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THE ATTEMPT TO REACH KING EDWARD VII LAND
Disappearance of Barrier Inlet: Course to King Edward VII Land blocked by Ice: Course set for McMurdo Sound: Arrival at Cape Royds, February 3
Towards evening we began to pass a number of small floe-bergs and pack-ice. We could not see very far ahead, as the weather was thick, so we steered more to the west to skirt this mass of ice. One berg had evidently been overturned, and also showed signs of having been aground. The Adelie penguins had become much more numerous, and we saw an occasional seal, but too far off to distinguish the species. During the early hours of January 18 we passed a few large bergs, and as morning progressed the wind increased, ranging between south by west and . south by east. The ship was pitching to a short sea, and as the water coming on board froze on deck, and in the stables, we made
shift to keep it out by nailing canvas over the gaping holes in the bulwarks. Adams and Mackay were engaged in this very chilly job; Adams, slung in a rope over the side, every now and then got soaked up to the middle when the ship dipped into the sea, and as the temperature of the air was four degrees below freezing-point, his tennis trousers were not of much value for warmth in the circumstances. When he got too cold to continue outside, Mackay took his place, and between them they made a very creditable jury bulwark, which prevented the bulk of the water rushing into the stable. The wind continued with a force of about forty miles an hour, up till midday of the 19th, when it began to take off a little, and the sky broke blue to the northeast; the decks were thickly coated with soft ice, and the freshwater-pumps had frozen up hard.
We were now revelling in the indescribable freshness of the Antarctic that seems to permeate one's being, and which must be responsible for that longing to go again which assails each returned explorer from polar regions. Our position at noon on January 19 was latitude 73° 44' South and longitude 177° 19' East. The wind had decreased somewhat by midnight, and though the air remained thick and the sky overcast during the whole of the 20th, the weather was better. We passed through occasional masses of floating ice and large tabular bergs, and at noon were in latitude 74° 45' South, longitude 179° 21' East.
VIEW OF THE GREAT ICE BARRIER
On the 21st the weather grew clear, the temperature was somewhat higher, and the wind light. We observed small flights of snow petrels and Antarctic petrels, and saw a single giant petrel for the first time. There were also several whales spouting in the distance. The same sort of weather continued throughout the day, and similar weather, though somewhat clearer, was experienced on the 22nd. On the morning of the 23rd we saw some very large icebergs, and towards evening these increased in number. They were evidently great masses broken off the Barrier. Early in the morning we passed a large tilted berg, yellow with diatoms. On our port side appeared a very heavy pack, in which a number of large bergs were embedded. Our course for these three days was about due south, and we were making good headway under steam.
We were now keeping a sharp look-out for the Barrier, which we expected to see at any moment. A light south-easterly wind blew cold, warning us that we could not be very far away from the ice-sheet. The thermometer registered some twelve degrees of frost, but we hardly felt the cold, for the wind was so dry.
At 9.30 A.M. on the 23rd a low straight line appeared ahead of the ship. It was the Barrier. After half an hour it disappeared from view, having evidently been only raised into sight as an effect of mirage, but by eleven o'clock the straight line stretching out east and west was in full view, and we rapidly approached it. I had hoped to make the Barrier about the position of what we call the Western Bight, and at noon we could see a point on our starboard, from which the Barrier dropped back. This was evidently the eastern limit of the Western Bight. Shortly after noon we were within a quarter of a mile of the ice-face, and exclamations of wonder and astonishment at the stupendous bulk of the Barrier were drawn from the men who had not seen it before.
We slowly steamed along, noting the various structures of the ice, and were thankful that the weather promised to keep fine, for the inlet to which we were bound could not easily have been picked up in thick weather. The height of the Barrier about this point ranged from a hundred and fifty feet to two hundred feet. In the afternoon, about half-past one, we passed an opening in the Barrier trending in a south-easterly direction, but its depth was only about three-quarters of a mile. The eastern point had the form of the bows of a gigantic man-of-war, and reached a height of about two hundred and thirty feet. It was appropriately called "The Dreadnought."
