There was now too little work for eight of us in bringing up stores from the Fram, and it became evident that some of us might be more usefully employed elsewhere. It was therefore decided that four men should bring ashore the little that remained, while the other four went southward to lat. 80° S., partly to explore the immediate neighbourhood, and partly to begin the transport of provisions to the south. This arrangement gave us all enough to do. The four who were to continue the work at the station — Wisting, Hassel, Stubberud, and Bjaaland — now had as much as their sledges could carry. The rest of us were busy getting ready. For that matter, everything was prepared in advance, but as yet we had had no experience of a long journey. That was what we were going to get now.
Our departure was fixed for Friday, February 10. On the 9th I went on board to say good-bye, as presumably the Fram would have sailed when we came back. I had so much to thank all these plucky fellows for. I knew it was hard for all of them — almost without exception — to have to leave us now, at the most interesting time, and go out to sea to battle for months with cold and darkness, ice and storms, and then have the same voyage over again the next year when they came to fetch us. It was certainly a hard task, but none of them complained. They had all promised to do their best to promote our common object, and therefore all went about their duty without grumbling. I left written orders with the commander of the Fram, Captain Nilsen. The substance of these orders may be given in a few words: Carry out our plan in the way you may think best. I knew the man I was giving orders to. A more capable and honourable second in command I could never have had. I knew that the Fram was safe in his hands.
Lieutenant Prestrud and I made a trip to the south to find a suitable place for ascending the Barrier on the other side of the bay. The sea-ice was fairly even for this distance; only a few cracks here and there. Farther up the bay there were, curiously enough, long rows of old hummocks. What could this mean? This part was really quite protected from the sea, so that these formations could not be attributed to its action. We hoped to have an opportunity of investigating the conditions more closely later on; there was no time for it now. The shortest and most direct way to the south was the one we were on now. The bay was not wide here. The distance from Framheim to this part of the Barrier was about three miles. The ascent of the Barrier was not difficult; with the exception of a few fissures it was quite easy. It did not take long to get up, except perhaps in the steepest part. The height was 60 feet. It was quite exciting to go up; what should we see at the top? We had never yet had a real uninterrupted view over the Barrier to the south; this was the first time. As it happened, we were not surprised at what we saw when we got up — an endless plain, that was lost in the horizon on the extreme south. Our course, we could see, would take us just along the side of the ridge before mentioned — a capital mark for later journeys. The going was excellent; a thin layer of conveniently loose snow was spread over a hard under-surface, and made it very suitable for skiing. The lie of the ground told us at once that we had the right pattern of ski — the kind for level ground, long and narrow. We had found what we wanted — an ascent for our southern journeys and an open road. This spot was afterwards marked with a flag, and went by the name of “the starting-place.” On the way back, as on the way out, we passed large herds of seals, lying asleep. They did not take the least notice of us. If we went up and woke them, they just raised their heads a little, looked at us for a moment, and then rolled over on the other side and went to sleep again. It was very evident that these animals here on the ice have no enemies. They would certainly have set a watch, as their brothers in the North do, if they had had anything to fear.
On this day we used skin clothing for the first time — reindeer-skin clothes of Eskimo cut — but they proved to be too warm. We had the same experience later. In low temperatures these reindeer clothes are beyond comparison the best, but here in the South we did not as a rule have low temperatures on our sledge journeys. On the few occasions when we experienced any cold worth talking about, we were always in skins. When we returned in the evening after our reconnoitring, we had no need of a Turkish bath.
On February 10, at 9.30 a.m., the first expedition left for the South. We were four men, with three sledges and eighteen dogs, six for each sledge. The load amounted to about 550 pounds of provisions per sledge, besides the provisions and outfit for the journey. We could not tell, even approximately, how long the journey would take, as everything was unknown. The chief thing we took on our sledges was dogs’ pemmican for the depot, 350 pounds per sledge. We also took a quantity of seal meat cut into steaks, blubber, dried fish, chocolate, margarine, and biscuits. We had ten long bamboo poles, with black flags, to mark the way. The rest of our outfit consisted of two three-man tents, four one-man sleeping-bags, and the necessary cooking utensils.
The dogs were very willing, and we left Framheim at full gallop. Along the Barrier we went well. Going down to the sea-ice we had to pass through a number of big hummocks — a fairly rough surface. Nor was this without consequences; first one sledge, then another, swung round. But no harm was done; we got our gear tested, and that is always an advantage. We also had to pass rather near several large groups of seals, and the temptation was too great. Away went the dogs to one side in full gallop towards the seals. But this time the load was heavy, and they were soon tired of the extra work. In the bay we were in sight of the Fram. The ice had now given way entirely, so that she lay close to the Barrier itself. Our four comrades, who were to stay at home, accompanied us. In the first place, they wanted to see us on our way, and in the second, they would be able to lend us a hand in getting up the Barrier, for we were rather apprehensive that it would cost us a wet shirt. Finally, they were to hunt seals. There was plenty of opportunity here; where-ever one looked there were seals — fat heavy beasts.
I had put the home party under Wisting’s command, and given them enough work to do. They were to bring up the remainder of the stores from the ship, and to build a large, roomy pent-house against the western wall of the hut, so that we should not have to go directly on to the ice from the kitchen. We also intended to use this as a carpenter’s workshop. But they were not to forget the seal-hunting, early and late. It was important to us to get seals enough to enable us all, men and dogs, to live in plenty. And there were enough to be had. If we ran short of fresh meat in the course of the winter, it would be entirely our own fault.
It was a good thing we had help for the climb. Short as it was, it caused us a good deal of trouble; but we had dogs enough, and by harnessing a sufficient number we got the sledges up. I should like to know what they thought on board. They could see we were already hard put to it to get up here. What would it be like when we had to get on to the plateau? I do not know whether they thought of the old saying: Practice makes perfect.
We halted at the starting-place, where we were to separate from our comrades. None of us was particularly sentimental. An honest shake of the hand, and so “Good-bye.” The order of our march was as follows: Prestrud first on ski, to show the direction and encourage the dogs. We always went better with someone going in front. Next came Helmer Hanssen. He kept this place on all our journeys — the leading sledge. I knew him well from our previous work together, and regarded him as the most efficient dog-driver I had met. He carried the standard compass on his sledge and checked Prestrud’s direction. After him came Johansen, also with a compass. Lastly, I came, with sledge-meter and compass. I preferred to take the last sledge because it enabled me to see what was happening. However careful one may be, it is impossible to avoid dropping things from sledges in making a journey. If the last man keeps a lookout for such things, great inconvenience may often be avoided. I could mention many rather important things that were dropped in the course of our journeys and picked up again by the last man. The hardest work, of course, falls on the first man. He has to open up the road and drive his dogs forward, while we others have only to follow. All honour, then, to the man who performed this task from the first day to the last — Helmer Hanssen.
