We had thus arrived on January 14 — a day earlier than we had reckoned — at this vast, mysterious, natural phenomenon — the Barrier. One of the most difficult problems of the expedition was solved — that of conveying our draught animals in sound condition to the field of operations. We had taken 97 dogs on board at Christiansand; the number had now increased to 116, and practically all of these would be fit to serve in the final march to the South.
The next great problem that confronted us was to find a suitable place on the Barrier for our station. My idea had been to get everything — equipment and provisions — conveyed far enough into the Barrier to secure us against the unpleasant possibility of drifting out into the Pacific in case the Barrier should be inclined to calve. I had therefore fixed upon ten miles as a suitable distance from the edge of the Barrier. But even our first impression of the conditions seemed to show that we should be spared a great part of this long and troublesome transport. Along its outer edge the Barrier shows an even, flat surface; but here, inside the bay, the conditions were entirely different. Even from the deck of the Fram we were able to observe great disturbances of the surface in every direction; huge ridges with hollows between them extended on all sides. The greatest elevation lay to the south in the form of a lofty, arched ridge, which we took to be about 500 feet high on the horizon. But it might be assumed that this ridge continued to rise beyond the range of vision.
Our original hypothesis that this bay was due to underlying land seemed, therefore, to be immediately confirmed. It did not take long to moor the vessel to the fixed ice-foot, which here extended for about a mile and a quarter beyond the edge of the Barrier. Everything had been got ready long before. Bjaaland had put our ski in order, and every man had had his right pairs fitted. Ski-boots had long ago been tried on, time after time, sometimes with one, sometimes with two pairs of stockings. Of course it turned out that the ski-boots were on the small side. To get a bootmaker to make roomy boots is, I believe, an absolute impossibility. However, with two pairs of stockings we could always get along in the neighbourhood of the ship. For longer journeys we had canvas boots, as already mentioned.
Of the remainder of our outfit I need only mention the Alpine ropes, which had also been ready for some time. They were about 30 yards long, and were made of very fine rope, soft as silk, specially suited for use in low temperatures.
After a hurried dinner four of us set out. This first excursion was quite a solemn affair; so much depended on it. The weather was of the very best, calm with brilliant sunshine, and a few light, feathery clouds in the beautiful, pale blue sky. There was warmth in the air which could be felt, even on this immense ice-field. Seals were lying along the ice-foot as far as the eye could reach — great, fat mountains of flesh; food enough to last us and the dogs for years.
The going was ideal; our ski glided easily and pleasantly through the newly fallen loose snow. But none of us was exactly in training after the long five months’ sea voyage, so that the pace was not great. After half an hour’s march we were already at the first important point — the connection between the sea-ice and the Barrier. This connection had always haunted our brains. What would it be like? A high, perpendicular face of ice, up which we should have to haul our things laboriously with the help of tackles? Or a great and dangerous fissure, which we should not be able to cross without going a long way round? We naturally expected something of the sort. This mighty and terrible monster would, of course, offer resistance in some form or other.
The mystic Barrier! All accounts without exception, from the days of Ross to the present time, had spoken of this remarkable natural formation with apprehensive awe. It was as though one could always read between the lines the same sentence: “Hush, be quiet! the mystic Barrier!”
One, two, three, and a little jump, and the Barrier was surmounted!
We looked at each other and smiled; probably the same thought was in the minds of all of us. The monster had begun to lose something of its mystery, the terror something of its force; the incomprehensible was becoming quite easy to understand.
Without striking a blow we had entered into our kingdom. The Barrier was at this spot about 20 feet high, and the junction between it and the sea-ice was completely filled up with driven snow, so that the ascent took the form of a little, gentle slope. This spot would certainly offer us no resistance.
Hitherto we had made our advance without a rope. The sea-ice, we knew, would offer no hidden difficulties; but what would be the condition of things beyond the Barrier was another question. And as we all thought it would be better to have the rope on before we fell into a crevasse than afterwards, our further advance was made with a rope between the first two.
We proceeded in an easterly direction up through a little valley formed by “Mount Nelson” on one side, and “Mount Rönniken” on the other. The reader must not, however, imagine from these imposing names that we were walking between any formidable mountain-ranges. Mounts Nelson and Rönniken were nothing but two old pressure ridges that had been formed in those far-off days when the mighty mass of ice had pushed on with awful force without meeting hindrance or resistance, until at this spot it met a superior power that clove and splintered it, and set a bound to its further advance. It must have been a frightful collision, like the end of a world. But now it was over: peace — an air of infinite peace lay over it all. Nelson and Rönniken were only two pensioned veterans. Regarded as pressure ridges they were huge, raising their highest summits over 100 feet in the air. Here in the valley the surface round Nelson was quite filled up, while Rönniken still showed a deep scar — a fissure or hollow. We approached it cautiously. It was not easy to see how deep it was, and whether it had an invisible connection with Nelson on the other side of the valley. But this was not the case. On a closer examination this deep cleft proved to have a solid, filled-up bottom. Between the ridges the surface was perfectly flat, and offered an excellent site for a dog-camp.
