CHAPTER VI. GOOD-BYE TO CAPE EVANS

  So far as I can venture to offer an opinion on such a matter, 
  the purpose of our being in existence, the highest object that 
  human beings can set before themselves, is not the pursuit of 
  any such chimera as the annihilating of the unknown; but it is 
  simply the unwearied endeavor to remove its boundaries a little 
  further from our little sphere of action. 
   - HUXLEY.

With the return of the sun preparations for the summer campaign continued more zealously and industriously than ever, and what seemed like a real start was made when Meares and Demetri went off to Hut Point on September 1 with the dog teams. For such an early departure there was no real reason unless Meares hoped to train the dogs better when he had got them to himself; but he chose to start, and Scott, after setting out the work he had to do, left him to come and go between the two huts as he pleased.

Meanwhile with Bowers' able assistance Scott set to work at sledding figures, and although he felt as the scheme developed that their organization would not be found wanting, he was also a little troubled by the immense amount of detail, and by the fact that every arrangement had to be more than usually elastic, so that both the complete success and the utter failure of the motors could be taken fully into account. 'I think,' he says, 'that our plan will carry us through without the motors (though in that case nothing else must fail), and will take full advantage of such help as the motors may give.'

The spring traveling could not be extensive, because of necessity the majority of the company had to stay at home and exercise the ponies, which was not likely to be a light task when the food of these enterprising animals was increased. E. Evans, Gran and Forde, however, were to go and re-mark Corner Camp, and then Meares with his dogs was to carry as much fodder there as possible, while Bowers, Simpson, P.O. Evans and Scott were to 'stretch their legs' across the Western Mountains.

During the whole of the week ending on September 10, Scott was occupied with making detailed plans for the Southern journey, every figure being checked by Bowers, 'who has been an enormous help.' And later on, in speaking of the transport department, Scott says, 'In spite of all the care I have taken to make the details of my plan clear by lucid explanation, I find that Bowers is the only man on whom I can thoroughly rely to carry out the work without mistakes.' The result of this week's work and study was that Scott came to the conclusion that there would be no difficulty in getting to the Glacier if the motors were successful, and that even if the motors failed they still ought to get there with any ordinary degree of good fortune. To work three units of four men from that point onward would, he admitted, take a large amount of provisions, but with the proper division he thought that they ought to attain their object. 'I have tried,' he said, 'to take every reasonable possibility of misfortune into consideration;... I fear to be too sanguine, yet taking everything into consideration I feel that our chances ought to be good. The animals are in splendid form. Day by day the ponies get fitter as their exercise increases.... But we cannot spare any of the ten, and so there must always be anxiety of the disablement of one or more before their work is done.'

Apart from the great help he would obtain if the motors were successful, Scott was very eager that they should be of some use so that all the time, money and thought which had been given to their construction should not be entirely wasted. But whatever the outcome of these motors, his belief in the possibility of motor traction for Polar work remained, though while it was in an untried and evolutionary state he was too cautious and wise a leader to place any definite reliance upon it.

If, however, Scott was more than a little doubtful about the motors, he was absolutely confident about the men who were chosen for the Southern advance. 'All are now experienced sledge travelers, knit together with a bond of friendship that has never been equaled under such circumstances. Thanks to these people, and more especially to Bowers and Petty Officer Evans, there is not a single detail of our equipment which is not arranged with the utmost care and in accordance with the tests of experience.'

On Saturday, September 9, E. R. Evans, Forde and Gran left for Corner Camp, and then for a few days Scott was busy finishing up the Southern plans, getting instruction in photography, and preparing for his journey to the west. On the Southern trip he had determined to make a better show of photographic work than had yet been accomplished, and with Ponting as eager to help others as he was to produce good work himself an invaluable instructor was at hand.

With the main objects of having another look at the Ferrar Glacier and of measuring the stakes put out by Wright in the previous year, of bringing their sledge impressions up to date, and of practicing with their cameras, Scott and his party started off to the west on the 15th, without having decided precisely where they were going or how long they would stay away.

