THE PREPARATION OF SLEDGING EQUIPMENT
The world of fashion insists on its minute vagaries
in dress not always with an eye to utility and an explorer in the
polar regions is a very fastidious person, expending a vast amount
of care on his attire, but with the sole idea of comfort, warmth,
and usefulness. The clothes he wears are many and often cumbersome,
but they have gradually been perfected to meet the demands of the
local weather conditions. After a sojourn in the ice-lands, he returns
to civilization with a new concept of the value of dress. At last
he can stand still without being reminded that his feet are chilly;
he experiences the peculiar sensation of walking about in an airily
light suit, in glove-tight boots, without he]met or mitts. It gives
him such a delicious feeling of freedom that his energy is unbounded
and life is a very pleasant and easy thing. Then it is that he can
turn in retrospect to the time in exile, appreciate his altered
circumstances and recall the many ingenuities which were evolved
to make him master of his environment.
It is sufficient to
say that we found the proposition of clothing one of unusual interest.
Any one who was not a practised needleman and machinist was handicapped
for a time, until he fell into the ways of the through-and-through
and blanket-stitch, thimbles, shuttles, spools and many other things
he had once affected to despise as belonging to the sphere of women's
work. It was not long before he was an enthusiast in many arts attaining
to a stage of independence, in which he patented new ideas and maintained
them in hot opposition to the whole community of the Hut. On some
fundamental points all were in agreement, and one of them was that
Adelie Land was the country par excellence for the wind-proof, drift-tight
Outside all other garments the burberry gabardine
was worn. The material was light and loosely fitting, but in wind
and drift it had to be hermetically sealed, so to speak, for the
snow crept in wherever there was an aperture. The trousers were
of double thickness, as they were exposed to the greatest wear.
Attached by large buttons, toggles or lampwick braces, they reached
as high as the lower part of the chest. Below, they had lamp-wick
lashings which were securely bound round the uppers of boots or
finnesko. In walking, the trousers would often work off the leather
boots, especially if they were cut to a tailor's length, and
then pour up the leg and down into the boots in a
remarkably short time. To counteract this, Ninnis initiated the
very satisfactory plan of sewing a short length of canvas on to
the boots to increase the length of the upper.
helmet and blouse were either in one piece or separate. For use
round the Hut, in thick drifts, the combination of helmet and blouse
was handy and time-saving. For sledging, when low temperatures and
strong winds might be expected all the time, it met the conditions
well; there being no necessity to worry about keeping the neck drift-tight.
Under ordinary circumstances it was very convenient to have a blouse
and helmet detached, as one so often could wear the former with
a well-padded woollen helmet and be reduced only as a last resource
to wearing the burberry helmet.
The blouse was roomy, giving
great freedom of movement. Around the neck was a draw-string, which
bunched in the jacket tightly over the lower part of the helmet.
There was also a draw-string round the waist. It was here that we
had the greatest difficulty in making the garment fit snow-tight.
If simply tied, the blouse would soon slip up from below, especially
if one were working with pick and shovel, carrying cases or blocks
of ice. To obviate this, some of the men sewed loops or tags of
lamp-wick on to the sides of the trousers, to connect with corresponding
attachments on the blouse. As an additional security, others wore
an outside belt which was, even if the blouse slipped up for some
distance, a line of defence against the drift-snow.
helmet completely enclosed the head except for the face, which remained
uncovered at the bottom of a funnel stiffened by several rings of
copper-wire. Lampwick, the universal polar ``cord,'' was
sewn in short strips in front of the ears and tied at the back of
the head, firmly securing the helmet. Since the voyage of the `Discovery'
(1901-1904) lamp-wick had been used widely in sledging on account
of its width, softness, comparative warmth and because of the fact
that ordinary cord is not so easy to manipulate in cold weather.
Large buttons of leather or bone were not nearly so popular as small,
smooth lengths of stick engaging cross-wise with loops of cord--known
as toggles, which became quite a mania with some members of the
Expedition. Whetter, for instance, was known as the ``Toggle King,''
because of the multitude of these stick-and-cord appendages which
hung from every part of his clothing.
Under the burberrys
thick, but light, suits of Jaeger fleece were worn. They combined
trousers and a sleeveless coat, over which a woollen jersey was
worn. In calm weather these with underclothing were all-sufficient,
but in the average fifty-mile wind at any temperature in the neighbourhood
of zero Fahrenheit, they felt distinctly porous.
windy weather the luxury of discarding burberrys, either partly
or wholly, was an indulgence which gave great satisfaction.
