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.
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.