After the finish of the Great War, which had employed every able-bodied man in the country in one way or another, Sir Ernest Shackleton returned to London and wrote his famous epic “South,” the story of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Before it was finished he had again felt the call of the ice, and concluded his book with the following sentence: “Though some have gone, there are enough to rally round and form a nucleus for the next expedition, when troublous times are over, and scientific exploration can once more be legitimately undertaken.”
For many years he had had an inclination to take an expedition into the Arctic and compare the two ice zones. He felt, too, a keen desire to pit himself against the American and Norwegian explorers who of recent years had held the foremost position in Arctic exploration, to win for the British flag a further renown, and to add to the sum of British achievements in the frozen North.
There is still, in spite of the long and unremitting siege which has gradually tinted the uncoloured portions of the map and brought within our ken section after section of the unexplored areas, a large blank space comprising what is known as the Beaufort Sea, approximately in the centre of which is the point called by Stefansson the “centre of the zone of inaccessibility.” It was the exploration of this area that Sir Ernest made his aim. In addition he felt a strong desire to clear up the mystery of the North Pole, and for ever settle the Peary-Cook controversy, which did so much to alienate public sympathy from Polar enterprise.
It is characteristic of him that before proceeding with any part of the organization he wrote first to Mr. Stefansson, the Canadian explorer, to ask if the new expedition would interfere with any plan of his. He received in reply a letter saying that not only did it not interfere in any way, but that he (Stefansson) would be glad to afford any help that lay in his power and put at his disposal any information which might prove valuable.
Sir Ernest’s plans were the result of several years of hard work with careful reference to the records of previous explorers, and his organization was remarkable for its completeness and detail.
The proposed expedition had an added interest in that the whole of his Polar experience was gained in the Antarctic. It met with instant recognition from the leading scientists and geographers of this country, who saw in it far-reaching and valuable results. The Council of the Royal Geographical Society sent a letter which showed their appreciation of the importance of the work, and expressed their approval of himself as commander and of the names he had submitted as those of men eminently qualified to make a strong personnel for the expedition.
Sir Ernest Shackleton was fortunate in securing the active co-operation in the working out of his plans of Dr. H. R. Mill, the greatest living authority on Polar regions.
The scheme, however, was an ambitious one, and was likely to prove costly.
The period following the end of the war was perhaps not a suitable one in many ways to commence an undertaking of this nature, for Sir Ernest had the greatest difficulty in raising the necessary funds. In this country he received the support of Mr. John Quiller Rowett and Sir Frederick Becker.
Feeling that the work of exploration and the possible discovery of new lands in what may be called the Canadian sector of the Arctic was likely to be of interest to the Canadian Government, he visited Ottawa, where he was in close touch with many of the leading members of the Canadian House of Commons. He returned to this country well pleased with his visit, and stated that he had obtained the active co-operation of several prominent Canadians and received from the Canadian Government the promise of a grant of money.
He was now in a position to start work, and immediately threw himself into the preparation of the expedition. He got together a small nucleus of men well known to him, including some who had accompanied him on the _Endurance_ expedition, designed and ordered a quantity of special stores and equipment, and bought a ship which cost as an initial outlay £11,000. Dr. Macklin was sent to Canada to buy and collect together at some suitable spot a hundred good sledge-dogs of the “Husky” type.
It would be impossible to convey an accurate idea of the closely detailed work which is involved in the preparation for a Polar expedition. Much of the equipment is of a highly technical nature and requires to be specially manufactured. Everything must be carried and nothing must be forgotten, for once away the most trivial article cannot be obtained. Everything also must be of good quality and sound design; and each article, whatever it may be, must function properly when actually put into use.
At what was almost the last moment, whilst preparations were in full swing, the Canadian Government, being more or less committed to a policy of retrenchment, discovered that they were not in a position to advance funds for this purpose, and withdrew their support. This was a great blow, for it made impossible the continuance of the scheme.
In the meantime the bulk of the personnel had been collected, some of the men having come from far distant parts of the world to join in the adventure, abandoning their businesses to do so. Some of us, knowing of the scheme, had waited for two years, putting aside permanent employment so that we might be free to join when required; for such is the extraordinary attraction of Polar exploration to those who have once engaged in it, that they will give up much, often all they have, to pit themselves once more against the ice and gamble with their lives in this greatest of all games of chance. Yet if you were to ask what is the attraction or where the fascination of it lies, probably not one could give you an answer.
[Illustration: SIR ERNEST SHACKLETON IN POLAR CLOTHING
_Photo: F. & A. Swaine_]
[Illustration: MR. JOHN QUILLER ROWETT
_Photo: F. & A. Swaine_]
Sir Ernest Shackleton received the blow with outward equanimity, which was not shaken when, with the decision of the Canadian Government, the more timorous of his supporters also withdrew. Always seen at his best in adverse circumstances, he wasted no time in useless complainings, but started even at this eleventh hour to remodel his plans.
Nevertheless, the situation was a very difficult one. He had committed himself to heavy expenditure, and what weighed not least with him at this time was his consideration for the men who had come to join the enterprise. At this critical point Mr. John Quiller Rowett came forward to bear an active part in the work, and took upon his shoulders practically the whole financial responsibility of the expedition. The importance of this action cannot be too much emphasized, for without it the carrying on of the work would have been impossible.
Mr. Rowett had a wide outlook which enabled him to take a keen interest in all scientific affairs. Previous to this he had helped to found the Rowett Institute for Agricultural Research at Aberdeen, and had prompted and given practical support to researches in medicine, chemistry and several other branches of science. His many interests included geographical discovery, and he saw clearly the important bearing which conditions in the Polar regions have upon the temperate zones. He saw also the possible economic value of the observations and data which would be collected.
His name must therefore rank amongst the great supporters of Polar exploration, such as the brothers Enderby, Sir George Newnes and Mr. A. C. Harmsworth (afterwards Lord Northcliffe).
Mr. Rowett’s generous action is the more remarkable in that he was fully aware in giving this support to the expedition that there was no prospect of financial return. What he did was done purely out of friendship to Shackleton and in the interests of science. The new expedition was named the Shackleton-Rowett Expedition, and announcement of it was received by the public with the greatest interest.
As it was now too late to catch the Arctic open season, the northern expedition was cancelled, and Sir Ernest reverted to one of his old schemes for scientific research in the South, which again met with the approval of the chief scientific bodies.
This change of plans threw an enormous burden of work not only upon Sir Ernest, but also upon those of us who formed his staff at this period, for we had little time in which to complete the preparations. Dr. Macklin was recalled from Canada, for under the new scheme sledge-dogs were not required.
The programme did not aim at the attainment of the Pole or include any prolonged land journey, but made its main object the taking of observations and the collection of scientific data in Antarctic and sub-Antarctic areas.
The proposed route led to the following places: St. Paul’s Rocks on the Equator, South Trinidad Island, Tristan da Cunha, Inaccessible Island, Nightingale and Middle Islands, Diego Alvarez or Gough Island, and thence to Cape Town.
Cape Town was to be the base for operations in the ice, and a depot of stores for that part of the journey would be formed there. The route led eastward from there to Marion, Crozet and Heard Islands, and then into the ice, where the track to be followed was, of course, problematical, but would lead westwards, to emerge again at South Georgia.
[Illustration: A DIAGRAMMATIC VIEW OF THE _QUEST_
1. Crow’s Nest with Gyro-compass; 2. Mark Buoy; 3. Sperry Gyro-compass; 4, Hydrographic Room; 5. Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Quarters; 6. Clear View Screen; 7. Kipling’s “If”; 8. Semaphore; 9. Range Finder; 10. Standard Binnacle; 11. Meteorological Screen; 12. Gyro-compass; 13. Wireless Room; 14. Life-boat Deck; 15. One of two Life-boats; 16. Mark Buoy; 17. Water Tank; 18. Kelvin Sounding Machine; 19. Surf Boat; 20. Stowage for Stores and Specimens; 21. Sleeping Accommodation for Naturalist and Photographer; 22. Windlass; 23. Dark-room; 24. Chain-locker; 25. Lucas Sounding Machine; 26. Stores; 27. 15-ton Water Tank; 28 and 29. Stores; 30. High-power Wireless Room; 31. Coal Bunkers; 32. Boiler; 33. Galley; 34. Avro; 35. Main Engines; 36. Engine Room; 37. Ward Room.
_By courtesy of Illustrated London News_]
[Illustration: SECTIONAL VIEWS OF THE _QUEST_
1. Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Quarters; 2. Sperry Gyro-compass Hydrographic Room; 3. Entrance to Dark Room; 4. The Hydrographic Room; 5. The Galley; 6. Ward Room; 7. Bath Room under the Bridge (Starboard side).
_By courtesy of Illustrated London News_]
From South Georgia it led to Bouvet Island, and back to Cape Town to refit. From Cape Town, the second time, the route included New Zealand, Raratonga, Tuanaki (the “Lost Island”), Dougherty Island, the Birdwood Bank, and home via the Atlantic.
The scientific work included the taking of meteorological observations, including air and sea temperatures, kite and balloon work, magnetic observations, hydrographical and oceanographical work, including an extensive series of soundings, and the mapping and careful charting of little-known islands. Search was to be made for lands marked on the map as “doubtful.” A collection of natural history specimens would be made, and a geological survey and examination carried out in all the places visited. Ice observations would be carried on in the South, and an attempt made to reach and map out new land in the Enderby Quadrant. Photography was made a special feature, and a large and expensive outfit of cameras, cinematograph machines and general photographic appliances acquired.
The Admiralty and the Air Ministry co-operated and materially assisted by lending much of the scientific apparatus. Lieut.-Commander R. T. Gould, of the Hydrographic Department, provided us with books and reports of previous explorers concerning the little-known parts of our route, and his information, gleaned from all sources and collected together for our use, proved of the greatest value.
It was decided to carry an aeroplane or seaplane to assist in aerial observations and to be used as the “eyes” of the expedition in the South. Flying machines had never before been used in Polar exploration, and there were obvious difficulties in the way of extreme cold and lack of adequate accommodation, but after consultation with the Air Ministry it was thought possible to overcome them. The machine ultimately selected was a “Baby” seaplane, designed and manufactured by the Avro Company.
One of the first things done by Sir Ernest Shackleton in preparing for the northern expedition had been the purchase of a small wooden vessel of 125 tons, named the _Foca I_. She was built in Norway, fitted with auxiliary steam-engines of compound type and 125 horse-power. She was originally designed for sealing in Arctic waters, the hull was strongly made, and the timbers were supported by wooden beams with natural bends of enormous strength. The bow was of solid oak sheathed with steel. Her length was 111 feet, beam 23 feet, and her sides were 2 feet thick. Her draught was 9 feet forward and 14 feet aft. She was ketch-rigged, and was reputed to be able to steam at seven knots in still water and to do the same with sail only in favourable winds.
At the happy suggestion of Lady Shackleton she was re-named the _Quest_.
Sir Ernest received what he considered the greatest honour of his life. The _Quest_ as his yacht was elected to the Royal Yacht Squadron. Perhaps a more ugly, businesslike little “yacht” never flew the burgee, and her appearance must have contrasted strangely with the beautiful and shapely lines of her more aristocratic sisters.
She was brought to Southampton in March, 1921, and placed in the shipyards for extensive alterations. The work was greatly impeded by the strike of ship workers, the general coal strike which occurred at that time, and by difficulties generally with labour, which was then passing through a very critical period.
It had been intended to take out the steam-engines and substitute an internal combustion motor of the Diesel type, but owing to the difficulties mentioned this had to be abandoned, and on the advice of the surveying engineer in charge of the work the old engines were retained. The bunker space was readjusted at the expense of the fore-hold, allowing a carrying capacity of 120 tons of coal, and giving a steaming radius which, with economy and use of sail, was estimated at from four to five thousand miles.
This work was in process when it became necessary to alter the plans of the expedition, and Sir Ernest realized that the _Quest_, which had been considered eminently suitable for the northern scheme, was not so well adapted for the long cruise in southern waters. It was impossible at this stage to change the ship, but further alterations were made on deck and in the rigging generally to adapt her for the new conditions.
Two yards were fitted, a topsail yard, 39 feet in length, and a foreyard to carry a large squaresail, 44 feet in length. The mizen-mast was lengthened to give a greater clearance to the wireless aerials. The existing bridge was enlarged, carried across the full breadth of the ship, and completely enclosed with windows of Triplex glass. The roof formed an upper bridge open to the air. To improve the accommodation, which was inadequate, a deck-house, 12 feet by 20 feet, was erected on the foredeck. It contained five rooms: four small cabins, and a room for housing hydrographical and meteorological instruments. New canvas and running gear was fitted throughout, and no expense spared to make her sound and seaworthy. Mr. Rowett was absolutely insistent that everything about the ship must be such as to ensure her safety and the safety of all on board in so far as it was humanly possible. To everything in connexion with the ship herself Sir Ernest, as an experienced seaman, gave his personal attention. The work of the engine-room, which, as he was not an engineer, he was not able to supervise directly, was entrusted to a consulting engineer.
The _Quest_, though strong and well equipped, was small, and consequently accommodation generally was limited and living quarters were somewhat cramped. The forecastle was fitted as a small biological laboratory and geological workroom. In it were a bench for the naturalist and numerous cupboards for the storing of specimens. Leading from it on one side was a small cabin with two bunks for the naturalist and photographer respectively, and on the other was the photographic dark room.
The amount of gear placed aboard the ship was large, and the greatest ingenuity was required to stow it satisfactorily.
Two wireless transmitting and receiving sets, of naval pattern, were installed under the immediate supervision of a wireless expert, kindly lent to us by the Admiralty. The current for them was supplied by two generators, one a steam dynamo producing 220 volts, and a smaller paraffin internal-combustion motor producing 110 volts. The _Quest_ being a wooden vessel, there was great difficulty in providing suitable “earthing.” For this purpose two copper plates were attached to either side of the ship below the water-line.
[Illustration: THE SPERRY GYROSCOPIC COMPASS
[Illustration: THE ENCLOSED BRIDGE OF THE _QUEST_
The more powerful of these sets was never very satisfactory, and we ultimately abandoned its use. The smaller proved entirely satisfactory for transmitting at distances up to 250 miles. The receiving apparatus was chiefly of value in obtaining time signals, which are sent out nightly from nearly all the large wireless stations, and which we received at distances up to 3,000 miles. By this means we were frequently able, whilst in the South, to check our chronometers; but atmospheric conditions in those regions were very bad, and by producing loud adventitious noises in the ear-pieces interfered so much with the clarity of sounds that the obtaining of accurate signals was generally impossible.
A Sperry gyroscopic compass was installed, the gyroscopic apparatus being placed in the deck-house, with repeaters in the enclosed bridge and on the upper bridge. The dials were luminous, so that they could be read at night. This apparatus has the advantage that it is independent of immediate outside influences. It is usually supposed that at 65° north or south it ceases to be effective, but we found that the directive force was still sufficient at 69° south. It is interesting to note that this compass was designed by a German scientist to enable a submarine to reach the North Pole. It has been of the greatest use to ships in a general way, but for the one specific purpose for which it was designed it proved to be useless owing to the loss of directive power at the Poles. We found that bumping the ship through ice caused derangement, and as the compass took several hours to settle down again to normal, it proved ineffective whilst we were navigating through the pack.
Fitted into the enclosed bridge and looking forward were two Kent clear-view screens. They were electrically driven. They proved, when running, to be absolutely effective against rain, snow or spray.
The ship was fitted throughout with electric lighting, including the navigating lights. Whilst in the South, however, the necessity for economy of fuel forbade the use of electricity and we had recourse to oil lamps. As we were then completely out of the track of shipping, navigating lights were not used.
Two sounding machines were installed, one an electrically-driven Kelvin apparatus for depths up to 300 fathoms. To obtain accurate soundings whilst the ship was under way, the sinker was fitted to carry sounding tubes, and had also an arrangement for indicating the nature of the bottom, whether rock, shingle or sand. For deep-sea work we had a Lucas steam-driven machine, which was affixed to a special platform on the port bow and supplied by a flexible tube from the steam pipe feeding the forward winch. This apparatus registered depths to four miles. Sounding with it was often difficult on account of the swell and the liveliness of the _Quest_, but the machine itself gave every satisfaction. The wire used with the Lucas machine was Brunton wire in coils of 6,000 fathoms, diameter .028, weight 12.3 lbs. per 1,000 fathoms, with a breaking strain of 200 lbs.
The meteorological equipment included:
Screens, containing wet and dry bulb thermometers, placed in exposed positions on the upper bridge.
One large screen, containing hair hygrograph, standard thermometer and thermograph.
(The heavy seas which broke over the ship and flung sprays over the upper bridge greatly interfered with the efficient working of these instruments by encrusting them with salt, and necessitated constant cleaning.)
[Illustration: THE _QUEST_ AT HAY’S WHARF Where she was fitted out for the trip
[Illustration: KERR (CHIEF ENGINEER) EXAMINING THE LUCAS DEEP-SEA SOUNDING MACHINE
Hydrometers, for determining the specific gravity of sea-water, which gives a measure of the total salinity.
Sea-thermometers, for determining the surface temperatures of the sea-water.
Marine pattern mercury barometer.
Aneroid barometers, checked daily from the mercury barometer, in case the latter should be broken.
Barograph, to obtain continuous records of the air pressure.
For upper-air work four cylinders of hydrogen and several hundred pilot balloons were taken. (These latter were sent up on many occasions from the ship, but the _Quest_ proved to be so lively that it was impossible to keep them in the field of view of a telescope or even of field-glasses.)
All the instruments were very kindly lent to us by the Meteorological Section of the Air Ministry, and were of standard make and pattern.
We carried a good set of sextants, theodolites, dip circles and other accurate surveying instruments.
Several chronometers of different makes and patterns were placed aboard. Two of them, specially rated for us by Mr. Bagge, of the Waltham Watch Company, gave excellent results and, in spite of the violent motion of the ship and the difficulty of keeping a uniform temperature, maintained a remarkably even rating.
The medical equipment was designed for compactness and all-round usefulness.
Sledges, harness, warm clothing, footgear and an amount of scientific equipment were forwarded to Cape Town and warehoused to await the arrival of the _Quest_.
The greatest difficulty was experienced in the housing of the seaplane, but, after dismantling wings and floats, room was eventually found for it in the port alleyway, which it almost filled.
Sir Ernest Shackleton, as has already been said, in choosing his personnel selected first of all a nucleus of well-tried and experienced men who had served with him before, appointing me as second in command of the expedition. They included Worsley, Macklin, Hussey, McIlroy, Kerr, Green and McLeod. Applications for the remaining posts came in thousands, and many women wrote asking if a job could be found for them, offering to mend, sew, nurse or cook.
Two other men with previous experience were obtained: Wilkins, who served with the Canadian Arctic Expedition under Stefansson, and Dell, who had served with Captain Scott in the _Discovery_, and was thus known to Sir Ernest Shackleton and myself. Lieut.-Commander Jeffrey, an officer of the Royal Naval Reserve, who had served with distinction during the war, was appointed navigating officer for the ship. Major Carr, who had gained much experience of flying as an officer of the R.A.F., was appointed in charge of the seaplane.
A geologist was required, the selection falling upon G. V. Douglas, a graduate of McGill University, whom Sir Ernest had met in Canada.
Mr. Bee Mason was appointed photographer and cinematographer.
Amongst the remainder there was need of a good boy. Sir Ernest conceived the idea of throwing the post open to a Boy Scout, and the suggestion was taken up with the greatest enthusiasm by the Boy Scout organization. The post was advertised in the _Daily Mail_, and immediately a flood of applications poured in from every part of the country. These were finally filtered down to the ten most suitable, and the applicants were instructed to assemble in London, the _Daily Mail_ making the necessary arrangements and defraying the costs. These ten boys all had excellent records, and Sir Ernest, in finally making his selection, was so embarrassed in his choice that he selected two. They were J. W. S. Marr, an Aberdeen boy, and Norman E. Mooney, a native of the Orkneys.
There remained but three places to fill: C. Smith, an officer of the R.M.S.P. Company, was appointed second engineer; P.O. Telegraphist Watts, wireless operator; and Eriksen, a Norwegian by birth, was taken on as harpoon expert.
Sir Ernest, in order fully to carry out his programme, was anxious to leave England not later than August 20th, but owing to a general strike of ships’ joiners, dilatory workmanship and other unavoidable causes, the sailing was postponed well beyond that date.
At length all was ready; food stores and equipment, which included not only the highly technical and specialized Antarctic gear, but also such minute details as pins, needles and pieces of tape, were placed on board, and the ship was ready for sea.
The new expedition had been organized, equipped and got ready for departure all within three months. There are few who will realize what this means. No other man than Sir Ernest would have attempted it, and no other could have accomplished it successfully. It was, as he often said himself, only through the staunch support and active co-operation of Mr. Rowett, who aided and encouraged him throughout this period, that he was able to leave England that year. Postponement at such an advanced stage was impossible, and would have meant the total abandonment of the expedition. We left London finally on September 17th, 1921.
LONDON TO RIO DE JANEIRO
We dipped our ensign in a last farewell to London as we passed out from St. Katherine’s Dock, and turned our nose down-river for Gravesend, a tiny vessel even amongst the small shipping which comes thus far up the river. We were accompanied on this part of our journey by Mr. Rowett, who had taken a keen personal interest in everything connected with the expedition. Enthusiastic crowds cheered us at the start, and everybody we met wished us “Good luck and safe return.” The ensign was kept in a continuous dance answering the bunting which dipped from the staffs of every vessel we met. Ships of many maritime nations were collected in this cosmopolitan river, and these, too, joined in wishing success to our enterprise.
At Gravesend Mr. Rowett left us, and Sir Ernest returned with him to London with the object of rejoining at Plymouth. A strong north-easterly wind was blowing, and we lay for the night off Gravesend. In the small hours of the morning we were startled from sleep by the watchman crying, “The anchor’s dragging!” and turned out to find that we were bearing down on a Thames hopper that was moored near by. The _Quest_ would not answer her helm, and before we were able to bring her up she had fouled the stays of the hopper with her bowsprit. Pyjama-clad figures leapt from their bunks, and in the dim light presented a curious spectacle. Two or three of our men jumped on to the deck of the hopper, and by loosening a bolt succeeded in letting go one of her stays, when we swung free.
Kerr rapidly raised a sufficient pressure of steam in the boilers to get the engines going, and we soon regained control.
We brought up with our anchor, which had been acting as a dredge, the most amazing collection of stuff, which gave an interesting sidelight on the composition of the Thames floor.
No damage was received beyond a chafe to the bowsprit. We were anxious, however, to leave with everything in good order, and so proceeded to Sheerness Dockyard, where a new spar was put in for us by the naval authorities with a promptness and dispatch that contrasted strongly with the dilatory methods employed previously in the shipyards.
We had an exceptionally fine trip down Channel under the pilotage of Captain F. Bridgland, who was an old friend of ours, having taken the ship from Southampton to London.
We reached Plymouth on the 23rd, and were joined there by Sir Ernest Shackleton and Mr. Gerald Lysaght, a keen yachtsman, who had been invited to accompany us as far as Madeira. The Boss brought with him an Alsatian wolf-hound puppy, a beautiful well-bred animal with a long pedigree, which had been presented to him by a friend as a mascot. “Query,” as he was named, quickly became a fast favourite with all on board. Mr. Rowett also came from London to see us off, and we had with him a last cheery dinner. He was very popular with all of us, for in addition to his support of expedition affairs he had taken a personal interest in every member of the company.
On the 24th we steamed out into the Sound and moored to a buoy, where the ship was swung and the compasses adjusted by Commander Traill-Smith, R.N., who kindly undertook this important work. The Admiralty tug used to swing the _Quest_ accentuated her smallness, for she was many times our size and towered high above us.
This task completed, we put out to sea, pleased, as Sir Ernest Shackleton said at the time, to be making our final departure from a town that has ever been associated with maritime enterprise.
The following extracts are from Sir Ernest Shackleton’s own diary:
_Saturday, September 24th, 1921._
At last we are off. The last of the cheering crowded boats have turned, the sirens of shore and sea are still, and in the calm hazy gathering dusk on a glassy sea we move on the long quest. Providence is with us even now. At this time of equinoctial gales not a catspaw of wind is apparent. I turn from the glooming immensity of the sea and, looking at the decks of the _Quest_, am roused from dreams of what may be in the future to the needs of the moment, for in no way are we shipshape or fitted to ignore even the mildest storm. Deep in the water, decks littered with stores, our very life-boats receptacles for sliced bacon and green vegetables for sea-stock; steel ropes and hempen brothers jostle each other; mysterious gadgets connected with the wireless, on which the Admiralty officials were working up to the sailing hour, are scattered about. But our twenty-one willing hands will soon snug her down.
A more personal and perplexing problem is my cabin—or my temporary cabin, for Gerald Lysaght has mine till we reach Madeira—for hundreds of telegrams of farewell have to be dealt with. Kind thoughts and kind actions, as witness the many parcels, some of dainty food, some of continuous use, which crowd up the bunk. Yet there is no time to answer them now.
We worked late, lashing up and making fast the most vital things on deck. Our wireless was going all the time, receiving messages and sending out answers. Towards midnight a swell from the west made us roll, and the sea lopped in through our washports. About 1 A.M. the glare of the _Aquitania’s_ lights became visible as she sped past a little to the southward of us, going west, and I received farewell messages from Sir James Charles and Spedding. I wish it had been daylight.
At 2 A.M. I turned in. We are crowded. For in addition to McIlroy and Lysaght, I have old McLeod as stoker.
_Sunday, September 25th._
Fair easterly wind; our topsail and foresail set. All day cleaning up with all hands. We saw the last of England—the Scilly Isles and Bishop Rock, with big seas breaking on them; and now we head out to the west to avoid the Bay of Biscay. With our deep draught we roll along like an old-time ship, our foresail bellying to the breeze. The Boy Scouts are sick—frankly so, though Marr has been working in the stokehold until he really had to give in. Various messages came through. To-day it has been misty and cloudy, little sun. All were tired to-night when watches were set.
_Monday, 26th._ 47° 53´ N., 9° 00´ W.
A mixture of sunshine and mist, wind and calm. Passed two steamers homeward bound, and one sailing ship was overhauling us in the afternoon, but the breeze fell light, and she dropped astern in the mist that came up from the eastward. Truly it is good to feel we are starting well, and all hands are happy, though the ship is crowded.
Two hands have to help the cook, and the little food hatchway is a blessing, for otherwise it is a long way round. Green is in his element, though our decks are awash amidship. He just dips up the water for washing his vegetables.
With a view to economy he boiled the cabbage in salt water. The result was not successful.
The _Quest_ rolls, and we find her various points and angles, but she grows larger to us each day as we grow more used to her. I asked Green this morning what was for breakfast. “Bacon and eggs,” he replied. “What sort of eggs?” “Scrambled eggs. If I did not scramble them they would have scrambled themselves”—a sidelight on the liveliness of the _Quest_. Query, our wolf-hound puppy, is fast becoming a regular ship’s dog, but has a habit of getting into my bunk after getting wet.
We are running the lights from the dynamo, and, when the wireless is working, sparks fly up and down the backstays like fireflies. A calm night is ours.
_Tuesday, 27th—Wednesday, 28th._
43° 52´ N., 11° 51´ W. 135 miles.
Another fine day. Not much to record. All hands engaged in general work on the ship. In the afternoon the mist arose and the wind dropped. At night the wind headed us a bit, and we took in the topsail. Marr was at the wheel in the first watch, and did well. Mooney, at present, is useless. A gang of the boys were employed turning the coal into the after-bunkers—a black and dusty job; but they were quite happy. We passed a peaceful night. This morning the wind practically dropped. What little there was came out ahead, so we took in all sail. The _Quest_ does not steam very fast, 5½ being our best so far. This rather makes me think, and may lead to alterations in our plans, for we must make our time right for entering the ice at the end of December, and may possibly have to curtail some of our island work or postpone it until we come out of the South. This morning we are in glorious sunshine—the sea sapphire-blue and a cloudless sky; but, alas! noon, in spite of our pushing, gives us only 135 miles. We have allowed a current of 7 miles N. 12° W.
