One Feels Resentful

Scott's short journal entries from 9-11 February 1911 reveal much and at last introduce one of the expedition's steady companions.

The revelations are rich. The Depot Laying Journey is now logging about 11 miles for each night's cold, dark march. Scott seems pleased with the effort, though he attributes their success as much to light loads as to the company's effectiveness. There also is the usual, details assessment of the comparative success of the ponies and dogs. The ponies are getting the worst of the comparison. They need "some form of snow-shoe," Scott remarks, but "the questions is what form?" (Journals, p. 125, Carroll & Graf [1996]). It is hard not to think of the entire equine arrangement in ill-fated terms, even at this early stage. Scott describes the glorious views of the Western Mountains.

Above all, the entry for 10 February 1911 is a carefully detailed and incredibly honest accounting of each day's routine, including the strain and resentment that surfaces within the troop if some members are made to wait for long in the bitter cold for others who are slow to close up their corner of the camp and prepare for the march. It is easy to imagine the tightly-woven interdependence of men working together so closely, in such brutal conditions - the fate of each hanging from the decisions, fitness, and luck of every other member of the team. "With numbed fingers on our horse's bridle and the animal striving to turn his head from the wind one feels resentful [of the laggards]." (Journals, p. 124, Carroll & Graf [1996]). The routine can be put succinctly: 9:00 pm strike camp; 11:30 pm begin the march; each half-day's march includes a brief, cold, uncomfortable recess; mid-march pause of about an hour and a half for a meal; and a return to the day's second-half march; the day's final camp is made at about 8:00 am. Repeat.

It was a balmy 5 degrees below zero on these days. On 11 February 1911 the Depot Laying Expedition reached its Camp 10.

And at last Scott makes reference to the sastrugi, the icy waves of drift blown across the desolate continent by a ceaseless wind. Scott described the difficulty this "corrugated surface of frozen snow"(Reginald Pound, Scott of the Antarctic, p. 101, Coward-McCann [1966]) imposed on the 1903 Discovery expedition: "It shakes us up dreadfully; falls are constant, and the [man-haul] harness frequently brings us up with a heavy jerk, exasperating to a tired man." (Reginald Pound, Scott of the Antarctic, p. 101, Coward-McCann [1966]).
[Photo: Herbert Ponting, "Sastrugi on Barne Glacier," from the Royal Geographic Society - Antarctica: Exteme Wilderness]