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THE RETURN MARCH
FEBRUARY 10 TO FEBRUARY 22
First Homeward Marches: Back on the Barrier: Attacks of Dysentery: Chinaman Depot reached February 13: Depot A reached February 20: Nearing Bluff Depot
January 10. We started at 7.30 A.M. with a fair wind, and marched all day, with a stop of one hour for lunch, doing over 18,E geographical miles to the north. It has, indeed, been fortunate for us that we have been able to follow our outward track for the force of the gale had torn the flags from the staffs. We will be all right when we pick up our depot. It has been a big risk leaving our food on the great white plain, with only our sledge tracks to guide us back. To-night we are all tired out, but we have put a good march behind us. The temperature is minus 9° Fahr.
January 11. A good day. We have done nearly 17 geographical miles. We have picked up our depot and now are following the sledge tracks to the north. The temperature has been minus 15° Fahr. There has been tremendous wind here and the sastrugi are enormous.
January 12. We did 14 miles 100 yards to-day with little wind to help us. The surface was very heavy and we found enormous sastrugi. The wind is getting up to-night. I hope for a good breeze behind us to-morrow.
January 13. It was heavy pulling all day, but we did a good distance in spite of it, getting 15 miles 1650 yards to the north. We have the sail up continually, but I cannot say that it has been very much help to-day. The temperature, minus 18° Fahr. nearly all the time, makes things very cold, and we ourselves slept badly last night. I did not sleep at all, for both my heels are frost-bitten and have cracked open, and also have cracks under some of my toes; but we can march all right, and am moving over the ground very fast. We must continue to do so, for we have only about 20 lb. of biscuit to last us over 140 miles, and I expect there will be little in the locker by the time we strike our glacier head depot. The surface has been very severe to-day.
January 14. A strong following blizzard all day gave us our best day's run of the whole trip, 20 miles 1600 yards in ten hours. We decided to cut down the rations by another biscuit, as we have only six days' biscuit left on short ration, and 120 miles to go before we reach the depot, so we feel very hungry, and with the temperature minus 18° Fahr. to minus 21° Fahr, all day in the wind, one easily gets frost-bitten.
January 15. Started in a strong blizzard at 7.30 A.M. with a temperature of minus 23° Fahr., and marched steadily till noon, doing 9i miles; then marched from 1.30 P.M. till 6 P.M., making a total distance for the day of 20 miles, statute. It has been thick, with a pale sun only shining through, but we are still able to follow our old sledge tracks, though at times they are very faint. Unfortunately, when we halted at 3.30 P.M. for a spell, we found that the sledge meter had disappeared, and discovered that it had broken off short at the brass fitting. This is a serious loss to us, for all our Barrier distances between depots are calculated on it, and although we have another depoted at the foot of the glacier we do not know the slip. We must now judge distance till we get a sight of land.
January 16. With a strong following blizzard, we did 18½ miles to the north to-day. My burst heels gave me great pain all day. Marshall dressed them to-night. We saw land again to-day after being out of sight of it for nearly three weeks.
January 17. Started sharp at 7 A.M., in a fresh blizzard wind, with a temperature of minus 23° Fahr., we did our best march, for it was mainly downhill and we covered 22½ miles. At 10 A.M. we came up to our Christmas camp, and there took on a bamboo we had left, and which now comes in useful for our sail. This sail is now our great help. We dropped over 500 ft. to-day, and in three days ought to reach our depot at this rate.
January 18. Our best day, 26½ miles downhill, with a strong following wind. We have nearly got to the end of the main icefall. The temperature has risen sensibly, it being minus 14° Fahr. to-night, and the hypsometer, 196.5°, shows a good rise. With luck we may reach our depot to-morrow night. With food now in hand, we had a decent feed to-night. I have been very unlucky to-day, falling into many crevasses and hurting my shoulder badly. I have also had many falls, besides the trouble with the bad heels on the hard stuff.
