The Heart of the Antarctic, Volume 2
Category: History
Level 9.39 15:13 h
The Heart of the Antarctic Volume 2 is the second half of a thrilling historical account of an expedition into the Antarctic. Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton was an explorer who led many excursions into the Antarctic during his life. He and his party traveled further in the region than any known human at the time. The journey, danger, accomplishments, and adventure are captured in this published account.

The Heart of the Antarctic, Volume 2

E. H. Shackleton

South Pole party: Frank Wild, Shackleton, Eric Marshall and Jameson AdamsSouth Pole party: Frank Wild, Shackleton, Eric Marshall and Jameson Adams

Chapter I
Some Notes on the Southern Journey

WE brought back with us from the journey towards the Pole vivid memories of how it feels to be intensely, fiercely hungry. During the period from November 15, 1908, to February 23, 1909, we had but one full meal, and that was on Christmas Day. Even then we did not keep the sense of repletion for very long, for within an hour or two it seemed to us that we were as hungry as ever. Our daily allowance of food would have been a small one for a city worker in a temperate climate, and in our case hunger was increased by the fact that we were performing vigorous physical labour in a very low temperature. We looked forward to each meal with keen anticipation, but when the food was in our hands it seemed to disappear without making us any the less ravenous. The evening meal at the end of ten hours’ sledging used to take us a long time to prepare. The sledges had to be unpacked and the camp pitched. Then the cooker was filled with snow and the Primus lamp lit, often no easy matter with our cold, frost-bitten fingers. The materials for the thin hoosh would be placed in the boiling-pot, with the addition, perhaps, of some pony maize, and the allowance of tea was placed in the outer boiler. The tea was always put in a strainer, consisting of a small tin in which we had punched a lot of holes, and it was removed directly the water had come to the boil. We used to sit round the cooker waiting for our food, and at last the hoosh would be ready and would be ladled into the pannikins by the cook of the week. The scanty allowance of biscuit would be distributed and we would commence the meal. In a couple of minutes the hot food would be gone, and we would gnaw carefully round the sides of our biscuits, making them last as long as possible. Marshall used sometimes to stand his pannikin of hoosh in the snow for a little while, because it got thicker as it cooled, but it was a debatable point whether this paid. One seemed to be getting more solid food, but there was a loss of warmth, and in the minus temperatures on the plateau we found it advisable to take our hoosh very hot. We would make the biscuits last as long as possible, and sometimes we tried to save a bit to eat in the sleeping-bag later on, but it was hard to do this. If one of us dropped a crumb, the others would point it out, and the owner would wet his finger in his mouth and pick up the morsel. Not the smallest fragment was allowed to escape.

We used to “turn backs” in order to ensure equitable division of the food. The cook would pour the hoosh into the pannikins and arrange the biscuits in four heaps. Perhaps some one would suggest that one pannikin had rather less in it than another, and if this view was endorsed by the others there would be a readjustment. Then when we were all satisfied that the food had been divided as fairly as possible, one man would turn his back, and another, pointing at one pannikin or group of biscuits, would say, “Whose?” The man who had his back turned, and therefore could not see the food, would give a name, and so the distribution would proceed, each of us always feeling sure that the smallest share had fallen to our lot. At lunchtime there would be chocolate or cheese to distribute on alternate days, and we much preferred the chocolate days to the cheese days. The chocolate seemed more satisfying, and it was more easily divided. The cheese broke up into very small fragments on the march, and the allowance, which amounted to two spoonfuls per man, had to be divided up as nearly as possible into four equal heaps. The chocolate could be easily separated into sticks of equal size. It can be imagined that the cook for the week had no easy task. His work became more difficult still when we were using pony-meat, for the meat and blood, when boiled up, made a delightful broth, while the fragments of meat sunk to the bottom of the pot. The liquor was much the better part of the dish, and no one had much relish for the little dice of tough and stringy meat, so the cook had to be very careful indeed. Poor old Chinaman was a particularly tough and stringy horse.

We found that the meat from the neck and rump was the best, the most stringy portions coming from the ribs and legs. We took all the meat we could, tough or tender, and as we went south in the days when horse-meat was fairly plentiful, we used to suck frozen, raw fragments as we marched along. Later we could not afford to use the meat except on a definite allowance. The meat to be used during the day was generally cut up when we took a spell in the morning, and the bag containing the fragments was hung on the back of the sledge in order that the meat might be softened by the sun. It cut more easily when frozen than when partially thawed, but our knives gradually got blunt, and on the glacier we secured a rock on which to sharpen them. During the journey back, when every ounce of weight was of great importance, we used one of our geological specimens, a piece of sandstone, as a knife-sharpener. The meat used to bulk large in the pot, but as fresh meat contains about 60 per cent. of moisture, it used to shrink considerably in the process of cooking, and we did not have to use very much snow in the pot.

We used the meat immediately we had started to kill the ponies in order to save the other food, for we knew that the meat contained a very large percentage of water, so that we would be carrying useless weight with it. The pemmican and biscuits, on the other hand contained very little moisture, and it was more profitable to keep them for the march further south, when we were likely to want to reduce the loads as far as possible. We left meat at each depôt, to provide for the march back to the coast, but always took on as much as possible of the prepared foods. The reader will understand that the loss of Socks, which represented so many pounds of meat, was a very severe blow to us, for we had after that to use sledging stores at the depôts to make up for the lost meat. If we had been able to use Socks for food, I have no doubt that we would have been able to get further south, perhaps even to the Pole itself, though in that case we could hardly have got back in time to catch the ship before she was forced to leave by the approach of winter.

