“The deity of success is a woman, and she insists on being won, not courted. You’ve got to seize her and bear her off, instead of standing under her window with a mandolin.” — Rex Beach.
“The North Pole is reached.”
In a flash the news spread over the world. The goal of which so many had dreamed, for which so many had laboured and suffered and sacrificed their lives, was attained. It was in September, 1909, that the news reached us.
At the same instant I saw quite clearly that the original plan of the Fram’s third voyage — the exploration of the North Polar basin — hung in the balance. If the expedition was to be saved, it was necessary to act quickly and without hesitation. Just as rapidly as the message had travelled over the cables I decided on my change of front — to turn to the right-about, and face to the South.
It was true that I had announced in my plan that the Fram’s third voyage would be in every way a scientific expedition, and would have nothing to do with record-breaking; it was also true that many of the contributors who had so warmly supported me had done so with the original plan before them; but in view of the altered circumstances, and the small prospect I now had of obtaining funds for my original plan, I considered it neither mean nor unfair to my supporters to strike a blow that would at once put the whole enterprise on its feet, retrieve the heavy expenses that the expedition had already incurred, and save the contributions from being wasted.
It was therefore with a clear conscience that I decided to postpone my original plan for a year or two, in order to try in the meantime to raise the funds that were still lacking. The North Pole, the last problem but one of popular interest in Polar exploration, was solved. If I was now to succeed in arousing interest in my undertaking, there was nothing left for me but to try to solve the last great problem — the South Pole.
I know that I have been reproached for not having at once made the extended plan public, 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.
As regards Lieutenant Shirase in the Kainan Maru, I understood it to be his plan to devote his whole attention to King Edward VII. Land.
After thus thoroughly considering these questions, I came to the conclusions I have stated, and my plan was irrevocably fixed. If at that juncture I had made my intention public, it would only have given occasion for a lot of newspaper discussion, and possibly have ended in the project being stifled at its birth. Everything had to be got ready quietly and calmly. My brother, upon whose absolute silence I could blindly rely, was the only person I let into the secret of my change of plan, and he did me many important services during the time when we alone shared the knowledge. Then Lieutenant Thorvald Nilsen — at that time first officer of the Fram, now her commander — returned home, and I considered it my duty to inform him immediately of my resolve. The way in which he received it made me feel safe in my choice of him. I saw that in him I had found not only a capable and trustworthy man, but a good comrade as well; and this was a point of the highest importance. If the relations between the chief and the second in command are good, much unpleasantness and many unnecessary worries can be avoided. Besides which, a good understanding in this quarter gives an example to the whole ship. It was a great relief to me when Captain Nilsen came home in January, 1910, and was able to help — which he did with a good will, a capability, and a reliability that I have no words to commend.
The following was the plan of the Fram’s southern voyage: Departure from Norway at latest before the middle of August. Madeira was to be the first and only place of call. From there a course was to be made on the best route for a sailing-ship — for the Fram cannot be regarded as anything else — southward through the Atlantic, and then to the east, passing to the south of the Cape of Good Hope and Australia, and finally pushing through the pack and into Ross Sea about New Year, 1911.
As a base of operations I had chosen the most southerly point we could reach with the vessel — the Bay of Whales in the great Antarctic Barrier. We hoped to arrive here about January 15. After having landed the selected shore party — about ten men — with materials for a house, equipment, and provisions for two years, the Fram was to go out again and up to Buenos Aires, in order to carry out from there an oceanographical voyage across the Atlantic to the coast of Africa and back. In October she was to return to the Bay of Whales and take off the shore party. So much, but no more, could be settled beforehand. The further progress of the expedition could only be determined later, when the work in the South was finished.
My knowledge of the Ross Barrier was due to descriptions alone; but I had so carefully studied all the literature that treats of these regions, that, on first encountering this mighty mass of ice, I felt as if I had known it for many years.
After thorough consideration, I fixed upon the Bay of Whales as a winter station, for several reasons. In the first place, because we could there go farther south in the ship than at any other point — a whole degree farther south than Scott could hope to get in McMurdo Sound, where he was to have his station. And this would be of very great importance in the subsequent sledge journey toward the Pole. Another great advantage was that we came right on to our field of work, and could see from our hut door the conditions and surface we should have to deal with. Besides this, I was justified in supposing that the surface southward from this part of the Barrier would be considerably better, and offer fewer difficulties than the piled-up ice along the land. In addition, animal life in the Bay of Whales was, according to the descriptions, extraordinarily rich, and offered all the fresh meat we required in the form of seals, penguins, etc.
Besides these purely technical and material advantages which the Barrier seemed to possess as a winter station, it offered a specially favourable site for an investigation of the meteorological conditions, since here one would be unobstructed by land on all sides. It would be possible to study the character of the Barrier by daily observations on the very spot better than anywhere else. Such interesting phenomena as the movement, feeding, and calving of this immense mass of ice could, of course, be studied very fully at this spot.
Last, but not least, there was the enormous advantage that it was comparatively easy to reach in the vessel. No expedition had yet been prevented from coming in here.
I knew that this plan of wintering on the Barrier itself would be exposed to severe criticism as recklessness, foolhardiness, and so forth, for it was generally assumed that the Barrier was afloat here, as in other places. Indeed, it was thought to be so even by those who had themselves seen it. Shackleton’s description of the conditions at the time of his visit did not seem very promising. Mile after mile had broken away, and he thanked God he had not made his camp there. Although I have a very great regard for Shackleton, his work and his experience, I believe that in this case his conclusion was too hasty — fortunately, I must add. For if, when Shackleton passed the Bay of Whales on January, 24, 1908, and saw the ice of the bay in process of breaking up and drifting out, he had waited a few hours, or at the most a couple of days, the problem of the South Pole would probably have been solved long before December, 1911. With his keen sight and sound judgment, it would not have taken him long to determine that the inner part of the bay does not consist of floating barrier, but that the Barrier there rests upon a good, solid foundation, probably in the form of small islands, skerries, or shoals, and from this point he and his able companions would have disposed of the South Polar question once for all. But circumstances willed it otherwise, and the veil was only lifted, not torn away.