Gerald Lysaght is one of our best workers, and takes long spells at the wheel. Occasionally little land-birds fly on board, and our kittens take an interest in them, as yet unknowing their potential value as food or game(?). How far away already we seem from ordinary life!
I stopped the wireless last night. It is of no importance to us now in a little world of our own.
_Wednesday, 28th—Thursday, September 29th, 1921._ Lat., 42° 9’ N. Long., 13° 10’ W. Dist., 116’.
A strong wind, with high seas and S.S.W. swell; strong squalls were our portion. The ship is more than lively and makes but little way. She evidently must be treated as a five-knot vessel dependent mainly on fair winds, and all this is giving me much food for thought, for I am tied to time for the ice. I was relieved that she made fairly good weather of it, but I can see that our decks must be absolutely clear when we are in the Roaring Forties. Her foremast also gives me anxiety. She is not well stayed, and I think that the topsail yard is a bit too much. The main thing is that I may have to curtail our island programme in order to get to the Cape in time. Everyone is cheerful, which is a blessing, all singing and enjoying themselves, though pretty well wet; several are a bit sick. The only one who has not bucked up is the Scout Mooney. He seems helpless, but I will give him every chance. I can see also that we must be cut down in crew to the absolutely efficient and only needful for the southern voyage.
Douglas is now stoking and doing well. It will, of course, take time to square things up and for everyone to find themselves; she is so small. It is only by constant thought and care that the leader can lead. There is a delightful sense of freedom from responsibility in all others; and it should be so. These are just random thoughts, but borne in on one as all being so different from the long strain of preparation. It is a blessing that this time I have not the financial worry or strain to add to the care of the active expedition. Lysaght is doing very well, and so is the Scout Marr.
Sir Ernest Shackleton’s diary ends at this point, and there are no other entries till January 1st, 1922.
[Illustration: THE WIRELESS OPERATING ROOM
_Photo: Sport & General_]
[Illustration: THE WARD ROOM OF THE _QUEST_
[Illustration: THE _QUEST_ PASSING THE TOWER OF LONDON ON HER WAY TO THE SEA
_Photo: Sport & General_]
[Illustration: THE SCHERMULY PORTABLE ROCKET APPARATUS
_Photo: Dr. Macklin_]
We now began to settle down to our new conditions of life.
In the deck-house were five small cabins. The Boss and I had the two after ones, but at this time Mr. Lysaght, or the “General” as he was called by all of us (like most nicknames, for no particular reason), occupied one of them, whilst the Boss and I shared the other.
Worsley and Jeffrey had a cabin running the full breadth of the house and the roomiest in the ship, but it had also to act as chart-room. Macklin and Hussey occupied a tiny room of six feet cubed on the starboard side, which contained the medicine cupboard. Here, in spite of restricted space, they dwelt in perfect harmony, due, as they were wont to say, “to both of us being non-smokers.” They were known collectively as “Alphonse and D’Aubrey,” but how the names originated it is impossible to say, for though the versatile Londoner might at times have passed as a Frenchman, the same could not be said for the more phlegmatic Scot.
The corresponding room on the port side housed the meteorological instruments and the gyroscopic compass.
Wilkins and Bee Mason had bunks in the converted forecastle, which contained the photographic dark room, a work bench for the naturalist, and numerous cupboards for the storing of specimens. Wilkins, an old campaigner, had used much foresight and ingenuity in fitting it up, and had utilized the limited space to the utmost advantage. Their cabin was indeed a dim recess and at first proved very stuffy, but before we were many days out Wilkins had designed and fitted an air-shoot, which acted very well and enormously improved the ventilation. Green, the cook, had a cabin beside his galley, which was always warm from the heat of the engine-room—too much so to be comfortable in temperate climes, but he looked forward to the advantage he would derive when we entered the cold regions. All the others lived aft and occupied bunks which were situated round the mess-room and opened directly into it, unscreened except by small green curtains, which could be drawn across when the bunks were unoccupied. It was by no means a pleasant or convenient arrangement, but, with the small size of the ship and general lack of space, the only one possible under the circumstances. The mess-room itself was small, boasting the simplest of furniture: two plain deal tables, four forms, a cupboard for crockery, and a small sideboard. At the foot of the companion-way was a rack of ten long Service rifles. Two of the forms were made like boxes with lids, to act as lockers.
The seating accommodation just admitted all hands to sit together, not counting the cook and the cook’s mate and four men who were always on watch. They sat down to a second sitting. The food was of good quality, plain, and simply cooked. Three meals a day were served: breakfast, lunch, and supper. The Boss presided, and under his cheery example the new hands soon learned to make light of the strange and rather uncomfortable conditions.
Every day for breakfast we had Quaker oats, with brown sugar or syrup (salt for the Scotsmen) and milk, followed by bacon, with eggs (as long as they lasted), afterwards sausage or some equivalent, bread or ship’s biscuit, marmalade, and tea or coffee.
For lunch we usually had a hot soup, followed by cold meat, corned beef, tongue or tinned fish, and bread or biscuit, cheese, jam and tea.
Supper consisted of a hot meat dish, with vegetables, followed by some sort of pudding, bread or biscuit, and tea.
The galley was small, and contained a diminutive range and a number of shelves fitted with battens to prevent things flying off with the roll of the ship. The oven accommodation was small, and admitted of the cooking of one thing only at a time. Here Green reigned over his pots and pans, which, owing to the motion of the ship, proved more often than not to be elusive and refractory.
At meal-times the dishes were passed through a large window port into the messroom by the cook’s mate, and received by the “Peggy” for the day, who served the food and waited at table. Duty as “Peggy” was performed by each man in turn (with the exception of the watch-keeping officers), who also washed the dishes, cleaned the tables, and generally tidied up after each meal. Sir Ernest Shackleton had made it plain to all hands that no work was to be considered too humble for any member of the expedition.
Table-cloths were never used, but the tables were well scrubbed daily, so that they soon took on a fine whiteness. Fiddles were a permanent fitting except when we were in port, for the _Quest_ never permitted us to do without them at sea, whilst in the worst weather even they proved useless to prevent table crockery from being thrown about.
In addition to Query there were on the ship two other pets in the form of small black kittens, one presented to us as a mascot by the _Daily Mail_, the other, I believe, the gift of a girl to one of the crew. They suffered a little at first from sea-sickness, but soon developed the most voracious appetites, and showed the greatest persistence in coming about the table for food. They clambered up one’s legs with long sharp claws, “miaowed,” and at every opportunity put their noses into jugs and plates. No amount of rebuffs had any effect upon them, and they had a curious preference for food on the table to that which was placed for them in their own dishes. Two more importunate kittens I have never seen. It is to be feared that one or two of the party slyly encouraged them, for we could never cure them of their bad habits.
The companion steps leading from the scuttle to the messroom were very steep, and at this time Query had not learned the art of going up and down, though he acquired it later. It used to be a common sight to see his handsome head framed in the opening of the window port through which Green passed the food, gazing wistfully at the dainty morsels which were being transferred to other mouths.
These first days with the Boss were very cheery ones, and I like to look back on them. There was little refinement on the ship and more than ordinary discomfort, yet each meal-time was a happy gathering of cheery souls, and conversation crackled with jokes, in the perpetration of which Hussey was by no means the least guilty. The strain of preparation had been a heavy one, and Sir Ernest seemed to be enjoying the quiet, the freedom and the mental peace of our small self-contained little world. I think he liked to find himself surrounded by his own men, and he was always at his best when he had a definite objective to go for.
There is something about life at sea, and the companionship of men who have lived untrammelled lives free from the restraints of convention, that I find hard to describe. I think it must be that it is more primitive. Certainly, one drops into it with a contentment that contrasts strongly with the feeling of effort with which one braces oneself to meet the more conventional circumstances of the return to civilized life. It is, I suppose, a matter of heredity and transmitted instinct which makes falling back to the primitive more easy than progress, meaning by “progress” the advance of artificiality and the tremendous speeding up of modern existence. Some such instinct must be present, for what else is there to tempt one from a cosy fireside and the morning paper?
We kept three watches, the watch-keeping officers being Worsley, Jeffrey and myself. The Boss kept no particular watch, but was always at hand to give instructions and take charge on special occasions. In my watch were McIlroy, Macklin and Hussey; in Worsley’s, Wilkins, Douglas and Watts; in Jeffrey’s, Carr, Eriksen and Bee Mason. Dell and McLeod acted as stokers. The two Scouts were at first employed in a generally useful capacity, helping the cook and lending a hand wherever required. In addition to his deck duties, each man had his own particular job to attend to. Before we had been out many days it became clear to all that in this trip we were to have no picnic, and that in life on the _Quest_ we would have to adapt ourselves to all sorts of discomforts and inconveniences. However, we were committed to our enterprise, our work lay before us, and we settled down cheerfully to make the best of things.
[Illustration: THE _QUEST_ IN THE NORTH-EAST TRADES
_By courtesy of Mr. John Lister_]
[Illustration: THE TOW NET IN USE
_Photo: Dr. Macklin_]
A few extracts from the official diary will give an indication of conditions about this time.
_Tuesday, September 27th._
The wind came round to S.E. and freshened up during the day. The _Quest_ is behaving badly in the short head seas. We have had to take in sail and are proceeding under steam, making poor progress. Bee Mason and Mooney are rather off colour.
The wind has increased, with heavier seas. During the day the engines were stopped for adjustment. Kerr says the crank shaft is out of alignment, and expects further trouble. This happening so early in the voyage does not promise well for the trip, for, as the Boss says, we are already late and cannot afford much time in port.
A moderate gale blowing from the S.W. We made no headway into it, and the Boss decided to heave to with the engines at slow speed. This has given us an idea of the _Quest’s_ behaviour in bad weather. The Boss is pleased with her sea-going qualities, for in spite of fairly heavy seas she has remained dry, taking aboard very little water. She has a lively and very unpleasant motion, which has induced qualms of sea-sickness in many of the “land lubbers.” Bee Mason and young Mooney are _hors de combat_. They are both plucky. The Scout makes no complaint, but it is obvious that life to him just now is a terrible misery. He has tried hard to carry on his work. We wish we could do something for him, but there is little comfort on the ship.
Head winds have continued to blow, against which we have made little headway. The engines have developed a nasty knock which is appreciable to all on the ship. Kerr insists that an overhaul is necessary, and Sir Ernest has decided to make for Lisbon. We accordingly headed up for “The Burlings,” and picked up the light about 6 P.M.
On October 3rd Kerr had to reduce the pressure of steam in the cylinders, as we were now proceeding slowly along the coast of Portugal in the direction of Cape Roca. The coast-line is very picturesque, dotted all along with old castles and pretty little windmills. We plugged slowly on, passed by many steamers which signalled us “A pleasant voyage,” to which we were kept busy answering “Thank you.” One of the beautiful modern P. & O. liners, coming rapidly up from behind, altered course to pass close to us, and we could not help envying her speed and comfort as, making nothing of the short steep seas in which we were rolling and pitching in the liveliest manner, she rapidly drew out of sight ahead.
Just before nightfall we reached Cascaes, at the mouth of the Tagus, where the pilot came aboard, but decided not to proceed till daybreak. We lay at anchor for some hours, and I rarely remember a more uncomfortable period than we spent here, jerking at the cable with a short steep roll that made one positively giddy. It was more than the Portuguese pilot could stand, for he moved us farther up the river into shelter, enabling us to get the first comfortable sleep since leaving the Scilly Islands.
We were taken by tug up the fast-running Tagus to Lisbon in the early morning, and later the _Quest_ went into dock.
The work was entrusted to Messrs. Rawes & Co., and put in hand without delay. The source of all the trouble in the engine-room proved to be the crank shaft, which was out of alignment, and thus caused the bearings to run hot. The high-pressure connecting rod was found to be badly bent. The rigging also was altered and reset up.
We did not get away from Lisbon until Tuesday, October 11th.
Those whose work did not confine them to the ship made the most of their time ashore, the first move being to a hotel for the luxury of a hot bath and a well-cooked dinner. We were warmly entertained by the British residents, who during the whole of our stay showed us the greatest kindness and hospitality. Mooney was carried off by the Boy Scouts of Lisbon, who showed him the sights of the place. Marr, although an enthusiastic supporter of the Boy Scout movement, did not care to spend his whole time as a “kilted spectacle for curious Latins,” and, doffing his uniform, accompanied the others in their movements. Amongst other things, we paid a visit _en masse_ to a bull-fight, which we found to be a much more humane undertaking than those carried out under the old Spanish system. The bull is not killed and, though goaded by the darts of the picadors to a fury, does not seem to be subjected to great ill-treatment. The horses, instead of being old screws meant to be gored, are beautiful animals, which the matadors take the greatest care to protect.
We had many visitors on board the ship, including the British and American Ministers, who were shown round by Sir Ernest. All, as in London, expressed their amazement at the size of the _Quest_, imagining her to be far too small for the undertaking.
We set out on October 11th for Madeira, having expended seven days of precious time.
On leaving the Tagus we again encountered strong head winds, which lasted four days, during which the _Quest’s_ movements were such as to upset the strongest stomachs. Bee Mason and Mooney were once more _hors de combat_, and few except the hardened seamen amongst us escaped feeling ill, though they managed to carry on their work.
I think there must be very few people in these days of luxurious floating palaces that ever really have to endure the agonies of sea-sickness. If they do feel ill they can retire to their bunks, where attentive stewards minister to their wants. Few, however, have been in such a condition that they dared not take to their bunks, but have spent days and nights on deck, sleepless, sodden and cold, in a vigil of misery unbroken save to turn to when “eight bells” announces the watch, and struggle through the work until the striking of the bells again announces relief, unable to taste or bear the thought of food, and with a stomach persistently and painfully rebellious in spite of an aching void. Such is the fate of those who go to sea in small vessels, without stewards and without comforts, and where there is work to be done. I have nothing but admiration for the way some of the sea-sick men were sticking to their jobs. Among them was Marr, the Boy Scout, who showed the greatest hardihood and pluck.
Winds continued to blow from ahead till, on October 15th, the weather changed and we had a beautiful clear day, with little wind or sea and bright sunshine. Mooney and Bee Mason continued to suffer from sea-sickness all the way, the latter becoming quite ill with a high temperature. As the conditions we had met were likely to prove mild as compared with those we would encounter in the stormy southern seas, Sir Ernest Shackleton decided to send both of them home from Madeira. Let it be said here that it is probable that, if they had had their own way, each of them would have elected to continue with us, and this decision to send them back carries with it absolutely no stigma, for they showed extraordinary pluck and bore their trials uncomplainingly. To Mooney especially, a young boy gently nurtured, who had never before left his Orkney home, this portion of the trip must have meant untold misery. We greatly regretted losing both these companions.
[Illustration: A PORPOISE WHICH WAS HARPOONED FROM THE BOWSPRIT
[Illustration: THE BOSS GIVES QUERY A BATH
On leaving Lisbon the Boss had put the other Scout, Marr, to work in the bunkers, where he went through a gruelling test. He came out of the trial very well, showing an amount of hardihood and endurance that was remarkable. He suffered from sea-sickness, but never failed to carry out his allotted task, and thoroughly earned his right to continue as a permanent member of the expedition. I find in his diary the following entry:
I volunteered to go down the stokehold, and my first duty was that of trimming coal. It is a _delightful_ occupation. It consists of going down to the bunkers and shovelling coal to within easy reach of the firemen. The bunkers are pitch black, and the air—well, there is no air, but coal dust. This gets into one’s ears, eyes, nose, mouth and lungs; one breathes coal dust. After I had trimmed sufficient coal, I commenced stoking. I got on fairly well for a first attempt, but did not like the heat.
Another entry which this boy made during the bad weather shows what he must have gone through, though nothing which he said at the time would have led one to suspect it:
Indeed, I was feeling more dead than alive … what with the rolling of the ship and the unsteady nature of my limbs—I was sea-sick, and I was much afraid I should fall into the fire or down the bilges. When I came off (my watch) I immediately made for my bunk, where I remained, without partaking of my breakfast or dinner, until 12.0 noon, when I got up again for my next watch….
Before leaving England the Boss had ordered a brass plate to be made, on which was inscribed two verses of Kipling’s immortal “If?” and had it placed in front of the bridge. Hussey, after a heavy day’s coaling in bad weather, was inspired to a version specially applicable to the _Quest_, which reads as follows:
If you can stand the _Quest_ and all her antics, If you can go without a drink for weeks, If you can smile a smile and say, “How topping!” When someone splashes paint across your “breeks”;
If you can work like Wild and then, like “Wuzzles,” Spend a convivial night with some “old bean,” And then come down and meet the Boss at breakfast And never breathe a word of where you’ve been;
If you can keep your feet when all about you Are turning somersaults upon the deck, And then go up aloft when no one told you, And not fall down and break your blooming neck;
If you can fill the port and starboard bunkers With fourteen tons of coal and call it fun, Yours is the ship and everything that’s on it, Coz you’re a marvel, not a man, old son….
We arrived at Madeira on the 16th. Kerr had again a number of adjustments to make in the engine-room, and, with Smith, toiled hard all the time we were in harbour.
Madeira has been a favourite stopping place for all expeditions to the Antarctic. Here on October 4th, 1822, Weddell was received and assisted by Mr. John Blandy, whose firm has rendered help to many subsequent expeditions. On this occasion we were welcomed by the present Mr. and Mrs. Blandy and visited their beautiful estate on the hill.
We left after a two days’ stay. “The General” was due to return from here, but he had made himself so universally popular that Sir Ernest persuaded him to go on as far as the Cape Verde Islands. Neither our discomforts nor the vagaries of the _Quest_ had upset him in the slightest, and he had proved himself a useful member of the crew, taking a trick at the wheel and carrying on the work on deck generally. We now entered fine weather, and, running comfortably before the north-easterly trade winds, reached St. Vincent on October 28th. The engines had continued to give trouble, and Kerr reported that extensive repairs and readjustments would be necessary before continuing farther. They were carried out quickly and effectively by Messrs. Wilson, Sons & Co., who acted as our agents, and most generously supplied us on leaving with one hundred tons of coal free of all charge.
We said good-bye to “General” Lysaght, whom we saw depart with genuine regret. We had a farewell dinner, at which was produced all the best the _Quest_ could offer, and when the Boss proposed “The General!” we drank his health and wished him luck. Although he was returning to home and comforts, he would, I believe, had it been possible, have accompanied us farther on our way. At the conclusion he was presented with an illuminated card, the combined work of all the artists aboard, but chiefly, I think, of Wilkins, which bore the following poem composed by the Boss:
TO GERALD LYSAGHT, A.B.
After these happy days, spent in the oceanways, Homeward you turn! Ere our last rope slipped the quay and we made for the open sea You became one of us. You have seen the force of the gale fierce as a thresher’s flail Beat the sea white; You have watched our reeling spars sweep past the steady stars In the storm-wracked night. You saw great liners turn; high bows that seemed to churn The swell we wallowed in; They veered from their ordered ways, from the need of their time kept days, To speed us on. Did envy possess your soul; that they were sure of their goal Never a damn cared you, For you are one with the sea—in its joy and misery You follow its lure. In the peace of Chapel Cleeve, surely you must believe, Though far off from us, That wherever the _Quest_ may go; what winds blow high or low— Zephyrs or icy gale: Safe in our hearts you stand; one with our little band. A seaman, Gerald, are you! —E. H. S.
On the 28th we set out, making course for St. Paul’s Rocks. We enjoyed excellent weather, with smooth seas on which the sun sparkled in a myriad of variegated points. We felt the heat considerably, which is natural, considering the confined space and general lack of artificial means of keeping cool, such as effective fans, refrigerators and iced water. Most of us slept on deck, under the stars which twinkled above us, large and luminous, in the tropic nights.
The Boss took Marr out of the stokehold about this time and placed him to assist Green as cook’s mate, a not very romantic job, but one which he carried out with his usual thoroughness. He had by now thoroughly found his feet, and took a deep interest in the sea life of the tropics: flying fish fleeing in shoals before the graceful bonito, which, leaping in the air to descend with scarcely a splash, followed in relentless pursuit; dolphins, albacore and the sinister fins of occasional sharks.
On November 4th a large school of porpoises came about the ship and played around our bows. Eriksen seized the opportunity to harpoon one of them, which we hauled aboard. Wilkins found in its stomach a number of cuttle-fish beaks. The meat we sent to the larder. The porpoise is not a fish, but a mammal, warm blooded and air breathing. It provides an excellent red meat, against which British sailors have for many years felt a strong prejudice, but which is eaten with relish by Scandinavians. We found it a pleasant change from tinned food.
One day we encountered a magnificent five-masted barque becalmed in the doldrums, all sail set and flapping gently with the slight roll. She was flying the French ensign, and on closer approach proved to be the _La France_, of Rouen. She presented such a beautiful sight, with her tall masts and lofty spars reflected in the smooth sea, that we altered course to pass close to her and enable Wilkins to get some photographs. Sir Ernest spoke to her captain, who replied in excellent English, asking where we had left the trade winds, voicing what is the uppermost thought in the mind of every master of a sailing ship, the probability and direction of winds, on which depends their motive power.
We were amused to notice that though the Boss sent his voice unaided across the water with the greatest ease, the Frenchman required a megaphone to make audible his replies.
These beautiful vessels are fast being driven off the ocean in the competition with modern steamships, yet it is with a feeling of genuine regret that one sees them go, for with them departs much of the romance of the sea. The apprentice of to-day takes his training in steamers, and the modern seaman is beginning to regard sail as a “relic of barbarism.” In the days when I first went to sea one might count masts and yards by the hundred in harbours such as Falmouth or Queenstown, but now they are to be found only in ones and twos. They were fine ships, the old clipper ships, and bred a fine type of seaman, yet “the old order changeth,” and in spite of an attempt to bring them into general use again, it is to be feared that they will gradually die out altogether.
Early on the morning of November 8th we sighted St. Paul’s Rocks, standing solitary and alone in the midst of a wide tropic sea. They were the first objective, and Sir Ernest arranged for a party to land there. We lay to under their lee and dropped a boat. Immediately a countless shoal of sharks came about us, their fins showing above water in dozens on every side. A considerable swell was running, making the approach difficult, but we effected a landing in a little horseshoe-shaped basin lying in the midst of the rocks. Wilkins, assisted by Marr, took ashore camera and cinematograph apparatus, and was able to get some excellent photos of birds.
Douglas, assisted by Dell, carried out an accurate survey and made a geological examination of the rocks. Hussey and Carr carried out meteorological work, taking advantage of a fixed base to send up a number of balloons for measuring the upper air currents. I had charge of the boat, with Macklin, Jeffrey and Eriksen as crew.
We noticed that the cove in which we had made the landing was simply alive with marine life of every kind, and so returned to the ship for fishing tackle. For bait we used crabs, which swarm in large numbers all over the rocks. There were two sorts, a large red variety and a smaller one dark green in colour. They were evil-looking things, and seemed always to be watching us intently, moving stealthily sideways, now in this direction, now in that. At the least sign of approach they darted with amazing rapidity into crevices in the rocks. Occasionally we saw them gather their legs under them and give the most extraordinary leaps of from two to three feet. Their jaws worked continually and water sizzled and bubbled at their mouths. Some of them had found flying fish which had flown ashore or been brought by the birds. It was a horrible sight—they tore the flesh into fragments with their powerful claws and crammed it into their mouths. The ownership was often disputed, the bigger crab always winning. Occasionally a small crab, hoping for some of the crumbs which might fall from the rich man’s table, would creep cautiously up behind. The bigger crab, however, permitted no depredations, but, waiting till the smaller one reached within a certain limit, would kick out suddenly with an unoccupied leg, causing the smaller one to hop hastily out of reach.
We spiked what we required with a boat-hook, and they made excellent bait, for it was necessary only to lower the hook to get an immediate bite. The landing of the catch, however, proved not so easy. The little cove swarmed with sharks, which were attracted by the boat, and came about us in scores. Looking down through the clear water, we could see fish in plenty flitting hither and thither with leisurely whisks of their tails, obviously quite at ease and not at all perturbed by the proximity of the marauders. The moment, however, we hooked one and started to pull it up, the sharks turned like a streak and went for it with such voracity that we had the greatest difficulty in getting it to the surface. What was worse, they frequently bit through the lines and took the hook also. Finally, we were compelled to reinforce the lines with wire. On one occasion I succeeded in getting a fish clear of the water, and, thinking that for once I had eluded the sharks, was in the act of swinging it aboard when there was a flash of something white, an ugly snout broke water, and I was left gazing stupidly at half a head which still dangled from my line. The shark had got the rest. Indeed, it was not safe to put a hand over the gunwale, for immediately a head rose towards it.
We had with us in the boat a harpoon and trident, and getting tired of losing our fish, waged war upon the sharks. We harpooned several, which we killed and threw back to their brethren, who voraciously set upon them and tore them to bits. While they were thus distracted we secured a number of fish. There is something sinister and evil-looking about sharks. Some of them grow to large size, attaining a length of thirteen or fourteen feet; there are records of larger ones than that, the largest I know of being twenty-five feet, but this is exceptional. Their mouths, which are composed of a curved slit, are situated on the under surface of the head some distance from the snout. Their teeth, which are sharp and set backwards, are not true teeth, but modified scales. The eyes are small and poorly developed, but they have a phenomenal sense of smell which attracts them from long distances to potential sources of food. Macklin and Hussey dissected the brain of one of them, which showed that the olfactory bulbs—the portion devoted to the sense of smell—is larger than all the rest of the brain.
These rapacious beasts are the most dreaded and most generally hated of all animals in the seas, and have accounted for many sailors who have fallen overboard. They are very suspicious of bait on a line, but have often been caught and hauled on board. It was at one time the custom on sailing ships to perpetrate in revenge all sorts of mutilating atrocities upon them, such as gouging out the eyes and filling the sockets with gunpowder, removing the heart and entrails, afterwards throwing the animal back into the sea to be torn to pieces by others of the species.
In addition to the sharks, we caught with the trident a number of large, round, black-coloured fish of a kind commonly regarded as poisonous. Their flesh looked so firm and white and excellent that we decided to try them. When cooked, they proved to be of good flavour, and no one suffered from the experiment of eating them.
We caught a number of smaller “black fish,” but I took them for specimens only, for I have seen them in other waters and know them as garbage eaters of the worst kind, though it is possible that those we caught here, living far from the filth and sewage of towns, might prove edible enough. The kind, however, of which we obtained the greatest number were yellow and blue.
Merely to sit in the boat and gaze down through these pellucid waters was a pleasure, for the bottom showed clearly, covered with countless seaweeds, whilst over it passed fish of all sizes and of the brightest and most varied colourings in endless panorama.
We enjoyed the day immensely, providing as it did a pleasant change from the routine of ship’s life.
The recall flag was hoisted by the Boss at 4 P.M., when we gathered up our lines and took off the shore parties.
Before finally leaving the rocks we encircled them slowly to enable Worsley to get a series of soundings. There is very little shoaling in the approach to these rocks, which rise sheer and straight from the sea bottom. The soundings of the depth of water round about them, which were verified and amplified by those taken by Worsley on this occasion, show that the “hundred fathom line” is nowhere distant more than four cables from the rocks, and in places is within nine hundred feet.
As we set off on our course we were surrounded by a number of bonito, which followed us in graceful leaps and dives. They can be caught sometimes from the jib-boom by dangling a strong line, baited with a piece of white rag, in the foam of the bow wave. When pulled out of the water they are difficult to hold on account of a strong vibration which is set up by rapid movement of the tail. It is customary to have a sack handy into which the fish is dropped, when it can be safely passed on board.
For a while after leaving St. Vincent the engines had run smoothly, but now they started to give more trouble, requiring the most careful nursing by Kerr and his staff. The rigging also was not proving satisfactory, and the scarfed topmast yielded in a most alarming manner to the strain of the gaff. Sir Ernest Shackleton began to worry tremendously about her condition, and confided to me that he had trusted too much to others in the preparation of the engine-room. The work had been placed in the hands of a consulting engineer in whom he had reason to feel that he could place the most implicit trust.
Sir Ernest decided, however, before continuing the southern part of the expedition, to put into harbour at Rio de Janeiro and make a complete overhaul of every part of the ship under his own direct supervision, though he was possessed of no special engineering knowledge. We had intended calling first at South Trinidad Island, but, conditions becoming worse, we made direct for Rio.
