December 31, 2010

Saturday, 31 December 1910

Scott

"First Light Striking the Transantarctic Mountains (Admiralty Mountain Range of Victoria Land)", watercolour by Alfred Memelink. [1]

The first glimpse of Antarctica came on New Year's Eve, when the peaks of the Admiralty Range appeared in the distance to the west.


Notes:

[1] Alfred Memelink. Used with permission.

December 30, 2010

Friday, 30 December 1910

Scott

"View of the deck of the 'Terra Nova' with dogs from the engine room hatch. Taken by Herbert George Ponting, 3 January 1911, during the British Antarctic ('Terra Nova') Expedition (1910-1913)." [1]

After three weeks, the Terra Nova at last came out of the ice pack and into the Ross Sea. "[No] other ship," Scott wrote, "would have come through so well. Certainly the Nimrod would never have reached the south water had she been caught in such pack." [2]

"We may be said to have entered the pack at 4 P.M. on the 9th in latitude 65 1/2 S. We left it at 1 A.M. on 30th in latitude 71 1/2 S. We have taken twenty days and some odd hours to get through, and covered in a direct line over 370 miles -- an average of 18 miles a day. We entered the pack with 342 tons of coal and left with 281 tons; we have, therefore, expended 61 tons in forcing our way through -- an average of 6 miles to the ton. These are not pleasant figures to contemplate, but considering the exceptional conditions experienced I suppose one must conclude that things might have been worse."

Wilson had been lobbying for a base camp at Cape Crozier, intrigued by the Emperor penguin colony so close at hand. The idea interested Scott more because it gave them access to the Barrier and a southward route free of crevasses, unlike the Discovery base at Hut Point. Strong winds and heavy swells, however, were against them. "We are creeping along a bare 2 knots. I begin to wonder if fortune will ever turn her wheel. On every possible occasion she seems to have decided against us. Of course, the ponies are feeling the motion as we pitch in a short, sharp sea -- it's damnable for them and disgusting for us."

"Every detail of the shore promised well for a wintering party," Scott wrote. "Comfortable quarters for the hut, ice for water, snow for the animals, good slopes for ski-ing, vast tracks of rock for walks. Proximity to the Barrier and to the rookeries of two types of penguins -- easy ascent of Mount Terror -- good ground for biological work -- good peaks for observation of all sorts -- fairly easy approach to the Southern Road, with no chance of being cut off -- and so forth. It is a thousand pities to have to abandon such a spot."


Amundsen

At longitude 170° E. and latitude 60° S, Fram turned south.


Notes:

[1] National Library of New Zealand.
[2] R.F. Scott, diary, 30 December, 1910, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.

December 27, 2010

Tuesday, 27 December 1910

Amundsen

Adelie penguins surfacing for air as they swim, ca.2008. Photo by Chris Linder, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. [1]

"Thick fog most of the day," wrote Amundsen. "In the afternoon, saw a large flock of penguins (small) in the sea. They were heading due South -- Both fog and penguins are distinct signs that we are not far from the ice." [2]


Notes:

[1] Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Used with permission.
[2] Roald Amundsen, diary, 27 December, 1910, quoted by Roland Huntford in The Amundsen Photographs (London : Hodder & Stoughton, c1987), p.71.

December 25, 2010

Sunday, 25 December 1910

Scott

Penguins on the ice floe, photographed by Ponting, 24 December, 1910. [1]

Still caught in the pack, Scott wrote in his diary on Christmas Day, "We are captured. We do practically nothing under sail to push through, and could do little under steam, and at each step forward the possibility of advance seems to lessen." [2]

"Three weeks in the pack worried him a lot," Bruce later wrote to his sister. "He talked very little to anybody (and sometimes several days passed without my saying more than a few words to him), but I think that Wilson and Evans probably saw a little more of him.... I can imagine what an awful strain the whole responsibility of a show like this must be, & I thank heaven that I'm here as a volunteer with none of it. I always hated responsibility. My position [i.e. being Scott's brother-in-law], as we expected, was a trifle difficult but I effaced myself utterly, just kept my watch and did as I was told." [3]

"Captain Scott who has to face all the anxiety of things is splendid,” wrote Bowers the same day, “he never shows it & is geniality itself always. You could not imagine a more congenial leader or one who inspires more confidence." [4]

Spirits, however, were generally good, and the officers kept up their wardroom highjinks in celebration of the day. "We actually got Oates to sing for the first time," noted an astonished Day after Oates, having previously scorned "the infernal pianola", had given them "The Fly on the Turnip". [5]


Notes:

[1] Scott Polar Research Institute.
[2] R.F. Scott, diary, 25 December, 1910, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.
[3] Wilfred Bruce, letter to Kathleen Scott, 27 February, 1911, quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.399-400.
[4] H.R. Bowers, [diary?], 25 December, 1910, quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.400.
[5] Bernard Day, diary, [25 December, 1910?], quoted by Sue Limb and Patrick Cordingley in Captain Oates : Soldier and Explorer (London : Batsford, c1982), p.105.

December 24, 2010

Saturday, 24 December 1910

Amundsen

The Fram's saloon, decorated probably for Christmas, December 1910. [1]

Amundsen arranged a Christmas Eve surprise for the men. As they took their places in the saloon for dinner, he wrote in his diary, "'Holy Night, Silent Night' burst out, sung by Herold. Heavens, what a ceremony -- what an effect. One had to be made of more than steel not to feel the tears coming. The gramophone was completely hidden. No one expected it. The wonderful voice brought Christmas greetings to us like a fresh breath from home." [2]

"After dinner we went to the after saloon, where coffee was served.... Thereafter we returned to the forward saloon, where the Christmas tree ... decorated by Lindstrøm, awaited us. Here we were enriched by many splendid presents. This wonderful party finished at 11 p.m. -- The wind was fairly light, and did not disturb the festivities. This Christmas Eve will always live in the memory of the Fram men. And many warm thanks were sent home to those who had thought of us with many gifts." [3]


Notes:

[1] Roald Amundsen Bildearkiv, Nasjonalbiblioteket.
[2] Roald Amundsen, diary, [24 December 1910], quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.312-313.
[3] Roald Amundsen, diary, 24 December, 1910, quoted by Roland Huntford in The Amundsen Photographs (London : Hodder & Stoughton, c1987), p.74.

December 20, 2010

Tuesday, 20 December 1910

Scott

"In the pack -- a lead opening up": an illustration from Scott's Last Expedition. [1]

Wright was now pressed into service as ice expert, despite never having seen polar ice, let alone a berg; his experience surveying in Canada's Far North and a talent for improvisation would have to do.

"We have just made it through a piece of open water," he wrote in his diary, "and will soon strike more heavy pack -- in fact, have just struck a floe. It is wonderful how the old tub stands the butting into the floes. if anything, she leaks less than on leaving New Zealand. The heavy floes we break by climbing on top and crushing pieces off. The smaller by cracking across; most floes however we shove out of the way and that is why even in think pack to make any headway the pack must be reasonably open." [2]


Notes:

[1] Scott's Last Expedition: Illustrations in the First Volume.
[2] Charles S. Wright, diary, 20 December, 1910, quoted by Adrian Raeside in Return to Antarctica: the Amazing Adventure of Sir Charles Wright on Robert Scott's Journey to the South Pole (Mississauga, Ont.: John Wiley, c2009), p.80-81.

