The Voyages of Captain Scott - Retold from 'The Voyage of the "Discovery"' and 'Scott's - Last Expedition'
by Charles Turley
1  2  3  4  5  6  7     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

[Page ii]


Retold from 'The Voyage of the "Discovery"' and 'Scott's Last Expedition'


Author of 'Godfrey Marten, Schoolboy,' 'A Band of Brothers,' etc.

With an introduction by


Numerous illustrations in colour and black and white and a map




Chapter I. The 'Discovery'. II. Southward Ho! III. In Search of Winter Quarters. IV. The Polar Winter. V. The Start of the Southern Journey. VI. The Return. VII. A Second Winter. VIII. The Western Journey. IX. The Return from the West. X. Release.


Chapter Preface to 'Scott's Last Expedition'. Biographical Note. British Antarctic Expedition, 1910. [Page vi] I. Through Stormy Seas. II. Depot Laying to One Ton Camp. III. Perils. IV. A Happy Family. V. Winter. VI. Good-bye to Cape Evans. VII. The Southern Journey Begins. VIII. On the Beardmore Glacier. IX. The South Pole. X. On the Homeward Journey. XI. The Last March. Search Party Discovers the Tent. In Memoriam. Farewell Letters. Message to the Public. Index.



Portrait of Captain Robert F. Scott From a photograph by J. Russell & Son, Southsea.


From Water-Colour Drawings by Dr. Edward A. Wilson..

Sledding. Mount Erebus. Lunar Corona. 'Birdie' Bowers reading the thermometer on the ramp.


Panorama at Cape Evans. Berg in South Bay.


Robert F. Scott at the age of thirteen as a naval cadet. The 'Discovery'. Looking up the gateway from Pony Depot. Pinnacled ice at mouth of Ferrar Glacier. Pressure ridges north side of Discovery Bluff. The 'Terra Nova' leaving the Antarctic. Pony Camp on the barrier. Snowed-up tent after three days' blizzard. Pitching the double tent on the summit. [Page viii] Adelie Penguin on nest. Emperor Penguins on sea-ice. Dog party starting from Hut Point. Dog lines. Looking up the gateway from Pony Depot. Looking south from Lower Glacier depot, Man hauling camp, 87th parallel. The party at the South Pole. 'The Last Rest'.

Facsimile of the last words of Captain Scott's Journal.

Track chart of main southern journey.



On the night of my original meeting with Scott he was but lately home from his first adventure into the Antarctic and my chief recollection of the occasion is that having found the entrancing man I was unable to leave him. In vain he escorted me through the streets of London to my home, for when he had said good-night I then escorted him to his, and so it went on I know not for how long through the small hours. Our talk was largely a comparison of the life of action (which he pooh-poohed) with the loathsome life of those who sit at home (which I scorned); but I also remember that he assured me he was of Scots extraction. As the subject never seems to have been resumed between us, I afterwards wondered whether I had drawn this from him with a promise that, if his reply was satisfactory, I would let him go to bed. However, the family traditions (they are nothing more) do bring him from across the border. According to them his great-great-grandfather was the Scott of Brownhead whose estates were sequestered after the '45. His dwelling was razed to the ground and he fled with his wife, to whom after some grim privations a son was born in a fisherman's hut on September 14, 1745. This son eventually settled in Devon, where he prospered, [Page 2] for it was in the beautiful house of Oatlands that he died. He had four sons, all in the Royal Navy, of whom the eldest had as youngest child John Edward Scott, father of the Captain Scott who was born at Oatlands on June 6, 1868. About the same date, or perhaps a little earlier, it was decided that the boy should go into the Navy like so many of his for-bears.

I have been asked to write a few pages about those early days of Scott at Oatlands, so that the boys who read this book may have some slight acquaintance with the boy who became Captain Scott; and they may be relieved to learn (as it holds out some chance for themselves) that the man who did so many heroic things does not make his first appearance as a hero. He enters history aged six, blue-eyed, long-haired, inexpressibly slight and in velveteen, being held out at arm's length by a servant and dripping horribly, like a half-drowned kitten. This is the earliest recollection of him of a sister, who was too young to join in a children's party on that fatal day. But Con, as he was always called, had intimated to her that from a window she would be able to see him taking a noble lead in the festivities in the garden, and she looked; and that is what she saw. He had been showing his guests how superbly he could jump the leat, and had fallen into it.

Leat is a Devonshire term for a running stream, and a branch of the leat ran through the Oatlands garden while there was another branch, more venturesome, at the bottom of the fields. These were the waters first ploughed by Scott, and he invented many ways of being in them accidentally, it being forbidden [Page 3] to enter them of intent. Thus he taught his sisters and brother a new version of the oldest probably of all pastimes, the game of 'Touch.' You had to touch 'across the leat,' and, with a little good fortune, one of you went in. Once you were wet, it did not so much matter though you got wetter.

An easy way of getting to the leat at the foot of the fields was to walk there, but by the time he was eight Scott scorned the easy ways. He invented parents who sternly forbade all approach to this dangerous waterway; he turned them into enemies of his country and of himself (he was now an admiral), and led parties of gallant tars to the stream by ways hitherto unthought of. At foot of the avenue was an oak tree which hung over the road, and thus by dropping from this tree you got into open country. The tree was (at this time) of an enormous size, with sufficient room to conceal a navy, and the navy consisted mainly of the sisters and the young brother. All had to be ready at any moment to leap from the tree and join issue with the enemy on the leat. In the fields there was also a mighty ocean, called by dull grown-ups 'the pond,' and here Scott's battleship lay moored. It seems for some time to have been an English vessel, but by and by he was impelled, as all boys are, to blow something up, and he could think of nothing more splendid for his purpose than the battleship. Thus did it become promptly a ship of the enemy doing serious damage to the trade of those parts, and the valiant Con took to walking about with lips pursed, brows frowning as he cogitated how to remove the [Page 4] Terror of Devon. You may picture the sisters and brother trotting by his side and looking anxiously into his set face. At last he decided to blow the accursed thing up with gunpowder. His crew cheered, and then waited to be sent to the local shop for a pennyworth of gunpowder. But Con made his own gunpowder, none of the faithful were ever told how, and on a great day the train was laid. Con applied the match and ordered all to stand back. A deafening explosion was expected, but a mere puff of flame was all that came; the Terror of Devon, which to the unimaginative was only a painted plank, still rode the waters. With many boys this would be the end of the story, but not with Con. He again retired to the making of gunpowder, and did not desist from his endeavors until he had blown that plank sky-high.

His first knife is a great event in the life of a boy: it is probably the first memory of many of them, and they are nearly always given it on condition that they keep it shut. So it was with Con, and a few minutes after he had sworn that he would not open it he was begging for permission to use it on a tempting sapling. 'Very well,' his father said grimly, 'but remember, if you hurt yourself, don't expect any sympathy from me.' The knife was opened, and to cut himself rather badly proved as easy as falling into the leat. The father, however, had not noticed, and the boy put his bleeding hand into his pocket and walked on unconcernedly. He was really considerably damaged; and this is a good story of a child of seven who all his life suffered extreme nausea from [Page 5] the sight of blood; even in the Discovery days, to get accustomed to 'seeing red,' he had to force himself to watch Dr. Wilson skinning his specimens.

When he was about eight Con passed out of the hands of a governess, and became a school-boy, first at a day school in Stoke Damerel and later at Stubbington House, Fareham. He rode grandly between Oatlands and Stoke Damerel on his pony, Beppo, which bucked in vain when he was on it, but had an ingratiating way of depositing other riders on the road. From what one knows of him later this is a characteristic story. One day he dismounted to look over a gate at a view which impressed him (not very boyish this), and when he recovered from a brown study there was no Beppo to be seen. He walked the seven miles home, but what was characteristic was that he called at police-stations on the way to give practical details of his loss and a description of the pony. Few children would have thought of this, but Scott was naturally a strange mixture of the dreamy and the practical, and never more practical than immediately after he had been dreamy. He forgot place and time altogether when thus abstracted. I remember the first time he dined with me, when a number of well-known men had come to meet him, he arrived some two hours late. He had dressed to come out, then fallen into one of his reveries, forgotten all about the engagement, dined by himself and gone early to bed. Just as he was falling asleep he remembered where he should be, arose hastily and joined us as speedily as possible. It was equally characteristic of him to say [Page 6] of the other guests that it was pleasant to a sailor to meet so many interesting people. When I said that to them the sailor was by far the most interesting person in the room he shouted with mirth. It always amused Scott to find that anyone thought him a person of importance.