The position of the “forerunner” is not a very enviable one either. Of course he escapes all bother with dogs, but it is confoundedly tedious to walk there alone, staring at nothing. His only diversion is a shout from the leading sledge: “A little to the right,” “A little to the left.” It is not so much these simple words that divert him as the tone in which they are called. Now and then the cry comes in a way that makes him feel he is acquitting himself well. But sometimes it sends a cold shiver down his back; the speaker might just as well have added the word “Duffer!” — there is no mistaking his tone. It is no easy matter to go straight on a surface without landmarks. Imagine an immense plain that you have to cross in thick fog; it is dead calm, and the snow lies evenly, without drifts. What would you do? An Eskimo can manage it, but none of us. We should turn to the right or to the left, and give the leading dog-driver with the standard compass endless trouble. It is strange how this affects the mind. Although the man with the compass knows quite well that the man in front cannot do any better, and although he knows that he could not do better himself, he nevertheless gets irritated in time and works himself into the belief that the unsuspecting, perfectly innocent leader only takes these turns to annoy him; and so, as I have said, the words “A little to the left” imply the unspoken addition — perfectly understood on both sides — “Duffer!” I have personal experience of both duties. With the dog-driver time passes far more quickly. He has his dogs to look after, and has to see that all are working and none shirking. Many other points about a team claim his attention, and he must always keep an eye on the sledge itself. If he does not do this, some slight unevenness may throw the runners in the air before he knows where he is. And to right a capsized sledge, weighing about eight hundredweight, is no fun. So, instead of running this risk, he gives his whole attention to what is before him.
From the starting-place the Barrier rises very slightly, until at a cross-ridge it passes into the perfect level. Here on the ridge we halt once more. Our comrades have disappeared and gone to their work, but in the distance the Fram lies, framed in shining, blue-white ice. We are but human; uncertainty always limits our prospect. Shall we meet again? And if so, under what conditions? Much lay between that moment and the next time we should see her. The mighty ocean on one side, and the unknown region of ice on the other; so many things might happen. Her flag floats out, waves us a last adieu, and disappears. We are on our way to the South.
This first inland trip on the Barrier was undeniably exciting. The ground was absolutely unknown, and our outfit untried. What kind of country should we have to deal with? Would it continue in this boundless plain without hindrance of any kind? Or would Nature present insurmountable difficulties? Were we right in supposing that dogs were the best means of transport in these regions, or should we have done better to take reindeer, ponies, motor-cars, aeroplanes, or anything else? We went forward at a rattling pace; the going was perfect. The dogs’ feet trod on a thin layer of loose snow, just enough to give them a secure hold.
The weather conditions were not quite what we should have wished in an unknown country. It is true that it was calm and mild, and altogether pleasant for travelling, but the light was not good. A grey haze, the most unpleasant kind of light after fog, lay upon the landscape, making the Barrier and the sky merge into one. There was no horizon to be seen. This grey haze, presumably a younger sister of fog, is extremely disagreeable. One can never be certain of one’s surroundings. There are no shadows; everything looks the same. In a light like this it is a bad thing to be the forerunner; he does not see the inequalities of the ground until too late — until he is right on them. This often ends in a fall, or in desperate efforts to keep on his feet. It is better for the drivers, they can steady themselves with a hand on the sledge. But they also have to be on the lookout for inequalities, and see that the sledges do not capsize. This light is also very trying to the eyes, and one often hears of snow-blindness after such a day. The cause of this is not only that one strains one’s eyes continually; it is also brought about by carelessness. One is very apt to push one’s snow-goggles up on to one’s forehead, especially if they are fitted with dark glasses. However, we always came through it very well; only a few of us had a little touch of this unpleasant complaint. Curiously enough, snow-blindness has something in common with seasickness. If you ask a man whether he is seasick, in nine cases out of ten he will answer: “No, not at all — only a little queer in the stomach.” It is the same, in a slightly different way, with snow-blindness. If a man comes into the tent in the evening with an inflamed eye and you ask him whether he is snow-blind, you may be sure he will be almost offended. “Snow-blind? Is it likely? No, not at all, only a little queer about the eye.”
We did seventeen miles5 that day without exertion. We had two tents, and slept two in a tent. These tents were made for three men, but were too small for four. Cooking was only done in one, both for the sake of economy, so that we might leave more at the depot, and because it was unnecessary, as the weather was still quite mild.
On this first trip, as on all the depot journeys, our morning arrangements took far too long. We began to get ready at four, but were not on the road till nearly eight. I was always trying some means of remedying this, but without success. It will naturally be asked, What could be the cause of this? and I will answer candidly — it was dawdling and nothing else. On these depot journeys it did not matter so much, but on the main journey we had to banish dawdling relentlessly.
Next day we did the allotted seventeen miles in six hours, and pitched our camp early in the afternoon. The dogs were rather tired, as it had been uphill work all day. To-day, from a distance of twenty-eight miles, we could look down into the Bay of Whales; this shows that we had ascended considerably. We estimated our camp that evening to be 500 feet above the sea. We were astonished at this rise, but ought not to have been so really, since we had already estimated this ridge at 500 feet when we first saw it from the end of the bay. But however it may be, most of us have a strong propensity for setting up theories and inventing something new. What others have seen does not interest us, and on this occasion we took the opportunity — I say we, because I was one of them — of propounding a new theory — that of an evenly advancing ice-slope from the Antarctic plateau. We saw ourselves in our mind’s eye ascending gradually to the top, and thus avoiding a steep and laborious climb among the mountains.
The day had been very warm, +12.2° F., and I had been obliged to throw off everything except the most necessary underclothes. My costume may be guessed from the name I gave to the ascent — Singlet Hill. There was a thick fog when we turned out next morning, exceedingly unpleasant. Here every inch was over virgin ground, and we had to do it blindly. That day we had a feeling of going downhill. At one o’clock land was reported right ahead. From the gesticulations of those in front I made out that it must be uncommonly big. I saw absolutely nothing, but that was not very surprising. My sight is not specially good, and the land did not exist.
The fog lifted, and the surface looked a little broken. The imaginary land lasted till the next day, when we found out that it had only been a descending bank of fog. That day we put on the pace, and did twenty-five miles instead of our usual seventeen. We were very lightly clad. There could be no question of skins; they were laid aside at once. Very light wind-clothing was all we wore over our underclothes. On this journey most of us slept barelegged in the sleeping-bags. Next day we were surprised by brilliantly clear weather and a dead calm. For the first time we had a good view. Towards the south the Barrier seemed to continue, smooth and even, without ascending. Towards the east, on the other hand, there was a marked rise — presumably towards King Edward VII. Land, we thought then. In the course of the afternoon we passed the first fissure we had met with. It had apparently been filled up long ago. Our distance that day was twenty-three miles.
On these depot journeys we were always very glad of our Thermos flasks. In the middle of the day we made a halt, and took a cup of scalding hot chocolate, and it was very pleasant to be able to get one without any trouble in the middle of the snow plateau. On the final southern journey we did not take Thermos flasks. We had no lunch then.
On February 14, after a march of eleven and a half miles, we reached 80° S. Unfortunately we did not succeed in getting any astronomical observation on this trip, as the theodolite we had brought with us went wrong, but later observations on several occasions gave 79° 59’ S. Not so bad in fog. We had marked out the route up to this point with bamboo poles and flags at every 15 kilometres. Now, as we had not fixed the position by astronomical observation, we found that the flags would not be sufficient, and we had to look for some other means of marking the spot. A few empty cases were broken up and gave a certain number of marks, but not nearly enough. Then our eyes fell upon a bundle of dried fish lying on one of the sledges, and our marking pegs were found. I should like to know whether any road has been marked out with dried fish before; I doubt it. Immediately on our arrival in lat. 80° — at eleven in the morning — we began to erect the depot. It was made quite solid, and was 12 feet high. The going here in 80° was quite different from what we had had all the rest of the way. Deep, loose snow every-where gave us the impression that it must have fallen in perfectly still weather. Generally when we passed by here — but not always — we found this loose snow.