December 18, 2010

Sunday, 18 December 1910

Scott

"In the ice-pack, from the Main-top of the Terra Nova. (Gran, Taylor and Wright). Dec. 22nd 1910", photographed by Ponting. [1]

The Terra Nova had been in the pack nearly three weeks, with little progress. "It is a very, very trying time," Scott wrote. "It's all very disheartening."

"One realises the awful monotony of a long stay in the pack such as Nansen and others experienced. One can imagine such days as these lengthening into interminable months and years." [2]


Amundsen

Dogs on the bridge of the Fram, 1910. [3]

The dogs, wrote Johansen, were "wonderful to study .... I have come to the conclusion that in dealing with sledge dogs, one will benefit most [if] one assumes that they are at least as intelligent as one's self. For it will pay off when driving and the life on the ice begins. If you have treated them without understanding and hit them at the wrong time, so that they do not understand the intention of the hiding, one can be certain that such a dog will make life difficult in the team when he sees the chance.... [Dogs] have a remarkable sense of justice and if they are well treated, will stick by their masters in life and death." [4]


Notes:

[1] Scott Polar Research Institute.
[2] R.F. Scott, diary, [dates not given], quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.399.
[3] Roald Amundsen Bildearkiv, Nasjonalbiblioteket.
[4] Hjalmar Johansen, diary, 18 December 1910, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.310.

December 14, 2010

Wednesday, 14 December 1910

Scott

A berg in the pack, with Debenham and Taylor on skis, photographed by Ponting, 20 December, 1910. [1]

The Terra Nova's progress through the ice was frustratingly slow but at the least it gave them a chance to leave the ship for a little while, and they took the opportunity to try out their skis -- or, as Griffith Taylor noted, "in current parlance (à la Gran) to go 'mit dee shee op'". [2] It was for many of them the very first time they had used skis.

"Gran is wonderfully good and gives instruction well," wrote Scott [3], although the men were not always particularly enthusiastic -- P.O. Evans, for one, referred to them as "planks". [4]

"It was hot and garments came off one by one -- the Soldier [Oates] and Atkinson were stripped to the waist eventually, and have been sliding round the floe for some time in that condition. Nearly everyone has been wearing goggles; the glare is very bad. Ponting tried to get a colour picture, but unfortunately the ice colours are too delicate for this."


Amundsen

Fram in high seas, in an undated photograph. [5]

During a storm, the Fram tossed and rolled and bobbed, due to her round bottom and broad beam, built for the ice. The bridge, though, stayed dry, and sheltered the poor dogs, sometimes as many as fifty at a time. She might buck and toss, but the Fram never shipped a sea. It was, Amundsen wrote in his diary, "almost unbelievable. The one sea towers up more menacingly than the other, and one might expect it over one every moment. But no -- she gives a little twist, and the sea passes under .... Archer can be proud of Fram." [6]


Notes:

[1] Scott Polar Research Institute.
[2] T. Griffith Taylor, quoted by Diana Preston in A First Rate Tragedy (Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 1998, c1997), p.135. "Ski" in Norwegian is pronounced "shee".
[3] R.F. Scott, diary, 14 December, 1910, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.
[4] Quoted by Diana Preston in A First Rate Tragedy (Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 1998, c1997), p.135.
[5] Roald Amundsen Bildearkiv, Nasjonalbiblioteket.
[6] Roald Amundsen, diary, 14 December 1910, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.311.

December 10, 2010

Saturday, 10 December 1910

Scott

The Terra Nova entering the ice pack. [1]

"To-night we are in very close pack," Scott wrote, "it is doubtful if it is worth pushing on.... We had been very carefully into all the evidence of former voyages to pick the best meridian to go south on, and I thought and still think that the evidence points to the 178 W. as the best. We entered the pack more or less on this meridian, and have been rewarded by encountering worse conditions than any ship has had before. Worse, in fact, than I imagined would have been possible on any other meridian...." [2]


Notes:

[1] Source unknown.
[2] R.F. Scott, diary, 10 December, 1910, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.

December 9, 2010

Friday, 9 December 1910

Scott

Icebergs photographed by Herbert Ponting, date not given. [1]

The Terra Nova entered the polar ice pack, at 65° 8'. Two bergs had been sighted on the port beam the day before, then in the morning a number of small, worn floes. The pack was further north than Scott had expected, he noted in his diary. "It's impossible to interpret the fact." [2]

Notes:

[1] Wikimedia Commons.
[2] R.F. Scott, diary, 9 December, 1910, quoted quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.

December 8, 2010

Thursday, 8 December 1910

Amundsen

The crew (and dogs) on the deck of the Fram, in an undated photograph. Collectors are under the sails to catch fresh water; also visible are bundles of planks for the ice hut. [1]

The Fram passed the 100th meridian, approaching Australia.

December 7, 2010

Wednesday, 7 December 1910

Scott

The first iceberg was sighted off to the west in the evening, a little past 61° 22' S.

December 5, 2010

Monday, 5 December 1910

Scott

"I pray there may be no more gales," wrote Scott. "We should be nearing the limits of the westerlies, but one cannot be sure for at least two days.... So much depends on fine weather. December ought to be a fine month in the Ross Sea; it always has been, and just now conditions point to fine weather. Well, we must be prepared for anything, but I'm anxious, anxious about these animals of ours." [1]


Amundsen

"The plan for our work on arrival at the Barrier was posted in the chart-house today," Amundsen wrote in his diary. "N[ilsen] has a splendid grasp of the distribution of work, and he is the author of the plan. I have accepted every word; it is perfection itself." [2]


Notes:

[1] R.F. Scott, diary, 5 December, 1910, quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.398.
[2] Roald Amundsen, diary, 5 December, 1910, quoted by Roland Huntford in The Amundsen Photographs (London : Hodder & Stoughton, c1987), p.71.

December 2, 2010

Friday, 2 December 1910

Scott

The Terra Nova in heavy seas, date unknown. Photograph by Herbert Ponting.

Forty-eight hours out of Port Chalmers, the seas had begun to rise, and as the ship was tossed and waves crashed over the rails, the stores so carefully stowed and lashed worked themselves loose to swing against the packing cases with deadly force. As the seas rose even further, the water that swept across the decks washed the dogs back and forth, leaving them hanging from their chains. Oates struggled with the ponies to keep them on their feet. "I can't remember a worse time," Oates wrote home afterwards. "The motion up in the bows was very violent and unless one had been through it one could not believe any pony could keep its feet for five minutes. I was drenched all night, the water continually forcing the skylight up and pouring over the fo'castle in a regular torrent. During the night one pony was down as many as eight times and I was unfortunate to have two killed. One fell and broke its leg and the other got cast so badly that without proper tackle it could not be got up and I had no-one who could do anything to help me as everybody was busy with the ship." [1]

The pumps in the engine room choked up, and Lashly, up to his neck in water, could do nothing to stem the flow of rushing water. After consultation with Scott, Lt. Evans ordered a hole cut in the engine-room bulkhead, and a chain of men began to bail. "It was a sight that one could never forget," Evans wrote later, "everybody saturated, some waist-deep on the floor of the engine room, oil and coal dust mixing with the water and making everyone filthy, some men clinging to the iron ladder-way and passing full buckets long after their muscles had ceased to work naturally, their grit and spirit keeping them going." [2] Evans stayed there for fourteen hours, passing up buckets of sludge, until at last the hand-pumps began to gain on the water level.