I had devoted special study to this peculiar formation in the Barrier, and had arrived at the conclusion that the inlet that exists to-day in the Ross Barrier under the name of the Bay of Whales is nothing else than the self-same bight that was observed by Sir James Clark Ross — no doubt with great changes of outline, but still the same. For seventy years, then, this formation — with the exception of the pieces that had broken away — had persisted in the same place. I therefore concluded that it could be no accidental formation. What, once, in the dawn of time, arrested the mighty stream of ice at this spot and formed a lasting bay in its edge, which with few exceptions runs in an almost straight line, was not merely a passing whim of the fearful force that came crashing on, but something even stronger than that — something that was firmer than the hard ice — namely, the solid land. Here in this spot, then, the Barrier piled itself up and formed the bay we now call the Bay of Whales. The observations we made during our stay there confirm the correctness of this theory. I therefore had no misgivings in placing our station on this part of the Barrier.
The plan of the shore party was, as soon as the hut was built and provisions landed, to carry supplies into the field, and lay down depots as far to the south as possible. I hoped to get such a quantity of provisions brought down to lat. 80° S., that we should be able to regard this latitude as the real starting-place of the actual sledge journey to the Pole. We shall see later that this hope was more than fulfilled, and a labour many times greater than this was performed. By the time this depot work was accomplished winter would be before us, and with the knowledge we had of the conditions in the Antarctic regions, every precaution would have to be taken to meet the coldest and probably the most stormy weather that any Polar expedition had hitherto encountered. My object was, when winter had once set in, and everything in the station was in good working order, to concentrate all our forces upon the one object — that of reaching the Pole.
I intended to try to get people with me who were specially fitted for outdoor work in the cold. Even more necessary was it to find men who were experienced dog-drivers; I saw what a decisive bearing this would have on the result. There are advantages and disadvantages in having experienced people with one on an expedition like this. The advantages are obvious. If a variety of experiences are brought together and used with common sense, of course a great deal can be achieved. The experience of one man will often come in opportunely where that of another falls short. The experiences of several will supplement each other, and form something like a perfect whole; this is what I hoped to obtain. But there is no rose without a thorn; if it has its advantages, it also has its drawbacks. The drawback to which one is liable in this case is that someone or other may think he possesses so much experience that every opinion but his own is worthless. It is, of course, regrettable when experience takes this turn, but with patience and common sense it can be broken of it. In any case, the advantages are so great and predominant that I had determined to have experienced men to the greatest extent possible. It was my plan to devote the entire winter to working at our outfit, and to get it as near to perfection as possible. Another thing to which we should have to give some time was the killing of a sufficient number of seals to provide fresh meat both for ourselves and our dogs for the whole time. Scurvy, the worst enemy of Polar expeditions, must be kept off at all costs, and to achieve this it was my intention to use fresh meat every day. It proved easy to carry out this rule, since everyone, without exception, preferred seal meat to tinned foods. And when spring came I hoped that my companions and I would be ready, fit and well, with an outfit complete in every way.
The plan was to leave the station as early in the spring as possible. If we had set out to capture this record, we must at any cost get there first. Everything must be staked upon this. From the very moment when I had formed the plan, I had made up my mind that our course from the Bay of Whales must be set due south, and follow the same meridian, if possible, right up to the Pole. The effect of this would be that we should traverse an entirely new region, and gain other results besides beating the record.
I was greatly astonished to hear, on my return from the South, that some people had actually believed we had set our course from the Bay of Whales for Beardmore Glacier — Shackleton’s route — and followed it to the south. Let me hasten to assure them that this idea never for a single instant crossed my mind when I made the plan. Scott had announced that he was going to take Shackleton’s route, and that decided the matter. During our long stay at Framheim not one of us ever hinted at the possibility of such a course. Without discussion Scott’s route was declared out of bounds.
No; due south was our way, and the country would have to be difficult indeed to stop our getting on to the plateau. Our plan was to go south, and not to leave the meridian unless we were forced to do so by insuperable difficulties. I foresaw, of course, that there would be some who would attack me and accuse me of “shabby rivalry,” etc., and they would perhaps have had some shadow of justification if we had really thought of taking Captain Scott’s route. But it never occurred to us for a moment. Our starting-point lay 350 geographical miles from Scott’s winter quarters in McMurdo Sound, so there could be no question of encroaching upon his sphere of action. Moreover, Professor Nansen, in his direct and convincing way, has put an end once for all to this twaddle, so that I need not dwell upon it any longer.
I worked out the plan, as here given, at my home on Bundefjord, near Christiania, in September, 1909, and as it was laid, so was it carried out to the last detail. That my estimate of the time it would take was not so very far out is proved by the final sentence of the plan: “Thus we shall be back from the Polar journey on January 25.” It was on January 25, 1912, that we came into Framheim after our successful journey to the Pole.
This was not the only time our calculations proved correct; Captain Nilsen showed himself to be a veritable magician in this way. While I contented myself with reckoning dates, he did not hesitate to go into hours. He calculated that we should reach the Barrier on January 15, 1911; this is a distance of 16,000 geographical miles from Norway. We were at the Barrier on January 14, one day before the time. There was not much wrong with that estimate.
In accordance with the Storthing’s resolution of February 9, 1909, the Fram was lent for the use of the expedition, and a sum of 75,000 kroner (4,132 pounds sterling) was voted for repairs and necessary alterations.
The provisions were chosen with the greatest care, and packed with every precaution. All groceries were soldered in tin boxes, and then enclosed in strong wooden cases. The packing of tinned provisions is of enormous importance to a Polar expedition; it is impossible to give too much attention to this part of the supplies. Any carelessness, any perfunctory packing on the part of the factory, will as a rule lead to scurvy. It is an interesting fact that on the four Norwegian Polar expeditions — the three voyages of the Fram and the Gjöa’s voyage — not a single case of scurvy occurred. This is good evidence of the care with which these expeditions were provisioned.
In this matter we owe a deep debt of gratitude above all to Professor Sophus Torup, who has always been the supervising authority in the matter of provisioning, this time as well as on the former occasions.
Great praise is also due to the factories that supplied our tinned goods. By their excellent and conscientious work they deserved well of the expedition. In this case a part of the supplies was entrusted to a Stavanger factory, which, in addition to the goods supplied to order, with great generosity placed at the disposal of the expedition provisions to the value of 2,000 kroner (£110). The other half of the tinned foods required was ordered from a firm at Moss. The manager of this firm undertook at the same time to prepare the necessary pemmican for men and dogs, and executed this commission in a way that I cannot sufficiently praise. Thanks to this excellent preparation, the health both of men and dogs on the journey to the Pole was always remarkably good. The pemmican we took was essentially different from that which former expeditions had used. Previously the pemmican had contained nothing but the desired mixture of dried meat and lard; ours had, besides these, vegetables and oatmeal, an addition which greatly improves its flavour, and, as far as we could judge, makes it easier to digest.