I suppose everyone takes for granted that in his childhood, as later when he made his great marches, Scott was muscular and strongly built. This was so far from being the case that there were many anxious consultations over him, and the local doctor said he could not become a sailor as he could never hope to obtain the necessary number of inches round the chest. He was delicate and inclined to be pigeon-breasted. Judging from the portrait of him here printed, in his first uniform as a naval cadet, all this had gone by the time he was thirteen, but unfortunately there are no letters of this period extant and thus little can be said of his years on the Britannia where 'you never felt hot in your bunk because you could always twist, and sleep with your feet out at port hole.' He became a cadet captain, a post none can reach who is not thought well of by the other boys as well as by their instructors, but none of them foresaw that he was likely to become anybody in particular. He was still 'Old Mooney,' as his father had dubbed him, owing to his dreamy mind; it was an effort to him to work hard, he cast a wistful eye on 'slackers,' he was not a good loser, he was untidy to the point of slovenliness, and he had a fierce temper. All this I think has been proved to me up to the [Page 7] hilt, and as I am very sure that the boy of fifteen or so cannot be very different from the man he grows into it leaves me puzzled. The Scott I knew, or thought I knew, was physically as hard as nails and flung himself into work or play with a vehemence I cannot remember ever to have seen equaled. I have fished with him, played cricket and football with him, and other games, those of his own invention being of a particularly arduous kind, for they always had a moment when the other players were privileged to fling a hard ball at your undefended head. 'Slackness,' was the last quality you would think of when you saw him bearing down on you with that ball, and it was the last he asked of you if you were bearing down on him. He was equally strenuous of work; indeed I have no clearer recollection of him than his way of running from play to work or work to play, so that there should be the least possible time between. It is the 'time between' that is the 'slacker's' kingdom, and Scott lived less in it than anyone I can recall. Again, I found him the best of losers, with a shout of delight for every good stroke by an opponent: what is called an ideal sportsman. He was very neat and correct in his dress, quite a model for the youth who come after him, but that we take as a matter of course; it is 'good form' in the Navy. His temper I should have said was bullet-proof. I have never seen him begin to lose it for a second of time, and I have seen him in circumstances where the loss of it would have been excusable.

However, 'the boy makes the man,' and Scott was [Page 8] none of those things I saw in him but something better. The faults of his youth must have lived on in him as in all of us, but he got to know they were there and he took an iron grip of them and never let go his hold. It was this self-control more than anything else that made the man of him of whom we have all become so proud. I get many proofs of this in correspondence dealing with his manhood days which are not strictly within the sphere of this introductory note. The horror of slackness was turned into a very passion for keeping himself 'fit.' Thus we find him at one time taking charge of a dog, a 'Big Dane,' so that he could race it all the way between work and home, a distance of three miles. Even when he was getting the Discovery ready and doing daily the work of several men, he might have been seen running through the streets of London from Savile Row or the Admiralty to his home, not because there was no time for other method of progression, but because he must be fit, fit, fit. No more 'Old Mooney' for him; he kept an eye for ever on that gentleman, and became doggedly the most practical of men. And practical in the cheeriest of ways. In 1894 a disastrous change came over the fortunes of the family, the father's money being lost and then Scott was practical indeed. A letter he wrote I at this time to his mother, tenderly taking everything and everybody on his shoulders, must be one of the best letters ever written by a son, and I hope it may be some day published. His mother was the great person of his early life, more to him even than his brother [Page 9] or his father, whom circumstances had deprived of the glory of following the sailor's profession and whose ambitions were all bound up in this son, determined that Con should do the big things he had not done himself. For the rest of his life Con became the head of the family, devoting his time and his means to them, not in an it-must-be-done manner, but with joy and even gaiety. He never seems to have shown a gayer front than when the troubles fell, and at a farm to which they retired for a time he became famous as a provider of concerts. Not only must there be no 'Old Mooney' in him, but it must be driven out of everyone. His concerts, in which he took a leading part, became celebrated in the district, deputations called to beg for another, and once in these words, 'Wull 'ee gie we a concert over our way when the comic young gentleman be here along?'

Some servants having had to go at this period, Scott conceived the idea that he must even help domestically in the house, and took his own bedroom under his charge with results that were satisfactory to the casual eye, though not to the eyes of his sisters. It was about this time that he slew the demon of untidiness so far as his own dress was concerned and doggedly became a model for still younger officers. Not that his dress was fine. While there were others to help he would not spend his small means on himself, and he would arrive home in frayed garments that he had grown out of and in very tarnished lace. But neat as a pin. In the days when he returned from [Page 10] his first voyage in the Antarctic and all England was talking of him, one of his most novel adventures was at last to go to a first-class tailor and be provided with a first-class suit. He was as elated by the possession of this as a child. When going about the country lecturing in those days he traveled third class, though he was sometimes met at the station by mayors and corporations and red carpets.

The hot tempers of his youth must still have lain hidden, but by now the control was complete. Even in the naval cadet days of which unfortunately there is so little to tell, his old friends who remember the tempers remember also the sunny smile that dissipated them. When I knew him the sunny smile was there frequently, and was indeed his greatest personal adornment, but the tempers never reached the surface. He had become master of his fate and captain of his soul.

In 1886 Scott became a middy on the Boadicea, and later on various ships, one of them the Rover, of which Admiral Fisher was at that time commander. The Admiral has a recollection of a little black pig having been found under his bunk one night. He cannot swear that Scott was the leading culprit, but Scott was certainly one of several who had to finish the night on deck as a punishment. In 1888 Scott passed his examinations for sub-lieutenant, with four first-class honours and one second, and so left his boyhood behind. I cannot refrain however from adding as a conclusion to these notes a letter from Sir Courtauld [Page 11] Thomson that gives a very attractive glimpse of him in this same year:

'In the late winter a quarter of a century ago I had to find my way from San Francisco to Alaska. The railway was snowed up and the only transport available at the moment was an ill-found tramp steamer. My fellow passengers were mostly Californians hurrying off to a new mining camp and, with the crew, looked a very unpleasant lot of ruffians. Three singularly unprepossessing Frisco toughs joined me in my cabin, which was none too large for a single person. I was then told that yet another had somehow to be wedged in. While I was wondering if he could be a more ill-favored or dirtier specimen of humanity than the others the last comer suddenly appeared—the jolliest and breeziest English naval Second Lieutenant. It was Con Scott. I had never seen him before, but we at once became friends and remained so till the end. He was going up to join his ship which, I think, was the Amphion, at Esquimault, B. C.

'As soon as we got outside the Golden Gates we ran into a full gale which lasted all the way to Victoria, B. C. The ship was so overcrowded that a large number of women and children were allowed to sleep on the floor of the only saloon there was on condition that they got up early, so that the rest of the passengers could come in for breakfast and the other meals.

'I need scarcely say that owing to the heavy weather hardly a woman was able to get up, and the [Page 12] saloon was soon in an indescribable condition. Practically no attempt was made to serve meals and the few so-called stewards were themselves mostly out of action from drink or sea-sickness.

'Nearly all the male passengers who were able to be about spent their time drinking and quarrelling. The deck cargo and some of our top hamper were washed away and the cabins got their share of the waves that were washing the deck.

'Then it was I first knew that Con Scott was no ordinary human being. Though at that time still only a boy he practically took command of the passengers and was at once accepted by them as their Boss during the rest of the trip. With a small body of volunteers he led an attack on the saloon—dressed the mothers, washed the children, fed the babies, swabbed down the floors and nursed the sick, and performed every imaginable service for all hands. On deck he settled the quarrels and established order either by his personality, or, if necessary, by his fists. Practically by day and night he worked for the common good, never sparing himself, and with his infectious smile gradually made us all feel the whole thing was jolly good fun.

'I daresay there are still some of the passengers like myself who, after a quarter of a century, have imprinted on their minds the vision of this fair-haired English sailor boy with the laughing blue eyes who at that early age knew how to sacrifice himself for the welfare and happiness of others.'


[Page 15] CHAPTER I


Do ye, by star-eyed Science led, explore Each lonely ocean, each untrodden shore.

In June, 1899, Robert Falcon Scott was spending his short leave in London, and happened to meet Sir Clements Markham in the Buckingham Palace Road. On that afternoon he heard for the first time of a prospective Antarctic expedition, and on the following day he called upon Sir Clements and volunteered to command it. Of this eventful visit Sir Clements wrote: 'On June 5, 1899, there was a remarkable coincidence. Scott was then torpedo lieutenant of the Majestic. I was just sitting down to write to my old friend Captain Egerton[1] about him, when he was announced. He came to volunteer to command the expedition. I believed him to be the best man for so great a trust, either in the navy or out of it. Captain Egerton's reply and Scott's testimonials and certificates most fully confirmed a foregone conclusion.'

[Footnote 1: Now Admiral Sir George Egerton, K.C.B.]