"Captain Scott was simply splendid," Bowers wrote home afterwards, "he might have been at Cowes & to do him & Teddy Evans credit at our worst strait none of our landsmen who were working so hard knew how serious things were. Capt. S. said to me quietly -- I am afraid it's a bad business for us -- what do you think? I said we were by no means dead yet though at that moment Oates at peril of his life got aft to report another horse dead & more down & then an awful sea swept away our lee bulwarks clear between the fore & main rigging -- only our chain lashings saved the lee motor sledge. Then, as I was soon diving after petrol cases, Capt Scott calmly told me that 'they did not matter' -- This was our great project for getting to the Pole -- the much advertised Motors that 'did not matter." [3]

Scott was justifiably proud of the officers and men, who had worked so hard under such terible conditions. "We are not out of the wood yet," he wrote in his diary, "but hope dawns & indeed it should for me when I find myself so wonderfully served." [4]

The deck under the ponies' stalls was now leaking badly onto the hammocks of the men below, but with admirable British fortitude, no-one complained. "Indeed the discomfort throughout the mess deck has been extreme. Everything has been thrown about, water has found its way down .... There is no daylight, and the air can only come through the small forehatch.... The men have been wetted to the skin repeatedly on deck, and have no chance of drying their clothing. All things considered their cheerful fortitude is little short of wonder."

Two ponies and one dog had been lost, along with ten tons of coal, sixty-five gallons of petrol, and a case of biologists' spirit.


Notes:

[1] L.E.G. Oates, letter to Caroline Oates [date not given], quoted by Sue Limb and Patrick Cordingley in Captain Oates : Soldier and Explorer (London : Batsford, c1982), p.103.
[2] E.R.G.R. Evans, quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.397.
[3] H.R. Bowers, letter to his family 10 December, 1910, quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.397.
[4] R.F. Scott, diary, 2 December, 1910, quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.398.

December 1, 2010

Thursday, 1 December 1910

Scott

Oates with some of the ponies on the Terra Nova, photographed by Herbert Ponting. (Note the damage that the ponies have done to the edge of their stalls by windsucking.) [1]

Even in calm weather, life aboard ship for the ponies must have been a trial. Scott described their situation in his diary: "Under the forecastle fifteen ponies close side by side, seven one side, eight the other, heads together and groom between -- swaying, swaying continually to the plunging, irregular motion. One takes a look through a hole in the bulkhead and sees a row of heads with sad, patient eyes come swinging up together from the starboard side, whilst those on the port swing back; then up come the port heads, whilst the starboard recede. It seems a terrible ordeal for these poor beasts to stand this day after day for weeks together...." [2]

The rest of the scientific staff had joined the ship in New Zealand -- Taylor, Raymond Priestley, and Frank Debenham.

Australian Frank Debenham received a BA in English and philosophy from the University of Sydney, and after a few years teaching in New South Wales returned to university to study geology under Sir Edgeworth David, who, on Shackleton's expedition had led the first ascent of Mt Erebus as well as the first party to reach the South Magnetic Pole (although there is now some doubt about its then-location).

Raymond Priestley, recruited by Scott in Sydney, had just completed his second year reading geology at University College, Bristol, when he joined Shackleton's Nimrod expedition as geologist, working with Edgeworth David and Douglas (later Sir Douglas) Mawson.


Amundsen

Amundsen announced the landing party: Prestrud, Johansen, Hassel, Lindstrøm, Helmer Hanssen, Wisting, Bjaaland, Stubberud, and himself.

Gjertsen wanted so badly to go ashore that he asked Amundsen if he could change places with Prestrud. Amundsen agreed if Prestrud did, but Prestrud did not want to change.

Amundsen increased the wages of those sailing back by half again, partly in consolation for the disappointment. He had, however, chosen his men, with a few exceptions, from those who had originally signed on for the whole Arctic drift.


Notes:

[1] Wikipedia.
[2] R.F. Scott, diary, 1 December, 1910, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.

November 29, 2010

Tuesday, 29 November 1910

Scott

"Departure of the Terra Nova from Port Chalmers, 29 November 1910. Photograph taken by David Alexander De Maus." [1]

Despite a huge row between Kathleen and Hilda Evans the day before, their differences were forgotten in the moment of departure, and Kathleen wrote, "On the bridge of the brig Mrs Evans looked ghastly white & said she wanted to have hysterics, but instead we both took photos of the departing ship." [2]

Wright noted in his diary, "Have just finished setting sail for a slight breeze which can hardly last, and it was by no means an easy job to dodge about between motor sledges and ponies and coal bags and dogs -- chiefly the latter as the price for stepping on a dog is a bite; besides the fact they are not the tidiest of animals at any time." [3]


Notes:

[1] De Maus Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand.
[2] Kathleen Scott, diary, 29 November, 1910, quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.393.
[3] Charles S. Wright, diary, 29 November, 1910, quoted by Adrian Raeside in Return to Antarctica: the Amazing Adventure of Sir Charles Wright on Robert Scott's Journey to the South Pole (Mississauga, Ont.: John Wiley, c2009), p.71.

November 28, 2010

Monday, 28 November 1910

Scott

Arriving in Port Chalmers, Scott "found all well, excepting [Teddy] Evans -- he much excited with very vague & wild grievances ... the cause of all this not difficult to guess -- smoothed him down." [1]

Scott was probably referring to his reinstatement of Edgar Evans, whom Lt. Evans had wanted dismissed for being drunk at Lyttelton, but there seems to have been more to it than that, a clash of personalities between Kathleen Scott and Lt. Evans’ wife Hilda.

Ponting wrote, very diplomatically, "It was as interesting as it was delightful to note that our leader's wife spent many days checking packages as they were unloaded and then re-stowed." [2] Bowers, in letters home, was more forthcoming. "Captain Scott has left everything to me in the most extraordinary manner," he began cheerfully, and a few days later, "Mrs Wilson has not been about much owing to the strained relations between Mrs Scott & Mrs Evans. I don't know who to blame but somehow don't like Mrs S. I don't trust her -- though I have always been prepared to give her her due. Nobody likes her in the expedition & the painful silence when she arrives is the only jarring note in the whole thing. There is no secret that she runs us all now & what she says is done -- through the Owner. Now nobody likes a schemer & yet she is undoubtedly one. Her brother Lt. Bruce is a nice chap in himself but again one does not like to trust to family. We all feel that the sooner we are away the better. She will go home to her small son & will sow no more discord. I am sorry for her as she has tried hard to be one of us & always does anything she can for any of us. She actually brought our initials & came down & sewed them on our winter clothes for us. Very nice of her, was it not -- I wish I could like her but I am suspicious." [3]


Amundsen

Land was sighted, and determined to be Bligh's Cap, a few miles north of Kerguelen Island. Amundsen was tempted to call in at Kerguelen, but in the event heavy weather prevented them from stopping.


