The going was so poor that Lawrence Oates, the animal handler, objected to the continued use of the ponies to bring the rest of the Depot Laying Expedition supplies up onto the Ice Shelf. The mention of Oates in Scott's journal entry for 30 January 1911 is propitious. Known as the "Solider" because of his regular service in the British Army, Oates had done duty at the turn of the last century in British-occupied Egypt. For all the scorn heaped on Scott's hubristic and ill-fated attempt on the pole, at least it can be said that he could harm no one but himself and his volunteers. The same cannot be said of England's bloody imperial adventures around the world, exemplified by Oates' and the Dragoons' tours in Egypt. Surely the dramatic events in Egypt of the last week of January 2011 carry the echoes - faint though they may be - of Africa's unhappy submission to European powers. I wonder if the world would have been a better place - still might be a better place - if all the nations' great ambitions and lust for prominence were poured out in (ultimately) senseless struggles like Scott's as opposed to more costly efforts. For tonight, I am hopeful that Egypt might at last be shrugging off the last tattered remnants of her colonial history, moving towards authentic self-determination, and peace.
These supplies were augmented with others brought as far south through McMurdo Sound as the "Glacier Tongue" by the Terra Nova, which was moving well through the softened, summer ice. For all this work the ponies were paired and attached to one of four sledges. Scott's journal entry from 24 January 1911 contains a detailed manifest, listing the more than 600 pounds loaded onto each of these sledges. (Journals, p. 107-108, Carroll & Graf ). Scott also recorded the extent of the men's gear. Each wore: vest and drawers, woollen shirt, jersey, balaclava, wind suit, two pairs of socks, and ski boots. Each carried the following spare gear: 2 pairs under socks, 2 pairs outer socks, 1 pair hair socks, 1 pair night socks, 1 payjama jacket, 1 payjama trousers, 1 woollen mitts, 2 finnesko, and skein. Each man was allowed two pounds of discretionary items. (Journals, p. 108, Carroll & Graf ). Cherry-Garrard described the existential debates that surrounded the fateful choices the men would make in utilizing those two pounds. "Many were the arguments," Cherry-Garrard said, "as to the relative value of a pair of socks or their equivalent in tobacco." (Apsley Cherry-Garrard, The Worst Journey in the World, p. 108, Carroll & Graf ). Cherry-Garrard's invoice contains some interesting details left out of Scott's. For example, he notes that the men were keen to have large safety-pins on hand "with which to hang up our socks." (Apsley Cherry-Garrard, The Worst Journey in the World, p. 108, Carroll & Graf ).
The Company hauled the last of the designated supplies off the Terra Nova on 26 January 1911 and Scott - a Royal Navy Captain and thoroughgoing seaman - bid the ship and its crew goodbye (it would depart to New Zealand to avoid the coming, brutal, south-polar winter and return again in 1911 with new supplies) with the kind of heartrending warmth, affection, and gratitude so in keeping with his character. Scott reported that he thanked the ship's crew for their work, and concluded that "they have behaved like bricks and a finer lot of fellows never sailed in a ship." (Journals, p. 109, Carroll & Graf ). The Terra Nova left under the command of Lt. Harry Pennell. Cherry-Garrard made the poignant note that "Four of that Depot party were never to see these men again, and Pennell, Commander of the Queen Mary, went down with his ship in the battle of Jutland." (Apsley Cherry-Garrard, The Worst Journey in the World, p. 110 ).
And the debate over ponies and dogs was now being waged in practice. Scott reported that, in the portage over the Barrier to the Ice Shelf on 27 January 1911, the pony sledges were smoothly hauling upwards of 900 pounds while the dogs were managing only 500 pounds "at a snail's pace." (Journals, p. 110, Carroll & Graf ). Whatever prejudices Scott might have entertained ahead of the expedition were being confirmed on both sides of the debate.
(Reference: "The Voyages of Captain Scott: Retold from the Voyage of the Discovery and Scott's Last Expedition", by Charles Turley)
Some find that leadership is best realized through firmness or force. For me, however, I would prefer to be led into that vast white deathly continent, by a man of respectful affection.