The tale, however, of the friendship between Sir [Page 16] Clements and Scott began in 1887, when the former was the guest of his cousin, the Commodore of the Training Squadron, and made the acquaintance of every midshipman in the four ships that comprised it. During the years that followed, it is enough to say that Scott more than justified the hopes of those who had marked him down as a midshipman of exceptional promise. Through those years Sir Clements had been both friendly and observant, until by a happy stroke of fortune the time came when he was as anxious for this Antarctic expedition to be led by Scott as Scott was to lead it. So when, on June 30, 1900, Scott was promoted to the rank of Commander, and shortly afterwards was free to undertake the work that was waiting for him, one great anxiety was removed from the shoulders of the man who had not only proposed the expedition, but had also resolved that nothing should prevent it from going.

Great difficulties and troubles had, however, to be encountered before the Discovery could start upon her voyage. First and foremost was the question of money, but owing to indefatigable efforts the financial horizon grew clearer in the early months of 1899. Later on in the same year Mr. Balfour expressed his sympathy with the objects of the undertaking, and it was entirely due to him that the Government eventually agreed to contribute L45,000, provided that a similar sum could be raised by private subscriptions.

In March, 1900, the keel of the new vessel, that the [Page 17] special Ship Committee had decided to build for the expedition, was laid in the yard of the Dundee Shipbuilding Company. A definite beginning, at any rate, had been made; but very soon after Scott had taken up his duties he found that unless he could obtain some control over the various committees and subcommittees of the expedition, the only day to fix for the sailing of the ship was Doomsday. A visit to Norway, where he received many practical suggestions from Dr. Nansen, was followed by a journey to Berlin, and there he discovered that the German expedition, which was to sail from Europe at the same time as his own, was already in an advanced state of preparation. Considerably alarmed, he hurried back to England and found, as he had expected, that all the arrangements, which were in full swing in Germany, were almost at a standstill in England. The construction of the ship was the only work that was progressing, and even in this there were many interruptions from the want of some one to give immediate decisions on points of detail.

A remedy for this state of chaos had to be discovered, and on November 4, 1900, the Joint Committee of the Royal Society and the Royal Geographical Society passed a resolution, which left Scott practically with a free hand to push on the work in every department, under a given estimate of expenditure in each. To safeguard the interests of the two Societies the resolution provided that this expenditure should be supervised by a Finance Committee, [Page 18] and to this Committee unqualified gratitude was due. Difficulties were still to crop up, and as there were many scientific interests to be served, differences of opinion on points of detail naturally arose, but as far as the Finance Committee was concerned, it is mere justice to record that no sooner was it formed than its members began to work ungrudgingly to promote the success of the undertaking.

In the meantime Scott's first task was to collect, as far as possible, the various members of the expedition. Before he had left the Majestic he had written, 'I cannot gather what is the intention as regards the crew; is it hoped to be able to embody them from the R.N.? I sincerely trust so.' In fact he had set his heart on obtaining a naval crew, partly because he thought that their sense of discipline would be invaluable, but also because he doubted his ability to deal with any other class of men.

The Admiralty, however, was reluctant to grant a concession that Scott considered so necessary, and this reluctance arose not from any coldness towards the enterprise, but from questions of principle and precedent. At first the Admiralty assistance in this respect was limited to two officers, Scott himself and Royds, then the limit was extended to include Skelton the engineer, a carpenter and a boatswain, and thus at least a small naval nucleus was obtained. But it was not until the spring of 1901 that the Admiralty, thanks to Sir Anthony Hoskins and Sir Archibald Douglas, gave in altogether, and as the selection of [Page 19] the most fitting volunteers had not yet been made, the chosen men did not join until the expedition was almost on the point of sailing.

For many reasons Scott was obliged to make his own headquarters in London, and the room that had been placed at his disposal in Burlington House soon became a museum of curiosities. Sledges, ski, fur clothing and boots were crowded into every corner, while tables and shelves were littered with correspondence and samples of tinned foods. And in the midst of this medley he worked steadily on, sometimes elated by the hope that all was going well, sometimes depressed by the thought that the expedition could not possibly be ready to start at the required date.

During these busy months of preparation he had the satisfaction of knowing that the first lieutenant, the chief engineer and the carpenter were in Dundee, and able to look into the numerous small difficulties that arose in connection with the building of the ship. Other important posts in the expedition had also been filled up, and expeditionary work was being carried on in many places. Some men were working on their especial subjects in the British Museum, others were preparing themselves at the Physical Laboratory at Kew, and others, again, were traveling in various directions both at home and abroad. Of all these affairs the central office was obliged to take notice, and so for its occupants idle moments were few and very far between. Nansen said once that the hardest work [Page 20] of a Polar voyage came in its preparation, and during the years 1900-1, Scott found ample cause to agree with him. But in spite of conflicting interests, which at times threatened to wreck the well-being of the expedition, work, having been properly organized, went steadily forward; until on March 21, 1901, the new vessel was launched at Dundee and named the 'Discovery' by Lady Markham.

In the choice of a name it was generally agreed that the best plan was to revive some time-honoured title, and that few names were more distinguished than 'Discovery.' She was the sixth of that name, and inherited a long record of honourable and fortunate service.

The Discovery had been nothing more than a skeleton when it was decided that she should be loaded with her freight in London; consequently, after she had undergone her trials, she was brought round from Dundee, and on June 3, 1901, was berthed in the East India Docks. There, during the following weeks, all the stores were gathered together, and there the vessel, which was destined to be the home of the expedition for more than three years, was laden.

Speaking at the Geographical Congress at Berlin in 1899, Nansen strongly recommended a vessel of the Fram type with fuller lines for South Polar work, but the special Ship Committee, appointed to consider the question of a vessel for this expedition, had very sound reasons for not following his advice. Nansen's [Page 21] celebrated Fram was built for the specific object of remaining safely in the North Polar pack, in spite of the terrible pressures which were to be expected in such a vast extent of ice. This object was achieved in the simplest manner by inclining the sides of the vessel until her shape resembled a saucer, and lateral pressure merely tended to raise her above the surface. Simple as this design was, it fulfilled so well the requirements of the situation that its conception was without doubt a stroke of genius. What, however, has been generally forgotten is that the safety of the Fram was secured at the expense of her sea-worthiness and powers of ice-penetration.

Since the Fram was built there have been two distinct types of Polar vessels, the one founded on the idea of passive security in the ice, the other the old English whaler type designed to sail the high seas and push her way through the looser ice-packs. And a brief consideration of southern conditions will show which of these types is more serviceable for Antarctic exploration, because it is obvious that the exploring ship must first of all be prepared to navigate the most stormy seas in the world, and then be ready to force her way through the ice-floes to the mysteries beyond.

By the general consent of those who witnessed her performances, the old Discovery (the fifth of her name) of 1875 was the best ship that had ever been employed on Arctic service, and the Ship Committee eventually decided that the new vessel should be built on more [Page 22] or less the same lines. The new Discovery had the honour to be the first vessel ever built for scientific exploration, and the decision to adopt well-tried English lines for her was more than justified by her excellent qualities.

The greatest strength lay in her bows, and when ice-floes had to be rammed the knowledge that the keel at the fore-end of the ship gradually grew thicker, until it rose in the enormous mass of solid wood which constituted the stem, was most comforting. No single tree could provide the wood for such a stem, but the several trees used were cunningly scarfed to provide the equivalent of a solid block. In further preparation for the battle with ice-floes, the stem itself and the bow for three or four feet on either side were protected with numerous steel plates, so that when the ship returned to civilization not a scratch remained to show the hard knocks received by the bow.

The shape of the stem was also a very important consideration. In the outline drawing of the Discovery will be seen how largely the stem overhangs, and this was carried to a greater extent than in any former Polar vessel. The object with which this was fitted was often fulfilled during the voyage. Many a time on charging a large ice-floe the stem of the ship glided upwards until the bows were raised two or three feet, then the weight of the ship acting downwards would crack the floe beneath, the bow would drop, and gradually the ship would forge ahead to tussle against the [Page 23] next obstruction. Nothing but a wooden structure has the elasticity and strength to thrust its way without injury through the thick Polar ice.

In Dundee the building of the Discovery aroused the keenest interest, and the peculiar shape of her overhanging stern, an entirely new feature in this class of vessel, gave rise to the strongest criticism. All sorts of misfortunes were predicted, but events proved that this overhanging rounded form of stem was infinitely superior for ice-work to the old form of stem, because it gave better protection to the rudder, rudder post and screw, and was more satisfactory in heavy seas.