Notes:

[1] R.F. Scott, diary, 28 November, 1910, quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.390.
[2] Herbert Ponting, source unknown, quoted by Diana Preston in A First Rate Tragedy (Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 1998, c1997), p.129.
[3] H.R. Bowers, letters, 24 and 28 November, 1910, quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.389.

November 26, 2010

Saturday, 26 November 1910

Scott

"Probably the deck of the ship Terra Nova, Christchurch, 1910 ... Christchurch Press photograph. Photographer unidentified." [1]

The Terra Nova sailed from Lyttelton, heading down to Port Chalmers to wait for Scott.

"[The] scene on the morning of Saturday, November 26, baffles description. There is no deck visible: in addition to 30 tons of coal in sacks on deck there are 2 1/2 tons of petrol, stowed in drums which in turn are cased in wood. On the top of sacks and cases, and on the roof of the ice-house are thirty-three dogs, chained far enough apart to keep them from following their first instinct -- to fight the nearest animal they can see: the ship is a hubbub of howls. In the forecastle and in the four stalls on deck are the nineteen ponies, wedged tightly in their wooden stalls, and dwarfing everything are the three motor sledges in their huge crates, 16' x 5' x 4', two of them on either side of the main hatch, the third across the break of the poop. They are covered with tarpaulins and secured in every possible way, but it is clear that in a big sea their weight will throw a great strain upon the deck. It is not altogether a cheerful sight. But all that care and skill can do has been done to ensure that the deck cargo will not shift, and that the animals may be as sheltered as possible from wind and seas. And it's no good worrying about what can't be helped." [2]


Notes:

[1] Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand.
[2] Apsley Cherry-Garrard, The Worst Journey in the World, ch.2.

November 23, 2010

Wednesday, 23 November 1910

Scott

"What do you think about Amundsen's expedition?" Oates wrote home from Quail Island. "If he gets to the Pole first we shall come home with our tails between our legs and no mistake. I must say we have made far too much noise about ourselves all that photographing, cheering, steaming through the fleet etc. etc. is rot and if we fail it will only make us look more foolish. They say Amundsen has been underhand in the way he has gone about it but I personally don't see it is underhand to keep your mouth shut -- I myself think these Norskies are a very tough lot they have 200 dogs and Yohandsen [sic] is with them and he is not exactly a child, also they are very good ski-runners while we can only walk, if Scott does anything silly such as underfeeding his ponies he will be beaten as sure as death." [1]

Still worried about the ponies, Oates smuggled in another five tons of feed at his own expense. "I have dodged in a little more forage, I have now ordered just a little more which I shall try to get in on the quiet this afternoon, and my ambitions will be attained, ie to go south with 50 good tons." [2]

"Mrs Scott and Mrs Evans had a magnificent battle," he added drily, "they tell me it was a draw after 15 rounds. Mrs Wilson flung herself into the fight after the 10th round and there was more blood and hair flying about the hotel than you see in a Chicargo [sic] slaughter-house in a month." [3]


Notes:

[1] L.E.G. Oates, letter to Caroline Oates, 23 November, 1910, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.323.
[2] L.E.G. Oates, [letter to Caroline Oates?], 23 November, 1910, quoted by Sue Limb and Patrick Cordingley in Captain Oates : Soldier and Explorer (London : Batsford, c1982), p.109.
[3] L.E.G. Oates, letter to Caroline Oates, 23 November, 1910, quoted by Diana Preston in A First Rate Tragedy (Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 1998, c1997), p.131.

November 19, 2010

Friday, 19 November 1910

Scott

Scott wrote to Keltie, "Amundsen seems to be acting very mysteriously, but I can't believe he is going to McMurdo Sound -- I wired to Nansen, his reply was 'unknown' from which I conclude that he has not thought fit to even inform his supporters in Norway in respect to his intentions -- Well we shall know in due course I suppose." [1]


Notes:

[1] R.F. Scott, letter to Scott Keltie, 19 November, 1910, quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.383.

November 17, 2010

Thursday, 17 November 1910

Scott

"I don't know how long it is since I have been so anxious about anything as I am about these ponies," Oates wrote in a letter to his mother. "Scott has left everything to me in connection with them. When I look at the stalls sometimes I think they are too small and the ponies wont go in and sometimes I think they are too big, next minute I think we shall never get them out again if we do get them in until I feel positively sick with anxiety.... I have had a great struggle with Scott about the horse forage he said, 'not one oz over 30 so its no use arguing' however we argued for one hour and he has given way which shows he is open to reason ... he told me I was a something nuisance." [1]


Notes:

[1] L.E.G. Oates, letter to Caroline Oates, 17 November, 1910, quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.388-389.

November 14, 2010

Monday, 14 November 1910

Scott

A month after receiving Amundsen's cable, Scott cabled Nansen about Amundsen's destination. Confusion, half-information, and passivity had led to rumours that Amundsen was heading for McMurdo Sound. Nansen's reply was simply, "Unknown." [1]

Amundsen had in fact told Nansen that he was going to South Victoria Land, but Nansen, in full support of Amundsen, did not reveal this to Scott.

In reply, Scott wrote, "My telegram to ask Amundsen's intentions may need some explanation. As you can imagine it is very difficult to get information in this part of the world and having no information ... I thought it best to communicate with you.... I do not believe the report that he is going to McMurdo Sound -- the idea seems to me preposterous in view of his record -- but the fact that he departs with so much mystery leaves one with an uncomfortable feeling that he contemplates something which he imagines we should not approve." [2]

"We may have made a mistake in having such an extensive organization but I am most anxious to get really good scientific results and for that one ought to have a number of experts -- as to the travelling we might have improved matters by having more dogs and fewer ponies -- it is difficult to say -- the animals we have are splendid and all in good condition." [3]


Notes:

[1] Fridtjof Nansen, cable to R.F. Scott, [14 November, 1910], quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.322.
[2] R.F. Scott, letter to Fridtjof Nansen, 14 November, 1910, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.322-323.
[2] R.F. Scott, letter to Fridtjof Nansen, 14 November, 1910, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.329-330.

November 12, 2010

Saturday, 12 November 1910

Amundsen

Stubberud with Kamilla and her pups on the deck of the Fram, 1910. [1]

The dogs were rapidly becoming a source of constant fascination for the men on the Fram. "The most attractive place," Amundsen wrote in his diary, "is the bridge. In a storm they pack themselves together [there] -- up to 50 at a time -- for mutual support. Nonetheless there are many battles after every big lurch.... Poor devils ... they take the shock as a personal affront." The Eskimo dog, he noted, was "extraordinarily intelligent. I have recently started chasing my dogs off the bridge at 6 a.m., in order to clean up.... At eight bells, I allow them back. Once was enough for them to associate these 8 strokes of the bell with permission to return. Next morning they rushed up as one man at 8 bells." [2]

By this time the dogs were "also allowed to use the chart-house. At night, up to 20 will pack themselves in. Inside, they are mostly peaceful. Last night, however, a battle took place because there were two rivals for the desk." [3]


Notes:

[1] Roald Amundsen, diary, [date(s) not given], quoted by Roland Huntford in The Amundsen Photographs (London : Hodder & Stoughton, c1987), p.69.
[2] Roald Amundsen, diary, 12 November, 1910, quoted by Roland Huntford in The Amundsen Photographs (London : Hodder & Stoughton, c1987), p.69.