Before entering harbour we repainted the ship, changing the white deck-house and superstructure and the yellow funnel to a uniform naval grey. This was done at the suggestion of Jeffrey, who also entered energetically into the carrying of it out, and there is no doubt that the grey was a much more serviceable colour. The ports, skirtings and boats were painted black, which relieved the monotony of the grey and gave the whole a pleasing effect.
On the night of November 21st we sighted the lights of Rio de Janeiro stretching in a row along the sea shore. It was a lovely still night, and the Boss was in good spirits. We gathered outside the surgeon’s cabin whilst Hussey strummed tunes on his banjo. The Boss loved these little musical gatherings, and though he himself was unable to produce a tune of any sort, he liked listening to music.
The next day dawned with a wonderful sunrise which lit up the mountains round the harbour, tinting them with crimson, rose and pink. A slight mist on the surface of the water was turned into a wonderful red haze, through which appeared the masts and spars of sailing ships at anchor. The harbour is magnificent, dividing with Sydney the claim to be the finest in the world.
We steamed slowly in, past the Sugar Loaf Mountain which guards the entrance to the harbour, and came to anchor opposite the town.
RIO TO SOUTH GEORGIA
Sir Ernest Shackleton lost no time in going ashore to make arrangements for the necessary work, and set it going with the least possible delay. Messrs. Wilson, Sons & Co. were appointed agents, and their engineer, Mr. Howard, came aboard the same day. In addition, a consulting engineer was employed to make a report on the condition of the engines. The crank-shaft was badly out of alignment, and from this had resulted all the other disabilities which had so continuously cropped up during the voyage. It was considered also that the heavy four-bladed propeller was too great a strain for the small engines, and that a lighter two-bladed propeller, giving of a greater number of revolutions, would prove more satisfactory. The scarfed topmast, which had been badly strained, required renewing, for which purpose it would be necessary to take out the foremast.
It was decided also, whilst this work was in process, to recaulk and tar the hull.
On the second day we moved across the harbour to Wilson’s Island, where the ship was emptied of all stores and equipment, which were placed for the time being in a large covered lighter. A large floating crane, of which we were allowed the use by courtesy of the Brazilian Government, was placed alongside, and the foremast taken out and placed in the sheds. This completed, the ship was placed on the slips and the work proceeded rapidly, the firm concentrating their resources to get us ready for sea in the shortest possible time. Mr. Howard worked unceasingly on our behalf, and we received at all times the greatest help from all responsible members of the firm.
Sir Ernest Shackleton decided during the early part of the voyage that the living accommodation, which had been adequate for his original scheme, was insufficient for a programme which entailed prolonged periods aboard ship, and planned an addition to the deck-house. The existing structure was carried forward to within a few feet of the foremast and the new portion made two feet broader on each side. This meant enclosing the main hatch, but the difficulty was overcome by building another hatch in the roof of the deck-house and cutting the coamings of the original hatch flush with the deck. Although an uncomfortable arrangement in many ways, it had the advantage that Macklin could open it up at any time he wished to go below independent of weather conditions, for under the old arrangement the getting up of stores was limited to fine weather, there being no other access to the hold than through the hatch, rendering the work in other conditions very dangerous.
Whilst this work was in progress it was impossible to live aboard, and a number of the British residents offered to billet the different members of the expedition in their houses. To Mr. and Mrs. Causer, Mr. and Mrs. Lloyd, the Secretary of the British Club, and the members of the Leopoldina Chacara I must take this opportunity of offering my most sincere thanks for their kindness and hospitality. Thanks are due, not only to these “godparents” (as we called them), but to others too numerous to mention, from the British Minister downwards, from all of whom we received the greatest hospitality and who took a keen interest in our project.
In spite of all the energy employed in getting the _Quest_ ready for sea, it became apparent that it would take fully four weeks to complete the work. The delays caused through repairs since leaving England had now amounted to six weeks. It would be quite impossible to carry out the programme and reach Cape Town in time to enter the ice this season. It was this factor which caused Sir Ernest to decide to abandon, or postpone, the first part of the programme and make direct for South Georgia. Unfortunately, much of our scientific apparatus, stores and nearly all the special winter equipment, clothing, sledges, etc., had been sent to Cape Town, which was to have been our base of operations. Sir Ernest decided, however, that much of the foodstuff necessary to make up the deficiencies could be obtained locally, and hoped to get sledges, dogs and winter clothing at South Georgia. The German _Deutschland_ expedition, under Filchner, had been abandoned there, and when we visited the island in 1914 we found that the whole of the equipment had been carefully stored and was in excellent condition. Sir Ernest hoped that much of this would still be available. Previous to this, in the belief that we should still be carrying on the full programme, the aeroplane had been sent on to the Cape by mail steamer, and we should therefore be compelled to do without it at the time when it would be of the greatest value. At the end of the month most of the essential work had been completed, but there was still much that required doing. Mr. Howard was anxious that we should delay another week to enable him to put in the necessary finishing touches, but already we were late, and the Boss decided that further delay was impossible.
The new addition to the deck-house, intended as a forward messroom, was a mere unfinished shell. Four bunks were hastily and roughly knocked up, and we left with no other furniture than a plain deal table, which was built round a central stanchion, and two benches. I may say here of the work put in for us at Rio by Messrs. Wilson & Sons that it was all good and reliable, and withstood all the usage to which it was subjected, and Kerr never again had any trouble with the engines beyond minor adjustments. Mr. Howard had done all that was possible short of building new engines, which he maintained was what we required, making no secret of his opinion that the present ones were unsuitable for the work to be undertaken. There was nothing for it, however, but to go forward, and Sir Ernest, though fully alive to the _Quest’s_ disabilities, determined to do the best possible under the circumstances. He had that peculiar nature which shows at its best under difficulties. He was the most undefeated and unconquerable man I have ever known. His whole life had been spent in forcing his way against what to most people must have seemed unsurmountable obstacles. Yet he had always triumphed, and I, who knew him, felt no doubt that he would carry this expedition through to a successful conclusion. Yet, if the reader will but cast his mind over the part of this book which he has read and think of how, since the inception of the expedition, one difficulty after another had risen to baulk the enterprise, and how on board the ship one thing after another had gone wrong and required repair, he will agree that the Boss might well have thrown in his hand and retired from the unequal struggle. But nothing could have been more foreign to his mind—each obstacle but strengthened his resolve to carry on, and we who served with him never for one moment felt distrust or doubt that under his leadership all would go well.
Whilst at Rio a change was made in the personnel. Eriksen returned home, and three new men were taken on: Young and Argles as stokers, and Naisbitt as cook’s mate.
We left Wilson’s wharf on December 17th, and lay at anchor for the night in a small bay on the Nictheroy side, close to the entrance to the harbour. In the morning we made a final complete stowage, lashing securely all the loose articles on deck and getting the ship trimmed ready for sea. Whilst we were engaged in this an urgent message was sent by motor boat for Dr. Macklin to go to Sir Ernest, who had slept ashore as the guest of the Leopoldina Chacara, and who had been taken suddenly ill. Macklin went off at once, but on arrival found him fully recovered, saying that he had merely felt a slight faintness and had really sent for him to know whether the stores were complete. That this attack had a greater significance than was appreciated at the time later events showed.
We set off on December 18th. Sir Ernest, who had naturally worried a good deal over the continual troubles which cropped up, became once more his old cheery self, looking forward to a respite from further alarms regarding the welfare of the ship.
[Illustration: LANDING THE SHORE PARTY AT ST. PAUL’S ROCKS
[Illustration: THE WHITE-CAPPED NODDY (_ANOUS STOLIDUS_) ON ST. PAUL’S ROCKS
[Illustration: THE BOOBY (_SULA LEUCOGASTRA_)
On the day of sailing Jeffrey suffered an injury to his leg which Macklin pronounced serious, and ordered three weeks’ complete rest in bed, to which Jeffrey, being an active man, none too willingly assented. As a matter of fact, as a result of this injury he was incapacitated for nearly six weeks. Sir Ernest kept his watch.
The first few days at sea were fine and pleasantly cool. The old system of watches was altered, the men taking their turns at the wheel in rotation, following alphabetical order. For the day’s work they were called at 7.0 A.M. and knocked off at 5.0 P.M. The messes were divided. Sir Ernest, myself, Hussey, McIlroy, Worsley, Macklin, Kerr, Jeffrey, Carr and Douglas messed in the new wardroom forward, and Smith took charge of the after messroom, with Dell, McLeod, Marr, Young, Argles and Watts. Green and Naisbitt messed in the galley.
Three of the bunks in the forward messroom were occupied by McIlroy, Kerr and Carr, the fourth being used as a locker for their personal gear.
Although we had increased the accommodation, it was still far from being commodious, and the bare, unfinished condition of the new quarters offered little comfort. “Roddy” Carr was appointed to make some cupboards and shelves, and his work, though a bit rough and ready, answered its purpose well, which was the main thing. Hussey congratulated him on his new appointment as joiner, calling him thereafter “Roddy Carr-penter,” which I can assure my readers is the least of the atrocious puns which we endured from him. Always a cheery soul, his very presence was worth much to us on the trip, for it is the small jest which goes farthest and still sparkles when the more subtle wit has fallen flat.
On December 22nd we saw our first albatross, a fine “Wanderer” which attached itself to the ship and followed us on our way South. We saw also a “Portuguese man-o’-war.” The two form a combination rarely seen in the same latitude (30° 47´ S.).
The albatross has a wonderful flight, and our flying experts, Carr and Wilkins, watched the bird as it soared and dipped and “banked” and “stalled” and performed numerous evolutions, for each of which they had a technical or a slang expression.
I had the 4.0-8.0 A.M. watch on December 24th, during which the wind blew up wet and misty and came ahead. The Boss gave instructions to call the hands to take in sail. Whilst the square-sail was being taken in a corner carrying a heavy block and shackle was whipped across the deck, catching Carr a violent blow in the face. He was badly stunned, but picked himself up, with hand to face, blood flowing freely from between his fingers. When examined, it was found that his nose was broken. After some trouble the surgeons replaced the bones in position, but Carr, standing in front of a looking-glass, attempted to improve the work, with the result that the operation had to be carried out a second time, with pertinent remarks from Hussey as to the effects upon his personal appearance if further interfered with.
Later in the day the mist cleared and the sun came out. In the evening we were able to set sail again.
[Illustration: COMMANDER WORSLEY SUPERINTENDING WORK IN THE RIGGING AT RIO DE JANEIRO
_Photo: Dr. Macklin_]
[Illustration: THE _QUEST_ IN GRITVIKEN HARBOUR. MORANEN FIORD AND THE ALLARDYCE RANGE BEHIND
This being Christmas Eve, we sat after supper and talked of the various Christmases we had spent. Each man pictured the Christmas he would like to spend to-morrow if he got the chance. It is funny how we cling, in spite of long years of disillusionment, to the mind-pictures of our childhood, and conjure up visions of a snow-covered countryside, with robins, holly trees, waits, and all the things that go into the Christmas card. We forget the warm, wet, miserable Christmas days; and perhaps it is just as well.
Our position, situated as we were in the midst of a waste of stormy waters, was not an ideal one, but we looked forward to celebrating Christmas in a cheery way. Mr. and Mrs. Rowett had sent us as a parting gift a big box of Christmas fare, which included such delicacies as turkeys, hams, plum puddings, and muscatels and raisins. The evening was fine, and in spite of sundry croakings from Hussey, our weather prophet, we anticipated a cheery Christmas dinner.
During the night it became apparent that a gale was brewing, and Hussey’s prediction seemed to be only too correct, for by Christmas morning the _Quest_ was heaving and pitching and behaving in such a lively manner that we saw that any attempt at festivity on this day would be futile. At breakfast-time it was almost impossible to keep anything on the table; cups, plates and crockery generally were thrown about, and the fiddles proved useless to keep them in position. We therefore put away Mrs. Rowett’s delicacies for a more favourable occasion. Green had a hard and trying time in his galley. The Boss told him not to bother about serving a decent lunch, but to serve out each man with a good thick bully-beef sandwich. This we ate in the shelter of the alleyways, well braced against the roll of the ship. It was a pleasant surprise when Green was able to produce some hot cocoa, which from its taste I suspected to have been made from engine-room water. It was, however, hot and wet and comforting to our chilled bodies.
For our Christmas dinner we had a thick stew, which was not bad. Two bottles also materialized, one of rum and one of whisky. Each man was allowed a tot of whichever he preferred. Rum, being the stronger, was generally selected. The Boss gave us the toast of “Our good friends, John and Ellie Rowett,” which we drank enthusiastically. Afterwards the Boss asked each man where he had spent the last Christmas, and it was interesting to find how much scattered over the globe we had been. The Boss was in London, McIlroy and myself were in Central Africa, Worsley in Iceland, Macklin in Singapore, Jeffrey in New York, Kerr in Hamburg, Carr in Lithuania, McLeod in Mauritius, Naisbitt in Rio, and Young in Cape Town. Green was wandering somewhere round the East as steward of a tramp steamer, and of all of us only the Boss, Hussey and Marr, the Boy Scout, seemed to have spent theirs at home.
During the day we were visited by numbers of sea birds which seemed to be in no way perturbed by the high winds: albatross, whale birds, Mother Carey’s chickens, Cape pigeons and a Cape hen. It was cheering to see them again, these old friends of ours, and to watch their flight as they sailed cleverly from the shelter of one wave to another, rarely meeting the full force of the gale.
On the 26th the weather had abated somewhat, though a strong wind continued to blow from the west. The temperature dropped to 60° F., making the air quite chilly, and we were glad to don heavier clothing.
Kerr came to me with a report that the forward water tank was empty. He had sounded several times, and had gone below to tap the sides, the tank yielding a hollow note, so that there was no doubt about it. The small after tank, which had been freely used since leaving Rio de Janeiro, was also nearly empty, so that there was very little fresh water left on the ship. It was necessary to report this to Sir Ernest, though I did not like doing so, for I knew that the former troubles had caused him much worry, and he was now in hopes that he had heard the last of them. Though he took the news, which was serious enough, in all calmness, I could see that it caused him some uneasiness. We had to economize rigidly in the use of what water was left, using it for cooking and drinking purposes only, and making the best use we could of sea water for washing and cleaning. There was a small exhaust tank in the engine-room, which collected the steam after it had passed through the cylinders. The amount of water from this source was small, and tasted somewhat oily, but it helped to eke out the supply. Kerr removed the tank lid and made a search from inside for the site of the leak, which proved fortunately to be not in the walls of the tank itself but at the junction with the feed pipe.
During the night of the 27th-28th the wind again freshened. I had the middle watch. By 2.0 A.M. a furious gale was blowing from the W.N.W. Rapidly rising seas came along in quick succession with big curling tops, and breaking with a roar ran along our rails with a venomous hiss. The wind was on our starboard quarter, and under topsail and square-sail we made good speed before it. The ship’s log registered nine knots. With each drive forward of the big seas the ship overran her engines, ultimately compelling us to shut off steam. We were making such good headway that I was loath to heave-to, and we continued to rush along in a smother of foam and spray, veering and twisting to such an extent that the man at the wheel had all his work cut out to maintain a course and prevent her from broaching-to. I was afraid that some of the gear might carry away, and strained continuously into the darkness ahead. There was, however, something about the leap and swing of the ship as she tore along that caused our spirits to rise and created a tremendous feeling of uplift.
I was relieved at 4.0 A.M. by Worsley, who carried on for another two hours. At 6.0 A.M. the seas had risen to such an extent that Sir Ernest decided to heave-to, and all hands were called to take in sail. Putting the ship straight before the wind we let go the square-sail with a run, all hands rushing forward to gather up the canvas and stow it securely. Dell, jumping to assist another man, got his foot caught in a coil of rope, which, running out at high speed, threw him violently off his feet, causing an injury from which he took months to recover. We let go the topsail sheets and started to clew up, the wind causing the sail to flap with loud reports and bending the yard like a bow. Worsley and Macklin clambered aloft to take it in and pass the gaskets which secure it to the yard.
The gale increased in violence. I was agreeably surprised with the _Quest’s_ behaviour, for she lay-to much more comfortably than I had expected, and took comparatively little water over her sides. There was enough, however, to make things uncomfortable, for it filled the waist of the ship, flooded the cabins, and sweeping along the alleyways entered the galley and extinguished the fires. Green stuck valiantly to his post and managed at each meal-time to serve us out some good solid sandwiches and, what was of especial value under the circumstances, a good hot drink, which sent a warm glow through our arteries and put new life into us. We considerably reduced the amount of water coming on board by placing a series of oil bags over the bow, which subdued the seas in a manner scarcely credible except to those who watched its effect upon them, as with breaking tops they rushed angrily upon us, suddenly to lose all their sting and slip harmless under our keel. With regard to the use of oil bags, if they are to be used at all, it is necessary to let the oil run freely, though not necessarily wastefully. Small driblets are valueless and not worth the trouble of putting over the side.
The next day there was still a strong sea running, but it was merely the aftermath of the gale, which lost its sting about midnight. In the morning the sun came out and brightened things up considerably. Later in the day we were able to set sail and proceed on our way. Our friendly sea-birds, which had disappeared during the worst of the storm, returned and followed in our wake.
We had not long been under way when Sir Ernest approached, saying quietly: “Wild, you came to me with bad news the other day; I have some news for you.”
“Good or bad?” I asked.
“Bad,” he replied; “worse than yours; bad enough perhaps to stop the expedition.”
He then told me that Kerr, who had been the harbinger of so much evil tidings, had again to report the discovery of a most serious condition. Whilst cleaning fires he had discovered a leak in the furnace from which the water bubbled out and ran in a thin stream down the sides. He was unable to state definitely the exact condition, which could not be examined until our arrival in South Georgia, as it required that the fires should be drawn to enable him to creep bodily into the furnace. He explained that it might be a small matter which could be repaired, or it might prove to be so serious that the boiler could not be used further. In spite of the quiet way in which Sir Ernest took this news, and the calm which he outwardly exhibited, I think it proved to be a pretty severe blow and the cause of a good deal of worry.
Indeed, all this recurrence of trouble from below decks, in departments which he personally had not been able to supervise, must have proved very trying. From the very first inception of the expedition he had had difficulties innumerable which might well have broken the spirit of a lesser man.
For the present Kerr was instructed to keep a watchful eye on the condition and, unless it appeared to be getting worse, to carry on under reduced pressure.
The wind again blew up to a moderate gale from the westward on December 30th, much less severe, however, than the last one, though with very violent squalls. We ran off before it, making good speed, and though the rising seas rushed down upon our stern as if to poop us, the _Quest_ rose to let them pass frothing and sizzling, but harmless, under our counter.
Towards evening, however, both wind and sea had increased, and Sir Ernest decided to take in sail and heave-to. Much water came on board and found its way into Sir Ernest’s cabin and my own, the doors of which opened on to the waist of the ship. The bunks were sodden, so much so that Sir Ernest left his and made up a bed on one of the benches in the wardroom, refusing to deprive any other man of his bunk. During the long spell of bad weather he had spent nearly the whole time on the bridge, and though I repeatedly suggested to him that he should lie down and rest, he would not do so. On this particular night he took Worsley’s watch as well as his own, so that Worsley’s rest might not be disturbed. He was always doing little things like this for other people.
About this time I began to feel a little bit uneasy, for it seemed to me that he was doing too much and subjecting himself to too great a strain.
Macklin’s diary shows that he had the wheel during the second dog-watch, and was relieved at 8.0 P.M. by Sir Ernest, who told him to lash the wheel and go to bed.
Macklin noticed, however, that the Boss was looking tired and ill, and urged him to call Worsley (whose real watch it was) and turn in himself. The Boss would not hear of it, saying:
“You boys are tired and need all the sleep you can get.”
The diary says:
He was looking so tired that I offered with some diffidence, for I am not a trained seaman, to stay on myself, saying that on the least sign of anything untoward happening I would blow a whistle. Somehow or other a long conversation ensued, in which he told me many things. He said:
“If this crack in the furnace proves serious I may have to abandon the expedition—my reputation will stand it—but I am not beaten; John Rowett understands me, and will trust me to make the best of things, even if I have to get a new ship.”
He reverted to his original northern scheme, saying:
“The _Quest_ would have been suitable for that; in the Davis Strait, even if we lost her, we should have had no difficulty in reaching land, where we could subsist on game and carry on without her.”
So ended the Old Year. New Year’s Day brought us a calm sea with long oily swell, and over all a drenching mist. Being a Sunday little work was done, and all hands were allowed a rest after the somewhat trying days we had just experienced.
With the new year Sir Ernest Shackleton again commenced to write in his journal, which I insert verbatim.
_January 1st, 1922._
Rest and calm after the storm. The year has begun kindly for us; it is curious how a certain date becomes a factor and a milestone in one’s life. Christmas Day in a raging gale seemed out of place. I dared not venture to hope that to-day would be as it was. Anxiety has been probing deeply into me, for until the very end of the year things have gone awry. Engines unreliable; furnace cracked; water short; heavy gales; all that physically can go wrong, but the spirit of all on board is sound and good.
There are two points in the adventures of a diver, One when a beggar he prepares to plunge, One when a prince he rises with his pearl.
_January 2nd, 1922._
Another wonderful day, fine, clear, a slight head wind, but cheerful for us after these last days of stress and strain. At 1 P.M. we passed our first berg. The old familiar sight aroused in me memories that the strenuous years had deadened. Blue caverns shone with sky-glow snatched from heaven itself, green spurs showed beneath the water.
And bergs mast high Came sailing by, As green as emerald.
Ah me! the years that have gone since in the pride of young manhood I first went forth to the fight. I grow old and tired, but must always lead on.
_January 3rd, 1922._
Another beautiful day; fortune seems to attend us this New Year, but so anxious have I been, when things are going well, I wonder what internal difficulty will be sprung upon me. All day long a light wind and clear sky was our happy portion. I find a difficulty in settling down to write—I am so much on the _qui vive_; I pray that the furnace will hold out.
Thankful that I can Be crossed and thwarted as a man.
_January 4th, 1922._
At last, after sixteen days of turmoil and anxiety, on a peaceful sunshiny day, we came to anchor in Gritviken. How familiar the coast seemed as we passed down: we saw with full interest the places we struggled over after the boat journey. Now we must speed all we can, but the prospect is not too bright, for labour is scarce. The old familiar smell of dead whale permeates everything. It is a strange and curious place.
Douglas and Wilkins are at different ends of the island. A wonderful evening.
In the darkening twilight I saw a lone star hover Gem-like above the bay.
These were the last words written by Sir Ernest Shackleton.
I continue my own narrative.
Early in the morning of Wednesday, January 4th, we sighted Wallis Island, and soon after the main island of South Georgia opened into view, with its snow-clad rocky slopes and big glaciers running to the sea. With fair wind and in smooth water we passed along the coast. Sir Ernest at sight of the island had completely thrown off his despondency, became once more his active self, and stood with Worsley and myself on the bridge, picking out through binoculars, with almost boyish excitement, the old familiar features, and recognizing places with such words as, “Look, there’s the glacier we descended!” or, “There, do you see, coming into view, the slope where we lit the Primus and cooked our meal?” He kept his spirits throughout the day, and it was with the greatest pleasure that I recognized once more the old buoyant, optimistic Boss.
The day cleared beautifully, and we entered Cumberland Bay in bright sunshine, with not a ripple on the surface of the water. How familiar it all seemed as we rounded the point and entered Gritviken Harbour, with the little station nestling at the foot of the three big peaks, the spars of the _Tijuca_, the small whalers along the pier; all exactly as we had left them seven years before. The Boss, looking across at the slopes above our “dog-lines,” remarked, “The Cross has gone from the hillside!”
The poles which had been set up by us to mark the north and south direction were still standing; we were informed that they were used regularly by the whalers in adjusting their compasses.
We passed the spit with the little Argentine meteorological station, behind which lay the house of the Government officials, and dropped anchor in the _Endurance’s_ old anchorage.
One familiar landmark was missing—the little hospital hut in which I had lived with McIlroy, Macklin, Hussey, Crean and Marston, the dog-drivers of the last expedition. We found later that it had been moved from its old site close to the “dog-lines” to a more central position amongst the huts of the station.
Mr. Jacobsen, the manager, an old friend of ours, came aboard, and shortly afterwards returned to the shore with Sir Ernest, who was full of vigour and energy.
I had the boat lowered and went ashore with McIlroy, Hussey, Carr, Macklin and some others to look about our old quarters.
The season was now midsummer, the snow had disappeared from the lower slopes, and with the bright sunshine and warmth the place had a very different aspect from what it had when we were here in 1914, much earlier in the season. In other respects there was little change, and we recognized amongst the workers at the station a number with whom we had been familiar; in particular, one of the flensers, a hard-bitten individual who was standing with spiked sea-boots on a huge whale carcass, assisting the stripping process by deft cuts here and there with his long-handled knife.
We visited our old hut in its new situation. It was now being used as a hospital again, and a young Danish doctor was in charge. We passed along to its old site beside the stream, which runs clear and icy cold straight from the snows. There was much less volume of water than when we were here before, but the little basin we had cut out as a bathing place was still there. Here, with the others, I used to take a morning dip. That was in the days of my hardihood. Macklin used to lie down in it, and stand in the snow to dry himself.
We went on to the “dog-lines,” passing _en route_ the little cemetery, which we glanced at casually enough. The stakes to which we had secured the tethering lines were still standing as we had left them, as were also the boards with which we had made a flooring for the tent. We climbed the hill to a lake, on the frozen surface of which we used to exercise the dogs—it was now a sheet of open water. We sat down on the banks, enjoying the lovely sunshine, and watched the countless skua gulls and terns which, attracted by the unwonted visitors, flew close down over our heads. The younger spirits, full of exuberance, and revelling in the change from the confinement of the ship, threw stones at them, and tempted Query, who had accompanied us, to retrieve pieces of wood from the lake.
On our way back we were accosted by an incongruous figure—a coal-black nigger, on whose head was perched a bowler hat many sizes too small. He addressed us with a marked American twang:
“Say, you boys from the _Quest_, you goin’ to the South Pole, ain’t you? Wal, guess I’m comin’ along with ya!”
[Illustration: THE WHALING STATION AT GRITVIKEN
[Illustration: SUNSET ON THE SLOPES OF SOUTH GEORGIA
We guessed he wasn’t, and passed on. We learned from Mr. Jacobsen that he was a stowaway from St. Vincent, who was a perfect nuisance to them, and who was being sent away at the earliest opportunity.
This being the first time we had been on an even keel since leaving Rio de Janeiro, we had dinner in comfort and spent a cheery evening, the Boss being full of jokes. At the finish he rose, saying, “To-morrow we’ll keep Christmas.” I went on deck with him, and we discussed a few details of work. He went to his cabin to turn in. I arranged for an “anchor watch” to be kept, and also turned in early for a good sound sleep.
DEATH OF SIR ERNEST SHACKLETON
On Thursday, January 5th, I was awakened about 3.0 A.M. to find both of the doctors in my cabin—Macklin was lighting my oil lamp. McIlroy said:
“We want you to wake up thoroughly, for we have some bad news to give you—the worst possible.”
I sat up, saying:
“Go on with it, let me have it straight out!”
He replied: “The Boss is dead!”
It was a staggering blow.
Roused thus in the middle of the night to receive this news, it was some minutes before I felt its full significance. I remember saying mechanically:
“The Boss dead! _Dead_, do you mean? He can’t be dead!”
[Illustration: THE RESTING PLACE OF A GREAT EXPLORER
[Illustration: THE PICTURESQUE SETTING OF PRINCE OLAF STATION
On asking for particulars, I learned from Macklin that he was taking the 2.0-4.0 A.M. anchor watch. He was patrolling the ship, when he was attracted by a whistle from the Boss’s cabin, and on going in, found him sitting up in his bunk. His own account, written almost immediately after, is as follows:
Was called at 2.0 A.M. for my watch. A cold night but clear and beautiful, with every star showing. I was slowly walking up and down the deck, when I heard a whistle from the Boss’s cabin. I went in, and he said: “Hullo, Mack, boy, is that you? I thought it was.” He continued: “I can’t sleep to-night, can you get me a sleeping draught?” He explained that he was suffering from severe facial neuralgia, and had taken fifteen grains of aspirin. “That stuff is no good; will you get me something which will act?”
