seventy feet high that blocked their way to the shore, though for three hours the party crossed crevasses of snow, lowering and helping each other down the icy slopes in their endeavor to do this.

Snow-blindness, which attacked the party, in spite of goggles worn, continually added to the trouble, especially to Dr Wilson. On reaching the depot again, everything was done to lighten the sledges, as the scurvy symptoms which had appeared made it necessary for every precaution to be taken; and Captain Scott, after a general consultation, decided to return direct to the ship, instead of exploring the land to the northwest.

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The poor dogs had for some time been useless, just walking alongside the sledges. Those which were too weak to follow through the blizzards, fell by the way and had to be left; the last two, being diseased by scurvy, had to be killed; and the party made their way back to the ship without any. On January 15th I broke down, owing to overstrain, and hemorrhage started, which was naturally a rather serious matter, as the party was a hundred and seventy miles from the ship. I was, however, able to march the nine or ten miles a day that the party made. The work of pulling the sledges, at this juncture devolved on Captain Scott and Dr Wilson, and it was a trying time, they having to drag at one time 270 pounds each.

Fortunately the party was assisted by the strong winds from the south, and a sail was able to be made on the sledges for part of the time. Captain Scott and Dr Wilson could not have done more for me than they did. They were bearing the brunt of the work, and throughout the difficulties and anxieties of such a time showed ever-cheery faces. On February 3rd, the party was sighted from the ship, and willing hands pulled the sledges to their destination.

Throughout this journey, meteorological observations were made, everything of interest as regards astronomical phenomena was noticed, and the temperatures and winds were faithfully noted and observations for magnetic variations were constantly recorded. These, taken in conjunction with, the home station at the ship, will be brought into the final results of the expedition’s work.

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