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- The Voyages of Captain Scott - 4/60 -
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 or less the same lines. The new Discovery had the honor 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 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 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.
[Illustration: Outline drawings of 'Discovery' and 'Fram'.]
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 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 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, 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.
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
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