CHAPTER II. DEPOT LAYING TO ONE TON CAMP
And the deed of high endeavour
Was no more to the favoured few.
But brain and heart were the measure
Of what every man might do.
- RENNELL RODD.
While the landing was being carried out, the building party had worked so rapidly that, if necessity had arisen, the hut could have been inhabited by the 12th; at the same time another small party had been engaged in making a cave in the ice which was to serve as a larder, and this strenuous work continued until the cave was large enough to hold all the mutton, and a considerable quantity of seal and penguin. Close to this larder Simpson and Wright were busy in excavating for the differential magnetic hut.
In every way indeed such good progress had been made that Scott could begin to think about the depôt journey. The arrangements of this he discussed with Bowers, to whose grasp of the situation he gives the highest praise. 'He enters into one's idea's at once, and evidently thoroughly understands the principles of the game.'
Of these arrangements Wilson wrote in his journal: 'He (Scott) wants me to be a driver with himself, Meares, and Teddie Evans, and this is what I would have chosen had I had a free choice of all. The dogs run in two teams and each team wants two men. It means a lot of running as they are being driven now, but it is the fastest and most interesting work of all, and we go ahead of the whole caravan with lighter loads and at a faster rate.... About this time next year may I be there or thereabouts! With so many young bloods in the heyday of youth and strength beyond my own I feel there will be a most difficult task in making choice towards the end and a most keen competition - and a universal lack of selfishness and self-seeking, with a complete absence of any jealous feeling in any single one of any of the comparatively large number who at present stand a chance of being on the last piece next summer.... I have never been thrown in with a more unselfish lot of men - each one doing his utmost fair and square in the most cheery manner possible.'
Sunday, January 15, was observed as a 'day of rest,' and at 10 A.M. the men and officers streamed over from the ship, and Scott read Divine Service on the beach. Then he had a necessary but unpalatable task to perform, because some of the ponies had not fulfilled expectations, and Campbell had to be told that the two allotted to him must be exchanged for a pair of inferior animals. At this time the party to be led by Campbell was known as the Eastern Party, but, owing to the impossibility of landing on King Edward's Land, they were eventually taken to the north part of Victoria Land, and thus came to be known as the Northern Party. Scott's reluctance to make the alteration in ponies is evident, but in writing of it he says: 'He (Campbell) took it like the gentleman he is, thoroughly appreciating the reason.'
On that same afternoon Scott and Meares took a sledge and nine dogs, some provisions, a cooker and sleeping-bags, and started to Hut Point; but, on their arrival at the old Discovery hut, a most unpleasant surprise awaited them, for to their chagrin they found that some of Shackleton's party, who had used the hut for shelter, had left it in an uninhabitable state.
'There was something too depressing in finding the old hut in such a desolate condition.... To camp outside and feel that all the old comfort and cheer had departed, was dreadfully heartrending. I went to bed thoroughly depressed. It seems a fundamental expression of civilized human sentiment that men who come to such places as this should leave what comfort they can to welcome those who follow, and finding that such a simple duty had been neglected by our immediate predecessors oppressed me horribly.'
After a bad night they went up the hills, and there Scott found much less snow than he had ever seen. The ski run was completely cut through in two places, the Gap and Observation Hill were almost bare, on the side of Arrival Heights was a great bare slope, and on the top of Crater Heights was an immense bare tableland. The paint was so fresh and the inscription so legible on the cross put up to the memory of Vince that it looked as if it had just been erected, and although the old flagstaff was down it could with very little trouble have been put up again. Late in the afternoon of Monday Scott and Meares returned to Cape Evans, and on the following day the party took up their abode in the hut.
'The word "hut,"' Scott wrote, 'is misleading. Our residence is really a house of considerable size, in every respect the finest that has ever been erected in the Polar regions. The walls and roof have double thickness of boarding and seaweed insulation on both sides of the frames. The roof with all its coverings weighs six tons. The outer shell is wonderfully solid therefore and the result is extraordinary comfort and warmth inside, whilst the total weight is comparatively small. It amply repays the time and attention given to its planning.