As we steamed close in to the Barrier, watching carefully for any sign of an opening, we were able to observe accurately the various changes in the ice-face. In places the wall was perfectly smooth, clean cut from the top to the water-line, in other places it showed signs of vertical cracks, and sometimes deep caverns appeared, which, illuminated by the reflected light, merged from light translucent blue into the deepest sapphire. At times great black patches appeared on the sides of the Barrier in the distance, but as we neared them they were resolved into huge caverns, some of which cut the water-line. One was so large that it would have been possible to have steamed the Nimrod through its entrance without touching either side or its top by mast or yard. Looking at the Barrier from some little distance, one would imagine it to be a perfectly even wall of ice; when steaming along parallel with it, however, the impression it gave was that of a series of points, each of which looked as though it might be the horn of a bay. Then when the ship came abeam of it, one would see that the wall only receded for a. few hundred yards, and then new points came into view as the ship moved on. In some places a cornice of snow overhung the Barrier top, and again in others the vertical cracks had widened so that some portions of the ice-wall seemed in immediate danger of falling. The vagaries of light and shadow made appearances very deceptive. One inlet we passed had the sides thrown up in little hummocks, not more than ten or fifteen feet high, but until we were fairly close these irregularities had the appearance of hills.
The weather continued fine and calm. During the voyage of the Discovery we had always encountered a strong westerly current along the Barrier, but there was absolutely no sign of this here, and the ship was making a good five knots. To the northward of us lay a very heavy pack, interspersed with large ice-bergs, one of which was over two miles long and one hundred and fifty feet high. This pack-ice was much heavier and more rugged than any we had encountered on the previous expedition. Evidently there must have been an enormous b Baking away of ice to the eastward for as far as we could see from the crow's-nest, to the north and east, this ice continued
About midnight we suddenly came to the end of a very high portion of the Barrier, and found as we followed round that we were entering a wide shallow bay. This must have been the inlet where Borchgrevink landed in 1900, but it had greatly changed since that time. He describes the bay as being a fairly narrow inlet. On our way east in the Discovery in 1902 we passed an inlet somewhat similar, but we did not see the western end as it was obscured by fog at the time. There seemed to be no doubt that the Barrier had broken away at the entrance of this bay or inlet, and so had made it much wider and less deep than it was in previous years. About half a mile down the bay we reached fast ice. It was now about half-past twelve at night, and the southerly sun shone in our faces. Our astonishment was great to see beyond the six or seven miles of flat bay ice, which was about five or six feet thick, high rounded ice-cliffs, with valleys between, running in an almost east and west direction. About four miles to the south we saw the opening of a large valley, but could not say where it led. Due south of us, and rising to a height of approximately eight hundred feet, were steep and rounded cliffs, and behind them sharp peaks. The southerly sun being low, these heights threw shadows which, for some time, had the appearance of bare rocks. Two dark patches in the face of one of the further cliffs had also this appearance, but a careful observation taken with a telescope showed them to be caverns. To the east rose a long snow slope which cut the horizon at the height of about three hundred feet. It had every appearance of ice-covered land, but we could not stop then to make certain, for the heavy ice and bergs lying to the northward of us were setting down into the bay, and I saw that, if we were not to be beset, it would be necessary to get away at once. All round us were numbers of great whales showing their dorsal fins as they occasionally sounded, and on the edge of the bay-ice half a dozen Emperor penguins stood lazily observing us. We named this place the Bay of Whales, for it was a veritable playground for these monsters.
We tried to work to the eastward so-as once more to get close to the Barrier which we could see rising over the top of the small bergs and pack-ice, but we found this impossible, and so struck northwards through an open lead and came south to the Barrier again about 2 A.M. on the 24th. We coasted eastward along the wall of ice, always on the look-out for the inlet. The lashings had been taken off the motor-car, and the tackle rigged to hoist it out directly we got alongside the ice-foot, to which the Discovery had been moored; for in Barrier Inlet we proposed to place our winter quarters.
I must leave the narrative for a moment at this point and refer to the reasons that made me decide on this inlet as the site for the winter quarters. I knew that Barrier Inlet was practically the beginning of King Edward VII Land, and that the actual bare land was within an easy sledge journey of that place, and it had the great advantage of being some ninety miles nearer to the South Pole than any other spot that could be reached with the ship. A further point of importance was that it would be an easy matter for the ship on its return to us to reach this part of the Barrier, whereas King Edward VII Land itself might quite conceivably be unattainable if the season was adverse. Some of my Discovery comrades had also considered Barrier Inlet a good place at which to winter. After thinking carefully over the matter I had decided in favour of wintering on the Barrier instead of on actual land, and on the lroanya's departure I had sent a message to the headquarters of the expedition in London to the effect that, in the event of the Nimrod not returning at the usual time in 1908, no steps were to be taken to provide a relief ship to search for her in 1909, for it was only likely under those circumstances that she was frozen in; but that if she did not turn up with us in 1909, then the relief expedition should start in December of that year. The point to which they should first direct their search was to be Barrier Inlet, and if we were not found there, they were to search the coast of Bing Edward VII Land. I had added that it would only be by stress of the most unexpected circumstances that the ship would be unable to return to New Zealand.