Finnesko were the favourite foot-gear--soft and commodious reindeer-skin
fur boots. Once these were stuffed with Lapp saennegras or manilla
fibre, and the feet covered with several pairs of socks, cold could
be despised unless one were stationary for some time or the socks
or padding became damp. Even though the padding were wet, violent
exercise kept the temperature ``balance'' in the warm direction,
especially if one were also under the stimulus of a recent hot meal.
Of course, on smooth ice or polished snow in even moderate winds
it was useless to try and keep one's feet in finnesko, although
practice gave great agility in calmer weather. As already indicated,
spiked crampons on approved models, tested on the glacier-slopes
in a hurricane wind, were almost always worn encasing the finnesko.
With so many coverings the feet often became uncomfortably hot,
and for odd jobs about the Hut and not far abroad spiked leather
boots gave most satisfaction.
There were various coverings
for the hands: felt mitts, mittens, instrument-gloves and wolfskin
The first were used in conjunction with fingerless
mittens. The wear and tear on these was greater than on any other
item of clothing. It was a common sight to see them ragged, canvas-covered,
patched, repatched and again repatched, to be at last reluctantly
thrown away. There were two compartments in a single glove, one
for the thumb and the other for the fingers. It is much easier to
keep the fingers warm when in contact with one another than by having
them in separate stalls.
Instrument-gloves of wool were used
for delicate manipulations, as a partial protection, since they
reduced the stinging chill of cold metal at low temperatures.
Wolfskin mitts are unexcelled for use in cold windy weather.
Their shaggy external hair entangles the drift-snow, which thaws,
soaks the skin and refreezes until the mitt is stiff as buckram.
This is their main disadvantage. These mitts or rather gauntlets
were made longer in the arms than usual so as to overlap the burberry
sleeves and keep the wrists warm.
Lambskin mitts with the
wool facing inwards were very useful and wore well for occupations
like hauling on ropes and lifting cases.
Like every other
movable thing, mitts had to be made fast to prevent them blowing
away. So they were slung round the neck by a yoke of lamp-wick.
The mittened hand could then be removed with the assurance that
the outer mitt would not be far away when it was wanted, no matter
how hard the wind blew.
There has been much discussion as
to the relative merits of fur and woollen clothing. After all the
question has resolved itself into one of personal predilection.
It has been claimed that furs are warmer and lighter. The warmth
follows from the wind-proof quality of the hide which, unfortunately,
also tends to retain moist exhalations from the body. In Adelie
Land, the only furs we used were finnesko, wolfskin mitts and sleeping-bags
of reindeer skins.
As in every part of the equipment, modifications
had to be made in the circular Willesden-drill tents. To facilitate
their erection in the perpetual winds they were sewn permanently
on to the five bamboo poles, instead of being thrown over the latter
previously set in position. Thus the tents opened like large conical
umbrellas. A rawhide loop was fixed to the middle one of the three
windward legs and, when raising a tent during a high wind, it was
the usual thing for a man to be inside gripping the loop to pin
down the windward legs and at the same time, kicking out the two
leeward legs. On hard surfaces, holes were dug to receive the ends
of the poles; at other times they were pressed home into the snow
by the man inside the
When pitched, the tent was
held down by blocks of snow or ice, helped by spare food-bags, which
were all piled round on a broad flounce. Ventilators, originally
supplied with the tents, had to be dispensed with on account of
the incessant drift. The door of the tent was an oval funnel of
burberry material just large enough to admit a man and secured by
Strips of calico and webbing were sewn over
the insides of the light tents to strengthen them for sledging in
the summer. For heavy weather we also had japara sail-cloth tents
with Willesden canvas flounces. These gave one a feeling of greater
security and were much more wind-proof, but unfortunately twice
as heavy as the first-mentioned.
A floor-cloth of light Willesden
canvas covered the surface of snow or ice in the interior of the
tent; performing when sledging the alternative office of a sail.
In order to cut snow, neve or ice to pile on the flounce, a
pick and spade had to be included in the sledging equip meet. As
a rule, a strong, pointed shovel weighing about six pounds answers
very well; but in Adelie Land, the surface was so often wind-swept
ice, polished porcelain-snow, or hard neve that a pick was necessary
to make any impression upon it. It was found that a four-pound spade,
carefully handled, and a four-pound miner's pick provided against
Our sledges were similar to those of other
British Antarctic expeditions; of eleven- and twelve-foot lengths.