Captain Nilsen and I had worked out a kind of programme of the work to be done, and in this it was decided that the dogs should be brought on to the Barrier as quickly as possible, and there looked after by two men. We chose this place for the purpose. The old pressure ridges told the history of the spot plainly enough; we had no need to fear any kind of disturbance here. The site had the additional advantage that we could see the ship from it, and would always be in communication with those on board.
From here the valley turned slightly to the south. After having marked the spot where our first tent was to be set up, we continued our investigations. The valley sloped gradually upwards, and reached the ridge at a height of 100 feet. From this elevation we had an excellent view over the valley we had been following, and all the other surroundings. On the north the Barrier extended, level and straight, apparently without interruption, and ended on the west in the steep descent of Cape Man’s Head, which formed the eastern limit of the inner part of the Bay of Whales, and afforded a snug little corner, where we had found room for our ship. There lay the whole of the inner part of the bay, bounded on all sides by ice, ice and nothing but ice-Barrier as far as we could see, white and blue. This spot would no doubt show a surprising play of colour later on; it promised well in this way.
The ridge we were standing on was not broad — about two hundred yards, I think — and in many places it was swept quite bare by the wind, showing the blue ice itself. We passed over it and made for the pass of Thermopylae, which extended in a southerly direction from the ridge and after a very slight descent was merged in a great plain, surrounded by elevations on all sides — a basin, in fact. The bare ridge we passed over to descend into the basin was a good deal broken up; but the fissures were narrow, and almost entirely filled up again with drift, so that they were not dangerous. The basin gave us the impression of being sheltered and cosy, and, above all, it looked safe and secure. This stretch of ice was — with the exception of a few quite small hummocks of the shape of haycocks — perfectly flat and free from crevasses.
We crossed it, and went up on the ridge that rose very gently on the south. From the top of this all was flat and even as far as we could see; but that was not saying much. For a little while we continued along the ridge in an easterly direction without finding any place that was specially suited for our purpose. Our thoughts returned to the basin as the best sheltered place we had seen.
From the height we were now on, we could look down into the south-eastern part of the Bay of Whales. In contrast to that part of the ice-foot to which we had made fast, the inner bay seemed to consist of ice that had been forced up by pressure. But we had to leave a closer examination of this part till later. We all liked the basin, and agreed to choose it as our future abode, And so we turned and went back again. It did not take long to reach the plain in our own tracks.
On making a thorough examination of the surface and discussing the various possibilities, we came to the conclusion that a site for the hut was to be looked for on the little elevation that rose to the east. It seemed that we should be more snug there than anywhere else, and we were not mistaken. We soon made up our minds that we had chosen the best place the Barrier had to offer. On the spot where the hut was to stand we set up another ski-pole, and then went home.
The good news that we had already found a favourable place for the hut naturally caused great satisfaction on all sides. Everyone had been silently dreading the long and troublesome transport over the Ice Barrier.
There was teeming life on the ice. Wherever we turned we saw great herds of seals — Weddells and crab-eaters. The great sea-leopard, which we had seen occasionally on the floes, was not to be found here. During our whole stay in the Bay of Whales we did not see a single specimen of it. Nor did we ever see the Ross seal. Penguins had not shown themselves particularly often, only a few here and there; but we appreciated them all the more. The few we saw were almost all Adélie penguins. While we were at work making the ship fast, a flock of them suddenly shot up out of the water and on to the ice. They looked about them in surprise for a moment: men and ships do not come their way every day. But it seemed as if their astonishment soon gave way to a desire to see what was happening. They positively sat and studied all our movements. Only now and then they grunted a little and took a turn over the ice. What specially interested them was evidently our work at digging holes in the snow for the grapnels. They flocked about the men who were engaged in this, laid their heads on one side, and looked as if they found it immensely interesting. They did not appear to be the least afraid of us, and for the most part we left them in peace. But some of them had to lose their lives; we wanted them for our collection.
An exciting seal-hunt took place the same day. Three crab-eaters had ventured to approach the ship, and were marked down to increase our store of fresh meat. We picked two mighty hunters to secure the prey for us; they approached with the greatest caution, though this was altogether unnecessary, for the seals lay perfectly motionless. They crept forward in Indian fashion, with their heads down and their backs bent. This looks fine; I chuckle and laugh, but still with a certain decorum. Then there is a report. Two of the sleeping seals give a little spasm, and do not move again. It is otherwise with the third. With snakelike movements it wriggles away through the loose snow with surprising speed. It is no longer target practice, but hunting real game, and the result is in keeping with it. Bang! bang! and bang again. It is a good thing we have plenty of ammunition. One of the hunters uses up all his cartridges and has to go back, but the other sets off in pursuit of the game. Oh, how I laughed! Decorum was no longer possible; I simply shook with laughter. Away they went through the loose snow, the seal first and the hunter after. I could see by the movements of the pursuer that he was furious. He saw that he was in for something which he could not come out of with dignity. The seal made off at such a pace that it filled the air with snow. Although the snow was fairly deep and loose, the seal kept on the surface. Not so the hunter: he sank over the knees at every step, and in a short time was completely outdistanced. From time to time he halted, aimed, and fired. He himself afterwards asserted that every shot had hit. I had my doubts. In any case the seal seemed to take no notice of them, for it went on with undiminished speed. At last the mighty man gave up and turned back. “Beastly hard to kill,” I heard him say, as he came on board. I suppressed a smile — did not want to hurt the fellow’s feelings.