I noticed that although it was a cold night he had only one blanket, and asked him if he had no others. He replied that they were in his bottom drawer and he could not be bothered getting them out. I started to do so, but he said, “Never mind to-night, I can stand the cold.” However, I went back to my cabin and got a heavy Jaeger blanket from my bunk, which I tucked round him. He was unusually quiet in the way he let me do things for him…. He talked of many things quite rationally, and finding him in such a complacent mood, I thought it a good opportunity to emphasize the necessity of his taking things very much more quietly than he had been doing…. “You are always wanting me to give up something. What do you want me to give up now?” This was the last thing he said.
He died quite suddenly.
I remained with him during the worst of the attack, but as soon as I could leave him I ran to McIlroy and, shaking him very roughly I am afraid, said: “Wake up, Mick, come at once to the Boss. He is dying!” On my way back I woke Hussey, and told him to get me certain medicines. It must have been rather a shocking awakening for both of them, but they leapt up at once. Nothing could be done, however. I noted the time—it was about 2.50 A.M.
I had Worsley called and informed him of what had occurred. To the rest I said nothing till the morning.
At 8.0 A.M. I mustered all hands on the poop, and told them the bad news. Naturally it was a great shock to them all, especially to those who had served with him before and thus knew him more intimately. I added briefly that I now commanded the expedition, which would carry on.
On that day, and on the several that followed, rain fell heavily, fitting in with our low spirits.
I immediately set about making arrangements for sending home the sad news to Lady Shackleton, and for notifying Mr. Rowett.
I sent for Watts, our wireless operator, and asked him if he could establish communication. He said he would try. From his log: “My ambition was to get the type 15 set working, so as to pass the news as quickly as possible. The whole set I stripped and tested thoroughly, and ‘made good’ minor defects, but luck was still against me. The dynamo was run at 5.45 P.M., and whilst testing the installation the machine suddenly raced, and fuses were blown out, so further working of the set had to be abandoned.”
I went ashore to see Mr. Jacobsen, who was deeply shocked at the news. I learned from him that there was no wireless apparatus on the island other than those carried by the oil transport steamers, none of which, however, had a sending range sufficient to get into touch with a receiving station from here. He told me that the _Albuera_, a steamer lying at Leith Harbour farther round the coast, was due to sail in about ten days. He said that if I cared to go to Leith and make arrangements with her captain for sending the news, he would put at my disposal the _Little Karl_, a small steam whaler used by him for visiting different parts of the island.
I accepted his offer, and whilst the vessel was being got ready went with McIlroy and Macklin to notify the resident magistrate. He was away at another station, but I saw Mr. Barlas, the assistant magistrate. It is curious how one notices small things at a time like this. One incident stands out vividly in my memory. At the moment of my telling him he was lighting a cigarette, which he dropped on the table-cloth, where it continued to burn. I remember picking it up for him and placing it where it could do no harm. This done I left for Leith with McIlroy, who during the whole of this time was of the greatest help and assistance. Everyone at Leith showed the greatest kindness and sympathy, and Captain Manson, of the _Albuera_, readily undertook to send off the message as soon as he got within range of any wireless station.
Arrangements for the disposal of the body I left to Macklin, and to Hussey I entrusted the care of papers and personal effects.
At first I decided to bury Sir Ernest in South Georgia. I had no idea, however, of what Lady Shackleton’s wishes might be, and so ultimately decided to send him home to England. The doctors embalmed the body, which was placed in a lined coffin kindly made for us by Mr. Hansen, of Leith. There was a steamer named _Professor Gruvel_ lying in Gritviken Harbour, which was due to sail in about ten days, and her captain, Captain Jacobsen, offered to carry the body as far as Monte Video, from where it could be sent on by mail boat.
As soon as the necessary arrangements had been made we carried him ashore. All hands mustered quietly and stood bareheaded as we lifted the coffin, covered by our silk white ensign, to the side of the _Quest_, and passed it over into a motor launch. All the time the rain soaked heavily down. From the pier we carried him to the little hospital and placed him in the room in which we had lived together seven years before.
The next day we carried him to the little church, which is situated so romantically at the foot of towering snow-covered mountains, over ground which he had so often trod with firm, eager steps in making the final preparations for the start of the _Endurance_ expedition.
Here I said good-bye to the Boss, a great explorer, a great leader and a good comrade.
I had served with him in all his expeditions, twice as his second-in-command. I accompanied him on his great journey which so nearly attained the Pole, shared with him every one of his trials and vicissitudes in the South, and rejoiced with him in his triumphs. No one knew the explorer side of his nature better than I, and many are the tales I could tell of his thoughtfulness and his sacrifices on behalf of others, of which he himself never spoke.
[Illustration: PRINCE OLAF WHALING STATION
[Illustration: A STEAM WHALER WITH TWO WHALES BROUGHT IN FOR FLENSING
[Illustration: HUGE BLUE WHALES AT SOUTH GEORGIA
Of his hardihood and extraordinary powers of endurance, his buoyant optimism when things seemed hopeless and his unflinching courage in the face of danger I have no need to speak. He always did more than his share of work. Medical evidence shows that the condition which caused his death was an old standing one and was due to throwing too great a strain upon a system weakened by shortage of food. I have known personally and served with all the British leaders of exploration in the Antarctic since my first voyage in the _Discovery_. For qualities of leadership and ability to organize Shackleton stands foremost and must be ranked as the first explorer of his day.
I felt his loss, coming as it did, most keenly.
In order to ensure safe disposal of the body, and to arrange for its transference at Monte Video, I detailed Hussey to accompany it home. I could ill spare him, but I considered him the most suitable man I could select for the purpose. Naturally it was a disappointment to him to give up the expedition, but he accepted the responsibility without demur, and I am grateful to him for the spirit in which he complied with my arrangements.
As subsequent events turned out, Hussey received a message at Monte Video from Lady Shackleton expressing her wish that Sir Ernest should be buried in South Georgia, which was the scene of one of his greatest exploits, and which might well be described as the “Gateway of the Antarctic.” The coffin was returned to Gritviken by the _Woodville_, through the courtesy of Captain Least, and Sir Ernest was ultimately buried in the little cemetery beside our old “dog-lines.” Of his comrades, only Hussey was present at the funeral, for the rest of us had already sailed into the South, but there were many amongst the hardy whalers of South Georgia who attended, men who knew him and could, better than most people, appreciate his work. Nor was the sympathetic presence of a woman lacking, for at the funeral was Mrs. Aarberg, wife of the Norwegian doctor at Leith, who with kindly thought had placed upon his grave a wreath made from the only flowers on the island, those which she had cultivated with much care and patience inside her own house. She was the only woman on South Georgia.
I have not the least doubt that had Sir Ernest been able to decide upon his last resting-place, it is just here that he would have chosen to lie, and would have preferred this simple funeral to any procedure carried out with greater pomp and ceremony.
Not here! the white _South_ has thy bones; and thou, Heroic sailor-soul, Art passing on thine happier voyage now Toward no earthly Pole.
PREPARATIONS IN SOUTH GEORGIA
We can make good all loss except The loss of turning back. —KIPLING.
Though we all felt very keenly the loss we had suffered in the death of the Boss, we could not allow our depression of spirits to take too strong a hold on us, for there was much work to be done.
The season was now well advanced, and I had to make up my mind at once as to what we were going to do. Sir Ernest Shackleton’s death, occurring at this critical juncture, left me with no knowledge of his plans, for he had withheld any definite decision as to future movements until he should be able to arrange for another complete overhaul of the engines. Since hearing of the crack in the furnace he had outlined several alternative propositions without, however, showing any definite leaning to any one of them.
The entry in his diary of January 1st shows how fully he realized the condition of the engines. Yet he added: “But the spirit of all on board is sound and good”; and later, “I must always lead on”! There is not the slightest doubt that he intended to go on with the work, and I knew that had he lived he would have found some way to carry on.
My position, when summed up, was as follows:
I was out of communication with the rest of the world, and there was no possibility of my receiving any message from Mr. Rowett. I had therefore to act for myself.
The Antarctic open season was well advanced, and thus limited the time available for manœuvring in the ice. I had therefore to act without delay.
With regard to the ship, the recent heavy storms had shown her to be a fine sea-boat, capable of standing any weather at sea. Rigging and hull were sound. The troubles which had so continuously cropped up since our leaving England had shown, however, that the engines could not be regarded as reliable.
We were short of both food stores and equipment, for our depot for the South was to have been Cape Town, and as a result of all the delays involved since our start we had not been able to go there and take them up. The food stores included those things most suitable for cold regions. The general equipment included warm clothing, footgear, sledging gear and harness; special ice equipment in the way of ice-picks, ice-anchors and hand harpoons; oil and paraffin for the engines and dynamos, and a quantity of scientific gear.
As to personnel, I knew that I had with me men who would staunchly stand by me and support me in whatever decision I should come to.
Sir Ernest had spoken on one occasion, just before arrival at South Georgia, of proceeding down Bransfield Strait, finding a suitable spot somewhere on the western side of Graham Land, and freezing the ship in for the winter. When summer appeared he would cross Graham Land to the Weddell Sea and explore the coastline on that side as far as time and conditions should permit.
Of his different plans, this and his published programme of proceeding eastwards and making an attempt to penetrate the pack ice as near to Enderby Land as possible, and from there to push south, were the only two which I could consider.
As to the first, for the carrying out of this I should require a large quantity of stores, sledging equipment and good winter clothing. As before stated, these were at Cape Town, and unless I could obtain them in South Georgia this scheme must fall through.
Sir Ernest’s last message home had been that all was well with the ship and the expedition, and he had never had a chance to announce publicly the final situation. Mr. Rowett might therefore wonder at any change of plan occurring after his death. On this score, however, I was not greatly concerned, for I felt that in anything I should undertake I would have his support and carry his trust.
With regard to the original published programme, I realized that to enter an area which had hitherto proved impenetrable to every ship which had made the attempt, would with the _Quest_ be a hazardous undertaking even under the most favourable circumstances. Any ship entering heavy pack ice runs a risk of being beset and frozen in, and when that has occurred her fate lies absolutely with the gods. Should the ship be crushed, the chances of escape from the area in which we should be working could only be regarded as remote, for even if we succeeded in escaping from the pack with our boats, the nearest point we could make for would be Cape Town, a distance of over two thousand miles, through stormy seas, dependent for water supply upon what we could collect in the way of rain.
Any fool can push a ship into the ice and lose her—my job was to bring her back again.
On careful weighing of the two alternatives the Graham Land proposition appealed to me more strongly, for it offered the prospect of good work; and in case of accident we should be within measurable reach of whalers, which in their search for whales penetrate deeply amongst the islands of the Palmer Archipelago.
Though I was faced with an innumerable number of smaller considerations, the above represents roughly the situation at the time.
Therefore with these points of view in mind before coming to any decision at all, I gave instructions to Kerr to examine thoroughly and overhaul the engines and boilers and report to me his considered opinion. This he did. The work done at Rio had been good and sound, and he considered the condition of the engines to be fit for proceeding. The boiler presented a difficult problem. On looking up the record of the _Quest_ (or the _Foca I_ as she was previously named) in the Norwegian _Veritas_, I discovered that though the ship was comparatively new, the boiler had been built in 1890, and was thus _thirty-one years old_.
Kerr made an examination from inside, and I had also the second opinion, by courtesy of Captain Jacobsen, of the chief engineer of the _Professor Gruvel_.
The report showed that the condition was not reparable, but at the same time was not likely to develop further and become serious.
I threw upon Kerr the onus of deciding as to whether the engines and boiler were fit to continue with into the ice or not. With true native caution (he comes of Aberdeen stock) he replied that there was always a risk of breakdown, but not an unreasonable one; he was willing to take it himself.
So far as that was concerned I decided to go ahead.
My next step was to see about the special winter equipment which Sir Ernest had hoped would be available here.
I learned to my dismay from Mr. Jacobsen that Filchner’s store had been opened up and the contents scattered. There were no dogs on the island. They had proved so voracious and such a nuisance to the station that they had been shot. Food could be obtained, and a certain amount of clothing from the slop chests of the different stations, but this was considered of doubtful quality and not recommended for our purpose. I thought bitterly of the good stuff lying in a Cape Town warehouse.
These considerations caused me reluctantly to rule out the Graham Land proposition.
There remained now only to carry on as the Boss had intended or to go back. As a matter of fact, I hardly gave the latter a thought. To go back was intolerable and quite incompatible with British prestige. To carry out against all difficulties the work the Boss had set out to do appealed to me strongly. I made my decision, and let it be known to all hands, giving each one a chance to back out before it was too late. I believe there was not one who ever so much as thought of it, and none seemed to doubt but that we would go on. Such is the onus of leadership. Where you must concern yourself for the safety and welfare of those under your charge, they place in you their trust and do not worry at all. This is as it should be.
I told Macklin, who was in charge of stores and equipment, to take a complete and accurate tally of everything we had aboard and then work out and make a list of requirements for the period to be spent in the ice.
When this was done I sent him to visit the different stations and pick out from their slop chests anything that he might consider necessary in the way of clothing.
Nothing was available at Gritviken, and so on January 16th we left for Leith Harbour, where we received the greatest kindness from Mr. Hansen, the manager of the whaling station. His keen interest and practical assistance meant a great deal to me at this critical time, and his genial qualities and kindly hospitality did much to dissipate the gloom which had fallen upon us. We obtained from him all the food stores we required and a general outfit of clothing and blankets, which, though by no means the equivalent of our own specially prepared stuff, was at least adequate to meet the demands of a single season. Amongst other things, each man was provided with a fur-lined leather cap, an abundance of socks and mitts, a pair of stout ankle boots, a pair of sea boots, a quantity of warm underclothing, heavy pea-jacket, light windproof jacket, a stout pair of trousers, three good blankets and a warm coverlet.
It was necessary before starting to fill the bunkers with coal. Mr. Hansen had none to spare, but he took me round in a whaler to Husvik Harbour, where Mr. Andersen, the manager, promised to supply me with what we required.
[Illustration: THE “PLAN” AT GRITVIKEN, WITH A WHALE IN PROCESS OF BEING FLENSED
_Photo: Dr. Macklin_]
[Illustration: LEITH HARBOUR, SOUTH GEORGIA
On January 14th I told Worsley to take the _Quest_ to Husvik, where she was placed alongside the _Orwell_, the station oil carrier, from which we took aboard 105 tons of best Welsh coal. In the meantime work had been going on busily on board, for Worsley and Jeffrey had much to do in their preparations for the ice. The forward water tank had been made sound and a hand pump fitted. Dell, McLeod and Marr tested all running gear and rigging, which was set up in good order and any defective material replaced. Marr, since leaving Rio, had been replaced in the galley by Naisbitt, and now assisted Dell about the deck, a job very much more to his taste. He was also appointed “Lampy,” having charge of all the non-electrical lighting of the ship.
Wilkins and Douglas, who had preceded us here from Rio de Janeiro in order to have more time for their scientific work, rejoined us, and were much shocked at the news we had to give them.
We were now ready for sea, but returned first to Leith Harbour to pick up two ice anchors and a number of hand harpoons, ice picks and ice axes which Mr. Hansen had turned out for us in his workshop.
We received from the Norwegian people in South Georgia during the whole of our stay nothing but the greatest kindness and sympathy and the most valuable practical assistance in our somewhat extensive preparations. This is the more remarkable in that they are not of our nationality and Norway has ever been our keenest rival in Polar exploration. They were, however, as Sir Ernest would have said, “of the Brotherhood of the Sea,” and that explains much.
We were about to embark upon what would most certainly prove to be the most arduous part of our programme, which I had briefly outlined in a last letter to Mr. Rowett as follows:
As I am at present out of communication with you, and in view of the lateness of the season, which necessitates that any attempt to enter the ice must be carried out without delay, I have decided to carry on the work of the expedition, adhering as nearly as circumstances permit to the plans as most recently expressed by Sir Ernest Shackleton.
Consequently … I intend pushing to the eastward to a position dependent upon the date as marking the advancement of the season, striking south through the pack ice, and making an attempt to reach the Great Ice Barrier. If I am successful in this, I will turn westwards and map out, as far as possible, the coastline in the direction of Coats Land, but taking steps to escape before the ship gets frozen in.
There are, however, certain factors which may compel me to use my discretion in altering the programme, as follows:
1. In addition to the defects of the ship already notified to you by Sir Ernest Shackleton, compelling alterations at Lisbon, St. Vincent and Rio de Janeiro, during this last stage of the voyage two other grave defects were discovered: a crack and a leak in the boiler furnace, and a leak in the forward water tank which almost emptied it. On arrival here the boiler was examined by Mr. Kerr, the chief engineer of the _Quest_, and by engineers from the whaling station. After careful consideration they have decided that it is possible to go forward, and Mr. Kerr states that it is quite reasonable to enter the ice under the conditions.
Whilst ashore, I took the opportunity of looking up the record in the Norwegian Record of Ships, and found that the boiler was built in 1890, and is consequently 31 years old, a fact of which I feel quite sure Sir Ernest was ignorant…. From the time the expedition started various defects of the engines have appeared, and any further developments in this respect may entail change of plan.
2. The capability of the _Quest_ to deal with pack ice. It has been shown during the voyage that she is of lower engine power than was originally expected, and much will depend upon what speed and driving power she can maintain in the ice.
3. The lateness of the season limits the amount of time in which it is possible to operate in the ice pack.
4. Progress will depend upon conditions which cannot altogether be foreseen, viz. weather conditions, and the depth and density of the pack ice when we encounter it, varying greatly as it does from year to year…. I expect to leave the ice towards the end of March, and will probably return to this island (South Georgia) or the Falkland Islands for coal and water….
This briefly indicates my plan and the outlook at the time we left South Georgia. In working to the eastward I intended to make for the charted position of “Pagoda Rock,” and verify or wash out its existence; also, if possible, I wished to visit Bouvet Island.
It will be seen that throughout this projected route we should have the winds to the best advantage, for while working east we should be in the westerly belt, which extends approximately from lat. 35° S. to lat. 60° S., whilst above these latitudes, on our return, we should enter the belt of prevailing easterly winds.
INTO THE SOUTH
We left Leith Harbour on January 17th, and proceeded along the coast to Cooper Bay. Douglas and Carr had gone there some days before to carry on their geological examination of the island.
On arrival we found that they had set up a tent on the beach and had built outside it a fireplace of stones. For fuel they used driftwood, which lined the beach in large quantities. Douglas came to meet us in the kayak, a small skin-boat which had been presented to us by Mr. Jacobsen. I lowered the surf-boat and went ashore. Both Carr and he looked well, being very sunburnt and fatter than when they left us. A meal was in process of preparation in the fireplace, and when I saw the quantity of food they were about to dispose of I felt satisfied as to their health and the state of their appetites.
I wanted a supply of fresh meat to take with us on the ship, for although we had no refrigerator on board, there was no fear of the meat going bad in the low temperatures of these regions. I sent Macklin and Marr to catch and kill a dozen penguins, and went myself, with McIlroy, to shoot some skua gulls. I intended taking a seal also, but found that Douglas, with considerable forethought, had already killed and cut one up.
[Illustration: CHART OF LARSEN HARBOUR
[Illustration: THE ENTRANCE TO LARSEN HARBOUR
[Illustration: AN EXPEDITION IN SEARCH OF FRESH FOOD—MARR, McILROY, COMMANDER WILD, MACKLIN
The day was bright, with warm sunshine, turning Cooper Bay, which I had previously visited under less favourable circumstances, into a beautiful spot. Seabirds of all sorts covered the rocks and flew overhead, filling the air with raucous cries, which sounded, however, not unpleasant, fitting the wild environment. Seals and sea-elephants were ashore in hundreds, lying lazily on the shingle of the beach or in the hollows of the tussock grass behind. Ringed and Gentoo penguins strutted solemnly about like leisurely old gentlemen taking the sea air. On the hills behind were large rookeries where these quaint birds were gathered together in thousands.
I had no difficulty in obtaining the necessary number of skua gulls, and I saw that Macklin and Marr had made a little heap of penguins close to the boat, Macklin rejecting, with the discriminating care of one whose staple diet they have formed for months, the old tough birds and picking out the young and tender. Marr was delighted with his new experiences, being particularly fascinated with these almost human looking little creatures.
So pleasant was the day that I was loth to tear myself away.
We returned to the ship, where we prepared the birds for the larder, and hung them, together with the meat, from the mizen boom, the poop at the finish resembling a butcher’s shop.
Green, who had been before into the Antarctic and had wintered with me on Elephant Island, came out of his galley to regard with a professional eye this new addition to his larder. I asked him if he had forgotten how to cook seal and penguin meat, to which he replied, “Not likely! If I was to live to be a hundred, I would not forget that.”
We weighed anchor and proceeded to Larsen Harbour, which is approached through Drygalski Fiord, a long, narrow channel situated at the extreme south-eastern end of South Georgia. The entrance, which is very picturesque, lies between steep and high mountains. As one nears the end it appears as if one is about to charge a steep wall of snow-covered rock, but suddenly the little opening of Larsen Harbour comes into view, and one enters a wonderful little basin shut in on all sides by steeply rising mountains and offering a secure anchorage for small vessels. Across the entrance lies a ledge of rocks from which grows a belt of kelp, where the soundings gave a depth of 38 fathoms.
Douglas went ashore in his kayak to make a geological examination of the place and bring away some specimens of rock.
At daybreak on January 18th we made our final departure from South Georgia, setting course to pass close to Clerk Rocks. Douglas and Carr had reported that whilst ascending the slopes behind Cooper Bay they had seen what appeared to be a volcano in eruption. They had taken a rough bearing of its direction, and from their description generally we concluded that the site of the phenomenon could only have been Clerk Rocks. I was anxious, therefore, to visit them; but the day unfortunately turned out to be thick and misty, and we were unable to get a good view of them. As every day was now a matter of importance to us in our attempt to push South, I did not delay in the hope that we might effect a landing. From observations made by Worsley and Jeffrey, their position as charted seems to be incorrect, but as the thick weather prevented accurate sight, their exact position cannot be definitely given.
[Illustration: COMMANDER WILD
_Photo: Reg. Haines_]
[Illustration: A SMALL BERG
_Photo: Dr. Macklin_]
[Illustration: A CURIOUS “TOOTHED” BERG
We were now about to undertake the most difficult part of our enterprise, the plans of which I have indicated in the preceding chapter.
I divided up the hands into three watches: In my own—McIlroy, Macklin and Carr; in Worsley’s—Wilkins, Douglas and Watts; in Jeffrey’s—Dell, McLeod and Marr. The Boy Scout had become a fine, handy seaman, and developed an all-round usefulness which made him a valuable member of the expedition. The engineers, Kerr and Smith, kept watch and watch about in spells of six hours. I had added, in the person of Ross, to their staff in South Georgia, where a number of Shetlanders are employed at the flensing. Young and he acted as firemen, and Argles as trimmer. Green and Naisbitt, who formed the galley staff, were, of course, exempt from watch keeping.
At first we had misty weather, and soon encountered a heavy swell in which the _Quest_ rolled heavily. We met numerous icebergs travelling in a north-easterly direction—beautiful works of Nature passing slowly to their doom.
Hundreds of sea-birds tailed in our wake, including numbers of every species known to this part of the world: albatross, cape pigeons, whale birds and every kind of petrel, from the giant “Stinker” to the dainty, ubiquitous Mother Carey’s Chickens.
Thursday, January 19th, broke bright and clear. We were surrounded on all sides by bergs, those in sight numbering more than a hundred. Many of them were flat topped, evidently pieces which had recently calved from the Great Ice Barrier and floated out to sea. Others were more irregular in shape, with pinnacles, buttresses, and caves and tunnels through which the water rushed with a roar. The imaginative could see in them a resemblance to all sorts of things; churches with spires, castles with heavy ramparts, steamships, human profiles, and the figures of every conceivable kind of beast. Some were stained with red-coloured mineral deposits, blue bottom-mud and yellow and brown diatomaceous material. A few sloped towards the sea at such an angle as to enable penguins, all of them of the ringed variety, to clamber up. Some of the groups of penguins thus formed numbered as many as two or three hundred.
There was a high following sea, and the deeply laden _Quest_ wallowed in it heavily, dipping both gunwales and filling the waist with water, which rushed to and fro with every roll. Smith was thrown off his feet and swept violently across the deck, fetching up with considerable force against the lee rail. He was much bruised and shaken.
During the day a number of soundings were taken with the Kelvin apparatus, but no bottom was found with 300 fathoms of wire.
In the evening Worsley altered course to look at what appeared to be a small half-submerged rock, but on approach it proved to be a heavily stained piece of ice.
January 20th was another fine day. I saw Marr come on deck wearing a fur cap, heavy sea-boots, and a belt from which hung a ferocious-looking sheath knife. The scrubby promise of a thick beard adorned his chin, and I had the greatest difficulty in associating the kilted boy who joined us in London with this tough-looking sailor man. If Hussey had been there he would have sung, “If only my mother could see me now!” Indeed, I would have liked to have had for a short while the use of a magic carpet and been able to transfer him exactly as he stood to the bosom of his family.
Jeffrey, who had been confined to his cabin since leaving Rio de Janeiro, returned to duty on this day.
We continued to pass through a sea filled with icebergs, which in the sunshine stood out white and glistening against the blue-black of the sea. Worsley saw what looked like a new island with high summit, but even as he pointed it out a breeze flattened off its top, proving it to be only a cloud. These little rebuffs on the part of Nature have no influence upon Worsley, whose enthusiasm is unconquerable.
In the afternoon we sighted a number of icebergs in line, and a few minutes later Zavodovski Island showed up. The bergs were evidently aground, most of them having a distinct tide-mark and showing considerable wear along the water-line. As we drew nearer we saw that all those which were accessible were thickly covered with ringed penguins, which showed the most marked astonishment at our approach. There were many also in the sea, and they came swimming towards us, uttering their familiar “Cl-a-a-k!” Some of the bergs were so steep that we wondered how the penguins ever managed to get a footing on them. We passed one with a side which sloped gradually to an edge some twenty or thirty feet above water, against which the sea broke heavily. A number of penguins were attempting a landing, and we watched their efforts with interest. They took advantage of the swell to leap out whilst the sea was at its highest, often to fail and fall back with a splash into the wash below; but they sometimes succeeded in getting a footing in a crack in the ice. They showed the greatest agility and skill in clambering from one little foothold to another, and their attitude of triumph when at last they gained the gentler slope and waddled off to join their companions in the group was most amusing. These little creatures are so absurdly human in every one of their aspects that one could watch them for hours without tiring. Those of the party who had not been previously in Antarctic regions were greatly fascinated by them and laughed outright at their quaint antics.
The island takes its name from Lieut. Zavodovski, chief officer of the _Vostok_, of Bellingshausen’s Expedition, who landed in 1820. It is barren and snow covered, except on the western side, which presents an unattractive bare surface of rock. Bellingshausen described this bare surface as being warm from volcanic action, and says that the penguins found it an attractive nesting-place. On that occasion the island presented the appearance of an active volcano, with thick clouds of steam belching from the summit. Owing to the low-lying mist we could not see the top of the island, and so were unable to gauge accurately the height, but from general contour it seemed to be not more than 3,500 feet.
[Illustration: A LOVELY EVENING IN THE SUB-ANTARCTIC
[Illustration: TOO MANY COOKS: OUR FIRST DEEP-SEA SOUNDING
The coastline presents a rugged face of rock broken here and there by glaciers which descend from the slopes behind to finish abruptly above narrow beaches of black sand. A red line of volcanic staining surrounds the island. Generally speaking it is inaccessible, and there are no good bays or anchorages for a ship. There are places where a landing could be effected by boat, but at no time would it be easy, for the rock faces rise sheer from the sea and the beaches are shut off from the island by the glaciers behind and laterally by steep cliffs. Nevertheless, penguins are able to get ashore. On the beaches were a number of the large and beautifully marked king penguins, whilst covering the slopes behind were whole battalions of the ringed variety, forming very large rookeries. I have seen larger rookeries than these in one place only—Macquarie Island, which I visited during the Mawson Expedition. There one can look over square miles and never see a piece of ground for the number of penguins of all varieties which collect there.