When we were living on meat our desire for cereals and farinacious foods became stronger; indeed any particular sort of food of which we were deprived seemed to us to be the food for which nature craved. When we were short of sugar we would dream of sweet-stuffs, and when biscuits were in short supply our thoughts were concerned with crisp loaves and all the other good things displayed in the windows of the bakers’ shops. During the last weeks of the journey outwards, and the long march back, when our allowance of food had been reduced to twenty ounces per man a day, we really thought of little but food. The glory of the great mountains that towered high on either side, the majesty of the enormous glacier up which we travelled so painfully, did not appeal to our emotions to any great extent. Man becomes very primitive when he is hungry and short of food, and we learned to know what it is to be desperately hungry. I used to wonder sometimes whether the people who suffer from hunger in the big cities of civilisation felt as we were feeling, and I arrived at the conclusion that they did not, for no barrier of law and order would have been allowed to stand between us and any food that had been available. The man who starves in a city is weakened, hopeless, spiritless, and we were vigorous and keen. Until January 9 the desire for food was made the more intense by our knowledge of the fact that we were steadily marching away from the stores of plenty.

We could not joke about food, in the way that is possible for the man who is hungry in the ordinary sense. We thought about it most of the time, and on the way back we used to talk about it, but always in the most serious manner possible. We used to plan out the enormous meals that we proposed to have when we got back to the ship and, later, to civilisation. On the outward march we did not experience really severe hunger until we got on the great glacier, and then we were too much occupied with the heavy and dangerous climbing over the rough ice and crevasses to be able to talk much. We had to keep some distance apart in case one man fell into a crevasse. Then on the plateau our faces were generally coated with ice, and the blizzard wind blowing from the south made unnecessary conversation out of the question. Those were silent days, and our remarks to one another were brief and infrequent. It was on the march back that we talked freely of food, after we had got down the glacier and were marching over the barrier surface. The wind was behind us, so that the pulling was not very heavy, and as there were no crevasses to fear we were able to keep close together. We would get up at 5 a.m. in order to make a start at 7 a.m., and after we had eaten our scanty breakfast, that seemed only to accentuate hunger, and had begun the day’s march, we could take turns in describing the things we would eat in the good days to come. We were each going to give a dinner to the others in turn, and there was to be an anniversary dinner every year, at which we would be able to eat and eat and eat. No French chef ever devoted more thought to the invention of new dishes than we did.

It is with strange feelings that I look back over our notes, and see the wonderful meals that we were going to have. We used to tell each other, with perfect seriousness, about the new dishes that we had thought of, and if the dish met with general approval there would be a chorus of, “Ah! That’s good.” Sometimes there would be an argument as to whether a suggested dish was really an original invention, or whether it did not too nearly resemble something that we had already tasted in happier days. The “Wild roll” was admitted to be the high-water mark of gastronomic luxury. Wild proposed that the cook should take a supply of well-seasoned minced meat, wrap it in rashers of fat bacon, and place around the whole an outer covering of rich pastry, so that it would take the form of a big sausage-roll. Then this roll would be fried with plenty of fat. My best dish, which I must admit I put forward with a good deal of pride as we marched over the snow, was a sardine pasty, made by placing well-fried sardines inside pastry. At least ten tins of sardines were to be emptied on to a bed of pastry, and the whole then rolled up and cooked, preparatory to its division into four equal portions. I remember one day Marshall came forward with a proposal for a thick roll of suet pudding with plenty of jam all over it, and there arose quite a heated argument as to whether he could fairly claim this dish to be an invention, or whether it was not the jam roll already known to the housewives of civilisation. There was one point on which we were all agreed, and that was that we did not want any jellies or things of that sort at our future meals. The idea of eating such elusive stuff as jelly had no appeal to us at all.



On a typical day during this backward march we would leave camp at about 6.40 a.m., and half an hour later would have recovered our frost-bitten fingers, while the moisture on our clothes, melted in the sleeping-bags, would have begun to ablate, after having first frozen hard. We would be beginning to march with some degree of comfort, and one of us would remark, “Well, boys, what are we going to have for breakfast to-day?” We had just finished our breakfast as a matter of fact, consisting of half a pannikin of semi-raw horse-meat, one biscuit and a half and a pannikin of tea, but the meal had not taken the keenness from our appetites. We used to try to persuade ourselves that our half-biscuit was not quite a half, and sometimes we managed to get a little bit more that way. The question would receive our most serious and careful consideration at once, and we would proceed to weave from our hungry imaginations a tale of a day spent in eating. “Now we are on board ship”, one man would say. “We wake up in a bunk, and the first thing we do is to stretch out our hands to the side of the bunk and get some chocolate, some Garibaldi biscuits and some apples. We eat those in the bunk, and then we get up for breakfast. Breakfast will be at eight o’clock, and we will have porridge, fish, bacon and eggs, cold ham, plum pudding, sweets, fresh roll and butter, marmalade and coffee. At eleven o’clock we will have hot cocoa, open jam tarts, fried cods’ roe and slices of heavy plum cake. That will be all until lunch at one o’clock. For lunch we will have Wild roll, shepherd’s pie, fresh soda-bread, hot milk, treacle pudding, nuts, raisins and cake. After that we will turn in for a sleep, and we will be called at 3.45, when we will reach out again from the bunks and have doughnuts and sweets. We will get up then and have big cups of hot tea and fresh cake and chocolate creams. Dinner will be at six, and we will have thick soup, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, cauliflower, peas, asparagus, plum pudding, fruit, apple pie with thick cream, scones and butter, port wine, nuts, and almonds and raisins. Then at midnight we will have a really big meal, just before we go to bed. There will be melon, grilled trout and butter-sauce, roast chicken with plenty of livers, a proper salad with eggs and very thick dressing, green peas and new potatoes, a saddle of mutton, fried suet pudding, peaches à la Melba, egg curry, plum pudding and sauce, Welsh rarebit, Queen’s pudding, angels on horseback, cream cheese and celery, fruit, nuts, port wine, milk and cocoa. Then we will go to bed and sleep till breakfast time. We will have chocolate and biscuits under our pillows, and if we want anything to eat in the night we will just have to get it.” Three of us would listen to this programme and perhaps suggest amendments and improvements, generally in the direction of additional dishes, and then another one of us would take up the running and sketch another glorious day of feeding and sleeping.