What an evening! The sun is high in the heavens in spite of the late hour. Over all this mountainous land of ice, over the mighty Barrier running south, there lies a bright, white, shining light, so intense that it dazzles the eyes. But northward lies the night. Leaden grey upon the sea, it passes into deep blue as the eye is raised, and pales by degrees until it is swallowed up in the radiant gleam from the Barrier. What lies behind the night — that smoke-black mass — we know. That part we have explored, and have come off victorious. But what does the dazzling day to the south conceal? Inviting and attractive the fair one lies before us. Yes, we hear you calling, and we shall come. You shall have your kiss, if we pay for it with our lives.
The following day — Sunday — brought the same fine weather. Of course, there could now be no thought of Sunday for us. Not one of us would have cared to spend the day in idleness. We were now divided into two parties: the sea party and the land party. The sea party — ten men — took over the Fram, while on this day the land party took up their abode on the Barrier for a year or two, or whatever it might be. The sea party was composed of Nilsen, Gjertsen, Beck, Sundbeck, Ludvig Hansen, Kristensen, Rönne, Nödtvedt, Kutschin, and Olsen. The land party consisted of Prestrud, Johansen, Helmer Hanssen, Hassel, Bjaaland, Stubberud, Lindström, and myself. Lindström was to stay on board for a few days longer, as we still had to take most of our meals on the ship. The plan was that one party, composed of six men, should camp in a sixteen-man tent in the space between Rönniken and Nelson, while another party of two were to live in a tent up at the but site and build the hut. The two last were, of course, our capable carpenters, Bjaaland and Stubberud.
By eleven o’clock in the morning we were at last ready to start. We had one sledge, eight dogs and provisions and equipment weighing altogether 660 pounds. It was my team that was to open the ball. The sea party had all collected on deck to witness the first start. All was now ready; after countless efforts on our part, or, if it is preferred, after a thorough thrashing for every dog, we had at last got them in a line before the sledge in Alaska harness. With a flourish and a crack of the whip we set off. I glanced at the ship. Yes; as I thought — all our comrades were standing in a row, admiring the fine start. I am not quite sure that I did not hold my head rather high and look round with a certain air of triumph. If I did so, it was foolish of me. I ought to have waited; the defeat would have been easier to bear. For defeat it was, and a signal one. The dogs had spent half a year in lying about and eating and drinking, and had got the impression that they would never have anything else to do. Not one of them appeared to understand that a new era of toil had begun. After moving forward a few yards, they all sat down, as though at a word of command, and stared at each other. The most undisguised astonishment could be read in their faces. When at last we had succeeded, with another dose of the whip, in making them understand that we really asked them to work, instead of doing as they were told they flew at each other in a furious scrimmage. Heaven help me! what work we had with those eight dogs that day! If it was going to be like this on the way to the Pole, I calculated in the midst of the tumult that it would take exactly a year to get there, without counting the return journey. During all this confusion I stole another glance at the ship, but the sight that met me made me quickly withdraw my eyes again. They were simply shrieking with laughter, and loud shouts of the most infamous encouragement reached us. “If you go on like that, you’ll get there by Christmas,” or, “Well done! stick to it. Now you’re off.” We were stuck faster than ever. Things looked desperate. At last, with the combined strength of all the animals and men, we got the sledge to move again.
So our first sledge trip could not be called a triumph. We then set up our first tent on the Barrier, between Mounts Nelson and Rönniken — a large, strong tent for sixteen men, with the sheet for the floor sewed on. Round the tent wire ropes were stretched in a triangle, fifty yards on each side. To these the dogs were to be tethered. The tent was furnished with five sleeping-bags and a quantity of provisions. The distance we had come was 1.2 geographical miles, or 2.2 kilometres, measured by sledge-meter. After finishing this work, we went on up to the site selected for the station. Here we set up the tent — a similar tent to the other, for sixteen men — for the use of the carpenters, and marked out the hut site. According to the lie of the ground we elected to make the house face east and west, and not north and south, as one might have been tempted to do, since it was usually supposed that the most frequent and violent winds came from the south. We chose rightly. The prevailing wind was from the east, and thus caught our house on its most protected short wall. The door faced west. When this work was done, we marked out the way from here to the encampment below and thence to the vessel with dark flags at every fifteen paces. In this way we should be able to drive with certainty from one place to another without losing time if a storm should set in. The distance from the hut site to the vessel was 2.2 geographical miles, or 4 kilometres. On Monday, January 16, work began in earnest. About eighty dogs — six teams — drove up to the first encampment with all the provisions and equipment that could be loaded on the sledges, and twenty dogs — Stubberud’s and Bjaaland’s teams — went with a full load up to the other camp. We had some work indeed, those first days, to get the dogs to obey us. Time after time they tried to take the command from their masters and steer their own course. More than once it cost us a wet shirt to convince them that we really were the masters. It was strenuous work, but it succeeded in the end. Poor dogs! they got plenty of thrashing in those days. Our hours were long; we seldom turned in before eleven at night, and were up again at five. But it did not seem particularly hard; we were all alike eager for the work to be finished as soon as possible, so that the Fram might get away. The harbour arrangements were not of the best. The quay she was moored to suddenly broke in pieces, and all hands had to turn out to make her fast to a new quay. Perhaps they had just got to sleep again when the same operation had to be repeated; for the ice broke time after time, and kept the unfortunate “sea-rovers” in constant activity. It is enervating work being always at one’s post, and sleeping with one eye open. They had a hard time to contend with, our ten comrades, and the calm way in which they took everything was extraordinary. They were always in a good humour, and always had a joke ready. It was the duty of the sea party to bring up all the provisions and outfit for the wintering party from the hold, and put them on the ice. Then the land party removed them. This work proceeded very smoothly, and it was rare that one party had to wait for the other. During the first few days of sledging all the members of the land party became quite hoarse, some of them so badly that they almost lost their voices. This came from the continual yelling and shouting that we had to do at first to make the dogs go. But this gave the sea party a welcome opportunity of finding us a nickname; we were called “the chatterers.”
