The Silence was deep with a breath like sleep 
    As our sledge runners slid on the snow, 
  And the fate-full fall of our fur-clad feet 
    Struck mute like a silent blow 
  On a questioning 'Hush?' as the settling crust 
    Shrank shivering over the floe. 
  And the sledge in its track sent a whisper back 
    Which was lost in a white fog-bow.

  And this was the thought that the Silence wrought, 
    As it scorched and froze us through, 
  For the secrets hidden are all forbidden 
    Till God means man to know. 
  We might be the men God meant should know 
    The heart of the Barrier snow, 
  In the heat of the sun, and the glow, 
    And the glare from the glistening floe, 
  As it scorched and froze us through and through 
    With the bite of the drifting snow.

(These verses, called 'The Barrier Silence,' were written by Wilson for the South Polar Times. Characteristically, he sent them in typewritten, lest the editor should recognize his hand and judge them on personal rather than literary grounds. Many of their readers confess that they felt in these lines Wilson's own premonition of the event. The version given is the final form, as it appeared in the South Polar Times.)

The ages of the five men when they continued the journey to the Pole were: Scott 43, Wilson 39, P.O. Evans 37, Oates 32, Bowers 28.

After the departure of the last supporting party Scott was naturally anxious to get off a good day's march, and he was not disappointed. At first the sledge on which, thanks to P.O. Evans, everything was most neatly stowed away, went easily. But during the afternoon they had to do some heavy pulling on a surface covered with loose sandy snow. Nevertheless they covered some 15 miles before they camped, and so smoothly did everything seem to be going that Scott began to wonder what was in store for them. 'One can scarcely believe that obstacles will not present themselves to make our task more difficult. Perhaps the surface will be the element to trouble us.'

And on the following day his supposition began to prove correct, for a light wind from the N.N.W. brought detached cloud and a constant fall of ice crystals, and in consequence the surface was as bad as it could be. The sastrugi seemed to increase as they advanced, and late in the afternoon they encountered a very rough surface with evidences of hard southerly wind. Luckily the sledge showed no signs of capsizing, but the strain of trying to keep up a rate of a little over a mile and a quarter an hour was very great. However, they were cheered by the thought, when they reached Camp 58 (height 10,320 feet), that they were very close to the 88th parallel, and a little more than 120 miles from the Pole.

Another dreadful surface was their fate during the next march on Saturday, January 6. The sastrugi increased in height as they advanced, and presently they found themselves in the midst of a sea of fishhook waves, well remembered from their Northern experience. And, to add to their trouble, each sastrugus was covered with a beard of sharp branching crystals. They took off their ski and pulled on foot, but both morning and afternoon the work of getting the sledge along was tremendous. Writing at Camp 59, Latitude 88° 7', Scott said, 'We think of leaving our ski here, mainly because of risk of breakage. Over the sastrugi it is all up and down hill, and the covering of ice crystals prevents the sledge from gliding even on the downgrade. The sastrugi, I fear, have come to stay, and we must be prepared for heavy marching, but in two days I hope to lighten loads with a depôt. We are south of Shackleton's last camp, so, I suppose, have made the most southerly camp.'

During the next day, January 7, they had good cause to think that the vicissitudes of their work were bewildering. On account of the sastrugi the ski were left at Camp 59, but they had only marched a mile from it when the sastrugi disappeared. 'I kept debating the ski question and at this point stopped, and after discussion we went back and fetched the ski; it cost us 1-1/2 hours nearly. Marching again, I found to my horror we could scarcely move the sledge on ski; the first hour was awful owing to the wretched coating of loose sandy snow.' Consequently this march was the shortest they had made on the summit, and there was no doubt that if things remained for long they were, it would be impossible to keep up the strain of such strenuous pulling. Luckily, however, loads were to be lightened on the following day by a weight of about 100 lbs., and there was also hope of a better surface if only the crystal deposit would either harden up or disappear. Their food, too, was proving ample. 'What luck to have hit on such an excellent ration. We really are an excellently found party.' Indeed, apart from the strain of pulling, Scott's only anxiety on Sunday, January 7, was that Evans had a nasty cut on his hand.

They woke the next morning to find their first summit blizzard; but Scott was not in the least perturbed by this delay, because he thought that the rest would give Evans' hand a better chance of recovery, and he also felt that a day in their comfortable bags within their double-walled tent would do none of them any harm. But, both on account of lost time and food and the slow accumulation of ice, he did not want more than one day's delay.

'It is quite impossible,' he wrote during this time of waiting, 'to speak too highly of my companions. Each fulfils his office to the party; Wilson, first as doctor, ever on the lookout to alleviate the small pains and troubles incidental to the work; now as cook, quick, careful and dexterous, ever thinking of some fresh expedient to help the camp life; tough as steel on the traces, never wavering from start to finish.