November 11, 2010

Friday, 11 November 1910

Amundsen

The Fram under sail, undated. [1]

The round-bottomed Fram, built for the pack ice, was notorious for rolling in the slightest swells. "[She] rolls day and night without respite," Johansen wrote in his diary. "At every meal, we have to lash our chairs to the deck ... not a moment's peace since we left Norway except for the 2-3 days at Madeira." [1]

Amundsen, though, was more phlegmatic. During a southwesterly storm, he wrote, "the sea rose up to a fairly noticeable height. Some [waves] reached the maximum on the scale -- 10 metres high. But -- how wonderfully [the Fram] takes them. As long as one is careful to keep her stern towards these bouncers, one would not know that one was at sea.... She lurches all right, but not a drop of water does she take on board." [2]


Notes:

[1] Roald Amundsen bildearkiv, Nasjonalbiblioteket.
[2] Hjalmar Johansen, diary [date not given], quoted by Roland Huntford in The Amundsen Photographs (London : Hodder & Stoughton, c1987), p.66.
[3] Roald Amundsen, diary, 10 November, 1910, quoted by Roland Huntford in The Amundsen Photographs (London : Hodder & Stoughton, c1987), p.66.

November 1, 2010

Tuesday, 1 November 1910

Amundsen

"Work on polar equipment is carried on with determination," Amundsen wrote in his diary, "despite violent rolling and difficult conditions. Today Rønne has cut out a sledging tent in the chart-house, and tacked it together.... [Ludvig] Hansen does the finest tinsmith's work and Nødvedt forges the strangest things up on deck in the midst of this confusion. They are sheer acrobats, all three. I really do admire them." [1]

Seaman Ludvig Hansen, recruited for his skill as a tinsmith, was making paraffin tins for the sledging journeys. Amundsen had noticed that at low temperatures paraffin has a tendency to "creep", to become inexplicably depleted after a few weeks. On the Northwest Passage voyage, this was little more than an annoyance, but in the Antarctic, far away from other sources of fuel, the loss would be serious. He decided therefore to have tanks made from galvanized iron sheets with brazed seams and soldered spouts. Hansen made ten tanks that held fifteen litres each.

Second engineer Nødvedt made among other things patent shackles for the dog harnesses.


Notes:

[1] Roald Amundsen, diary, 1 November, 1910, quoted by Roland Huntford in The Amundsen Photographs (London : Hodder & Stoughton, c1987), p.62.

October 31, 2010

Monday, 31 October 1910

Scott

Robert Scott (second from left), his wife Kathleen Scott, and Lawrence Oates (4th from left), with Mongolian ponies, on Quail Island, circa 1910, prior to the British Antarctic ('Terra Nova') Expedition of 1910-1913. Other persons unidentified. Photograph taken by Steffano Francis Webb. [1]

"Captain Robert F. Scott (in uniform), Captain Lawrence E. G. Oates (standing behind Scott) and party inspecting sled dogs at the training centre on Quail Island, Lyttelton, before leaving New Zealand for the British Antarctic ('Terra Nova') Expedition. Photograph taken by Steffano Francis Webb, circa 1910. " [2]

"Robert Falcon Scott and his wife Kathleen, on Quail Island, circa 1910. The 2 men on the left are unidentified. Photographer unknown." [3]

"To Quail Island to see dogs and ponies," wrote Scott, "greatly pleased ... think dogs finest ever got together -- Meares has done his work splendidly." [4]

Oates, however, was appalled. "Victor: Narrow chest, knock knees, suffers with his eyes," he noted in his diary, "Aged. Wind-sucker.... Snippets: Bad wind sucker. Doubtful back tendons off fore legs. Slightly lame off fore. Pigeon toes. Aged. James Pigg: Sand crack near hind. Aged. Chinaman: Has ringworm just above coronet on near fore. I think the oldest pony we have which is saying a good deal. Both nostrils slit up. Christopher: Aged. Ringbone off fore. Slightly lame off fore. Jehu: Aged, suffering from debility and worn out. Nobby: Aged. Goes with stiff hocks. Spavin near hind. Best pony we have. Michael: Lame near hind. Ringbone. Aged.... In mentioning the ponies' blemishes I have only mentioned those which appear to actively interfere with their work or for identification." [5]


Amundsen

The dogs had their muzzles removed, and were allowed run of the ship.


Notes:

[1] Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand.
[2] Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand.
[3] Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand. Caption supplied by the Turnbull Library; the man on the far left is probably Oates.
[4] R.F. Scott, [source not given], 31 October, 1910, quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.388.
[5] L.E.G. Oates, diary, [date not given], quoted by Sue Limb and Patrick Cordingley in Captain Oates : Soldier and Explorer (London : Batsford, c1982), p.100. Windsucking, also known as cribbing or crib-biting, is a habit that some horses have of chewing the sides of their crib (manger) or stall or other handy surfaces, and thus sucking in air. Horses who do this are often underweight or malnourished and colicky as a result.

October 27, 2010

Thursday, 27 October 1910

Scott

In Wellington, Scott was interviewed by a local newspaper and asked for a comment on Amundsen's announcement. "Scott fell silent," Gran wrote later. "But the interviewer did not give up. Then Scott became angry and brushed the man off by saying, 'If, as rumour says, Amundsen wants to try for the South Pole from some part of the coast of the West Antarctic, I can only wish him good luck.'" [1]

Scott still had not cabled Nansen.

"Though we did not appreciate it at the time," Cherry wrote later, "we were up against a very big man." [2]


Notes:

[1] Tryggve Gran, Fra Tjuagutt til Sydpolfarer, p.220, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.322.
[2] Apsley Cherry-Garrard, The Worst Journey in the World, ch.2.

October 24, 2010

Monday, 24 October 1910

Amundsen

Amundsen had noticed that the workmanship on the sledges was defective, and so Bjaaland rebuilt them -- ten sledges in six weeks -- and made a pair of loose runners for each. These would both guard against wear and be coated with a thin layer of ice in order to slide properly in extreme cold, something that Amundsen and Helmer Hanssen had learned from the Netsilik.

Bjaaland also trued the skis and adjusted bindings, and made sledging boxes for the Primus stoves.

October 19, 2010

Wednesday, 19 October 1910

Scott

Scott and Kathleen travelled to Sydney with Simpson.

"Dined with Lord Mayor," Scott noted in his diary. "Excellent dinner. David proposed my health in a fine speech full of his fine enthusiastic personality.... My reply was poor enough -- then to everyone's surprise Mr Sam Hordern got up and after stating that David had convinced him as to the usefulness of the enterprise said that if the Government could not see its way to make up the extra £2500 required he would do so -- a splendid round up to the evening." [1]


Amundsen

Amongst all the work on equipment, Amundsen spent time "sorting Christmas presents ... -- 300-400 -- and divided them over 5-6 years. We take one year's supply [ashore]". [2]


Notes:

[1] R.F. Scott, diary, 19 October, 1910, quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.384.
[2] Roald Amundsen, diary, 19 October, 1910, quoted by Roland Huntford in The Amundsen Photographs (London : Hodder & Stoughton, c1987), p.74.

