After Midwinter Day the time began to pass even more quickly than before. The darkest period was over, and the sun was daily drawing nearer. In the middle of the darkest time, Hassel came in one morning and announced that Else had eight puppies. Six of these were ladies, so their fate was sealed at once; they were killed and given to their elder relations, who appreciated them highly. It could hardly be seen that they chewed them at all; they went down practically whole. There could be no doubt of their approval, as the next day the other two had also disappeared.
The weather conditions we encountered down here surprised us greatly. In every quarter of the Antarctic regions of which we had any information, the conditions had always proved very unsettled. On the Belgica, in the drift-ice to the west of Graham Land, we always had rough, unpleasant weather. Nordenskjöld’s stay in the regions to the east of the same land gave the same report — storm after storm the whole time. And from the various English expeditions that have visited McMurdo Sound we hear of continual violent winds. Indeed, we know now that while we were living on the Barrier in the most splendid weather — calms or light breezes — Scott at his station some four hundred miles to the west of us was troubled by frequent storms, which greatly hindered his work.
I had expected the temperature to remain high, as throughout the winter we could very clearly see the dark sky over the sea. Whenever the state of the air was favourable, the dark, heavy water-sky was visible in a marked degree, leaving no doubt that a large extent of Ross Sea was open the whole year round. Nevertheless, the temperature went very low, and without doubt the mean temperature shown by our observations for the year is the lowest that has ever been recorded. Our lowest temperature, on August 13, 1911, was — 74.2°F. For five months of the year we were able to record temperatures below — 58°F. The temperature rose with every wind, except the south-west; with that it more usually went down.
We observed the aurora australis many times, but only a few of its appearances were specially powerful. They were of all possible forms, though the form of ribbon-like bands seemed to be commonest. Most of the auroræ were multicoloured — red and green.
My hypothesis of the solidity of the Barrier — that is, of its resting upon underlying land — seems to be confirmed at all points by our observations during our twelve months’ stay on it. In the course of the winter and spring the pack-ice is forced up against the Barrier into pressure-ridges of as much as 40 feet in height. This took place only about a mile and a quarter from our hut, without our noticing its effect in the slightest degree. In my opinion, if this Barrier had been afloat, the effect of the violent shock which took place at its edge would not merely have been noticeable, but would have shaken our house. While building the house, Stubberud and Bjaaland heard a loud noise a long way off, but could feel nothing. During our whole stay we never heard a sound or felt a movement on this spot. Another very good proof seems to be afforded by the large theodolite that Prestrud used. It would take next to nothing to disturb its level — a slight change of temperature might be enough. So delicate an instrument would have soon shown an inclination if the Barrier had been afloat.
The day we entered the bay for the first time, a small piece of its western cape broke away. During the spring the drift-ice pressed in an insignificant part of one of the many points on the outer edge of the Barrier. With these exceptions, we left the Barrier as we found it, entirely unaltered. The soundings, which showed a rapid rise in the bottom as the Fram changed her position southward along the Barrier, are also a clear sign that land is close at hand. Finally, the formations of the Barrier appear to be the best proof. It could not rise to 1,100 feet — which we measured as the rise from Framheim to a point about thirty-one miles to the south — without subjacent land.
Work now proceeded on the sledging outfit with feverish haste. We had for a long time been aware that we should have to do our utmost and make the best use of our time if we were to have the general outfit for our common use ready by the middle of August. For preparing our personal outfit we had to use our leisure time. By the first half of August we could begin to see the end of our labour. Bjaaland had now finished the four sledges. It was a masterly piece of work that he had carried out in the course of the winter; they were extremely lightly constructed, but very strong. They were of the same length as the original sledges — about 12 feet — and were not shod. We should have a couple of the old Fram sledges with us, and these were shod with strong steel plates, so that they could be used if the surface and going rendered it necessary. The average weight of the new sledges was 53 pounds. We had thus saved as much as 110 pounds per sledge.
When Bjaaland had finished them, they were taken into the “Clothing Store.” The way in which Hanssen and Wisting lashed the various parts together was a guarantee of their soundness; in fact, the only way in which one can expect work to be properly and carefully carried out is to have it done by the very men who are to use the things. They know what is at stake. They do it so that they may reach their destination; more than that, they do it so that they may come back again. Every piece of binding is first carefully examined and tested; then it is put on, cautiously and accurately. Every turn is hauled taut, taking care that it is in its right place. And, finally, the lashing is pointed in such a way that one would do best to use a knife or an axe if it has to be undone again; there is no danger of jerking it out with the fingers. A sledge journey of the kind we had before us is a serious undertaking, and the work has to be done seriously.
It was no warm and comfortable workshop that they had for doing this. The Clothing Store was always the coldest place, probably because there was always a draught through it. There was a door out on to the Barrier, and an open passage leading to the house. Fresh air was constantly passing through, though not in any very great quantity; but it does not take much to make itself felt when the air is at a temperature of about — 75°F., and when one is working with bare fingers. There were always some degrees of frost here. In order to keep the lashings pliable while they were being put on, they used a Primus lamp on a stone close to where they were working. I often admired their patience when I stood watching them; I have seen them more than once working barehanded by the hour together in a temperature of about — 22°F. This may pass for a short time; but through the coldest and darkest part of the winter, working day after day, as they did, it is pretty severe, and a great trial of patience. Nor were their feet very well off either; it makes hardly any difference what one puts on them if one has to stay still. Here, as elsewhere in the cold, it was found that boots with wooden soles were the best for sedentary work; but for some reason or other the occupants of the Clothing Store would not give their adherence to the wooden-sole principle, and continued to work all through the winter in their reindeer-skin and sealskin boots. They preferred stamping their feet to acknowledging the incontestable superiority of wooden soles in such conditions.
As the sledges were finished, they were numbered from one to seven, and stored in the clothing department. The three old sledges we should have to use were made for the Fram’s second expedition. They were extremely strong, and, of course, heavier than the new ones. They were all carefully overhauled; all the bindings and lashings were examined, and replaced wherever necessary. The steel shoes were taken off one, but retained on the other two, in case we should meet with conditions where they would be required.