I daresay that all this sounds very greedy and uncivilised to the reader who has never been on the verge of starvation, but as I have said before, hunger makes a man primitive. We did not smile at ourselves or at each other as we planned wonderful feats of over-eating. We were perfectly serious about the matter, and we noted down in the back pages of our diaries details of the meals that we had decided to have as soon as we got back to the places where food was plentiful. All the morning we would allow our imaginations to run riot in this fashion. Then would come one o’clock, and I would look at my watch and say, “Camp!” We would drop the harness from our tired bodies and pitch the tent on the smoothest place available, and three of us would get inside to wait for the thin and scanty meal, while the other man filled the cooker with snow and fragments of frozen meat. An hour later we would be on the march again, once more thinking and talking of food, and this would go on until the camp in the evening. We would have another scanty meal, and turn into the sleeping-bags, to dream wildly of food that somehow we could never manage to eat.

The dysentery from which we suffered during the latter part of the journey back to the coast was certainly due to the meat from the pony Grisi. This animal was shot one night when in a greatly exhausted condition, and I believe that his flesh was made poisonous by the presence of the toxin of exhaustion, as is the case with animals that have been hunted. Wild was the first to suffer, at the time when we started to use Grisi meat with the other meat, and he must have been unfortunate enough to get the greater part of the bad meat on that occasion. The other meat we were using then came from Chinaman, and seemed to be quite wholesome. A few days later we were all eating Grisi meat, and we all got dysentery. The meat could not have become affected in any way after the death of the pony, because it froze hard within a very short time. The manner in which we managed to keep on marching when suffering, and the speed with which we recovered when we got proper food, were rather remarkable, and the reason, no doubt, was that the dysentery was simply the result of the poison, and was not produced by organic trouble of any sort. We had a strong wind behind us day after day during this period, and this contributed in a very large measure to our safety, for in the weakened condition we had then reached we could not have made long marches against a headwind, and without long marches we would have starved between the depôts. We had a sail on the sledge, formed of the floorcloth of a tent, and often the sledge would overrun us, though at other times it would catch in a drift and throw us heavily.

When we were travelling along during the early part of the journey over the level Barrier surface, we felt the heat of the sun severely, though as a matter of fact the temperature was generally very low, sometimes as low as zero Fahr., though the season was the height of summer. It was quite usual to feel one side of the face getting frozen while the other side was being sunburned. The ponies would have frozen perspiration on their coats on the sheltered side, while the sun would keep the other side hot and dry, and as the day wore on and the sun moved round the sky the frosted area on the animals would change its position in sympathy. I remember that on December 4 we were marching stripped to our shirts, and we got very much sunburned, though at noon that day the air temperature showed ten degrees of frost. When we started to climb the glacier and marched close to the rocks, we felt the heat much more, for the rocks acted as radiators, and this experience weighed with me in deciding to leave all the spare clothing and equipment at the Upper Glacier Depôt, about seven thousand feet up. We did not expect to have to climb much higher, but, as the reader knows, we did not reach the plateau until we had climbed over ten thousand feet above sea-level, and so we felt the cold extremely. Our windproof Burberry clothing had become thin by this time, and had been patched in many places in consequence of having been torn on the sharp ice. The wind got in through a tear in my Burberry trousers one day and I was frost-bitten on the under part of the knee. This frost-bite developed into an open wound, into which the wool from my underclothing worked, and I had finally to perform a rather painful operation with a knife before the wound would heal. We were continually being frost-bitten up on the plateau, and when our boots had begun to give out and we were practically marching on the sennegrass inside the finnesko, our heels got frost-bitten. My heels burst when we got on to hard stuff, and for some time my socks were caked with blood at the end of every day’s march. Finally Marshall put some “Newskin” on a pad, and that stuck on well until the cracks had healed. The scars are likely to remain with me. In the very cold days, when our strength had begun to decrease, we found great difficulty in hoisting the sail on our sledge, for when we lifted our arms above our heads in order to adjust the sail, the blood ran from our fingers and they promptly froze. Ten minutes or a quarter of an hour sometimes elapsed before we could get the sledge properly rigged. Our troubles with frost-bite were no doubt due in a measure to the lightness of our clothing, but there was compensation in the speed with which we were able to travel. I have no doubt at all that men engaged in polar exploration should be clothed as lightly as is possible, even if there is a danger of frost-bite when they halt on the march.

The surface over which we travelled during the southern journey changed continually. During the first few days we found a layer of soft snow on top of a hard crust, with more soft snow underneath that again. Our weight was sufficient to break through the soft snow on top, and if we were pulling the increased pressure would cause the crust to break also, letting us through into the second layer of soft snow. This surface made the travelling very heavy. Until we had got beyond Minna Bluff we often passed over high, sharp sastrugi, and beyond that we met with ridges four to six feet high. The snow generally was dry and powdery, but some of the crystals were large, and showed in reflected light all the million colours of diamonds. After we had passed latitude 80° South the snow got softer day by day, and the ponies would often break through the upper crust and sink in right up to their bellies. When the sun was hot the travelling would be much better, for the surface snow got near the melting-point and formed a slippery layer not easily broken. Then again a fall in the temperature would produce a thin crust, through which one broke very easily. Between latitude 80° South and 83° South there were hard sastrugi under the soft snow, and the hoofs of the horses suffered in consequence. The surface near the land was broken up by the pressure from the glaciers, but right alongside the mountains there was a smooth plain of glassy ice, caused by the freezing of water that had run off the rocky slopes when they were warm under the rays of the sun. This process had been proceeding on the snow slopes that we had to climb in order to reach the glacier. Here at the foot of the glacier there were pools of clear water round the rocks, and we were able to drink as much as we wanted, though the contact of the cold water with our cracked lips was painful.