When the depot was finished and had been photographed, we threw ourselves on the sledges and began the homeward journey. It was quite a treat to sit and be drawn along, a thing that otherwise never happened. Prestrud sat with me. Hanssen drove first, but as he now had the old track to follow, he wanted no one in front. On the last sledge we had the marking pegs. Prestrud kept an eye on the sledge-meter, and sang out at every half-kilometre, while at the same time I stuck a dried fish into the snow. This method of marking the route proved a brilliant one. Not only did the dried fish show us the right way on several occasions, but they also came in very useful on the next journey, when we returned with starving dogs. That day we covered forty-three miles. We did not get to bed till one o’clock at night, but this did not prevent our being up again at four and off at half-past seven. At half-past nine in the evening we drove into Framheim, after covering sixty-two miles that day. Our reason for driving that distance was not to set up any record for the Barrier, but to get home, if possible, before the Fram sailed, and thus have an opportunity of once more shaking hands with our comrades and wishing them a good voyage. But as we came over the edge of the Barrier we saw that, in spite of all our pains, we had come too late. The Fram was not there. It gave us a strange and melancholy feeling, not easy to understand. But the next moment common sense returned, and our joy at her having got away from the Barrier undamaged after the long stay was soon uppermost. We heard that she had left the bay at noon the same day — just as we were spurting our hardest to reach her.
This depot journey was quite sufficient to tell us what the future had in store. After this we were justified in seeing it in a rosy light. We now had experience of the three important factors — the lie of the ground, the going, and the means of traction — and the result was that nothing could be better. Everything was in the most perfect order. I had always had a high opinion of the dog as a draught animal, but after this last performance my admiration for these splendid animals rose to the pitch of enthusiasm. Let us look at what my dogs accomplished on this occasion: On February 14 they went eleven miles southward with a load of 770 pounds, and on the same day thirty-two miles northward — only four of them, the “Three Musketeers” and Lassesen, as Fix and Snuppesen refused to do any work. The weight they started with from 80°S. was that of the sledge, 165 pounds; Prestrud, 176 pounds; and myself, 182 pounds. Add to this 154 pounds for sleeping-bags, ski, and dried fish, and we have a total weight of 677 pounds, or about 170 pounds per dog. The last day they did sixty-two miles. I think the dogs showed on this occasion that they were well suited for sledging on the Barrier.
In addition to this brilliant result, we arrived at several other conclusions. In the first place, the question of the long time spent in our morning preparations thrust itself on our notice: this could not be allowed to occur on the main journey. At least two hours might be saved, I had no doubt of that — but how? I should have to take time to think it over. What required most alteration was our heavy outfit. The sledges were constructed with a view to the most difficult conditions of ground. The surface here was of the easiest kind, and consequently permitted the use of the lightest outfit. We ought to be able to reduce the weight of the sledges by at least half — possibly more. Our big canvas ski-boots were found to need thorough alteration. They were too small and too stiff, and had to be made larger and softer. Foot-gear had such an important bearing on the success of the whole expedition that we had to do all that could be done to get it right.
The four who had stayed at home had accomplished a fine piece of work. Framheim was hardly recognizable with the big new addition on its western wall. This pent-house was of the same width as the hut — 13 feet — and measured about 10 feet the other way. Windows had been put in — two of them — and it looked quite bright and pleasant when one came in; but this was not to last for long. Our architects had also dug a passage, 5 feet wide, round the whole hut, and this was now covered over, simply by prolonging the sloping roof down to the snow to form a roof over this passage. On the side facing east a plank was fixed across the gable at the required height, and from this boards were brought down to the snow. The lower part of this new extension of the roof was well strengthened, as the weight of snow that would probably accumulate upon it in the course of the winter would be very great. This passage was connected with the pent-house by a side-door in the northern wall. The passage was constructed to serve as a place for storing tinned foods and fresh meat, besides which its eastern end afforded an excellent place to get snow for melting. Here Lindström could be sure of getting as much clean snow as he wanted, which was an impossibility outside the house. We had 120 dogs running about, and they were not particular as to the purpose for which we might want the snow. But here in this snow wall Lindström had no need to fear the dogs. Another great advantage was that he would not have to go out in bad weather, darkness, and cold, every time he wanted a piece of ice.
We now had to turn our attention in the first place, before the cold weather set in, to the arrangement of our dog tents. We could not leave them standing as they were on the snow; if we did so, we should soon find that dogs’ teeth are just as sharp as knives; besides which, they would be draughty and cold for the animals. To counteract this, the floor of each tent was sunk 6 feet below the surface of the Barrier. A great part of this excavation had to be done with axes, as we soon came to the bare ice. One of these dog tents, when finished, had quite an important appearance, when one stood at the bottom and looked up. It measured 18 feet from the floor to the peak of the tent, and the diameter of the floor was 15 feet. Then twelve posts were driven into the ice of the floor at equal intervals round the wall of the tent, and the dogs were tethered to them. From the very first day the dogs took a liking to their quarters, and they were right, as they were well off there. I do not remember once seeing frost-rime on the coats of my dogs down in the tent. They enjoyed every advantage there — air, without draughts, light, and sufficient room. Round the tent-pole we left a pillar of snow standing in the middle of the tent to the height of a man. It took us two days to put our eight dog tents in order.
Before the Fram sailed one of the whale-boats had been put ashore on the Barrier. One never knew; if we found ourselves in want of a boat, it would be bad to have none, and if we did not have to use it, there was no great harm done. It was brought up on two sledges drawn by twelve dogs, and was taken some distance into the Barrier. The mast stood high in the air, and showed us its position clearly.
Besides all their other work, the four men had found time for shooting seals while we were away, and large quantities of meat were now stowed everywhere. We had to lose no time in getting ready the tent in which we stored our chief supply of seal meat. It would not have lasted long if we had left it unprotected on the ground. To keep off the dogs, we built a wall 7 feet high of large blocks of snow. The dogs themselves saw to its covering with ice, and for the time being all possibility of their reaching the meat was removed.
We did not let the floor grow old under our feet; it was time to be off again to the south with more food. Our departure was fixed for February 22, and before that time we had a great deal to do. All the provisions had first to be brought from the main depot and prepared for the journey. Then we had to open the cases of pemmican, take out the boxes in which it was soldered, four rations in each, cut these open, and put the four rations back in the case without the tin lining. By doing this we saved so much weight, and at the same time avoided the trouble of having this work to do later on in the cold. The tin packing was used for the passage through the tropics, where I was afraid the pemmican might possibly melt and run into the hold of the ship. This opening and repacking took a long time, but we got through it. We used the pent-house as a packing-shed.