On the southern side of Zavodovski Island are a number of caves, from the mouths of which sulphurous fumes were issuing in a thin reddish cloud. We could feel their effects in a smarting sensation of the eyes, nose and throat. It was noticed that the penguins did not collect round the caves, but gave them a pretty wide berth. Larsen, who explored this group in the _Undine_ in 1908, was overcome by these fumes whilst attempting to land on this island, and became seriously ill.
We made a running survey of the island and obtained a number of soundings. Before leaving I took the ship close to a berg which was thickly covered with ringed penguins to enable Wilkins to get some cinematograph pictures. To stimulate them into movement I told Jeffrey to fire two or three detonators. The loud reports caused the utmost consternation amongst them, and, stretching their flippers, they rushed _en masse_ for the lower edge of the berg. Those in front were loth to take to the water, which is not surprising, seeing the difficulty they have in climbing back again, but those behind pressed them so hard that they were forced over into the sea, and, as Kerr facetiously remarked, “It was just as well that they could swim.” Their attitude of surprise and indignation was very amusing.
We continued (Saturday, January 21st) to pass innumerable bergs. The sea was literally filled with them. It is fortunate that in these latitudes there is comparatively little darkness at this time of the year, for at night these bergs form the most unpleasant of companions and necessitate a continuous and unremitting look-out. The long swell rushes against them with a heavy surge, and a collision with any one of them would prove a nasty accident from which we would not be likely to escape scot free, whilst the dislodgment of a heavy portion on to our decks could have nothing but the most disastrous results.
The _Quest_ rolled like a log and the seas in the waist rushed like a swollen flood from side to side, so that one rarely passed about the ship without a wetting. The water foamed over the tops of our sea boots and filled them up. This was particularly annoying when going to take over the watch, for one had then to endure the discomfort of four hours on the bridge with wet feet, which in this temperature is extremely unpleasant.
Before leaving England Sir Ernest Shackleton had designed a weather-proof bridge, completely enclosed, but with windows which could be opened up on all sides. Owing to the strikes which occurred before our start, skilled labour was not available, and the work done in the building of it was so bad, and the windows and doors were so ill-fitting, that it was quite impossible to exclude draughts. Except that it was to some extent rain- and snow-proof, we would have been much better off with an open bridge protected with a canvas dodger. There was always a strong draught along the floor, which made it very hard to keep the feet warm, no matter how well clothed and shod we might be. When the footgear became wetted the difficulty was increased, and in the long night watches we often endured agonies from this cause.
Macklin reported to me on the 21st that there were fifteen inches of water in the hold. The ship had always leaked, but hitherto the engine-room pumps had been sufficient to keep down the water. I instituted a daily pumping, which, as the hand pump was situated in the waist amidst a rush of water, was no pleasant task for those engaged in it.
I began to feel my responsibilities now, for each day made it more abundantly clear to me that this trip was to be anything but a picnic and demonstrated the fact that the _Quest_ was by no means an ideal ship for the work. Often I was made to doubt the wisdom of the undertaking, but, having put my hand to the plough, there was to be no turning back.
This being Saturday night, we drank the time-honoured toast of “Sweethearts and Wives,” to which some wag always added, “May they never meet!” On such occasions as these I issued to each man who wanted it a tot of whisky or rum. Rum was generally selected, as being the stronger drink.
On Monday, January 23rd, we passed close to two large and beautiful bergs, full of cracks and chasms, with a number of caves of the deepest blue colour. This appearance of blue in cavities surrounded by colourless ice is a phenomenon for which physicists have not yet offered a satisfactory explanation.
There is something about these huge bergs, bucking and swaying in the long heavy swell, which always attracts. One wonders at their age and where they have come from. It is a pity that there is no way of marking them. Worsley, ever inventive, and never at a loss for a suggestion, proposes firing into them bombs filled with permanganate of potash, or, better still, to have rifles firing small projectiles, by which one could mark the date. “Why not?” says he.
There is much difference of opinion regarding the length of life of these bergs, some saying two or three years, whilst others suggest that they last forty or more. Much undoubtedly depends upon their movements. A grounded berg is likely to exist for a long time, and I have seen many, marked by the rise and fall of tide and washed by the action of the sea, which had obviously endured for many years. Those which do not go aground drift about for varying periods till carried eventually to the north; they meet their fate amongst warm currents, which leave not a vestige of their original selves. A berg floats with about seven-eighths of its bulk below water, and is consequently more susceptible to deep than to surface currents. I have often seen them moving through pack at a rate of two or three miles an hour, brushing aside the lighter ice in their undeviating progress. In open water, too, I have seen them moving up against strong winds at a similar speed.
During our boat journey from the breaking-up pack on the _Endurance_ expedition we nearly came to grief from this cause, a large berg of several hundred yards in length almost jamming us against a line of floe ice, and requiring all our efforts to pull free.
[Illustration: THE WESTERN END OF ZAVODOVSKI ISLAND, SHOWING GROUNDED ICEBERGS
[Illustration: SENTINEL OF THE ANTARCTIC
Worsley met with a slight accident on the 23rd. While passing round the front of the deck-house he was struck by the forestay-sail sheet block, and was hurled across the deck. He picked himself up, with blood running freely down his face, but the intensity of his imprecations relieved me from fear of a bad injury, and, indeed, on examination it proved to be slight. He felt a little hurt when someone asked him if he could not do it again because there were several who had missed the incident. I omit his reply.
Our daily mileage had proved disappointing up to this point, and it became clear to me that we could not hope to reach Bouvet Island and still be in time to enter the ice this year. The coal consumption also proved higher than I had anticipated. I decided, therefore, to make a more southerly course to meet and enter the ice in a position somewhere about 20° E. Long. On my westward run I intended to cross the mouth of the Weddell Sea, and attempt to examine and sound the charted position of “Ross’s Appearance of Land,” probably call at Elephant Island to obtain sand for ballast and blubber for fuel, and proceed to Deception Island for coal for the return to South Georgia.
After a long spell of bad weather, on January 25th we at last experienced a change for the better, the day breaking bright and clear, the water a deep blue and the icebergs a dazzling white. The sea was comparatively smooth, and the _Quest_ behaved moderately well.
I seized the chance to get on with an amount of work which had been difficult during the bad weather. Worsley, Dell and Carr overhauled the Lucas sounding machine and fixed a roll of wire all ready for a running out. When this was done, I set Carr to blocking some of the scupper holes, in the hope of keeping a drier deck. Macklin, assisted by Marr and Green, spent a busy morning in squaring up the hold, and there was work for everyone in one way or another. McIlroy and I baled out our cabins and put the wet gear out to dry.
The ship was found to be taking more water, Macklin reporting that it had reached the level of the kelson, and I had to institute longer spells at the pumps, each taking from one and a half to two hours to pump her dry.
I got McIlroy to cut my hair, after which I acted as barber for him, and for Kerr and Worsley also. They were no half cuts, but good convict crops! Wilkins, with a view to stimulating the laggard hairs on his crown to more active growth, shaved the top of his head, and looked like a monk. He was growing a beard, as were a number of the men. McLeod’s was the most flourishing; Dell and Macklin each showed a respectable growth, and Kerr, Smith, Young, Argles and Watts gave a promise of better things. Marr, not to be outdone, was also making the attempt, but so far could show only a stubble, which gave him rather a ferocious appearance.
In the afternoon Worsley took a sounding, with the unsought assistance of all the men on board, who crowded round with a great willingness to help, but who, like the cooks at the broth, only impeded things. Four miles of wire were reeled out without finding bottom, but, this being the first time we had used the Lucas machine on this trip, it was probably incorrect. When it came to winding up, the machine ran well, but when only about half the reel had been taken in the wire broke, and we lost the sinkers and the snapper (which is used to bring up specimens from the sea bottom). From this time forward Dell took charge of the sounding machine, and under his management it ran without a hitch. It was often a cold and tedious job, but he took the greatest interest in the work, and enabled Worsley to get some excellent results.
Whilst the sounding was in process a mass of pultaceous material floated past the ship, some of which we collected. Macklin examined a small portion of it under a microscope, and reported that it was composed of feathers in a state of decomposition. Its occurrence was hard to explain, but Wilkins thought it may have come from one of the carnivorous mammals of these seas: a sea leopard or a killer, which had swallowed a number of penguins or other birds, and afterwards vomited the indigestible portions of them, just as our sledge dogs used to vomit bones which they had eaten.
Naisbitt asked me if he might start a ship’s magazine, to which I assented.
I saw an Antarctic petrel, the first I had seen this trip. The presence of these birds usually indicates proximity of ice.
The fine weather did not last long, for the next day the wind and seas increased, and the _Quest_ took full advantage of the excuse to behave as badly as ever. We encountered fewer bergs, but were never out of sight of them altogether. One which lay two or three miles to starboard had a very peculiar appearance, closely resembling a sailing ship under canvas. Worsley examined it long and attentively through binoculars, and exclaimed, “A sailing vessel!” I cast some doubt on the probability, but after a second look he cried excitedly, “It _is_ a sailing vessel; I can see her topsail yard! Let us go and talk to her!” A gleam of sunshine lighting upon the “topsail yard” dispelled the illusion. I wonder what ship he expected to see down there!
An extract from Marr’s diary on this date gives an interesting sidelight:
A fairly strong sea was running when we came on deck for “the middle,” but this did not deter us from our usual occupation in the night watches, i.e. the consumption of food and drink. Indeed, it must appear that our watch is very hungry, but it is not so. This is merely our very effective method of passing the four long hours on the bridge.
It was customary for the engine-room staff to make a hot drink once a watch. The galley fire was always allowed to go out at night because of the necessity for economy in coal consumption, and the stokers used to boil the water in a tin on the furnace fires. The result was that there was often some difficulty in diagnosing the nature of the concoction, but under circumstances like this one could not be over particular. We used to turn to each other, saying: “Well, at any rate it is hot and wet.”
[Illustration: A TYPICAL SCENE AT THE PACK EDGE
[Illustration: KILLERS RISING TO “BLOW”
[Illustration: THE _QUEST_ PUSHING THROUGH THIN ICE
We had two casualties on January 30th. Douglas, whilst skipping to keep himself warm, sprained his ankle, and had to take to his bunk. Worsley also came to grief in a much more serious way. Shortly after leaving South Georgia I had instructed Macklin to provision each of our three boats for thirty days. As the surf-boat was likely to be in frequent use, I had the provisions moved from her and divided equally amongst the port and starboard life-boats, the total in each weighing not less than a quarter of a ton. I decided to swing the port life-boat outboard on her davits, both in order to have her the more ready to lower away and to give us a little more sorely needed space on the bridge deck. The sea was smooth, but there was a long swell running which caused the _Quest_ to give an occasional heavy roll. We were in the midst of proceedings, and I had got into the boat the better to direct operations, when suddenly a guy fixing the forward davit carried away; the heavily laden boat took charge, swinging inboard and out and in a fore and aft direction with the swing of the unsecured davits. It was all I could do to hold on, for I had been steadying myself with the after davit head, which now swung in a semicircle. Many times I felt as if I must be flung headlong into the sea. All hands gathered round to regain control, but with the strain the after davit guy also parted. The boat swung aft, sweeping Wilkins and Macklin off the bridge deck on to the poop, where they met with no damage, and, surging forward again, caught Worsley and drove him with tremendous force against the after wall of the bridge house. The impact was heavy. I heard a cry and a crash of splintering wood as the wall gave way. I felt sure Worsley was killed. McIlroy immediately went to his assistance, whilst the rest of us, after an effort, secured the boat and lowered her on to the skids again.
Worsley appeared at first to be terribly damaged. His face turned a deathly grey and was covered with perspiration, and he could scarcely breathe. We carried him to his cabin, where the surgeons made a careful examination. He had sustained severe damage to his chest and broken a number of ribs. His whole body was covered with bruises and abrasions, and he was suffering severely from shock. The doctors reported his condition as serious, but thought that the outlook was favourable unless signs of internal hæmorrhage appeared. It was a great relief to feel that I had with me as surgeons two reliable and experienced men. Worsley had undoubtedly to thank the workmen who had this particular job in hand for his life, for had the bridge house been of more solid workmanship and shown greater resistance to the impact, he must infallibly have been crushed to death.
On this same day we reached the charted position of Pagoda Rock. It was first reported by Lieut. T. E. L. Moore, in the _Pagoda_, in 1845, in the following words:
In the afternoon of the same day (Thursday), January 30th, 1845, we fell in with a most singular rock, or rock on an iceberg. It appeared to be a mass of rock about 1,600 tons, and the top was covered with ice, and did not appear to have any visible motion, with a heavy sea beating over it. It had a tide mark round it. We tried for soundings with 200 fathoms, and the first time we fancied we had struck the ground, but before we could try again we had drifted some distance off. We could not send a boat or beat the ship up against the breeze that was then blowing.
In our position, lat. 60° 11´ S. and 4° 47´ E. long., however, there was no sign of it, though we made a traversing cruise, and a sounding which showed a depth, of 2,980 fathoms gave no indication of shoaling in the vicinity.
[Illustration: LOOSE OPEN PACK
[Illustration: LOOSE PACK ICE, WITH THE SEA RAPIDLY FREEZING OVER
_Photo: Dr. Macklin_]
[Illustration: THE MIDNIGHT SUN
It is rather remarkable, however, that towards evening we saw a very curious-looking berg, very dark green in colour and heavily stained with some earthy material. We altered course to pass close to it, and examined it carefully. It was an old, weather-beaten berg which had evidently capsized. Our meeting with it in this particular spot was a curious coincidence.
On the first day of February the maiden number of _Expedition Topics_ appeared under the editorship of Naisbitt. It was got up simply, consisting of a number of sheets of typewritten matter, chiefly on the humorous side, and containing a sly hit at most of the company. There were also some clever drawings. Like everything else that created an interest it was of value just then when the daily life in those cold grey stormy seas was necessarily very monotonous.
On February 2nd we had a strong gale from the south-east, during which I was compelled to take in sail and heave to—very disappointing, as we needed every mile we could make to the eastward. The _Quest_ behaved in the liveliest possible manner, and everything that was not tightly lashed took charge. A bookcase in my cabin had battens three inches wide placed along the shelves, but they proved useless to keep in place the books, which hurled themselves to the floor, where they were much damaged by the seas which found their way in and swished up and down with every roll.
On deck everything had been lashed up and tightly secured, but in the galley pots and pans took charge and defied all Green’s efforts to make them remain on the stove. All kinds of utensils escaped into “Gubbins Alley,” where they were carried up and down by the wash of water, whilst Green splashed knee deep in pursuit. As he recovered one lot so another leapt away, regardless of his imprecations, till, some helpers coming along, order was once more restored.
Naisbitt, whose work compelled him to pass frequently between the wardroom and the galley, often with both hands full, had a very trying time. At meals we had the greatest difficulty in keeping things on the table, and we had to hold plates, cups, etc., in our hands, balancing them against the roll of the ship. We had to abandon all idea of comfort and wait patiently till the rage of the elements should abate.
During this time of bad weather Worsley suffered very much, for, with the violent rolling, he could get no rest in his bunk. He improved, however; the doctors pronounced him out of danger, and he spoke of soon getting up.
Macklin reported another fifteen inches of water in the hold—it was obvious that it would be necessary to increase the daily spells of pumping. All hands took to this unpleasant and monotonous job very cheerfully, saying that it was good exercise! Indeed, there is not much else that can be said for it.
In lat. 65° 7´ S. and 15° 21´ E. long, we entered, on February 4th, what appeared to be the edge of very open pack, which lay in several strips and bands of light, loosely packed ice, with large open spaces of water between. I made my course due south and pushed into it. For some time I had doubts as to whether it was the real pack or streamers carried north by the late south-easterly gale. The sky to the south was very indefinite, and from the crow’s nest the same conditions of loose ice and open water extended as far as the eye could reach. The two “signs” which one looks for in the sky are “ice-blink” and “water sky.” A sky with ice-blink presents near the horizon a hard white appearance which indicates the proximity of close pack, ice barrier, or snow-covered land. A “water sky” is a dark patch in a lighter sky, which indicates open water below the horizon. In each case when these skies are well marked they are definitely of value, but it requires much experience to gauge accurately the meaning of some of the more indefinite appearances, and conclusions too hastily drawn often prove erroneous.
Whilst we were at sea I had watched the petrels which followed in our wake attempting to come to rest on the water, but breaking seas always drove them up again. I was interested to note that as soon as we reached the pack they flew forward and came to rest on a piece of ice, where they preened their feathers and settled down on their breasts.
The ice had a wonderfully settling effect upon the sea, deadening all but the heavier swells. The _Quest_ became more comfortable than she had been for a long time, and at lunch we dispensed with the fiddles. This she would not tolerate, and a sudden roll swept everything to the floor. Later in the day the belts of ice became broader and the pools of water much smaller. There could be no doubt that this was the real pack ice and that the most strenuous part of our work was now to begin. Quoting from a diary:
Now the little _Quest_ can really try her mettle. What is in store for us? Will the pack, as variable in its moods as the open sea, prove friendly or will it rise in its wrath to punish man’s temerity in thus bringing to the attack so small a craft? Before this effort the smallest ship to make a serious attempt to penetrate the heavy Antarctic pack was the _Endurance_, and she lies crushed and broken many fathoms deep in the Weddell Sea. We are but half her size! Shall we escape, or will the _Quest_ go to join the ships in Davy Jones’s Locker, and the queer deep-sea fish nose about amongst her broken spars? We are not in the least pessimistic, but the man who blinds himself to the possibility is a fool.
My sense of responsibility was growing daily, for though I always welcomed the suggestions of my senior officers I realized that on me alone must devolve the final decision in every plan and in every movement. This was my fifth expedition—nearly half my life has been spent in Antarctic exploration—and every accumulated year of experience has taught me more and more how much in this work we are the playthings of chance. Experience counts a great deal, of course, but no amount of experience, care or skill can be of much avail against prolonged and overwhelming pressure. Yet in those first days in the ice, as I stood on the bridge and looked down on the decks I saw amongst my men nothing but elation. Carr, Douglas and others who saw the ice for the first time were fascinated by it, and amongst the old hands there was obvious pleasure at again meeting the pack. Old McLeod, veteran of many expeditions, said to McIlroy: “Here we are home again! Doesn’t it do you good to get back!” Even Query was affected with the general air of uplift, and with paws on gunwale gazed with twitching nostrils at this new phenomenon. Nor could I long resist a similar feeling, for as I gazed south over the ice, with the cold, keen air in my nostrils, I, too, felt pleased and elated, glad of a tough problem to tackle and rejoicing in the long odds.
[Illustration: THE LONELINESS OF THE PACK Note the Emperor Penguin on the floe
[Illustration: AN UNPLEASANT BUT NECESSARY DUTY—TAKING CRAB-EATER SEALS FOR FOOD
We soon began to meet old acquaintances in the form of crab-eater seals which, wakened from sleep on the floe, turned a curious eye in our direction and, scratching themselves the while with their queer hand-like flippers, pondered drowsily on the strange phenomenon which had come amongst them. Most of them seemed satisfied with their scrutiny, treating us as of no particular importance, and rolled over to sleep again. With their light silvery coats these are the most elegant of the southern seals and also the most active. They are characteristic of the pack, being found in large numbers about its free edge, where they obtain their living from the small crustacea of these regions, _euphausiæ_ and amphipods. These small creatures live on the diatoms of which the Antarctic seas are so rich, and which often become embedded in the floe ice, which is stained brown or greenish-brown by their presence. _Euphausiæ_ resemble small shrimps, and the amphipods are very like the sandhoppers of home beaches, but redder in colour. Whalers speak of them collectively as whale food, for they form the staple diet not only of the crab-eaters but of most of the Antarctic whales. It is an extraordinary thing that so large an animal as the whale should depend for its existence upon so small a creature, especially when one considers the millions necessary to make one meal. The side of natural history which interests me most is the consideration of animal habits, mode of life and source of food. There is something intensely fascinating about this study, but I confess to a lack of enthusiasm when it comes to a question of minute differences in structure and classification of species.
The ordinary whale has a gullet so small that one can scarcely pass one’s fist into it, and no whale could certainly ever have swallowed Jonah. The animal referred to in the Bible story is no doubt the _Orca gladiator_, which, though commonly known as the _Killer whale_, differs considerably in many features from the true whale. It is much better referred to by the name _Killer_ only. It is smaller than the larger varieties of true whale, but it has immense jaws and a wide gullet, and lives not on whale food but on seals and penguins, and it is conceivable that it has on occasions accommodated a man; though whether it ever let one go again is a different matter. The killer is certainly an evil-looking monster. Before we had entered deeply into the pack we saw numbers of them gliding about us, driven smoothly forward by almost imperceptible movements of their powerful flukes, the downward strokes of which produce small whirlpools on the surface of the water. One could mark their progress by watching these whirlpools. Every now and then they rise to breathe, for they are not fish but mammals, and exhale a spout of fine vapour which in the distance looks like water. It is dangerous to cross leads of young ice whilst killers are about, for they are able by charging upwards from below to break through considerable thicknesses with their heads. The round holes produced in this way are quite common, and one frequently sees their evil heads and wicked little eyes appear suddenly above the surface, scattering fragments of ice in a wide circle. When sledging along newly frozen leads, it is customary to keep close in to solid ice, and when a crossing is necessary it is made as rapidly as possible.
By February 5th there was a certain amount of daylight all night, and we were not held up on account of darkness. The ice had increased all the time in density and thickness, and at times it was all we could do to push ahead. Already I began to feel the need of greater engine power, though the small size of the ship made her very handy to manœuvre, and we were able to dodge and squeeze past where a bigger ship would require to push and ram. For the man at the wheel the spell was no longer two hours of monotony, but a period of hard work for which he shed his bulky garments, finding all the warmth he required in the exercise entailed. It was only when we entered the leads that we could keep a steady course, and usually the commands, “Port! Steady! Starboard!” etc., followed each other in rapid succession as we turned and twisted and wriggled our way ahead.
Worsley appeared again to-day. This evergreen youth of fifty years certainly made a rapid recovery, for I did not think when I saw him after his accident that he would be up so soon. Although a very good patient, he chafed so much at his confinement to bed that Macklin thought it better to let him out of his bunk, taking, however, the precaution to strap and bandage his injured parts in such a way that he could not do himself much harm, and was unable to make any attempt to climb aloft—which is the first thing he would have wished to do! He was keenly anxious to take his watch, and I must confess I was looking forward to his return to duty, for Jeffrey and I had been doing “watch and watch” alternately, and I had to be frequently on deck during my watch below, which under the arduous circumstances was a heavy strain.
I kept a keen look out for a convenient floe with seals on it, for I was anxious to obtain fresh meat. Our food stores included an ample and varied supply of all foods, with the exception of meat, for which we were prepared “to live on the country.” Seal meat is quite palatable when one is used to it, and has the advantage over tinned stuff of being fresh. It is also a valuable antiscorbutic, and I was relying on its regular consumption to prevent the onset of scurvy.
Sighting a good solid floe with three seals on it, I put the ship alongside and shot them all with my heavy rifle. I went over on to the floe with Macklin to bleed them, which done, they were hoisted aboard, and McIlroy, Dell and Macklin flensed and cut them up. The blubber went to the bunkers to eke out our supply of coal. Practically the whole of the meat of the seal can be used for eating; whilst the liver, kidneys and heart make very dainty fare. Fried seal’s brain is a dish that can hardly be excelled anywhere in the world. The seal’s brain is large and well developed, and when shooting these animals I always make a point of aiming at the neck just behind the skull so as not to spoil the brain for cooking. There is quite an art in removing the brain, and the heads were usually handed over to Macklin and McIlroy, who took them out complete and unbroken. Whilst the flensing was going forward Worsley seized the opportunity to take a sounding, finding it lat. 66° 12´ S. and 16° 21´ E. long., 2,330 fathoms of water.
On February 6th we continued pushing on through fairly heavy pack. Often the _Quest_ was brought to a stop by heavy pieces of ice across her bows, which she was powerless to move or break up. When this occurred we backed down the lane formed in our wake, where her short length usually enabled her to turn, and getting her nose inserted between two floes, we pushed ahead with all the power the engines could give us till she finally worried through. So far we had not been held up for any considerable time.
Macklin reported another fifteen inches of water in the hold, requiring an extra spell at the pumps to clear. There can be no doubt that the continual bumping and jarring of the ship against the ice caused a starting of the timbers which had then no chance to settle and swell.
Everybody was in wonderful health and spirits, and appetites were keen. For lunch on that day we had the seal brains taken the day before; they were delicious. All hands took to the seal meat, with the exception of Jeffrey and Carr. Carr tasted it and said that it produced a sickly feeling, but with the former it was a case of pure prejudice, for he would not even taste it, and preferred to live on what else might be going. Stefansson, in his books, dilates upon the theory that men who in their normal lives have been used to all sorts and varieties of food take more readily to kinds which they are experiencing for the first time than those whose dietary has been more monotonous and composed of much the same thing day after day and week after week. That this is very true there can be no doubt, but it does not hold in the case of Jeffrey and Carr, for out of the whole party I doubt if there was anyone more used to the highly faked and varied dishes which the modern chef succeeds in producing. Hunger is a wonderful sauce and will break down most prejudices. Those of us who accompanied Sir Ernest Shackleton on his previous expedition lived entirely on seal and penguin meat for eleven months, and except that we were thin at the time of rescue as a result of not having enough of it, we were otherwise healthy and fit and had no sign of scurvy.
Stefansson, in speaking of scurvy, attributes his freedom from it to eating his meat raw or “rare done,” and states definitely that this is the secret of preventing and curing scurvy, whatever the food may be. On the occasion to which I have referred we always cooked our meat, except when circumstances or the exigencies of the moment did not permit of it and when we were short of fuel.
Nature has providentially arranged that most of the animals of south polar regions, for example the seals, provide in addition to meat the fuel necessary to cook it in the form of blubber. It is true that the use of heat in cooking meat does _very slightly_ destroy the antiscorbutic principle, but when the consumption is sufficiently large this factor can be neglected. Much depends upon the method of cooking, for a more thorough investigation of the subject shows that the detrimental influence is not _heat_ but _oxidization_. It is also stated that scurvy may be cured by eating meat which has gone bad. It is possible that a few isolated cases may have recovered in spite of the additional intoxication, but this teaching must be regarded as a most dangerous one. The subject is one of the greatest importance to explorers, for scurvy has caused the failure of many well-found expeditions. I cannot enter more fully into it here. The investigation of scurvy and other food deficiency diseases is at present occupying the minds of the medical profession, much new knowledge is being brought to light, and it is probable that the next few years will show great advances. I am greatly opposed to the making of generalizations based upon one or two isolated observations by writers with little or no knowledge of the fundamental facts; they are of little value for guidance and are apt to prove misleading.
Query was in great spirits at this time, never having been in better condition since we left England; his coat was thick and bushy, and his tail made a fine brush. He was really a most handsome dog. He became a thorough ship’s dog, and climbed all over the place. Wilkins fixed a camera case to the front of the deck-house, and Query discovered _via_ it a way to the top. So delighted was he with his new discovery that he ran up and down just for the joy of doing it. All day long he pestered one to play with him, bringing in his mouth a stick or tin or a lump of coal, or even a potato looted from the galley, which he wished thrown for him to fetch. Of this game he never tired, and no matter where one threw the object, he searched until it was found, when he brought it back, calling one’s attention to the fact by a short bark or a dig in the calves with his nose.
Another game which he was very fond of was to drop things from the deck-house on to the head of someone standing below, whose share in the game was to return the thing dropped so that he could do it again. He was greatly excited by a seal which followed the ship and whenever we were stopped by floes rose high out of the water alongside us as though trying to come aboard. Possibly it regarded us as a strangely elusive and inaccessible piece of land. Up to now we had not seen any penguins in the pack.
On coming on deck at 4.0 A.M. on February 7th I discovered that during Jeffrey’s watch the ship had entered a cul-de-sac and that further progress was impossible. From the crow’s nest I could see nothing but dense pack stretching away to the southward as far as the eye could reach, with no sign of a water sky beyond it. To the east and west the same conditions prevailed, and there was no hope of working the ship in any direction except that in which we had come. I therefore decided to stay where we were for a day (lat. 67° 40´ S. and 17° 6´ E. long), and if there was no sign of opening of the ice at the end of that time to retrace my steps and look for open leads farther to the west.
