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- The Voyages of Captain Scott - 10/60 -
and, immediately after, the men who were working in the hut were seen streaming out towards it. In a minute or two we recognized the figure as that of young Hare, and in less than five he was on board.... We soon discovered that though exhausted, weak, and hungry, he was in full possession of his faculties and quite free from frost-bites. He went placidly off to sleep whilst objecting to the inadequacy of a milk diet.'
Later on Hare, who like Vince had been wearing fur boots, explained that he had left his companions to return to the sledges and get some leather boots, and had imagined that the others understood what he intended to do. Soon after he had started back he was wandering backwards and forwards, and knew that he was walking aimlessly to and fro. The last thing he remembered was making for a patch of rock where he hoped to find shelter, and there he must have lain in the snow for thirty-six hours, though he required a lot of persuasion before he could be convinced of this. When he awoke he found himself covered with snow, but on raising himself he recognized Crater Hill and other landmarks, and realized exactly where the ship lay. Then he started towards her, but until his intense stiffness wore off he was obliged to travel upon his hands and knees.
But though Hare was safe, Vince was undoubtedly gone. 'Finally and sadly we had to resign ourselves to the loss of our shipmate, and the thought was grievous to all.... Life was a bright thing to him, and it is something to think that death must have come quickly in the grip of that icy sea.'
This fatal mishap naturally caused increased anxiety about the three men who had gone on, and anxiety was not diminished when, on the 19th, Skelton was seen coming down, the hill alone. The others, however, were close behind him, and all three of them were soon safely on board.
On the 15th Royds had been compelled to abandon the attempt to reach the record at Cape Crozier, but he did not turn back until it was evident that a better equipped party with more favorable weather would easily get to it. On comparing notes with his party, Scott recognized what a difference there might be in the weather conditions of places within easy reach of the ship, and not only in temperature but also in the force and direction of the wind. It had not occurred to anyone that within such a short distance of the ship any large difference of temperature was probable, and as the summer was barely over, Royds, Koettlitz and Skelton had only taken a light wolf-skin fur suit for night-wear. This, however, had proved totally inadequate when the thermometer fell to -42°, and on the night of the 16th uncontrollable paroxysms of shivering had prevented them from getting any sleep. The value of proper clothing and the wisdom of being prepared for the unexpected rigors of such a fickle climate, were two of the lessons learnt from the experiences of the Cape Crozier party.
As the days of March went by Scott began really to wonder whether the sea ever intended to freeze over satisfactorily, and at such an advanced date there were many drawbacks in this unexpected state of affairs. Until the ship was frozen in, the security of their position was very doubtful; economy of coal had long since necessitated the extinction of fires in the boilers, and if a heavy gale drove the ship from her shelter, steam could only be raised with difficulty and after the lapse of many hours. There was, too, the possibility that the ship, if once driven off, would not be able to return, and so it was obviously unsafe to send a large party away from her, because if she went adrift most of them would be needed.
Another annoying circumstance was that until they had a solid sheet of ice around them they could neither set up the meteorological screen, nor, in short, carry out any of the routine scientific work which was such an important object of the expedition.
At this time Scott was eager to make one more sledding effort before the winter set in. The ostensible reason was to layout a depôt of provisions to the south in preparation for the spring, but 'a more serious purpose was to give himself and those who had not been away already a practical insight into the difficulties of sledge traveling. But as this party would have to include the majority of those on board, he was forced to wait until the ship was firmly fixed, and it may be said that the Discovery was as reluctant to freeze-in as she was difficult to get out when once the process had been completed.
On March 28, however, Scott was able to write in his diary: 'The sea is at last frozen over, and if this weather lasts the ice should become firm enough to withstand future gales. We have completed the packing of our sledges, though I cannot say I am pleased with their appearance; the packing is not neat enough, and we haven't got anything like a system.'
Three days later a party of twelve, divided into two teams, each with a string of sledges and nine dogs, made a start. Their loads were arranged on the theory of 200 lbs. to each man, and 100 lbs. to each dog, but they very quickly discovered that the dogs were not going to have anything to do with such a theory as this. The best of them would only pull about 50 lbs., and some of the others had practically to be pulled.