Another thing that took up a good deal of our time was our personal outfit. The question of boots was gone into thoroughly. Most of us were in favour of the big outer boots, but in a revised edition. There were a few — but extremely few — who declared for nothing but soft foot-gear. In this case it did not make so much difference, since they all knew that the big boots would have to be brought on the final journey on account of possible work on glaciers. Those, therefore, who wanted to wear soft foot-gear, and hang their boots on the sledge, might do so if they liked. I did not want to force anyone to wear boots he did not care for; it might lead to too much unpleasantness and responsibility. Everyone, therefore, might do as he pleased. Personally I was in favour of boots with stiff soles, so long as the uppers could be made soft and sufficiently large to give room for as many stockings as one wished to wear. It was a good thing the boot-maker could not look in upon us at Framheim just then — and many times afterwards, for that matter. The knife was mercilessly applied to all his beautiful work, and all the canvas, plus a quantity of the superfluous leather, was cut away. As I had no great knowledge of the shoemaker’s craft, I gladly accepted Wisting’s offer to operate on mine. The boots were unrecognizable when I got them back from him. As regards shape, they were perhaps just as smart before the alteration, but as that is a very unimportant matter in comparison with ease and comfort, I considered them improved by many degrees. The thick canvas was torn off and replaced by thin weather-proof fabric. Big wedges were inserted in the toes, and allowed room for several more pairs of stockings. Besides this, one of the many soles was removed, thus increasing the available space. It appeared to me that now I had foot-gear that combined all the qualities I demanded — stiff soles, on which Huitfeldt-Höyer Ellefsen ski-bindings could be used, and otherwise soft, so that the foot was not pinched anywhere. In spite of all these alterations, my boots were once more in the hands of the operator before the main journey, but then they were made perfect. The boots of all the others underwent the same transformation, and every day our outfit became more complete. A number of minor alterations in our wardrobe were also carried out. One man was an enthusiast for blinkers on his cap; another did not care for them. One put on a nose-protector; another took his off; and if there was a question of which was right, each was prepared to defend his idea to the last. These were all alterations of minor importance, but being due to individual judgment, they helped to raise the spirits and increase self-confidence. Patents for braces also became the fashion. I invented one myself, and was very proud of it for a time — indeed, I had the satisfaction of seeing it adopted by one of my rivals. But that rarely happened; each of us wanted to make his own inventions, and to be as original as possible. Any contrivance that resembled something already in use was no good. But we found, like the farmer, that the old way often turned out to be the best.
By the evening of February 21 we were again ready to start. The sledges — seven in number — stood ready packed, and were quite imposing in appearance. Tempted by the favourable outcome of our former trip, we put too much on our sledges this time — on some of them, in any case. Mine was overloaded. I had to suffer for it afterwards — or, rather, my noble animals did.
On February 22, at 8.30 a.m., the caravan moved off — eight men, seven sledges, and forty-two dogs — and the most toilsome part of our whole expedition began. As usual, we began well from Framheim. Lindström, who was to stay at home alone and look after things, did not stand and wave farewells to us. Beaming with joy, he made for the hut as soon as the last sledge was in motion. He was visibly relieved. But I knew very well that before long he would begin to take little turns outside to watch the ridge. Would they soon be coming?
There was a light breeze from the south, dead against us, and the sky was overcast. Newly fallen snow made the going heavy, and the dogs had hard work with their loads. Our former tracks were no longer visible, but we were lucky enough to find the first flag, which stood eleven miles inland. From there we followed the dried fish, which stood out sharply against the white snow and were very easy to see. We pitched our camp at six o’clock in the evening, having come a distance of seventeen miles. Our camp was quite imposing — four tents for three men apiece, with two in each. In two of them the housekeeping arrangements were carried on. The weather had improved during the afternoon, and by evening we had the most brilliantly clear sky.
Next day the going was even heavier, and the dogs were severely tried. W e did no more than twelve and a half miles after eight hours’ march. The temperature remained reasonable, +5° F. We had lost our dried fish, and for the last few hours were going only by compass.
February 24 began badly — a strong wind from the south-east, with thick driving snow. We could see nothing, and had to steer our course by compass. It was bitter going against the wind, although the temperature was no worse than — 0.4° F. We went all day without seeing any mark. The snow stopped falling about noon, and at three o’clock it cleared. As we were looking about for a place to pitch the tents, we caught sight of one of our flags. When we reached it, we found it was flag No. 5 — all our bamboos were numbered, so we knew the exact position of the flag. No. 5 was forty-four and a half miles from Framheim. This agreed well with the distance recorded — forty-four miles.
The next day was calm and clear, and the temperature began to descend, — 13° F. But in spite of this lower temperature the air felt considerably milder, as it was quite still. We followed marks and fish the whole way, and at the end of our day’s journey we had covered eighteen miles — a good distance for heavy going.
We then had a couple of days of bitter cold with fog, so that we did not see much of our surroundings. We followed the fish and the marks most of the way. We had already begun to find the fish useful as extra food; the dogs took it greedily. The forerunner had to take up each fish and throw it on one side; then one of the drivers went out, took it up, and put it on his sledge. If the dogs had come upon the fish standing in the snow we should soon have had fierce fights. Even now, before we reached the depot in 80° S., the dogs began to show signs of exhaustion, probably as a result of the cold weather (-16.6° F.) and the hard work. They were stiff in the legs in the morning and difficult to set going.
On February 27, at 10.30 a.m., we reached the depot in 80° S. The depot was standing as we had left it, and no snow-drifts had formed about it, from which we concluded that the weather conditions had been quiet. The snow, which we had found very loose when we were there before, was now hardened by the cold. We were lucky with the sun, and got the position of the depot accurately determined.
On our way across these endless plains, where no landmarks of any kind are to be found, we had repeatedly thought of a means of marking our depots so that we might be perfectly sure of finding them again. Our fight for the Pole was entirely dependent on this autumn work, in laying down large supplies of provisions as far to the south as possible in such a way that we could be certain of finding them again. If we missed them, the battle would probably be lost. As I have said, we had discussed the question thoroughly, and come to the conclusion that we should have to try to mark our depots at right angles to the route, in an east and west direction, instead of in a line with the route, north and south. These marks along the line of the route may easily be missed in fog, if they are not close enough together; and if one thus gets out of the line, there is a danger of not picking it up again. According to this new arrangement we therefore marked this depot in 80° S. with high bamboo poles carrying black flags. We used twenty of these — ten on each side of the depot. Between each two flags there was a distance of 984 yards (900 metres), so that the distance marked on each side of the depot was five and a half miles (nine kilometres). Each bamboo was marked with a number, so that we should always be able to tell from this number on which side the depot lay, and how far off. This method was entirely new and untried, but proved afterwards to work with absolute certainty. Our compasses and sledge-meters had, of course, been carefully adjusted at the station, and we knew that we could rely on them.
Having put this in order, we continued our journey on the following day. The temperature fell steadily as we went inland; if it continued in this way it would be cold before one got to the Pole. The surface remained as before — flat and even. We ourselves had a feeling that we were ascending, but, as the future will show, this was only imagination. We had had no trouble with fissures, and it almost looked as if we should avoid them altogether, since, of course, it might be supposed that the part of the Barrier nearest the edge would be the most fissured, and we had already left that behind us. South of 80° we found the going easier, but the dogs were now beginning to be stiff and sore-footed, and it was hard work to get them started in the morning. The sore feet I am speaking of here are not nearly so bad as those the dogs are liable to on the sea-ice of the Arctic regions. What caused sore feet on this journey was the stretches of snow-crust we had to cross; it was not strong enough to bear the dogs, and they broke through and cut their paws. Sore feet were also caused by the snow caking and sticking between the toes. But the dog that has to travel on sea-ice in spring and summer is exposed to worse things — the sharp ice cuts the paws and the salt gets in. To prevent this kind of sore feet one is almost obliged to put socks on the dogs. With the kind of foot-trouble our dogs experienced it is not necessary to take any such precautions. As a result of the long sea voyage their feet had become unusually tender and could not stand much. On our spring journey we noticed no sore-footedness, in spite of the conditions being worse rather than better; probably their feet had got into condition in the course of the winter.