January 19. Another record day, for we have done about twenty-nine miles to the north, rushing under sail down ice falls and through crevasses, till, at 6 P.M., we picked up our sledge tracks of December 18 outwards. We camped, dead beat, at 6.30 P.M., and had a good hoosh. We have descended to 7500 ft., and the temperature to-night is minus 14° Fahr. We are now only 8½ miles from our depot, which we will reach to-morrow morning, all being well. This strong blizzard wind has been an immense help this way, though not outwards for us.
January 20. Although we have not covered so much ground to-day, we have had an infinitely harder time. We started at 7 A.M. on our tracks of December 19, and at 7.30 passed the camp of the evening of the 18th. For two hours we were descending a snow-slope, with heavy sastrugi, and then struck a patch of badly crevassed nhve, about half a mile across. After that we got on to blue slippery ice, where our finnesko had no hold. A gale was blowing, and often fierce gusts came along, sweeping the sledge sideways, and knocking us off our feet. We all had many falls, and I had two specially heavy ones which shook me up severely. When we reached the steep slopes where we had roped the sledges up on our outward journey, we lowered the sledge down by means of the alpine rope, using an ice-axe as a. bollard to lower by. On several occasions one or more of us lost our footing, and were swept by the wind down the ice-slope, with great difficulty getting back to our sledge and companions. We arrived at our depot at 12.30 P.M. with sore and aching bodies. The afternoon was rather better, as, after the first hour, we got off the blue ice on to snow. However, bad as the day has been, we have said farewell to that awful plateau, and are well on our way down the glacier.
January 21. Started at 7.45 A.M. with a fresh southerly breeze, so we still have valuable assistance from our sail. The heavy falls I had yesterday have so shaken me that I have been very ill to-day. I harnessed up for a while, but soon had to give up pulling and walk by the sledge; but, as the course has been downhill nearly all day and a fair wind has been assisting, the others have had no difficulty in getting along at a good pace, and we have covered seventeen miles. The weather is much warmer, the temperature to-night being about minus 1° Fahr.
January 22. Started at 7.30 Am. on a good surface that changed to crevassed ice slopes in the afternoon, down which we made fair progress. Am still too ill to harness up, but as the pull was not much it did not matter. Indeed, we had another man out of harness guiding the sledge. The distance to-day was 15½ miles.
January 23. Similar weather, surface and work. Fine and warm; temperature plus 8° Fahr.
January 24. One of our hardest day's work, and certainly the longest, for we started at 6.45 A.M., went on till 12.50 P.M., had lunch, started at 2 P.M., went on till 6 P.M., had a cup of tea, and went on till 9 P.M. Then we had our single pot of hoosh and one biscuit, for we have only two days' food left and one day's biscuit on much reduced ration, and we have to cover' forty miles of crevasses to reach our depot before we can get any more food. I am now all right again, though rather weak. We had a terribly hard time in the crevassed ice this morning, and now our sledge has not much more than half a runner on one side, and is in a very shaky state. However, I believe we are safe now. The distance to-day was sixteen miles, statute.
January 25. We started away from camp at 6.45 A.M., marched till noon, when we had a cup of tea, and then marched till 3 P.M., when we had lunch, consisting of a cup of tea, two biscuits, two spoonsful of cheese. Then we marched till 9 P.M., when we had one pot of hposh and one biscuit. We did twenty-six miles; fine weather. The food is all finished but one meal. No biscuit, only cocoa, tea, salt, and pepper left, very little o these also. Must reach depot to-morrow. It was fairly good going to-day till the last two hours, and then we were falling into most dangerous crevasses and were saved only by our harness. Very tired indeed. Thank God warm and fine weather. We can see our depot rock in the distance, so hope to reach it to-morrow. Turning in now, 11 P.M.; breakfast as usual 5 A.M. The temperature is plus 12° Fahr.