There were a number of seals within reach which I determined to collect, and so putting the ship alongside a suitable floe I sent off some of the men to kill and bring them aboard. They secured nine altogether, far more than we required for meat, but I wanted the blubber to help out the coal supply. We took for the larder, therefore, only the dainties, such as the brains, kidneys, livers and hearts, and the choicest pieces of flesh, which are the undercuts from the inside of the ribs.
We saw that day the first emperor penguin of the trip standing solitary, as is the wont of this species, upon a floe. Wilkins secured it as a specimen. The emperors are the most stately of all the penguins and have the finest markings. The king penguin is more brightly coloured, but the emperor has the more delicate shades which merge gradually into one another. Seen on the floe in bright sunshine they have a really beautiful appearance.
[Illustration: COMMANDER WILD AT THE MASTHEAD
_Photo: Dr. Macklin_]
[Illustration: PUSHING SOUTH THROUGH HEAVY PACK
[Illustration: THE _QUEST_ PLOUGHING THROUGH HEAVY ICE PACK
_Photo: Dr. Macklin_]
If approached slowly they make no attempt to run away, but may even take a few sedate steps forward to meet the stranger. When within a few paces they stop and commonly make a profound bow, just as if they were greeting one’s arrival. If approached quickly and suddenly they take alarm and retire, first of all upon their feet; but if hustled they drop upon their bellies and using both feet and flippers, sledge themselves along at a considerable speed. Seen from behind they look like gigantic beetles, and there is something about this mode of progression which is provocative of laughter. I have noticed this when I have been showing pictures upon the cinema screen, the audience invariably breaking into laughter when it occurs.
This species is found only in the far south, and has the peculiarity of nesting during the winter. The term “nesting” may be misleading, for they do not make any nests but lay their egg (only one egg is laid by each bird) upon the snow surface. Both male and female birds take turns in hatching out. They have a small depression on the foot into which the egg is wriggled by means of the beak. They are able to move about carrying the egg, and as Sir Ernest Shackleton used to say, “they act both as a cradle and a perambulator.” When they wish to transfer the egg from one to another they stand belly to belly and indulge in a vast amount of wriggling; but in the process the egg is often dropped on to the ice and has to be wriggled on again from there. Two of the most marked characteristics of penguins are their patience and tenacity of purpose, both of which are extraordinary.
A few days before we entered the cul-de-sac Dell killed the South Georgia pig which was presented to us by Mr. Hansen, of Leith Harbour. It proved excellent eating and a pleasant change from seal meat. The head remained, and as it would make a meal for only one of the messes, we agreed to gamble to decide which should have it. Kerr was deputed to represent us, but lost to the after-mess. Even such small incidents as this attracted an interest just then.
A sounding taken on this day (February 7th) showed 2,356 fathoms in position lat. 67° 40´ S. and 17° 6´ E. long.
At 5.0 A.M. on the following day the ice had shown no signs of opening, so I decided to turn back and look for a more open route to the east or west. We steamed north until noon, when, not caring to expend coal in going away from our objective, I gave orders to reduce steam, and proceeded under sail. The wind was southerly and of moderate strength. I gathered in this way some idea of what ice navigation meant in the days before the introduction of the steam engine. Progress, in spite of favourable winds, was slow, but I was surprised at the effect of a long-continued steady pressure against floes, some of them of quite considerable weight. They gave way slowly before our bows, and the _Quest_ slipped of her own will (for she would not answer her helm) into the cracks between them and slowly wedged her way through.
We were now so deep in the pack that there was no appreciable swell, and the _Quest_ was consequently steady. I continued the operation which we had been compelled to give up before, and swung out the port life-boat, Worsley being a spectator only. This time there was no accident.
Worsley now started to go on the bridge and keep a watch, though of course he was compelled to take things very quietly, at any rate in so far as his movements were concerned. Quiet in other respects his watch certainly was not, for members of it carried on long-continued, and often argumentative, dialogues, usually at the top of their voices. This was especially the case with one of them, and many times I have leapt on deck with a sense of impending danger, wakened by shouting that proved to be the most trivial of remarks.
The weather was fair during the day, with a moderate southerly wind, no sunshine, and occasional snow squalls. At 7.30 P.M. we had made thirty-five miles to the northward. This was all to the bad and a bit disappointing. However, we hoped for a change before long. Seals appeared on the floe in quantity during the day and also a number of emperor penguins standing, as usual, stately and alone.
Killers were about and a large number of birds—Antarctic petrels, Wilson’s petrels, and a few pretty pure white snow petrels.
During the night (February 9th) our luck changed and we were able to make southerly again. Throughout the morning we met loose pack and a number of leads of open water, so that by 12.0 noon we were only eleven miles north of the previous position. We had the same conditions till 4.0 P.M., when we met with dense pack. From the crow’s nest, however, I saw “water sky” to the southward and determined to push on to the utmost ability of the ship. We progressed very slowly and only with the greatest difficulty. It took much hard steaming and consumption of valuable coal for the _Quest_ to make any impression on this heavy floe.
The evening of this day was fine, beautiful and still, the sort that takes hold of one and sends mind and memory wandering far afield. There was not a ripple on the small pools between the floes, in which were numbers of small _euphausiæ_ swimming about. Four or five seals came about the ship and accompanied us, rubbing themselves against the sides and popping their heads out to regard us with large eyes of a beautiful soft brown colour. They were evidently in a playful mood. On the ice seals are sluggish and very helpless, but in the water they are wonderful, and their swimming movements are most graceful as they dart about twisting and turning and occasionally rising to look round.
Killers were about earlier in the day, but no penguins. An ugly-looking sea-leopard put his head out of the water and gazed malignantly over the edge of the floe. In a pool at some distance from the ship I caught sight of a black mass rising and falling, and through my binoculars witnessed what appeared to be a fight between two sea-leopards. One of them leapt continually from the water to a height of some six feet, and the water was churned to a mass of foam. Suddenly it all ceased. What tragedy was enacted on that perfect evening? On such a night, amidst the pure whiteness of one’s surroundings, it was hard to realize that in the struggle for existence the unrelenting laws of Nature must hold.
We passed close alongside a floe with a seal on it. I shot it; Macklin jumped off on to the floe and made fast a line, scarcely taking time to stop we hauled it aboard and proceeded on our way. Looking back I saw the surface of the snow smirched with its blood. So Man passed leaving a red stain; and yet but a few moments before I had been moralizing on “Nature red in tooth and claw.”
Very few birds were about, with the exception of snow petrels, a few Antarctic petrels and a single young Dominican gull.
[Illustration: THE _QUEST_ AT HER FARTHEST SOUTH
[Illustration: JEFFREY AND DOUGLAS TAKING OBSERVATIONS FOR MAGNETIC DIP
[Illustration: HEAVY PRESSED-UP PACK ICE—THE _QUEST_ IN THE DISTANCE
[Illustration: COMMANDER WILD AND WORSLEY EXAMINING A NEWLY FORMED “LEAD” IN THE PACK ICE
_Photo: Dr. Macklin_]
We were pushing on, but the prospect at the moment was not promising. From aloft there was nothing to be seen but ice closely packed and stretching as far as the eye could reach in all directions. I distrust fine weather in the pack; it usually means lowered temperature, close ice and little open water.
February 10th opened as a beautiful morning, with bright sunshine. The ice was white and sparkling and the water a deep blue. The air was keen and crisp, and all hands revelled in the improved weather conditions. Less so myself, however, for I feared what was portended. I prefer damp misty weather in the pack, for that means the presence of a considerable amount of open water amongst the ice and better conditions for navigating, in spite of poor visibility.
The number of seals that accompanied us increased to twenty or more. They refused to leave us, though they occasionally took fright and dashed off with a swirl of water. Seen from aloft a school of seals is a wonderful sight. There was evidently something on the ship’s side which had an attraction for them, for they seized the chance of every stop to rise out of the water and nibble at frozen pieces of ice which had formed just above the water-line. The ice on the patent anchors which projected from the hawse holes two or three feet above the surface especially attracted them, and they collected in clusters of five or six to nibble at it.
In the early morning the pack was composed of dense, heavy old floes, much broken up and bearing the remains of pressure ridges through which progress was very slow. At 7.30 A.M. we entered a lead with surface just freezing over, which offered little resistance to the ship. It was literally full of killers, which crossed and recrossed our bows and “blew” all about us. Our seal friends did not accompany us into the lead, for which the presence of the killers was no doubt a good and sufficient reason. The crab-eaters seem to have no fear of them whilst in closely set pack with only small pools of water between the floes, but one rarely sees crab-eaters in larger stretches of water. Occasionally they have been seen in large numbers travelling at high speed. Hurley, the photographer of the last expedition, was able to get a photographic record of them passing close to the ship, the number being so great that the surface of the water was lashed to foam. That they are hunted by the killers is beyond doubt, for one frequently sees them shoot out of water and land with a heavy wallop on a piece of ice, look all round and bump themselves violently along, finally disappearing with a dive into the water again. This differs largely from their ordinary method of landing when they wish to rest. In this case they may be seen first of all rising high out of the water and looking over the edge of the floe, obviously noting its nature, and searching for a shelter from the wind. They land with the same heavy flop, but show none of the excitement when up.
[Illustration: THE _QUEST_ PUSHING NORTH THROUGH RAPIDLY FREEZING ICE
_Photo: Dr. Macklin_]
[Illustration: “WATERING” SHIP WITH FLOE ICE
On one occasion at my base in Queen Mary’s Land during the Mawson Expedition I was standing on an ice foot with Mr. Harrison, my biologist, when I saw a killer actually attack a seal which, however, escaped and effected a landing on the ice foot. It was bleeding profusely and was in a very exhausted condition. On close examination we found six large wounds, all of which had penetrated the blubber to the flesh, none of them less than three inches deep. At first I was inclined to put the animal out of its misery, but my biologist asked me to let it remain so that we might see whether or not it would recover. It lost an amazing amount of blood, which melted its way into the ice beneath, but on the fourth day it had recovered sufficiently to enter the sea again. Nearly all seals bear the scars of old wounds in vertical strokes down their sides. Wilkins collected a number of skins in which these scars were more extensive than usual, and prepared them for sending back as specimens to the British Museum.
The water in the hold had increased so much by now that it required four hours of hard pumping to reduce. It was hard, monotonous work.
In the afternoon we encountered the first Adelie penguin which we had seen on this expedition. It was standing alone on a flat piece of floe, and at sight of us evinced the most marked surprise, looking at us first with one eye and then the other, and finally started towards us at a run. Its waddling gait resembled that of a fat old white-waistcoated gentleman in a desperate hurry. Many times it fell forward, but, picking itself up, hurried on till, reaching the edge of the floe, it tumbled rather than dived into the water. In a few seconds it shot out, to alight upright upon another floe where it continued the chase, but by this time we were drawing away and he gave it up, uttering a last “Cl-a-a-k,” as much as to say, “Well, I’m jiggered!” Later we saw many more who showed the same interest, some of them taking to the water and coming about the ship or following in our wake.
We entered a broad belt of large flat pieces of one-year-old floe interspersed with thinner new ice which the _Quest_ was able to crack, although it usually required several blows to split it widely enough to let her through.
Following on this we entered a broad lead of open water, but about 10 P.M. encountered very thick and solid floe. Owing to the dim light it was impossible to distinguish rotten mushy ice which we could safely ram from solid pieces which badly jarred the ship. About midnight I lay to till more light should give me a chance to get a better view from the mast head.
We obtained a sounding of 2,163 fathoms in position lat. 68° 3´ S. and 16° 12´ E. long., and as soon as the light improved we set off again and spent the whole of February 11th energetically pushing south. The temperature fell rapidly, reaching 18° F. at midnight. All the open water started freezing over and was covered with a skin of ice which offered little resistance to the ship when she was well under way, but impeded her considerably when in the dense pack she was forced to be continually stopping and restarting again.
As far as the actual weather was concerned the Antarctic can offer nothing better than that which we were experiencing, fine and clear, the air crisp and cold, yet not sufficiently so to be unpleasant. As the sun sloped down to the horizon with the gentle decline it takes in these latitudes, in contrast to the suddenness with which it disappears in the tropics, we had a beautiful long sunset, the sky taking the most wonderful colours, crimson, amber and gold. The snow surface was a lovely pale pink except where each hummock threw a long black shadow. The surface of the newly freezing parts, still and polished, reflected a pale green. Across the vault of the sky were little fleecy rolls of pink cloud, while nearer the horizon were heavier banks of a deep crimson. Stretching away behind in an ever-narrowing ribbon one saw the lane cut by the passage of the ship disturbed only in the foreground by the ripple of the screw. In contrast to the vivid colouring ahead that astern had the black and white effect of a pencil sketch. A perfectly wonderful evening and yet—_timeo Danaos_—I do not like the pack when it smiles. The prospect was not good. I knew that unless we got a rise of temperature things might be bad for us, for it would be quite impossible to forge through the thickening ice, which had the effect of cementing together the heavier floes so that a much more powerful ship than the _Quest_ would have been quite unable to make any impression upon them.
There was one thing I knew I must avoid. The _Quest_ was not suitable for “freezing in.” Her shape was not such as would cause her to rise with lateral pressure, and it was almost certain that should she become involved in any of the heavy disturbances which frequently occur she was not likely to survive. The hazard of a boat journey was not likely to meet with the same fortunate ending that we experienced in the _Endurance_ expedition, where our escape was indeed a miraculous one. Nearly all our special winter equipment was at Cape Town, which was to have been our base of operations. But weighing even more than these factors was another on which one can only briefly touch: in spite of a solid nucleus of old, tried Antarctic men, and others of proved worth in different fields, there was a discordant element in the personnel which I was anxious to adjust before I exposed the party to the trials and vicissitudes of a polar winter.
During the afternoon Worsley took a sounding, finding in lat. 68° 52´ S. and 16° 55´ E. long. a depth of 1,555 fathoms, which showed a shoaling of 608 fathoms in 49 miles of southing. The snapper contained a specimen of grey mud which was handed to the geologist.
I had no rest during the night, for I realized that on the next few hours hung the fate of this effort. Unless the temperature rose and the ice showed signs of loosening it would be necessary to turn back, little though I liked the prospect. I was in the crow’s nest the moment that the dim midnight light began to improve, searching all round the horizon with binoculars. Everywhere the ice lay tightly packed and solid. McIlroy reported a further drop of two degrees Fahrenheit. The filmy, freezing surface of the leads had become definitely frozen over, so that there was not a drop of water to be seen anywhere. Even to the northward the outlook was bad, and I began to fear that after all we might be beset. That we could push no farther into the heavy ice was certain. I decided to remain where I was for the day, but longer than that would be fatal unless a change occurred in the meantime. I manœuvred the ship to a large solid floe to enable the scientists to take their instruments over the side, and give all hands a chance of exercise after the cramping spell of shipboard. Near by a fat Weddell seal lay asleep. I shot it, and McIlroy and Macklin skinned it and took the blubber to the bunkers. Carr, with the assistance of Marr, Naisbitt and Argles, brought in some ice for use as drinking water.
[Illustration: EMPEROR PENGUINS ON THE FLOE: A STILL EVENING IN THE PACK
[Illustration: FROZEN SPRAY
Sea ice, although salt, has the peculiar property that if piled up for two or three days, either naturally as pressure ridges or artificially by heaping up a number of frozen slabs, the salt leaves the upper pieces, which can be melted down and freely used as drinking water. Physicists have not been able to explain fully the phenomenon. It is, however, an easily demonstrable fact, and it is by this property of the ice alone that ships have been able to winter in the pack. In the height of summer, when the sun beats down strongly upon the ice, pools of water form on the surface of the floes. They are fresh and can be used for drinking. It is necessary, however, if water is being taken from this source, to see that the floe is a good solid one, not “rotted” underneath, in which case it may be brackish. During some of our marches over the ice of the Weddell Sea after the loss of the _Endurance_ the going was very bad and the work tremendously hard on account of soft snow, which let the men down to the hips and the dogs to their bellies, and we suffered severely from thirst. When we encountered any of these pools they were freely used by men and dogs for drinking, and we never noticed any salty flavour.
[Illustration: The track of the _Quest_ as compared with the tracks of Biscoe and Bellingshausen.]
The eating of snow is bad; of this there can be no doubt, though I have seen it stated in the writings of some explorers that it is quite suitable for quenching thirst, and all that is necessary is to overcome the prejudice against its use. The eating of a little snow is harmless, but if one indulges in the practice for a long time the mouth becomes very dry due to the paralysing effect of cold on the salivary glands. The result is that more and more of it is required and the dryness of the mouth is intensified. Any weak spots which may have developed in the teeth are at once discovered, with consequent severe facial neuralgia. The swallowing of the scarcely melted water tends to upset digestion, as is well seen in the United States of America, where the frequent taking of iced drinks is a national practice and dyspepsia is the national complaint. This is not a theoretical observation, for as an enthusiastic young man in my early days of exploration I made the experiment to my sorrow, and I have noted the effects upon other members of the different expeditions which have entered these regions.
Worsley, with the assistance of Dell and Watts, took a sounding, finding bottom at 1,089 fathoms in lat. 69° 17´ S. and 17° 9´ E. long. This showed a shoaling of 466 fathoms in twenty-nine miles, and certainly indicated the approach to the continental shelf. Once again I climbed to the crow’s nest and scanned the horizon to the south. The sky in that direction had a hard white look such as one would get over snow-covered land, but is also seen over densely packed ice. I felt sure that if we could only work our way for another fifty miles to the south we should sight or find indications of land, but no ship ever built could possibly have pushed through the ice to the south of us, not even the most powerful ice-breakers.
Of animal and bird life there was very little, but though if present they would have been additional evidence in favour of the proximity of land, their absence did not necessarily negative it.
Looking backwards to the north I saw that the ice in that direction, though less dense than that to the south, was settling firm and hard, and I decided that as soon as the scientific staff had completed their observations I must beat a hasty and energetic retreat.
Few people can realize what an effort it had been to force the little _Quest_ to this position. It was hard to have to turn back. It was necessary, however, to make every effort to escape this freeze up, but once in loose pack I was determined to seize the first chance to push south again.
At about 4.0 P.M. on February 12th, having come to my decision, I blew the steam whistle for the recall of all hands, who had thoroughly enjoyed their day on the ice. Query had had a splendid time in spite of having once or twice fallen through mushy holes into freezing water, and he came back to the ship thoroughly tired from the unwonted exercise.
[Illustration: COMMANDER WILD’S WATCH—McILROY, CARR, WILD, MACKLIN
[Illustration: THE “BLACK” WATCH—ROSS, ARGLES, YOUNG, KERR, SMITH
[Illustration: WORSLEY’S WATCH—DOUGLAS, WILKINS, WATTS, WORSLEY
[Illustration: JEFFREY’S WATCH—McLEOD, MARR, JEFFREY, DELL
We had some difficulty in getting under way, but once the ship had gathered momentum she was able to push on through the new ice. Navigation required the utmost watchfulness and care; we could not afford to delay, for minutes totalled up, and the ice was increasing hourly in thickness. Every stop added to the difficulties of getting under way again. I must pay a high tribute to the unremitting energy and unfailing resource of Worsley and Jeffrey at this critical period as we forced our way from the closing grip of the pack. Macklin writes in his diary:
The way in which the _Quest_ is made to push ahead and to dodge and wriggle past the most awkward places is wonderful. Kerr is excelling himself below—I hope he does not bust her up, for these engines have given at one time and another a lot of trouble. It is interesting to compare the different watches at work. Commander Wild goes about the job quietly and steadily, without fuss or shouting, and undoubtedly makes the best headway. Old Wuzzles (Worsley) also goes ahead energetically, but to an accompaniment of noise that might waken the dead, for which, perhaps, he is less responsible than some members of his watch. Jeffrey also makes surprisingly good headway, with a running commentary usually the reverse of complimentary on all things frozen.
I was wakened at 4.0 on the following morning by McLeod, who shouted in at my door, “One bell and the ship’s afire!” In a moment I was out of bed and on deck, to find dense smoke and flame ascending from what appeared to be the engine-room skylight. Rushing to the engine-room door, I was met by Smith, who said that everything was all right below. The flames were leaping up alongside the funnel. I went up on to the bridge and shouted to the other members of my watch who had turned out to get Pyrene extinguishers, of which we kept a number always on hand. We squirted their contents vigorously into the midst of the flames, and soon had them subdued, when I discovered that the cause of the trouble lay in some cork fenders and coils of tarry rope which had been placed against the funnel on the previous day. The flames had spread to two large wooden sidelight boards and to some canvas gear. Our portable hand-sounding machine was also involved, and was, unfortunately, rendered almost useless. The fire, while it lasted, was a brisk one, and had we been compelled to rely on the old hose system for its extinction there is no doubt that it would have proved serious. The rapidity with which we were able to control it speaks much for the efficacy of the extinguishers in use, which were of the carbon-dioxide producing type.
Having leapt straight from our bunks, we were exceedingly lightly clothed, and, now that the excitement was over, we noticed the cold atmosphere and scampered off to garb ourselves more warmly.
We continued vigorously pushing north all day. Numerous crab-eater seals were seen, many of them on our direct route; but although I was anxious to lay in a store of their blubber I did not stop. We saw also a number of emperor penguins. Bird life, as I have said, had been very scarce, and represented only by snow petrels, a number of which, outlined in silvery whiteness against the blue of the sky as they passed overhead on their way south, presented a very beautiful picture.
In the evening we passed by a floe on which five large seals lay asleep, and I determined to stop for a short time and take them up. There is no difficulty in killing and obtaining any number of Antarctic seals, no matter how small the floe they are on, provided one approaches them quietly and gets within a range at which they can be picked off rapidly and with certainty one after the other. On this occasion I gave the word to withhold fire till we were close alongside, but Douglas, apparently unable to restrain his impetuosity, fired too soon and succeeded in wounding one, which heaved itself about frantically and startled the others to sudden wakefulness. To make matters worse, Douglas continued firing, and some of them dived into the sea. It is a characteristic of these seals that if wounded they prefer to be on a floe, and all but one came back again, when they were properly dispatched and hoisted aboard for removal of their blubber. The moment they were aboard I set off again, scarcely waiting for the men on the floe, who scrambled up as the ship was moving away.
There is a great difference between Arctic and Antarctic seals. In the North the seal has always to be on the look out for the polar bear, and when it comes ashore to sleep does so fitfully, frequently raising its head to look about, and slipping back to the water on the least alarm. Its enemies are above and not below water. The contrary holds in the Antarctic, where the seals are vigorously preyed upon by the killers and sea-leopards. On the surface, however, they have no enemies, and although they take fright if approached quickly or noisily, one can, by moving quietly, get so close to them that they can, if so desired, be clubbed instead of shot. This clubbing should be done with a heavy instrument, such as the loom of an oar, and the point to be aimed at is the nose. If the blow is delivered accurately and with sufficient weight, the seal is immediately rendered unconscious, after which the jugular veins and the main arteries of the neck are severed with a knife, without one of which at his belt no good sailor or explorer goes anywhere. In any case the carcass of the seal should always be thoroughly bled. Another useful instrument by which the animal can be instantaneously killed is an Alpine ice-pick, the point being driven by a smart downward tap through the vault of the skull. This has the disadvantage of destroying the brain, which we always used for cooking, and is, indeed, the greatest dainty provided by these animals. The method of killing seals which we always adopted when we had plenty of ammunition was to shoot them. I always aim at the neck, just behind the skull, where many vital structures are brought into close relationship. Death is instantaneous, bleeding takes place freely, and the brain is not destroyed.
Macklin sustained a nasty cut during the flensing, running his hand off the haft of the knife on to the blade. He rather prided himself on his knives, on which he kept a razor edge, and on his flensing, and I think he felt annoyed at his clumsiness, for it was with an almost shamefaced air that he went to McIlroy to get his hand bound up.
The art of keeping a hunting-knife in really good order is one which few people understand. A keen edge is essential for neat and rapid work, yet I have seen many people hacking laboriously away with a blade which would scarcely penetrate butter. I always carry a pocket carborundum stone, and I carefully clean and sharpen my knife every time I use it. Before using the stone it is important to see that there is no blood or blubber remaining on the blade. After a heavy day’s flensing it may take from half an hour to an hour to bring the edge to perfection again, and I am always amused at the man who brings something resembling a butcher’s steel and says: “You might just sharpen that for me, will you?”
Another art is the making of a good leather sheath, for that is a thing one cannot buy. It is careful and continued attention to small things that makes for efficiency at this kind of work.
[Illustration: CHIPPING FROZEN SPRAY FROM THE GUNWALES
[Illustration: THE _QUEST_ BESET NEAR ROSS’S APPEARANCE OF LAND
It did not get completely dark at midnight. The increasing light in the early morning produced a wonderful sunrise. Owing to the gradual upward curve of the sun in these latitudes, the effects last for hours and change slowly, contrasting strongly with the evanescent tropical skies, where the sun rises abruptly above the horizon and in the evening falls back so suddenly that there is no twilight. The sky to the eastward was lit up with the most delicate and beautiful colours, which were reflected on the surface of the floe. The old floes passed slowly from pale pink to crimson and, as the sun came over the rim, to the palest and most delicate heliotrope. The darker newly frozen ice changed from bronze to light apple-green. To the westward a large golden moon was poised in a cloudless sky, turning the floes to the palest of gold. No words of mine can adequately convey the beauty of such a morning.
These days impressed themselves vividly in one’s memory, which has the knack of picking out the brighter spots in the greyness of these regions. I think it is impressions like these which, working perhaps subconsciously, produce that haunting restlessness which makes one feel suddenly, and without apparent cause, dissatisfied with civilization, its veneer and artificiality, its restrictions and its ugliness. Certain it is that few people who have travelled away from the beaten track and spent long, unbroken periods face to face with Nature can hope to escape the sudden feelings of restlessness and disquietude which come upon one without warning and drive one to pacing up and down, to face the rain on a gusty night, or do anything so long as one can be alone for a while. I think that every living being has at one time or another experienced that curious feeling—it is hard to say of what exactly—a sort of wondering lostness that comes over one in certain circumstances. In our own country one feels it on fine nights in the gloaming, when everything is stilled and the silence unbroken save by the full-throated song of some bird, which seems only to accentuate it. One feels something of it even in the cities in the quiet of a summer evening, with the smoke of countless chimneys winding lazily upwards, but it is in the great untouched areas of the earth that it makes its deepest impression and grips one with the greatest intensity.
It has been my fortune to visit many parts of the world, and I can recall wonderful evenings in many places which have created a deep impression on me, but there particularly stand out in my mind’s eye some of the long Antarctic autumn twilights too beautiful to describe. I have seen the most materialistic and unimpressionable of men strung to an absolute silence, scarcely daring to breathe, filled with something intangible and inexplicable. The very sledge dogs stand stock still, gazing intently into the farness, ears cocked, listening—for what? Suddenly the spell is broken and with a deep breath one turns again to work.
We pushed on and on throughout the 14th and made on the whole pretty good headway. I stopped just long enough to let Worsley take a sounding, depth 1,925 fathoms (lat. 68° 21´ S. and 16° 0´ E. long.). With every hour the ice increased in thickness and the _Quest_ had all she could do to push forward. Work at the wheel was strenuous, for in the new ice the ship did not make a straight track, but swerved all the time from side to side, and the helm had to be swung repeatedly in either direction to check the deviation.
About midday we encountered heavy floe against which we made poor headway, and I began to realize that it would be touch and go as to whether we would get out or not. I sent for Kerr and told him to give his engines all they would stand. He increased the pressure of steam, and the ship began to make headway slowly but surely.
In the early afternoon the weather changed. McIlroy reported a rise of temperature to 22° Fahr., and there was a swell, very faint but quite noticeable. A skua gull and a giant petrel appeared. All these signs were good, indicating a more open pack ahead of us and open water within reasonable distance.
By 8.0 P.M. we were once more making good headway, and I went below, to fall soundly asleep after my days of anxiety and broken rest.
Owing to the darkness we were compelled to heave to for two hours at midnight, for with the northing we had made there was less daylight, and one cannot distinguish in the dim light between rotten floes and solid ones, which if rammed would fetch up the ship all standing and possibly start the timbers and carry away a certain amount of gear.