The glacier itself presented every variety of surface, from soft snow to cracked and riven blue ice, by-and-by the only constant feature were the crevasses, from which we were never free. Some were entirely covered with a crust of soft snow, and we discovered them only when one of us broke through, and hung by his harness from the sledge. Others occurred in mazes of rotten ice, and were even more difficult to negotiate than the other sort. The least unpleasant of the crevasses were those that were wide open and easily seen, with firm ice on either side. If these crevasses were not too wide, we would pull the sledges up to the side, then jump over, and pull them after us. This was more difficult than it sounds from the fact that the ice gave only a very uncertain footing, but we always had the harness as a safeguard in case of a fall. If the crevasses were wide we had to make a détour. The sledges, owing to their length, were not liable to slip down a crevasse, and we felt fairly safe when we were securely attached to them by the harness. When the surface was so bad that relay work became necessary we used to miss the support of a sledge on the back journeys. We would advance one sledge half a mile or a mile, put up a bamboo pole to mark the spot, and then go back for the other. We were roped together for the walk back to the second sledge, but even then we felt a great deal less secure than when harnessed to one of the long, heavy sledges. On some days we had to travel up steep slopes of smooth ice, and often it became necessary to cut steps with our ice-axes, and haul the sledges after us with the Alpine rope. When we had gone up about sixty feet, the length of the rope, we would haul up the sledge to which we had attached the lower end, and jamb it so that it could not slide back. Then one of us would slide down in order to fix the rope to the other sledge.

One of the curious features of the glacier was a yellow line, evidently an old moraine, extending for thirty or forty miles. The rocks of the moraine had gradually sunk in out of sight, the radiation of the sun’s heat from them causing the ice to melt and let them through, and there had remained enough silt and dust to give the ice a dirty yellow appearance. The travelling along this old moraine was not so bad, but on either side of it there was a mass of pressure ice, caused by the constriction of the glacier between the mountains to the east and west. Unfortunately we brought back no photographs of this portion of the glacier. The number of plates at our disposal was limited, and on the outward march we decided not to take many photographs in case we found interesting land or mountains in the far south nearer the Pole. We thought that we would be able to secure as many photographs of the glacier as we wanted on the way back if we had the plates to spare, but as a matter of fact when we did get on to the glacier a second time we were so short of food that we could not afford the time to unpack the camera, which had to be stowed away carefully on the sledge in order to avoid damage to it.




Many nights on the glacier there was no snow on which to pitch the tents, and we had to spend perhaps an hour smoothing out a space on a rippled, sharp-pointed sea of ice. The provision bags and sledges had to be packed on the snow cloths round the tents, and it was indeed fortunate for us that we did not meet with any bad weather while we were marching up the glacier. Had a blizzard come on while we were asleep, it would have scattered our goods far and wide, and we would have been faced with a very serious position. All the time that we were climbing the glacier we had a northerly wind behind us, although the direction of the sastrugi showed clearly that the prevailing wind was from the south; when we were coming back later in the season the wind was behind us all the time. We encountered a strong wind on the outward journey when near the top of the glacier, and as the ice slopes were covered with snow it was difficult to pull the sledges up them. When we reached the same slopes on the way back, the summer sun had cleared the snow from them, leaving clear ice, and we simply glissaded down all but the steepest slopes, although one of the sledge runners was very badly torn. We had to travel carefully on the steep slopes, for if we had let the sledge get out of hand it would have run away altogether, and would probably have been smashed up hundreds of feet below.

The Upper Glacier Depôt was overhung by great cliffs of rock, shattered by the frosts and storms of countless centuries, and many fragments were poised in such a fashion that scarcely more than a touch seemed needed to bring them hurtling down. All around us on the ice lay rocks that had recently fallen from the heights, and we wondered whether some boulder would come down upon us while we were in camp. We had no choice of a camping-ground, as all around was rough ice. The cliffs were composed largely of weathered sandstone, and it was on the same mountains, higher up the glacier, that the coal was found, at a point where the slope was comparatively gentle. Looking down from this height, we could see the glacier stretching away to the point of junction with the Barrier, the mountains rising to east and west. Many of the mountains to the west of the glacier were more or less dome-shaped, but there were some sharp conical peaks to the westward of the particular mountain under which the Upper Glacier Depôt had been placed. There were three distinct peaks, as the photographs show, and the plateau ice sweeping down made a long moraine on the west side of the glacier. To the eastward there was a long ridge of high mountains, fairly uniform in shape and without any sharp peaks, but with ridges, apparently of granite, projecting towards the west and so constricting the glacier. The mountains were distant about twenty-five miles, but well-defined stratification lines could plainly be seen. Below us, as we looked from the depôt, could be seen the cumulus clouds that always hung above the “Cloudmaker”.

When we looked to the south from this depôt we saw no clouds; there was nothing but hard clear sky. The sky gave no indication of the blizzard winds that were to assail us when we reached the plateau, and after we had gone as far south as we could and retraced our footsteps to the depôt, we looked back and saw the same clear sky, with a few wisps of fleecy cloud in it. We had no doubt that below those clouds the pitiless gale was still raging across the great frozen plain, and that the wind which followed us during our march back to the coast was coming from the vicinity of the Pole. As we advanced from the Upper Glacier Depôt we came upon great ice falls. The surface looked smooth from a distance, and we thought that we were actually on the plateau, but as we advanced we saw that before us lay enormous ridges rising abruptly. We had to relay our gear over these ridges, and often at the tops there would be a great crevasse, from which would radiate smaller crevasses fringed with crystals and showing ghastly depths below. We would creep forward to see what lay on the other side, and perhaps would find a fall of fifty feet, with a grade of about 1 in 3. Many times we risked our sledge on very severe slopes, allowing it to glissade down, but other times the danger of a smash was too great, and we had to lower the sledge slowly and carefully with the rope. The ice was safe enough to walk upon at this time except at the ridges, where the crevasses were severe, for the smaller crevasses in the hollows and slopes could be passed without difficulty.