Later on Scott learned that it was a bad plan to combine men and dogs on a sledge, because the dogs have their own pace and manner of pulling, and neither of these is adapted to the unequal movement caused by the swing of marching men. And on this occasion another reason for the inefficiency of the dogs was that they were losing their coats, and had but little protection against the bitterly cold wind. 'As a matter of fact, our poor dogs suffered a great deal from their poorly clothed condition during the next week or two, and we could do little to help them; but Nature seemed to realize the mistake, and came quickly to the rescue: the new coats grew surprisingly fast, and before the winter had really settled down on us all the animals were again enveloped in their normally thick woolly covering.
The refusal of the dogs to work on this trip meant that the men had to do far more than their share, and from the first they had no chance of carrying out their intentions. Each hour, however, was an invaluable experience, and when a return was made to the ship Scott was left with much food for thought. 'In one way or another each journey had been a failure; we had little or nothing to show for our labors. The errors were patent; food, clothing, everything was wrong, the whole system was bad. It was clear that there would have to be a thorough reorganization before the spring, and it was well to think that before us lay a long winter in which this might be effected.'
But in a sense even these failures were successful, for everyone resolved to profit by the mistakes that had been made and the experience that had been gained, and the successful sledge journeys subsequently made in the spring were largely due to the failures of the autumn.
THE POLAR WINTER
The cold ice slept below, Above the cold sky shone, And all around With a chilling sound From caves of ice and fields of snow The breath of night like death did flow Beneath the sinking moon. --SHELLEY.
The sun was due to depart before the end of April, and so no time could be wasted if the outside work, which had been delayed by the tardy formation of the ice-sheet, was to be completed before the daylight vanished.
One of the most urgent operations was to get up the meteorological screen, which had been made under the superintendence of Royds. The whole of this rather elaborate erection was, placed about 100 yards astern of the ship, and consequently in a direction which, with the prevalent south-easterly winds, would be to windward of her. To obtain a complete record of meteorological observations was one of the most important scientific objects of the expedition, and it was decided that the instruments should be read and recorded every two hours. Consequently in calm or storm some member of the community had to be on the alert, and every other hour to make the rounds of the various instruments. On a fine night this was no great hardship, but in stormy weather the task was not coveted by anyone. On such occasions it was necessary to be prepared to resist the wind and snowdrift, and the round itself was often full of exasperating annoyances. In fact the trials and tribulations of the meteorological observers were numerous, and it was arranged that throughout the winter each officer should take it in turn to make the night observations from 10 P.M. to 6 A.M. Wilson nobly offered always to take the 8 A.M. observation, but the lion's share of the work fell on Royds himself, since besides taking his share of the night work he also, throughout the first winter and a great part of the second, took all the observations between 10 A.M. and 10 P.M.
The magnetic huts and all that appertained to them were Bernacchi's special business, and many times daily he was to be seen journeying to and fro in attendance upon his precious charge. The general reader may well ask why so much trouble should be taken to ascertain small differences in the earth's magnetism, and he can scarcely be answered in a few words. Broadly speaking, however, the earth is a magnet, and its magnetism is constantly changing. But why it is a magnet, or indeed what magnetism may be, is unknown, and obviously the most hopeful way of finding an explanation of a phenomenon is to study it. For many reasons the Discovery's winter station in the Antarctic was an especially suitable place in which to record the phenomenon of magnetism.
Besides establishing the routine of scientific work many preparations had to be made for the comfort and well-being of the ship during the winter, and long before the sun had disappeared the little company had settled down to a regular round of daily life.
Later in the year Scott wrote in his diary: 'The day's routine for the officers gives four clear hours before tea and three after; during these hours all without exception are busily employed except for the hour or more devoted to exercise.... It would be difficult to say who is the most diligent, but perhaps the palm would be given to Wilson, who is always at work; every rough sketch made since we started is reproduced in an enlarged and detailed form, until we now possess a splendid pictorial
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