Apart from the unpleasantness of constantly changing the anchorage, on account of the breaking up and drifting out of the ice, the harbour must in other respects be regarded as very good. A little swell might set in from time to time and cause some disagreeable bumping, but never anything to embarrass the vessel. One very great advantage was that the currents in this corner always set outward, and thus kept off all icebergs. The sledging between the ship and the Barrier was done by five men to begin with, as the carpenters were engaged in building the house. One man had also to be told off as tent guard, for we could not use more than half our teams — six dogs — at a time. If we harnessed the full team of twelve, we only had trouble and fights. The dogs which were thus left behind had to be looked after, and a man was required for this duty. Another of the duties of the tent guard was to cook the day’s food and keep the tent tidy. It was a coveted position, and lots were cast for it. It gave a little variety in the continual sledging.
On January 17 the carpenters began to dig the foundations of the house. The effect of all we had heard about the Antarctic storms was that we decided to take every possible precaution to make the house stand on an even keel. The carpenters therefore began by digging a foundation 4 feet down into the Barrier. This was not easy work; 2 feet below the surface they came upon hard, smooth ice, and had to use pickaxes. The same day a stiff easterly breeze sprang up, whirling the snow high into the air, and filling up the foundations as fast as the men dug them. But it would take more than that to stop those fellows in their work. They built a wind-screen of planks, and did it so well that they were able to work all day, unhindered by drifts, until, when evening came, they had the whole foundation dug out. There is no difficulty in doing good work when one has such people to work for one. The stormy weather interfered somewhat with our sledging, and as we found our Alaska harness unsuitable to the conditions, we went on board and began the preparation of Greenland harness for our dogs. All hands worked at it. Our excellent sailmaker, Rönne, sewed forty-six sets of harness in the course of the month. The rest of us spliced the ropes and made the necessary tackles, while others spliced wire-rope shafts to our sledges. When evening came we had an entirely new set of tackle for all our sledges and dogs. This was very successful, and in a few days the whole was working smoothly.
We had now divided ourselves between the two tents, so that five men slept in the lower tent, while the two carpenters and I inhabited the upper one. That evening a rather amusing thing happened to us. We were just turning in when suddenly we heard a penguin’s cry immediately outside the tent. We were out in a moment. There, a few yards from the door, sat a big Emperor penguin, making bow after bow. It gave exactly the impression of having come up simply to pay us its respects. We were sorry to repay its attention so poorly, but such is the way of the world. With a final bow it ended its days in the frying-pan.
On January 18 we began bringing up the materials for the hut, and as soon as they arrived the builders began to put them up. It is no exaggeration to say that everything went like a well-oiled machine. One sledge after another drove up to the site and discharged its load. The dogs worked splendidly, and their drivers no less, and as fast as the materials arrived our future home rose into the air. All the parts had been marked before leaving Norway, and were now discharged from the ship in the order in which they were wanted. Besides which, Stubberud himself had built the house, so that he knew every peg of it. It is with gladness and pride that I look back upon those days. With gladness, because no discord was ever heard in the course of this fairly severe labour; with pride, because I was at the head of such a body of men. For men they were, in the true sense of the word. Everyone knew his duty, and did it.
During the night the wind dropped and the morning brought the finest weather, calm and clear. It was a pleasure to work on days like this. Both men and dogs were in the best of spirits. On these journeys between the ship and the station we were constantly hunting seals, but we only took those that came in our way. We never had to go far to find fresh meat. We used to come suddenly upon a herd of them; they were then shot, flayed, and loaded on the sledges with the provisions and building materials. The dogs feasted in those days — they had as much warm flesh as they wanted.
