THE WESTERN BASE--BLOCKED ON THE SHELF-ICE
by F. Wild
We started away on the main eastern journey with
a spurt of eleven miles on a calm and cloudless day, intending to
follow our former track over the shelf-ice to the Hippo Nunatak.
The surface varied; soft patches putting a steady brake on the ardour
of the first, fresh hours of marching.
In the afternoon,
it was only necessary to wear a shirt, singlet, heavy pyjama trousers,
finnesko and socks, and even then one perspired freely. The temperature
stood at 17 degrees F. The dogs pulled their load well, requiring
help only over loose snow.
The evening of Friday November
1, 1912, saw us past Masson Island and about ten miles from the
mainland. All day there had been a chill easterly breeze, the temperature
being well below zero. The sky was hazy with cirro-stratus and a
fine halo ``ringed'' the sun.
Looking out from the
tent in the morning we saw that the clouds were dense and lowering,
but the breezes were light and variable until 5 P.M., when an east-north-east
wind arose, bringing snow in its train. Travelling through foggy
drift, we could just ascertain that the Bay of Winds had opened
up on the right. The day's march was a good one of sixteen miles
The Bay of Winds did not belie its name.
Throughout November 3 the wind veered about in gusts and after lunch
settled down to a hard south-easter.
We had made a good start;
more than sixty-two miles in a little over four days. The camp was
half-way across the Bay of Winds, with the Alligator Nunatak six
miles off on the ``starboard bow'' and the Rock of the Avalanches
seventeen miles straight ahead. Passing glimpses were caught of
the Hippo twenty-four miles distant.
On November 5, after
a day's blizzard, there was much accumulated snow to shovel
away from tents and sledges. Finding the hauling very arduous, we
headed in for the land to find a better surface, passing the Alligator
Nunatak close on its southern side.
At noon on the 6th, the
sledges were running parallel to the Rock of the Avalanches, three
miles away, and soon afterwards we came to a large boulder; one
of four in a line from the rock-cliffs, from which they had been
evidently transported, as they were composed of the same gneiss.
The Hippo was close at hand at four o'clock and, on nearing
the shattered ice about the depot, we released the dogs and pulled
the sledge ourselves. On being freed, they galloped over to the
rock and were absent for over an hour. When they returned, Amundsen's
head was daubed with egg-yolk, as we thought. This was most probable
as scores of snow petrels were flying about the rocks.
nasty shock was awaiting us at the depot. The sledge, which had
been left on end, two feet buried in hard snow and with a mound
six feet high built round it, had been blown completely away. The
stays, secured to foodbags, were both broken; one food-bag weighing
sixty-eight pounds having been lifted ten feet. This was a
very serious loss as the total load to be carried now amounted to
one thousand one hundred and eighty pounds, which was too great
a weight to be supported by one sledge.
It appeared, then,
that the only thing to do was to include Harrisson in the party,
so that we could have his sledge. This would facilitate our progress
considerably, but against that was the fact that Moyes would be
left alone at the Base under the belief that Harrisson had perished.
A gale was blowing on the 7th, but as we were partly under the
lee of the Hippo, it was only felt in gusts. A visit was made to
the Nunatak; Harrisson to examine the birds, Watson for geology
and photography, while I climbed to the summit with the field-glasses
to look for the missing sledge. Kennedy remained at the camp to
take a series of magnetic observations.
There were hundreds
of snow petrels pairing off, but no eggs were seen in any of the
nest-crevices. They were so tame that it was quite easy to catch
them, but they had a habit of ejecting their partially digested
food, a yellow oily mess, straight at one. This was the stuff we
had thought was egg-yolk on Amundsen's head the previous night.
Upon returning to camp, the search for the sledge was continued.
After prospecting with a spade in possible snow-drifts and crevasse-
lids, we walked out fanwise, in the direction of the prevailing
wind, but with no result. I decided, therefore, to take Harrisson
with me. I was extremely sorry for Moyes, but it could not be helped.
On the way back towards the land to the south, we found that
the surface had improved in the morning's gale. Camp was finally
pitched on a slope close to the high land.