Two and a half days were spent in reaching Butter Point, and then they proceeded up the Ferrar Glacier and reached the Cathedral Rocks on the 19th. There they found the stakes placed by Wright across the glacier, and spent the remainder of that day and the whole of the next in plotting accurately their position. 'Very cold wind down glacier increasing. In spite of this Bowers wrestled with theodolite. He is really wonderful. I have never seen anyone who could go on so long with bare fingers. My own fingers went every few moments.'

After plotting out the figures it turned out that the movement varied from 24 to 32 feet, an extremely important observation, and the first made on the movements of the coastal glaciers. Though a greater movement than Scott expected to find, it was small enough to show that the idea of comparative stagnation was correct. On the next day they came down the Glacier, and then went slowly up the coast, dipping into New Harbor, where they climbed the moraine, took angles and collected rock specimens. At Cape Bernacchi a quantity of pure quartz was found, and in it veins of copper ore - an interesting discovery, for it was the first find of minerals suggestive of the possibility of working.

On the next day they sighted a long, low ice wall, and at a distance mistook it for a long glacier tongue stretching seaward from the land. But as they approached it they saw a dark mark, and it suddenly dawned upon them that the tongue was detached from the land. Half recognizing familiar features they turned towards it, and as they got close they saw that it was very like their old Erebus Glacier Tongue. Then they sighted a flag upon it, and realized that it was the piece broken off from the Erebus Tongue. Near the outer end they camped, and climbing on to it soon found the depôt of fodder left by Campbell, and the line of stakes planted to guide the ponies in the autumn. So there, firmly anchored, was the piece broken from the Glacier Tongue in the previous March, a huge tract about two miles long which had turned through half a circle, so that the old western end was towards the east. 'Considering the many cracks in the ice mass it is most astonishing that it should have remained intact throughout its sea voyage. At one time it was suggested that the hut should be placed on this Tongue. What an adventurous voyage the occupants would have had! The Tongue which was 5 miles south of Cape Evans is now 4° miles W.N.W. of it.'

From the Glacier Tongue they still pushed north, and on the 24th, just before the fog descended upon them, they got a view along the stretch of coast to the north. So far the journey had been more pleasant than Scott had anticipated, but two days after they had turned back a heavy blizzard descended upon them, and although an attempt was made to continue marching, they were soon compelled to camp. After being held up completely on the 27th they started again on the following day in a very frost-biting wind. From time to time they were obliged to halt so that their frozen features could be brought round, Simpson suffering more than the rest of the party; and with drift coming on again they were weather-bound in their tent during the early part of the afternoon. At 3 P.M., however, the drift ceased, and they started off once more in a wind as biting as ever. Then Scott saw an ominous yellow fuzzy appearance on the southern ridges of Erebus, and knew that another snowstorm was approaching; but hoping that this storm would miss them, he kept on until Inaccessible Island was suddenly blotted out. Thereupon a rush was made for a camp site, but the blizzard swept upon them, and in the driving snow they found it utterly impossible to set up their inner tent, and could only just manage to set up the outer one. A few hours later the weather again cleared, and as they were more or less snowed up, they decided to push for Cape Evans in spite of the wind. 'We arrived in at 1.15 A.M., pretty well done. The wind never let up for an instant; the temperature remained about - 16°, and the 21 statute miles which we marched in the day must be remembered amongst the most strenuous in my memory.... The objects of our little journey were satisfactorily accomplished, but the greatest source of pleasure to me is to realize that I have such men as Bowers and P.O. Evans for the Southern journey. I do not think that harder men or better sledge travelers ever took the trail. Bowers is a little wonder. I realize all that he must have done for the C. Crozier Party in their far severer experience.'

Late as the hour was when the travelers appeared at Cape Evans, everyone was soon up and telling Scott what had happened during his absence. E. Evans, Gran and Forde had reached Corner Camp and found that it showed up well, and consequently all anxiety as to the chance of finding One Ton Camp was removed. Forde, however, had got his hand so badly frost-bitten that he was bound to be incapacitated for some time, and this meant that the arrangements that had already been made for a geological party to go to the west would in all probability have to be altered.