On March 3 we reached 81° S. The temperature was then — 45.4° F., and it did not feel pleasant. The change had come too rapidly; this could be seen both in men and in dogs. We pitched our camp at three in the afternoon, and went straight into the tents. The following day was employed in building and marking the depot. That night was the coldest we observed on the trip, as the temperature was — 49° F. when we turned out in the morning. If one compares the conditions of temperature in the Arctic and Antarctic regions, it will be seen that this temperature is an exceptionally low one. The beginning of March corresponds, of course, to the beginning of September in the northern hemisphere — a time of year when summer still prevails. We were astonished to find this low temperature while summer ought still to have lasted, especially when I remembered the moderate temperatures Shackleton had observed on his southern sledge journey. The idea at once occurred to me of the existence of a local pole of maximum cold extending over the central portion of the Ross Barrier. A comparison with the observations recorded at Captain Scott’s station in McMurdo Sound might to some extent explain this. In order to establish it completely one would require to have information about the conditions in King Edward Land as well. The observations Dr. Mawson is now engaged upon in Adélie Land and on the Barrier farther west will contribute much to the elucidation of this question.
In 81° S. we laid down a depot consisting of fourteen cases of dogs’ pemmican — 1,234 pounds. For marking this depot we had no bamboo poles, so there was nothing to be done but to break up some cases and use the pieces as marks; this was, at any rate, better than nothing. Personally, I considered these pieces of wood, 2 feet high, good enough, considering the amount of precipitation I had remarked since our arrival in these regions. The precipitation we had observed was very slight, considering the time of year — spring and summer. If, then, the snowfall was so inconsiderable at this time of the year and along the edge of the Barrier, what might it not be in autumn and winter in the interior? As I have said, something was better than nothing, and Bjaaland, Hassel, and Stubberud, who were to return to Lindström’s flesh-pots on the following day, were given the task of setting up these marks. As with the former depot, this one was marked for nine kilometres on each side from east to west. So that we might know where the depot was, in case we should come upon one of these marks in a fog, all those on the east were marked with a little cut of an axe. I must confess they looked insignificant, these little bits of wood that were soon lost to sight on the boundless plain, and the idea that they held the key of the castle where the fair one slept made me smile. They looked altogether too inconsiderable for such an honour. Meanwhile, we others, who were to go on to the south, took it easy. The rest was good for the dogs especially, though the cold prevented their enjoying it as they should have done.
At eight o’clock next morning we parted company with the three who went north. I had to send home one of my dogs, Odin, who had got an ugly raw place — I was using Greenland harness on him — and I went on with five dogs. These were very thin, and apparently worn out; but in any case we had to reach 82° S. before we gave up. I had had some hope that we might have got to 83°, but it began to look as if we had a poor chance of that. After 81° S. the Barrier began to take on a slightly different appearance instead of the absolutely flat surface, we saw on the first day a good many small formations of the shape of haycocks. At that time we did not pay much attention to these apparently insignificant irregularities, but later on we learned to keep our eyes open and our feet active when passing in their vicinity. On this first day southward from 81° S. we noticed nothing; the going was excellent, the temperature not so bad as it had been, — 27.4° F., and the distance covered very creditable. The next day we got our first idea of the meaning of these little mounds, as the surface was cut up by crevasse after crevasse. These fissures were not particularly wide, but were bottomless, as far as we could see. About noon Hanssen’s three leading dogs, Helge, Mylius, and Ring, fell into one of them, and remained hanging by their harness; and it was lucky the traces held, as the loss of these three would have been severely felt. When the rest of the team saw these three disappear, they stopped short. Fortunately, they had a pronounced fear of these fissures, and always stopped when anything happened. We understood now that the haycock formations were the result of pressure, and that crevasses were always found in their neighbourhood.
That day was for the most part thick and hazy, with a northerly wind, and snow-showers from time to time. Between the showers we caught sight of lofty — very lofty — pressure ridges, three or four of them, to the eastward. We estimated their distance at about six miles. Next day, March 7, we had the same experience that Shackleton mentions on several occasions. The morning began clear and fine, with a temperature of — 40° F. In the course of the forenoon a breeze sprang up from the south-east, and increased to a gale during the afternoon. The temperature rose rapidly, and when we pitched our camp at three in the afternoon it was only — 0.4° F. At our camping-place that morning we left a case of dogs’ pemmican, for use on the homeward journey, and marked the way to the south with splinters of board at every kilometre. Our distance that day was only twelve and a half miles. Our dogs, especially mine, looked miserable — terribly emaciated. It was clear that they could only reach 82° S. at the farthest. Even then the homeward journey would be a near thing.
We decided that evening to be satisfied with reaching 82°, and then return. During this latter part of the trip we put up our two tents front to front, so that the openings joined; in this way we were able to send the food direct from one tent to the other without going outside, and that was a great advantage. This circumstance led to a radical alteration in our camping system, and gave us the idea of the best five-man tent that has probably yet been seen in the Polar regions. As we lay dozing that evening in our sleeping-bags, thinking of everything and nothing, the idea suddenly occurred to us that if the tents were sewed together as they now stood — after the fronts had been cut away — we should get one tent that would give us far more room for five than the two separate tents as they were. The idea was followed up, and the fruit of it was the tent we used on the journey to the Pole — an ideal tent in every way. Yes, circumstances work wonders; for I suppose one need not make Providence responsible for these trifles?
On March 8 we reached 82° S., and it was the utmost my five dogs could manage. Indeed, as will shortly be seen, it was already too much. They were completely worn out, poor beasts. This is the only dark memory of my stay in the South — the over-taxing of these fine animals — I had asked more of them than they were capable of doing. My consolation is that I did not spare myself either. To set this sledge, weighing nearly half a ton, in motion with tired-out dogs was no child’s play. And setting it in motion was not always the whole of it: sometimes one had to push it forward until one forced the dogs to move. The whip had long ago lost its terrors. When I tried to use it, they only crowded together, and got their heads as much out of the way as they could; the body did not matter so much. Many a time, too, I failed altogether to get them to go, and had to have help. Then two of us shoved the sledge forward, while the third used the whip, shouting at the same time for all he was worth. How hard and unfeeling one gets under such conditions; how one’s whole nature may be changed! I am naturally fond of all animals, and try to avoid hurting them. There is none of the “sportsman’s” instinct in me; it would never occur to me to kill an animal — rats and flies excepted — unless it was to support life. I think I can say that in normal circumstances I loved my dogs, and the feeling was undoubtedly mutual. But the circumstances we were now in were not normal — or was it, perhaps, myself who was not normal? I have often thought since that such was really the case. The daily hard work and the object I would not give up had made me brutal, for brutal I was when I forced those five skeletons to haul that excessive load. I feel it yet when I think of Thor — a big, fine, smooth-haired dog — uttering his plaintive howls on the march, a thing one never hears a dog do while working. I did not understand what it meant — would not understand, perhaps. On he had to go — on till he dropped. When we cut him open we found that his whole chest was one large abscess.
The altitude at noon gave us 81° 54’ 30’’, and we therefore went the other six miles to the south, and pitched our camp at 3.30 p.m. in 82° S. We had latterly had a constant impression that the Barrier was rising, and in the opinion of all of us we ought now to have been at a height of about 1,500 feet and a good way up the slope leading to the Pole. Personally I thought the ground continued to rise to the south. It was all imagination, as our later measurements showed.
We had now reached our highest latitude that autumn, and had reason to be well satisfied. We laid down 1,370 pounds here, chiefly dogs’ pemmican. We did nothing that afternoon, only rested a little. The weather was brisk, clear and calm, — 13° F. The distance this last day was thirteen and a half miles.
Next day we stayed where we were, built our depot, and marked it. The marking was done in the same way as in 81° S., with this difference, that here the pieces of packing-case had small, dark blue strips of cloth fastened to the top, which made them easier to see. We made this depot very secure, so that we could be certain it would stand bad weather in the course of the winter. I also left my sledge behind, as I saw the impossibility of getting it home with my team; besides which, an extra sledge at this point might possibly be useful later. This depot — 12 feet high — was marked with a bamboo and a flag on the top, so that it could be seen a great way off.