This kind of pemmican was first produced for the use of the Norwegian Army; it was intended to take the place of the “emergency ration.” The experiment was not concluded at the time the expedition left, but it may be hoped that the result has proved satisfactory. A more stimulating, nourishing, and appetizing food, it would be impossible to find.
But besides the pemmican for ourselves, that for our dogs was equally important, for they are just as liable to be attacked by scurvy as we men. The same care had therefore to be devoted to the preparation of their food. We obtained from Moss two kinds of pemmican, one made with fish and the other with meat. Both kinds contained, besides the dried fish (or meat) and lard, a certain proportion of dried milk and middlings. Both kinds were equally excellent, and the dogs were always in splendid condition. The pemmican was divided into rations of 1 pound 1.5 ounces, and could be served out to the dogs as it was. But before we should be able to use this pemmican we had a five months’ voyage before us, and for this part of the expedition I had to look for a reliable supply of dried fish. This I found through the agent of the expedition at Tromsö, Mr. Fritz Zappfe. Two well-known firms also placed large quantities of the best dried fish at my disposal. With all this excellent fish and some barrels of lard we succeeded in bringing our dogs through in the best of condition.
One of the most important of our preparations was to find good dogs. As I have said, I had to act with decision and promptitude if I was to succeed in getting everything in order. The day after my decision was made, therefore, I was on my way to Copenhagen, where the Inspectors for Greenland, Messrs. Daugaard–Jensen and Bentzen, were to be found at that moment. The director of the Royal Greenland Trading Company, Mr. Rydberg, showed, as before, the most friendly interest in my undertaking, and gave the inspectors a free hand. I then negotiated with these gentlemen, and they undertook to provide 100 of the finest Greenland dogs and to deliver them in Norway in July, 1910. The dog question was thus as good as solved, since the choice was placed in the most expert hands. I was personally acquainted with Inspector Daugaard–Jensen from former dealings with him, and knew that whatever he undertook would be performed with the greatest conscientiousness. The administration of the Royal Greenland Trading Company gave permission for the dogs to be conveyed free of charge on board the Hans Egede and delivered at Christiansand.
Before I proceed to our further equipment, I must say a few more words about the dogs. The greatest difference between Scott’s and my equipment lay undoubtedly in our choice of draught animals. We had heard that Scott, relying on his own experience, and that of Shackleton, had come to the conclusion that Manchurian ponies were superior to dogs on the Barrier. Among those who were acquainted with the Eskimo dog, I do not suppose I was the only one who was startled on first hearing this. Afterwards, as I read the different narratives and was able to form an accurate opinion of the conditions of surface and going, my astonishment became even greater. Although I had never seen this part of the Antarctic regions, I was not long in forming an opinion diametrically opposed to that of Shackleton and Scott, for the conditions both of going and surface were precisely what one would desire for sledging with Eskimo dogs, to judge from the descriptions of these explorers. If Peary could make a record trip on the Arctic ice with dogs, one ought, surely, with equally good tackle, to be able to beat Peary’s record on the splendidly even surface of the Barrier. There must be some misunderstanding or other at the bottom of the Englishmen’s estimate of the Eskimo dog’s utility in the Polar regions. Can it be that the dog has not understood his master? Or is it the master who has not understood his dog? The right footing must be established from the outset; the dog must understand that he has to obey in everything, and the master must know how to make himself respected. If obedience is once established, I am convinced that the dog will be superior to all other draught animals over these long distances.
Another very important reason for using the dog is that this small creature can much more easily cross the numerous slight snow-bridges that are not to be avoided on the Barrier and on the glaciers. If a dog falls into a crevasse there is no great harm done; a tug at his harness and he is out again; but it is another matter with a pony. This comparatively large and heavy animal of course falls through far more easily, and if this happens, it is a long and stiff job to get the beast hauled up again — unless, indeed, the traces have broken and the pony lies at the bottom of a crevasse 1,000 feet deep.
And then there is the obvious advantage that dog can be fed on dog. One can reduce one’s pack little by little, slaughtering the feebler ones and feeding the chosen with them. In this way they get fresh meat. Our dogs lived on dog’s flesh and pemmican the whole way, and this enabled them to do splendid work.
And if we ourselves wanted a piece of fresh meat we could cut off a delicate little fillet; it tasted to us as good as the best beef. The dogs do not object at all; as long as they get their share they do not mind what part of their comrade’s carcass it comes from. All that was left after one of these canine meals was the teeth of the victim — and if it had been a really hard day, these also disappeared.
If we take a step farther, from the Barrier to the plateau, it would seem that every doubt of the dog’s superiority must disappear. Not only can one get the dogs up over the huge glaciers that lead to the plateau, but one can make full use of them the whole way. Ponies, on the other hand, have to be left at the foot of the glacier, while the men themselves have the doubtful pleasure of acting as ponies. As I understand Shackleton’s account, there can be no question of hauling the ponies over the steep and crevassed glaciers. It must be rather hard to have to abandon one’s motive power voluntarily when only a quarter of the distance has been covered. I for my part prefer to use it all the way.
From the very beginning I saw that the first part of our expedition, from Norway to the Barrier, would be the most dangerous section. If we could only reach the Barrier with our dogs safe and well, the future would be bright enough. Fortunately all my comrades took the same view of the matter, and with their cooperation we succeeded not only in bringing the dogs safely to our field of operations, but in landing them in far better condition than when we received them. Their number was also considerably increased on the way, which seems to be another proof of a flourishing state of things. To protect them against damp and heat we laid a loose deck of planed boards about 3 inches above the fixed deck, an arrangement by which all the rain and spray ran underneath the dogs. In this way we kept them out of the water, which must always be running from side to side on the deck of a deep-laden vessel on her way to the Antarctic Ocean. Going through the tropics this loose deck did double service. It always afforded a somewhat cool surface, as there was a fresh current of air between the two decks. The main deck, which was black with tar, would have been unbearably hot for the animals; the false deck was high, and kept fairly white during the whole voyage. We carried awnings in addition, chiefly on account of the dogs. These awnings could be stretched over the whole vessel and give the dogs constant protection from the burning sun.
I still cannot help smiling when I think of the compassionate voices that were raised here and there — and even made their way into print — about the “cruelty to animals” on board the Fram. Presumably these cries came from tender-hearted individuals who themselves kept watch-dogs tied up.
Besides our four-footed companions, we took with us a two-footed one, not so much on account of the serious work in the Polar regions as for pleasant entertainment on the way. This was our canary “Fridtjof.” It was one of the many presents made to the expedition, and not the least welcome of them. It began to sing as soon as it came on board, and has now kept it going on two circumnavigations through the most inhospitable waters of the earth. It probably holds the record as a Polar traveller among its kind.