In addition to this work of lashing, these two had plenty of other occupation. Whenever Wisting was not taken up by the work on the sledges, one could hear the hum of his sewing-machine. He had a thousand different things to do in his sewing-room, and was in there nearly every day till late in the evening. It was only when the target and darts came out at half-past eight that he showed himself, and if it had not been that he had undertaken the position of marker at these competitions, we should hardly have seen him even then. His first important piece of work was making four three-man tents into two. It was not easy to manage these rather large tents in the little hole that went by the name of the sewing-room; of course, he used the table in the Clothing Store for cutting out, but, all the same, it is a mystery how he contrived to get hold of the right seams when he sat in his hole. I was prepared to see the most curious-looking tents when once they were brought out and set up in daylight; one might imagine that the floor of one would be sewed on to the side of another. But nothing of the sort happened. When the tents were brought out for the first time and set up, they proved to be perfect. One would have thought they had been made in a big sail-loft instead of in a snow-drift. Neat-fingered fellows like this are priceless on such an expedition as ours.
On the second Fram expedition they used double tents, and as, of course, nothing is so good and serviceable as the thing one has not got, the praises of double tents were now sung in every key. Well, I naturally had to admit that a house with double walls is warmer than one with single walls, but, at the same time, one must not lose sight of the fact that the double-walled house is also twice as heavy; and when one has to consider the weight of a pocket-handkerchief, it will be understood that the question of the real advantages of the double-walled house had to be thoroughly considered before taking the step of committing oneself to it. I had thought that with double walls one would possibly avoid some of the rime that is generally so troublesome in the tents, and often becomes a serious matter. If, then, the double walls would in any way prevent or improve this condition of things, I could see the advantage of having them; for the increased weight caused by the daily deposit of rime would in a short time be equal to, if not greater than, the additional weight of the double tent. These double tents are made so that the outer tent is fast and the inner loose. In the course of our discussion, it appeared that the deposit of rime occurred just as quickly on a double tent as on a single one, and thus the utility of the double tent appeared to me to be rather doubtful. If the object was merely to have it a few degrees warmer in the tent, I thought it best to sacrifice this comfort to the weight we should thereby save. Moreover, we were so plentifully supplied with warm sleeping things that we should not have to suffer any hardship.
But another question cropped up as a result of this discussion — the question of what was the most useful colour for a tent. We were soon agreed that a dark-coloured tent was best, for several reasons: In the first place, as a relief to the eyes. We knew well enough what a comfort it would be to come into a dark tent after travelling all day on the glistening Barrier surface. In the next place, the dark colour would make the tent a good deal warmer when the sun was up — another important consideration. One may easily prove this by walking in dark clothes in a hot sun, and afterwards changing to white ones. And, finally, a dark tent would be far easier to see on the white surface than a light one. When all these questions had been discussed, and the superiority of a dark tent admitted, we were doubly keen on it, since all our tents happened to be light, not to say white, and the possibility of getting dark ones was not very apparent. It is true that we had a few yards of darkish “ gabardine,” or light windproof material, which would have been extremely suitable for this purpose, but every yard of it had long ago been destined for some other use, so that did not get us out of the difficulty. “But,” said somebody — and he had a very cunning air as he uttered that “but” — “but haven’t we got ink and ink-powder that we can dye our tents dark with?” Yes, of course! We all smiled indulgently; the thing was so plain that it was almost silly to mention it, but all the same — the man was forgiven his silliness, and dye-works were established. Wisting accepted the position of dyer, in addition to his other duties, and succeeded so well that before very long we had two dark blue tents instead of the white ones.
These looked very well, no doubt, freshly dyed as they were, but the question was, What would they look like after a couple of months’ use? The general opinion was that they would probably, to a great extent, have reverted to their original colour — or lack of colour. Some better patent had to be invented. As we were sitting over our coffee after dinner one day, someone suddenly suggested: “But look here — suppose we took our bunk — curtains and made an outer tent of them?” This time the smile that passed over the company, as they put down their cups, was almost compassionate. Nothing was said, but the silence meant something like: “Poor chap! — as if we hadn’t all thought of that long ago!” The proposal was adopted without discussion, and Wisting had another long job, in addition to all the rest. Our bunk-curtains were dark red, and made of very light material; they were sewed together, curtain to curtain, and finally the whole was made into an outer tent. The curtains only sufficed for one tent, but, remembering that half a loaf is better than no bread, we had to be satisfied with this. The red tent, which was set up a few days after, met with unqualified approval; it would be visible some miles away in the snow. Another important advantage was that it would protect and preserve the main tent. Inside, the effect of the combination of red and blue was to give an agreeably dark shade. Another question was how to protect the tent from a hundred loose dogs, who were no better behaved than others of their kind. If the tent became stiff and brittle, it might be spoilt in a very short time. And the demands we made on our tents were considerable; we expected them to last at least 120 days. I therefore got Wisting to make two tent-protectors, or guards. These guards consisted simply of a piece of gabardine long enough to stretch all round the tent, and to act as a fence in preventing the dogs from coming in direct contact with the tents. The guards were made with loops, so that they could be stretched upon ski-poles. They looked very fine when they were finished, but they never came to be used; for, as soon as we began the journey, we found a material that was even more suitable and always to be had — snow. Idiots! — of course, we all knew that, only we wouldn’t say so. Well, that was one against us. However, the guards came in well as reserve material on the trip, and many were the uses they were put to.
In the next place, Wisting had to make wind-clothing for every man. That we had brought out proved to be too small, but the things he made were big enough. There was easily room for two more in my trousers; but they have to be so. In these regions one soon finds out that everything that is roomy is warm and comfortable, while everything that is tight — foot-gear, of course, excepted — is warm and uncomfortable. One quickly gets into a perspiration, and spoils the clothes. Besides the breeches and anorak of light wind-cloth, he made stockings of the same material. I assumed that these stockings — worn among the other stockings we had on — would have an insulating effect. Opinions were greatly divided on this point; but I must confess — in common with my four companions on the Polar journey — that I would never make a serious trip without them. They fulfilled all our expectations. The rime was deposited on them freely, and was easily brushed off. If they got wet, it was easy to dry them in almost all weathers; I know of no material that dries so quickly as this windproof stuff. Another thing was that they protected the other stockings against tears, and made them last much longer than would otherwise have been the case.
As evidence of how pleased we who took part in the long sledge journey were with these stockings, I may mention that when we reached the depot in 80°S. — on the homeward trip, be it noted; that is, when we looked upon the journey as over — we found there some bags with various articles of clothing. In one of these were two pairs of windproof stockings — the bag presumably belonged to an opponent of the idea — and it may be imagined that there was some fun. We all wanted them — all, without exception. The two lucky ones each seized his pair and hid it, as if it was the most costly treasure. What they wanted with them I cannot guess, as we were at home; but this example shows how we had learnt to appreciate them.