January 26 and 27. Two days written up as one, and they have been the hardest and most trying we have ever spent in our lives, and will ever stand in our memories. To-night (the 27th) we have had our first solid food since the morning of the 26th. We came to the end of all our provisions except a little cocoa and tea, and from 7 A.M. on the 26th till 2 P.M. on the 27th we did sixteen miles over the worst surfaces and most dangerous crevasses we have ever encountered, only stopping for tea or cocoa till they were finished, and marching twenty hours at a stretch, through snow 10 to 18 in. thick as a rule, with sometimes 21 ft. of it. We fell into hidden crevasses time after time, and were saved by each other and by our harness. In fact, only an all-merciful Providence has guided our steps to to-night's safety at our depot. I cannot describe adequately the mental and physical strain of the last forty-eight hours. When we started at 7 A.M. yesterday, we immediately got into soft snow, an uphill pull with hidden crevasses. The biscuit was all finished, and with only one pannikin of hoosh, mostly pony maize, and one of tea, we marched till noon. Then we had one pannikin of tea and one ounce of chocolate, and marched till 4.45 P.M. We had one pannikin of tea. There was no more food. We marched till 10 P.M., then one small pannikin of cocoa. Marched till 2 A.M., when we were played out. We had one pannikin of cocoa, and slept till 8 A.M. Then a pannikin of cocoa, and we marched till 1 P.M. and camped, about half a mile from the depot. Marshall went on for food, and we got a Meal at 2 P.M. We turned in and slept. Adams fell exhausted in his harness, but recovered and went on again. Wild did the same the night before.
January 28. Thank God we are on the Barrier again at last. We got up at 1 A.M. this morning, had breakfast, consisting of tea and one biscuit, and got under way at 3 A.M. We reached the depot in half an hour without any difficulty. The snow here was deep enough to carry us over the crevasses that had impeded our progress so much on the outward march. We had proper breakfast at 5 A.M. then dug out our depot. The alternate falls of snow and thaws had frozen solidly in a great deal of our gear, and our spare sledge meter was deeply buried. We marched along till we were close to the Gap, then had lunch. At 1 P.M. we were through the Gap and on to the crevassed and ridged Barrier surface. We are now safe, with six days' food and only fifty miles to the depot, but Wild has developed dysentery. We are at a loss to know what is the cause of it. It may possibly be due to the horse-meat. The weather has been fairly fine all day, though clouding up from the south towards noon, and we were assisted by a fresh southerly breeze up the slope to the head of the Gap. Indeed, we needed it, for the heavy surface and our dilapidated sledge made the hauling extremely hard. Just before we left the glacier I broke through the soft snow, plunging into a hidden crevasse. My harness jerked up under my heart, and gave me rather a shake-up. It seemed as though the glacier were saying: "There is the last touch for you; don't you come up here again." It was with a feeling of intense relief that we left this great glacier, for the strain has been hard, and now we know that except for blizzards and thick weather, which two factors can alone prevent us from finding our depots in good time, we will be all right. The light became bad this evening when we were on the last hour before camping, and we cannot say for certain whether we are clear of the main chasm by the land or not, so must give its line of direction a wide berth. The temperature is well up, plus 26° Fahr., and it is warm indeed after the minus temperatures which have been our lot for the last month or so.
January 29. We are having a most unfriendly greeting from the Barrier. We got up as usual and had breakfast at 5.30 A.M. the weather thick and overcast, but the land showing enough for us to steer by. We got away at 7.20 A.M., and soon after it began to snow, which in a temperature of plus 30° Fahr. melted on the sledge and all our gear, making everything into a miserably wet state. We had to put the compass down every now and then, for it became too thick to see any landmarks, and at 9.30 the wind suddenly sprang up from the east, cold and strong, freezing solid all our wet clothes, and the various things on the sledge. It was blowing a blizzard with snow and heavy drift in less than five minutes from the time the wind started, and with difficulty we managed to get up one tent and crawl into it, where we waited in the hope that the weather would clear. As there was no sign of an improvement at noon we pitched the other tent, had food, and lay in our bags patching our worn-out clothes. All day the blizzard has continued to blow hard, with extra violent gusts at times. Our tents get snowed up, and we have to clear them by kicking at the snow every now and then.
