We Are Doing It On A Very Narrow Margin ....

After a quiet day on 22 January 1911, Scott and company awoke on 23 January 1911 to find unusually warm weather running out the sea ice on which they had planned to travel from Ross Island's Cape Evans to the massive and stable Ross Ice Shelf. The journey in question was to be the fall 1911 depot laying adventure, during which they would scout the early parts of the polar route and leave tons of supplies behind in depots for use in the 1911-12 assault on the pole the following December and January. But with the sea ice weakening there was a sudden and alarming risk that they wouldn't get away from Cape Evans. As it was, a mad dash to get the depot party off was necessary - what Scott called a "wonderful day's work." (Journals, p. 103, Carroll & Graf [1996]).

With that effort the depot team got across the ice on 24 January 1911, only a day ahead of the melt. Apsley Cherry-Garrard, whose breathtaking account of the expedition (entitled "The Worst Journey in the World") first introduced me to polar literature and the drama of Scott's 1911-12 expedition, described the rush to get away as "a state of hurry bordering on panic." (Apsley Cherry-Garrard, The Worst Journey in the World, p. 107, Carroll & Graf [1989]). The horse teams were led on the precarious road across the sea ice while Scott and others tracked their progress from the Terra Nova, itself making hard for a rendezvous at the Ross Ice Shelf and carrying supplies and gear. Cracks 30 feet wide were yawning along the sea ice "road." With ponies falling through the ice up to their chests, Scott still insisted that he would withhold his opinion of the dogs, questioning their potential for success. But the ponies, he stubbornly recorded, "are going to be real good." (Journals, p. 106, Carroll & Graf [1996]). The rest of Scott's journal entry for the day contains a long list of the more than five tons of supplies the depot team would be handling. As he made no entry on 25 January 1911, I'll take the time tomorrow to report on that invoice.

But Cherry-Garrard reported that the company did more than 10 miles of sledging that day, setting up their "inexperienced camp" not far from Hut Point, the base of the 1902-03 Shackleton expedition. (Apsley Cherry-Garrard, The Worst Journey in the World, p. 109, Carroll & Graf [1989]).
Photo: Ponting Portrait of Cherry-Garrard.