The temperature had risen to 24° Fahr., but when I came on deck in the early morning of the 15th the outlook was not good. The air was not warm enough to prevent freezing of the ice, and from the mast-head I saw heavy pack to the northward. There was one good sign, however, and that was an increased northerly swell coming along in slow leisurely rolls. It is a fine sight to see a huge field of ice rising and falling in this manner.
We pushed energetically on and later in the day we entered loose open pack. I had no doubt now that we were out of danger of being beset. It was a relief to be able to relax a little after the constant effort of the last fortnight.
Although we were now free from danger of being beset we had entered a new set of conditions which were by no means a sinecure. The ice had the effect of deadening swell, but the pieces of floe about the pack edge were often thrown into violent motion and made to bump and grind together by the action of the sea. By coming north also we were losing daylight, and we had now from two to three hours of darkness to contend with each day. Navigation under these circumstances required constant care and watchfulness, so that I had still to maintain a pretty active vigilance. For much of our journey about the northern limits of the pack I was compelled for the sake of economy to shut off steam and proceed under sail only, which gave me some idea of the difficulties which Bellingshausen and Biscoe had to contend with, and enabled me to appreciate their reticence to push deeply into the ice. To both of these predecessors I must pay a tribute of the highest praise for their determined and persevering work about this segment. In the whole of my experience as a seaman I have never encountered a part of the world where weather and sea conditions generally are so uncomfortable. Periods of gale, with heavy swell and grinding floe, when the outlook is obscured by driving wind and blinding snow squalls, alternate with periods of calm, when fog settles in a dense pall of fine mist which forms heavy rime on all spars and running gear, and freezing solid interferes greatly with their working. It takes days for the huge rollers to subside, and the floes grind and groan incessantly. I had always the feeling that I could raise steam at short notice, but these early explorers were dependent entirely on winds, which blow either too hard or not hard enough, and never seem to strike the happy medium. To John Biscoe, British seaman, the trip must have been one of long continued struggle, for he was ill equipped, scurvy set in and he lost the greater part of the crews of both his vessels. On his own ship, the _Tula_, there were only three men able to stand when the ship reached Hobart, and on the _Lively_ only three were _alive_ when she reached Port Philip. His story, told baldly, makes enthralling reading for those who can appreciate it.
We made good progress to the northward, the day’s run at noon on the 16th being estimated by Worsley at seventy-seven miles. We passed through much open water with a strong easterly swell, but encountered also several belts of heavy, closely packed ice consisting of old floe which had undergone heavy pressure. Owing to the swell it was impossible to avoid some severe bumps. Birds were about in large numbers, including Antarctic petrels, giant petrels and terns. We saw numerous killers, and witnessed a most interesting display by two of them which were playing and disporting themselves on the surface, flinging their huge bulks high into the air, and creating a tremendous turmoil in the water. Crab-eaters were seen in numbers on the floes, sometimes singly, often in bunches of five or six. We saw no penguins or snow petrels. Worsley reported a single Mother Carey’s Chicken as having been about. They all pointed to the proximity of open ocean, and I expected that we should be clear of ice by next day.
A sounding taken in lat. 67° 07´ S. and 14° 29´ E. long. gave a depth of 2,341 fathoms.
In the evening we again entered an area of heavy old floes, which moved about and pressed together in the swell. Snow squalls and dim light made the navigation of them a difficult matter, but by noon of the following day we had got clear of pack and were in open water with a clear sky to the northward. Numerous solitary pieces of floe and heavy growlers were still dotted about. Growlers are heavy, solid pieces of ice, grey or greenish-grey in colour, which float with their tops just awash. They are consequently difficult to see, especially in poor light, and a close watch has always to be kept for them.
Some of the floes carried passengers in the shape of crab-eater seals. We saw a number of huge blue whales, which are recognized by their large size, high vertical spout which opens out into a dense cloud of spray, and the presence of a fin. Killers also were about in large numbers.
In the early morning of the 18th we turned south again in another attempt to push through to land or ice barrier. From the lateness of the season we knew this must necessarily be the last attempt for this year.
We had not proceeded many miles when we again encountered pack, which compelled us to take a southwesterly direction, passing through a good deal of brash, but keeping clear of heavy ice. The weather was thick and snowy. Later we encountered some very old floes full of small caves, and with well-defined necks where the sea had worn them away by the continual wash, so that they resembled gigantic mushrooms growing from the surface of the water.
Marr was taken ill at this time with sore throat and high temperature. He said nothing of the condition himself and would have struggled on had not Dell informed Macklin that he looked a bit sick. He is a hardy youngster and showed his contempt for the cold by walking about inadequately clothed. He had a vivid maroon-coloured muffler, beautifully soft and warm. I once asked him if it was a present from his best girl. “Yes,” he replied, “from my mother.” I threatened him that if he appeared without this round his neck in future I would pack him off to bed and keep him there. The doctors reported that his condition was not serious, and a day or two in bed would put him right again.
We continued in a southerly direction till the night of the 20th, when we met heavy pack which compelled us to turn west. At noon on the 21st we were forced to come back in a north-westerly direction. In the evening we skirted a line of ice running west-south-west, and on the morning of the 22nd again entered open sea.
The 22nd was Worsley’s birthday. He had reached his fiftieth milestone, but could easily have passed for ten years less. We celebrated the occasion by an extra special spread at which, to the surprise and (needless to say) delight, of nearly everyone, some bottles of beer materialized. The _pièce de résistance_ was a large pink cake bearing in sugar the inscription, “Wuzzles’ 21st.” He was called upon to cut it himself, and was given a large steel chopper with which to do it. Having performed a Maori war dance, he proceeded to cut it into slices. It proved to be a bit hard, so he attempted to lift it to a better position, to find, to his amazement, that he could scarcely budge it. The cake turned out to be a 56-lb. sinker, which Green had covered with sugar. However, a proper cake was forthcoming, and the evening was spent merrily.
The _Quest_ was not a comfortable ship, and there was little to take the mind from general routine and the business in hand. The continuous struggle with the pack became after a time very exhausting, and there was a chance also of its becoming something of an obsession. Consequently, occasions such as birthdays, which provided a diversion and helped to lift the men out of themselves, were of the greatest value.
February 23rd was a dull grey day. We hoisted the squaresail at daybreak and continued to run off before a strong easterly wind. With sails set there was great difficulty in getting the wardroom stove to burn, for both topsail and squaresail created a powerful and baffling down draught for which we designed and made all sorts and shapes of cowls, but without much success. The wardroom became filled with dense acrid smoke, and the fire was generally allowed to go out when the temperature fell so much that no one could use it to sit about, and those taking their watch below were driven to their bunks. Wilkins and Douglas in the forecastle had the same difficulty. Wilkins, ever resourceful, built a cowl, but it fouled the sheet of the forestay sail and was swept away. Nothing daunted, he built another, which met the same fate. With exemplary patience he built a new one each time the other was lost! We did our best to protect the cowls when setting or taking in sail, but in heavy winds, when the squaresail was let go at the run, it was almost impossible to do so.
Since the evening of the 21st we had made in a west to west-south-westerly direction, but, seeing what appeared to be open seas with sky to the horizon a deep black, I now turned south again. Within an hour, however, we met with small pieces of ice, which became more numerous as we proceeded. We then entered an area of sea full of small round pieces, like snowballs, covered with a fine powdery ice. Snow settling on this area gave it the appearance of a “sea of milk.” The swell continued, but the surface was like oil, unbroken by a single ripple. We passed from this into a belt where the surface was just beginning to freeze, forming the thinnest possible film of ice. The snow on this gave the impression of a grey sea. Visibility, owing to the snow which fell quietly and continuously, was poor. The whole outlook gave a curious impression of greyness, grey sea, grey sky, and everything grey wherever one looked.
As we progressed still farther the filmy surface was replaced by definite pancake formation. Amongst the pancakes were numerous heavy old lumps, much water-worn at sea level, but heavy underneath with long projecting tongues.
The night was cold and snowy and the decks became covered with a very slippery slush on which, with the rolling of the ship, it was not easy to keep a footing. We took in sail, a cold and unpleasant job because all spars, sails and running gear had become coated with a thick covering of ice.
Dinner that night was a cold business, and the dullness of the day and general outlook had rather damped our spirits. Macklin writes on this date:
Owing to the stove refusing to burn, the wardroom was cold, and we gathered round the dinner-table feeling pretty miserable. Green had prepared a big dish of hot potatoes in their jackets. I placed the biggest I could find under my jersey and it warmed me up finely. I kept moving it round so as to warm as much of my body as possible, and finally ate it, warming also my inside. One has to be economical these hard times.
As the light failed the ice began to thicken, and as the swell was causing the floes to grind heavily together I lay to till daybreak. All night long we heard the moaning and complaining of the grinding floes, a number of which, with long underwater tongues, drifted down upon us, causing the ship to take some very bad bumps. To economize our now much-depleted coal I had given Kerr instructions to let the steam fall off, and we had to be constantly sheeting home the topsail and pointing the yards to get her to fall away from our unpleasant neighbours, contact with which might prove dangerous.
The floes looked very weird in the darkness as they surged up on the swell and fell back again into the trough of the sea, the water sucking and gurgling amongst the cracks and chasms and making the most uncanny noises.
At daybreak on the 24th steam was raised and we continued south, pushing through pancake ice which contained many heavy floes. Seen from aloft the pancake formation makes a most beautiful mosaic. Much of our finest art is surpassed by Nature, and in these southern regions there is much to attract those who have an artistic temperament.
The ice rapidly increased in thickness, and by noon we were again held up by dense impenetrable pack in position lat. 68° 32´ S. and 0° 5´ E. long. To the south the outlook was hopeless. I climbed to the crow’s nest to scan the horizon to the southward, but saw only closely packed and heavy ice stretching away to the horizon, whilst in the sky was a strongly marked ice-blink. It was bitterly disappointing. There was no alternative but to retrace our steps and work to the westward. I went below, where once more I pulled out all the charts and examined again the records of old explorers in these regions. I had a long talk with Worsley and Kerr. The season was well advanced; the _Quest_ had neither the driving power nor the amount of coal to enable me to batter hard at heavy floe. As a matter of fact, I do not think that any ship, however powerful, could have made any impression on the stuff to the south of us. As far as finding land in this segment was concerned I felt that we had shot our bolt. I was, however, determined to have another try, and to make Cape Town my base, where I could overhaul and refit my ship, where there was a big supply of good winter stores and equipment, and where I could readjust the personnel. I intended to make the start _early in the season_, and I felt confident that with the time to spare to enable us to wait for the ice to move we should reach new land.
My intention was now to make as directly as possible for the charted position of “Ross’s Appearance of Land,” the accuracy of which I hoped either to verify or to disprove, and to take a series of soundings on the spot. We should by that time be very short of coal and consequently also in need of ballast. I determined, therefore, to call at Elephant Island, where I felt sure we would find sea-elephants in sufficient numbers to supply us with blubber as fuel. Blubber is by no means an ideal form of fuel for the furnace, for it burns with a fierce, hot flame and is very messy. Mixed judiciously with coal, however, I knew it would materially help to spin out the supply. I hoped, also, to be able to take aboard a quantity of sand or shingle as ballast. From there I proposed proceeding to Deception Island to coal, and thence return to South Georgia.
At this point I must mention that which is not a pleasant subject, but one which should not be glossed over, because it indicates what is a most important feature in the preparation for a polar expedition: the choice of personnel. It is a matter which requires the greatest possible care, for one discordant or unadaptable spirit can do a vast amount of harm in infecting others.
There can be no doubt that since leaving South Georgia we had had a very wearing time and one which tried the temper and patience of all hands. It must be admitted that before leaving England the arrangements for the comfort of the personnel had in some directions been overlooked, and long-continued discomfort is bound sooner or later to have an effect upon the temper. Life on board ship entails a certain amount of dull routine, providing at times an amount of exhausting work but very little active exercise. We had experienced long spells of bad weather, with a large proportion of dull, grey days and little sunshine. I therefore expected and was prepared to find that individuals would experience periods of irritability, and that things would not always run as smoothly as might be desired. The personnel had been selected from men of marked individual character, and in order that a body of men of this type shall be able to live in absolute harmony over a long period of time it is necessary that an outstanding quality of each shall be a good “give and take” sporting spirit. The effect of one or two selfish and discordant natures can easily be understood. There was surprisingly little friction amongst the various members of the expedition, which is due largely to the sound qualities of the nucleus of old, tried men.
I began to be aware, however, about this time of an amount of dissatisfaction and grumbling occurring in both the forward and after-messes that I did not like. Men who sat at table with me and to a certain extent enjoyed my confidence discussed and freely criticized expedition affairs with members of the after-mess. Of this I had ample confirmation. Some of those thus employed were officers who from their position on the ship should have been my most loyal supporters. In the after-mess also I was surprised to find that the men affected were those in whom I had placed the most implicit trust. It was a condition of things that required prompt measures. I assembled each mess in turn, and going straight to the point told them that further continuance would be met with the most drastic treatment. I pointed out that although I would at all times welcome suggestions from the officers and scientific staff, and would consider any reasonable complaints, I could consider no selfish or individual interests, and my own decision must be final and end discussion of the matter.
I was glad to notice an immediate improvement.
On February 25th we passed through a lot of loose ice, and in the evening entered a patch of heavy, old, deeply stained diatomaceous floes. Scores of crab-eater seals lay asleep on them in batches of five or six. Passing close to one piece on which six were lying in a clump, I laid the ship alongside and with my heavy rifle shot them all. I sent Macklin, with Douglas and Argles, on to the floe to secure them, which is best done by passing a strop round the body and tightening it close up under the flippers. Having fixed up a block and tackle we hauled them aboard—an awkward job on account of the swell in which the _Quest_ rolled heavily. In the subsequent flensing Douglas jabbed his knee, the knife penetrating the joint. The wound itself was small, but Macklin insisted on absolute rest until he could be sure that there was no infection. Carr also cut his finger. These accidents were largely due to the movement of the ship, which rendered the operation a difficult one. Two inexperienced men wielding their knives on the same seal are a source of danger to each other, for with the sweeping strokes employed there is the chance of a mutilating cut. I always insisted in cases like this that only one man at a time should have a knife in his hand.
Watts succeeded in getting Greenwich time by wireless from Rio de Janeiro, which enabled us to check our chronometers. Long-distance messages were not easily obtained owing to bad atmospheric conditions, which produce loud noises in the ear-pieces.
By February 28th, as a result of our depleted bunkers, the ship was very light and ill-ballasted. I told Worsley to remove from the decks all heavy gear and place it below, for which purpose I arranged to clear the coal from the forward part of the bunkers and put it aft into the side pockets. I divided the men into two working parties, one to go down in the morning, consisting of McIlroy, Marr, Macklin and Dell, and one to work in the afternoon, of Wilkins, Carr, McLeod and Watts. So much vigour did the morning party put into this work, however, that at lunch-time there was little for the others to do beyond stow the gear from above.
March 1st was another fine day, and we took full advantage of it to hang up the spare sails to dry prior to placing them below. All hands seized the opportunity to put out blankets and bedding for an airing.
The deck clearance made a wonderful improvement to the ship. Unfortunately, it made it necessary that we should have the gear up again when we coaled at Deception Island.
Worsley obtained a sounding of 2,762 fathoms in position lat. 65° 22´ S. and 10° 17´ W. long.
In the late afternoon we passed a very curious berg composed of a solid mass with a long, upright tooth-like portion separated from it on the surface by ten or twenty yards of water. Perched on it were several Antarctic petrels and one solitary ringed penguin. How the latter ever attained its position is a mystery, for the sides of the berg were steep and precipitous.
On Saturday, March 4th, there was a strong north-east to easterly wind, with heavy swell, and the motion of the _Quest_ was simply awful, so bad, indeed, that in spite of our long time at sea several of the party were sea-sick. Macklin writes under this date:
It has been impossible to stand without holding firmly to some support, and movement about the ship can only be accomplished by sudden jerks and starts, with hurried gropings for something to catch hold of. A wet, snowy slush on the deck does not help matters. Argles was thrown off his feet and, crashing across the deck, fetched up on the other side against a bucket, severely bruising face, chest and hands. Meals are a screaming comedy or a tragedy, as you like to take them; everything placed on the table promptly charges for the scuppers, and fiddles are almost useless. McIlroy, “Kraskie,” Kerr and myself were sitting on a wooden bench, secured to the floor, holding on to plates and spoons, and endeavouring to guide some food into our mouths. Suddenly, during a particularly violent roll, the bench was torn from its fastenings, and we were thrown backwards into the lee of the wardroom, intimately mixed with knives, forks, plates and treacle dough. During the evening watch Commander Wild was talking to Mick and myself on the bridge when suddenly he shot away into the darkness, and a few moments later sounds the reverse of complimentary were heard issuing from the end of the bridge-house. Ross brought some tea a few minutes later, apologizing for having spilled much of it _en route_. He, too, suddenly disappeared in darkness, and when he next materialized there was less tea than ever, but it was a good effort his getting it there at all. When I went below I saw Wuzzles trying to work out his calculations on the wardroom table, with first a book, then a pencil or a ruler shooting suddenly to the floor. The _Quest_ is a little “she-devil,” lively as they are made. She has many uncomplimentary things said of her, and deserves all of them.
On March 5th we passed within sight of several large and beautiful bergs emerging from the Weddell Sea, the mouth of which we were now crossing, and met with heavier floes than we had hitherto encountered. On the 9th we ran into broad belts of heavy ice. I took this chance of “watering” ship, placing her alongside a floe with some solid pieces of blue ice. Owing to the swell the ship would not lie comfortably, and so, taking with me Macklin, Carr and Douglas, I went off to secure her fore and aft. We broke up and passed aboard a considerable quantity of fresh ice. The men thoroughly enjoy a job of this nature and make a great joke of it. On this occasion they broke the ice into fragments of convenient weight and threw them at Jeffrey, who had undertaken to catch them all, subjecting him to a regular fusillade from which it was all he could do to defend himself. On the floe there was a seal which had come up to sleep, and we took this also. While this work was going on, Worsley took a sounding, finding in position lat. 66° 5´ S. and 38° 16´ W. long., 2,521 fathoms.
Query came on to the floe, where he took a tremendous interest in a killer which was swimming about. The killer rose close to the floe and “blew” with such a blast that Query tucked in his tail and ran for dear life—much to our amusement.
On Friday, March 10th, we encountered still heavier belts, and were compelled to take a north-easterly direction. In the evening it turned much colder, the temperature dropping to 17° Fahr.
A number of Adelie penguins were seen on the floe. Seals were scarce, only one being seen. Snow and Antarctic petrels flew about the ship in considerable numbers.
During the night we continued to push in a north-easterly direction, meeting very heavy broken-up old Weddell Sea floe. The temperature rose again to 24° Fahr. A strong easterly wind was blowing, with snow, which made it difficult to see far in any direction.
Water was again reported in the hold to the level of the kelson, and required three hours’ additional pumping to reduce.
At 6.0 P.M. the snow thickened so much that we could see nothing, and so lay to for the night. All about we heard the cries of Adelie penguins. The wind and snow continued all night, but at 4.30 A.M. on the 12th we started off again, pushing through thick pack composed of heavy old Weddell Sea floe with the water in between freezing solidly, making headway difficult. Often during this period I bemoaned to myself the low driving power of the _Quest_. With the onset of darkness we again lay to. During the night Marr, who was now a trustworthy seaman, was on the look out. He makes the following entry in his diary: “There was no one to talk to and all round lay that vast cold wilderness of ice. Never in my life have I felt so lonely….” This is indeed a feeling which one gets frequently in these regions, especially at night—a great sense of loneliness such as I have never felt elsewhere. On Monday, March 13th, the temperature dropped during the night to 8° Fahr., and the sea froze solidly about the ship. In the strong wind, with jib and mizen set, there was just enough way to keep the ship from being beset. About 4.0 A.M., however, she did become fast, but as soon as daylight came in we got up steam and proceeded as rapidly as possible. The skies cleared beautifully, but the sea continued to freeze so swiftly and solidly that we had the greatest difficulty in getting ahead, and many times we had to back off into our own water to get up sufficient impetus to break through. How we got the _Quest_ along at all I cannot understand.
The outlook was very bad. Worsley and I spent long hours aloft searching for signs of land in the direction of “Ross’s Appearance,” but though it was a beautifully clear day, we could see no indication of it. Ahead of us the ice stretched thick and solid as far as we could see. Headway became more and more difficult, and soon I saw that it would be useless to attempt to push on. A sounding showed 2,331 fathoms of water in lat. 64° 11´ S. and 46° 4´ W. long., which did not indicate the proximity of land. Owing to the low driving power of the ship I could make no impression through the ice ahead, nor could I afford the coal for prolonged ramming. It seemed to me that we were in imminent danger of being beset, and I decided that we must push north in the hope of meeting more open pack. I had to give up all thought of attempting to return to “Ross’s Appearance,” because I was now desperately short of fuel, and unless we could get blubber at Elephant Island we should be in a bad way.
About us during the day were numerous Adelie penguins, occurring in twos and threes, and in a few larger clusters of forty or more. None of the floes bearing the large clusters were accessible to the ship, or I would have taken them up, for their skins burn well. Crab-eaters were scarce. Seeing two on a floe, with about a dozen penguins, we lay alongside. Argles jumped off to try and catch one, but in the soft snow the penguin had the advantage, and Argles’ efforts were very amusing to the rest of us. He is an active fellow, however, and was at last successful, bringing a squawking young Adelie in his arms to the ship, where Query paid it marked attention. We killed the rest of them, also the seals, and put them aboard the ship. Owing to the darkness, we lay to at night in rapidly freezing ice with the outlook as regards escape not at all promising, and at 4.30 the next morning we raised full pressure of steam and attempted to get away. After two hours of hard ramming we had made so little headway that I gave up the attempt and lay to alongside a floe. By breakfast it had become apparent that we were fast, hard frozen in. The temperature had dropped to 6.5° Fahr.
It blew hard all day. Birds with the exception of a few snow petrels disappeared early. Macklin says of these birds:
I always regard the snow petrel as symbolic of the Spirit of the Pack, for they are never entirely absent, in fair weather or foul. Even in winter when all is dark one can hear the gentle “whisp-whisp” of their wings as they fly close. Their pure white bodies with jet black beak and legs give them a beautiful appearance when seen at a distance, but when gathered about a piece of offal at closer range, there is something unpleasant and almost evil in their appearance, with their sinister curved beaks, hard bright eyes and pock-toed waddling gait. They are seen at their best on a bright clear day with a background of blue sky. Like the pack they can give an attractive impression or a most unpleasant one.
Killers were about during the day.
We were still solidly frozen in on the 15th. A fairly strong westerly wind blew with a temperature of 8.5° Fahr. The day was bright and clear, and Jeffrey and Douglas took theodolite and dip circle on to the floe for observations, which were impossible on a moving deck. In the morning I put all hands to cleaning up the ship and pumping her dry, a process which took two hours daily. Whilst engaged in this a killer appeared in a small lead which had formed on the port bow, and continued to swim slowly backwards and forwards, affording us an excellent close view. His motion through the water was a marvel of graceful movement, but in other respects he was an ugly looking monster, with slightly underhung jaw and a small wicked eye which gave him a very evil appearance. His back and flanks were covered with large brown-coloured patches, probably parasitic. I called Marr’s attention to him; he remarked that it did not make him feel inclined to fall overboard.
At noon Worsley got an observation of the sun and worked out a position which showed a drift of eighteen miles in direction N. 43° E. This was very encouraging, for I knew that if it continued we should not be long in reaching a point at which the floe would begin to open up and give us a chance to get away. A sounding gave 2,321 fathoms in lat. 63° 51´ S. and 45° 13´ W. long. The steam pipe of the sounding machine froze, so that Dell was unable to get in the wire, which was left all night in the hope of getting it in next morning. By daylight, however, the ship had altered her position relative to the hole in the ice by about fifty yards and the wire was as taut as a harp string. I made an effort to clear it with an ice-axe, but did not succeed in doing so. This single sounding wire held the weight of the ship, maintaining it and the floe in the same relative positions for forty-eight hours before finally parting. It was not subjected to any jerking strain, but this test says much for its strength.
We remained frozen in till March 21st. At times I felt very anxious, for with the lateness of the season, failing light and shortage of coal, I realized that our position might turn out to be a very awkward one. Indeed things looked so bad on the sixth day that I made up my mind that we might remain a long time before breaking free, and told Macklin, in dealing with the issue of stores and equipment, to have in mind the possibility of wintering. I had taken care to provision the ship with a view to this eventuality, but it would have necessitated the most rigid economy and a much more monotonous dietary than we had hitherto enjoyed, for it must be remembered that the bulk of our equipment was awaiting us in Cape Town. I did not, however, mention the possibility to the men, for they seemed quite to enjoy the break from routine, and I did not wish their minds to be occupied with any sort of gloomy forebodings. I encouraged them to amuse themselves in any way they could by taking walks out over the floes and by playing football. They were not slow to avail themselves of the opportunity. On one occasion I watched Douglas, Argles, Carr and Macklin earnestly engaged in a strange pastime, which more resembled a free fight than anything, and consisted of flinging themselves at one another and grappling and wrestling fiercely in the snow. At the finish they all bore marks of the contest, Douglas with an eye that threatened closure within a few days. They informed me that they had been playing _American_ football, and said they enjoyed it!
“Soccer” was the favourite game. I frequently joined in, as did Worsley, whose fiftieth birthday we had celebrated a short while before, but who was by no means the least active. The games were marked by many amusing incidents. On one occasion Naisbitt while chasing the ball sank suddenly from view through a hole in the ice, from which he was promptly rescued, soon to be covered with a coating of icicles. On another day we were visited by a small Adelie penguin which spotted us from a floe some distance away, and came running as fast as his short legs would carry him to join in the game. What he thought of it all I do not know, but he insisted on taking an active part, neglecting the ball and fiercely attacking with beak and flippers any man who came near. Query took a great interest in the visitor, but was fiercely repulsed when he showed too marked an inquisitiveness. In the ordinary way too inquisitive penguins pay for their temerity with their lives and go to swell the larder, but this little fellow showed such pluck and sportiveness that we let him go free. He waddled off to join his companions, to whom, no doubt, he would spin the most marvellous yarn.
In honour of our two Irishmen, Jeffrey and McIlroy, we celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with a specially good dinner, for which Green had produced some shamrock-shaped scones tied up with green ribbon. I was also able to produce some cigars and a bottle which we cracked for the occasion.
On the 18th Worsley and Wilkins put down a dredge with reversing thermometer attached. At first steam was used for heaving up, but this proving very slow we fell back on man power. It was hard work, but the men, as they always do on these occasions, threw themselves into it with a will, and we soon brought it to the surface. We obtained fifty-seven specimens of quartzite, tuffs, etc. There was no living matter, but the rocks were filled with worm cells.
The next day we were closely invested by dense pack, composed of heavy old pressure floes. On one was a huge sea-leopard which I shot with my heavy rifle. With the assistance of Worsley, Douglas and Watts I brought it in to the ship, where Wilkins claimed head and skin as specimens.
Later in the day I went with a party composed of Worsley, McIlroy, Kerr, Carr and Macklin to look at a berg, distant four or five miles from the ship. It was a bright morning and we much enjoyed the walk. The ice was very treacherous, and we had to proceed carefully from floe to floe, making many wide detours.
On the morning of the 20th the outlook was bad, for we were closely beset on all sides, and the clouds to the north showed no signs of “water sky.” The temperature was 10° Fahr., and the new ice was freezing more thickly than ever. Macklin, Carr and Marr set off to visit a large berg which appeared on the horizon. They thought they were making wonderfully good progress till it became evident that the berg was moving rapidly towards them, charging heavily through the floe, throwing aside fragments which lay in its path and leaving a wide lane of open water behind it. I watched it anxiously as, travelling at from two to three miles an hour, it approached the ship, and I feared that we might be involved in pressure as a result of the displacement of floes about it. To my relief, however, it passed about three-quarters of a mile astern of us and finally disappeared over the horizon to the northward. There was something awe-inspiring about this huge structure as it moved inexorable and undeviating on its path, relentlessly crushing and pushing aside the smaller structures which sought to impede its progress.
In the evening there was a marked change in the weather. The temperature rose to 14.5° Fahr., and the day became more dull and grey. From the crow’s nest I could see a distinct water sky to the northward.