Later on we had a considerable collection of various families: pigs, fowls, sheep, cats, and — rats. Yes, unfortunately, we knew what it was to have rats on board, the most repulsive of all creatures, and the worst vermin I know of. But we have declared war against them, and off they shall go before the Fram starts on her next voyage. We got them in Buenos Aires, and the best thing will be to bury them in their native land.
On account of the rather straitened circumstances the expedition had to contend with, I had to look twice at every shilling before I spent it. Articles of clothing are an important factor in a Polar expedition, and I consider it necessary that the expedition should provide each of its members with the actual “Polar clothing.” If one left this part of the equipment to each individual, I am afraid things would look badly before the journey was done. I must admit that there was some temptation to do this. It would have been very much cheaper if I had simply given each man a list of what clothes he was required to provide for himself. But by so doing I should have missed the opportunity of personally supervising the quality of the clothing to the extent I desired.
It was not an outfit that cut a dash by its appearance, but it was warm and strong. From the commissariat stores at Horten I obtained many excellent articles. I owe Captain Pedersen, the present chief of the Commissariat Department, my heartiest thanks for the courtesy he always showed me when I came to get things out of him. Through him I had about 200 blankets served out to me. Now, the reader must not imagine a bed and bedding, such as he may see exhibited in the windows of furniture shops, with thick, white blankets, so delicate that in spite of their thickness they look as if they might float away of their own accord, so light and fine do they appear. It was not blankets like these that Captain Pedersen gave us; we should not have known what to do with them if he had. The blankets the commissariat gave us were of an entirely different sort. As to their colour — well, I can only call it indeterminable — and they did not give one the impression that they would float away either, if one let go of them. No, they would keep on the ground right enough; they were felted and pressed together into a thick, hard mass. From the dawn of time they had served our brave warriors at sea, and it is by no means impossible that some of them had gruesome stories to tell of the days of Tordenskjold. The first thing I did, on obtaining possession of these treasures, was to get them into the dyeing-vat. They were unrecognizable when I got them back — in ultramarine blue, or whatever it was called. The metamorphosis was complete: their warlike past was wiped out.
My intention was to have these two hundred blankets made into Polar clothing, and I took counsel with myself how I might get this done. To disclose the origin of the stuff would be an unfortunate policy. No tailor in the world would make clothes out of old blankets, I was pretty sure of that. I had to hit upon some stratagem. I heard of a man who was a capable worker at his trade, and asked him to come and see me. My office looked exactly like a woollen warehouse, with blankets everywhere. The tailor arrived. “Was that the stuff?” “Yes, that was it. Just imported from abroad. A great bargain. A lot of samples dirt cheap.” I had put on my most innocent and unconcerned expression. I saw the tailor glance at me sideways; I suppose he thought the samples were rather large. “A closely woven stuff,” said he, holding it up to the light. “I could almost swear it was ‘felted.’ “ We went carefully through every single sample, and took the number. It was a long and tedious business, and I was glad when I saw that at last we were nearing the end. Over in a corner there lay a few more; we had reached the one hundred and ninety-third, so there could not be many in the pile. I was occupied with something else, and the tailor went through the remainder by himself. I was just congratulating myself on the apparently fortunate result of the morning’s work when I was startled by an exclamation from the man in the corner. It sounded like the bellow of a mad bull. Alas! there stood the tailor enveloped in ultramarine, and swinging over his head a blanket, the couleur changeante of which left no doubt as to the origin of the “directly imported” goods. With a look of thunder the man quitted me, and I sank in black despair. I never saw him again. The fact was that in my hurry I had forgotten the sample blanket that Captain Pedersen had sent me. That was the cause of the catastrophe.
Well, I finally succeeded in getting the work executed, and it is certain that no expedition has ever had warmer and stronger clothing than this. It was in great favour on board.
I also thought it best to provide good oilskins, and especially good sea-boots for every man. The sea-boots were therefore made to measure, and of the very best material. I had them made by the firm I have always regarded as the best in that branch. How, then, shall I describe our grief when, on the day we were to wear our beautiful sea-boots, we discovered that most of them were useless? Some of the men could dance a hornpipe in theirs without taking the boots off the deck. Others, by exerting all their strength, could not squeeze their foot through the narrow way and reach paradise. The leg was so narrow that even the most delicate little foot could not get through it, and to make up for this the foot of the boot was so huge that it could comfortably accommodate twice as much as its owner could show. Very few were able to wear their boots. We tried changing, but that was no use; the boots were not made for any creatures of this planet. But sailors are sailors wherever they may be; it is not easy to beat them. Most of them knew the proverb that one pair of boots that fit is better than ten pairs that you can’t put on, and had brought their own with them. And so we got out of that difficulty.
We took three sets of linen underclothing for every man, to wear in the warm regions. This part of the equipment was left to each individual; most men possess a few old shirts, and not much more is wanted through the tropics. For the cold regions there were two sets of extra thick woollen underclothing, two thick hand-knitted woollen jerseys, six pairs of knitted stockings, Iceland and other lighter jackets, socks and stockings from the penitentiary.
Besides these we had a quantity of clothing from the army depots. I owe many thanks to General Keilhau for the kind way in which he fell in with all my wishes. From this quarter we obtained outer clothing for both cold and warm climates, underclothes, boots, shoes, wind-clothing, and cloths of different kinds.
As the last item of our personal equipment I may mention that each man had a suit of sealskin from Greenland. Then there were such things as darning-wool, sewing-yarn, needles of all possible sizes, buttons, scissors, tapes — broad and narrow, black and white, blue and red. I may safely assert that nothing was forgotten; we were well and amply equipped in every way.
Another side of our preparations which claimed some attention was the fitting up of the quarters we were to inhabit, the saloons and cabins. What an immense difference it makes if one lives in comfortable surroundings. For my part, I can do twice the amount of work when I see tidiness and comfort around me. The saloons on the Fram were very handsomely and tastefully fitted. Here we owe, in the first place, our respectful thanks to King Haakon and Queen Maud for the photographs they presented to us; they were the most precious of our gifts. The ladies of Horten gave us a number of pretty things for decorating the cabins, and they will no doubt be glad to hear of the admiration they aroused wherever we went. “Is this really a Polar ship?” people asked; “we expected to see nothing but wooden benches and bare walls.” And they began to talk about “boudoirs” and things of that sort. Besides splendid embroideries, our walls were decorated with the most wonderful photographs; it would have rejoiced the giver of these to hear all the words of praise that have been bestowed upon them.