I recommend them most warmly to men who are undertaking similar expeditions. But — I must add — they must give themselves the trouble of taking off their foot-gear every evening, and brushing the rime off their stockings; if one does not do this, of course, the rime will thaw in the course of the night, and everything will be soaking wet in the morning. In that case you must not blame the stockings, but yourself.
After this it was the turn of the underclothing; there was nothing in the tailoring and outfitting department that Wisting could not manage. Among our medical stores we had two large rolls of the most beautiful fine light flannel, and of this he made underclothing for all of us. What we had brought out from home was made of extremely thick woollen material, and we were afraid this would be too warm. Personally, I wore Wisting’s make the whole trip, and have never known anything so perfect. Then he had covers for the sleeping-bags to sew and patch, and one thing and another. Some people give one the impression of being able to make anything, and to get it done in no time — others not.
Hanssen had his days well occupied, industrious and handy as he was. He was an expert at anything relating to sledges, and knew exactly what had to be done. Whatever he had a hand in, I could feel sure of; he never left anything to chance. Besides lashing the sledges, he had a number of other things to do. Amongst them, he was to prepare all the whips we required — two for each driver, or fourteen altogether. Stubberud was to supply the handles. In consultation with the “Carpenters’ Union,” I had chosen a handle made of three narrow strips of hickory. I assumed that if these were securely lashed together, and the lashings covered with leather, they would make as strong a handle as one could expect to get. The idea of the composite handle of three pieces of wood was that it would give and bend instead of breaking. We knew by experience that a solid whip-handle did not last very long. It was arranged, then, that the handles were to be made by Stubberud, and passed on to Hanssen.
The whip-lashes were made by Hassel, in the course of the winter, on the Eskimo model. They were round and heavy — as they should be — and dangerous to come near, when they were wielded by an experienced hand. Hanssen received these different parts to join them together and make the whip. As usual, this was done with all possible care. Three strong lashings were put on each handle, and these again were covered with leather. Personally, Hanssen was not in favour of the triple hickory handle, but he did the work without raising any objection. We all remarked, it is true, that at this time, contrary to his habit, he spent the hours after supper with Wisting. I wondered a little at this, as I knew Hanssen was very fond of a game of whist after supper, and never missed it unless he had work to do. I happened one evening to express my surprise at this, and Stubberud answered at once: “He’s making handles.” — “What sort of handles?” — “Whip-handles; but,” Stubberud added, “I’ll guarantee those hickory handles I’m making. You can’t have anything tougher and stronger than those.” He was rather sore about it, that was easy to see; the idea was his own, too. Then — talk of the devil — in walked Hanssen, with a fine big whip in his hand. I, of course, appeared extremely surprised. “What,” I said, “more whips?” — “Yes,” said he; “I don’t believe in those I’m making in the daytime. But here’s a whip that I can trust.” I must admit that it looked well. The whole handle was covered, so that one could not see what it was made of. “But,” I ventured to object, “are you sure it is as strong as the others?” — “Oh, as to that,” he answered, “I’m quite ready to back it against any of those — “ He did not say the word, nor was there any need. His meaning was unmistakable, and “rotten whips” sounded in our ears as plainly as if he had shouted it. I had no time to observe the effect of this terrible utterance, for a determined voice called out: “We’ll see about that!” I turned round, and there was Stubberud leaning against the end of the table, evidently hurt by Hanssen’s words, which he took as a personal affront. “If you dare risk your whip, come on.” He had taken down one of the insulted triple-handled whips from the shelf in his bunk, and stood in a fighting attitude. This promised well. We all looked at Hanssen. He had gone too far to be able to draw back; he had to fight. He took his weapon in his hand, and entered the “ring.” The conditions were arranged and accepted by both parties; they were to fight until one of the handles was broken. And then the whip duel began. The opponents were very serious over it. One, two, three — the first blow fell, handle against handle. The combatants had shut their eyes and awaited the result; when they opened them again, they shone with happy surprise — both handles were as whole as before. Now each of them was really delighted with his own handle, and the blows fell faster. Stubberud, who was standing with his back to the table, got so excited over the unexpected result that, every time he raised his weapon, he gave the edge of the table a resounding smack without knowing it. How many rounds had been fought I do not know, when I heard a crack, followed by the words: “There you can see, old man!” As Stubberud left the ring, I was able to see Hanssen. He stood on the battle-field, eyeing his whip; it looked like a broken lily. The spectators had not been silent; they had followed the fight with excitement, amid laughter and shouts. “That’s right, Stubberud. Don’t give in!” “Bravo, Hanssen! that’s a good one!”
The whips afterwards turned out remarkably well — not that they lasted out the trip, but they held together for a long while. Whip-handles are a very perishable commodity; if one used nothing but the lash, they would be everlasting, but, as a rule, one is not long satisfied with that. It is when one gives a “confirmation,” as we call it, that the handle breaks. A confirmation is generally held when some sinner or other has gone wrong and refuses to obey. It consists in taking the first opportunity, when the sledge stops, of going in among the dogs, taking out the defiant one, and laying into him with the handle. These confirmations, if they occur frequently, may use up a lot of handles.
It was also arranged that Hanssen should prepare goggles in the Eskimo fashion, and he began this work; but it soon appeared that everyone had some patent of his own which was much better. Therefore it was given up, and every man made his own goggles.
Stubberud’s chief work was making the sledge cases lighter, and he succeeded in doing this, but not without hard work. It took far longer than one would have thought. The wood had a good many knots, and he often had to work against the grain; the planing was therefore rather difficult and slow. He planed a good deal off them, but could “guarantee them,” as he said. Their sides were not many millimetres thick; to strengthen them in the joints, corners of aluminium were put on.
In addition to remaking the sledges, Bjaaland had to get the ski ready. To fit the big, broad boots we should wear, the Huitfeldt fittings had to be much broader than usual, and we had such with us, so that Bjaaland had only to change them. The ski-bindings were like the snow-goggles; everyone had his own patent. I found the bindings that Bjaaland had put on for himself so efficient that I had no hesitation in ordering similar ones for myself; and it may be said to their honour, and to the honour of him who made them, that they were first-rate, and served me well during the whole trip. They were, after all, only a retention of the old system, but, with the help of hooks and eyes, they could be put on and taken off in an instant. And those were the conditions we demanded of our bindings — that they should hold the foot as firmly as a vice, and should be easy to hook on and take off. For we always had to take them off on the journey; if one left one’s bindings out for a night, they were gone in the morning. The dogs looked upon them as a delicacy. The toe-strap also had to be removed in the evening; in other words, the ski had to be left absolutely bare.