Both in the building and in the subsequent work of the Discovery the deck-house, marked on the drawing 'Magnetic Observatory,' was an important place. For the best of reasons it was important that the magnetic observations taken on the expedition should be as accurate as possible, and it will be readily understood that magnetic observations cannot be taken in a place closely surrounded by iron. The ardor of the magnetic experts on the Ship Committee had led them at first to ask that there should be neither iron nor steel in the vessel, but after it had been pointed out that this could scarcely be, a compromise was arrived at and it was agreed that no magnetic materials should be employed within thirty feet of the observatory. This decision caused immense trouble and expense, but in the end it was justified, for the magnetic observations taken on board throughout the voyage [Page 25] required very little correction. And if the demands of the magnetic experts were a little exacting, some amusement was also derived from them. At one time those who lived within the circle were threatened with the necessity of shaving with brass razors; and when the ship was on her way home from New Zealand a parrot fell into dire disgrace, not because it was too talkative, but because it had been hanging on the mess-deck during a whole set of observations, and the wires of its cage were made of iron.

The Discovery was, in Scott's opinion, the finest vessel ever built for exploring purposes, and he was as enthusiastic about his officers and men as he was about the ship herself.

The senior of the ten officers who messed with Scott in the small wardroom of the Discovery was Lieutenant A. B. Armitage, R.N.R. He brought with him not only an excellent practical seamanship training in sailing ships, but also valuable Polar experience; for the P. and O. Company, in which he held a position, had in 1894 granted him leave of absence to join the Jackson-Harmsworth Expedition to Franz-Josef Land.

Reginald Koettlitz, the senior doctor, had also seen Arctic service in the Jackson-Harmsworth Expedition. As his medical duties were expected to be light, he combined them with those of official botanist.

The task of Thomas V. Hodgson, biologist, was to collect by hook or crook all the strange beasts [Page 26] that inhabit the Polar seas, and no greater enthusiast for his work could have been chosen.

Charles W. R. Royds was the first lieutenant, and had all to do with the work of the men and the internal economy of the ship in the way that is customary with a first lieutenant of a man-of-war. Throughout the voyage he acted as meteorologist, and in face of great difficulties he secured the most valuable records.

Michael Barne, the second naval lieutenant, had served with Scott in the Majestic. 'I had thought him,' Scott wrote after the expedition had returned, 'as he proved to be, especially fitted for a voyage where there were many elements of dangers and difficulty.'

The original idea in appointing two doctors to the Discovery was that one of them should be available for a detached landing-party. This idea was practically abandoned, but the expedition had reason to be thankful that it ever existed, for the second doctor appointed was Edward A. Wilson. In view of the glorious friendship which arose between them, and which in the end was destined to make history, it is of inestimable value to be able to quote what is believed to be Scott's first written opinion of Wilson. In a letter headed 'At sea, Sept. 27,' he said: 'I now come to the man who will do great things some day—Wilson. He has quite the keenest intellect on board and a marvelous capacity for work. You know his artistic talent, but would be surprised at [Page 27] the speed at which he paints, and the indefatigable manner in which he is always at it. He has fallen at once into ship-life, helps with any job that may be in hand... in fact is an excellent fellow all round.

Wilson, in addition to his medical duties, was also vertebrate zoologist and artist to the expedition. In the first capacity he dealt scientifically with the birds and seals, and in the second he produced a very large number of excellent pictures and sketches of the wild scenes among which he was living.

One of Scott's earliest acts on behalf of the expedition was to apply for the services of Reginald W. Skelton as chief engineer. At the time Skelton was senior engineer of the Majestic, and his appointment to the Discovery was most fortunate in every way. From first to last there was no serious difficulty with the machinery or with anything connected with it.

The geologist, Hartley T. Ferrar, only joined the expedition a short time before the Discovery sailed, and the physicist, Louis Bernacchi, did not join until the ship reached New Zealand.

In addition there were two officers who did not serve throughout the whole term. Owing to ill-health Ernest H. Shackleton was obliged to return from the Antarctic in 1903, and his place was taken by George F. A. Mulock, who was a sub-lieutenant in the Navy when he joined.

Apart from Koettlitz, who was forty, and Hodgson, [Page 28] who was thirty-seven, the average age of the remaining members of the wardroom mess was just over twenty-four years, and at that time Scott had little doubt as to the value of youth for Polar service. Very naturally, however, this opinion was less pronounced as the years went by, and on August 6, 1911, he wrote during his last expedition: 'We (Wilson and I) both conclude that it is the younger people who have the worst time... Wilson (39) says he never felt cold less than he does now; I suppose that between 30 and 40 is the best all-round age. Bower is a wonder of course. He is 29. When past the forties it is encouraging to remember that Peary was 52!'

The fact that these officers lived in complete harmony for three years was proof enough that they were well and wisely chosen, and Scott was equally happy in his selection of warrant officers, petty officers and men, who brought with them the sense of naval discipline that is very necessary for such conditions as exist in Polar service. The Discovery, it must be remembered, was not in Government employment, and so had no more stringent regulations to enforce discipline than those contained in the Merchant Shipping Act. But everyone on board lived exactly as though the ship was under the Naval Discipline Act; and as the men must have known that this state of affairs was a fiction, they deserved as much credit as the officers, if not more, for continuing rigorously to observe it.

[Page 29] Something remains to be said about the Discovery's prospective course, and of the instructions given to Captain Scott.

For purposes of reference Sir Clements Markham had suggested that the Antarctic area should be divided into four quadrants, to be named respectively the Victoria, the Ross, the Weddell, and the Enderby, and when he also proposed that the Ross quadrant should be the one chosen for this expedition, his proposal was received with such unanimous approval that long before the Discovery was built her prospective course had been finally decided. In fact every branch of science saw a greater chance of success in the Ross quadrant than in any other region. Concerning instructions on such a voyage as the Discovery's it may be thought that, when once the direction is settled, the fewer there are the better. Provided, however, that they leave the greatest possible freedom to the commander, they may be very useful in giving him a general view of the situation, and in stating the order in which the various objects are held. If scientific interests clash, it is clearly to the commander's advantage to know in what light these interests are regarded by those responsible for the enterprise. Of such a nature were the instructions Scott received before sailing for the South.

During the time of preparation many busy men gave most valuable assistance to the expedition; but even with all this kindly aid it is doubtful if the Discovery would ever have started had it not been [Page 30] that among these helpers was one who, from the first, had given his whole and undivided attention to the work in hand. After all is said and done Sir Clements Markham conceived the idea of this Antarctic Expedition, and it was his masterful personality which swept aside all obstacles and obstructions.

[Page 31] CHAPTER II


They saw the cables loosened, they saw the gangways cleared, They heard the women weeping, they heard the men who cheered. Far off-far off the tumult faded and died away. And all alone the sea wind came singing up the Bay. —NEWBOLT.

On July 31, 1901, the Discovery left the London Docks, and slowly wended her way down the Thames; and at Cowes, on August 5, she was honoured by a visit from King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra. This visit must be ever memorable for the interest their Majesties showed in the minutest details of equipment; but at the same time it was natural for the members of the expedition to be obsessed by the fear that they might start with a flourish of trumpets and return with failure. The grim possibilities of the voyage were also not to be forgotten—a voyage to the Antarctic, the very map of which had remained practically unaltered from 1843-93.

With no previous Polar experience to help him, Scott was following on the track of great Polar explorers, notably of James Cook and James Ross, of whom it has been well said that the one defined the Antarctic region and the other discovered it. Can it be wondered therefore that his great anxieties were [Page 32] to be off and doing, to justify the existence of the expedition at the earliest possible moment, and to obey the instructions which had been given him?

Before the Discovery had crossed the Bay of Biscay it was evident that she did not possess a turn of speed under any conditions, and that there must be none but absolutely necessary delays on the voyage, if she was to arrive in the Antarctic in time to take full advantage of the southern summer of 1901-2 for the first exploration in the ice. This proved a serious drawback, as it had been confidently expected that there would be ample time to make trial of various devices for sounding and dredging in the deep sea, while still in a temperate climate. The fact that no trials could be made on the outward voyage was severely felt when the Antarctic was reached.

On October 2 the Discovery arrived within 150 miles of the Cape, and on the 5th was moored off the naval station at Simon's Bay. The main object of staying at the Cape was to obtain comparisons with the magnetic instruments, but Scott wrote: 'It is much to be deplored that no permanent Magnetic Station now exists at the Cape. The fact increased the number and difficulty of our own observations, and it was quite impossible to spare the time for such repetitions and verifications as, under the circumstances, could alone have placed them beyond dispute.' Armitage and Barne, however, worked like Trojans in taking observations, and received so much valuable assistance 'that they were able to accomplish a maximum [Page 33] amount of work in the limited time at their disposal.' In every way, indeed, the kindliest sympathy was shown at the Cape.