All of the ponies were reported to be very well, but Scott's joy at this news vanished on October 3 when Atkinson reported that Jehu was still too weak to pull a load. Oates also was having great trouble with Christopher, who did not appreciate being harnessed and generally bolted at the mere sight of a sledge. 'He is going,' Scott, in referring to this most intractable pony, wrote, 'to be a trial, but he is a good strong pony and should do yeoman service. Day is increasingly hopeful about the motors. He is an ingenious person and has been turning up new rollers out of a baulk of oak supplied by Meares, and with Simpson's small motor as a lathe. The motors may save the situation.'

On the 5th Scott made a thorough inspection of Jehu and became convinced that he was useless. Chinaman and James Pigg were also no towers of strength. 'But the other seven are in fine form and must bear the brunt of the work somehow. If we suffer more loss we shall depend on the motor, and then!... well, one must face the bad as well as the good.'

During the following day, after Christopher had given his usual exhibition at the start, Wilson, Oates, Cherry-Garrard and Crean went over to Hut Point with their ponies; and late on the same afternoon the Hut Point telephone bell suddenly rang. The line had been laid by Meares some time before, but hitherto there had been no communication. Now, however, Scott heard a voice and found himself able to hold long conversations with Meares and Oates. 'Not a very wonderful fact, perhaps, but it seems wonderful in this primitive land to be talking to one's fellow beings 15 miles away. Oates told me that the ponies had arrived in fine order, Christopher a little done, but carrying the heaviest load. If we can keep the telephone going it will be a great boon, especially to Meares later in the season.'

After service on Sunday morning Scott, continuing his course of photography under the excellent instruction of Ponting, went out to the Pressure Ridge, and thoroughly enjoyed himself. Worries, however, were in store, for later in the afternoon, by which time Scott had returned to the hut, a telephone message from Nelson's igloo brought the news that Clissold had fallen from a berg and hurt his back. In three minutes Bowers had organized a sledge party, and fortunately Atkinson was on the spot and able to join it. Scott himself at once hurried over the land, and found Ponting very distressed and Clissold practically insensible.

It appeared that Clissold had been acting as Ponting's 'model,' and that they had been climbing about the berg to get pictures. Ponting had lent his crampons and ice-axe to Clissold, but the latter nevertheless missed his footing after one of the 'poses,' and after sliding over a rounded surface of ice for some twelve feet, had dropped six feet on to a sharp angle in the wall of the berg. Unquestionably Clissold was badly hurt, and although neither Wilson nor Atkinson thought that anything very serious had happened, there was no doubt that the accident would prevent him from taking the place allotted to him in the motor sledge party. Thus there were two men on the sick list, and after all the trouble that had been taken to get things ready for the summer journeys Scott naturally felt that these misfortunes were more than a little deplorable. On the other hand, all was going well with the ponies, though Christopher's dislike to sledges seemed rather to increase than to lessen. When once he was in the sledge he had always behaved himself until October 13, when he gave a really great exhibition of perversity. On this occasion a dog frightened him, and having twisted the rope from Oates' hands he bolted for all he was worth. When, however, he had obtained his freedom, he set about most systematically to get rid of his load. At first he gave sudden twists and thus dislodged two bales of hay, but when he caught sight of some other sledges a better idea at once struck him, and he dashed straight at them with the evident intention of getting free of his load at one fell swoop. Two or three times he ran for Bowers and then he turned his attention to Keohane, his plan being to charge from a short distance with teeth bared and heels flying. By this time his antics had brought a small group to the scene, and presently Oates, Bowers, Nelson and Atkinson managed to clamber on to the sledge. Undaunted, however, by this human burden, he tried to treat it as he had the bales of hay, and he did manage to dispose of Atkinson with violence; but the others dug their heels into the snow and succeeded at last in tiring him out. 'I am exceedingly glad,' Scott says, 'there are not other ponies like him. These capers promise trouble, but I think a little soft snow on the Barrier may effectually cure them.'