The best were Norwegian, made of ash and hickory. Others built in
Sydney, of Australian woods, were admirably suited for special work.
Those made of mountain-ash had the advantage of being extremely
light, but the runners wore out quickly on ice and hard neve. Sledges
of powellized spotted gum were very strong and stood plenty of rough
usage, but were heavier than those procured in Norway. A decking
of bamboo slats secured by copper-wire to the crossbars was usually
A light bamboo mast and spar were fitted to each
sledge. Immediately in front of the mast came the ``cooker-box,''
containing in respective compartments the primus and a bottle of
spirit for lighting it, as well as spare prickers, openers and fillers
for the kerosene tins, repair outfits and other odd articles. The
cooker-boxes were of Venesta board, with hinged lids secured by
chocks and overlapped by japara cloth to exclude as much drift-snow
as possible. An instrument-box was secured to the sledge near the
rear and just forward of a
Venesta or aluminium tray on which
the kerosene contained in one-gallon tins was carried. In several
cases the tray was widened to receive as well a case containing
a dip-circle. Rearmost of all was a wooden crosspiece to which the
shaft of the sledge-meter was attached through a universal joint.
On the middle section of the sledge between the cooker-box and instrument-box,
sleeping-bags, food-bags, clothes-bags, tent, alpine rope, theodolite
legs, and other articles, were arranged, packed and immovably stiffened
by buckled straps passing from side to side.
for both men and dogs was constructed of canvas. In the former case,
a wide belt of triple thickness encircled the body at the hips,
sewn to braces of narrower strips passing over the shoulders, while
hauling-rope was attached to the belt behind. The strength of the
whole depended on the care bestowed in sewing the parts together,
and, since his life might depend upon it, no one made anything else
but a thorough job of his harness.
Ninnis and Mertz ran a
tailoring business for the dogs, who were brought one by one into
the outer Hut to be measured for harness. After many lengths had
been cut with scissors the canvas bands were put through and sewn
together on the large sewing-machine and then each dog was fitted
and the final alterations were made. The huskies looked quite smart
in their ``suits,''
Upon the primus heater, alone,
did we rely for cooking the meals on sledging journeys. First used
for purposes of sledging by Dr. Nansen in his journey across Greenland,
the primus is only economically managed after some practice. To
light a primus in a draughty tent at a low temperature calls for
some forbearance before one is a thorough master of the art. A sledging
cook will often make a disagreeable faux pas by extinguishing the
primus in the preparation of hoosh. This is most readily done by
lowering too quickly the outside cover over the rest of the cooker.
Fumes of vaporizing kerosene soon fill the tent and when matches
are found, the cooker pulled to pieces, the primus relighted and
the choking vapours have cleared, one is apt to think that all is
well. The hoosh is quite as successful as usual, but the cocoa,
made from water
in the annulus, has a tincture of kerosene which
cannot be concealed.
In the ``Nansen Cooker,'' which
we used, a maximum result is secured from the heat of the primus.
The hot gases from the combustion of the kerosene, before they escape
into the outside air, have to circulate along a tortuous path, passing
from the hot interior to the colder exterior compartments, losing
heat all the time. Thus a hot hoosh is preparing in the central
vessel side by side with the melting of snow for cocoa or tea in
the annulus. By the combination of ``Nansen Cooker'' and
primus stove one gallon of kerosene oil properly husbanded is made
to last for twelve days in the preparation of the ordinary ration
for three men.
Section through a Nansen Sledging Cooker
mounted on the primus
The subject of food is one which requires peculiar
consideration and study. It is assumed that a polar expedition must
carry all its food-stuffs in that variety and quantity which may
approximately satisfy normal demands. Fortunately, the advance of
science has been such that necessaries like vegetables, fruit, meats
and milk are now preserved so that the chances of bacterial contamination
are reduced to a minimum. A cold climate is an additional security
towards the same end.
Speaking generally, while living for
months in an Antarctic hut, it is a splendid thing to have more
than the mere necessaries of life. Since one is cut off from the
ordinary amenities of social existence, it is particularly necessary
that equipment and food should be of the very best; in some measure
to replace a lack which sooner or later makes itself keenly felt.
Explorers, after all, are only mortal.
Luxuries, then, are
good in moderation, and mainly for their psychological effect. After
a spell of routine, a celebration is the natural sequel, and if
there are delicacies which in civilization are more palatable than
usual, why not take them to where they will receive a still fuller
and heartier appreciation? There is a corresponding rise in the
``tide of life'' and the ennui of the same task, in the
same place, in the same wind, is not so noticeable. So we did not
forget our asparagus and jugged hare.