The coast, from
the Base to this spot--Delay Point--runs almost due east and west
and with no deep indentations except the Bay of Winds. To the west,
the slope from the inland plateau is fairly gradual and therefore
not badly broken, but still farther west it is much steeper, coming
down from two thousand feet in a very short distance, over tumbling
ice-fields and frozen cascades. Several outcrops of dark rock lay
to the east, one of them only two miles away.
fluctuated between sixty and eighty miles per hour, keeping us securely
penned. Harrisson and Kennedy, after battling their way to our tent
for a meal, used the second primus and cooker, brought for Harrisson,
in their own tent. All we could do was to smoke and listen to the
fierce squalls and lashing drift. I had brought nothing to read
on the trip, making up the weight in tobacco. Watson had Palgrave's
`Golden Lyrics', Kennedy, an engineer's hand-book, and Harrisson,
a portion of the `Reign of Mary Tudor'. There was a tiny pack
of patience cards, but they were in the instrument-box on the sledge
and none of us cared to face the gale to get them.
on the 10th, saw fit to moderate to half a gale; the drift creeping
low and thick over the ground; the land visible above it. Donning
burberrys, we made an excursion to the rocks ahead. Two miles and
a climb of six hundred feet were rather exhausting in the strong
wind. There were about eighty acres of rock exposed on the edge
of the ice-cap, mainly composed of mica schists and some granite;
the whole extensively weathered. A line of moraine ran from the
rocks away in an east-north-east direction.
Most of the next
day was broken by a heavy gale and, since the prospect ahead was
nothing but bare, rough ice, we passed the day in making everything
ready for a start and repaired a torn tent. The rent was made by
Amundsen, who dragged up the ice-axe to which he was tethered and,
in running round the tent, drove the point of the axe through it,
narrowly missing Kennedy's head inside.
12 was an interesting day. The greater part of the track was over
rippled, level ice, thrown into many billows, through devious pressure-hummocks
and between the inevitable crevasses. The coast was a kaleidoscope
of sable rocks, blue cascades, and fissured ice-falls. Fifteen miles
ahead stood an island twenty miles long, rising in bare peaks and
dark knolls. This was eventually named David Island.
dogs were working very well and, if only a little additional food
could be procured for them, I knew they could be kept alive. Zip
broke loose one night and ate one of my socks which was hanging
on the sledge to dry; it probably tasted of seal blubber from the
boots. Switzerland, too, was rather a bother, eating his harness
whenever he had a chance.
On the 14th, a depot was formed,
consisting of one week's provisions and oil; the bags being
buried and a mound erected with a flag on top. Kennedy took a round
of angles to determine its position.
At the end of two snowy
days, after we had avoided many ugly crevasses, our course in an
east-south-east line pointed to a narrow strait between David Island
and the mainland. On the southern side of the former, there was
a heaped line of pressure-ice, caused by the flow from a narrow
bay being stopped by the Island. After lunch, on the 16th, there
was an hour's good travelling and then we suddenly pulled into
a half-mile of broken surface--the confluence of the slowly moving
land-ice and of the more rapidly moving ice from a valley on our
right, from which issued Reid Glacier. It was impossible to steer
the dogs through it with a load, so we lightened the loads on both
sledges and then made several journeys backwards and forwards over
the more broken areas, allowing the dogs to run loose. The crevasses
ran tortuously in every direction and falls into them were not uncommon.
One large lid fell in just as a sledge had cleared it, leaving a
hole twelve feet wide, and at least a hundred feet deep. Once over
this zone, the sledges were worked along the slope leading to the
mainland where we were continually worried by their slipping sideways.
Ahead was a vast sea of crushed ice, tossed and piled in every
direction. On the northern horizon rose what we concluded to be
a flat-topped, castellated berg. Ten days later, it resolved itself
into a tract of heavy pressure ridges.
Camping after nine
and a half miles, we were surprised, on moving east in the morning,
to sight clearly the point--Cape Gerlache--of a peninsula running
inland to the southwest. A glacier from the hinterland, pushing
out from its valley, had broken up the shelf-ice on which we were
travelling to such an extent that nothing without wings could cross
it. Our object was to map in the coastline as far east as possible,
and the problem, now, was whether to go north or south. From our
position the former looked the best, the tumbled shelf-ice appearing
to smooth out sufficiently, about ten miles away, to afford a passage
east, while, to the south, we scanned the Denman Glacier, as it
was named, rolling in magnificent cascades, twelve miles in breadth,
a height of more than three thousand feet. To get round
the head of this ice-stream would mean travelling inland for at
least thirty miles.