On Tuesday, October 17, the motors were to be taken on to the floe, but the attempt was not successful, the axle casing (aluminum) splitting soon after the trial had begun. Once again Scott expressed his conviction that the motors would be of little assistance, though at the same time retaining his opinion that with more experience they might have been of the greatest service. 'The trouble is that if they fail, no one will ever believe this.'

The days at Cape Evans were now rapidly drawing to a close. Plans and preparations occupied the attention of everyone, and Scott's time was almost wholly occupied in preparing details and in writing. 'Words,' he said in a letter dated October, 1912, 'must always fail me when I talk of Bill Wilson. I believe he really is the finest character I ever met - the closer one gets to him the more there is to admire. Every quality is so solid and dependable; cannot you imagine how that counts down here? Whatever the matter, one knows Bill will be sound, shrewdly practical, intensely loyal, and quite unselfish. Add to this a wider knowledge of persons and things than is at first guessable, a quiet vein of humor and really consummate tact, and you have some idea of his values. I think he is the most popular member of the party, and that is saying much.

'Bowers is all and more than I ever expected of him. He is a positive treasure, absolutely trustworthy, and prodigiously energetic. He is about the hardest man amongst us, and that is saying a good deal - nothing seems to hurt his tough little body, and certainly no hardship daunts his spirit. I shall have a hundred little tales to tell you of his indefatigable zeal, his unselfishness, and his inextinguishable good humor. He surprises always, for his intelligence is of quite a high order and his memory for details most exceptional. You can imagine him, as he is, an indispensable assistant to me in every detail concerning the management and organization of our sledding work and a delightful companion on the march.

'One of the greatest successes is Wright. He is very hard working, very thorough, and absolutely ready for anything. Like Bowers he has taken to sledding like a duck to water, and although he hasn't had such severe testing, I believe he would stand it pretty nearly as well. Nothing ever seems to worry him, and I can't imagine he ever complained of anything in his life.

'The Soldier is very popular with all - a delightfully humorous cheery old pessimist - striving with the ponies night and day and bringing woeful accounts of their small ailments into the hut.

'Atkinson will go far, I think; he has a positive passion for helping others. It is extraordinary what pains he will take to do a kind thing unobtrusively.

'Cherry-Garrard is clean grit right through; one has caught glimpses of him in tight places.

'Day has the sweetest temper and all sorts of other nice characteristics. Moreover he has a very remarkable mechanical ability, and I believe is about as good a man as could have been selected for his job.

'I don't think I will give such long descriptions of the others, though most of them deserve equally high praise. Taken all round, they are a perfectly excellent lot.

'The men are equally fine. P.O. Evans looks after our sledges and sledge equipment with a care of management and a fertility of resource which is truly astonishing. On "trek" he is just as sound and hard as ever, and has an inexhaustible store of anecdote. Crean is perfectly happy, ready to do anything and go anywhere, the harder the work, the better. Evans and Crean are great friends. Lashly is his old self in every respect, hard working to the limit, quiet, abstemious and determined. You see altogether I have a good set of people with me, and it will go hard if we don't achieve something.

'The study of individual characters is a pleasant pastime in such a mixed community of thoroughly nice people... men of the most diverse upbringing and experience are really pals with one another, and the subjects which would be delicate ground of discussion between acquaintances are just those which are most freely used for jest.... I have never seen a temper lost in these discussions. So as I sit here I am very satisfied with these things. I think that it would have been difficult to better the organization of the party - every man has his work and is especially adapted for it; there is no gap and no overlap. It is all that I desired, and the same might well be said of the men selected to do the work....

'I don't know what to think of Amundsen's chances. If he gets to the Pole, it must be before we do, as he is bound to travel fast with dogs and pretty certain to start early. On this account I decided at a very early date to act exactly as I should have done had he not existed. Any attempt to race must have wrecked my plan, besides which it doesn't appear the sort of thing one is out for.