On January 20 we had taken up all the building materials, and could then turn our attention to provisions and stores. The work went merrily, backwards and forwards, and the journey to the Fram in the morning with empty sledges was specially enjoyable. The track was now well worn and hard, and resembled a good Norwegian country road more than anything else. The going was splendid. On coming out of the tent at six o’clock in the morning one was instantly greeted with joy by one’s own twelve dogs. They barked and howled in emulation, tugged and jerked at their chains to get to their master, and jumped and danced about with joy. Then one would first go down the line and say “Good-morning” to each of them in turn, patting them and saying a few words. Splendid beasts they were. The one who was taken notice of showed every sign of happiness. The most petted of our domestic dogs could not have shown greater devotion than these tamed wolves. All the time the others were yelling and pulling at their chains to get at the one who was being petted, for they are jealous in the extreme. When they had all received their share of attention the harness was brought out, and then the jubilation broke out afresh. Strange as it may seem, I can assert that these animals love their harness. Although they must know that it means hard work, they all show signs of the greatest rapture at the sight of it. I must hasten to add, however, that this only happens at home. Long and fatiguing sledge journeys show a very different state of things. When it came to harnessing, the first trouble of the day began. It was impossible to get them to stand still. The full meal of the previous evening, followed by the night’s rest, had given them such a superabundance of energy and joy of life that nothing could make them stand still. They had to have a taste of the whip, and yet it was a pity to start that. After having securely anchored the sledge, one was ready at last with one’s team of six dogs harnessed. Now it might be thought that all was plain sailing and that one had only to cast off one’s moorings and be taken straight down to the ship. But that was far from being the case. Round about the camp a number of objects had collected in a short time, such as packing-cases, building materials, empty sledges, etc., and to steer clear of these was the great problem of the morning. The dogs’ greatest interest was, of course, concentrated upon these objects, and one had to be extremely lucky to avoid a spill.
Let us follow one of these morning drives. The men are all ready and have their dogs well harnessed. One, two, three, and we let them all go at once. We are off like the wind, and before one has time to swing the whip one finds oneself in the middle of a heap of building materials. The dogs have achieved the desire of their lives — to be able to make a thorough investigation of these materials in the way that is so characteristic of the dog and so incomprehensible to us. While this process is going on with the greatest enjoyment, the driver has got clear of the sledge and begins to distentangle the traces, which have wound themselves round planks and posts and whatever else maybe lying handy. He is far from having achieved the desire of his life — to judge from the expressions he uses. At last he is clear again. He looks round first and finds he is not the only one who has met with difficulties in the way. Over there among the cases he sees a performance going on which makes his heart leap with joy. One of the old hands has come to grief, and in so decisive a fashion that it will take him a long time to get clear again. With a triumphant smile he throws himself on the sledge and drives off. So long as he is on the Barrier as a rule everything goes well; there is nothing here to distract the dogs. It is otherwise when he comes down to the sea-ice. Here seals lie scattered about in groups basking in the sunshine, and it may easily happen that his course will be rather crooked. If a team of fresh dogs have made up their minds to turn aside in the direction of a herd of seals, it takes a very experienced driver to get them in the right way again. Personally, on such occasions, I used the only remedy I could see — namely, capsizing the sledge. In loose snow with the sledge upset they soon pulled up. Then, if one was wise, one put them on the right course again quietly and calmly, hoisted the sledge on to an even keel, and went on. But one is not always wise, unfortunately. The desire to be revenged on the disobedient rascals gets the upper hand, and one begins to deal out punishment. But this is not so easy as it seems. So long as you are sitting on the capsized sledge it makes a good anchor, but now — without a load — it is no use, and the dogs know that. So while you are thrashing one the others start off, and the result is not always flattering to the driver. If he is lucky he gets on to the capsized sledge again, but we have seen dogs and sledges arrive without drivers. All this trouble in the early morning sets the blood in active circulation, and one arrives at the ship drenched with perspiration, in spite of a temperature of — 5°F. But it sometimes happens that there is no interruption, and then the drive is soon over. The dogs want no encouragement; they are willing enough. The mile and a quarter from the lower camp to the Fram is then covered in a few minutes.
When we came out of the tent on the morning of January 21 we were greatly surprised. We thought we must be mistaken, rubbed our eyes, opened them wider; but no, it was no good. The Fram was no longer to be seen. It had been blowing pretty strongly during the night, with snow-squalls. Presumably the weather had forced them to put out. We could also hear the roar of the sea dashing against the Barrier. Meanwhile we lost no time. The day before Captain Nilsen and Kristensen had shot forty seals, and of these we had brought in half the same day. We now began to fetch in the rest. During the forenoon, while we were flaying and shooting seals, we heard the old, well-known sound — put, put, put — of the Fram’s motor, and presently the crow’s-nest appeared above the Barrier. But she did not get into her old berth before evening. A heavy swell had forced her to go outside.
Meanwhile the carpenters were busily constructing the hut. By January 21 the roof was on, and the rest of the work could thus be done under cover. This was a great comfort to the men; at that time their job was undoubtedly the worst of any. Bitterly cold it was for them, but I never heard them talk about it. When I came up to the tent after the day’s work, one of them was busy cooking. The meal always consisted of pancakes and pitch-black, strong coffee. How good it tasted! A rivalry soon arose between the two cook-carpenters as to which of them could make the best pancakes. I think they were both clever at it. In the morning we had pancakes again — crisp, hot, delicate pancakes, with the most glorious coffee — before I was even out of my sleeping-bag. That is what the carpenters had to offer me at five o’clock in the morning. No wonder I enjoyed their society. Nor did the men in the lower camp suffer any privation. Wisting showed himself to be possessed of eminent talents as cook for the day. His special dish was penguins and skua gulls in cream sauce. It was served under the name of ptarmigan, of which it really reminded one.