October 16, 2010

Sunday, 16 October 1910

Amundsen

Ilha da Trindade, date unknown [1]

According to noon observations on October 16, the Fram was in the vicinity of South Trinidad, off the east coast of Brazil. "It was our intention to go close under the island," Amundsen wrote, "and possibly to attempt a landing; but unfortunately the motor had to be stopped for cleaning, and this prevented our approaching it by daylight. We caught a glimpse of the land at dusk, which was, at all events, enough to check our chronometers." [2]


Notes:

[1] Source unknown.
[2] Roald Amundsen, The South Pole, ch.4.

October 15, 2010

Saturday, 15 October 1910

Scott

"I have had a long letter from Norway about Amundsen," Markham wrote to Scott Keltie. "He got the loan of the 'Fram' from the Government and all the subscriptions, for the North Polar drift. He pretended to be going out to Madeira in the 'Fram' to see how she behaved, then coming back to raise more money, and to join the 'Fram' at San Francisco. But he had quietly got a wintering hut made and on board and on board 100 dogs from Greenland, and a supply of tents and sledges. His secret design must have been nearly a year old."

"They believe that his mention of Punta Arenas and Buenos Ayres [sic] is merely a blind, and that he is going to McMurdo Sound to try and cut out Scott...."

"Shackleton's rush and failure was a very dirty trick, more especially as he owed everything to Scott and would never have been heard of if Scott had not befriended him. Amundsen's is a very dirty trick, but not so bad as he owes nothing to Scott. I have sent full details of Amundsen's underhand conduct to Scott, hoping it may reach him before he sails.... I always thought Master Shackles was a cad, but I confess I was taken by Amundsen and was under the impression that he was a straight forward and very able sailor. I am afraid Nansen and Johansen were in it but I hope not. If I was Scott I would not let them land, but he is always too good natured." [1]


Notes:

[1] Sir Clements Markham, letter to Scott Keltie, 15 October, 1910, quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.382.

October 14, 2010

Friday, 14 October 1910

Scott

At a luncheon the day after receiving Amundsen's cable, Gran noted that "Scott, as always, seemed calm, but made a few remarks which indicated that inwardly he was irritated; perhaps even that he suspected something fishy. The circumstances were not exactly suited to put any questions, but I did so nevertheless.... I received no reply. In the selfsame moment, our host, the Mayor of Melbourne, took Scott away. After lunch I did not see him." [1]

Scott said nothing about the subject, either to his officers or to the press.


Notes:

[1] Tryggve Gran, diary, 14 October 1910, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.318.

October 13, 2010

Thursday, 13 October 1910

Scott

Gran on deck of the Terra Nova, 1910 [1]

On board the Terra Nova, Scott summoned Gran to his cabin. "When I entered," Gran wrote in his diary, "he handed over to me an opened cablegram, saying, 'What can you make of this?' I read with mounting astonishment: 'Beg leave to inform you Fram proceeding Antarctic. Amundsen.'" [2]

The cable was dated 3rd October, and had been sent from Christiania.

Scott apparently hoped that Gran, as a Norwegian, could shed some light on the matter, but Gran was as mystified as Scott, and suggested cabling Nansen for more information. "Hope Nansen answers quickly," Gran added to himself.


Amundsen

"I know that I have been reproached for not having at once made the extended plan public," Amundsen defended himself later, "so that not only my supporters, but the explorers who were preparing to visit the same regions might have knowledge of it. I was well aware that these reproaches would come, and had therefore carefully weighed this side of the matter. As regards the former -- the contributors to my expedition -- my mind was soon at rest. They were all men of position, and above discussing the application of the sums they had dedicated to the enterprise. I knew that I enjoyed such confidence among these people that they would all judge the circumstances aright, and know that when the time came their contributions would be used for the purpose for which they were given. And I have already received countless proofs that I was not mistaken.

"Nor did I feel any great scruples with regard to the other Antarctic expeditions that were being planned at the time. I knew I should be able to inform Captain Scott of the extension of my plans before he left civilization, and therefore a few months sooner or later could be of no great importance. Scott’s plan and equipment were so widely different from my own that I regarded the telegram that I sent him later, with the information that we were bound for the Antarctic regions, rather as a mark of courtesy than as a communication which might cause him to alter his programme in the slightest degree. The British expedition was designed entirely for scientific research. The Pole was only a side-issue, whereas in my extended plan it was the main object. On this little détour science would have to look after itself; but of course I knew very well that we could not reach the Pole by the route I had determined to take without enriching in a considerable degree several branches of science.

"Our preparations were entirely different, and I doubt whether Captain Scott, with his great knowledge of Antarctic exploration, would have departed in any point from the experience he had gained and altered his equipment in accordance with that which I found it best to employ. For I came far short of Scott both in experience and means." [3]

In his diary, he calmly noted, "[Work] on the dog harnesses was started. The yokes are to be covered with cloth, so that they will not wear out too quickly. Besides, we will sew a complete new set of traces." [4]


Notes:

[1] "Tryggve Gran", Eldre Nygaardsgutters Forening, enf.no.
[2] Tryggve Gran, diary, 14 October, 1910, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.317. Cherry-Garrard gives the text as "Madeira. Am going South. Amundsen", an even more cryptic message that the one quoted by Gran; other sources give slightly different versions of either. There seems to be no published image of the actual cable.
[3] Roald Amundsen, The South Pole, ch.2.
[4] Roald Amundsen, diary, 13 October, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in The Amundsen Photographs (London : Hodder & Stoughton, c1987), p.65.

October 12, 2010

Wednesday, 12 October 1910

Scott

At about nine in the evening, the Terra Nova arrived in Melbourne, in heavy seas.


Amundsen

Aftenposten noted with amazement that the Times "has not mentioned the matter by a single word." [1] Only a few English papers had carried the news at all.

The Evening Standard had run an interview with Shackleton, who could not see "how Amundsen can hope to reach the South Pole unless he has a large number of ponies on board. He may have dogs, but they are not very reliable." [2]


Notes:

[1] Aftenposten, Christiania, 12 October 1910, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.320.
[2] Evening Standard, 4 October 1910, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.320.

October 10, 2010

Monday, 10 October 1910

Scott

Herbert Ponting had been signed on as expedition photographer, the first such to be part of a polar expedition. Now forty, Ponting was as much an adventurer as a photographer -- he had travelled from his native Wiltshire to California at the age of twenty, attracted by stories of the American West, and had there worked in mining and fruit-ranching before taking up freelance photography. He reported on the Russo-Japanese War in 1904-05, and later travelled to Burma, Korea, Java, China, and India. His work appeared in "The Graphic" and "The Illustrated London News", among others, and his book In Lotus-land Japan appeared in 1910.

Ponting was much impressed by Scott. "[He] talked with such fervour of his forthcoming journey; of the lure of the southernmost seas; of the mystery of the Great Ice Barrier; of the grandeur of Erebus and the Western Mountains, and of the marvels of the animal life around the Pole, that I warmed to his enthusiasm .... [The] determined face; the clear blue eyes, with their sincere, searching gaze; the simple, direct speech, and earnest manner; the quiet force of the man -- all drew me to him irresistably." [1]


Notes:

[1] Herbert Ponting, The Great White South, p.2, quoted by Diana Preston in A First Rate Tragedy (Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 1998, c1997), p.114.