We made a start at 8.15 A.M., after spending three-quarters of an hour
out our sledges and tents from the drift of the blizzard, which stopped
A.M. It was clear over part of the land as we started, but soon snow
fall again and the weather became very thick; yet, steering on a
came through the crevasses and drift without even touching one, though
in good light, we have
had to turn and twist to avoid them. The
surface was heavy for pulling on, owing to the fine snow from the
we did thirteen miles for the day, working a full ten hours till 7.50
P.M. The weather
cleared right up in the afternoon, and we made a good course. Wild is
to-day, but we hope that as soon as he reaches Grisi depot he will be
We have no variety of food, and only have four miserably thin biscuits
a day to
eke out the horse-meat. The plasmon is all finished and so are we
the end of the day's march. The sledge also is in a. terribly bad
state, but as
soon as we reach the depot all will be well. The surface in the
improved, and is much better than we had hoped for. The temperature is
Fahr., fine and warm. A heavy day's pull, but we were assisted by the
the afternoon. Wild is still seedy, just walking in harness. The
good, and we are rapidly nearing the depot. Short of food, down to
ounces a day. Very tired. Good weather.
THE CAMP UNDER THE GRANITE PILLAR, HALF A MILE FROM THE LOWER GLACIER DEPOT,
WHERE THE PARTY CAMPED ON JANUARY 27
January 31. Started at 7 A.M., Wild bad with dysentery. Picked up mound 4 P.M., and camped at 6 P.M. Very bad surface. Did 13½ miles.
February 1. Started 7 A.M.; awful surface at times. Wild very bad. Picked up mound. Camped 6 P.M., having done nearly fourteen miles.
February 2. Started at 6.40 A.M. and camped 7 P.M. at depot. Wild and self dysentery; dead tired, bad surface, with undulations. Did 13½ miles. Ray's birthday, celebrated with two lumps of sugar, making five each in cocoa.
February 3. Started with new sledge and 150 lb. more weight at 8.40 A.M.; camped at 5.30 P.M. Only five miles; awfully soft snow surface. All acute dysentery due to meat. Trust that sleep will put us right. Could go no farther to-night. Wild very bad, self weaker, others assailed also. Bad light, Mort food, surface worse than ever. Snow one foot deep. Got up 4.30 A.M. after going to bed 11 P.M. No more to-night. Temperature plus 5° Fahr. Dull.
February 4. Cannot write more. All down with acute dysentery; terrible day. No march possible; outlook serious. . . . Fine weather.
February 5. Eight miles to-day; dead tired. Dysentery better, but Adams not too right. Camped at 5.30 P.M. We are picking up the mounds well. Too weak on half-rations to write much. Still hanging on to geological specimens. Please God we will get through all right. Great anxiety.
February 6. Did ten miles to-day, All better and a better surface. Terribly hungry. Six biscuits per day and one pannikin horse-meat each meal. Picked up November 28 mound and made camp. I do trust this hunger will not weaken us too much. It has been great anxiety. Thank God the dysentery stopped and the surface better. We may do more to-morrow, as there are signs of wind from the south-east. Temperature plus 9° Fahr.
February 7. Blowing hard blizzard. Kept going till 6 P.M. Adams and Marshall renewed dysentery. Dead tired. Short food; very weak.
February 8. Did twelve miles. We had fine weather after 10 A.M. Started from camp in blizzard. Adams and Marshall cstill dysentery; Wild and I all right. Feel starving for food. Talk of it all day Anyhow, getting north, thank God. Sixty-nine miles to Chinaman depot.
February 9. Strong following blizzard, and did 14½ miles to north. Adams not fit yet. fAll thinking and talking of food
February 10. Strong following wind. Did 20 miles 300 yards. Temperature plus 22° Fahr. All thinking and talking of food.