[Illustration: ROWETT ISLAND, OFF CAPE LOOKOUT, ELEPHANT ISLAND
[Illustration: THE KENT “CLEAR-VIEW” SCREEN
_Photo: Sport & General_]
[Illustration: APPROACHING CAPE LOOKOUT
I was up at daybreak on March 21st and climbed to the mast-head to scan carefully the horizon to the northward for signs of opening up of the ice. There was a heavy black water sky, and as daylight increased I could distinguish fairly open and easily navigable pack. Unfortunately, between us and it were three miles of dense heavy floe solidly cemented by a foot of new ice. An irregular line of weakness ran through the heavy floe towards the now open pack, about half a mile distant from the ship. I thought that if I could cut my way into this a hard and determined effort might succeed in getting us free or at any rate into a more favourable position for escape should the ice about us begin to open up. I had to consider very carefully whether to make the effort or not, for the coal supply was such that we could not afford a day’s hard steaming with no tangible result.
Accompanied by Macklin I walked across the ice to examine this line of weakness more closely. It did not look promising and I cogitated for some time as to what to do. While we were walking back a crack opened in the new ice ahead of the ship. It presented a chance and I determined to take it. I gave orders for all hands to stand to, and told Kerr to get up full pressure of steam so that at any minute he could give the engines every ounce they would stand. He accomplished this very quickly, but before I had time to get under way a large, solid, heavy floe had turned across our bows and was completely blocking the lead. The full pressure of the engines could make no impression. I sent Macklin over the side with an ice anchor, and put all hands to warping her ahead. After a long effort we effected a turning movement of the floe, and the _Quest_, being able to insert her bow as a wedge, slowly but surely forced her way into the lead.
After some hard ramming and pushing at the floes we reached the line of weakness, to find that the most difficult part of our work lay before us. For a long time, in spite of tremendous efforts, we made little headway. We persisted, however, and after several hours of hard ramming and squeezing our way between heavy floes we won at last into loose pack, and soon after into comparatively open water. It was a great relief to me to get away. Had we remained frozen in till mid-winter and the ship been involved in heavy pressure our position would have been a precarious one, for there would have been little daylight to enable us to see what was happening, and there would have been long hours of darkness in which to contend with the heaving pack.
Throughout the whole period that we were navigating about the pack edge, I was constantly made to feel how extremely fortunate we were to have escaped unscathed from the ice after the loss of the _Endurance_. That we got away at all is truly marvellous, for not once in a dozen times could a frail ship’s boat win free under similar circumstances where the floes, coming together, must have cracked her like an eggshell.
For a while I continued north, entering all the time a more and more open sea dotted all about with bergs and large solitary pieces of floe.
The day after leaving the pack we encountered heavy swell, which caused the _Quest_, with her empty bunkers, to pitch and roll in the most uncomfortable manner. Decks, rails and running gear became iced up with sprays which broke over her gunwale and froze solidly, necessitating the greatest care in moving about.
At night I could not distinguish white horses from growlers, and so took in sail and lay to. I sent McLeod and Macklin aloft to take in the topsail, which they found an unpleasant job on account of the treacherous condition of the rigging, which was ice-covered and slippery, and the jerky movement of the ship.
We continued on at daybreak encountering a few bergs but no floe ice. There was a heavy swell from the east-south-east, and though the wind seemed to have dropped a little squalls of great violence continued to pass over us. On this day we reached the maximum of discomfort, and though the men maintained their cheerfulness I see now from some of the diaries that it must have cost an effort:
It has been another unpleasant day with all the discomforts of yesterday accentuated, the ship rolling just as heavily and all gear more thickly coated with ice, which is hanging in festoons and stalactites from every possible place. Sprays have been flying over all day and everything in the ship is damp. There is no comfort anywhere except in one’s bunk, and even there it is all one can do to prevent being thrown out. On the bridge to-day Commander Wild remarked: “The man who comes down here for the sake of experience is mad; the man who comes twice is beyond all hope; while as for the man who comes five times (himself)——” Words failed him.
Poor Query is utterly miserable; he cannot get a minute’s rest anywhere. Nor can any of us. Yesterday I caught my thumb in the jackstay, and it is so swollen and tender that to touch anything gives me agony. This beastly motion makes me sea-sick—I am full of sorrows to-day. We are getting near to Elephant Island, the home of all foul winds that blow—what crazy impulse sent me again to these abandoned regions? (writes Macklin).
Indeed at this stage of the voyage it took all our fortitude to keep up our spirits. We again hove to for the night, and the gale increasing in violence we lay to all next day.
It moderated about midnight of the 24th, and we set off under topsail only in the direction of Elephant and Clarence Islands.
[Illustration: LOADING SEA-ELEPHANTS’ BLUBBER AT CAPE LOOKOUT, ELEPHANT ISLAND
[Illustration: SOMNOLENT CONTENT A Sea-elephant on Elephant Island
[Illustration: RINGED PENGUINS AND A PADDY BIRD (_CHIONIS ALBA_)
The wind hauling ahead about 6.30 A.M. on March 25th we took in sail and under steam proceeded south-west by south in the direction of Clarence Island. We got a sight of it at 7.35 A.M., but snow flurries obscured it again. About midday the weather cleared when both it and Elephant Island showed up distinctly. It is hard to describe the memories which these two islands revived for those of us who took part in the _Endurance_ expedition. Readers of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s “South” will find a description of our arrival and landing—the first landing to be made on Elephant Island. We stood gazing through binoculars picking out old familiar landmarks, each one reminiscent of some incident that came rushing back to the memory. There was Cornwallis Island, the shape of which was so familiar, and beyond it Cape Valentine, where we landed eight years ago, a haggard, worn-out and bedraggled party, rejoicing at the sight of firm, solid land, the first we had seen for nearly two years. We had just spent eight days and nights in the boats battling with ice, darkness and storm, toiling unceasingly at the oars with brief spells of the most fitful slumber. There our old Boss, whose indomitable will had overcome every obstacle and surmounted each difficulty as it arose, lay down on the shingle and had his first sleep for eight days—slept for eighteen hours without a wink!
In the distance we could see Castle Rock, unmistakable from its peculiar shape, and beyond it we knew lay Cape Wild, though invisible just now. There I wintered with my party while the Boss went for help, living hand to mouth on penguins, limpets and seaweed. From a sentimental point of view this was the place I wished to visit more than any other, but I knew only too well that it did not provide a good anchorage, and I was anxious while the weather was favourable to find a suitable place for ballasting the ship and obtaining sea-elephants for their blubber. We therefore set course to pass between the two islands and along the south-eastern side of Elephant Island.
As evening approached there was a wonderful mirage. Looking to the south-west we saw a number of large icebergs poised high above the horizon in a sky of the purest gold, whilst all about and in between them were numerous whales spouting. These mirages are by no means uncommon in these latitudes, but this was by far the most extraordinary I have ever seen in any part of the world, and certainly the most beautiful. Later on the sun sank with a peculiar effect—both Clarence and Elephant Islands seemed to be afire, a rosy glare rising from each of them to the sky. Over Cape Wild lay a reddish-golden glow and the whole appearance of the island was beautiful, giving an impression of the most peaceful calm. Any ship passing the island on that evening would have carried away a very wrong idea of the place, and I am sure that many of our party who had listened to our unqualified, or perhaps I should say much qualified, descriptions of our sojourn here must have thought we were rather drawing the long bow. However, they were soon to learn differently.
During the night we had kept a safe margin between ourselves and the shore, but with the advent of daylight we stood in more closely and kept a sharp look out for possible anchorages and suitable spots for our purpose. We saw none on this side of the island, which presents nothing but steep mountainous rocks and sheer glacier faces. As we approached Cape Lookout at the southwestern end of the island we saw a small spit lying between two high rocks. The wind was blowing from the west-north-west and this seemed to offer a shelter. We approached cautiously, sounding continuously with the hand lead. As we drew near I looked carefully through binoculars for signs of sea-elephants. Penguins were present in large numbers, but I saw no sign of larger game, and I was not altogether pleased with the place as an anchorage. I therefore decided to turn round Cape Lookout and look for a better place on the western coast. Once round, however, we met strong head winds against which we could make little headway, and the coast did not promise anything better, so we returned to the spit and came to anchor in five fathoms. The surf boat was lowered and I went ashore with Wilkins, McIlroy, Macklin, Carr, Kerr and Douglas. As we approached the spit I saw several seals and sea-elephants ashore, but they did not seem to be in sufficient numbers for my purpose. There was little surf on the beach and landing proved easy. Wilkins and Douglas went off on their respective jobs, and I landed Macklin and Kerr with instructions to reconnoitre and look for seals and sea-elephants, but on no account to scare away those which were present. I went back with McIlroy and Carr to the ship to bring off more hands. On the return trip I landed on a narrow strip of beach overhung by a large glacier which abutted on the north-west end of the spit, and with McIlroy and some others walked along it to where the sea-elephants lay. This is a practice I do not often adopt, for one never knows at what moment these glaciers may calve, sending down masses of many tons’ weight on to the beach below. However, nothing happened and we crossed safely.
The landing-place in its essential features closely resembles Cape Wild, being composed of a narrow low-lying spit connecting the main island with an outstanding rock. This, again, is separated from another higher outlying rock by a channel through which the seas surge with some force. At the inner end of the spit is a high shoulder of rock which bounds the glacier on this side, whilst on the far side of it is another similar shoulder. The main part of the island seems to be much more accessible than it is at Cape Wild, but the place seemed to be no more suitable as a site for a permanent camp, for there were signs that the spit is at times sea swept, and it is equally unsheltered from strong winds.
Penguins were present in large numbers. There were two varieties, ringed and gentoo, which had segregated into two camps, the ringed occupying the outer rock whilst the gentoos collected together on the inner buttress. The former, which derive their name from a thin but clearly defined ring round the throat, are quaint, deliberate little animals which show not the least fear of man. They are the most wonderful climbers and form their rookeries in the most inaccessible places, often on the faces of steep and precipitous rocks where the footing is very precarious. After coming in from their fishing it often takes them hours to reach their final positions, but they show extraordinary patience and perseverance as they hop from ledge to ledge and from one small foothold to another. They are often to be seen on the slopes of large icebergs out at sea. The gentoo is a larger, more brightly coloured bird, with orange beak and legs, and has a small white patch over each eye which gives it a curiously inane expression. It is more shy of man than any other of the Antarctic penguins, and when chased can travel at quite good speed and dodge cleverly. As we came up a number of both kinds were stalking slowly and solemnly along the beach. Amongst them moved little pigeon-like paddy birds (_Chionis alba_) which look very pretty at a distance, but at close vision are seen to have very ugly heads and beaks. They darted about with little quick steps and, like the penguins, watched us curiously, no doubt wondering what strange new creatures we might be. Dominican gulls, skuas and Cape pigeons flew all about the place, and numbers of blue-eyed shags perched on rocks close to the sea or, with necks outstretched and stiff as ramrods, flew with an intent air to their fishing in the bay.
I walked across the spit to find a beach on the other side leading down to a small bay. My mind was immediately set at rest regarding our blubber requirements, for, lying about in the shelter of rocks and large pieces of stranded glacier ice, were a number of seals and sea-elephants, including three enormous bulls, each of which weighed many tons, whilst on a strip of beach on the far side of the little bay was a large harem of cows. I shot those on the spit and set all hands to the flensing. I have a mind-picture of my men: McIlroy, Kerr, Carr and Macklin busily plying their knives, arms bare to the shoulders and red with blood. Soon the place resembled a shambles. I loathed having to slaughter all these creatures, but the matter was one of the direst necessity, and I had to put aside any feelings of sentiment. I have never at any time countenanced the unnecessary taking of life, and whenever it has been necessary to kill I have always insisted that it should be done in the most humane way possible, and that steps would be taken to ensure that no wounded animal should escape.
The blubber was removed in large strips from the carcasses, and a party led by Jeffrey dragged it over the beach to the edge of the water. Another party secured it to lines and towed it out to the ship.
Whilst the flensing was in process a curious incident occurred. I had given orders for a dozen penguins to be killed. One gentoo, in taking flight, had splashed through a small pool of blood and came out with white waistcoat dyed a vivid red. He went to rejoin his fellows on the hill, but they, failing to recognize him in his new colourings, pecked at him so viciously that he at last drew away and went off, to stand disconsolate and solitary at the head of the beach. Some little while later Watts, who had not witnessed the incident, suddenly exclaimed with much excitement, “Look, there’s a new species of penguin! Quick! Somebody help me to catch him!” Taking pity on the penguin’s outcast condition I drove him into the sea, from which he returned clean and white, once more a normal penguin. This time his friends received him without comment.
[Illustration: SHACKLETON’S LAST ANCHORAGE
[Illustration: McLEOD AND MARR CLEARING UP AFTER A BLIZZARD
_Photo: Dr. Macklin_]
[Illustration: SUGAR TOP MOUNTAIN—PART OF THE ALLARDYCE RANGE, SOUTH GEORGIA
I pushed on energetically with the work, for I feared a change of weather, my previous sojourn here having taught me never under any circumstances to trust Elephant Island. In the late afternoon the wind came round to the south-east, and a swell began to come into the anchorage. I kept the men at it as long as possible, but at last such a surf started running on to the beach that I was compelled to take them from the flensing and put all hands to getting the blubber aboard. Before leaving I took off also a load of glacier ice for melting down to water. It was as well that I stopped the work when I did, for the surf increased so rapidly that we had the greatest difficulty in getting away the last few boatloads, and in assisting to push out from the shore I got soaked to the waist with the icy cold water. Some hours elapsed before I was able to change into dry clothes and my legs became absolutely benumbed.
On returning to the ship I found that Worsley was growing very uneasy and was anxious to get away before darkness set in, so as soon as the boat was up we heaved anchor and proceeded out to sea.
Just as we were leaving the glacier fired a salute in the form of an enormous mass of ice, which fell with a reverberating crash on to the narrow beach below and, entering the sea, caused a large wave to come out towards us. I was glad that it had not happened earlier in the day whilst we were walking underneath it. This was the source of the pieces which we collected from the spit. Some of them are of great bulk and weight, and, with the erratic boulders which also are of great size, give an indication of the force of gales which blow in these regions, and show clearly that at certain seasons of the year the spit is so sea-swept as to be untenable by any temporary structure which might be set up there. These pieces of ice, except when salt encrusted, are crystal clear in appearance, and when melted down form the purest of water. When we were living at Cape Wild we used to be very fastidious about our ice. It was the one thing about which we could afford to be particular.
During the night of the 26-27th we kept well out from the coast to avoid outlying rocks, of which we had seen a number when we rounded Cape Lookout. When morning broke we stood up for the north-westerly point of the island, keeping a close look out for Table Bay or any other harbour which would afford a good anchorage. The reports of whalers speak of a large bay in this locality with safe anchorage, where the landing is good, where seals, sea-elephants, penguins and all sorts of seabirds abound, and where tussock grass grows luxuriantly. It was a common expression amongst the marooned party at Cape Wild to say: “If we could only reach Table Bay!” We talked of the things we would do _when_ we got there. I remember that one man (Greenstreet) had sketched an elaborate plan which made all our mouths water. He was going to kill a seal and, having removed its entrails, fill it up with penguins similarly prepared. The seal was to be covered with stones and a blubber fire kindled on the top. The cooking was to last a whole day, at the end of which we were to eat not the seal but the penguins, which had thus lost none of their own juices but received those of the seal as well. Can you not imagine us sitting with tightened belts listening to the proposal, with our mouths watering at the very prospect?
We were never able to make the attempt to get there, and it is perhaps as well that we did not do so, for on this occasion we saw no signs of anything resembling the paradise we had so fondly pictured. There are places at the north-west end of the island where a landing could be effected, but the coastline is composed largely of rocky bluffs and sheer glacier faces, some of them of immense size.
We started, therefore, to cruise in a north-easterly direction, and sighted a narrow beach some miles in length running along the foot of steep mountains. On the beach were several harems of sea-elephants, each containing as many as forty cows. Jeffrey, Wilkins and Douglas wished to go ashore to carry on their scientific work, and I thought this a good chance to get some more blubber. I had contracted a chill as a result of my prolonged soaking in the cold water, so I sent Macklin ashore with McLeod, Marr and Young to deposit the scientists and bring off in addition to the blubber some meat for cooking. I gave Macklin a revolver with which to dispatch the seals, and he took with him also a B.S.A. airgun in the hope of obtaining some paddy birds, which make very dainty fare.
Shortly after midday I noticed a change in the weather and with the steam whistle signalled to the party to return. This they did, bringing a small but useful addition to our supply of blubber and some paddies.
We killed in all nine sea-elephants and about the same number of seals. There were many hundreds which we did not molest. I found on my return to England that a report had been published in which it was suggested that we had slaughtered all the sea-elephants on Elephant Island. As a result some alarm was felt by the directors of the Natural History Museum at South Kensington that these animals were in danger of extinction, and without any reference to me a protest was published to that effect.
I can only repeat what I have already said: that I have always set my face against unnecessary killing. In all the expeditions in which I have taken part I have never seen a case of wanton destruction of any animal. I believe that amongst explorers as a class there is much greater sympathy for animal life generally, and especially for those types which they have known in the natural state, than exists amongst those who know them only as stuffed specimens. I may add, however, that had it been a matter of saving the life of any one member of my party I would unhesitatingly have ordered the slaughter of every sea-elephant I could find. Without wishing to labour the point I think the following taken from Macklin’s journal may be of interest:
I do not know how to explain the attraction of this life … it is certainly more primitive … one meets Nature on more familiar terms and learns to love her and all her works. One feels drawn into much closer companionship with the lower animals, though I am not sure that the word “lower” is always correct…. I have no doubt that what I have written is so much Greek to the town-dwellers. One cannot explain—these things are “felt” and are not to be learned from a book…. The English natural history museums are such hopeless failures; at any rate, in so far as they attempt to instil a love of Nature. They are so gloomy, and the stuffed, unnatural creatures in glass cases are to me positively revolting. I believe every healthy boy gets the same impression and comes from them into the fresh air with a feeling of “escape.” This surely is bad.
My first visit to the Natural History Museum of New York brought me a revelation. The building itself is a bright, well-lighted place and contains things of the most absorbing interest beautifully set up. In the hall the whole history of polar exploration is set out on two immense half-globes; there is the sledge taken by Peary to the North Pole and the one used by Amundsen in his race for the South Pole. The specimens are wonderful and the setting of them is the work of artists who know their job, for everything is lifelike and natural. In a snow-covered forest glade there are timber wolves on the prowl after game, flamingoes stand amongst the reeds in a swamp where the muddy ripples seem almost to move, one can gaze into tree-tops and see monkeys on the swing from branch to branch, reptiles swarm about a pool of water in a tropical forest, and there are other examples too numerous to mention. It is a place where boys stand fascinated, and one to which they return again and again….
Space forbids the full entry, though much of which he writes is interesting and very true, for once wedded to Nature there is no divorce—separate from her you may and hide yourself amongst the flesh-pots of London, but the wild will keep calling and calling for ever in your ears. You cannot escape the “little voices.”
They’re calling from the wilderness, the vast and god-like spaces, The stark and sullen solitudes that sentinel the Pole.
I now set off along the coast in the direction of Cape Wild, and about 4.0 P.M. came in sight of the large rock lying at the end of the spit. We picked out many old familiar marks about the place. The weather was looking very unsettled and I decided not to attempt a nearer approach before darkness, but to lie off for the night. Just before dusk the wind increased, blowing up strongly from direction north-west by west, and many nasty willy-waughs came gustily down the glaciers from the hills. Worsley suggested spending the night under the shelter of Seal Rocks, to which I assented, and we crept up under their lee, feeling our way carefully with the hand lead, finally coming to anchor in eight fathoms.
Seal Rocks is the name given to a group of very barren islets lying about a mile from the northern coast of Elephant Island. They are covered on the northern side with lichen, the only form of vegetable life which exists in these regions. They are the resting-place of a number of seabirds, and penguins go there after their fishing to sleep and digest their food. Our berth was by no means a comfortable one, for the rocks are not large and give a very imperfect shelter from the winds, whilst in addition there are round about them a number of small ledges and submerged rocks, the proximity of which caused me no little anxiety. I was very anxious, however, to revisit Cape Wild, as were all those who had wintered with me there, and I hoped that the weather might moderate by daybreak.
I was feeling a little feverish as a result of my chill and turned in early, having arranged that a careful watch was to be kept, and having given instructions to be called in the event of anything untoward happening. Macklin relieved Jeffrey at midnight, the latter telling him that both wind and sea were increasing, and advising him to call me at once should he get the least bit uneasy. This he did at about 12.30 A.M., to say that we seemed to be dragging anchor and asking me to come on deck. I got up at once. The wind had come round to the south-west, so that we were no longer in a lee and the sea had risen considerably. The rocks showed up indistinctly as black masses against scudding clouds. I perceived that we could not stay there any longer, so at once called out the hands and rang the engine-room telegraph for full steam in the boilers.
We started to get up anchor right away, but as we shortened cable the ship began to drag more rapidly, and as there was little sea room I began to fear that we might foul some of the rocks or ledges before we could get clear. I kept her going ahead with the engines, but to add to the awkwardness of the situation the cable fouled in the chain locker, so that the incoming links would not enter the spurling pipes but, piling on deck, jammed the winch. I ordered Macklin and Carr to jump below, taking with them a heavy maul and a chain hook to break open the chain locker and free the cable. Worsley had by this time joined me on the bridge, and we had some anxious moments as we waited for the signal that all was clear, peering through the darkness to where a seething line of breakers indicated sunken rocks and reefs. From the darkness we heard the weird “jackass” call of the gentoo penguin, like a wild lament for a ship in peril—fitting properly the stormy environment.
At last the cable was freed, we brought home the anchor and were able to steam away without damage from our unpleasant neighbours. All the time the wind rose. For a while I steamed east, hoping to be able to hang on, for I was loath to give up the landing at Cape Wild and we were not yet properly ballasted. In a short time, however, the gale had increased to hurricane force and such a steep sea started running that I could think of nothing but the safety of the ship, and so ran away before the storm.
Dawn broke on a stormy scene, and our last view of Elephant Island, seen through the driving spume astern of us, was a very different one from the calm and beautiful appearance with which we were greeted on the day of our arrival. I had hoped with the coming of light to be able to get under the lee of Elephant Island, but to have attempted to put our now light and unballasted ship across these seas would have been fatal.
I had to make up my mind at once as to what course to adopt. We had in the bunkers sufficient coal for one day’s steaming which, mixed with sea-elephant blubber, might be made to spin out three or four days. To beat back to Elephant Island was therefore out of the question. My chief object in making for Deception Island had been to obtain the coal necessary to take the ship to South Georgia, and, even under the most favourable circumstances, I should have had against me the strong current which runs out of Bransfield Strait. The hurricane, though driving me away from the desired landing at Cape Wild, was fair for South Georgia, and under single topsail, with fires banked and the engines stopped, we were making better progress than the _Quest_ had ever accomplished before. McIlroy reported that he could see no sign of change of wind for some days, though a falling off in force might be expected. This was just what we required. I decided, therefore, to make direct for South Georgia under sail, reserving the fuel to enable me to steam round the island and take the ship into harbour. I called all hands to set the squaresail, which was coiled in a frozen mass on the top of the deck-house. This was covered with a thick, smooth coating of ice on which no one could keep a footing. We were compelled to clamber up the stays and seize the right moment to let go so that the roll would shoot us across to the foresail gaff, to which we clung desperately with one hand while we used the other to free the sail. The _Quest_ rolled and pitched in the liveliest manner. Wilkins, in casting off a frozen lashing, lost his grip and I saw a form shoot to leeward and disappear. A voice behind me shouted in my ear, “Wilkie’s gone!” and indeed there seemed no doubt that he had fallen overboard. No attempt to pick him up was possible, for no boat could have pulled back into these enormous breaking seas, and in any case to have broached the ship to would have meant losing the masts and probably the ship as well. It was with tremendous relief that I saw Wilkins appear some minutes after and go to the halliards. He told me later that he had shouted that he was all right, but the sound of his voice was swept away by the violent wind. He had grabbed the backstay and fallen to the deck, fortunately without damage.
We swigged home the squaresail and felt the ship lurch and stagger under its influence, but it increased our speed and enabled us to put the miles behind us. We tore through the water, which bore down on our stern as though to overwhelm us and passed sizzling and hissing along our sides. We were swept continually. One heavy sea, coming over our stern, fell with a smash on the poop, carried away the after-scuttle, broke the skylights and filled the after-cabin with several feet of water. Dell, McLeod and Marr immediately set to to repair the damage with temporary structures, which would at least be watertight. Dell and McLeod were required for another job, and Marr carried on alone. The work was difficult and extremely unpleasant. The seas kept coming over the stern, compelling him to grab some support to prevent being swept forward with the wash. He was soaked from head to foot, the water freezing and casing him in a solid suit of ice. I kept a watchful eye on him. He stuck gamely to his work and made an excellent job of it. If he is a product of Boy Scout training it says much for the organization. I warn Sir Robert Baden-Powell that he will find himself hard put to it to “skin alive” this hefty young seaman.
We continued running all day and kept the sail on throughout the night.
On March 29th the wind abated a little, but it still continued to blow a full gale. The seas had not gone down and the _Quest_ was thrown about like a plaything of the ocean, so that the man at the wheel had his work cut out to maintain the course and prevent her from broaching-to. I hung on, however, for we were making good progress in the right direction and saving coal.
We had irrevocably cut ourselves off from any chance of seeing our old winter quarters at Cape Wild, which was a great disappointment to us all, especially to McIlroy, who in the excitement of the rescue had left behind his diary. It was wrapped up in an oilskin covering and he had great hopes of recovering it. One writer says in his diary:
This is a great disappointment, but one meets many in this kind of work, and it is no good making a moan about them…. I would like to have got there all the same (he adds irrelevantly).
The rest of the run to South Georgia was not marked by any outstanding incident. On the 30th we saw a school of piebald porpoises, and Worsley reported seeing a “blackfish” about four feet in length, which leapt several times out of the water. Numerous birds tailed in our wake, increasing daily in numbers till we reached South Georgia. The winds dropped a little, but continued to blow freshly from the west-south-west on to our port quarter, enabling us to set all sail. The noon observation on the 31st showed a run of 197 miles. This was the _Quest’s_ record, and was made without use of the engines. On the same day we were struck by an enormous breaking sea which almost broached us to and half filling the foresail dropped in a deluge on the deck-house, pouring in through the ventilators and flooding the cabins and wardroom. Much of it found its way through the main hatch, which is in the wardroom, and wetted many things in the hold. As we approached South Georgia we noticed about the ship a number of small seabirds somewhat resembling puffins, with short tail feathers and a very quick movement of the wings in flight. Worsley recognized them as “the same little flippity-flip-flop short-tailed birds that flew round the boat and annoyed the Boss so much,” referring to Sir Ernest Shackleton’s historic boat journey from Elephant Island to South Georgia during the last expedition.
On April 3rd we were in the vicinity of South Georgia and expected to make a landfall about dark. Worsley, who had not been able for some days to get an observation of the sun, was unable to pick up the island and we lay off all night. A number of soundings was taken. A large school of whales surrounded the ship and we could hear their “blowing” all about.
April 4th was also thick and hazy, and Worsley made a traversing cruise looking for the island, the proximity of which was indicated by the presence of birds, which we saw in hundreds with many young ones. In the afternoon the fog cleared and we caught sight of land, which we made for under steam. Night coming on, however, we stood off till daybreak.
At dawn on the 5th we recognized Anenkov Island, and decided to make for Leith Harbour round the north end of South Georgia.
During the afternoon we saw several steam whalers, a welcome sight after having had the world to ourselves for so long. At night there was a fine sunset, and outlined against the rosy horizon to the westward these little steamers made a very pretty picture.
We entered Leith Harbour at daybreak on April 6th and moored to the buoy. Scarcely had we made fast when we saw the motor-boat coming off with the familiar figure of Mr. Hansen and another smaller one wearing a white yachting cap. It proved to be Hussey, whom I had imagined back in England long before this. Mr. Hansen gave us a most cordial welcome, and I learned from Hussey all the news he had to tell.