That Sunday we all went on board — with the exception of the necessary tent guards for both camps — and enjoyed life. We had worked hard enough that week.
On Monday, January 23, we began to carry up the provisions. In order to save time, we had decided not to bring the provisions right up to the hut, but to store them for the time being on an elevation that lay on the other side, to the south of Mount Nelson. This spot was not more than 600 yards from the hut, but as the surface was rather rough here, we should save a good deal in the long-run. Afterwards when the Fram had sailed, we could take them the rest of the way. As it turned out, we never had time for this, so that our main store remained here. Sledging up to this point offered some difficulties at first. The dogs, who were accustomed to take the road to the lower camp — between Nelson and Rönniken — could not understand why they might not do the same now. The journey with empty sledges down to the ship was often particularly troublesome. From this point the dogs could hear their companions on the other side of Nelson in the lower camp, and then it happened more than once that the dogs took command. If they once got in the humour for playing tricks of that sort, it was by no means easy to get them under control. We all of us had this experience without exception. Not one of us escaped this little extra turn. As the provisions came up each driver took them off his sledge, and laid the cases in the order in which they should lie. We began by placing each sort by itself in small groups over the slope. This plan had the advantage that everything would be easy to find. The load was usually 660 pounds, or 6 cases to each sledge. We had about 900 cases to bring up, and reckoned that we should have them all in place in the course of a week. Everything went remarkably well according to our reckoning.
By noon on Saturday, January 28, the hut was ready, and all the 900 cases were in place. The depot of provisions had quite an imposing appearance. Great rows of cases stood in the snow, all with their numbers outward, so that we could find what we wanted at once. And there was the house, all finished, exactly as it had stood in its native place on Bundefjord. But it would be difficult to imagine more different surroundings: there, green pinewoods and splashing water; here, ice, nothing but ice. But both scenes were beautiful; I stood thinking which I preferred. My thoughts travelled far — thousands of miles in a second. It was the forest that gained the day.
As I have already mentioned, we had everything with us for fastening the but down to the Barrier, but the calm weather we had had all the time led us to suppose that the conditions would not be so bad as we had expected. We were therefore satisfied with the foundation dug in the Barrier. The outside of the but was tarred, and the roof covered with tarred paper, so that it was very visible against the white surroundings. That afternoon we broke up both camps, and moved into our home, “Framheim.” What a snug, cosy, and cleanly impression it gave us when we entered the door! Bright, new linoleum everywhere — in the kitchen as well as in our living-room. We had good reason to be happy. Another important point had been got over, and in much shorter time than I had ever hoped. Our path to the goal was opening up; we began to have a glimpse of the castle in the distance. The Beauty is still sleeping, but the kiss is coming, the kiss that shall wake her!
It was a happy party that assembled in the hut the first evening, and drank to the future to the music of the gramophone. All the full-grown dogs were now brought up here, and were fastened to wire ropes stretched in a square, 50 yards on each side. It may be believed that they gave us some music. Collected as they were, they performed under the leadership of some great singer or other daily, and, what was worse, nightly concerts. Strange beasts! what can they have meant by this howling? One began, then two, then a few more, and, finally, the whole hundred. As a rule, during a concert like this they sit well down, stretch their heads as high in the air as they can, and howl to their hearts’ content. During this act they seem very preoccupied, and are not easily disturbed. But the strangest thing is the way the concert comes to an end. It stops suddenly along the whole line — no stragglers, no “one cheer more.” What is it that imposes this simultaneous stop? I have observed and studied it time after time without result. One would think it was a song that had been learnt. Do these animals possess a power of communicating with each other? The question is extraordinarily interesting. No one among us, who has had long acquaintance with Eskimo dogs, doubts that they have this power. I learned at last to understand their different sounds so well that I could tell by their voices what was going on without seeing them. Fighting, play, love-making, etc., each had its special sound. If they wanted to express their devotion and affection for their master, they would do it in a quite different way. If one of them was doing something wrong — something they knew they were not allowed to do, such as breaking into a meat-store, for example — the others, who could not get in, ran out and gave vent to a sound quite different from those I have mentioned. I believe most of us learned to distinguish these different sounds. There can hardly be a more interesting animal to observe, or one that offers greater variety of study, than the Eskimo dog. From his ancestor the wolf he has inherited the instinct of self-preservation — the right of the stronger — in a far higher degree than our domestic dog. The struggle for life has brought him to early maturity, and given him such qualities as frugality and endurance in an altogether surprising degree. His intelligence is sharp, clear, and well developed for the work he is born to, and the conditions in which he is brought up. We must not call the Eskimo dog slow to learn because he cannot sit up and take sugar when he is told; these are things so widely separated from the serious business of his life that he will never be able to understand them, or only with great difficulty. Among themselves the right of the stronger is the only law. The strongest rules, and does as he pleases undisputedly; everything belongs to him. The weaker ones get the crumbs. Friendship easily springs up between these animals — always combined with respect and fear of the stronger. The weaker, with his instinct of self-preservation, seeks the protection of the stronger. The stronger accepts the position of protector, and thereby secures a trusty helper, always with the thought of one stronger than himself. The instinct of self-preservation is to be found everywhere, and it is so, too, with their relations with man. The dog has learnt to value man as his benefactor, from whom he receives everything necessary for his support. Affection and devotion seem also to have their part in these relations, but no doubt on a closer examination the instinct of self-preservation is at the root of all. As a consequence of this, his respect for his master is far greater than in our domestic dog, with whom respect only exists as a consequence of the fear of a beating. I could without hesitation take the food out of the mouth of any one of my twelve dogs; not one of them would attempt to bite me. And why? Because their respect, as a consequence of the fear of getting nothing next time, was predominant. With my dogs at home I certainly should not try the same thing. They would at once defend their food, and, if necessary, they would not shrink from using their teeth; and this in spite of the fact that these dogs have to all appearance the same respect as the others. What, then, is the reason? It is that this respect is not based on a serious foundation — the instinct of self-preservation — but simply on the fear of a hiding. A case like this proves that the foundation is too weak; the desire of food overcomes the fear of the stick, and the result is a snap.