However, the best-laid schemes often prove impracticable in polar exploration, and within a few hours our first plan was found impossible of fulfilment. Within thirty-six hours a second arrangement had to be abandoned. We were steaming along westward close to the Barrier, and according to the chart we were due to be abreast of the inlet about 6 A.M., but not a sign was there of the opening. We had passed Borchgrevink's Bight at 1 A.M., and at 8 P.M. were well past the place where Barrier Inlet ought to have been. The Inlet had disappeared, owing to miles of the Barrier having calved away, leaving a long wide bay joining up with Borchgrevink's Inlet, and the whole was now merged into what we had called the Bay of Whales. This was a great disappointment to us, but we were thankful that the Barrier had broken away before we had made our camp on it. It was bad enough to try and make for a port that had been wiped off the face of the earth, when all the intending inhabitants were safe on board the ship, but it would have been infinitely worse if we had landed there whilst the place was still in existence, and that when the ship returned to take us off she should find the place gone. The thought of what might have been made me decide then and there that, under no circumstances, would I winter on the Barrier, and that wherever we did land we would secure a solid rock foundation for our winter home.
We had two strings to our bow, and I decided to use the second at once and push forward towards King Edward VII Land. Just after 8 A.M. on the 24th we turned a corner in the Barrier, where it receded about half a mile, before continuing to the eastward again. The line of its coast here made a right angle, and the ice sloped down to sea-level at the apex of the angle, but the elope was too steep and too heavily crevassed for us to climb up and look over the surface if we had made a landing.
We tied the ship up to a fairly large floe, and I went down to England's cabin to talk the matter over. In the corner where we were lying there were comparatively few pieces of floe-ice, but outside us lay a very heavy pack, in which several large bergs were locked. Our only chance was to go straight on, keeping close to the Barrier, as a lane of open water was left between the Barrier and the edge of the pack to the north of us. Sights were taken for longitude by four separate observers, and the positions calculated showed us we were not only well to the eastward of the place where Barrier Inlet was shown on the chart, but also that the Barrier had receded at this particular point since January 1902.
About nine o'clock we cast off from the floe and headed the ship to the eastward, again keeping a few hundred yards off the Barrier, for just here the cliff overhung, and if a fall of ice had occurred while we were close in the results would certainly have been disastrous for us. I soon saw that we would not be able to make much easting in this way, for the Barrier was now trending well to the north-east, and right ahead of us lay an impenetrably close pack, set with huge icebergs. By 10 A.M.. we were close to the pack and found that it was pressed bard against the Barrier edge, and, what was worse, the whole of the northern pack and bergs at this spot were drifting in towards the Barrier. The seriousness of this situation can be well realised by the reader if he imagines for a moment that he is in a small boat right under the vertical white cliffs of Dover; that detached cliffs are moving in from seaward slowly but surely, with stupendous force and resistless power, and that it will only be a question of perhaps an hour or two before the two masses come into contact with his tiny craft between.
PUSHING THROUGH HEAVY FLOES IN THE ROSS SEA, THE DARK LINE ON THE HORIZON IS A "WATER SKY," AND INDICATES THE EXISTENCE OF OPEN SEA
There was nothing for it but to retrace our way and try some other route. Our position was latitude 78° 20' South and longitude 162° 14' West when the ship turned. The pack had already moved inside the point of the cliff where we had lain in open water at eight o'clock, but by steaming hard and working in and out of the looser floes we just managed to pass the point at 11.20 A.M. with barely fifty yards of open water to spare between the Barrier and the pack.
I breathed more freely when we passed this zone of immediate danger, for there were two or three hundred yards of clear water now between us and the pack. We were right under the Barrier cliff, which was here over two hundred and fifty feet high, and our course lay well to the south of west, being roughly southwest true; so as we moved south more quickly than the advancing ice we were able to keep close along the Barrier, which gradually became lower, until about three o'clock we were abreast of some tilted bergs at the eastern entrance of the Bay of Whales. There was a peculiar light which rendered distances and the forms of objects very deceptive, and a great deal of mirage, which made things appear much higher than they actually were. This was particularly noticeable in the case of the pack-ice; the whole northern and western sea seemed crowded with huge icebergs, though in reality there was only heavy pack. The penguins that we had seen the previous night were still at the same place, and when a couple of miles away from us they loomed up as if they were about six feet high. This bay ice, on which many seals were lying, was cracking, and would soon float away, with one or two large icebergs embedded in it.