Johansen, besides his packing, was occupied in making weights and tent-pegs. The weights were very ingeniously made; the steelyard system was adopted. If they were never used, it was not the fault of the weights — they were good enough. But the reason was that we had all our provisions so arranged that they could be taken without being weighed. We were all weighed on August 6, and it then appeared that Lindström was the heaviest, with 13 st. 8 lbs. On that occasion he was officially christened “Fatty.” The tent-pegs Johansen made were the opposite of what such pegs usually are; in other words, they were flat instead of being high. We saw the advantage at once. Besides being so much lighter, they were many times stronger. I do not know that we ever broke a peg on the trip; possibly we lost one or two. Most of them were brought home undamaged.
Hassel worked at his whip-lashes down in the petroleum store. It was an uncomfortable place for him — always cold; but he had the lashes ready by the time he had promised them.
Prestrud made charts and copied out tables. Six of us were to have these copies. In each sledge there was a combined provision and observation book, bearing the same number as the sledge. It contained, first, an exact list of the provisions contained in each case on that sledge, and, in addition, the necessary tables for our astronomical observations. In these books each man kept a daily account of every scrap of provisions he took out; in this way we could always check the contents of the cases, and know what quantity of provisions we had. Farther on in the book the observations were entered, and the distance covered for the day, course, and so on.
That is a rough outline of what we were doing in the course of the winter in “working hours.” Besides this there were, of course, a hundred things that every man had to do for his personal equipment. During the winter each man had his outfit served out to him, so that he might have time to make whatever alterations he found necessary. Every man received a heavy and a lighter suit of reindeer-skin, as well as reindeer-skin mits and stockings. He also had dogskin stockings and sealskin kamiks. In addition, there was a complete outfit of underclothing and wind-clothes. All were served alike; there was no priority at all. The skin clothing was the first to be tackled, and here there was a good deal to be done, as nothing had been made to measure. One man found that the hood of his anorak came too far down over his eyes, another that it did not come down far enough; so both had to set to work at alterations, one cutting off, the other adding a piece. One found his trousers too long, another too short, and they had to alter those. However, they managed it; the needle was always at work, either for sewing a piece on, or for hemming the shortened piece. Although we began this work in good time, it looked as if we should never have finished. The room orderly had to sweep out huge piles of strips and reindeer-hair every morning, but the next morning there were just as many. If we had stayed there, I am sure we should still be sitting and sewing away at our outfit.
A number of patents were invented. Of course, the everlasting mask for the face was to the fore, and took the form of nose-protectors. I, too, allowed myself to be beguiled into experimenting, with good reason, as I thought, but with extremely poor results. I had hit upon something which, of course, I thought much better than anything that had been previously tried. The day I put on my invention, I not only got my nose frozen, but my forehead and cheek as well. I never tried it again. Hassel was great at new inventions; he wore nose-protectors all over him. These patents are very good things for passing the time; when one actually takes the field, they all vanish. They are useless for serious work.
The sleeping-bags were also a great source of interest. Johansen was at work on the double one he was so keen on. Heaven knows how many skins he put into it! I don’t, nor did I ever try to find out. Bjaaland was also in full swing with alterations to his. He found the opening at the top inconvenient, and preferred to have it in the middle; his arrangement of a flap, with buttons and loops, made it easy to mistake him for a colonel of dragoons when he was in bed. He was tremendously pleased with it; but so he was with his snow-goggles, in spite of the fact that he could not see with them, and that they allowed him to become snow-blind. The rest of us kept our sleeping-bags as they were, only lengthening or shortening them as required. We were all greatly pleased with the device for closing them — on the plan of a sack. Outside our bags we had a cover of very thin canvas; this was extremely useful, and I would not be without it for anything. In the daytime the sleeping-bag was always well protected by this cover; no snow could get in. At night it was perhaps even more useful, as it protected the bag from the moisture of the breath. Instead of condensing on the skin and making it wet, this settled on the cover, forming in the course of the night a film of ice, which disappeared again during the day, breaking off while the bag ay stretched on the sledge. This cover ought to be of ample size; it is important that it should be rather longer than the sleeping-bag, so that one may have plenty of it round the neck, and thus prevent the breath from penetrating into the bag. We all had double bags — an inner and an outer one. The inner one was of calf-skin or thin female reindeer-skin, and quite light; the outer one was of heavy buck reindeer-skin, and weighed about 13 pounds. Both were open at the end, like a sack, and were laced together round the neck. I have always found this pattern the easiest, simplest, most comfortable, and best. We recommend it to all.
Novelties in the way of snow-goggles were many. This was, of course, a matter of the greatest importance and required study — it was studied, too! The particular problem was to find good goggles without glass. It is true that I had worn nothing but a pair of ordinary spectacles, with light yellow glasses, all the autumn, and that they had proved excellent; but for the long journey I was afraid these would give insufficient protection. I therefore threw myself into the competition for the best patent. The end of it was that we all went in for leather goggles, with a little slit for the eyes. The Bjaaland patent won the prize, and was most adopted. Hassel had his own invention, combined with a nose-protector; when spread out it reminded me of the American eagle. I never saw him use it. Nor did any of us use these new goggles, except Bjaaland. He used his own goggles the whole way, but then, he was the only one who became snow-blind. The spectacles I wore — Hanssen had the same; they were the only two pairs we had — gave perfect protection; not once did I have a sign of snow-blindness. They were exactly like other spectacles, without any gauze at all round the glasses; the light could penetrate everywhere. Dr. Schanz, of Dresden, who sent me these glasses, has every right to be satisfied with his invention; its beats anything I have ever tried or seen.
The next great question was our boots. I had expressly pointed out that boots must be taken, whether the person concerned intended to wear them or not; for boots were indispensable, in case of having to cross any glacier, which was a contingency we had to reckon with, from the descriptions we had read of the country. With this proviso everyone might do as he pleased, and all began by improving their boots in accordance with our previous experience. The improvement consisted in making them larger. Wisting took mine in hand again, and began once more to pull them to pieces. It is only by tearing a thing to pieces that one can see what the work is like. We gained a good insight into the way our boots had been made; stronger or more conscientious work it would be impossible to find. It was hard work pulling them to pieces. This time mine lost a couple more soles. How many that made altogether I do not remember, but now I got what I had always called for — room enough. Besides being able to wear all the foot-coverings I had, I could also find room for a wooden sole. That made me happy; my great object was achieved. Now the temperature could be as low as it liked; it would not get through the wooden soles and my various stockings — seven pairs, I think, in all. I was pleased that evening, as the struggle had been a long one; it had taken me nearly two years to arrive at this result.