The ice falls delayed us a good deal, and then we got into soft snow, over which the sledge dragged heavily. We thought that we were finally on the plateau level, but within a few days we came to fresh ridges and waves of pressure ice. The ice between the waves was very rotten, and many times we fell through when we put our weight on it. We fastened the Alpine rope to the sledge harness, and the first man pulled at a distance of about eighteen feet from the sledge, while the whole party was so scattered that no two men could fall into a crevasse together. We got on to better ground by steering to the westward, but this step was rather dangerous, for by taking this course we travelled parallel with the crevasses and were not able to meet them at right angles. Many times we nearly lost the sledge and ourselves when the ice started to break away into an unseen crevasse running parallel with our course. We felt very grateful to Providence that the weather remained clear, for we could not have moved a yard over this rotten ice in thick weather without courting disaster. I do not know whether the good weather we experienced in that neighbourhood was normal. We generally had about seven miles of easy going after we had passed one ridge in this area, and then another ridge would rise up ahead of us, and we would start to climb again. There were always crevasses at the top of the ridges, suggesting that the ice was moving over land at no great depth.

We passed the last ridge at last, and reached the actual plateau, but instead of hard névé, such as the Discovery expedition had encountered in the journey to the plateau beyond the mountains west of McMurdo Sound, we found soft snow and hard sastrugi. All the sastrugi pointed to the south, and the wind blew strongly nearly all the time from the south or south-east, with an occasional change to the south-west. Sometimes we marched on hard sastrugi, and at other times we had soft snow under our feet, but could feel the sastrugi on which the snow was lying. I formed the opinion that during the winter on the plateau the wind must blow with terrible violence from the south, and that the hard sastrugi are produced then. Still further south we kept breaking through a hard crust that underlay the soft surface snow, and we then sank in about eight inches. This surface, which made the marching heavy, continued to the point at which we planted the flag. After the long blizzard, from the night of January 6 until the morning of January 9, we had a better surface over which to make our final march southwards, for the wind had swept the soft snow away and produced a fairly hard surface, over which, unencumbered with a sledge as we were, we could advance easily.

We found the surface generally to be improved on the march back. The blizzard winds had removed the soft surface snow, and incidentally uncovered many of the crevasses. We were following our outward tracks, and often I noticed the tracks lead us to the edge of a crevasse which had been covered previously and over which we had passed in ignorance of our danger on the march southwards. When we got to the head of the glacier we tried to take a short cut to the point where we had left the Upper Glacier Depôt, but we got enmeshed in a maze of crevasses and pressure ridges to the eastward, and so had to steer in a westerly direction again in order to get clear. The dangers that we did know were preferable to those that we did not know. On the way down the glacier we found all the snow stripped away by the wind and sun for nearly one hundred miles, and we travelled over slippery blue ice, with innumerable cracks and sharp edges. We had many painful falls during this part of the journey. Then when about forty miles from the foot of the glacier we got into deep soft snow again, over which rapid progress was impossible. There had evidently been a heavy snowfall in this area while we were further south, and for days, while our food was running short, we could see ahead of us the rocks under which the depôt had been placed. We toiled with painful slowness towards the rocks, and as the reader has already learned, we were without any food at all for the last thirty hours of that march. We found the Barrier surface to be very soft when we got off the Glacier, but after we had passed Grisi Depôt there was an improvement. The surface remained fairly good until we reached the winter quarters, and in view of our weakened condition it was fortunate for us that it did so.

In reviewing the experience gained on the southern journey, I do not think that I could suggest any improvement in equipment for any future expedition. The Barrier surface evidently varies in a remarkable fashion, and its condition cannot be anticipated with any degree of certainty. The traveller must be prepared for either a hard surface or a very soft one, and he may get both surfaces in the course of one days march. The eleven-foot sledge is thoroughly suitable for the work, and our method of packing the stores and hauling the sledges did not develop any weak points. We would have been glad to have had crampons for use on the glacier; what would be better still would be heavy Alpine boots with nails all round, for very often the surface would give little grip to crampons, which would only touch the rough ice at one or two points. The temperature is too cold to permit of the explorer wearing ordinary leather boots, and some boot would have to be designed capable of keeping the feet warm and carrying the nails all round. A mast consisting of a bamboo lashed to the forward oil-box proved as efficient as could be required for use in connection with a sail on the sledges. It was easily rigged and had no elaborate stays. I would suggest no change in the clothing, for the light woollen underclothing, with thin windproof material outside, proved most satisfactory in every way. We could certainly not have travelled so fast had we been wearing the regulation pilot cloth garment generally used in polar exploration. Our experience made it obvious that a party which hopes to reach the Pole must take more food per man than we did, but how the additional weight is to be provided for is a matter for individual consideration. I would not take cheese again, for although it is a good food, we did not find it as palatable as chocolate, which is practically as sustaining. Our other foods were all entirely satisfactory.

Each member of the Southern Party had his own particular duties to perform. Adams had charge of the meteorology, and this work involved the taking of temperatures at regular intervals, and the boiling of the hypsometer, sometimes several times in a day. He took notes during the day, and wrote up the observations at night in the sleeping-bag. Marshall was the cosmographer and took the angles and bearings of all the new land; he also took the meridian altitudes and the compass variation as we went south. When a meridian altitude was taken, I generally had it checked by each member of the party, so that the mean could be taken.

Marshall’s work was about the most uncomfortable possible, for at the end of a day’s march, and often at lunch-time, he would have to stand in the biting wind handling the screws of the theodolite. The map of the journey was prepared by Marshall, who also took most of the photographs. Wild attended to the repair of the sledges and equipment, and also assisted me in the geological observations and the collection of specimens. It was he who found the coal close to the Upper Glacier Depôt. I kept the courses and distances, worked out observations and laid down our directions. We all kept diaries. I had two, one my observation book, and the other the narrative diary, reproduced in the first volume.