So north we went, getting back to our
old surface over a heavy ``cross sea,'' honeycombed with
pits and chasms; many of them with no visible bottom. There was
half a mile to safety, but the area had to be crossed five times;
the load on the twelve-foot sledge being so much, that half the
weight was taken off and the empty sledges brought back for the
other half. Last of all came the dogs' sledge. Kennedy remarked
during the afternoon that he felt like a fly walking on wire-netting.
The camp was pitched in a line of pressure, with wide crevasses
and ``hell-holes'' within a few yards on every side. Altogether
the day's march had been a miserable four miles. On several
occasions, during the night, while in this disturbed area, sounds
of movement were distinctly heard; cracks like rifle shots and others
similar to distant heavy guns, accompanied by a weird, moaning noise
as of the glacier moving over rocks.
November 18 was a fine,
bright day: temperature 8 degrees to 20 degrees F. Until lunch,
the course was mainly north for more than five miles. Then I went
with Watson to trace out a road through a difficult area in front.
At this point, there broke on us a most rugged and wonderful vision
The Denman Glacier moving much more rapidly
than the Shackleton Shelf, tore through the latter and, in doing
so, shattered both its own sides and also a considerable area of
the larger ice-sheet. At the actual point of contact was what might
be referred to as gigantic bergschrund: an enormous chasm over one
thousand feet wide and from three hundred feet to four hundred feet
deep, in the bottom of which crevasses appeared to go down for ever.
The sides were splintered and crumpled, glittering in the sunlight
with a million sparklets of light. Towering above were titanic blocks
of carven ice. The whole was the wildest, maddest and yet the grandest
The turmoil continued to the north, so
I resolved to reconnoitre westward and see if a passage were visible
from the crest of David Island.
The excursion was postponed
till next day, when Kennedy, Watson and I roped up and commenced
to thread a tangled belt of crevasses. The island was three and
a half miles from the camp, exposing a bare ridge and a jutting
bluff, nine hundred feet high--Watson Bluff. At the Bluff the rock
was almost all gneiss, very much worn by the action of ice. The
face to the summit was so steep and coarsely weathered that we took
risks in climbing it. Moss and lichens grew luxuriantly and scores
of snow petrels hovered around, but no eggs were seen.
to an overcast sky, the view was not a great deal more enlightening
than that which we had had from below. The Denman Glacier swept
down for forty miles from over three thousand feet above sea-level.
For twenty miles to the east torn ice-masses lay distorted in confusion,
and beyond that, probably sixty miles distant, were several large
stretches of bare rock-like islands.
On November 20, a strong
north-east wind blew, with falling snow. Nothing could be seen but
a white blanket, above, below and all around; so, with sudden death
lurking in the bottomless crevasses on every hand, we stayed in
A blizzard of great violence blew for two days and
the tent occupied by Kennedy and myself threatened to collapse.
We stowed all our gear in the sleeping-bags or in a hole from which
snow had been dug for cooking. By the second day we had become extremely
tired of lying down. One consolation was that our lips, which were
very sore from exposure to the sun and wind, had now a chance of
Next afternoon, the gale moderated sufficiently
for us to go once more to David Island, in clearer weather, to see
the outlook from the bluff. This time the sun was shining on the
mainland and on the extension of the glacier past the bluff to the
north. The distant southern slopes were seamed with a pattern of
crevasses up to a height of three thousand feet. To the north, although
the way was certainly impassable for twelve miles, it appeared to
become smoother beyond that limit. We decided to try and cross in
We persevered on the 24th over many lines
of pressure-ice and then camped near an especially rough patch.
Watson had the worst fall on that day, going down ten feet vertically
into a crevasse before his harness stopped him. After supper, we
went to locate a trail ahead, and were greatly surprised to find
salt water in some of the cracks. It meant that in two days our
descent had been considerable, since the great bergschrund farther
south was well over three hundred feet in depth and no water had
appeared in its depths.