And then there was the dog-harness, which we must all have in order. The experience of the last depot journey, when two dogs fell into a crevasse through faulty harness, must not be allowed to repeat itself, We therefore devoted great care and attention to this gear, and used all the best materials we had. The result rewarded our pains; we had good, strong harness for every team.
This description will, perhaps, open the eyes of some people, and show them that the equipment of an expedition such as we were about to enter upon is not the affair of a day. It is not money alone that makes for the success of such an expedition — though, Heaven knows, it is a good thing to have — but it is in a great measure — indeed, I may say that this is the greatest factor — the way in which the expedition is equipped — the way in which every difficulty is foreseen, and precautions taken for meeting or avoiding it. Victory awaits him who has everything in order — luck, people call it. Defeat is certain for him who has neglected to take the necessary precautions in time; this is called bad luck. But pray do not think this is an epitaph I wish to have inscribed on my own tomb. No; honour where honour is due — honour to my faithful comrades, who, by their patience, perseverance and experience, brought our equipment to the limit of perfection, and thereby rendered our victory possible.
On August 16 we began to pack our sledges; two were placed in the Crystal Palace and two in the Clothing Store. It was a great advantage to be able to do this work under cover; at this time the temperature was dancing a cancan between — 58° and — 75°F., with an occasional refreshing breeze of thirteen or fourteen miles an hour. It would have been almost an impossibility to pack the sledges out of doors under these conditions if it was to be done carefully and firmly; and, of course, it had to be so done. Our fixed wire-rope lashings had to be laced together with lengths of thin rope, and this took time; but when properly done, as it was now, the cases were held as though in a vice, and could not move. The zinc plates we had had under the sledges to keep them up in loose snow had been taken off; we could not see that we should have any use for them. In their place we had lashed a spare ski under each sledge, and these were very useful later. By August 22 all the sledges were ready, waiting to be driven away.
The dogs did not like the cold weather we had now had for so long; when the temperature went down between — 58° and — 75° F., one could see by their movements that they felt it. They stood still and raised their feet from the ground in turn, holding each foot up for a while before putting it down again on the cold surface. They were cunning and resourceful in the extreme. They did not care very much for fish, and some of them were difficult to get into the tents on the evenings when they knew there was fish. Stubberud, especially, had a great deal of trouble with one of the young dogs — Funcho was his name. He was born at Madeira during our stay there in September, 1910. On meat evenings each man, after fastening up his dogs, went, as has been described, up to the wall of the meat-tent and took his box of chopped-up meat, which was put out there. Funcho used to watch for this moment. When he saw Stubberud take the box, he knew there was meat, and then he came quietly into the tent, as though there was nothing the matter. If, on the other hand, Stubberud showed no sign of fetching the box, the dog would not come, nor was it possible to get hold of him. This happened a few times, but then Stubberud hit upon a stratagem. When Funcho, as usual — even on a fish evening — watched the scene of chaining up the other dogs from a distance, Stubberud went calmly up to the wall, took the empty box that lay there, put it on his shoulder, and returned to the tent. Funcho was taken in. He hurried joyfully into the tent, delighted, no doubt, with Stubberud’s generosity in providing meat two evenings running. But there, to his great surprise, a very different reception awaited him from that he expected. He was seized by the neck and made fast for the night. After an ugly scowl at the empty box, he looked at Stubberud; what he thought, I am not sure. Certain it is that the ruse was not often successful after that. Funcho got a dried fish for supper, and had to be content with it.
We did not lose many dogs in the course of the winter. Two — Jeppe and Jakob — died of some disease or other. Knægten was shot, as he lost almost all his hair over half his body. Madeiro, born at Madeira, disappeared early in the autumn; Tom disappeared later — both these undoubtedly fell into crevasses. We had a very good opportunity — twice — of seeing how this might happen; both times we saw the dog disappear into the crevasse, and could watch him from the surface. He went quite quietly backwards and forwards down below without uttering a sound. These crevasses were not deep, but they were steep-sided, so that the dog could not get out without help. The two dogs I have mentioned undoubtedly met their death in this way: a slow death it must be, when one remembers how tenacious of life a dog is. It happened several times that dogs disappeared, were absent for some days, and then came back; possibly they had been down a crevasse, and had finally succeeded in getting out of it again. Curiously enough, they did not pay much attention to the weather when they went on trips of this kind. When the humour took them, they would disappear, even if the temperature was down in the fifties below zero, with wind and driving snow. Thus Jaala, a lady belonging to Bjaaland, took it into her head to go off with three attendant cavaliers. We came upon them later; they were then lying quietly behind a hummock down on the ice, and seemed to be quite happy. They had been away for about eight days without food, and during that time the temperature had seldom been above — 58° F.
August 23 arrived: calm, partly overcast, and — 43.6°F. Finer weather for taking out our sledges and driving them over to the starting-point could not be imagined. They had to be brought up through the door of the Clothing Store; it was the largest and the easiest to get through. We had first to dig away the snow, which latterly had been allowed to collect there, as the inmates of this department had for some time past used the inner passage. The snow had blotted out everything, so that no sign of the entrance could be seen; but with a couple of strong shovels, and a couple of strong men to use them, the opening was soon laid bare. To get the sledges up was a longer business; they weighed 880 pounds apiece, and the way up to the surface was steep. A tackle was rigged, and by hauling and shoving they slowly, one by one, came up into daylight. We dragged them away to a place near the instrument-screen, so as to get a clear start away from the house. The dogs were fresh and wild, and wanted plenty of room; a case, not to mention a post, still less the instrument-screen, would all have been objects of extreme interest, to which, if there had been the slightest opportunity, their course would infallibly have been directed. The protests of their drivers would have been of little avail. The dogs had not been let loose that morning, and every man was now in his tent harnessing them. Meanwhile I stood contemplating the packed sledges that stood there ready to begin the long journey.
I tried to work up a little poetry — “the ever-restless spirit of man “ — “the mysterious, awe-inspiring wilderness of ice” — but it was no good; I suppose it was too early in the morning. I abandoned my efforts, after coming to the conclusion that each sledge gave one more the idea of a coffin than of anything else, all the cases being painted black.