Chapter II
Summer at the Winter Quarters

WE were distant about thirty-two miles from Hut Point when I decided to send the supporting-party back. The men watched us move off across the white plain until we became mere dots on the wide expanse, and then loaded up their gear and started north. Joyce was left in charge of the party, and he decided to make one forced march to Hut Point. They had to cross a good deal of crevassed ice, but a special effort would enable them to make their next camp under shelter. They got under way at 7 a.m. and marched till noon, making good progress in spite of the surface. In the afternoon they marched from two till five o’clock, and then a final march, from 7 p.m. till 1.30 a.m., took them to the old Discovery hut. The only incident of the day had been the succumbing of Brocklehurst’s feet to another attack of frost-bite, he having worn ski-boots when the other men had put on finnesko. The damage was not serious, although the sufferer himself had trouble with his feet for some time after. The party had covered thirty-two miles in fourteen hours and a half, very good marching in view of the soft and broken character of the surface.

The party left Hut Point on the morning of November 12, and had a hard pull to Glacier Tongue. They at first thought of camping on the southern side of the Tongue, but, fortunately, kept on, for on the other side they met Day, Murray and Roberts, who had brought out stores with the motor-car. I had left orders that about 1800 lb. of provisions and gear should be taken to the depôt there, as a provision for the sledging-parties, in case they should be cut off from Cape Royds by open water on their return. Day had succeeded in running the car right up to the Tongue, about twelve miles from winter quarters. After a good meal of biscuits, jam, lobscouse, tongue and cods’ roe, the two parties joined in getting the stores up to the depôt. Then they all went back to the winter quarters on the car and the light sledges it had in tow, leaving the heavy sledge that had been used by the supporting-party to be brought in at some later opportunity. They reached the hut in the small hours of the morning, and after another meal turned in for a good sleep.

Routine work occupied the men at the hut for some time after the return of the supporting-party. The scientific members were more than a little grieved to find that during the days when the hut had been untenanted, for Murray, Day and Roberts had been away too on a small expedition, some of the dogs had managed to get loose, and had killed thirty or forty penguins. We had from the first tried very hard to avoid any accidents of this sort, for we did not want to cause any unnecessary destruction of animal life. The penguins were now laying, and the men found that the eggs were very good to eat. The egg of the penguin is about the same size as that of a duck, and it has a transparent, jelly-like white and a small yolk. It takes about eight minutes’ boiling to cook the egg nicely, and ten minutes if it is required set hard to the centre. The shell is the most beautiful dark-green inside, while the outer shell is chalky and white, though generally stained prettily by guano. Murray set aside a certain portion of the rookery for the supply of eggs for “domestic purposes,” partly in order to ensure freshness and partly in order to ascertain how many eggs the penguins would lay. The other portion of the rookery was left untouched in order that the development and education of the young penguins might be studied.

The scientific work in its various branches was carried on by the men at the winter quarters, and they made a series of small expeditions to points of interest in the surrounding country. “To-day we motored to Tent Island viâ Inaccessible Island”, wrote Priestley on November 14. “The main object of the expedition was to enable Joyce to kill and skin some young seals, but we did geological work as well. Day, Joyce, Murray and myself were the party, and when the motor was pulled up opposite Inaccessible Island three of us strolled over to look at its western slopes. We did not have time to climb, but the island from that side consists entirely of a flow of massive basalt, with small porphyritic felspars, which show out best in the weathered specimens. The sheet of basalt appeared to be dipping to the south. Day endeavoured to join us, but he chose a bad place, and got so deep in the drift that his axle was aground, so he was obliged to reverse engines and back out. From there we proceeded to Tent Island, and after Joyce had picked out a young seal and started operations, Murray, Day and I climbed up a water-worn gully on the island and had a cursory look at the rocks, which are an agglomerate with very coarse fragments; capping the agglomerate there is a massive flow of kenyte. . . . Day photographed the lower slopes of the gully while Murray and I climbed the rock-slopes till they ended, and then cut steps up a snow slope, at the top of which I came across a snow cornice and nearly got into trouble getting through it. On reaching the top we walked along the ridge, and photographed a splendid weathered kenyte boulder, hollowed out like a summer-house, and studded with felspars as an old-fashioned church door is studded with nails. After taking these photographs we climbed down the other side of the island, and walked round to join the others. The rock-climbing here, on any slopes at all steep, is very difficult because of the weathered fragments, which, owing to lack of powerful natural agents of transportation and to the fact that the wind carries all the lightest soil away, are left lying just at their angle of repose; a false step may send mountaineer and mountain surface hurtling down fifty or a hundred feet — no agreeable sensation, as I know from frequent experience. The sun was very hot to-day, and the gully was occupied by a little stream which was carrying quite a quantity of light soil down with it.







Day had an exciting experience with the car during this journey. He encountered a big crack in the ice near Cape Barne, and steering at right angles to its course, put on speed in order to “fly” it in the usual way. When only a few yards from it and travelling at a speed of about fifteen miles an hour, he found that the crack made a sudden turn, so as to follow the line he was taking, and an instant later his right-hand front wheel dropped in. Any weak points in the car would have been discovered by the sudden strain, but happily nothing broke, and the crack making another turn, the wheel bounded out at the elbow, and the car was on sound ice again.

On November 16 Priestley made an interesting trip up the slopes of Erebus. Beyond the lower moraines and separated from them by a snowfield of considerable size, he found a series of kenyte ridges and cones, covered by very little débris. The ridges continued for some distance to the edge of the main glacier, where they terminated in several well-marked nunataks. “One which I visited, and which was the nearest to the large parasitic cone, was eighty feet high, of massive kenyte of brown colour and close texture, jointed into very large cubical joints by a very complete series of master-joints. From this nunatak I obtained nine kinds of lichen, including four or five new species, and one piece of moss. One of the lichens was so much larger than the others and branched so much that it might well be called a forest-lichen, and Murray considers it to be very closely allied to the reindeer-moss, or ice-moss.”

