SCOTT & The South-Pole

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13 - "To The Pole: Up the Beardmore Glacier"


The group, now without the ponies, came into their new camp, camp 32 (See Map), at the foot of Beardmore Glacier with three sledges. The order was: 1. Scott, Wilson, Oates and P.O. Evans; 2. E. Evans, Atkinson, Wright, Lashly; and, 3. Bowers, Cherry-Garrard, Crean, Keohane. The dogs and their handlers (Meares, et al.) were generally doing well and still pulling 800 pounds. The men were "man-hauling." Three men were in harness hauling the load on the sledge, with a third, clear of the sledge, skiing along as an outrider. Scott observed, "we found it [the sledge] running fairly easily behind us. We ... having previously very carefully scraped and dried our runners." Scott was happy with the way things were going along, though it might be questioned that all of the men were of the same view. Indeed, Scott started wondering about the approach, as they ascended the rising slope of the glacier with worsening surface conditions. "... Evans' party could not keep up ... Atkinson says that Wright is getting played out and Lashly is not so fit ... P.O. Evans, of course, is a tower of strength, but Oates and Wilson are doing splendidly also."


"Camp 33. ... We started straight out over the glacier ... We pulled on ski and the dogs followed. I cautioned the drivers to keep close to their sledges and we must have passed over a good many crevasses undiscovered by us, thanks to ski, and by the dogs owing to the soft snow. ... We built our depot before starting, made it very conspicuous, and left a good deal of gear there. ... I camped the dogs, discharged our loads, and we put them on our sledges. ... the surface grew more uniform and we more accustomed to the game ... pulling easily without a halt at the rate of about 2 miles an hour. ...
The dogs
50 should get back quite easily; there is food all along the line. ... A plentiful crop of snow blindness due to incaution -- the sufferers Evans, Bowers, Keohane, Lashly, Oates -- in various degrees."
Scott's thoughts, at times, turns to an old competitor of his, Shackleton. Shackleton, with three of his companions, in January of 1909 (Nimrod Expedition), made the same southern trek establishing a record of being the closest to the pole, 112 miles. In the process Shackleton had discovered, named and ascended the Beardmore Glacier. He, on his return to England wrote up his findings, including snow depths. Scott observed that the snow on the lower slopes of the glacier was deeper than that reported by Shackleton.


The Beardmore Glacier is one of the largest glaciers in the world, with a length exceeding 100 miles. At about the same time, Amundsen struck out in a different direction and discovered another glacier, the Axel Heiberg Glacier (called after one of his sponsors). The Axel Heiberg Glacier was a lot shorter at 30 miles, though likely steeper. Up Amundsen went with his four men and his dogs. Well, this difference in the length of these glaciers, is likely another reason, of a number, why Amundsen beat Scott to the Pole.

Back to Scott's journal:

"Every step here one sinks to the knees and the uneven surface is obviously insufficient to support the sledges. Perhaps this wind is a blessing in disguise, already it seems to be hardening the snow. All this soft snow is an aftermath of our prolonged storm. Hereabouts Shackleton found hard blue ice. It seems an extraordinary difference in fortune, and at every step S.'s luck becomes more evident. I take the dogs on for half a day to-morrow, then send them home. We have 200 lbs. to add to each sledge load and could easily do it on a reasonable surface, but it looks very much as though we shall be forced to relay if present conditions hold. There is a strong wind down the glacier to-night."
December 12th:
"Camp 34. We have had a hard day ... We got bogged again and again, ... the sledge dragged like lead. ... the secret of our trouble is a thin film with some hard knots of ice on the runners. ... [after fixing things] we went ahead without a hitch, and in a mile or two recovered our leading place with obvious ability to keep it. ...
[Deep snow] and if we had not had ski we should be hopelessly bogged. ... [without skis] absolutely impossible to advance on foot with our loads. ...
December 13th:
"Camp 35. A most damnably dismal day. ... the pulling terribly bad ... how awful the surface had become ... the snow had become wet and sticky. ... the toil was simply awful. We were soaked with perspiration and thoroughly breathless with our efforts. ... [Certain of the teams were] reduced to relay work ... repeated halts and labour ...
I suppose we have advanced a bare 4 miles to-day ... Our height is now about 1,500 feet [they had to get up over 10,000 feet] I had pinned my faith on getting better conditions as we rose, but it looks as though matters were getting worse instead of better. ... We can but toil on, but it is woefully disheartening."
December 14th:
"Camp 36. Indigestion and the soggy condition of my clothes kept me awake for some time last night, and the exceptional exercise gives bad attacks of cramp. Our lips are getting raw and blistered. The eyes of the party are improving ...
I am afraid Cherry-Garrard and Keohane are the weakness of that team, though both put their utmost into the traces. ... We must have come 11 or 12 miles [3,000 feet]. We got fearfully hot on the march, sweated through everything and stripped off jerseys. The result is we are pretty cold and clammy now, but escape from the soft snow and a good march compensate every discomfort. ... I think the soft snow trouble is at an end, and I could wish nothing better than a continuance of the present surface. Towards the end of the march we were pulling our loads with the greatest ease. It is splendid to be getting along and to find some adequate return for the work we are putting into the business."
December 15th:
"Camp 37. (Height about 2500) ... the surface improving and snow covering thinner over the blue ice, but the sky overcast and glooming, the clouds ever coming lower ...
Oh! for fine weather; surely we have had enough of this oppressive gloom."
December 16th:
"Camp 38. A gloomy morning, clearing at noon and ending in a gloriously fine evening. ... we have covered 11 miles (stat.) ... We started at 7, lunched at 12.15, and marched on till 6.30 -- over ten hours on the march -- the limit of time to be squeezed into one day. ... certainly dogs could have come up as far as this. At present one gets terrible hot and perspiring on the march, and quickly cold when halted, but the sun makes up for all evils. It is very difficult to know what to do about the ski; their weight is considerable and yet under certain circumstances they are extraordinarily useful."
December 17th:
"Camp 39. ... Blue ice showed on the crests of the waves; very soft snow lay in the hollows. We had to cross the waves in places 30 feet from crest to hollow, and we did it by sitting on the sledge and letting her go. Thus we went down with a rush and our impetus carried us some way up the other side; then followed a fearfully tough drag to rise the next crest. ... The smooth ice is again lost and we have patches of hard and soft snow with ice peeping out in places, cracks in all directions, and legs very frequently down. We have done very nearly 5 miles.
Evening.(3,500 above Barrier) ... Our luck may be on the turn -- I think we deserve it. In spite of the hard work everyone is very fit and very cheerful, feeling well fed and eager for more toil. Eyes are much better except poor Wilson's; he has caught a very bad attack. ...
We got fearfully hot this morning and marched in singlets, which became wringing wet
Our lips are very sore. We cover them with the soft silk plaster which seems about the best thing for the purpose.
... sunburned skins. ... We get fearfully thirsty and chip up ice on the march ...
The pulling this afternoon was fairly pleasant ... We have worn our crampons all day and are delighted with them.
December 18th:
"Camp 40. (See Map) Lunch nearly 4000 feet above Barrier. ... the surface got much better and things look quite promising for the moment. ... This morning all our gear was fringed with ice crystals which looked very pretty.
Afternoon.(Night camp No. 40, about 4500 above Barrier.) After lunch got on some very rough stuff within a few hundred yards of pressure ridge. ... so that it has been hard going all day, but we have done a good mileage (over 14). We are less than five days behind S. now. ... it is snowing again. ... Still sweating horribly on the march and very thirsty at the halts."
Camp at Buckley Island, Dec 20

December 19th:

Camp 41. (5,800 feet) "Things are looking up. Started on good surface, soon came to very annoying criss-cross cracks. I fell into two and have bad bruises on knee and thigh, but we got along all the time until we reached an admirable smooth ice surface excellent for travelling. ... we have risen into the upper basin of the glacier. ... We are having a long lunch hour for angles, photographs, and sketches. ...
Made 17 miles to the good for the day. ... Days like this put heart in one.
December 20th:
"Camp 42. 6500 feet about. Just got off our last best half march -- ... over 12 miles. ... Pulling the sledges in crampons is no difficulty at all. ... a fog spread about us ... [I have named] the people to return to-morrow night: Atkinson, Wright, Cherry-Garrard, and Keohane. All are disappointed -- poor Wright rather bitterly, I fear. I dread this necessity of choosing -- nothing could be more heartrending." [Camp 42, to right.]
December 21st:
"Camp 43. ... Height about 8000 feet. Upon Glacier Depot. Temp. -2. ... We have done a good march, risen to a satisfactory altitude, and reached a good place for our depot. To-morrow we start with our fullest summit load ... sorting arrangements ... going on to-night. For me it is an immense relief to have the indefatigable little Bowers to see to all detail arrangements of this sort. ... we are in the worst crevassed region. Teddy Evans and Atkinson were down to the length of their harness this morning, and we have all been half-way down. As first man I get first chance, and it's decidedly exciting not knowing which step will give way. ..."
Two sledges went on: one with Scott, Wilson, Oates, P.O. Evans, and the other with E. Evans, Bowers, Crean, and Lashly. After establishing the Upper Glacier depot ... the first supporting party left for home."
51 The two remaining groups went on with two sledges and twelve weeks' supply of oil and fuel, pulling 190 pounds per man. Went on climbing for another sixteen days to reach their highest altitude at 10,570 feet."


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Peter Landry