It was as we had expected: the dogs were on the verge of exploding. What a time we had getting them all into the traces! They could not stand still an instant; either it was a friend they wanted to wish good-morning, or it was an enemy they were longing to fly at. There was always something going on; when they kicked out with their hind-legs, raising a cloud of snow, or glared defiantly at each other, it often caused their driver an anxious moment. If he had his eye on them at this stage, he might, by intervening quickly and firmly, prevent the impending battle; but one cannot be everywhere at once, and the result was a series of the wildest fights. Strange beasts! They had been going about the place comparatively peacefully the whole winter, and now, as soon as they were in harness, they must needs fight as if their lives depended on it. At last we were all ready and away. It was the first time we had driven with teams of twelve, so that we were anxious to see the result.
It went better than we had expected; of course, not like an express train, but we could not expect that the first time. Some of the dogs had grown too fat in the course of the winter, and had difficulty in keeping up; for them this first trip was a stiff pull. But most of them were in excellent condition — fine, rounded bodies, not lumpish. It did not take long to get up the hill this time; most of them had to stop and get their wind on the slope, but there were some that did it without a halt. Up at the top everything looked just as we had left it in April. The flag was still standing where we had planted it, and did not look much the worse for wear. And, what was still stranger, we could see our old tracks southward. We drove all our sledges well up, unharnessed the dogs, and let them go. We took it for granted that they would all rush joyfully home to the flesh-pots, nor did the greater number disappoint us. They set off gaily homewards, and soon the ice was strewn with dogs. They did not behave altogether like good children. In some places there was a sort of mist over the ice; this was the cloud of snow thrown up by the combatants. But on their return they were irreproachable; one could not take any notice of a halt here and there. At the inspection that evening, it appeared that ten of them were missing. That was strange — could all ten have gone down crevasses? It seemed unlikely.
Next morning two men went over to the starting-point to look for the missing dogs. On the way they crossed a couple of crevasses, but there was no dog to be seen. When they arrived at the place where the sledges stood, there lay all ten curled up asleep. They were lying by their own sledges, and did not seem to take the slightest notice of the men’s arrival. One or two of them may have opened an eye, but that was all. When they were roused and given to understand by unmistakable signs that their presence was desired at home, they seemed astonished beyond all bounds. Some of them simply declined to believe it; they merely turned round a few times and lay down again on the same spot. They had to be flogged home. Can anything more inexplicable be imagined? There they lay, three miles from their comfortable home, where they knew that abundance of food awaited them — in a temperature of — 40°F. Although they had now been out for twenty-four hours, none of them gave a sign of wanting to leave the spot. If it had been summer, with warm sunshine, one might have understood it; but as it was — no!
That day — August 24 — the sun appeared above the Barrier again for the first time in four months. He looked very smiling, with a friendly nod for the old pressure-ridges he had seen for so many years; but when his first beams reached the starting-point, his face might well show surprise. “Well, if they’re not first, after all! And I’ve been doing all I could to get here!” It could not be denied; we had won the race, and reached the Barrier a day before him.
The day for our actual start could not be fixed; we should have to wait until the temperature moderated somewhat. So long as it continued to grovel in the depths, we could not think of setting out. All our things were now ready up on the Barrier, and nothing remained but to harness the dogs and start. When I say all our things were ready, this is not the impression anyone would have gained who looked in on us; the cutting out and sewing were going on worse than ever. What had previously occurred to one as a thing of secondary importance, which might be done if there was time, but might otherwise quite well be dropped, now suddenly appeared as the most important part of the whole outfit; and then out came the knife and cut away, until great heaps of offcuts and hair lay about the floor; then the needle was produced, and seam after seam added to those there were already.
The days went by, and the temperature would give no sign of spring; now and then it would make a jump of about thirty degrees, but only to sink just as rapidly back to — 58° F. It is not at all pleasant to hang about waiting like this; I always have the idea that I am the only one who is left behind, while all the others are out on the road. And I could guess that I was not the only one of us who felt this.
“I’d give something to know how far Scott is to-day.”
“Oh, he’s not out yet, bless you! It’s much too cold for his ponies.”
“Ah, but how do you know they have it as cold as this? I expect it’s far warmer where they are, among the mountains; and you can take your oath they’re not lying idle. Those boys have shown what they can do.”
This was the sort of conversation one could hear daily. The uncertainty was worrying many of us — not all — and, personally, I felt it a great deal. I was determined to get away as soon as it was at all possible, and the objection that much might be lost by starting too early did not seem to me to have much force. If we saw that it was too cold, all we had to do was to turn back; so that I could not see there was any risk.
September came, with — 43.6° F. That is a temperature that one can always stand, but we had better wait and see what it is going to do; perhaps it will only play its old tricks again. Next day, — 63.4° F.; calm and clear. September 6, — 20.2° F. At last the change had come, and we thought it was high time. Next day, — 7.6° F. The little slant of wind that came from the east felt quite like a mild spring breeze. Well, at any rate, we now had a good temperature to start in. Every man ready; to-morrow we are off.
September 8 arrived. We turned out as usual, had breakfast, and were then on the move. We had not much to do. The empty sledges we were to use for driving up to the starting-point were ready; we only had to throw a few things on to them. But it turned out that the mere fact of having so few things was the cause of its taking a long time. We were to harness twelve dogs to the empty sledges, and we had an idea that it would cost us a struggle to get away. We helped each other, two and two, to bring the dogs to the sledges and harness them. Those who were really careful had anchored their sledges to a peg firmly fixed in the snow; others had contented themselves with capsizing their sledges; and others, again, were even more reckless. We all had to be ready before the first man could start; otherwise, it would have been impossible for those who were behind to hold in their dogs, and the result would have been a false start.
Our dogs were in a fearful state of excitement and confusion that morning, but at last everything was ready, barring one or two trifles. Then I suddenly heard a wild yell, and, spinning round, I saw a team tearing off without a driver. The next driver rushed forward to help, with the result that his dogs made off after the others. The two sledges were on ahead, and the two drivers after them in full gallop; but the odds were too unequal — in a few moments the drivers were beaten. The two runaway teams had made off in a south-westerly direction, and were going like the wind. The men had hard work; they had long ago stopped running, and were now following in the tracks of the sledges. The dogs had disappeared behind the ridges, which the men did not reach till much later.
Meanwhile the rest of us waited. The question was, what would those two do when at last they had come up with their sledges? Would they turn and go home, or would they drive up to the starting-point? Waiting was no fun under any circumstances, and so we decided to go on to the starting-point, and, if necessary, wait there. No sooner said than done, and away we went. Now we should see what command the fellows had over their dogs, for, in all canine probability, these teams would now try to follow the same course that the runaways had taken. This fear turned out not to be groundless; three managed to turn their dogs and put them in the right direction, but the other two were off on the new course. Afterwards, of course, they tried to make out that they thought we were all going that way. I smiled, but said nothing. It had happened more than once that my own dogs had taken charge; no doubt I had felt rather foolish at the time, but after all. . . .