The sleeping quarters I left to individual taste: every man could take a bit of his home in his own little compartment. The bedclothes came from the naval factory at Horten; they were first-class work, like everything else that came from there. We owe our best thanks to the giver of the soft blankets that have so often been our joy and put warmth into us after a bitter day; they came from a woollen mill at Trondhjem.
I must also mention our paper-supply, which was in all respects as fine and elegant as it could possibly be: the most exquisite notepaper, stamped with a picture of the Fram and the name of the expedition, in large and small size, broad and narrow, old style and new style — every kind of notepaper, in fact. Of pens and penholders, pencils, black and coloured, india-rubber, Indian ink, drawing-pins and other kinds of pins, ink and ink-powder, white chalk and red chalk, gum arabic and other gums, date-holders and almanacs, ship’s logs and private diaries, notebooks and sledging diaries, and many other things of the same sort, we have such a stock that we shall be able to circumnavigate the earth several times more before running short. This gift does honour to the firm which sent it; every time I have sent a letter or written in my diary, I have had a grateful thought for the givers.
From one of the largest houses in Christiania we had a complete set of kitchen utensils and breakfast and dinner services, all of the best kind. The cups, plates, knives, forks, spoons, jugs, glasses, etc., were all marked with the ship’s name.
We carried an extraordinarily copious library; presents of books were showered upon us in great quantities. I suppose the Fram’s library at the present moment contains at least 3,000 volumes.
For our entertainment we also had a good many different games. One of these became our favourite pastime in leisure evenings down in the South. Packs of cards we had by the dozen, and many of them have already been well used. A gramophone with a large supply of records was, I think, our best friend. Of musical instruments we had a piano, a violin, a flute, mandolins, not forgetting a mouth-organ and an accordion. All the publishers had been kind enough to send us music, so that we could cultivate this art as much as we wished.
Christmas presents streamed in from all sides; I suppose we had about five hundred on board. Christmas-trees and decorations for them, with many other things to amuse us at Christmas, were sent with us by friends and acquaintances. People have indeed been kind to us, and I can assure the givers that all their presents have been, and are still, much appreciated.
We were well supplied with wines and spirits, thanks to one of the largest firms of wine-merchants in Christiania. An occasional glass of wine or a tot of spirits were things that we all, without exception, were very glad of. The question of alcohol on Polar expeditions has often been discussed. Personally, I regard alcohol, used in moderation, as a medicine in the Polar regions — I mean, of course, so long as one is in winter quarters. It is another matter on sledge journeys: there we all know from experience that alcohol must be banished — not because a drink of spirits can do any harm, but on account of the weight and space. On sledging journeys one has, of course, to save weight as much as possible, and to take only what is strictly necessary; and I do not include alcohol under the head of strictly necessary things. Nor was it only in winter quarters that we had use for alcohol, but also on the long, monotonous voyage through raw, cold, and stormy regions. A tot of spirits is often a very good thing when one goes below after a bitter watch on deck and is just turning in. A total abstainer will no doubt turn up his nose and ask whether a cup of good warm coffee would not do as well. For my part, I think the quantity of coffee people pour into themselves at such times is far more harmful than a little Lysholmer snaps. And think of the important part a glass of wine or toddy plays in social gatherings on such a voyage. Two men who have fallen out a little in the course of the week are reconciled at once by the scent of rum; the past is forgotten, and they start afresh in friendly co-operation. Take alcohol away from these little festivities, and you will soon see the difference. It is a sad thing, someone will say, that men absolutely must have alcohol to put them in a good humour — and I am quite ready to agree. But seeing that our nature is what it is, we must try to make the best of it. It seems as though we civilized human beings must have stimulating drinks, and that being so, we have to follow our own convictions. I am for a glass of toddy. Let who will eat plum-cake and swill hot coffee — heartburn and other troubles are often the result of this kind of refreshment. A little toddy doesn’t hurt anybody.
The consumption of alcohol on the Fram’s third voyage was as follows: One dram and fifteen drops at dinner on Wednesdays and Sundays, and a glass of toddy on Saturday evenings. On holidays there was an additional allowance.
We were all well supplied with tobacco and cigars from various firms at home and abroad. We had enough cigars to allow us one each on Saturday evenings and after dinner on Sundays.
Two Christiania manufacturers sent us their finest bonbons and drops, and a foreign firm gave us “Gala Peter,” so that it was no rare thing to see the Polar explorers helping themselves to a sweetmeat or a piece of chocolate. An establishment at Drammen gave us as much fruit syrup as we could drink, and if the giver only knew how many times we blessed the excellent product he supplied, I am sure he would be pleased. On the homeward march from the Pole we looked forward every day to getting nearer to our supply of syrup.
From three different firms in Christiania we received all our requirements in the way of cheese, biscuits, tea, sugar, and coffee. The packing of the last-named was so efficient that, although the coffee was roasted, it is still as fresh and aromatic as the day it left the warehouse. Another firm sent us soap enough for five years, and one uses a good deal of that commodity even on a Polar voyage. A man in Christiania had seen to the care of our skin, hair, and teeth, and it is not his fault if we have not delicate skins, abundant growth of hair, and teeth like pearls, for the outfit was certainly complete enough.
An important item of the equipment is the medical department, and here my advisers were Dr. Jacob Roll and Dr. Holth; therefore nothing was wanting. A chemist in Christiania supplied all the necessary medicines as a contribution, carefully chosen, and beautifully arranged. Unfortunately no doctor accompanied the expedition, so that I was obliged to take all the responsibility myself.
Lieutenant Gjertsen, who had a pronounced aptitude both for drawing teeth and amputating legs, went through a “lightning course” at the hospital and the dental hospital. He clearly showed that much may be learnt in a short time by giving one’s mind to it. With surprising rapidity and apparent confidence Lieutenant Gjertsen disposed of the most complicated cases — whether invariably to the patient’s advantage is another question, which I shall leave undecided. He drew teeth with a dexterity that strongly reminded one of the conjurer’s art; one moment he showed an empty pair of forceps, the next there was a big molar in their grip. The yells one heard while the operation was in progress seemed to indicate that it was not entirely painless.
A match factory gave us all the safety matches we wanted. They were packed so securely that we could quite well have towed the cases after us in the sea all the way, and found the matches perfectly dry on arrival. We had a quantity of ammunition and explosives. As the whole of the lower hold was full of petroleum, the Fram had a rather dangerous cargo on board. We therefore took all possible precautions against fire; extinguishing apparatus was fitted in every cabin and wherever practicable, and pumps with hose were always in readiness on deck.