FLIGHT OF ANTARCTIC PETRELS
When I came up again, just before noon on January 25, I found that my hopes for a clear run were vain. Our noon observations showed that we were well to the north of the Barrier, and still to the westward of the point we had reached the previous morning before we had been forced to turn round. The prospect of reaching King Edward VII Land seemed to grow more remote every ensuing hour. There was high hummocky pack interspersed with giant icebergs to the east and south of the ship, and it was obvious that the whole sea between Cape Colbeck and the Barrier at our present longitude must be full of ice. To the northward the strong ice blink on the horizon told the same tale. It seemed as if it would be impossible to reach the land, and the shortness of coal, the leaky condition of the ship, and the absolute necessity of landing all our stores and putting up the hut before the vessel left us made the situation an extremely anxious one for me. I had not expected to find Barrier Inlet gone, and, at the same time, the way to King Edward VII Land absolutely blocked by ice, though the latter condition was not unusual, for every expedition in this longitude up till 1901 had been held up by the pack; indeed Ross, in this locality, sailed for hundreds of miles to the northward along the edge of a similar pack on this meridian. It is true that we had steam, but the Discovery, or even the Yermak, the most powerful ice-breaker ever built, would have made no impression upon the cemented field of ice.
I decided to continue to try and make a way to the east for at least another twenty-four hours. We altered the course to the north, skirting the ice as closely as possible, and taking advantage of the slightest trend to the eastward, at times running into narrow cols-de-sac in the main pack, only to find it necessary to retrace our way again. The wind began to freshen from the west, and the weather to thicken. A little choppy sea washed over the edges of the floes, and the glass was falling. About five o'clock some heavy squalls of snow came down, and we had to go dead slow, for the horizon was limited at times to a radius of less than one hundred yards. Between the squalls it was fairly clear, and we could make out great numbers of long, low bergs, one of which was over five miles in length, though not more than forty feet high. The waves were splashing up against the narrow end as we passed within a couple of cables' length of the berg, and almost immediately afterwards another squall swept down upon us. The weather cleared again shortly, and we saw the western pack moving rapidly towards us under the influence of the wind; in some places it had already met the main pack. As it was most likely that we would be caught in this great mass of ice, and that days, or even weeks, might elapse before we could extricate ourselves, I reluctantly gave orders to turn the ship and make full speed out of this dangerous situation. I could see nothing for it except to steer for McMurdo Sound, and there make our winter quarters. For many reasons I would have preferred landing at King Edward VII Land, as that region was absolutely unknown. A fleeting glimpse of bare cocks and high snow slopes was all that we obtained of it on the Discovery expedition, and had we been able to establish our winter quarters there, we could have added greatly to the knowledge of the geography of that region. There would perhaps have been more difficulty in the attempt to reach the South Pole from that base, but I did not expect that the route from there to the Barrier surface, from which we could make a fair start for the Pole, would have been impracticable. I did not give up the destined base of our expedition without a strenuous struggle, as the track of the ship given in the sketch-map shows; but the forces of these uncontrollable ice-packs are stronger than human resolution, and a change of plan was forced upon us.
After more trouble with the ice we worked into clearer water and the course was set for McMurdo Sound, where we arrived on January 29, and found that some twenty miles of frozen sea separated us from Hut Point. I decided to lie off the ice-foot for a few days at least, and give Nature a chance to do what we could not do with the ship, that is, to break up the miles of ice intervening between us and our goal.
So far the voyage had been without accident to any of the staff, but on the morning of the 31st, when all hands were employed getting stores out of the after hatch, preparatory to landing them, a hook on the tackle slipped and, swinging suddenly across the deck, struck Mackintosh in the right eye. He fell on the deck in great pain, but was able, in a few minutes, to walk with help to England's cabin, where Marshall examined him. It was apparent that the sight of the eye was completely destroyed, so he was put under chloroform, and Marshall removed the eye, being assisted at the operation by the other two doctors, Michell and Mackay. It was a great comfort to me to know that the expedition had the services of thoroughly good surgeons. Mackintosh felt the loss of his eye keenly; not so much because the sight was gone, but because it meant that he could not remain with us in the Antarctic. He begged to be allowed to stay, but when Marshall explained that he might lose the sight of the other eye, unless great care were taken, he accepted his ill-fortune without further demur, and thus the expedition lost, for a time, one of its most valuable members.