It was not till noon that we all assembled with our sledges. The drivers of the runaways had had stiff work to catch them, and were wet through with their exertions. I had some thoughts of turning back, as three young puppies had followed us; if we went on, we should have to shoot them. But to turn back after all this work, and then probably have the same thing over again next morning, was not a pleasant prospect. And, above all, to see Lindström standing at the door, shaking with laughter — no, we had better go on. I think we were all agreed in this. The dogs were now harnessed to the loaded sledges, and the empty ones were stacked one above another. At 1.30 p.m. we were off. The old tracks were soon lost sight of, but we immediately picked up the line of flags that had been set up at every second kilometre on the last depot journey. The going was splendid, and we went at a rattling pace to the south. We did not go very far the first day — eleven and three-quarter miles — and pitched our camp at 3.30 p.m. The first night out is never very pleasant, but this time it was awful. There was such a row going on among our ninety dogs that we could not close our eyes. It was a blessed relief when four in the morning came round, and we could begin to get up. We had to shoot the three puppies when we stopped for lunch that day. The going was the same; nothing could be better. The flags we were following stood just as we had left them; they showed no trace of there having been any snowfall in the interval. That day we did fifteen and a half miles. The dogs were not yet in training, but were picking up every hour.
By the 10th they seemed to have reached their full vigour; that day none of us could hold in his team. They all wanted to get forward, with the result that one team ran into another, and confusion followed. This was a tiresome business; the dogs wore themselves out to no purpose, and, of course, the time spent in extricating them from one another was lost. They were perfectly wild that day. When Lassesen, for instance, caught sight of his enemy Hans, who was in another team, he immediately encouraged his friend Fix to help him. These two then put on all the speed they could, with the result that the others in the same team were excited by the sudden acceleration, and joined in the spurt. It made no difference how the driver tried to stop them; they went on just as furiously, until they reached the team that included the object of Lassesen’s and Fix’s endeavours. Then the two teams dashed into each other, and we had ninety-six dogs’ legs to sort out. The only thing that could be done was to let those who could not hold in their teams unharness some of the dogs and tie them on the sledge. In this way we got things to work satisfactorily at last. We covered eighteen and a half miles that day.
On Monday, the 11th, we woke up to a temperature of — 67.9° F. The weather was splendid, calm, and clear. We could see by the dogs that they were not feeling happy, as they had kept comparatively quiet that night. The cold affected the going at once; it was slow and unyielding. We came across some crevasses, and Hanssen’s sledge was nearly in one; but it was held up, and he came out of it without serious consequences. The cold caused no discomfort on the march; on the contrary, at times it was too warm. One’s breath was like a cloud, and so thick was the vapour over the dogs that one could not see one team from the next, though the sledges were being driven close to one another.
On the 12th it was — 61.6° F., with a breeze dead against us. This was undeniably bitter. It was easy to see that the temperature was too much for the dogs; in the morning, especially, they were a pitiful sight. They lay rolled up as tightly as possible, with their noses under their tails, and from time to time one could see a shiver run through their bodies; indeed, some of them were constantly shivering. We had to lift them up and put them into their harness. I had to admit that with this temperature it would not pay to go on; the risk was too great. We therefore decided to drive on to the depot in 80° S., and unload our sledges there. On that day, too, we made the awkward discovery that the fluid in our compasses had frozen, rendering them useless. The weather had become very thick, and we could only guess vaguely the position of the sun. Our progress under these circumstances was very doubtful; possibly we were on the right course, but it was just as probable — nay, more so — that we were off it. The best thing we could do, therefore, was to pitch our camp, and wait for a better state of things. We did not bless the instrument-maker who had supplied those compasses.
It was 10 a.m. when we stopped. In order to have a good shelter for the long day before us, we decided to build two snow-huts. The snow was not good for this purpose, but, by fetching blocks from all sides, we managed to put up the huts. Hanssen built one and Wisting the other. In a temperature such as we now had, a snow-hut is greatly preferable to a tent, and we felt quite comfortable when we came in and got the Primus going. That night we heard a strange noise round us. I looked under my bag to see whether we had far to drop, but there was no sign of a disturbance anywhere. In the other but they had heard nothing. We afterwards discovered that the sound was only due to snow “settling.” By this expression I mean the movement that takes place when a large extent of the snow surface breaks and sinks (settles down). This movement gives one the idea that the ground is sinking under one, and it is not a pleasant feeling. It is followed by a dull roar, which often makes the dogs jump into the air — and their drivers, too, for that matter. Once we heard this booming on the plateau so loud that it seemed like the thunder of cannon. We soon grew accustomed to it.
Next day the temperature was — 62.5° F., calm, and perfectly clear. We did eighteen and a half miles, and kept our course as well as we could with the help of the sun. It was — 69.3° F. when we camped. This time I had done a thing that I have always been opposed to: I had brought spirits with me in the form of a bottle of Norwegian aquavit and a bottle of gin. I thought this a suitable occasion to bring in the gin. It was as hard as flint right through. While we were thawing it the bottle burst, and we threw it out into the snow, with the result that all the dogs started to sneeze. The next bottle — “Aquavit, No. 1” — was like a bone, but we had learnt wisdom by experience, and we succeeded with care in thawing it out. We waited till we were all in our bags, and then we had one. I was greatly disappointed; it was not half so good as I had thought. But I am glad I tried it, as I shall never do so again. The effect was nil; I felt nothing, either in my head or my feet.
The 14th was cool — the temperature remained at — 68.8° F. Fortunately it was clear, so that we could see where we were going. We had not gone far before a bright projection appeared on the level surface. Out with the glasses — the depot! There it lay, right in our course. Hanssen, who had driven first the whole way, without a forerunner, and for the most part without a compass, had no need to be ashamed of his performance. We agreed that it was well done, and that, no doubt, was all the thanks he got. We reached it at 10.15 a.m., and unloaded our sledges at once. Wisting undertook the far from pleasant task of getting us a cup of warm milk at — 68.8° F. He put the Primus behind one of the cases of provisions, and set it going; strangely enough, the paraffin was still liquid in the vessel, but this was no doubt because it had been well protected in the case. A cup of Horlick’s Malted Milk tasted better that day than the last time I had tried it — in a restaurant in Chicago.