As the company has moved into the "hut" - better thought of as a "house," Scott explains - he and others spent 20 January 1911 surveying stores and equipment. Scott is thrilled with their kit, top to bottom, finding it to be "perfectly excellent ... that there is not a single arrangement which I would have altered." (Journals, p. 100, Carrol & Graf ). In particular, he singles out the exceptional quality of the Jaeger felt boots. I presume this is the same UK clothier that today is a leading fashion brand. Perhaps fittingly, considering its polar past, today Jaeger makes the point that the cornerstone of its collection is its coats.
Scott notes that the company has a gramophone and a pianola. It will be a long winter in the intimate confines of the hut.
Scott reported a "sickening" development on 21 January 1911. The Terra Nova, anchored to the Ross Sea ice, was constantly under navigation nonetheless, as it adjusted to tides and wind and drift and changing ice. In these conditions, the ship ran aground fueling images of the ship's 60 men - who were meant to return to New Zealand for the winter - being stranded with the rest on Cape Evans. But the Terra Nova was loosed from the gravel and rock. "The relief," Scott said, "was enormous." (Journals, p. 102, Carrol & Graf ).
O Almighty God, who for the sin of man didst once drown all the world,
except eight persons, and afterward of thy great mercy didst promise never to destroy it so again; We humbly beseech thee, that we for our iniquities have worthily deserved a plague of rain and waters, yet upon our true repentance thou wilt send us such weather, as that we may receive the fruits of the earth in due season; and learn both by thy punishment to amend our lives, and for thy clemency to give thee praise and glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Surely, floods were not the company's greatest concern. Yet, they might have been forgiven for invoking God's protection in the harsh Antarctic climate. A plague of ice, cold, and snow is the only way to imagine the inhospitable climate.
Scott's journal reference to "force six" winds draws on the Beufort Wind Force Scale. It's hard to know, with the evolution of the scale and its local variation, exactly what kind of weather chased Scott and his men into the hut that day, but a "moderate gale" with winds near 40 mph seems a possibility. The highest winds recorded at Australia's Antarctic Mawson Station registered just under 200 mph. The contrast - and the storm's quick passing - raises questions about Scott's characterization of it as a "blizzard." He would face worse.
On a quiet day for Scott, I might point you towards some other Internet efforts that illuminate his legacy - and the heroism that the South Pole has inspired in others: South-Pole.com's RFS bio and the American Society of Polar Philatelists are two I frequently visit.
In spite of her age she had considerable power . . . I shall never forget
the day I first visited the Terra Nova in the West India Docks: . . .
. I loved her from the day I say her, because she was my first
command. Poor little ship, she looked so dirty and uncared for and yet her
name will be remembered for ever in the story of the sea, . . . (Ranulph
Fiennes, Race to the Pole, p. 150-51, Hyperion ).
Everything possible was done to hang on to the rope, but in the end we hadThe idea of using motor-sledges was born in Scott's contact with Reginald Skelton on the Discovery expedition. Roland Huntford reported that Skelton was on to the possibility of using an adapted "car" in Antarctica's inhospitible conditions, planting a "seed in Scott's mind." (Roland Huntford, The Last Place on the Earth, p. 144-45, Modern Library ).
to let it go, each man keeping his hold until he was dragged to the lip of the
hole. Then we made for the fast ice, leaving the rotten bit between us and the ship. (Apsley Cherry-Garrard, The Worst Journey in the World, p. 93-94, Carrol & Graf [2nd. ed 1997])
I am finding that Captain Scott is both humble and long winded. Upon reading this passage (entered into his Journal on 1/4/1911), I felt I was watching the scene unfold along with him. What a scene it must have been!
Of course, we have known well that killer whales continually skirt the edge of the floes and that they would undoubtedly snap up anyone who was unfortunate enough to fall into the water; but the facts that they could display such deliberate cunning , that they were able to break ice of such thickness (at least 2 1/2 feet thick), and that they could act in unison, were a revelation to us. It is clear that they are endowed with a singular intelligence, . . .