Joyce was engaged at this time in making zoological collections, and with the aid of the motor-car he was able to cover a great deal of ground. The motor-car, driven by Day, would take him fifteen or sixteen miles over the sea-ice to some suitable locality, generally near the Cathedral Rocks on the north side of Glacier Tongue, and leave him there to kill seals and penguins. In order to kill young seals, some specimens of which were required, he had first to drive the mothers away, and this often took a long time, as the female seal becomes aggressive when interfered with in this manner. The work was not at all pleasant, but Joyce killed and prepared for preservation five young Weddell seals and four adult specimens. He had taken lessons in taxidermy before leaving England in order to be ready for this duty. Joyce and Day also killed and skinned twenty Emperor penguins, twelve Adelie penguins and twelve skua gulls, and all the men at the winter quarters assisted in collecting eggs.


Murray was looking after the scientific work, paying special attention to his own particular domain, that of biology, and Marston was devoting as much time as he could to sketching and painting. He had taken oils, water colours and pastels to the south with him. He found that the water colours could not be used in the open at all, for they froze at once. Oils could be used fairly comfortably in the summer, though it was always chilly work to sit still for any length of time; during the spring the oils froze after they had been in the open air for about an hour, so that steady work was not possible. The pastels could always be used for making “colour notes”, and they were also used for some of the colour-sketches that are reintroduced in this book. Mits had to be worn for all outside work, and this made sketching difficult.

Marston found, as other artists have found, that Nature’s color-schemes in the Antarctic are remarkably crude, though often wondrously beautiful. Bright blues and greens are seen in violent contrast with brilliant reds, and an accurate record of the colours displayed in a sunset, as seen over broken ice, would suggest to many people an impressionistic poster of the kind seen in the London streets. Words fail one in an attempt to describe the wildly bizarre effects observed on days when the sky was fiery red and pale green, merging into a deep blue overhead, and the snowfields and rocks showed violet, green and white under the light of the moon. Marston used to delight in the “grey days”, when there was no direct sunlight and the snow all around showed the most subtle tones of grey; there would be no shadows anywhere, perhaps light drifts of snow would be blowing about, and the whole scene became like a frozen fairyland. The snow-bergs and snowfields were white under direct light, but any hollows showed a vivid blue, deepening almost to black in the depths. There was an unlimited amount of interesting work for an artist, and Marston suffered to some extent, as did the other specialists on the expedition, from the fact that the number of men available was so small that every one, in addition to his own work, had to take a share in the routine duties.

Joyce devoted what spare time he could find to the completion of the volumes of the “Aurora Australis”. Practice had made him more skilful in the handling of type, and he was able to make a good deal of progress, Day assisting with the preparation of the Venesta boards in which the volumes were to be bound. Some of the contributions towards the literary part of the work had come in late, so that there was plenty of work left to do. Marston went on with the lithographing for the illustrations.

Instructions had been left for a geological reconnaissance to be made towards the northern slopes of Mount Erebus, to examine, if possible, some parasitic cones and the oldest main crater of the mountain. Threatening weather prevented the carrying out of this plan for some time, yet for nearly a fortnight after the return of the southern supporting-party the expected blizzard did not come, while the weather was not propitious for the journey. At length no further delay was possible if the trip was to be made, as Priestly, the geologist, had to leave for the western mountains, so on November 23 the trip was begun, though with misgivings as to the long overdue blizzard.

The party consisted of Priestley, Marston, Joyce, Murray and Brocklehurst, and they took seventy pounds of food — a week’s supply on the ordinary basis of thirty-two ounces per day for each man — but carried only one tent, intended to hold three men, their idea being that one or two men could sleep in the bags outside the tent. The weather was fine when they left the hut, but in the afternoon a strong southerly wind sprang up, and they had to march through low drift. They camped for the night close to a steep nunatak about five miles from the hut and nearly two thousand feet above sea-level. There was difficulty in getting a good snowy camping-ground, and they had to put up the tent on smooth blue glacier ice, having a thin coating of snow, and sloping gently down till it terminated in an ice-cliff overlooking the sea not many hundreds of yards below. After dinner Priestley, Murray and Joyce climbed over the nunataks, and found several new lichens, but the specimens collected were lost in the blizzard later on. Priestley also found a number of very perfect felspar crystals weathered out of the kenyte, and collected a couple of handfuls of the best. The members of the party retired to their sleeping-bags at eight o’clock on Monday night, and before midnight a blizzard swept down upon them, and proved to be an exceptionally severe one, with dense drift. Priestley had volunteered to sleep outside that night, and had taken his sleeping-bag to a nook in the rocks some distance away. When the other men heard the roaring of the blizzard they looked out, and were reassured to find that he had come down while there was time and had lain down close by the tent. The first night the light snow round the tent was blown away leaving one side open to the wind, but the occupants were able to find a few bits of rock close by, and secured it with those.

“Inside the tent for the next three days we were warm enough in our sleeping-bags”, wrote Murray in his report. “Though we could not cook anything we ate the dry biscuit and pemmican. The little snow under the floorcloth was squeezed in the hand till it became ice, and we sucked this for drink. We were anxious about Priestley, and occasionally opened the door-flap and hailed him, when he always replied that he was all right. Joyce had managed to pass him some food early in the storm, so there was no fear of starving, but as we learned afterwards he could get nothing to drink and so could not eat. No one could offer to change places with him, as in doing so the sleeping-bag would have filled with snow, and might have blown away. On Wednesday Marston dressed in his Burberries and crawled down to Priestley, who reported ‘All well’, but he had had no food for twenty-four hours. Marston gave him some biscuits and chocolate. On Thursday morning he replied to the hail, but he was getting further and further from the tent, as every time he moved he slipped a little bit down the smooth glacier. At midday there was no reply to our hail, and we thought of the precipitous ice-foot and imagined things. Joyce and I dressed and went out to seek him. The drift was so thick that nothing whatever could be seen, and when the head was lifted to try and look the whole face and eyes were instantly covered by a sheet of ice. We crept about on hands and knees looking for the lost man. The only chance of getting back to the tent again was to steer by the wind, down the wind looking for Priestley, up the wind home again. At one side the sledge lay, forming a landmark, and Priestley had been not very far from the faraway end. Creeping along the sledge to where he had lain, I found that he was not there. Joyce went a little further to the right and came upon him, all alive.”