A few extracts from the diary recall
a situation which daily became more serious and involved:
``Monday, November 25. A beautiful day so far as the weather
and scenery are concerned but a very hard one. We have been amongst
`Pressure,' with a capital P, all day, hauling up and lowering
the sledges with an alpine rope and twisting and turning in all
directions, with waves and hills, monuments, statues, and fairy
palaces all around us, from a few feet to over three hundred feet
in height. It is impossible to see more than a few hundred yards
ahead at any time, so we go on for a bit, then climb a peak or mound,
choose a route and struggle on for another short stage.
have all suffered from the sun to-day; Kennedy has caught it worst,
his lips, cheeks, nose and forehead are all blistered. He has auburn
hair and the tender skin which frequently goes with it....
``Tuesday, November 26. Another very hard day's work. The
first half-mile took three hours to cover; in several places we
had to cut roads with ice-axes and shovels and also to build a bridge
across a water-lead. At 1 P.M. we had done just one mile. I never
saw or dreamt of anything so gloriously beautiful as some of the
stuff we have come through this morning. After lunch the country
changed entirely. In place of the confused jumble and crush we have
had, we got on to neve slopes; huge billows, half a mile to a mile
from crest to crest, meshed with crevasses...
``We all had
falls into these during the day: Harrisson dropping fifteen feet.
I received rather a nasty squeeze through falling into a hole whilst
going downhill, the sledge running on to me before I could get clear,
and pinning me down. So far as we can see, the same kind of country
continues, and one cannot help thinking about having to return through
this infernal mess. The day's distance--only one thousand and
``Wednesday, November 27. When I wrote last
night about coming back, I little thought it would be so soon. We
turn back to-morrow for the simple reason that we cannot go on any
``In the morning, for nearly a mile along a valley
running south-east, the travelling was almost good; then our troubles
``Several times we had to resort to hand-hauling
with the alpine rope through acres of pitfalls. The bridges of those
which were covered were generally very rotten, except the wide ones.
Just before lunch we had a very stiff uphill pull and then a drop
into a large basin, three-quarters of a mile in diameter.
``The afternoon was spent in vain searching for a road.... On
every side are huge waves split in every direction by crevasses
up to two hundred feet in width. The general trend of the main crevasses
is north and south....
``I have, therefore, decided to go
back and if possible follow the road we came by, then proceed south
on to the inland ice-cap and find out the source of this chaos.
If we are able to get round it and proceed east, so much the better;
but at any rate, we shall be doing something and getting somewhere.
We could push through farther east from here, but it would be by
lowering the gear piecemeal into chasms fifty to one hundred feet
deep, and hauling it up on the other side; each crevasse taking
at least two hours to negotiate. For such slow progress I don't
feel justified in risking the lives of the party.''
Snow fell for four days, at times thickly, unaccompanied by
wind. It was useless to stir in our precarious position. Being a
little in hand in the ration of biscuits, we fed the dogs on our
food, their own having run out. I was anxious to keep them alive
until we were out of the pressure-ice.
From this, our turning-point
out on the shelf-ice, the trail lay over eighteen inches of soft
snow on December 3, our former tracks, of course, having been entirely
obliterated. The bridged crevasses were now entirely hidden and
many weak lids were found.
At 9 A.M. Harrisson, Watson and
I roped up to mark a course over a very bad place, leaving Kennedy
with the dogs. We had only gone about one hundred yards when I got
a very heavy jerk on the rope and, on looking round, found that
Watson had disappeared. He weighs two hundred pounds in his clothes
and the crevasse into which he had fallen was fifteen feet wide.
He had broken through on the far side and the rope, cutting through
the bridge, stopped in the middle so that he could not reach the
sides to help himself in any way. Kennedy brought another rope over
and threw it down to Watson and we were then able to haul him up,
but it was twenty minutes before he was out. He reappeared smiling,
and, except for a bruise on the shin and the loss of a glove, was
no worse for the fall.
At 2.30 P.M. we were all dead-beat,
camping with one mile one thousand seven hundred yards on the meter.
One-third of this distance was relay work and, in several places,
standing pulls with the alpine rope. The course was a series of
Z's, S's, and hairpin turns, the longest straight stretch
one hundred and fifty yards, and the whole knee-deep in soft snow,
the sledges sinking to the cross-bars.