On March 10 we took the road for home. I had divided my dogs between Wisting and Hanssen, but they got no assistance from these bags of bones, only trouble. The other three teams had held out well. There was hardly anything wrong to be seen with Hanssen’s. Wisting’s team was looked upon as the strongest, but his dogs had got very thin; however, they did their work well. Wisting’s sledge had also been overloaded; it was even heavier than mine. Johansen’s animals had originally been regarded as the weakest, but they proved themselves very tough in the long-run. They were no racers, but always managed to scramble along somehow. Their motto was: “If we don’t get there to-day, we’ll get there to-morrow.” They all came home.
Our original idea was that the homeward journey should be a sort of pleasure trip, that we should sit on the sledges and take it easy; but in the circumstances this was not to be thought of. The dogs had quite enough to do with the empty sledges. The same day we reached the place where we had left a case of dogs’ pemmican, and camped there, having done twenty-nine and three-quarter miles. The weather was cold and raw; temperature, — 25.6° F. This weather took the last remnant of strength out of my dogs; instead of resting at night, they lay huddled together and freezing. It was pitiful to see them. In the morning they had to be lifted up and put on their feet; they had not strength enough to raise themselves. When they had staggered on a little way and got some warmth into their bodies, they seemed to be rather better — at any rate, they could keep up with us. The following day we did twenty-four and three-quarter miles; temperature, — 32.8° F.
On the 12th we passed the depot in 81° S. The big pressure ridges to the east were easily visible, and we got a good bearing, which would possibly come in useful later for fixing the position of the depot. That day we did twenty-four and three-quarter miles; temperature, — 39° F. March 13 began calm and fine, but by half-past ten in the morning a strong wind had sprung up from the east-south-east with thick driving snow. So as not to lose the tracks we had followed so far, we pitched our camp, to wait till the storm was over. The wind howled and took hold of the tents, but could not move them. The next day it blew just as hard from the same quarter, and we decided to wait. The temperature was as usual, with the wind in this quarter; -11.2° F. The wind did not moderate till 10.30 a.m. on the 15th, when we were able to make a start.
What a sight there was outside! How were we going to begin to bring order out of this chaos? The sledges were completely snowed up; whips, ski-bindings, and harness largely eaten up. It was a nice predicament. Fortunately we were well supplied with Alpine rope, and that did for the harness; spare straps came in for ski-bindings, but the whips were not so easy to make good. Hanssen, who drove first, was bound to have a fairly serviceable whip; the others did not matter so much, though it was rather awkward for them. In some way or other he provided himself with a whip that answered his purpose. I saw one of the others armed with a tent-pole, and he used it till we reached Framheim. At first the dogs were much afraid of this monster of a whip, but they soon found out that it was no easy matter to reach them with the pole, and then they did not care a scrap for it.
At last everything seemed to be in order, and then we only had to get the dogs up and in their places. Several of them were so indifferent that they had allowed themselves to be completely snowed under, but one by one we got them out and put them on their feet. Thor, however, refused absolutely. It was impossible to get him to stand up; he simply lay and whined. There was nothing to be done but to put an end to him, and as we had no firearms, it had to be done with an axe. It was quite successful; less would have killed him. Wisting took the carcass on his sledge to take it to the next camp, and there cut it up. The day was bitterly cold — fog and snow with a southerly breeze; temperature, — 14.8° F. We were lucky enough to pick up our old tracks of the southern journey, and could follow them. Lurven, Wisting’s best dog, fell down on the march, and died on the spot. He was one of those dogs who had to work their hardest the whole time; he never thought of shirking for a moment; he pulled and pulled until he died.
All sentimental feeling had vanished long ago; nobody thought of giving Lurven the burial he deserved. What was left of him, skin and bones, was cut up and divided among his companions.
On March 16 we advanced seventeen miles; temperature, — 29.2° F. Jens, one of my gallant “Three Musketeers,” had been given a ride all day on Wisting’s sledge; he was too weak to walk any longer. Thor was to have been divided among his companions that evening, but, on account of the abscess in his chest, we changed our minds. He was put into an empty case and buried. During the night we were wakened by a fearful noise. The dogs were engaged in a fierce fight, and it was easy to guess from their howls that it was all about food. Wisting, who always showed himself quickest in getting out of the bag, was instantly on the spot, and then it was seen that they had dug up Thor, and were now feasting on him. It could not be said that they were hard to please in the way of food. Associations of ideas are curious things; “sauce hollandaise” suddenly occurred to my mind. Wisting buried the carcass again, and we had peace for the rest of the night.
On the 17th it felt bitterly cold, with — 41.8° F., and a sharp snowstorm from the south-east. Lassesen, one of my dogs, who had been following the sledges loose, was left behind this morning at the camping-place; we did not miss him till late in the day. Rasmus, one of the “Three Musketeers,” fell to-day. Like Lurven, he pulled till he died. Jens was very ill, could not touch food, and was taken on Wisting’s sledge. We reached our depot in 80° S. that evening, and were able to give the dogs a double ration. The distance covered was twenty-one and three-quarter miles. The surface about here had changed in our absence; great, high snow-waves were now to be seen in all directions. On one of the cases in the depot Bjaaland had written a short message, besides which we found the signal arranged with Hassel — a block of snow on the top of the depot to show that they had gone by, and that all was well. The cold continued persistently. The following day we had — 41.8° F. Ola and Jens, the two survivors of the “Three Musketeers,” had to be put an end to that day; it was a shame to keep them alive any longer. And with them the “Three Musketeers” disappear from this history. They were inseparable friends, these three; all of them almost entirely black. At Flekkerö, near Christiansand, where we kept our dogs for several weeks before taking them on board, Rasmus had got loose, and was impossible to catch. He always came and slept with his two friends, unless he was being hunted. We did not succeed in catching him until a few days before we took them on board, and then he was practically wild. They were all three tied up on the bridge on board, where I was to have my team, and from that day my closer acquaintance with the trio is dated. They were not very civilly disposed for the first month. I had to make my advances with a long stick — scratch them on the back. In this way I insinuated myself into their confidence, and we became very good friends. But they were a terrible power on board; wherever these three villains showed themselves, there was always a row. They loved fighting. They were our fastest dogs. In our races with empty sledges, when we were driving around Framheim, none of the others could beat these three. I was always sure of leaving the rest behind when I had them in my team.
I had quite given up Lassesen, who had been left behind that morning, and I was very sorry for it, as he was my strongest and most willing beast. I was glad, therefore, when he suddenly appeared again, apparently fit and well. We presumed that he had dug up Thor again, and finished him. It must have been food that had revived him. From 80° S. home he did remarkably good work in Wisting’s team.
That day we had a curious experience, which was useful for the future. The compass on Hanssen’s sledge, which had always been reliability itself, suddenly began to go wrong; at any rate, it did not agree with the observations of the sun, which we fortunately had that day. We altered our course in accordance with our bearings. In the evening, when we took our things into the tent, the housewife, with scissors, pins, needles, etc., had lain close against the compass. No wonder it turned rebellious.