"NIMROD" MOORED OFF TABULAR BERGS
Whilst waiting at the ice, I thought it as well that a small party should proceed to Hut Point, and report on the condition of the hut left there by the Discovery expedition in 1904. I decided to send Adams, Joyce, and Wild, giving Adams instructions to get into the hut and then return the next day to the ship. They started off on their sixteen-mile march with plenty of provisions in case of being delayed, and a couple of spades. On their return, Adams reported that they had found the hut practically clear of snow, and the structure quite intact.
On February 3 I decided to wait no longer at the ice face, but to seek for winter quarters on the east coast of Ross Island. About four o'clock we got under way and started towards Cape Barne on the look-out for a suitable landing-place. Steaming slowly north along the coast we saw across the bay a long, low snow slope, connected with the bare rock of Cape Royds, which appeared to be a likely place for winter quarters.
About eight o'clock I left the ship in a boat, accompanied by Adams and Wild. Proceeding towards the shore, we used the hand-lead at frequent intervals until we came up against fast ice. This covered the whole of the small bay from the corner of Flagstaff Point (as we afterwards named the seaward cliff at the southern end of Cape Royds) to Cape Barne to the southward. Close up to the Point the ice had broken out, leaving a little natural dock into wmeh we ran the boat. Adams and I scrambled ashore, crossing a well-defined tide-crack and going up a smooth snow-slope, about fifteen yards wide, at the top of which was bare rock. Hundreds of Adelie penguins were moving to and fro on the top of the slope, and they greeted us with hoarse squawks of excitement.
A very brief examination of the vicinity of the ice-foot was sufficient to show us that Cape Royds would be an excellent place at which to land our stores. We therefore shoved off again, and skirting along the ice-foot to the south, sounded the bay and found that the water deepened from two fathoms close in shore to about twenty fathoms four hundred yards further south.
After completing these soundings we pulled out towards the ship, which had been coming in very slowly. We were pulling along at a good rate when suddenly a heavy body shot out of the water, struck the seaman who was pulling stroke, and dropped with a thud into the bottom of the boat. The arrival was an Adelie penguin. It was hard to say who was the most astonished — the penguin, at the result of its leap on to what it had doubtless thought was a rock, or we, who so suddenly took on board this curious passenger. The sailors in the boat looked upon this incident as an omen of good luck. There is a tradition amongst seamen that the souls of old sailors, after death, occupy the bodies of penguins, as well as of albatrosses; this idea, however, does not prevent the mariners from making a hearty meal off the breasts of the former when opportunity offers. We arrived on board at 9 P.M., and by 10 P.M. on February 3 the Nimrod was moored to the bay ice, ready to land the stores.
Immediately after securing the ship I went ashore, accompanied by the Professor, England, and Dunlop, to choose a place for building the hut. We passed the penguins, which were marching solemnly to and fro, and on reaching the level land, made for a huge boulder of kenyte, the most conspicuous mark in the locality. I thought that we might build the hut under the lee of this boulder, sheltered from the south-east wind, but the situation had its drawbacks, as it would have entailed a large amount of levelling before the foundation of the hut could have been laid. We crossed a narrow ridge of rock just beyond the great boulder, and, turning a little to the right up a small valley, found an ideal spot for our winter quarters.' The floor of this valley was practically level and covered with a couple of feet of volcanic earth; at the sides the bed-rock was exposed, but a rough eye measurement was quite sufficient to show that there would be not only ample room for the hut itself, but also for all the stores, and for a stable for the ponies. A hill right behind this little valley would serve as an excellent shelter to the hut from what we knew was the prevailing strong wind, that is, the south-easter. A glance at the illustrations will give the reader a much better idea of this place than will a written description, and he will see how admirably Nature had provided us with a protection against her own destructive forces. A number of seals lying on the bay ice gave promise that there would be no lack of fresh meat.
ADELIE PENGUINS AT CAPE ROYDS
With this ideal situation for a camp, and everything else satisfactory, including a supply of water from a lake right in front of our little valley, I decided that we could not do better than start getting our gear ashore at once. There was only one point that gave me any anxiety, and that was as to whether the sea would freeze over between this place and Hut Point in ample time for us to get across for the southern and western journeys in the following spring. It was also obvious that nothing could be done in the way of laying out depots for the next season's work, as directly the ship left we would be cut off from any communication with the lands to the south of us, by sea and by land, for the heavily crevassed glaciers fringing the coast were an effectual bar to a march with sledges. However, time was pressing, and we were fortunate to get winter quarters as near as this to our starting-point for the south.
THE "NIMROD" LYING OFF THE PENGUIN ROOKERY, CAPE ROYDS