'Evans, a giant worker with a really remarkable head-piece. It is only now I realize how much has been due to him. Our ski shoes and crampons have been absolutely indispensable, and if the original ideas were not his, the details of manufacture and design and the good workmanship are his alone. He is responsible for every sledge, every sledge fitting, tents, sleeping-bags, harness, and when one cannot recall a single expression of dissatisfaction with anyone of these items, it shows what an invaluable assistant he has been. Now, besides superintending the putting up of the tent, he thinks out and arranges the packing of the sledge; it is extraordinary how neatly and handily everything is stowed, and how much study has been given to preserving the suppleness and good running qualities of the machine. On the Barrier, before the ponies were killed, he was ever roaming round, correcting faults of stowage.

'Little Bowers remains a marvel - he is thoroughly enjoying himself. I leave all the provision arrangement in his hands, and at all times he knows exactly how we stand, or how each returning party should fare. It has been a complicated business to redistribute stores at various stages of reorganization, but not one single mistake has been made. In addition to the stores, he keeps the most thorough and conscientious meteorological record, and to this he now adds the duty of observer and photographer. Nothing comes amiss to him, and no work is too hard. It is a difficulty to get him into the tent; he seems quite oblivious of the cold, and he lies coiled in his bag writing and working out sights long after the others are asleep.

'Of these three it is a matter for thought and congratulation that each is specially suited for his own work, but would not be capable of doing that of the others as well as it is done. Each is invaluable. Oates had his invaluable period with the ponies; now he is a foot slogger and goes hard the whole time, does his share of camp work, and stands the hardships as well as any of us. I would not like to be without him either. So our five people are perhaps as happily selected as it is possible to imagine.'

Not until after lunch on the 9th were they able to break camp, the light being extremely bad when they marched, but the surface good. So that they might keep up the average length of their daily marches Scott wanted to leave a depôt, but as the blizzard tended to drift up their tracks, he was not altogether confident that to leave stores on such a great plain was a wise proceeding. However, after a terribly hard march on the following morning, they decided to leave a depôt at the lunch camp, and there they built a cairn and left one week's food with as many articles of clothing as they could possibly spare.

Then they went forward with eighteen days' food on a surface that was 'beyond words,' for it was covered with sandy snow, and, when the sun shone, even to move the sledge forward at the slowest pace was distressingly difficult. On that night from Camp 62, Scott wrote, 'Only 85 miles (geog.) from the Pole, but it's going to be a stiff pull both ways apparently; still we do make progress, which is something.... It is very difficult to imagine what is happening to the weather.... The clouds don't seem to come from anywhere, form and disperse without visible reason.... The meteorological conditions seem to point to an area of variable light winds, and that plot will thicken as we advance.'

From the very beginning of the march on January 11 the pulling was heavy, but when the sun came out the surface became as bad as bad could be. All the time the sledge rasped and creaked, and the work of moving it onward was agonizing. At lunch-time they had managed to cover six miles but at fearful cost to themselves, and although when they camped for the night they were only about 74 miles from the Pole, Scott asked himself whether they could possibly keep up such a strain for seven more days. 'It takes it out of us like anything. None of us ever had such hard work before.... Our chance still holds good if we can put the work in, but it's a terribly trying time.'

For a few minutes during the next afternoon they experienced the almost forgotten delight of having the sledge following easily. The experience was very short but it was also very sweet, for Scott had begun to fear that their powers of pulling were rapidly weakening, and those few minutes showed him that they only wanted a good surface to get on as merrily as of old. At night they were within 63 miles of the Pole, and just longing for a better surface to help them on their way.

But whatever the condition of the surface, Bowers continued to do his work with characteristic thoroughness and imperturbability; and after this appalling march he insisted, in spite of Scott's protest, on taking sights after they had camped - an all the more remarkable display of energy as he, being the only one of the party who pulled on foot, had spent an even more strenuous day than the others, who had been 'comparatively restful on ski.'

Again, on the next march, they had to pull with all their might to cover some 11 miles. 'It is wearisome work this tugging and straining to advance a light sledge. Still, we get along. I did manage to get my thoughts off the work for a time to-day, which is very restful. We should be in a poor way without our ski, though Bowers manages to struggle through the soft snow without tiring his short legs.' Sunday night, January 14, found them at Camp 66 and less than 40 miles from the Pole. Steering was the great difficulty on this march, because a light southerly wind with very low drift often prevented Scott from seeing anything, and Bowers, in Scott's shadow, gave directions. By this time the feet of the whole party were beginning, mainly owing to the bad condition of their finnesko, to suffer from the cold. 'Oates seems to be feeling the cold and fatigue more than the rest of us, but we are all very fit. It is a critical time, but we ought to pull through.... Oh! for a few fine days! So close it seems and only the weather to balk us.'