'Possibly you will have heard something before this reaches you. Oh! and there are all sorts of possibilities. In any case you can rely on my not doing or saying anything foolish - only I'm afraid you must be prepared for the chance of finding our venture much belittled.

'After all, it is the work that counts, not the applause that follows.'

The transport of emergency stores to Hut Point was delayed by the weather until October 22, but on that day the most important stores - which were for the returning depôts and to provision the Discovery hut in case the Terra Nova did not arrive - were taken by Wilson, Bowers and P.O. Evans and their ponies to Glacier Tongue. Accidents, however, were still to happen, for while Bowers was holding the ponies so that Wilson and Evans could unload them, Victor got the hook, which fastened the harness to the trace of another pony, into his nose. At that moment a lot of drift swept upon them, and immediately all three of the ponies stampeded, Snatcher making for home and Nobby for the Western Mountains, while Victor, with Bowers still hanging on to him, just bolted here, there and everywhere. Wilson and P.O. Evans at once started after their ponies, and the former by means of a biscuit as a bait managed to catch Nobby west of Tent Island, but Snatcher arrived, with a single trace and dangling sledge, by himself at Cape Evans. Half an hour after Wilson had returned Bowers brought in Victor, who had a gash in his nose, and was very much distressed. 'I don't know,' Scott says, 'how Bowers managed to hang on to the frightened animal; I don't believe anyone else would have done so.... Two lessons arise. First, however quiet the animals appear they must not be left by their drivers - no chance must be taken; secondly, the hooks on the hames of the harness must be altered in shape. I suppose such incidents as this were to be expected, one cannot have ponies very fresh and vigorous and expect them to behave like lambs, but I shall be glad when we are off and can know more definitely what resources we can count on.'

In addition to this mishap, a football match had been got up two days before, in which Debenham hurt his knee. Thus the Western Party was again delayed, the only compensation for this accident being that Forde's hand would have a better chance of recovery while Debenham's knee was given time to improve.

On the following day the motors seemed to be ready for the start, but various little defects again cropped up, and not until the next morning did they get away. At first there were frequent stops, but on the whole satisfactory progress was made, and as even a small measure of success would, in Scott's opinion, be enough to show their ability to revolutionize Polar transport, and so help to prevent the cruelty that is a necessary condition of animal transport, he was intensely anxious about the result of this trial trip. As this subject was one which was of the most supreme interest to Scott, it is well to quote the opinion of an expert upon these motor sledges. 'It has been said that Captain Scott's sledges failed, and without further consideration the design has been totally condemned, but this is quite unfair to the design; and it must be admitted by everyone who has had anything to do with the sledges, and has any sort of knowledge of mechanical principles, that it was the engine that failed, not the transmission gear at all. The engine used was a four-cylinder air-cooled one, and most unexpectedly in the cold climate of the Antarctic it over-heated and broke various parts, beyond possibility of repair under the severe conditions. The reason of the breakdown therefore applies to any and every form of motor sledge, and should a satisfactory engine be available for one form of sledge, it is equally available for another. It therefore shows a lack of fair judgment to condemn the Scott sledge for a breakdown, which would have applied equally to every form of motor transport which could have been designed.'

Unquestionably the motor sledges did enough to make this unique experiment infinitely worth trying, and on Friday, October 27, Scott declared that the machines had already vindicated themselves. Even the seamen, who had been very doubtful about them, were profoundly impressed, and P.O. Evans admitted that, 'if them things can go on like that, I reckon you wouldn't want nothing else.'

As the days passed by, it was obvious that the Western Party - which consisted of Taylor, Debenham, Gran and Forde - would have to leave after the Southern Party. 'It is trying that they should be wasting the season in this way. All things considered, I shall be glad to get away and put our fortune to the test,' Scott wrote on the 28th. And two days later he added: 'Meares and Ponting are just off to Hut Point. Atkinson and Keohane will probably leave in an hour or so as arranged, and if the weather holds, we shall all get off to-morrow. So here end the entries in this diary with the first chapter of our History. The future is in the lap of the gods; I can think of nothing left undone to deserve success.'