On March 19 we had a breeze from the south-east and — 45.4° F. “Rather fresh,” I find noted in my diary. Not long after we had started that morning, Hanssen caught sight of our old tracks. He had splendid eyesight — saw everything long before anyone else. Bjaaland also had good sight, but he did not come up to Hanssen. The way home was now straightforward, and we could see the end of our journey. Meanwhile a gale sprang up from the south-east, which stopped us for a day; temperature, — 29.2° F. Next day the temperature had risen, as usual, with a south-east wind; we woke up to find it +15.8° F. on the morning of the 21st. That was a difference that could be felt, and not an unpleasant one; we had had more than enough of — 40°. It was curious weather that night: violent gusts of wind from the east and south-east, with intervals of dead calm — just as if they came off high land. On our way northward that day we passed our flag No. 6, and then knew that we were fifty-three miles from Framheim. Pitched our camp that evening at thirty-seven miles from the station. We had intended to take this stretch of the way in two days, seeing how tired the dogs were; but it turned out otherwise, for we lost our old tracks during the forenoon, and in going on we came too far to the east, and high up on the ridge mentioned before. Suddenly Hanssen sang out that he saw something funny in front — what it was he did not know. When that was the case, we had to apply to the one who saw even better than Hanssen, and that was my glass. Up with the glass, then — the good old glass that has served me for so many years. Yes, there was certainly something curious. It must be the Bay of Whales that we were looking down into, but what were those black things moving up and down? They are our fellows hunting seals, someone suggested, and we all agreed. Yes, of course, it was so clear that there was no mistaking it. “I can see a sledge — and there’s another — and there’s a third.” We nearly had tears in our eyes to see how industrious they were. “Now they’re gone. No; there they are again. Strange how they bob up and down, those fellows!” It proved to be a mirage; what we saw was Framheim with all its tents. Our lads, we were sure, were just taking a comfortable midday nap, and the tears we were nearly shedding were withdrawn. Now we could survey the situation calmly. There lay Framheim, there was Cape Man’s Head, and there West Cape, so that we had come too far to the east. “Hurrah for Framheim! half-past seven this evening,” shouted one. “Yes, that’s all we can do,” cried another; and away we went. We set our course straight for the middle of the bay. We must have got pretty high up, as we went down at a terrific pace. This was more than the forerunner could manage; he flung himself on a sledge as it went by. I had a glimpse of Hanssen, who was busy making a whip-handle, as I passed; the soles of his feet were then very prominent. I myself was lying on Hanssen’s sledge, shaking with laughter; the situation was too comical. Hanssen picked himself up again just as the last sledge was passing and jumped on. We all collected in a mass below the ridge — sledges and dogs mixed up together.
The last part of the way was rather hard work. We now found the tracks that we had lost early in the day; one dried fish after another stuck up out of the snow and led us straight on. We reached Framheim at seven in the evening, half an hour earlier than we had thought. It was a day’s march of thirty-seven miles — not so bad for exhausted dogs. Lassesen was the only one I brought home out of my team. Odin, whom I had sent home from 81° S., died after arriving there. We lost altogether eight dogs on this trip; two of Stubberud’s died immediately after coming home from 81° S. Probably the cold was chiefly responsible; I feel sure that with a reasonable temperature they would have come through. The three men who came home from 81° S. were safe and sound. It is true that they had run short of food and matches the last day, but if the worst came to the worst, they had the dogs. Since their return they had shot, brought in, cut up, and stowed away, fifty seals — a very good piece of work.
Lindström had been untiring during our absence; he had put everything in splendid order. In the covered passage round the hut he had cut out shelves in the snow and filled them with slices of seal meat. Here alone there were steaks enough for the whole time we should spend here. On the outer walls of the hut, which formed the other side of the passage, he had put up shelves, and there all kinds of tinned foods were stored. All was in such perfect order that one could put one’s hand on what one wanted in the dark. There stood salt meat and bacon by themselves, and there were fish-cakes. There you read the label on a tin of caramel pudding, and you could be sure that the rest of the caramel puddings were in the vicinity. Quite right; there they stood in a row, like a company of soldiers. Oh, Lindström, how long will this order last?
Well, that was, of course, a question I put to myself in the strictest secrecy. Let me turn over my diary. On Thursday, July 27, I find the following entry: “The provision passage turns our days into chaotic confusion. How my mind goes back to the time when one could find what one wanted without a light of any kind! If you put out your hand to get a plum-pudding and shut it again, you could be sure it was a plum-pudding you had hold of. And so it was throughout Lindström’s department. But now — good Heavens! I am ashamed to put down what happened to me yesterday. I went out there in the most blissful ignorance of the state of things now prevailing, and, of course, I had no light with me, for everything had its place. I put out my hand and grasped. According to my expectation I ought to have been in possession of a packet of candles, but the experiment had failed. That which I held in my hand could not possibly be a packet of candles. It was evident from the feel that it was something of a woollen nature. I laid the object down, and had recourse to the familiar expedient of striking a match. Do you know what it was? A dirty old — pair of pants! and do you want to know where I found it? Well, it was between the butter and the sweetmeats. That was mixing things up with a vengeance.” But Lindström must not have all the blame. In this passage everyone was running backwards and forwards, early and late, and as a rule in the dark. And if they knocked something down on the way, I am not quite sure that they always stopped to pick it up again.
Then he had painted the ceiling of the room white. How cosy it looked when we put our heads in that evening! He had seen us a long way off on the Barrier, the rascal, and now the table was laid with all manner of dainties. But seal-steaks and the smell of coffee were what attracted us, and it was no small quantity that disappeared that evening. Home! — that word has a good sound, wherever it may be, at sea, on land, or on — the Barrier. How comfortable we made ourselves that night! The first thing we did now was to dry all our reindeer-skin clothes; they were wet through. This was not to be done in a hurry. We had to stretch the garments that were to be dried on lines under the ceiling of the room, so that we could not dry very much at a time.
We got everything ready, and made some improvements in our outfit for a last depot journey before the winter set in. This time the destination was 80° S., with about a ton and a quarter of fresh seal meat. How immensely important it would be on the main journey if we could give our dogs as much seal meat as they could eat at 80° S.; we all saw the importance of this, and were eager to carry it out. We set to work once more at the outfit; the last trip had taught us much that was new. Thus Prestrud and Johansen had come to the conclusion that a double sleeping-bag was preferable to two single ones. I will not enter upon the discussion that naturally arose on this point. The double bag has many advantages, and so has the single bag; let it therefore remain a matter of taste. Those two were, however, the only ones who made this alteration. Hanssen and Wisting were busy carrying out the new idea for the tents, and it was not long before they had finished. These tents are as much like a snow hut in form as they can be; instead of being entirely round, they have a more oblong form, but there is no flat side, and the wind has no point of attack. Our personal outfit also underwent some improvements.
The Bay of Whales — the inner part of it, from Man’s Head to West Cape — was now entirely frozen over, but outside the sea lay immense and dark. Our house was now completely covered with snow. Most of this was Lindström’s work; the blizzard had not helped him much. This covering with snow has a great deal to do with keeping the hut snug and warm. Our dogs — 107 in number — mostly look like pigs getting ready for Christmas; even the famished ones that made the last trip are beginning to recover. It is an extraordinary thing how quickly such an animal can put on flesh.