In the matter of sledging
foods, one comes down to a solid basis of dietetics. But even dietetics
as a science has to stand aside when actual experience speaks. Dietetics
deals with proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and calories: all terms
which need definition and comprehension before the value of a sledging
ration can be fundamentally understood. When the subject was first
introduced into table conversation at the Hut, it was regarded somewhat
suspiciously as ``shop.'' But it gradually won interest
simply because it was of such vital concern.
there is undoubtedly a critical allowance which will yield the best
results. Circumstances alter cases, and the correct ration under
one set of conditions cannot be expected to coincide with that in
another situation. Thus, the journey may be conducted under conditions
of great cold or of comparative warmth, by man-hauling or auxiliary
power, at sea-level or on an altitude, through regions where there
is a reasonable hope of securing additions of meat by the way, or
across barren tracts devoid of game. In each instance particular
demands must be supplied.
In selecting the articles of diet,
idiosyncrasies of individuals should be consulted in reason, and
under no consideration should anything be taken which bears the
slightest stigma of contamination. It remains, then, to discriminate
those foods which contribute the greatest amount of nutriment for
a given weight, and which, inter se, preserve a proper dietetic
balance. Variety is very desirable, provided that there is no important
sacrifice in nutrient value. The proof of a wisely selected ration
is to find at the end of a long sledge journey that the sole craving
is for an increase in the ration. Of course, such would be the ideal
result of a perfect ration, which does not exist.
that an ordinary individual in civilization may only satisfy the
choice demands of his appetite by selecting from the multifarious
bill of fare of a modern restaurant, it will be evident that the
same person, though already on the restricted diet of an explorer,
cannot be suddenly subjected to a sledging ration for any considerable
period without a certain exercise of discipline.
the Eastern Coastal Party, sledging at fairly high temperatures
over the sea-ice, noted that the full ration of hoosh produced at
times a mild indigestion, they drank much liquid to satisfy an intense
thirst and on returning to the Hut found their appetites inclined
to tinned fruit and penguins' eggs. Bickerton's and Bage's
parties, though working at a much higher altitude, had a similar
experience. The former, for instance, could not at first drink the
whole allowance of thick, rich cocoa without a slight nausea. The
latter saved rations during the first two weeks of their journey,
and only when they rose to greater heights and were in fine condition
did they appreciate the ration to the full. Again, even when one
becomes used to the ration, the sensation of full satisfaction does
not last for more than an hour. The imagination reaches forward
to the next meal, perhaps partly on account of the fact that marching
is often monotonous and the scenery uninspiring. Still, even after
a good evening hoosh, the subconscious self may assert itself in
food-dreams. The reaction from even a short sledging trip, where
food has been plentiful, is to eat a good deal, astonishing in amount
to those who for the time being have lived at the Hut.
may appear that a serious case is being made against the polar sledging
ration. On the whole, it was found to be excellent and the best
that experience had been able to devise. Entering the polar zones,
one must not be over-fastidious, but take it as a matter of course
that there will be self-denial and deprivation of small luxuries.
The energy exerted by man, and the requirements of tissue-building
are derived from the organic compounds known as proteins,** fats
and carbohydrates, though in a slight degree from other substances,
most important of which are minute quantities of mineral matter.
A calorie as used in dietetics is the amount of heat required
to raise the temperature of one kilogramme of water at 0 degrees
C. to 1 degree C. The heat-value of food-stuffs, stated in calories,
can be quickly reckoned when chemical analyses stating their protein,
fat and carbohydrate contents are available. It has been ascertained
that one gramme of protein or carbohydrate yields 4.1 calories,
whilst the same amount of fat produces 9.3 calories. Thus the value
of fat-containing foods in a sledging ration is at once apparent.
** The proteins are complex nitrogenous compounds which are
preeminent in fulfilling the two functions of a food: to form tissue
and to produce work and heat. As examples may be quoted, myosin
the chief protein of ordinary meat or muscle, ovalbumin one of the
proteins of egg-white, casein belonging to milk and cheese,
and gluten a protein-mixture in flour.
Fats are organic non-nitrogenous
substances obtained from both animal and vegetable sources, e.g.
butter and olive oil.
The carbohydrates are compounds of
carbon with hydrogen and oxygen in a certain proportion, e.g. cane-sugar
Mineral matters are inorganic, being chlorides,
carbonates or phosphates of calcium, sodium and potassium.