October 2, 2010

Sunday, 2 October 1910

Scott

The British aboard the Terra Nova, perhaps blissfully unaware of the storm breaking back in Europe, were busy settling into life aboard ship and sizing each other up, their high spirits dampened only slightly by Scott's presence. "The Owner," Wright noted, "has a thirst for scientific knowledge that cannot be quenched. He takes no part in the skylarking -- but always looks on with a grin." [1]

Oates -- who had almost instantly been nicknamed Titus after the near-legendary 17th-century conspirator -- wrote home, "The ship has only two speeds, one is slow and other is slower; however I can't abuse her as we had very strong weather last week and she behaved splendidly.... I do all kinds of jobs wire splicing, mending sails, stoking, trimming coal, painting etc: and one way and another I am picking up a lot of knowledge." [2]


Amundsen

"Roald Amundsen will be first to the South Pole". [3]

"FRAM FORGES TOWARDS THE SOUTH POLE," headlines in Christiania newspapers shouted. "SENSATIONAL ANNOUNCEMENT BY ROALD AMUNDSEN."

"From Madeira," ran Amundsen's letter to the public, "Fram sets her course South for the Antarctic Regions to take part in the fight for the South Pole. At first glance this will appear to many to be a change in the original plan for the third voyage of the Fram. This is, however, not the case. It is only an extension of the Expedition's plan, not an alteration." He was careful to make it clear that praise or blame would be his. "Alone I have taken this decision; alone I bear the responsibility." [4]

"With a single blow," Morgenbladet cheered, "Roald Amundsen ... reawakens the attention of the world when the exciting fight for the South Pole is on." [5]

Gjertsen dressed as a ballet dancer for the festivities marking the crossing of the equator. [6]

Amundsen noted calmly in his diary, "The southerly breeze continues. Went about at midday, and are now sailing SE. Today we had our equator dinner, even though we were a few degrees north. We did not have the time to waste a weekday on that kind of nonsense. After a good dinner, coffee and liqueurs were served on deck, decorated for the occasion with flags. Gjertsen appeared as a dancer, performing admirably. Indeed, he looked so convincing in a little, short, flowered dress made of gauze -- and in dark, false curls -- that certain members of the expedition played along with the deception and made the obvious approaches. Thereafter, Nilsen played the part of a comedian. A better performance would be difficult to imagine. Both turns were warmly applauded." [7]


Notes:

[1] Charles S. Wright, in Silas : the Antarctic Diaries and Memoir of Charles S. Wright, quoted by Diana Preston in A First Rate Tragedy (Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 1998, c1997), p.127.
[2] L.E.G. Oates, letter to his mother [date not given], quoted by Sue Limb and Patrick Cordingley in Captain Oates : Soldier and Explorer (London : Batsford, c1982), p.97.
[3] "Sydpolekspedisjonens siste dager i Norge i 1910 : Avreise".
[4] Quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.319.
[5] Morgenbladet, Christiania, 3 October, 1910, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.319.
[6] Roald Amundsen Bildearkiv, Nasjonalbiblioteket. The NB dates this photograph 4 October, apparently the date when the Fram actually crossed the equator; Amundsen's diary (see next note) says that the festivities took place separately on the 2nd.
[7] Roald Amundsen, diary, 2 October, 1910, quoted by Roland Huntford in The Amundsen Photographs (London : Hodder & Stoughton, c1987), p.58.

October 1, 2010

Saturday, 1 October 1910

Amundsen

The Hotel Continental, Christiania. [1]

Almost the moment that he arrived back in Christiania, Leon Amundsen had an audience with the King to tell him about his brother's change of plan; at the same time, Helland-Hansen delivered a letter from Amundsen to Nansen.

Nansen is reported to have said, "The idiot! Why couldn't he have told me. He could have had all my plans and calculations." [2]

In the evening of 1st October, Leon held a press conference at the Hotel Continental. "The excitement was great," wrote the Bergen Anonce Tidende the next day. "We knew that it was an announcement concerning Fram which Herr Leon Amundsen was going to make; but of what it consisted, we had not the slightest inkling. And as we waited, the excitement mounted." [3]


Notes:

[1] "Oslo of yore", skyscrapercity.com.
[2] Herlof Harstad, Erobring av Antarktis, p.88, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.318.
[3] Anonce Tidende, Bergen, 3 October 1910, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.319.

September 30, 2010

Friday, 30 September 1910

Amundsen

A nervous Amundsen wrote in his diary, "The publication at home of my South Pole plans is now approaching. I am fully aware of the boldness of the plan and the great responsibility that rests on me. With the help of my able companions, I will manage. God help us." [1]


Notes:

[1] Roald Amundsen, diary, 30 September, 1910, quoted by Roland Huntford in The Amundsen Photographs (London : Hodder & Stoughton, c1987), p.61.

September 12, 2010

Monday, 12 September 1910

Amundsen

Amundsen watches Rønne at his sewing machine. A sail has been rigged up over the deck to give the dogs some shade. [1]

Three days out from Madeira, Amundsen noted, "We have now begun the preparations for our South Polar journey. Rønne [the sailmaker] is sewing floors into our 16-man tents [for the base camp]. Bjaaland has started on the sledges." [2]

The atmosphere on the Fram had shifted drastically in the past few days, as Amundsen, obsessed with the necessity of perfecting their equipment, focussed on the goal ahead. Johansen grumbled in his diary that "many things ... like the maintenance of the sails ... are neglected [and] the ordinary work of every ship had become ... so to speak, a minor matter." [3]

Because his original plan allowed for much of his sledging equipment to be made onboard during the long Arctic winters, Amundsen had not been able to acquire it ahead of time without attracting undue attention. Everything must now be done in the four months from Madeira to the Bay of Whales.


Notes:

[1] Nasjonalbiblioteket.
[2] Roald Amundsen, [ca. 12 September, 1910], quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.304.
[3] Hjalmar Johansen, diary, [no date given], quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.305.

September 9, 2010

Friday, 9 September 1910

Amundsen

Antarctic Regions, 1910 [1]

At six in the evening, the order was given to raise anchor, three hours early; all hands were called on deck.

Nilsen was waiting with a large map, which he unfurled and hung on the mainmast, showing it to be of the Antarctic. Amundsen, with some agitation, broke the news to the men.

"There are many things on board," he said (Gjertsen wrote in his diary), "which you have regarded with mistrustful or astonished eyes, for example the observation house and all the dogs, but I won't say anything about that. What I will say is this: it is my intention to sail Southwards, land a party on the Southern continent and try to reach the South Pole."

"Prestrud and I," Gjertsen said, "were hugely entertained by the expressions on the various faces. Most stood with mouth agape, staring at the Chief like so many question marks." [2]

"I remember," Wisting wrote afterwards, "that he used 'we' and 'ours' .... It was not his expedition but 'ours' -- we were all companions and all had the same common goal." [3]

"Hurrah!" Bjaaland shouted. "That means we'll get there first!" [4]

Amundsen now revealed that his plan was to land at the Bay of Whales. He had told no-one, not even Nansen, understanding that Scott must have no inkling that an assault could be made on the Pole from anywhere other than McMurdo Sound, or Scott might be tempted to change his plans. Amundsen told the men that he could not compel anyone to accept what he had done, and that since he had broken his side of the agreement, they were all released from theirs, and that anyone who wanted could leave now, with paid passage home. Would they go with him?