The necessary ice-tools, such as saws from 2 to 6 metres long, ice-drills, etc., were not forgotten.
We had a number of scientific instruments with us. Professors Nansen and Helland–Hansen had devoted many an hour to our oceanographical equipment, which was therefore a model of what such an equipment should be. Lieutenants Prestrud and Gjertsen had both gone through the necessary course in oceanography under Helland–Hansen at the Bergen biological station. I myself had spent a summer there, and taken part in one of the oceanographical courses. Professor Helland–Hansen was a brilliant teacher; I am afraid I cannot assert that I was an equally brilliant pupil.
Professor Mohn had given us a complete meteorological outfit. Among the instruments belonging to the Fram I may mention a pendulum apparatus, an excellent astronomical theodolite, and a sextant. Lieutenant Prestrud studied the use of the pendulum apparatus under Professor Schiotz and the use of the astronomical theodolite under Professor Geelmuyden. We had in addition several sextants and artificial horizons, both glass and mercury. We had binoculars of all sizes, from the largest to the smallest.
So far I have been dealing with our general outfit, and shall now pass to the special equipment of the shore party. The hut we took out was built on my property on Bundefjord, so that I was able to watch the work as it progressed. It was built by the brothers Hans and Jörgen Stubberud, and was throughout a splendid piece of work, which did honour to both the brothers. The materials proved excellent in every way. The hut was 26 feet long by 13 feet wide; its height from the floor to the ridge of the roof was about 12 feet. It was built as an ordinary Norwegian house, with pointed gable, and had two rooms. One of these was 19 1/2 feet long, and was to serve as our dormitory, dining-room, and sitting-room; the other room was 6 1/2 feet long, and was to be Lindström’s kitchen. From the kitchen a double trap-door led to the loft, where we intended to keep a quantity of provisions and outfit. The walls consisted of 3-inch planks, with air space between; panels outside and inside, with air space between them and the plank walling. For insulation we used cellulose pulp. The floor and the ceiling between the rooms and the loft were double, while the upper roof was single. The doors were extraordinarily thick and strong, and fitted into oblique grooves, so that they closed very tightly. There were two windows — a triple one in the end wall of the main room, and a double one in the kitchen. For the covering of the roof we took out roofing-paper, and for the floor linoleum. In the main room there were two air-pipes, one to admit fresh air, the other for the exhaust. There were bunks for ten men in two stages, six on one wall and four on the other. The furniture of the room consisted of a table, a stool for each man, and a Lux lamp.
One half of the kitchen was occupied by the range, the other by shelves and cooking utensils. The hut was tarred several times, and every part was carefully marked, so that it could easily be set up. To fasten it to the ground and prevent the Antarctic storms from blowing it away I had strong eyebolts screwed into each end of the roof-ridge and the four corners of the roof; we carried six strong eyebolts, a metre long, to be rammed into the barrier; between these bolts and those on the hut, steel wires were to be stretched, which could be drawn quite tight. We also had two spare cables, which could be stretched over the roof if the gales were too severe. The two ventilating pipes and the chimney were secured outside with strong stays.
As will be seen, every precaution was taken to make the hut warm and comfortable, and to hold it down on the ground. We also took on board a quantity of loose timber, boards and planks.
Besides the hut we took with us fifteen tents for sixteen men each. Ten of these were old, but good; they were served out to us from the naval stores; the other five were new, and we bought them from the army depots. It was our intention to use the tents as temporary houses; they were easily and quickly set up, and were strong and warm. On the voyage to the South Rönne sewed new floors of good, strong canvas to the five new tents.
All cases of provisions that were intended for winter quarters were marked and stowed separately in the hold in such a way that they could be put out on to the ice at once.
We had ten sledges made by a firm of sporting outfitters in Christiania. They were built like the old Nansen sledges, but rather broader, and were 12 feet long. The runners were of the best American hickory, shod with steel. The other parts were of good, tough Norwegian ash. To each sledge belonged a pair of spare runners, which could easily be fitted underneath by means of clamps, and as easily removed when not required. The steel shoeing of the runners was well coated with red lead, and the spare runners with tar. These sledges were extremely strongly built, and could stand all kinds of work on every sort of surface. At that time I did not know the conditions on the Barrier as I afterwards came to know them. Of course, these sledges were very heavy.
We took twenty pairs of ski, all of the finest hickory; they were 8 feet long, and proportionately narrow. I chose them of this length with a view to being able to cross the numerous cracks in the glaciers; the greater the surface over which the weight could be distributed, the better prospect we should have of slipping over the snow-bridges. We had forty ski-poles, with ebonite points. The ski-bindings were a combination of the Huitfeldt and the Höyer Ellefsen bindings. We also had quantities of loose straps.
We had six three-man tents, all made in the navy workshops. The workmanship could not have been better; they were the strongest and most practical tents that have ever been used. They were made of the closest canvas, with the floor in one piece. One man was sufficient to set up the tent in the stiffest breeze; I have come to the conclusion that the fewer poles a tent has, the easier it is to set up, which seems quite natural. These tents have only one pole. How often one reads in narratives of Polar travel that it took such and such a time — often hours — to set up the tent, and then, when at last it was up, one lay expecting it to be blown down at any moment. There was no question of this with our tents. They were up in a twinkling, and stood against all kinds of wind; we could lie securely in our sleeping-bags, and let it blow.
The arrangement of the door was on the usual sack principle, which is now recognized as the only serviceable one for the Polar regions. The sack patent is quite simple, like all patents that are any good. You cut an opening in the tent of the size you wish; then you take a sack, which you leave open at both ends, and sew one end fast round the opening of the tent. The funnel formed by the open sack is then the entrance. When you have come in, you gather up the open end of the funnel or sack, and tie it together. Not a particle of snow can get into a tent with the floor sewed on and an entrance of this kind, even in the worst storm.
The cases for sledging provisions were made of fairly thin, tough ash, which came from the estate of Palsgaard in Jutland, and the material did all it promised. These cases were 1 foot square and 15 1/2 inches high. They had only a little round opening on the top, closed with an aluminium lid, which fitted exactly like the lid of a milk-can. Large lids weaken the cases, and I had therefore chosen this form. We did not have to throw off the lashing of the case to get the lid off, and this is a very great advantage; we could always get at it. A case with a large lid, covered by the lashing, gives constant trouble; the whole lashing has to be undone for every little thing one wants out of the case. This is not always convenient; if one is tired and slack, it may sometimes happen that one will put off till to-morrow what ought to be done to-day, especially when it is bitterly cold. The handier one’s sledging outfit, the sooner one gets into the tent and to rest, and that is no small consideration on a long journey.