It was interesting to watch the home-coming of the dogs from the last trip. They showed no sign of surprise when we came into camp; they might have been there all the time. It is true they were rather more hungry than the rest. The meeting between Lassesen and Fix was comic. These two were inseparable friends; the first-named was boss, and the other obeyed him blindly. On this last trip I had left Fix at home, as he did not give me the impression of being quite up to the work; he had therefore put on a lot of flesh, big eater as he was. I stood and watched their meeting with intense curiosity. Would not Fix take advantage of the occasion to assume the position of boss? In such a mass of dogs it took some little time before they came across each other. Then it was quite touching. Fix ran straight up to the other, began to lick him, and showed every sign of the greatest affection and joy at seeing him again. Lassesen, on his part, took it all with a very superior air, as befits a boss. Without further ceremony, he rolled his fat friend in the snow and stood over him for a while — no doubt to let him know that he was still absolute master, beyond dispute. Poor Fix! — he looked quite crestfallen. But this did not last long; he soon avenged himself on the other, knowing that he could tackle him with safety.
In order to give a picture of our life as it was at this time, I will quote a day from my diary. March 25 — Saturday: “Beautiful mild weather, +6.8° F. all day. Very light breeze from the south-east. Our seal-hunters — the party that came home from 81° S. — were out this morning, and brought back three seals. This makes sixty-two seals altogether since their return on March 11. We have now quite enough fresh meat both for ourselves and for all our dogs. We get to like seal-steak more and more every day. We should all be glad to eat it at every meal, but we think it safer to make a little variety. For breakfast — eight o’clock — we now have regularly hot cakes with jam, and Lindström knows how to prepare them in a way that could not be surpassed in the best American houses. In addition, we have bread, butter, cheese, and coffee. For dinner we mostly have seal meat (we introduced rather more tinned meat into the menu in the course of the winter), and sweets in the form of tinned Californian fruit, tarts, and tinned puddings. For supper, seal-steak, with whortleberry jam, cheese, bread, butter, and coffee. Every Saturday evening a glass of toddy and a cigar. I must frankly confess that I have never lived so well. And the consequence is that we are all in the best of health, and I feel certain that the whole enterprise will be crowned with success.
“It is strange indeed here to go outside in the evening and see the cosy, warm lamp-light through the window of our little snow-covered hut, and to feel that this is our snug, comfortable home on the formidable and dreaded Barrier. All our little puppies — as round as Christmas pigs — are wandering about outside, and at night they lie in crowds about the door. They never take shelter under a roof at night. They must be hardy beasts. Some of them are so fat that they waddle just like geese.”
The aurora australis was seen for the first time on the evening of March 28. It was composed of shafts and bands, and extended from the south-west to the north-east through the zenith. The light was pale green and red. We see many fine sunsets here, unique in the splendour of their colour. No doubt the surroundings in this fairyland of blue and white do much to increase their beauty.
The departure of the last depot journey was fixed for Friday, March 31. A few days before, the seal-hunting party went out on the ice and shot six seals for the depot. They were cleaned and all superfluous parts removed, so that they should not be too heavy. The weight of these six seals was then estimated at about 2,400 pounds.
On March 31, at 10 a.m., the last depot party started. It consisted of seven men, six sledges, and thirty-six dogs. I did not go myself this time. They had the most beautiful weather to begin their journey — dead calm and brilliantly clear. At seven o’clock that morning, when I came out of the hut, I saw a sight so beautiful that I shall never forget it. The whole surroundings of the station lay in deep, dark shadow, in lee of the ridge to the east. But the sun’s rays reached over the Barrier farther to the north, and there the Barrier lay golden red, bathed in the morning sun. It glittered and shone, red and gold, against the jagged row of mighty masses of ice that bounds our Barrier on the north. A spirit of peace breathed over all. But from Framheim the smoke ascended quietly into the air, and proclaimed that the spell of thousands of years was broken.
The sledges were heavily loaded when they went southward. I saw them slowly disappear over the ridge by the starting-place. It was a quiet time that followed after all the work and hurry of preparation. Not that we two who stayed at home sat still doing nothing. We made good use of the time. The first thing to be done was to put our meteorological station in order. On April 1 all the instruments were in use. In the kitchen were hung our two mercury barometers, four aneroids, barograph, thermograph, and one thermometer. They were placed in a well-protected corner, farthest from the stove. We had no house as yet for our outside instruments, but the sub-director went to work to prepare one as quickly as possible, and so nimble were his hands that when the depot party returned there was the finest instrument-screen standing ready on the hill, painted white so that it shone a long way off: The wind-vane was a work of art, constructed by our able engineer, Sundbeck. No factory could have supplied a more handsome or tasteful one. In the instrument-screen we had a thermograph, hygrometer, and thermometers. Observations were made at 8 a.m., 2 p.m., and 8 p.m. When I was at home I took them, and when I was away it was Lindström’s work.
On the night before April 11 something or other fell down in the kitchen — according to Lindström, a sure sign that the travellers might be expected home that day. And, sure enough, at noon we caught sight of them up at the starting-place. They came across at such a pace that the snow was scattered all round them, and in an hour’s time we had them back. They had much to tell us. In the first place, that everything had been duly taken to the depot in 80°S. Then they surprised me with an account of a fearfully crevassed piece of surface that they had come upon, forty-six and a half miles from the station, where they had lost two dogs. This was very strange; we had now traversed this stretch of surface four times without being particularly troubled with anything of this sort, and then, all of a sudden, when they thought the whole surface was as solid as a rock, they found themselves in danger of coming to grief altogether. In thick weather they had gone too far to the west; then, instead of arriving at the ridge, as we had done before, they came down into the valley, and there found a surface so dangerous that they nearly had a catastrophe. It was a precisely similar piece of surface to that already mentioned to the south of 81° S., but full of small hummocks everywhere. The ground was apparently solid enough, and this was just the most dangerous thing about it; but, as they were crossing it, large pieces of the surface fell away just in rear of them, disclosing bottomless crevasses, big enough to swallow up everything — men, dogs, and sledges. With some difficulty they got out of this ugly place by steering to the east. Now we knew of it, and we should certainly be very careful not to come that way again. In spite of this, however, we afterwards had an even more serious encounter with this nasty trap.
One dog had also been left behind on the way; it had a wound on one of its feet, and could not be harnessed in the sledge. It had been let loose a few miles to the north of the depot, doubtless with the idea that it would follow the sledges. But the dog seemed to have taken another view of the matter, and was never seen again. There were some who thought that the dog had probably returned to the depot, and was now passing its days in ease and luxury among the laboriously transported seals’ carcasses. I must confess that this idea was not very attractive to me; there was, indeed, a possibility that such a thing had happened, and that the greater part of our seal meat might be missing when we wanted it. But our fears proved groundless; Cook — that was the name of the dog; we had a Peary as well, of course — was gone for ever.
The improved outfit was in every way successful. Praises of the new tent were heard on every hand, and Prestrud and Johansen were in the seventh heaven over their double sleeping-bag. I fancy the others were very well satisfied with their single ones.
And with this the most important part of the autumn’s work came to an end. The foundation was solidly laid; now we had only to raise the edifice. Let us briefly sum up the work accomplished between January 14 and April 11: The complete erection of the station, with accommodation for nine men for several years; provision of fresh meat for nine men and a hundred and fifteen dogs for half a year — the weight of the seals killed amounted to about 60 tons; and, finally, the distribution of 3 tons of supplies in the depots in latitudes 80°, 81°, and 82°S. The depot in 80°S. contained seal meat, dogs’ pemmican, biscuits, butter, milk-powder, chocolate, matches, and paraffin, besides a quantity of outfit. The total weight of this depot was 4,200 pounds. In 81°S., 1/2 ton of dogs’ pemmican. In 82°S., pemmican, both for men and dogs, biscuits, milk-powder, chocolate, and paraffin, besides a quantity of outfit. The weight of this depot amounted to 1,366 pounds.
5 — Unless otherwise stated, “miles” means English statute miles. — Tr.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:50