The magnetic work was completed on October 12, and two days later the Discovery once more put out to sea; and as time went on those on board became more and more satisfied with her seaworthy qualities. Towards the end of October there was a succession of heavy following gales, but she rose like a cork to the mountainous seas that followed in her wake, and, considering her size, she was wonderfully free of water on the upper deck. With a heavy following sea, however, she was, owing to her buoyancy, extremely lively, and rolls of more than 40 were often recorded. The peculiar shape of the stern, to which reference has been made, was now well tested. It gave additional buoyancy to the after-end, causing the ship to rise more quickly to the seas, but the same lifting effect was also directed to throwing the ship off her course, and consequently she was difficult to steer. The helmsmen gradually became more expert, but on one occasion when Scott and some other officers were on the bridge the ship swerved round, and was immediately swept by a monstrous sea which made a clean breach over her. Instinctively those on the bridge clutched the rails, and for several moments they were completely submerged while the spray dashed as high as the upper topsails.

On November 12 the Discovery was in lat. 51 S., long. 131 E., and had arrived in such an extremely [Page 34] interesting magnetic area that they steered to the south to explore it. This new course took them far out of the track of ships and towards the regions of ice, and they had scarcely arrived in those lonely waters when Scott was aroused from sleep by a loud knocking and a voice shouting, 'Ship's afire, sir.' Without waiting to give any details of this alarming news the informant fled, and when Scott appeared hastily on the scenes he found that the deck was very dark and obstructed by numerous half-clad people, all of whom were as ignorant as he was. Making his way forward he discovered that the fire had been under the forecastle, and had been easily extinguished when the hose was brought to bear on it. In these days steel ships and electric light tend to lessen the fear of fire, but in a wooden vessel the possible consequences are too serious not to make the danger very real and alarming. Henceforth the risk of fire was constantly in Scott's thoughts, but this was the first and last occasion on which an alarm was raised in the Discovery.

On November 15 the 60th parallel was passed, and during the following morning small pieces of sea-ice, worn into fantastic shape by the action of the waves, appeared and were greeted with much excitement and enthusiasm. As the afternoon advanced signs of a heavier pack were seen ahead, and soon the loose floes were all about the ship, and she was pushing her way amongst them and receiving her baptism of ice.

[Page 35] This was Scott's first experience of pack-ice, and he has recorded how deeply he was impressed by the novelty of his surroundings. 'The wind had died away; what light remained was reflected in a ghostly glimmer from the white surface of the pack; now and again a white snow petrel flitted through the gloom, the grinding of the floes against the ship's side was mingled with the more subdued hush of their rise and fall on the long swell, and for the first time we felt something of the solemnity of these great Southern solitudes.'

The Discovery was now within 200 miles of Adelie Land, and with steam could easily have pushed on towards it. But delays had already been excessive, and they could not be added to if New Zealand was to be reached betimes. Reluctantly the ship's head was again turned towards the North, and soon passed into looser ice.

One great feature of the tempestuous seas of these southern oceans is the quantity and variety of their bird life. Not only are these roaming, tireless birds to be seen in the distance, but in the majority of cases they are attracted by a ship and for hours gather close about her. The greater number are of the petrel tribe, and vary in size from the greater albatrosses, with their huge spread of wing and unwavering flight, to the small Wilson stormy petrel, which flits under the foaming crests of the waves. For centuries these birds have been the friends of sailors, and as Wilson was able to distinguish and [Page 36] name the various visitors to the Discovery, the interest of the voyage was very greatly increased.

'At 11 A.M. on the 22nd,' Scott wrote in his official report of the Proceedings of the expedition, 'we sighted Macquarie Island, exactly at the time and in the direction expected, a satisfactory fact after so long an absence from land. As the island promised so much of interest to our naturalists I thought a delay of the few hours necessary for landing would be amply justified.... A landing was effected without much difficulty, and two penguin rookeries which had been observed from the ship were explored with much interest. One proved to be inhabited by the beautifully marked King penguin, while the other contained a smaller gold-crested broad-billed species.... At 8 P.M. the party returned to the ship, and shortly after we weighed anchor and proceeded. Including those collected in the ice, we had no fewer than 50 birds of various sorts to be skinned, and during the next few days several officers and men were busily engaged in this work under the superintendence of Dr. Wilson. The opportunity was taken of serving out the flesh of the penguins for food. I had anticipated considerable prejudice on the part of the men to this form of diet which it will so often be essential to enforce, and was agreeably surprised to find that they were by no means averse to it. Many pronounced it excellent, and all seemed to appreciate the necessity of cultivating a taste for it. I found no prejudice more difficult to conquer than my own.'

[Page 37] Perhaps the most excited member of the party over this visit to Macquarie Island was Scott's Aberdeen terrier 'Scamp,' who was most comically divided between a desire to run away from the penguins, and a feeling that in such strange company it behooved him to be very courageous. This, however, was Scamp's first and last experience of penguins, for it was felt that he would be unable to live in the Antarctic, and so a comfortable home was found for him in New Zealand.

Late on November 29 the Discovery arrived off Lyttelton Heads, and on the following day she was berthed alongside a jetty in the harbor. For both the private and the public kindness which was shown to the expedition in New Zealand, no expressions of gratitude can be too warm. On every possible occasion, and in every possible way, efficient and kindly assistance was given, and this was all the more valuable because a lot of work had to be done before the ship could sail from Lyttelton. The rigging had to be thoroughly overhauled and refitted; the magneticians had to undertake the comparison of their delicate instruments, and as this was the last occasion on which it could be done special attention was necessary; and a large quantity of stores had to be shipped, because some of those in the Discovery had been damaged by the leaky state of the ship. This leak had never been dangerous, but all the same it had entailed many weary hours of pumping, and had caused much waste of time and of provisions. Among the many skilled [Page 38] workmen, whose united labour had produced the solid structure of the Discovery's hull, had been one who had shirked his task, and although the ship was docked and most determined and persistent efforts were made to find the leak, it succeeded in avoiding detection.

As the month of December advanced the scene on the ship was a very busy one, but at last the day for sailing from Lyttelton arrived, though not for the final departure from civilization, because a short visit was to be paid to Port Chalmers in the south to complete the stock of coal. On Saturday, December 21, the ship lay alongside the wharf ready for sea and very deeply laden. 'One could reflect that it would have been impossible to have got more into her, and that all we had got seemed necessary for the voyage, for the rest we could only trust that Providence would vouch-safe to us fine weather and an easy passage to the south.'

New Zealand, to the last, was bent on showing its enthusiasm for the expedition. Two men-of-war steamed slowly out ahead of the Discovery, while no fewer than five steamers, crowded with passengers, and with bands playing and whistles hooting, also accompanied her, until the open sea was reached and the Discovery slowly steamed out between the war-ships that seemed to stand as sentinels to the bay. And then, before the cheers of thousands of friends were hardly out of the ears of those on board, a tragedy happened. Among the ship's company who had crowded into the rigging to wave their farewells was one young seaman, named Charles Bonner, who, [Page 39] more venturesome than the rest, had climbed above the crow's-nest to the top of the main-mast. There, seated on the truck, he had remained cheering, until in a moment of madness he raised himself into a standing position, and almost directly afterwards he fell and was instantaneously killed. On the Monday the ship arrived at Port Chalmers, and Bonner was buried with naval honours.

By noon on the following day the Discovery was clear of the harbor bar, and was soon bowling along under steam and sail towards the south. The last view of civilization, the last sight of fields and flowers had come and gone on Christmas Eve, 1901, and Christmas Day found the ship in the open expanse of the Southern Ocean, though after such a recent parting from so many kind friends no one felt inclined for the customary festivities.

In good sea trim the Discovery had little to fear from the worst gales, but at this time she was so heavily laden that had she encountered heavy seas the consequences must have been very unpleasant. Inevitably much of her large deck cargo must have been lost; the masses of wood on the superstructure would have been in great danger, while all the sheep and possibly many of the dogs would have been drowned. Fine weather, however, continued, and on January 3 Scott and his companions crossed the Antarctic Circle, little thinking how long a time would elapse before they would recross it. At length they had entered the Antarctic regions; before them lay [Page 40] the scene of their work, and all the trials of preparation, and the anxiety of delays, were forgotten in the fact that they had reached their goal in time to make use of the best part of the short open season in these icebound regions.

Soon the pack was on all sides of them, but as yet so loose that there were many large pools of open water. And then for several days the ship had really to fight her way, and Scott gave high praise to the way she behaved: 'The "Discovery" is a perfect gem in the pack. Her size and weight behind such a stem seem to give quite the best combination possible for such a purpose. We have certainly tried her thoroughly, for the pack which we have come through couldn't have been looked at by Ross even with a gale of wind behind him.'