February 11. We did 16½ miles to-day, and continued to pick up the mounds, which is a great comfort. The temperature is plus 20° Fahr to-night. All our thoughts are of food. We ought to reach the depot in two days. Now we are down to half a pannikin of meat and five biscuits a day. Adams not all right yet, and Wild shaky to-night. Good surface and following wind. We were up at 4.45 A.M. and camped at 6 P.M.
February 12. Fine day, with no wind. We were up at 4.30 A.M., and marched till 6 P.M., doing 14½ miles. Adams sighted the depot flag at 6 P.M. The temperature has ranged from plus 5° to plus 20° Fahr. Passed sastrugi running south-south-east in the afternoon. Slight westerly wind. Very tired.
February 13. Breakfast at 4.40 A.M. We packed up, with a cold wind blowing, and reached the depot, with all our food finished, at 11.30 A.M. There we got Chinaman's liver, which we have had to-night. It tasted splendid. We looked round for any spare bits of meat, and while I was digging in the snow I came across some hard red stuff, Chinaman's blood frozen into a solid core. We dug it up, and found it a welcome addition to our food. It was like beef-tea when boiled up. The distance to-day was twelve miles, with a light wind.
February 14. A good surface to-day, but no wind. The pulling was hard, and the temperature plus 10° to plus 18° Fahr. We did 11½ miles. We are still weak, but better, the horse-blood helps. Burst lips are our greatest trouble.
SHACKLETON STANDING BY THE BROKEN SOUTHERN SLEDGE, WHICH WAS REPLACED BY ANOTHER AT GRISI DEPOT
February 16. A fair surface to-day, but no wind. The sastrugi are disappearing. We are appallingly hungry. We are down to about half a pannikin of half-cooked horse-meat a meal and four biscuits a day. We covered thirteen miles to-day, with the temperature from zero to minus 7° Fahr. There are appearances of wind from the south, long windy streamers of torn stratus. We are so weak now that even to lift our depleted provision bag is an effort., When we break camp in the morning we pull the tent off the poles and take it down before we move the things inside, for the effort of lifting the sleeping-bags, &o., through the doorway is too great At night when we have come to camp we sometimes have to lift our legs one at a time with both hands in getting into the tent. It seems a severe strain to lift one's feet without aid after we have stiffened from the day's march. Our fingers are extremely painful. Some of us have big blisters that burst occasionally.
February 17. I thought we were in for it and was not wrong. To-day we have been marching in a blinding blizzard, with 42° of frost, but, thank heaven, the wind was behind us and we have done nineteen miles, the sledge with the sail up often over-running us, and then at other times getting into a patch of soft snow and bringing us up with a jerk. The harness round our weakened stomachs gives us a good deal of pain when we are brought up suddenly. We started at 6.40 A.M. and marched till 6 P.M., and to-day we had three pannikins of semi-cooked horse-meat and six biscuits on the strength of the good march. We all have tragic dreams of getting food to eat, but rarely have the satisfaction of dreaming that we are actually eating. Last night I did taste bread and butter. We look at each other as we eat our scanty meals and feel a distinct grievance if one man manages to make his hoosh last longer than the rest of us. Sometimes we do our best to save a bit of biscuit for the next meal, but it is a much debated question whether it is best to eat all the food at once or to save. I eat all my lunch biscuit, but keep a bit from dinner to eat in the bag so as to induce sleep. The smaller the quantity of biscuits grows the more delicious they taste.
February 18. The wind dropped during the night, and at 4.40 A.M. we got up, picked our buried sledge out of the drift, and were under way by 7 A.M. There was little wind, and the temperature was minus 20° Fahr. at noon. This afternoon we sighted old Discovery. What a home-like appearance it has. Its big bluff form showed out in the north-west, and we felt that the same mountain might at that very moment be drawing the eyes of our own people at winter quarters. It seemed to be a connecting link. Perhaps they will be wondering whether we are in sight of it.