Theoretically, any of the three classes of foods
mentioned might be thought to supply adequate energy, if taken in
sufficient amount. Practically, however, protein and carbohydrate
are essential, and it is better to have a mixture of all three.
So, in concentrating foods for sledging, the largest possible proportion
of fat, compatible with other considerations, is included.
Ordinarily, a normal man consumes some four or five pounds weight
of solid food per diem, of which 50 per cent., it is rather surprising
to learn, is water. When sledging, one has the satisfaction of knowing
that all but the smallest quantity of the food dragged is solid
nutriment. The water is added when the meals are cooked. It is just
in this artificial addition that the sledging ration is not perfect,
though as a synthesis it satisfies the demands of dietetics. Food
containing water, as cooked meat oozing with its own gravy is a
more palatable thing than dried meat-powder to which boiling water
has been added. In the same way, a dry, hard biscuit plus liquid
is a different thing from a spongy loaf of yeast bread with its
high percentage of water. One must reckon with the psychic factor
in eating. When sledging, one does not look for food well served
as long as the food is hot, nourishing and filling. So the usage
of weeks and a wolfish appetite make hoosh a most delicious preparation;
but when the days of an enforced ration are over, the desire for
appetizing well-served food reasserts itself. The body refuses to
be treated merely as an engine.
The daily polar sledging
ration for one man has been concentrated to a figure just above
two pounds in weight, For instance, in recent Antarctic expeditions,
Scott, in 1903, used 34.7 ozs., Shackleton in 1908 used 34.82 ozs.
and our own amounted to 34.25 ozs. Exclusive of tea, pepper and
salt, Shackleton's ration and that adopted by Wild at the Western
Base and ourselves in Adelie Land were identical--34 ozs. Reverting
to earlier explorers, for the sake of comparisons, McClintock in
1850 brought his minimum down to 42 ozs., Nares in 1875 to 40 ozs.,
Greely in 1882 to 41.75 ozs., and Abruzzi in 1900 to 43.5 ozs.
Our allowance was made up as follows, the relative amounts in
the daily sledging ration for one man being stated: plasmon biscuit,
12 ozs.; pemmican, 8 ozs.; butter, 2 ozs.; plasmon chocolate, 2
ozs.; glaxo (dried milk), 5 ozs.; sugar, 4 ozs.; cocoa, 1 oz.; tea,
.25 oz. It will be instructive to make a short note on each item.
Plasmon biscuit was made of the best flour mixed with 30 per
cent. of plasmon powder. Each biscuit weighed 2.25 ozs., and was
made specially thick and hard to resist shaking and bumping in transit
as well as the rough usage of a sledging journey. The effect of
the high percentage of plasmon, apart from its nutritive value,
was to impart additional toughness to the biscuit, which tested
our teeth so severely that we should have preferred something less
like a geological specimen and more like ordinary ``hard tack,''
The favourite method of dealing with these biscuits was to smash
them with an ice-axe or nibble them into small pieces and treat
the fragments for a while to the solvent action of hot cocoa. Two
important proteins were present in this food: plasmon, a trade-name
for casein, the chief protein of milk, and gluten, a mixture of
proteins in flour.
The pemmican we used consisted of powdered
dried beef (containing the important protein, myosin) and 50 per
cent. of pure fat in the form of lard. The large content of fat
contributes to its high caloric value, so that it is regularly included
in sledging diets. Hoosh is a stodgy, porridge-like mixture of pemmican,
dried biscuit and water, brought to the boil and served hot. Some
men prefer it cooler and more dilute, and to this end dig up snow
from the floor of the tent with their spoons, and mix it in until
the hoosh is ``to taste,'' Eating hoosh is a heightened
form of bliss which no sledger can ever forget.
a proprietary food preparation of dried milk, manufactured in New
Zealand. It is without doubt an ideal food for any climate where
concentration is desirable and asepsis cannot be neglected. The
value of milk as an all-round food is well known. It contains protein
as casein, fat as cream and in fine globules, carbohydrate as lactose
(milk sugar) and mineral substances whose importance is becoming
more recognized. At the Western Base, Wild's party invented
glaxo biscuits; an unbaked mixture of flour and dried milk, which
were in themselves a big inducement to go sledging. At the Hut,
making milk from the dried powder required some little experience.
Cold water was added to the dried powder, a paste was made and warm
or hot water poured in until the milk was at the required strength.