Necessarily progress became slow, but life abounds in the pack, and the birds that came to visit the ship were a source of perpetual interest. The pleasantest and most constant of these visitors was the small snow petrel, with its dainty snow-white plumage relieved only by black beak and feet, and black, beady eye. These little birds abound in the pack-ice, but the blue-grey southern fulmar and the Antarctic petrel were also to be seen, and that unwholesome scavenger, the giant petrel, frequently lumbered by; while the skua gull, most pugnacious of bullies, occasionally flapped past, on his way to make some less formidable bird disgorge his hard-earned dinner.

The squeak of the penguin was constantly heard, at [Page 41] first afar and often long before the birds were seen. Curiosity drew them to the ship, and as she forced her way onward these little visitors would again and again leap into the water, and journey from floe to floe in their eagerness to discover what this strange apparition could be. Some of the sailors became very expert in imitating their calls, and could not only attract them from a long distance, but would visibly add to their astonishment when they approached. These were busy days for the penguins.

In all parts of the pack seals are plentiful and spend long hours asleep on the floes. The commonest kind is the crab-eater or white seal, but the Ross seal is not rare, and there and there is found the sea-leopard, ranging wide and preying on the penguins and even on the young of its less powerful brethren. It is curious to observe that both seals and penguins regard themselves as safe when out of the water. In the sea they are running risks all the time, and in that element Nature has made them swift to prey or to avoid being preyed upon. But once on ice or land they have known no enemy, and cannot therefore conceive one. The seal merely raises its head when anyone approaches, and then with but little fear; whereas it is often difficult to drive the penguin into the water, for he is firmly convinced that the sea is the sole source of danger. Several seals were killed for food, and from the first seal-meat was found palatable, if not altogether the form of diet to recommend to an epicure. The great drawback to the seal is that there is no fat except blubber, [Page 42] and blubber has a very strong taste and most penetrating smell. At this time blubber was an abomination to everyone both in taste and smell, and if the smallest scrap happened to have been cooked with the meat, dinner was a wasted meal. Later on, however, this smell lost most of its terrors, while seal-steaks and seal-liver and kidneys were treated almost as luxuries.

On the morning of January 8 a strong water sky could be seen, and soon afterwards the officer of the watch hailed from aloft the glad tidings of an open sea to the south. Presently the ship entered a belt where the ice lay in comparatively small pieces, and after pushing her way through this for over a mile, she reached the hard line where the ice abruptly ended, and to the south nothing but a clear sky could be seen. At 10.30 P.M. on the same evening the joy of being again in the open sea was intensified by a shout of 'Land in sight,' and all who were not on deck quickly gathered there to take their first look at the Antarctic Continent. The sun, near the southern horizon, still shone in a cloudless sky, and far away to the south-west the blue outline of the high mountain peaks of Victoria Land could be seen. The course was now directed for Robertson Bay, and after some difficulty, owing to the reappearance of loose streams of pack-ice, the ship was eventually steered into the open water within the bay.

Robertson Bay is formed by the long peninsula of Cape Adare, within which, standing but slightly above the level of the sea, is a curious triangular [Page 43] spit, probably the morainic remains of the vaster ice conditions of former ages. It was on this spit that the expedition sent forth by Sir George Newnes and commanded by Borchgrevink spent their winter in 1896, the first party to winter on the shores of the Antarctic Continent. Here Scott decided to land for a short time, and very soon Armitage, Bernacchi and Barne were at work among the thousands of penguins that abounded, while the naturalists wandered further afield in search of specimens. In the center of Cape Adare beach the hut used by the members of Borchgrevink's party was still found to be standing in very good condition, though at the best of times deserted dwellings are far from cheerful to contemplate. Bernacchi had been a member of this small party of eight, and on the spot he recalled the past, and told of the unhappy death of Hanson—one of his comrades.

Later on Bernacchi and some others landed again to visit Hanson's grave, and to see that all was well with it. They took a tin cylinder containing the latest report of the voyage with them, and were told to place it in some conspicuous part of the hut. In the following year this cylinder was found by the Morning,[1] and so the first information was given that the Discovery had succeeded in reaching these southern regions.

[Footnote 1: The relief ship.]

On January 10, when the weather was still calm and bright, the ship again stood out to sea, and was steered close around Cape Adare in the hope of finding [Page 44] a clear channel near at hand. Very soon, however, the tidal stream began to make from the south, and the whole aspect of the streams of heavy pack-ice rapidly changed. Almost immediately the pack was about the ship, and she was being rapidly borne along with it. Across the entrance to the bay was a chain of grounded icebergs, and it was in this direction that she was being carried. For the first time they faced the dangers of the pack, and realized its mighty powers. Little or nothing could be done, for the floes around them were heavier than anything they had yet encountered. Twist and turn as they would no appreciable advance could be made, and in front of one colossal floe the ship was brought to a standstill for nearly half an hour. But they still battled on; Armitage remained aloft, working the ship with admirable patience; the engine-room, as usual, answered nobly to the call for more steam, and the Discovery exerted all her powers in the struggle; but, in spite of these efforts, progress was so slow that it looked almost certain that she would be carried down among the bergs. 'It was one of those hours,' Scott says, 'which impress themselves for ever on the memory. Above us the sun shone in a cloudless sky, its rays were reflected from a myriad points of tire glistening pack; behind us lay the lofty snow-clad mountains, the brown sun-kissed cliffs of the Cape, and the placid glassy waters of the bay; the air about us was almost breathlessly still; crisp, clear and sun-lit, it seemed an atmosphere in which all Nature should rejoice; [Page 45] the silence was broken only by the deep panting of our engines and the slow, measured hush of the grinding floes; yet, beneath all, ran this mighty, relentless tide, bearing us on to possible destruction. It seemed desperately unreal that danger could exist in the midst of so fair a scene, and as one paced to and fro on the few feet of throbbing plank that constituted our bridge, it was difficult to persuade oneself that we were so completely impotent.'

With the exception of Scott himself only those who were actually on watch were on deck during this precarious time, for the hour was early, and the majority were asleep in their bunks below, happily oblivious of the possible dangers before them. And the fact that they were not aroused is a proof that a fuss was rarely made in the Discovery, if it could by any conceivable means be avoided.

At last, however, release came from this grave danger, and it came so gradually that it was difficult to say when it happened. Little by little the tidal stream slackened, the close-locked floes fell slightly apart, and under her full head of steam the ship began to forge ahead towards the open sea and safety. 'For me,' Scott adds, 'the lesson had been a sharp and, I have no doubt, a salutary one; we were here to fight the elements with their icy weapons, and once and for all this taught me not to undervalue the enemy.' During the forenoon the ship was within seven or eight miles of the high bold coast-line to the south of Cape Adare, but later she had to be turned outwards [Page 46] so that the heavy stream of pack-ice drifting along the land could be avoided. By the morning of the 11th she was well clear of the land, but the various peaks and headlands which Sir James Ross had named could be distinctly seen, and gave everyone plenty to talk and think about. Progress, however, was slow, owing to a brisk S. E. wind and the fact that only one boiler was being used.

Of all economies practiced on board the most important was that of coal, but Scott was not at all sure that this decision to use only one boiler was really economical. Certainly coal was saved but time was also wasted, and against an adverse wind the Discovery could only make fifty-five miles on the 11th, and on the 12th she scarcely made any headway at all, for the wind had increased and a heavy swell was coming up from the south.

To gain shelter Scott decided to turn in towards the high cliffs of Coulman Island, the land of which looked illusively near as they approached it. So strong was this deception that the engines were eased when the ship was still nearly two miles away from the cliffs. Later on, in their winter quarters and during their sledge journeys, they got to know how easy it was to be deluded as regards distance, and what very false appearances distant objects could assume. This matter is of interest, because it shows that Polar explorers must be exceedingly cautious in believing the evidence of their own eyes, and it also explains the errors which the Discovery expedition found to [Page 47] have been made by former explorers, and which they knew must have been made in all good faith.

During the night of the 13th the ship lay under the shelter of Coulman Island, but by the morning the wind had increased to such a furious gale, and the squalls swept down over the cliffs with such terrific violence, that in spite of every effort to keep her in her station she began to lose ground. In the afternoon the wind force was ninety miles an hour, and as they continued to lose ground they got into a more choppy sea, which sent the spray over them in showers, to freeze as it fell.