A few days later the last member of the wintering party — Adolf Henrik Lindström — joined us, and with his arrival our arrangements might be regarded as complete. He had stayed on board hitherto, attending to the cooking there, but now he was no longer necessary. His art would be more appreciated among the “chatterers.” The youngest member of the expedition — the cook Karinius Olsen — took over from that day the whole of the cooking on the Fram, and performed this work in an extremely conscientious and capable way until the ship reached Hobart in March, 1912, when he again had assistance. This was well done for a lad of twenty. I wish we had many like him.
With Lindström, then, the kitchen and the daily bread were in order. The smoke rose gaily from the shining black chimney, and proclaimed that now the Barrier was really inhabited. How cosy it was, when we came sledging up after the day’s work, to see that smoke rising into the air. It is a little thing really, but nevertheless it means so much. With Lindström came not only food, but light and air — both of them his specialities. The Lux lamp was the first thing he rigged up, giving us a light that contributed much to the feeling of comfort and well-being through the long winter. He also provided us with air, but in this he had Stubberud as a partner. These two together managed to give us the finest, purest Barrier air in our room during the whole stay. It is true that this was not done without hard work, but they did not mind that. The ventilation was capricious, and liable to fail now and then. This usually happened when there was a dead calm. Many were the ingenious devices employed by the firm to set the business going again. Generally a Primus stove was used under the exhaust pipe, and ice applied to the supply pipe. While one of them lay on his stomach with the Primus under the exhaust, drawing the air up that way, the other ran up to the roof and dropped big lumps of snow down the supply to get the air in that way. In this fashion they could keep it going by the hour together without giving up. It finally ended in the ventilation becoming active again without visible cause. There is no doubt that the system of ventilation in a winter-station like ours is of great importance, both to health and comfort. I have read of expeditions, the members of which were constantly suffering from cold and damp and resulting sickness. This is nothing but a consequence of bad ventilation. If the supply of fresh air is sufficient, the fuel will be turned to better account, and the production of warmth will, of course, be greater. If the supply of air is insufficient, a great part of the fuel will be lost in an unconsumed state, and cold and damp will be the result. There must, of course, be a means of regulating the ventilation in accordance with requirements. We used only the Lux lamp in our hut, besides the stove in the kitchen, and with this we kept our room so warm that those of us in the upper berths were constantly complaining of the warmth.
Originally there were places for ten bunks in the room, but as there were only nine of us, one of the bunks was removed and the space used for our chronometer locker. This contained three ordinary ship’s chronometers. We had, in addition, six chronometer watches, which we wore continually, and which were compared throughout the whole winter. The meteorological instruments found a place in the kitchen — the only place we had for them. Lindström undertook the position of sub-director of the Framheim meteorological station and instrument-maker to the expedition. Under the roof were stowed all the things that would not stand severe frost, such as medicines, syrup, jam, cream, pickles, and sauces, besides all our sledge-boxes. A place was also made for the library under the roof.
The week beginning on Monday, January 30, was spent in bringing up coal, wood, oil, and our whole supply of dried fish. The temperature this summer varied between +5° and — 13°F. — a grand summer temperature. We also shot many seals daily, and we already had a great pile of about a hundred of them lying just outside the door of the hut. One evening as we were sitting at supper Lindström came in to tell us that we need not go down any more to the sea-ice to shoot them, as they were coming up to us. We went out and found he was right. Not far away, and making straight for the hut, came a crab-eater, shining like silver in the sun. He came right up, was photographed, and — shot.