The 4th was a repetition
of the previous day--a terribly hard two and a half miles. We all
had ``hangman's drops'' into crevasses. One snow-bridge,
ten feet wide, fell in as the meter following the twelve- foot sledge
was going over behind it.
The 5th was a day of wind, scurrying
snow and bad light. Harrisson went out to feed the dogs in the morning
and broke through the lid of a crevasse, but fortunately caught
the side and climbed out.
The diary again:
``Friday, December 6. Still
bad light and a little snowfall, but we were off at ten o'clock.
I was leading and fell into at least a dozen crevasses, but had
to be hauled out of one only. At 1.30 P.M. we arrived at the open
lead we had crossed on the outward journey and found the same place.
There had been much movement since then and we had to make
a bridge, cutting away projections in some places and filling up
the sea-water channels with snow and ice. Then Harrisson crossed
with the aid of two bamboo poles, and hauled me over on a sledge.
Harrisson and I on one side and Kennedy and Watson on the other
then hauled the sledges backwards and forwards, lightly loaded one
way and empty the other, until all was across. The shelf-ice is
without doubt afloat, if the presence of sea-water and diatomaceous
stains on the ice is of any account. We camped to-night in the same
place as on the evening of November 25, so with luck we should be
out of this mess to-morrow. Switzerland had to be killed as I cannot
afford any more biscuit. Amundsen ate his flesh without hesitation,
but Zip refused it.''
Sure enough, two days sufficed
to bring us under the bluff on David Island. As the tents were being
pitched, a skua gull flew down. I snared him with a line, using
dog's flesh for bait and we had stewed skua for dinner. It was
While I was cooking the others climbed up the
rocks and brought back eight snow petrels and five eggs, with the
news that many more birds were nesting. After supper we all went
out and secured sixty eggs and fifty-eight birds. It seemed a fearful
crime to kill these beautiful, pure white creatures, but it meant
fourteen days' life for the dogs end longer marches for us.
Fresh breeze, light snow and a bad light on the 9th; we remained
in camp. Two more skuas were snared for the evening's dinner.
The snow petrels' eggs were almost as large as hens' eggs
and very good to eat when fresh. Many of them had been under the
birds rather too long, but although they did not look so nice, there
was little difference in the taste. I was very glad to get this
fresh food, as we had lived on tinned meat most of the year and
there was always the danger of scurvy.
The light was too
changeable to make a satisfactory start until the evening of December
11, when we managed to dodge through four and a half miles of broken
ice, reaching the mainland close to our position on November 16,
and camping for lunch at midnight. In front was a clear mile on
a peninsula and then the way led across Robinson Bay, seven miles
wide, fed by the Northcliffe Glacier.
Another night march
was commenced at 8 P.M. The day had been cloudless and the sun very
warm, softening the surface, but at the time of starting it was
hardening rapidly. Crossing the peninsula we resolved to head across
Robinson Bay as the glacier's surface was still torn up. We
ended with a fine march of twelve miles one thousand two hundred
The fine weather continued and we managed to cross
three and a half miles of heavy sastrugi, pressure-ridges and crevasses,
attaining the first slopes of the mainland at 1O P.M. on December
14. The discovery of two nunataks springing out of the piedmont
glacier to the south, lured us on.
The first rock--Possession
Nunataks--loomed ahead, two hundred feet above, up a slope of half
a mile. Here a depot of provisions and spare gear was made, sufficient
to take us back to the Hippo. The rock was found by Watson to be
gneiss, rich in mica, felspar and garnets. We lunched in this place
and resumed our march at midnight.
The second nunatak was
on the course; a sharp peak in the south, hidden by the contour
of the uprising ridges. In four miles we steadily ascended eight
hundred feet. While we were engaged pitching camp, a Cape pigeon
There were advantages in travelling at night.
The surface was firmer, our eyes were relieved from the intense
glare and our faces no longer blistered. On the other hand, there
were disadvantages. The skirt of the tent used to get very wet through
the snow thawing on it in the midday sun, and froze solid when packed
up; the floor-cloths and sleeping-bags, also, never had a chance
of drying and set to the same icy hardness. When we had mounted
higher I intended to return to work by day.