Again the situation was far from pleasant; to avoid one berg they were forced to go about, and in doing so they ran foul of another. As they came down on it the bowsprit just swept clear of its pinnacled sides, and they took the shock broad on their bows. It sent the ship reeling round, but luckily on the right tack to avoid further complications. The following night was dismal enough; again and again small bergs appeared through the blinding spray and drift, and only with great difficulty could the unmanageable ship be brought to clear them. Even gales, however, must have an end, and towards morning the wind moderated, and once more they were able to steam up close to the island. And there, between two tongues of ice off Cape Wadworth, they landed on the steep rocks and erected a staff bearing a tin cylinder with a further record of the voyage. By the time this had been done the wind had fallen completely, and in [Page 48] the evening the ship entered a long inlet between Cape Jones and the barrier-ice, and later turned out, of this into a smaller inlet in the barrier-ice itself. She was now in a very well-sheltered spot, and night, as often happened in the Antarctic regions, was turned into day so that several seals could be killed. 'It, seemed a terrible desecration,' Scott says, 'to come to this quiet spot only to murder its innocent inhabitants, and stain the white snow with blood.' But there was the best of all excuses, namely necessity, for this massacre, because there was no guarantee that seals would be found near the spot in which the ship wintered, and undoubtedly the wisest plan was to make sure of necessary food.

While the seal carcasses and some ice for the boilers were being obtained, Scott turned in to get some rest before putting out to sea again, and on returning to the deck at 7.30 he was told that the work was completed, but that some five hours before Wilson, Ferrar, Cross and Weller had got adrift of a floe, and that no one had thought of picking them up. Although the sun had been shining brightly all night, the temperature had been down to 18 deg., and afar off Scott could see four disconsolate figures tramping about, and trying to keep themselves warm on a detached floe not more than fifteen yards across.

When at length the wanderers scrambled over the side it was very evident that they had a grievance, and not until they had been warmed by hot cocoa could they talk with ease of their experiences. They [Page 49] had been obliged to keep constantly on the move, and when they thought of smoking to relieve the monotony they found that they had pipes and tobacco, but no matches. While, however, they were dismally bemoaning this unfortunate state of affairs Wilson, who did not smoke, came to the rescue and succeeded in producing fire with a small pocket magnifying glass—a performance which testified not only to Wilson's resource, but also to the power of the sun in these latitudes.

On the 17th the ship had to stand out farther and farther from the land to clear the pack, and when on the 18th she arrived in the entrance to Wood Bay it was also found to be heavily packed. A way to the N. and N.W. the sharp peaks of Monteagle and Murchison, among bewildering clusters of lesser summits, could be seen; across the bay rose the magnificent bare cliff of Cape Sibbald, while to the S.W. the eye lingered pleasantly upon the uniform outline of Mount Melbourne. This fine mountain rears an almost perfect volcanic cone to a height of 9,000 feet, and with no competing height to take from its grandeur, it constitutes the most magnificent landmark on the coast. Cape Washington, a bold, sharp headland, projects from the foot of the mountain on its eastern side, and finding such heavy pack in Wood Bay, Scott decided to turn to the south to pass around this cape.

From this point the voyage promised to be increasingly interesting, since the coast to the south of Cape Washington was practically unknown. Pack-ice was [Page 50] still a formidable obstacle, but on the 20th the Discovery pushed her way into an inlet where she met ice which had been formed inside and but recently broken up. The ice was perfectly smooth, and as it showed absolutely no sign of pressure there was no doubting that this inlet would make a secure wintering harbor. Already a latitude had been reached in which it was most desirable to find safe winter quarters for the ship. In England many people had thought that Wood Bay would be the most southerly spot where security was likely to be found, but Scott had seen enough of the coast-line to the south of that place to realize the impossibility of traveling along it in sledges, and to convince him that if any advance to the south was to be made, a harbor in some higher latitude must be found.

This inlet was afterwards named Granite Harbor, and so snug and secure a spot was it to winter in that Scott expressed his thankfulness that he did not yield to its allurements. 'Surrounded as we should have been by steep and lofty hills, we could have obtained only the most local records of climatic conditions, and our meteorological observations would have been comparatively valueless; but the greatest drawback would have been that we should be completely cut off from traveling over the sea-ice beyond the mouth of our harbor.... It is when one remembers how naturally a decision to return to this place might have been made, that one sees how easily the results of the expedition might have been missed.'

[Page 51] It was, however, consoling at the time to know that, in default of a better place, a safe spot had been found for wintering, so with Granite Harbor in reserve the ship again took up her battle with the ice; and on the 21st she was in the middle of McMurdo Sound, and creeping very slowly through the pack-ice, which appeared from the crow's-nest to extend indefinitely ahead. They were now within a few miles of the spot where they ultimately took up their winter quarters, but nearly three weeks were to pass before they returned there. 'At 8 P.M. on the 21st,' Scott says, 'we thought we knew as much of this region as our heavy expenditure of coal in the pack-ice would justify us in finding out, and as before us lay the great unsolved problem of the barrier and of what lay beyond it, we turned our course with the cry of Eastward ho!'



Beholde I see the haven near at hand To which I mean my wearie course to bend; Vere the main sheet and bear up to the land To which afore is fairly to be ken'd. —SPENSER, Faerie Queene.

In their journey from Cape Washington to the south something had already been done to justify the dispatch of the expedition. A coast-line which hitherto had been seen only at a great distance, and reported so indefinitely that doubts were left with regard to its continuity, had been resolved into a concrete chain of mountains; and the positions and forms of individual heights, with the curious ice formations and the general line of the coast, had been observed. In short the map of the Antarctic had already received valuable additions, and whatever was to happen in the future that, at any rate, was all to the good.

At 8 P.M. on the 22nd the ship arrived off the bare land to the westward of Cape Crozier, where it was proposed to erect a post and leave a cylinder containing an account of their doings, so that the chain of records might be completed. After a landing had [Page 53] been made with some difficulty, a spot was chosen in the center of the penguin rookery on a small cliff overlooking the sea, and here the post was set up and anchored with numerous boulders. In spite of every effort to mark the place, at a few hundred yards it was almost impossible to distinguish it; but although this small post on the side of a vast mountain looked a hopeless clue, it eventually brought the Morning into McMurdo Sound.

While Bernacchi and Barne set up their magnetic instruments and began the chilly task of taking observations, the others set off in twos and threes to climb the hillside. Scott, Royds and Wilson scrambled on until at last they reached the summit of the highest of the adjacent volcanic cones, and were rewarded by a first view of the Great Ice Barrier.[1]

[Footnote 1: The immense sheet of ice, over 400 miles wide and of still greater length.]

'Perhaps,' Scott says, 'of all the problems which lay before us in the south we were most keenly interested in solving the mysteries of this great ice-mass.... For sixty years it had been discussed and rediscussed, and many a theory had been built on the slender foundation of fact which alone the meager information concerning it could afford. Now for the first time this extraordinary ice-formation was seen from above.... It was an impressive sight and the very vastness of what lay at our feet seemed to add to our sense of its mystery.'

Early on the 23rd they started to steam along the [Page 54] ice-face of the barrier; and in order that nothing should be missed it was arranged that the ship should continue to skirt close to the ice-cliff, that the officers of the watch should repeatedly observe and record its height, and that three times in the twenty-four hours the ship should be stopped and a sounding taken. In this manner a comparatively accurate survey of the northern limit of the barrier was made.

On steaming along the barrier it was found that although they were far more eager to gain new information than to prove that old information was incorrect, a very strong case soon began to arise against the Parry Mountains, which Ross had described as 'probably higher than we have yet seen'; and later on it was known with absolute certainty that these mountains did not exist. This error on the part of such a trustworthy and cautious observer, Scott ascribes to the fact that Ross, having exaggerated the height of the barrier, was led to suppose that anything seen over it at a distance must be of great altitude. 'But,' he adds, 'whatever the cause, the facts show again how deceptive appearances may be and how easily errors may arise. In fact, as I have said before, one cannot always afford to trust the evidence of one's own eyes.' Though the ship was steaming along this ice-wall for several days, the passage was not in the least monotonous, because new variations were continually showing themselves, and all of them had to be carefully observed and recorded. This work continued for several days until, on January 29, they arrived at a particularly interesting place, to [Page 55] the southward and eastward of the extreme position reached by Ross in 1842. From that position he had reported a strong appearance of land to the southeast, and consequently all eyes were directed over the icy cliffs in that direction. But although the afternoon was bright and clear, nothing from below or from aloft could be seen, and the only conclusion to be made was that the report was based on yet another optical illusion.

But in spite of the disappointment at being unable to report that Ross's 'appearance of land' rested on solid foundations, there was on the afternoon of the 29th an indescribable sense of impending change. 'We all felt that the plot was thickening, and we could not fail to be inspirited by the fact that we had not so far encountered the heavy pack-ice which Ross reported in this region, and that consequently we were now sailing in an open sea into an unknown world.'