Priestley’s experiences during this period are related in his diary. “I had volunteered to sleep in the bag outside the tent”, he wrote, “and by the time I was ready to turn in the drift had started again pretty badly, and the only sheltered spot I could find was at the top of the hill, so I told Joyce where he would find me in the morning and camped down, first luckily taking the precaution to put a few cubic feet of kenyte on my Burberry trousers and jacket outside the bag. A few hours later I woke up to find that the wind had increased to the dimensions of a blizzard, and that the drift was sweeping in a steady cloud over my head. I realised that those in the tent would have trouble in reaching me in the morning, so I got out of the bag and dressed, getting both the bag and my clothes full of snow in the process. Then, after some trouble, I got the bag down the steep slope of the nunatak to the sledge, where I wrapped myself up in the tent-cloth and lay athwart the wind. In about two hours I got drifted up so close that I was forced to get my shoulders out of the bag and lever myself out of the drift, and I then tried the experiment of tying head to wind on the opening of the sleeping-bag. This answered very well, and it was in this position that I spent the next seventy-two hours, getting shifted down a yard or two at a time at every change in the direction of the wind, and being gradually pushed along the windswept surface of the glacier until I was some twenty or thirty yards from the tent, and in some danger of getting swept, as the wind increased in violence, either on to some rocks a quarter of a mile below or else straight down the glacier and over a hundred-foot drop into Horseshoe Bay.

“Three times the people in the tent managed to pass me over some biscuits and raw pemmican, and Marston got my chocolate from the rucksack and brought it to me. My chief difficulty, however, was want of water. I had had a little tea before I turned in, but from that time for nearly eighty hours I had nothing to drink but some fragments of ice that I could prise up with the point of a small safety-pin. The second time Joyce came down, I believe about the beginning of the third day, he reported that the lashings at the top of the tent-poles had given way and that a rent had been torn in the material by the corner of a biscuit-tin. He added that it was impossible to keep any snow on the skirt of the tent, and that, as the snow-cloth was kept down only by a few rocks, the occupants of the tent were in constant expectation of seeing the tent leave them altogether, then Joyce left me on this occasion the drift was so thick that he could see nothing, and had to find his way back by shouting and listening for the return shouts of his tent-mates. He had gone only a quarter of the distance when both his eyes were filled with drift and immediately choked with ice, and when he reached the tent his face was a mask of ice and both feet were frost-bitten. He was helped inside and his feet brought round with rubbing, but no further attempt could be made to reach me. He had brought me some biscuit and raw pemmican. Cooking was not possible in the tent owing to the impossibility of reaching the sledge to get the oil-filler. It may sound like an exaggeration to say that we could not reach the sledge, which was four yards or less from the tent, but it must be remembered that we were lying on the slopes of a clean-swept glacier, on which finnesko could get no hold. The snow that had covered the ice when we pitched camp had all disappeared before the fury of the blizzard. Our spiked ski-boots were on the ice-axes round the sledge, where they had been hung to dry, but in any case it would have been impossible to wear them in a blizzard when feet were getting badly frost-bitten even in finnesko. A slip on the ice meant very serious danger of destruction.

“A slight decrease in the wind at the close of the third day gave me hope of getting up to the tent, and I prepared to move by putting on my outdoor clothing, no easy task in a sleeping-bag; then, rolling over on my side, I tried to get out. I found that there was less wind and less drift, and that I was able for the first time to see where I was with regard to surrounding objects. I was unable, however, to get out of the bag without being blown further down the slippery glacier, and I could see that it would be impossible to crawl up the slopes with the cumbrous bag. If I lost the bag I might as well have let myself slide.”

About two hours after this Marston ventured forth from the tent in one of the remarkable intervals of calm occasionally experienced in the course of an Antarctic blizzard. On either side of the spot on which the camp had been pitched he could see the drift flying along with the full force of the wind, but he was able to make his way down to Priestley before the blizzard swept down on them again. They dragged the bag up the glacier by kneeling on it and jerking it along, and both got into the tent. “Four men in a three-men tent is a big squeeze,” continued Priestley, “but five was fearful, and it was some time before I managed to get even sitting room. The first thing to do was to examine and attend frost-bitten feet, and the examination showed as big a crop as could be expected, for Marston and I each had both feet frost-bitten. A course of massage brought them round, and I got into Marston’s bag while he made tea. . . . After tea I got into my own bag and lay down on top of Murray and Marston, and by dint of much wriggling we managed to get fairly settled, though our positions were so cramped that sleep was impossible.

“At about half-past four in the morning we cooked some pemmican in the tent and had a proper breakfast, as for the first time the wind had really begun to die away. Owing to the cold, the long period of semi-starvation in our cramped quarters, and the fact that oil had got mixed up with the food, we were unable to do justice either to the hoosh or to the cocoa which followed it, and were still fairly empty when the drift ceased and we turned out to face the blizzard, pack the sledge and start for home. The ascent of the mountain had, of course, to be abandoned. I put on my damp finnesko and went out to help, but in less than five minutes, though the temperature was plus 22° Fahr., I was back in the tent with the front portions of both feet frozen, and we took half an hour to bring them round by beating, massaging and rubbing with snow. This latter remedy, Marston’s favourite, is a very drastic one, and as painful as any I know, for the Antarctic snow is invariably in small sharp crystals, very brittle and hard. We all chafed very much at the unavoidable delay, as there was every sign of a renewal of the blizzard and the drift, but fortunately we got under way before any drift rose, and the wind was rather in our favour. We left all the provisions there, and unanimously named the nunatak ‘Misery Nunatak’, and we were about as glad to leave the place as a soul would be to leave purgatory. We also left a tin of biscuits and some oil with a view to a future attempt at an ascent, to be made by Murray, Day, Marston and Joyce.

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