Helmer Hanssen wrote later, "In spite of the intense heat down there in the tropics, I think a cold shiver ran through most of us when we heard the South Pole mentioned as our journey's aim. We began to think back and forth, to the South Pole -- when after all we were supposed to be going to the North Pole -- but there was no time to succumb to meditation [for now] came the steel-hard moment when each man was asked, one by one, if he would agree to this new plan -- and make a South Pole out of the North Pole. The consequence was that each and every one answered -- yes -- and the performance was thereby at an end." [5]

Amundsen gave his men an hour to write home, and the letters were collected and given to Leon, who would post them in Christiania after the news had been published. A few hours later, Leon was rowed ashore and the Fram left Madeira for the South.

"But good heavens -- what a surprise!" Johansen added to an already-begun letter to his wife. "We're not going to the North Pole -- we're going to the South Pole. Amundsen called everyone together and announced that, since September last year, plans had changed considerably. In the light of the contest between Peary and Cook, one at least of whom might have reached it [the North Pole, thus putting it out of the picture], we have, secretly, changed our plans. We will now partake of supper and thereafter make straight for the South Pole where 10 men will be put ashore on the ice and take up winter quarters. Fram will continue to Buenos Aires with the remaining 10. Additional crew will be taken on board in Buenos Aires and a period of oceanographic research will ensue, after which the Fram will pick us up in 1912. Talk about surprise. And Amundsen himself is exceedingly surprised that nothing has leaked out for, after all, the revised plan was put in place already a year ago. He said he could not force us to join him but he wanted to ask each and every one of us if we wanted to come. The answer was a unanimous yes!"

"Now many questions have been answered," he went on, "with regards to equipment and things, as I was of the opinion they were to be used on the pack ice, and A. obviously realised I was confused about a lot of things, especially the house, which we were supposed to erect on the pack ice, and other things too. He laughed with me this evening and said he knew my wishes had come true -- viz. going south to the ice there. He knew about that." [6]


Notes:

[1] "Karen Ronne Tupek", karentupek.com.
[2] Lt. F. Gjertsen, diary, 9 September, 1910, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.298-299.
[3] Oscar Wisting, Seksten År med Roald Amundsen, p.19, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.299.
[4] Roland Huntford, Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.299.
[5] Helmer Hanssen, "Minner fra Sydpolsturen", Polar-Årboken, 1941, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.300-301.
[6] Hjalmar Johansen, letter to Hilde Johansen, 9 September, 1910, quoted by Tor Bomann-Larsen in Roald Amundsen (Stroud, Gloucestershire : Sutton, c2006, c1995), p.82-83.

September 6, 2010

Tuesday, 6 September 1910

Amundsen

Nilsen checking the chronometer, Funchal, 6th September, 1910. [1]

The Fram anchored in the Funchal Roads, Madeira.

Amundsen had by now let Hassel in on the change of plans, requesting and receiving an oath of secrecy.


Notes:

[1] Roald Amundsen Bildearkiv, Nasjonalbiblioteket.

August 22, 2010

Monday, 22 August 1910

Scott

The Terra Nova set out from South Africa for Melbourne.

Scott had decided to join the ship in Cape Town, instead of waiting until New Zealand. Oates noted in a letter home, "this is not a very popular move but in a way I think it is a good thing as [Scott] gets to know the people better and we get to know him." [1]

From the Caroline Islands in the western Pacific, Meares wrote, "I have arrived here so far safely with my menagerie, and they are all flourishing for the present. Captain Scott's brother-in-law came out to help me, he is chief officer on a P&O steamer. Quite 'one of the boys' but too 'kid glovey' for this job, he stands on the upper deck & looks on instead of taking off his coat when there is a hard job of work." [2]


Amundsen

Amundsen shortly before departure, on the deck of the Fram. Photo by Anders Beer Wiltse. [3]

Shutting himself up in his cabin, Amundsen wrote the following letter:

"Herr Professor Fridtjof Nansen,

"It is not with a light heart that I send you these lines, but there is no way round, and therefore I might as well go straight to the point.

"When the news from Cook and later from Peary about their journeys to the North Pole arrived in the autumn of last year, I understood immediately that that was the death blow to my enterprise. I understood immediately that after this I could not count on the financial support I needed ....

"To give up my enterprise did not for one moment occur to me. The question for me became what I had to do in order to raise the necessary means. To acquire these without something special was out of the question. Something had to be done to rouse the interest of the public. In that way alone would it be possible to realize my plan. Only one problem remained in the polar regions that could be depended on to awaken the interest of the masses; the attainment of the South Pole. If I could carry that out, I knew that the means would be secured for the expedition I had originally planned.

"Yes, it is hard for me, Herr Professor, to tell you, but in September 1909, my decision to take part in the contest for the solution of this question was taken. Many a time I have been on the way to confide the whole matter in you, but always have turned back for fear that you would stop me. I have often wished that Scott could have learned of my decision, so that it would not seem as if I wanted to sneak down there without his knowledge in order to forestall him: but I have not dared to make any kind of announcement, for fear of being stopped. I shall in the meanwhile do everything possible to meet him down there and tell him my decision, and then he can act accordingly.

"So, since September last year, my mind has been made up, and I believe I may say we are well prepared. But at the same time I must point out that, had I succeeded in obtaining the funds still needed for the expedition I originally intended -- about 150,000 kroner -- I would have left out this extra excursion with pleasure; but there was no question of that.

"From Madeira we set our course Southwards for South Victoria Land. With 9 men it is my intention to be landed there, and then let Fram go out on an oceanographic cruise.... Where we will go ashore down there, I have not yet decided, but it is my intention not to dog the Englishmen's footsteps. They have naturally the first right. We must make do with what they discard.

"In February-March 1912, Fram will again come down to fetch us. We will then first go to Lyttelton in New Zealand to cable, and from there to San Francisco to continue my interrupted work with, as I hope, the equipment necessary for a voyage of this nature.

"I have asked Helland [Hansen], who for some time has known this plan, to deliver this letter, in the hope that possibly he will be in a position to put my case in a more favourable light than I myself am able.

"And when you pass judgment on me, Herr Professor, do not be too severe. I have taken the only path that seemed open, and now events will just have to take their course.

"Simultaneously with this letter, I am informing the King as well, but no one else. A few days after the receipt of this, my brother will arrange the announcement of the addition to the expedition's plan.

"Once more, I beg you, do not treat me too harshly. I am no humbug; necessity forced me.

"And so I beg your forgiveness for what I have done. May my coming work help to atone for that in which I have offended.

"With my most respectful greetings,
Roald Amundsen." [4]


Notes:

[1] L.E.G. Oates, [letter to his mother? date not given], quoted by Sue Limb and Patrick Cordingley in Captain Oates : Soldier and Explorer (London : Batsford, c1982), p.99.
[2] Cecil Meares, letter [to his father?], 22 August, 1910, quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.388.
[3] GalleriNOR.
[4] Roald Amundsen, letter to Fridtjof Nansen, 22 August 1910, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.294-295.