The course lay well to the northward of east, and the change came at 8 P.M. when suddenly the ice-cliff turned to the east, and becoming more and more irregular continued in that direction for about five miles, when again it turned sharply to the north. Into the deep bay thus formed they ran, and as the ice was approached they saw at once that it was unlike anything yet seen. The ice-foot descended to various heights of ten or twenty feet above the water, and behind it the snow surface rose in long undulating slopes to rounded ridges, the heights of which could only be guessed. Whatever doubt remained in their minds that this was snow-covered land, a sounding of 100 fathoms quickly removed it.

[Page 56] But what a land! On the swelling mounds of snow above them there was not one break, not a feature to give definition to the hazy outline. No scene could have been more perfectly devised to produce optical illusions. And then, while there was so much to observe, a thick fog descended, and blotted out all hope of seeing what lay beyond the ice-foot. During the afternoon of January 30 the fog was less dense, but still no sign of bare land could be seen, and it was not until the bell had sounded for the evening meal that two or three little black patches, which at first were mistaken for detached cloud, appeared. 'We gazed idly enough at them till someone remarked that he did not believe they were clouds; then all glasses were leveled; assertions and contradictions were numerous, until the small black patches gradually assumed more and more definite shape, and all agreed that at last we were looking at real live rock, the actual substance of our newly discovered land.... It is curious to reflect now on the steps which led us to the discovery of King Edward's Land, and the chain of evidence which came to us before the actual land itself was seen: at first there had been the shallow soundings, and the sight of gently rising snow-slopes, of which, in the nature of things, one is obliged to retain a doubt; then the steeper broken slopes of snow, giving a contrast to convey a surer evidence to the eye; and, finally the indubitable land itself, but even then surrounded with such mystery as to leave us far from complete satisfaction with our discovery.'

[Page 57] The temptation to push farther and farther to the east was almost irresistible, but with the young ice forming rapidly around them, Scott, on February 1, decided to return, and on their way back along the barrier they experienced much lower temperatures than on the outward journey. During the return journey they landed on the barrier, and on February 4 preparations for a balloon ascent were made. 'The honour,' Scott says, 'of being the first aeronaut to make an ascent in the Antarctic Regions, perhaps somewhat selfishly, I chose for myself, and I may further confess that in so doing I was contemplating the first ascent I had made in any region, and as I swayed about in what appeared a very inadequate basket and gazed down on the rapidly diminishing figures below, I felt some doubt as to whether I had been wise in my choice.'

If, however, this ascent was not altogether enjoyed by the aeronaut, it, at any rate, gave him considerable information about the barrier surface towards the south; and, to his surprise, he discovered that instead of the continuous level plain that he had expected, it continued in a series of long undulations running approximately east and west, or parallel to the barrier surface. Later on, however, when the sledge-party taken out by Armitage returned, they reported that these undulations were not gradual as had been supposed from the balloon, but that the crest of each wave was flattened into a long plateau, from which the descent into the succeeding valley was comparatively sharp. On the evening of the 4th they put out [Page 58] to sea again, and on the 8th they were once more in McMurdo Sound, with high hopes that they would soon find a sheltered nook in which the Discovery could winter safely, and from which the sledge-parties could set forth upon the task of exploring the vast new world around them.

Without any delay they set out to examine their immediate surroundings, and found a little bay which promised so well for the winter that Scott's determination to remain in this region was at once strengthened. The situation, however, was surrounded with difficulties, for although the ice had broken far afield it refused to move out of the small bay on which they had looked with such eager eyes; consequently they were forced to cling to the outskirts of the bay with their ice-anchors, in depths that were too great to allow the large anchors to be dropped to the bottom. The weather also was troublesome, for after the ship had lain quietly during several hours a sudden squall would fling her back on her securing ropes, and, uprooting the ice-anchors, would ultimately send her adrift.

In spite, however, of the difficulty of keeping the ship in position, steady progress was made with the work on shore, and this consisted mainly in erecting the various huts which had been brought in pieces. The original intention had been that the Discovery should not winter in the Antarctic, but should land a small party and turn northward before the season closed, and for this party a large hut had been carried south. But even when it had been decided to keep the [Page 59] ship as a home, it was obvious that a shelter on shore must be made before exploring parties could be safely sent away; since until the ship was frozen in a heavy gale might have driven her off her station for several days, if not altogether. In seeking winter quarters so early in February, Scott had been firmly convinced that the season was closing in. 'With no experience to guide us, our opinion could only be based on the very severe and unseasonable conditions which we had met with to the east. But now to our astonishment we could see no sign of a speedy freezing of the bay; the summer seemed to have taken a new lease, and for several weeks the fast sea-ice continued to break silently and to pass quietly away to the north in large floes.'

In addition to the erection of the main hut, two small huts which had been brought for the magnetic instruments had to be put together. The parts of these were, of course, numbered, but the wood was so badly warped that Dailey, the carpenter, had to use a lot of persuasion before the joints would fit.

On February 14 Scott wrote in his diary: 'We have landed all the dogs, and their kennels are ranged over the hillside below the huts.... It is surprising what a number of things have to be done, and what an unconscionable time it takes to do them. The hut-building is slow work, and much of our time has been taken in securing the ship.... Names have been given to the various landmarks in our vicinity. The end of our peninsula is to be called "Cape Armitage," after our excellent navigator. The sharp hill above it [Page 60] is to be "Observation Hill."... Next comes the "Gap," through which we can cross the peninsula at a comparatively low level. North of the "Gap" are "Crater Heights," and the higher volcanic peak beyond is to be "Crater Hill"; it is 1,050 feet in height. Our protecting promontory is to be "Hut Point," with "Arrival Bay" on the north and "Winter Quarter Bay" on the south; above "Arrival Bay" are the "Arrival Heights," which continue with breaks for about three miles to a long snow-slope, beyond which rises the most conspicuous landmark on our peninsula, a high, precipitous-sided rock with a flat top, which has been dubbed "Castle Rock"; it is 1,350 feet in height.

'In spite of the persistent wind, away up the bay it is possible to get some shelter, and here we take our ski exercise.... Skelton is by far the best of the officers, though possibly some of the men run him close.'

On the 19th the first small reconnoitering sledge party went out, and on their return three days later they were so excited by their experiences that some time passed before they could answer the questions put to them. Although the temperature had not been severe they had nearly got into serious trouble by continuing their march in a snowstorm, and when they did stop to camp they were so exhausted that frost-bites were innumerable. The tent had been difficult to get up, and all sorts of trouble with the novel cooking apparatus had followed. 'It is strange now,' Scott wrote three years later, 'to look back on [Page 61] these first essays at sledding, and to see how terribly hampered we were by want of experience.'

By February 26 the main hut was practically finished, and as a quantity of provisions and oil, with fifteen tons of coal, had been landed, the ship could be left without anxiety, and arrangements for the trip, which Scott hoped to lead himself, were pushed forward. The object of this journey was to try and reach the record at Cape Crozier over the barrier, and to leave a fresh communication there with details of the winter quarters. On the following day, however, Scott damaged his right knee while skiing, and had to give up all idea of going to Cape Crozier. 'I already foresaw how much there was to be learnt if we were to do good sledding work in the spring, and to miss such an opportunity of gaining experience was terribly trying; however, there was nothing to be done but to nurse my wounded limb and to determine that never again would I be so rash as to run hard snow-slopes on ski.'

By March 4 the preparation of the sledge party was completed. The party consisted of four officers, Royds, Koettlitz, Skelton and Barne, and eight men, and was divided into two teams, each pulling a single sledge and each assisted by four dogs. But again the want of experience was badly felt, and in every respect the lack of system was apparent. Though each requirement might have been remembered, all were packed in a confused mass, and, to use a sailor's expression, 'everything was on top and nothing handy.' [Page 62] Once more Scott comments upon this lack of experience: 'On looking back I am only astonished that we bought that experience so cheaply, for clearly there were the elements of catastrophe as well as of discomfort in the disorganized condition in which our first sledge parties left the ship.'

The days following the departure of the sledge party were exceptionally fine, but on Tuesday, March 11, those on board the ship woke to find the wind blowing from the east; and in the afternoon the wind increased, and the air was filled with thick driving snow. This Tuesday was destined to be one of the blackest days spent by the expedition in the Antarctic, but no suspicion that anything untoward had happened to the sledge party arose until, at 8.30 P.M., there was a report that four men were walking towards the ship. Then the sense of trouble was immediate, and the first disjointed sentences of the newcomers were enough to prove that disasters had occurred. The men, as they emerged from their thick clothing, were seen to be Wild, Weller, Heald and Plumley, but until Scott had called Wild, who was the most composed of the party, aside, he could not get any idea of what had actually happened, and even Wild was too exhausted, and excited to give anything but a meager account.

1  2  3  4  5  6  7     Next Part
Home - Random Browse