CHAPTER I. THROUGH STORMY SEAS
The ice was here, the ice was there,
The ice was all around:
It cracked and growled, and roared and howled,
Like noises in a swound.
No sooner was it known that Scott intended to lead another Antarctic expedition than he was besieged by men anxious to go with him. The selection of a small company from some eight thousand volunteers was both a difficult and a delicate task, but the fact that the applications were so numerous was at once a convincing proof of the interest shown in the expedition, and a decisive answer to the dismal cry that the spirit of romance and adventure no longer exists in the British race.
On June 15, 1910, the Terra Nova left Cardiff upon her great mission, and after a successful voyage arrived, on October 28, at Lyttelton. There an enormous amount of work had to be done before she could be ready to leave civilization, but as usual the kindness received in New Zealand was 'beyond words.'
A month of strenuous labor followed, and then, on November 26, they said farewell to Lyttelton, and after calling at Port Chalmers set out on Tuesday, the 29th, upon the last stage of their voyage. Two days later they encountered a stiff wind from the N. W. and a confused sea.
'The ship a queer and not altogether cheerful sight under the circumstances.
'Below one knows all space is packed as tight as human skill can devise - and on deck! Under the forecastle fifteen ponies close side by side, seven one side, eight the other, heads together and groom between - swaying, swaying continually to the plunging, irregular motion.'
Outside the forecastle and to leeward of the fore hatch were four more ponies, and on either side of the main hatch were two very large packing-cases containing motor sledges, each 16 X 5 X 4. A third sledge stood across the break of the poop in the space hitherto occupied by the after winch, and all these cases were so heavily lashed with heavy chain and rope lashings that they were thought to be quite secure. The petrol for the sledges was contained in tins and drums protected in stout wooden packing-cases, which were ranged across the deck immediately in front of the poop and abreast the motor sledges.
Round and about these packing-cases, stretching from the galley forward to the wheel aft, coal bags containing the deck cargo of coal were stacked; and upon the coal sacks, and upon and between the motor sledges, and upon the ice-house were the thirty-three dogs. Perforce they had to be chained up, and although they were given as much protection as possible, their position was far from pleasant. 'The group formed,' in Scott's opinion, 'a picture of wretched dejection: such a life is truly hard for these poor creatures.'
The wind freshened with great rapidity on Thursday evening, and very soon the ship was plunging heavily and taking much water over the lee rail. Cases of all descriptions began to break loose on the upper deck, the principal trouble being caused by the loose coal bags, which were lifted bodily by the seas and swung against the lashed cases. These bags acted like battering rams, no lashings could possibly have withstood them, and so the only remedy was to set to work and heave coal sacks overboard and re-lash the cases. During this difficult and dangerous task seas continually broke over the men, and at such times they had to cling for dear life to some fixture to prevent themselves from being washed overboard. No sooner was some appearance of order restored than another unusually heavy wave tore away the lashings, and the work had to be done allover again.
As the night wore on the sea and wind continued to rise, and the ship to plunge more and more. 'We shortened sail to main topsail and staysail, stopped engines and hove to, but to little purpose.'
From Oates and Atkinson, who worked through the entire night, reports came that it was impossible to keep the ponies on their legs. But worse news was to follow, for in the early morning news came from the engine-room that the pumps had choked, and that the water had risen over the gratings.
From that moment, about 4 A.M., the engine-room became the center of interest, but in spite of every effort the water still gained. Lashly and Williams, up to their necks in rushing water, stuck gamely to the work of clearing suctions, and for a time, with donkey engine and bilge pump sucking, it looked as if the water might be got under. But the hope was short-lived; five minutes of pumping invariably led to the same result - a general choking of the pumps.
The ship was very deeply-laden and was in considerable danger of becoming waterlogged, in which condition anything might have happened. The hand pump produced nothing more than a dribble and its suction could not be reached, for as the water crept higher it got in contact with the boiler and eventually became so hot that no one could work at the suctions. A great struggle to conquer these misfortunes followed, but Williams had at last to confess that he was beaten and must draw fires.