It was not till
the altitude was three thousand feet that we came in sight of the
far peak to the south. We were then pulling again in daylight. The
ice-falls of the Denman Glacier on the left were still seen descending
from the plateau, while down on the plain we saw that the zone of
disrupted ice, into which the short and intricate track of our northern
attempt had been won, extended for quite thirty miles.
surface then softened in a most amazing fashion and hauling became
a slow, dogged strain with frequent spells. A little over four miles
was the most we could do on the 18th, and on the 19th the loads
were dragging in a deluge of dry, flour-like snow. A long halt was
made at lunch to repair a badly torn tent.
The peak ahead
was named Mount Barr-Smith. It was fronted by a steep rise which
we determined to climb next day. On the eastern margin of the Denman
Glacier were several nunataks and higher, rising ground.
Following a twenty-four hours' blizzard, the sky was overcast,
with the usual dim light filtering through a mist of snow. We set
off to scale the mountain, taking the dip-circle with us. The horizon
was so obscured that it was useless to take a round of angles. Fifteen
miles south of Mount Barr-Smith, and a little higher there was another
peak, to be subsequently called Mount Strathcona; also several intervening
outcrops. Not a distinct range of mountains as we had hoped. The
Denman Glacier sweeps round these projecting rocks from the south-west,
and the general flow of the ice-sheet is thereby concentrated within
the neck bounded by the two peaks and the higher land to the east.
Propelled by the immense forces of the hinterland, this stream of
is squeezed down through a steep valley at an accelerated
speed, and, meeting the slower moving Shackleton Shelf, rends it
from top to bottom and presses onward. Thus chaos, icequake, and
Our tramp to Mount Barr-Smith was through eighteen
inches of soft snow, in many places a full two feet deep. Hard enough
for walking, we knew from experience what it was like for sledging.
There was only sufficient food for another week and the surface
was so abominably heavy that in that time, not allowing for blizzards,
it would have been impossible to travel as far as we could see from
the summit of Mount Barr-Smith, while four miles a day was the most
that could have been done. Our attempt to make east by rounding
the Denman Glacier to the south had been foiled, but by turning
back at that point, we stood a chance of saving our two remaining
dogs, who had worked so well that they really deserved to live.
Sunday December 22 broke with a fresh breeze and surface drift;
overhead a clear sky. We went back to Mount Barr-Smith, Kennedy
taking an observation for latitude, Watson making a geological survey
and collecting specimens, Harrisson sketching. The rocks at the
summit were granites, gneisses and schists. The latitude worked
out at 67 degrees 10.4' S., and we were a little more than one
hundred and twenty miles in an air-line from the hut.
the next two days, downhill, we ``bullocked'' through eleven
miles, reaching a point where the depot at Possession Nunataks was
only sixteen miles away. The surface snow was very sticky in places,
clogging the runners badly, so that they had to be scraped every
half-mile. Stewed skua was the feature of our Christmas Eve supper.
From the diary:
``Christmas Day, Wednesday. Turned out
and got away at 8 A.M., doing nine miles before lunch down a steep
descent. The sun was very hot, and after lunch the surface became
sticky, but at 5 P.M. we reached the depot, having done fifteen
miles one hundred yards and descended two thousand three hundred
``I am afraid I shall have to go back to travelling
by night, as the snow is so very soft down here during the day;
not soft in the same way as the freshly fallen powdery stuff we
had on the hills, but half-thawed and wet, freezing at night into
a splendid surface for the runners. The shade temperature at 5.30
P.M. to-day was 29 degrees F., and a thermometer laid in the sun
on the dark rocks went up to 87 degrees F.
``Some time ago,
a plum-pudding was found in one of our food-bags, put there, I believe,
by Moyes. We ate it to-night in addition to the ordinary ration,
and, with a small taste of spirits from the medical store, managed
to get up quite a festive feeling. After dinner the Union Jack and
Australian Ensign were hoisted on the rocks and I formally took
possession of the land in the name of the Expedition, for King George
V. and the Australian Commonwealth.''
Land is the name which, by gracious sanction, was eventually affixed
to that area of new land.
Night marches commenced at 1 A.M.
on December 27. The sail was hoisted for the first time and the
fresh breeze was of great assistance. We were once more down on
the low peninsula and on its highest point, two hundred feet above
the shelf-ice, Kennedy took a round of angles.
margin of the shelf the crevasses were innumerable and, as the sun
was hot and the snow soft and mushy, we pitched camp about six miles
from the bluff on David Island.