February 19. A very cold south wind to-day, but we turned out at 4.40 A.M., with a temperature of minus 20° Fahr. We have been hungry and cold all day, but did 14i miles on a good surface. We sighted Mount Erebus in the morning. The old landmarks are so pleasant. Camped at 6 P.M., temperature minus 10° Fahr. We ought to reach Depot A to-morrow. We have picked up the last mound except one. If we had food all would be well, but we are now at the end of our supplies again, except for some scraps of meat scraped off the bones of Grisi after they had been lying on the snow in the sun for all these months. We dare not risk it until the worst comes. Still in five days more we ought to be in the land of plenty.
February 20. Started to get up at 4.40 A.M. It is almost a farce to talk of getting up to "breakfast" now, and there is no call of "Come on, boys; good hoosh." No good hoosh is to be had. In less time than it has taken me to write this the food is finished, and then our hopes and thoughts lie wholly in the direction of the next feed, so called from force of habit. It was dull and overcast to-day, and we could see only a little way. Still we made progress, and at 4 P.M. we reached Depot A. The distance for the day was fourteen miles, with 52° of frost. We sighted the depot at 2.30 P.M., and now we have enough food to carry us to the Bluff Depot. We had run out of food when we reached the depot to-day, and we have had a good hoosh to-night. The unaccustomed pemmican fat made me feel quite queer, but I enjoyed the pudding we made out of biscuits and the tin of jam which we originally intended to have for Christmas Day, but which we left behind when on the way south in order to save weight. Our depoted tobacco and cigarettes were here, and it is difficult to describe the enjoyment and luxury of a good smoke. I am sure that the tobacco will make up for the shortage of food I do not doubt but that the Bluff Depot will have been laid all right by Joyce. Anyhow we must stake on it, for we have not enough food to carry us to the ship. Joyce knows his work well and we talk now of nothing but the feeds that we will have when we reach the Bluff. That depot has been the bright beacon ahead through these dark days of hunger. Each time we took in another hole in our belts we have said that it will be all right when we get to the Bluff Depot, and now we are getting towards it.
February 21. We got up at 4.40 A.M., just as it commenced to blow, and the wind continued all day, a blizzard with as low as 67° of frost. We could not get warm, but we did twenty miles. In ordinary polar work one would not think of travelling in such a severe blizzard, but our need is extreme, and we must keep going. It is neck or nothing with us now. Our food lies ahead, and death stalks us from behind. This is just the time of the year when the most bad weather may be expected. The sun now departs at night, and the darkness is palpable by the time we turn in, generally about 9.30 P.M. We are so thin that our bones ache as we lie on the hard snow in our sleeping-bags, from which a great deal of the hair has gone. To-night we stewed some of the scraps of Grisi meat, and the dish tasted delicious. Too cold to write more. Thank God, we are nearing the Bluff.
February 22. A splendid day. We did 20½ miles, and on the strength of the distance had a good feed. About 11 A.M. we suddenly came across the tracks of a party of four men, with dogs. Evidently the weather has been fine and they have been moving at a good pace towards the south. We could tell that the weather has been fine, for they were wearing ski boots instead of finnesko, and occasionally we saw the stump of a cigarette. The length of the steps showed that they were going fast. We are now camped on the tracks, which are fairly recent, and we will try to follow them to the Bluff, for they must have come from the depot. This assures us that the depot was laid all right. I cannot imagine who the fourth man can be, unless it was Buckley, who might be there now that the ship is in. We passed their noon camp, and I am certain that the ship is in, for there were tins lying round bearing brands different from those of the original stores. We found three small bits of chocolate and a little bit of biscuit at the camp after carefully searching the ground for such unconsidered trifles, and we "turned backs" for them. I was unlucky enough to get the bit of biscuit, and a curious unreasoning anger took possession of me for a moment at my bad luck. It shows how primitive we have become, and how much the question of even a morsel of food affects our judgment. We are near the end of our food, but as we have staked everything on the Bluff Depot, we had a good feed to-night. If we do not pick up the depot, there will be absolutely no hope for us.