One of the professional ``touches'' was to aerate
the milk, after mixing, by pouring it from jug to jug.
although it contains nearly 20 per cent. of water is a food of high
heat-value and is certainly more easily digested than fat, such
as dripping, with a higher melting-point. Ours was fresh Victorian
butter, packed in the ordinary export boxes, and carried to the
Antarctic on the open bridge of the Aurora. With a sheath-knife,
the sledging cook cut off three small chunks of two ounces each
from the frozen butter every day at lunch. To show how the
appetite is affected by extreme cold, one feels that butter is a
wholesome thing just in itself, being more inclined to eat a pound
than two ounces.
Sugar--the carbohydrate, sucrose--has special
qualities as a food since it is quickly assimilated, imparting within
a few minutes fresh energy for muscular exertion. Athletes will
support this; in fact, a strong solution of sugar in water is used
as a stimulant in long-distance running and other feats of endurance.
Wild, for instance, found as a matter of experience that chocolate
was preferable to cheese as a sledging food, even though similar
weights had approximately the same food-value.
tea were the two sledging beverages. The cocoa was used for
two meals, the first and the last in the day, and the tea for lunch.
Both contain stimulating alkaloids, theobromine and caffeine, and
fat is a notable constituent of cocoa. Of course, their chief nourishing
value, as far as we were concerned, lay in the glaxo and sugar added.
Lastly, plasmon chocolate is a preparation of pure chocolate
(a mixture of ground cocoa, white sugar and starch) with the addition
of 10 per cent. of plasmon.
As food for the dogs, there was
nothing better than dried seal-steaks with the addition of a little
blubber. Ordinary pemmican is readily eaten, but not appreciated
by the dogs in the same way as seal meat. To save weight, the meat
was dried over the stove without heating it sufficiently to cook
it. By this measure, almost 50 per cent. in weight was saved.
The Hut was all agog with movement and bustle on the days when
rations were being made up and packed. Starting from the earliest
stage in the process, there would be two men in the outer Hut grinding
plasmon biscuit into powder. One would turn away for dear life and
the other smash the biscuit with a hammer on a metal slab and feed
continuously into the grinder. The atmosphere would be full of the
nauseous vapours of blubber arising from dishes on the stove where
seal meat was drying for the dogs. Ninnis and Mertz superintended
in this department, in careless moments allowing the blubber to
frizzle and diffuse its aroma through the Hut.
along the eighteen-foot table would be the weighers, the bag-makers
or machinists, and the packers. The first made up a compound of
cocoa, glaxo and sugar--cocoa compound; mixed glaxo and sugar
and stirred together, pemmican and biscuit--pemmican compound. These
were weighed and run into calico bags, rapidly supplied by several
machinists farther along the table. In spare moments the weighers
stowed chocolate, whole biscuits, butter and tea into 190 sacks
of various sizes. Lastly, the packers had strong canvas tanks, as
they were called, designed to hold food for a week and a fortnight
respectively. Into these the rations were carefully distributed,
butter in the centre, whole biscuits near the top. Then the tanks
were tightly closed, and one man operated with palm and sail-needle,
sewing them up with twine. At the same time, a side-line was run
in pemmican which was removed semi-frozen from the air-tight tins,
and shaved into small pieces with a strong sheath-knife. Butter,
too, arrived from the refrigerator-store and was subdivided into
two-ounce or pound lumps.
Meanwhile, other occupations were
in full swing. An amateur cobbler, his crampon on a last, studded
its spiked surface with clouts, hammering away in complete disregard
of the night-watchman's uneasy slumbers. The big sewing-machine
raced at top-speed round the flounce of a tent, and in odd corners
among the bunks were groups mending mitts, strengthening sleeping-bags
and patching burberrys. The cartographer at his table beneath a
shaded acetylene light drew maps and sketched, the magnetician was
busy on calculations close by. The cook and messman often made their
presence felt and heard. In the outer Hut, the lathe spun round,
its whirr and click drowned in the noisy rasp of the grinder and
the blast of the big blow-lamp. The last-named, Bickerton, ``bus-driver''
and air-tractor expert, had converted, with the aid of a few pieces
of covering tin, into a forge. A piece of red-hot metal was lifted
out and thrust into the vice; Hannam was striker and Bickerton holder.
General conversation was conducted in shouts, Hannam's being
The sum total of sounds was sufficient for a while
to make every one
oblivious to the clamour of the restless wind.
CHAPTER XI - SPRING EXPLOITS