At 6 A.M. on the 28th we
rounded the bluff and camped under its leeward face. After lunch
there was a hunt for snow petrels. Fifty-six were caught and the
eggs, which all contained chicks, were given to the dogs.
It was my intention to touch at all the rocks on the mainland
on the way home, as time and weather permitted. Under a light easterly
breeze we scudded along with sail set and passed close to several
outcrops. Watson examined them, finding gneiss and granite principally,
one type being an exceptionally coarse granite, very much weathered.
A mile of bad crevasses caused some delay; one of the dogs having
a fall of twelve feet into one abyss.
Next day, the Hippo
hove in sight and we found the depoted food in good condition. The
course had been over high pressure-waves and in some places we had
to diverge on account of crevasses and--fresh water! Many of the
hollows contained water from thawed snow, and in others there was
a treacherous crust which hid a slushy pool. The march of eighteen
miles landed us just north of the Avalanche Rocks.
we were erecting the tents there were several snow-slips, and Watson,
Kennedy and I walked landwards after supper to try for a ``snap''
of one in the act of falling, but they refused to oblige us. It
was found that one or more avalanches had thrown blocks of ice,
weighing at least twenty tons, two hundred yards past the hole in
which we spent five days on the depot journey. They had, therefore,
travelled six hundred yards from the cliff.
Nunatak was explored on January 2, 1913. It was found to be half
a mile long, four hundred feet high and four hundred and fifty feet
in width, and, like most of the rock we had seen, mainly gneiss.
There was half a gale blowing on the 4th and though the wind
was abeam, the sail was reefed and we moved quickly. The dogs ran
loose, their feet being very sore from pulling on rough, nobbly
ice. The day's run was the record up to that time--twenty-two
miles. Our camp was in the vicinity of two small nunataks discovered
in August 1912. We reckoned to be at the Base in two days and wondered
how poor Moyes was faring.
Early on the 5th, the last piece
of broken country fell behind, and one sledge being rigged with
full sail, the second sledge was taken in tow. Both dogs had bleeding
feet and were released, running alongside. During the halt for lunch
a sail was raised on the dogs' sledge, using tent poles as a
mast, a floor-cloth for a sail, an ice-axe for an upper yard and
a bamboo for a lower yard. Getting under way we found that the lighter
sledge overran ours; so we cast off and Harrisson took the light
sledge, the sail working so well that he rode on top of the load
most of the time. Later in the afternoon the wind increased so much
that the dogs' sledge was dismasted and taken in tow once more,
the sail on the forward sledge being ample for our purpose.
At 4 P.M. we had done twenty miles, and, everybody feeling fresh,
I decided to try and reach ``The Grottoes,'' fifteen miles
away. The wind increasing to a gale with hurtling drift, the sail
was reefed, and even then was more than enough to push along both
sledges. Two of us made fast behind and maintained a continual brake
to stop them running away. At 9 P.M. the gale became so strong that
we struck sail and camped. Altogether, the day's run was thirty-five
An hour's march next morning, and, through the
glasses, we saw the mast and soon afterwards the hut. Just before
reaching home, we struck up a song, and in a few seconds Moyes came
running out. When he saw there were four of us, he stood on his
As we expected, Moyes had never thought of Harrisson
coming with me and had quite given him up as dead. When a month
had elapsed--the time for which Harrisson had food--Moyes packed
a sledge with provisions for Harrisson, himself and the dogs and
went out for six days. Then, recognizing the futility of searching
for any one in that white waste of nothingness, he returned. He
looked well, after his lonely nine weeks, but said that it was the
worst time he had ever had in his life. Moyes reported that the
Western party were delayed in starting
by bad weather until November
The total distance sledged during our main summer eastern
journey was two hundred and thirty-seven miles, including thirty-two
of relay work, but none of the many reconnoitring miles. Out of
seventy days, there were twenty-eight on which the weather was adverse.
On the spring depot journey the travelling had been so easy that
I fully expected to go four hundred or five hundred miles eastward
in the summer. It was therefore, a great disappointment to be blocked
as we were.
XXII - THE WESTERN BASE - LINKING UP WITH KAISER WILHELM II LAND