Another terrible surface awaited them on the morrow, and they were all 'pretty well done' when they camped for lunch. There they decided to leave their last depôt, but although their reduced load was now very light, Scott feared that the friction would not be greatly reduced. A pleasant surprise, however, was in store for him, as after lunch the sledge ran very lightly, and a capital march was made. 'It is wonderful,' he wrote on that night (January 15), 'to think that two long marches would land us at the Pole. We left our depôt to-day with nine days' provisions, so that it ought to be a certain thing now, and the only appalling possibility the sight of the Norwegian flag forestalling ours. Little Bowers continues his indefatigable efforts to get good sights, and it is wonderful how he works them up in his sleeping-bag in our congested tent. Only 27 miles from the Pole. We ought to do it now.'

The next morning's march took them 7-1/2 miles nearer and their noon sight showed them in Lat. 89° 42' S.; and feeling that the following day would see them at the Pole they started off after lunch in the best of spirits. Then, after advancing for an hour or so, Bowers' sharp eyes detected what he thought was a cairn, but although he was uneasy about it he argued that it must be a sastrugus.

'Half an hour later he detected a black speck ahead. Soon we knew that this could not be a natural snow feature. We marched on, found that it was a black flag tied to a sledge bearer; near by the remains of a camp; sledge tracks and ski tracks going and coming and the clear trace of dogs' paws - many dogs. This told us the whole story. The Norwegians have forestalled us and are first at the Pole. It is a terrible disappointment, and I am very sorry for my loyal companions. Many thoughts come and much discussion have we had. To-morrow we must march on to the Pole and then hasten home with all the speed we can compass. All the day-dreams must go; it will be a wearisome return. Certainly also the Norwegians found an easy way up.'

Very little sleep came to any of the party after the shock of this discovery, and when they started at 7.30 on the next morning (January 17) head winds with a temperature of - 22° added to their depression of spirit. For some way they followed the Norwegian tracks, and in about three miles they passed two cairns. Then, as the tracks became increasingly drifted up and were obviously leading them too far to the west, they decided to make straight for the Pole according to their calculations. During the march they covered about 14 miles, and at night Scott wrote in his journal, 'The Pole. Yes, but under very different circumstances from those expected.'

That announcement tells its own story, and it would be impertinent to guess at the feelings of those intrepid travelers when they found themselves forestalled. Nevertheless they had achieved the purpose they had set themselves, and the fact that they could not claim the reward of priority makes not one jot of difference in estimating the honors that belong to them.

'Well,' Scott continued, 'it is something to have got here, and the wind may be our friend to-morrow.... Now for the run home and a desperate struggle. I wonder if we can do it.'

On the following morning after summing up all their observations, they came to the conclusion that they were one mile beyond the Pole and three miles to the right of it, in which direction, more or less, Bowers could see a tent or cairn. A march of two miles from their camp took them to the tent, in which they found a record of five Norwegians having been there:

  'Roald Amundsen 
   Olav Olavson Bjaaland 
   Hilmer Hanssen 
   Sverre H. Hassel 
   Oscar Wisting. 
                     - 16 Dec. 1911.

'The tent is fine - a small compact affair supported by a single bamboo. A note from Amundsen, which I keep, asks me to forward a letter to King Haakon!'

In the tent a medley of articles had been left: three half bags of reindeer containing a miscellaneous assortment of mitts and sleeping-socks, very various in description, a sextant, a Norwegian artificial horizon and a hypsometer without boiling-point thermometers, a sextant and hypsometer of English make. 'Left a note to say I had visited the tent with companions. Bowers photographing and Wilson sketching. Since lunch we have marched 6.2 miles S.S.E. by compass (i.e. northwards). Sights at lunch gave us 1/2 to 3/4 of a mile from the Pole, so we call it the Pole Camp. (Temp. Lunch - 21°.) We built a cairn, put up our poor slighted Union Jack, and photographed ourselves - mighty cold work all of it - less than 1/2 a mile south we saw stuck up an old underrunner of a sledge. This we commandeered as a yard for a floorcloth sail. I imagine it was intended to mark the exact spot of the Pole as near as the Norwegians could fix it. (Height 9,500.) A note attached talked of the tent as being 2 miles from the Pole. Wilson keeps the note. There is no doubt that our predecessors have made thoroughly sure of their mark and fully carried out their program. I think the Pole is about 9,500 feet in height; this is remarkable, considering that in Lat. 88° we were about 10,500.

'We carried the Union Jack about 3/4 of a mile north with us and left it on a piece of stick as near as we could fix it. I fancy the Norwegians arrived at the Pole on the 15th Dec. and left on the 17th, ahead of a date quoted by me in London as ideal, viz. Dec. 22.... Well, we have turned our back now on the goal of our ambition and must face our 800 miles of solid dragging - and good-bye to most of the day-dreams!'