Our outfit of clothing was abundant and more complete, I suppose, than that of any former Polar expedition. We may divide it into two classes, the outfit for specially low temperatures and that for more moderate temperatures. It must be remembered that no one had yet wintered on the Barrier, so we had to be prepared for anything. In order to be able to grapple with any degree of cold, we were supplied with the richest assortment of reindeer-skin clothing; we had it specially thick, medium, and quite light. It took a long time to get these skin clothes prepared. First the reindeer-skins had to be bought in a raw state, and this was done for me by Mr. Zappfe at Tromsö, Karasjok, and Kaatokeino. Let me take the opportunity of thanking this man for the many and great services he has rendered me, not only during my preparations for the third voyage of the Fram, but in the fitting out of the Gjöa expedition as well. With his help I have succeeded in obtaining things that I should otherwise never have been able to get. He shrank from no amount of work, but went on till he had found what I wanted. This time he procured nearly two hundred and fifty good reindeer-skins, dressed by the Lapps, and sent them to Christiania. Here I had great trouble in finding a man who could sew skins, but at last I found one. We then went to work to make clothes after the pattern of the Netchelli Eskimo, and the sewing went on early and late — thick anoraks and thin ones, heavy breeches and light, winter stockings and summer stockings. We also had a dozen thin sleeping-bags, which I thought of using inside the big thick ones if the cold should be too severe. Everything was finished, but not until the last moment. The outer sleeping-bags were made by Mr. Brandt, furrier, of Bergen, and they were so excellent, both in material and making-up, that no one in the world could have done better; it was a model piece of work. To save this outer sleeping-bag, we had it provided with a cover of the lightest canvas, which was a good deal longer than the bag itself. It was easy to tie the end of the cover together like the mouth of the sack, and this kept the snow out of the bag during the day’s march. In this way we always kept ourselves free from the annoyance of drifting snow. We attached great importance to having the bags made of the very best sort of skin, and took care that the thin skin of the belly was removed. I have seen sleeping-bags of the finest reindeer-skin spoilt in a comparatively short time if they contained a few patches of this thin skin, as of course the cold penetrates more easily through the thin skin, and gives rise to dampness in the form of rime on meeting the warmth of the body. These thin patches remain damp whenever one is in the bag, and in a short time they lose their hair. The damp spreads, like decay in wood, and continually attacks the surrounding skin, with the result that one fine day you find yourself with a hairless sleeping-bag. One cannot be too careful in the choice of skins. For the sake of economy, the makers of reindeer-skin sleeping-bags are in the habit of sewing them in such a way that the direction of the hair is towards the opening of the bag. Of course this suits the shape of the skins best, but it does not suit the man who is going to use the bag. For it is no easy matter to crawl into a sleeping-bag which is only just wide enough to allow one to get in, and if the way of the hair is against one it is doubly difficult. I had them all made as one-man bags, with lacing round the neck; this did not, of course, meet with the approval of all, as will be seen later. The upper part of this thick sleeping-bag was made of thinner reindeer-skin, so that we might be able to tie it closely round the neck; the thick skin will not draw so well and fit so closely as the thin.
Our clothing in moderate temperatures consisted of thick woollen underclothing and Burberry windproof overalls. This underclothing was specially designed for the purpose; I had myself watched the preparation of the material, and knew that it contained nothing but pure wool. We had overalls of two different materials: Burberry “gabardine” and the ordinary green kind that is used in Norway in the winter. For sledge journeys, where one has to save weight, and to work in loose, easy garments, I must unhesitatingly recommend Burberry. It is extraordinarily light and strong, and keeps the wind completely out. For hard work I prefer the green kind. It keeps out the wind equally well, but is heavier and more bulky, and less comfortable to wear on a long march. Our Burberry wind-clothes were made in the form of anorak (blouse) and trousers, both very roomy. The others consisted of trousers and jacket with hood.
Our mits were for the most part such as one can buy in any shop; we wanted nothing else in and around winter quarters. Outside the mits we wore an outer covering of windproof material, so as not to wear them out too quickly. These mits are not very strong, though they are good and warm. Besides these, we had ten pairs of ordinary kid mits, which were bought at a glove-shop in Christiania, and were practically impossible to wear out. I wore mine from Framheim to the Pole and back again, and afterwards on the voyage to Tasmania. The lining, of course, was torn in places, but the seams of the mits were just as perfect as the day I bought them. Taking into consideration the fact that I went on ski the whole way and used two poles, it will be understood that the mits were strongly made. We also had a number of woollen gloves, which, curiously enough, the others greatly prized. For myself, I was never able to wear such things; they simply freeze the fingers off me.
But most important of all is the covering of the feet, for the feet are the most exposed members and the most difficult to protect. One can look after the hands; if they grow cold it is easy to beat them into warmth again. Not so with the feet; they are covered up in the morning, and this is a sufficiently troublesome piece of work to make one disinclined to undo it again until one is turning in. They cannot be seen in the course of the day, and one has to depend entirely on feeling; but feeling in this case often plays curious tricks. How often has it happened that men have had their feet frozen off without knowing it! For if they had known it, they could not possibly have let it go so far. The fact is that in this case sensation is a somewhat doubtful guide, for the feet lose all sensation. It is true that there is a transitional stage, when one feels the cold smarting in one’s toes, and tries to get rid of it by stamping the feet. As a rule this is successful; the warmth returns, or the circulation is restored; but it occasionally happens that sensation is lost at the very moment when these precautions are taken. And then one must be an old hand to know what has happened. Many men conclude that, as they no longer feel the unpleasant smarting sensation, all is well; and at the evening inspection a frozen foot of tallow-like appearance presents itself. An event of this kind may ruin the most elaborately prepared enterprise, and it is therefore advisable in the matter of feet to carry one’s caution to lengths which may seem ridiculous.