One day I had a rather curious experience. My best dog, Lassesen, had his left hind-paw frozen quite white. It happened while we were all out sledging. Lassesen was a lover of freedom, and had seen his chance of getting loose when unobserved. He used his freedom, like most of these dogs, for fighting. They love fighting, and cannot resist it. He had picked a quarrel with Odin and Thor, and started a battle with them. In the course of the fight the chains that fastened these two had got wound round Lassesen’s leg, and twisted so that the circulation was stopped. How long he had been standing so I do not know. But when I came, I saw at once that the dog was in the wrong place. On a closer examination I discovered the frost-bite. I then spent half an hour in restoring the circulation. I succeeded in doing this by holding the paw continuously in my warm hand. At first, while there was no feeling in the limb, it went well; but when the blood began to flow back, of course it was painful, and Lassesen became impatient. He whined, and motioned with his head towards the affected place, as though he wanted to tell me that he found the operation unpleasant. He made no attempt to snap. The paw swelled a good deal after this treatment, but next day Lassesen was as well as ever, though a little lame in that leg.
The entries in my diary at this time are all in telegraphic style, no doubt owing to the amount of work. Thus an entry in February ends with the following words: “An Emperor penguin just come on a visit — soup-kettle.” He did not get a very long epitaph.
During this week we relieved the sea party of the last of the dogs — about twenty puppies. There was rejoicing on board when the last of them left the deck, and, indeed, one could not be surprised. With the thermometer about — 5°F., as it had been lately, it was impossible to keep the deck clean, as everything froze at once. After they had all been brought on to the ice, the crew went to work with salt and water, and in a short time we recognized the Fram again. The puppies were put into boxes and driven up. We had put up a sixteen-man tent to receive them. From the very first moment they declined to stay in it, and there was nothing to be done but to let them out. All these puppies passed a great part of the winter in the open air. So long as the seals’ carcasses were lying on the slope, they stayed there; afterwards they found another place. But the tent, despised by the youngsters, came in useful after all. Any bitch that was going to have a litter was put in there, and the tent went by the name of “the maternity hospital.” Then one tent after another was put up, and Framheim looked quite an important place. Eight of the sixteen-man tents were set up for our eight teams, two for dried fish, one for fresh meat, one for cases of provisions, and one for coal and wood — fourteen altogether. They were arranged according to a plan drawn up beforehand, and when they were all up they had quite the appearance of a camp.
At this time our dog-harness underwent important alterations, as one of the members of the expedition had the happy idea of combining the Alaska and the Greenland harness. The result satisfied all requirements; in future we always used this construction, and we all agreed that it was much superior to any other harness. The dogs also seemed to be more comfortable in it. That they worked better and more easily is certain, and raw places, so common with Greenland harness, were absolutely unknown.
February 4 was an eventful day. As usual, we all came down to the Fram, driving our empty sledges, at half-past six in the morning. When the first man got to the top of the ridge, he began to wave his arms about and gesticulate like a madman. I understood, of course, that he saw something, but what? The next man gesticulated even worse, and tried to shout to me. But it was no use; I could not make anything of it. Then it was my turn to go over the ridge, and, as was natural, I began to feel rather curious. I had only a few yards more to go — and then it was explained. Along the edge of the ice, just to the south of the Fram, a large barque lay moored. We had talked of the possibility of meeting the Terra Nova — Captain Scott’s vessel — when she was on her way to King Edward VII. Land; but it was a great surprise all the same. Now it was my turn to wave my arms, and I am sure I did it no worse than the two first. And the same thing was repeated with all of us, as soon as each one reached the top of the ridge. What the last man did I have never been able to find out for certain — but no doubt he waved his arms too. If a stranger had stood and watched us that morning on the ridge, he would surely have taken us for a lot of incurable lunatics. The way seemed long that day, but at last we got there and heard the full explanation. The Terra Nova had come in at midnight. Our watchman had just gone below for a cup of coffee — there was no harm in that — and when he came up again, there was another ship lying off the foot of the Barrier. He rubbed his eyes, pinched his leg, and tried other means of convincing himself that he was asleep, but it was no good. The pinch especially, he told us afterwards, was horribly painful, and all this led him to the conclusion that there really was a second vessel there.
Lieutenant Campbell, the leader of the eastern party, which was to explore King Edward VII. Land, came on board first, and paid Nilsen a visit. He brought the news that they had not been able to reach land, and were now on their way back to McMurdo Sound. From thence it was their intention to go to Cape North and explore the land there. Immediately after my arrival Lieutenant Campbell came on board again and gave me the news himself.
We then loaded our sledges and drove home. At nine o’clock we had the great pleasure of receiving Lieutenant Pennell, the commander of the Terra Nova, Lieutenant Campbell, and the surgeon of the expedition, as the first guests in our new home. We spent a couple of very agreeable hours together. Later in the day three of us paid a visit to the Terra Nova, and stayed on board to lunch. Our hosts were extremely kind, and offered to take our mail to New Zealand. If I had had time, I should have been glad to avail myself of this friendly offer, but every hour was precious. It was no use to think of writing now.
At two o’clock in the afternoon the Terra Nova cast off again, and left the Bay of Whales. We made a strange discovery after this visit. Nearly all of us had caught cold. It did not last long — only a few hours — and then it was over. The form it took was sneezing and cold in the head.
The next day — Sunday, February 5 — the “sea rovers,” as we called the Fram party, were our guests. We had to have them in two detachments, as they could not all leave the ship at the same time. Four came to dinner and six to supper. We had not much to offer, but we invited them, not so much for the sake of the entertainment as to show them our new home and wish them a successful voyage.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:05