Having enjoyed that, we threw ourselves on the almost empty sledges, and set our course for home. The going was difficult, but, with the light weight they now had to pull, the dogs went along well. I sat with Wisting, as I considered his team the strongest. The cold held on unchanged, and I was often surprised that it was possible to sit still on the sledges, as we did, without freezing; but we got on quite well. One or two I saw off their sledges all day, and most of us jumped off from time to time and ran by the side to get warm. I myself took to my ski and let myself be pulled along. This so-called sport has never appealed to me, but under the circumstances it was permissible; it warmed my feet, and that was the object of it. I again had recourse to this “sport” of ski-driving later on, but that was for another reason.
On the 15th, as we sat in the tent cooking and chatting, Hanssen suddenly said: “Why, I believe my heel’s gone!” Off came his stockings, and there was a big, dead heel, like a lump of tallow. It did not look well. He rubbed it until he thought he “could feel something again,” and then put his feet back in his stockings and got into his bag. Now it was Stubberud’s turn. “Blest if I don’t think there’s something wrong with mine, too.” Same proceeding — same result. This was pleasant — two doubtful heels, and forty-six miles from Framheim! When we started next morning it was fortunately milder — “almost summer”: -40° F. It felt quite pleasant. The difference between — 40° and — 60° is, in my opinion, very perceptible. It may perhaps be thought that when one gets so far down, a few degrees one way or the other do not make any difference, but they do.
While driving that day we were obliged to let loose several of the dogs, who could not keep up; we supposed that they would follow our tracks. Adam and Lazarus were never seen again. Sara fell dead on the way without any previous symptom. Camilla was also among those let loose.
On the way home we kept the same order as on the previous days. Hanssen and Wisting, as a rule, were a long way ahead, unless they stopped and waited. We went at a tearing pace. We had thought of halting at the sixteen-mile flag, as we called it — the mark at thirty kilometres from Framheim — and waiting for the others to come up, but as the weather was of the best, calm and clear, and with our tracks on the way south perfectly plain, I decided to go on. The sooner we got the bad heels into the house, the better. The two first sledges arrived at 4 p.m.; the next at 6, and the two following ones at 6.30. The last did not come in till 12.30 a.m. Heaven knows what they had been doing on the way!
With the low temperatures we experienced on this trip, we noticed a curious snow-formation that I had never seen before. Fine — extremely fine — drift-snow collected, and formed small cylindrical bodies of an average diameter of 1 1/4 inches, and about the same height; they were, however, of various sizes. They generally rolled over the surface like a wheel, and now and then collected into large heaps, from which again, one by one, or several together, they continued their rolling. If you took one of these bodies in the hand, there was no increase of weight to be felt — not the very slightest. If you took one of the largest and crushed it, there was, so to speak, nothing left. With the temperature in the — 40’s, we did not see them.
As soon as we came home, we attended to the heels. Prestrud had both his heels frozen, one slightly, the other more severely, though, so far as I could determine, not so badly as the other two. The first thing we did was to lance the big blisters that had formed and let out the fluid they contained; afterwards we put on boracic compresses, night and morning. We kept up this treatment for a long time; at last the old skin could be removed, and the new lay there fresh and healthy. The heel was cured.
Circumstances had arisen which made me consider it necessary to divide the party into two. One party was to carry out the march to the south; the other was to try to reach King Edward VII. Land, and see what was to be done there, besides exploring the region around the Bay of Whales. This party was composed of Prestrud, Stubberud, and Johansen, under the leadership of the first-named.
The advantages of this new arrangement were many. In the first place, a smaller party could advance more rapidly than a larger one. Our numbers, both of men and dogs, on several of the previous trips had clearly shown the arrangement to be unfortunate. The time we took to get ready in the morning — four hours — was one of the consequences of being a large party. With half the number, or only one tent full, I hoped to be able to reduce this time by half. The importance of the depots we had laid down was, of course, greatly increased, since they would now only have to support five members of the party originally contemplated, and would thus be able to furnish them with supplies for so much more time. From a purely scientific point of view, the change offered such obvious advantages that it is unnecessary to insist upon them. Henceforward, therefore, we worked, so to speak, in two parties. The Polar party was to leave as soon as spring came in earnest. I left it to Prestrud himself to fix the departure of the party he was to lead; there was no such hurry for them — they could take things more easily.
Then the same old fuss about the outfit began all over again, and the needles were busy the whole time. Two days after our return, Wisting and Bjaaland went out to the thirty-kilometre mark with the object of bringing in the dogs that had been let loose on that part of the route and had not yet returned. They made the trip of sixty kilometres (thirty-seven and a half miles) in six hours, and brought all the stragglers — ten of them — back with them. The farthest of them were found lying by the flag; none of them showed a sign of getting up when the sledges came. They had to be picked up and harnessed, and one or two that had sore feet were driven on the sledges. In all probability most of them would have returned in a few days. But it is incomprehensible that healthy, plucky dogs, as many of them were, should take it into their heads to stay behind like that.
On September 24 we had the first tidings of spring, when Bjaaland came back from the ice and told us he had shot a seal. So the seals had begun to come up on to the ice; this was a good sign. The next day we went out to bring it in, and we got another at the same time. There was excitement among the dogs when they got fresh meat, to say nothing of fresh blubber. Nor were we men inclined to say no to a fresh steak.
On September 27 we removed the roof that had covered over the window of our room. We had to carry the light down through a long wooden channel, so that it was considerably reduced by the time it came in; but it was light — genuine daylight — and it was much appreciated.
On the 26th Camilla came back, after an absence of ten days. She had been let loose sixty-eight miles from Framheim on the last trip. When she came in, she was as fat as ever; probably she had been feasting in her solitude on one of her comrades. She was received with great ovations by her many admirers.
On September 29 a still more certain sign of spring appeared — a flight of Antarctic petrels. They came flying up to us to bring the news that now spring had come — this time in earnest. We were delighted to see these fine, swift birds again. They flew round the house several times to see whether we were all there still; and we were not long in going out to receive them. It was amusing to watch the dogs: at first the birds flew pretty near the ground; when the dogs caught sight of them, they rushed out — the whole lot of them — to catch them. They tore along, scouring the ground, and, of course, all wanted to be first. Then the birds suddenly rose into the air, and presently the dogs lost sight of them. They stood still for a moment, glaring at each other, evidently uncertain of what was the best thing to do. Such uncertainty does not, as a rule, last long. They made up their minds with all desirable promptitude and flew at each other’s throats.
So now spring had really arrived; we had only to cure the frost-bitten heels and then away.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:05