Now, it is a fact that if one can wear soft foot-gear exclusively the risk of frost-bite is far less than if one is compelled to wear stiff boots; in soft foot-gear, of course, the foot can move far more easily and keep warm. But we were to take ski and to get full use out of them, so that in any case we had to have a stiff sole for the sake of the bindings. It is of no use to have a good binding unless you can use it in the right way. In my opinion, on a long journey such as that we had before us, the ski must be perfectly steady. I do not know anything that tires me more than a bad fastening — that is, one that allows the foot to shift in the binding. I want the ski to be a part of oneself, so that one always has full command of them. I have tried many patents, for I have always been afraid of a stiff fastening in cold temperatures; but all these patents, without exception, are worthless in the long-run. I decided this time to try a combination of stiff and soft foot-gear, so that we could use the splendid Huitfeldt-Höyer Ellefsen bindings; but this was no easy matter. Of our whole outfit nothing caused me more worry or gave us all more work in the course of the expedition than the stiff outer covering which we had to have; but we solved the problem at last. I applied to one of the leading makers of ski-boots in Christiania, and explained the difficulty to him; fortunately I had found a man who was evidently interested in the question. We agreed that he should make a sample pair after the pattern of ski-boots. The sole was to be thick and stiff — for we had to be prepared to use crampons — but the uppers as soft as possible. In order to avoid leather, which usually becomes stiff and easily cracked in the cold, he was to use a combination of leather and thin canvas for the uppers — leather nearest the sole, and canvas above it.
The measurements were taken from my foot, which is not exactly a child’s foot, with two pairs of reindeer-skin stockings on, and ten pairs were made. I well remember seeing these boots in civilized Christiania. They were exhibited in the bootmaker’s windows — I used to go a long way round to avoid coming face to face with these monsters in public. We are all a trifle vain, and dislike having our own shortcomings shown up in electric light. If I had ever cherished any illusions on the subject of “a dainty little foot,” I am sure the last trace of such vanity died out on the day I passed the shoemaker’s window and beheld my own boots. I never went that way again until I was certain that the exhibition was closed. One thing is certain, that the boots were a fine piece of workmanship. We shall hear later on of the alterations they had to undergo before we at last made them as large as we wanted, for the giant boots turned out much too small!
Among other equipment I must mention our excellent Primus cooking apparatus. This all came complete from a firm in Stockholm. For cooking on sledge journeys the Primus stove ranks above all others; it gives a great deal of heat, uses little oil, and requires no attention — advantages which are important enough anywhere, but especially when sledging. There is never any trouble with this apparatus; it has come as near perfection as possible. We took five Nansen cookers with us. This cooker utilizes the heat more completely than any other; but I have one objection to make to it — it takes up space. We used it on our depot journeys, but were unfortunately obliged to give it up on the main southern journey. We were so many in a tent, and space was so limited, that I dared not risk using it. If one has room enough, it is ideal in my opinion.
We had with us ten pairs of snow-shoes and one hundred sets of dog-harness of the Alaska Eskimo pattern. The Alaska Eskimo drive their dogs in tandem; the whole pull is thus straight ahead in the direction the sledge is going, and this is undoubtedly the best way of utilizing the power. I had made up my mind to adopt the same system in sledging on the Barrier. Another great advantage it had was that the dogs would pass singly across fissures, so that the danger of falling through was considerably reduced. The exertion of pulling is also less trying with Alaska harness than with the Greenland kind, as the Alaska harness has a shallow, padded collar, which is slipped over the animal’s head and makes the weight of the pull come on his shoulders, whereas the Greenland harness presses on his chest. Raw places, which occur rather frequently with the Greenland harness, are almost entirely avoided with the other. All the sets of harness were made in the navy workshops, and after their long and hard use they are as good as ever. There could be no better recommendation than this.
Of instruments and apparatus for the sledge journeys we carried two sextants, three artificial horizons, of which two were glass horizons with dark glasses, and one a mercury horizon, and four spirit compasses, made in Christiania. They were excellent little compasses, but unfortunately useless in cold weather — that is to say, when the temperature went below — 40° F.; at this point the liquid froze. I had drawn the maker’s attention to this beforehand and asked him to use as pure a spirit as possible. What his object was I still do not know, but the spirit he employed was highly dilute. The best proof of this was that the liquid in our compasses froze before the spirits in a flask. We were naturally inconvenienced by this. Besides these we had an ordinary little pocket-compass, two pairs of binoculars, one by Zeiss and the other by Goertz, and snow-goggles from Dr. Schanz. We had various kinds of glasses for these, so that we could change when we were tired of one colour. During the whole stay on the Barrier I myself wore a pair of ordinary spectacles with yellow glasses of quite a light tint. These are prepared by a chemical process in such a way that they nullify the harmful colours in the sun’s rays. How excellent these glasses are appears clearly enough from the fact that I never had the slightest touch of snow-blindness on the southern journey, although the spectacles were perfectly open and allowed the light to enter freely everywhere. It will perhaps be suggested that I am less susceptible to this ailment than others, but I know from personal experience that such is not the case. I have previously had several severe attacks of snow-blindness.
We had two photographic cameras, an air thermometer, two aneroids with altitude scale to 15,000 feet, and two hypsometers. The hypsometer is only an instrument for determining the boiling-point, which gives one the height above the sea. The method is both simple and reliable.
The medical stores for sledging were given by a London firm, and the way in which the things were packed speaks for the whole outfit. There is not a speck of rust on needles, scissors, knives, or anything else, although they have been exposed to much damp. Our own medical outfit, which was bought in Christiania, and according to the vendor’s statement unusually well packed, became in a short time so damaged that the whole of it is now entirely spoilt.
The sledging provisions must be mentioned briefly. I have already spoken of the pemmican. I have never considered it necessary to take a whole grocer’s shop with me when sledging; the food should be simple and nourishing, and that is enough — a rich and varied menu is for people who have no work to do. Besides the pemmican, we had biscuits, milk-powder, and chocolate. The biscuits were a present from a well-known Norwegian factory, and did all honour to their origin. They were specially baked for us, and were made of oatmeal with the addition of dried milk and a little sugar; they were extremely nourishing and pleasant to the taste. Thanks to efficient packing, they kept fresh and crisp all the time. These biscuits formed a great part of our daily diet, and undoubtedly contributed in no small degree to the successful result. Milk-powder is a comparatively new commodity with us, but it deserves to be better known. It came from the district of Jæderen. Neither heat nor cold, dryness nor wet, could hurt it; we had large quantities of it lying out in small, thin linen bags in every possible state of the weather: the powder was as good the last day as the first. We also took dried milk from a firm in Wisconsin; this milk had an addition of malt and sugar, and was, in my opinion, excellent; it also kept good the whole time. The chocolate came from a world-renowned firm, and was beyond all praise. The whole supply was a very acceptable gift.
We are bringing all the purveyors of our sledging provisions samples of their goods that have made the journey to the South Pole and back, in gratitude for the kind assistance they afforded us.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:50