How many weary steps 
  Of many weary miles you have o'ergone, 
  Are numbered to the travel of one mile. 

Some days passed before the pleasing effects of Christmas Day wore off, for it had been a delightful break in an otherwise uninterrupted spell of semi-starvation, and the memories lingered long after hunger had again gripped the three travelers. By this time they knew that they had cut themselves too short in the matter of food, but the only possible alteration that could now be made in their arrangements was to curtail their journey, and rather than do that they were ready cheerfully to face the distress of having an enormous appetite, and very little with which to appease it.

Thinking over the homeward marches after he had returned to the ship, Scott expresses his emphatic opinion that the increasing weariness showed that they were expending their energies at a greater rate than they could renew them, and that the additional weight, caused by carrying a proper allowance of food, would have been amply repaid by the preservation of their full strength and vigor.

Apart, however, from the actual pangs of hunger, there was another disadvantage from this lack of food, for try as they would it was impossible not to think and talk incessantly of eating. Before they went to sleep it was almost certain that one of them would give a detailed description of what he considered an ideal feast, while on the march they found themselves counting how many footsteps went to the minute, and how many, therefore, had to be paced before another meal.

But if, during these days of hunger, thoughts of what they could eat if only the chance was given to them kept constantly cropping up, there were also very real compensations for both their mental and physical weariness. Day by day, as they journeyed on, they knew that they were penetrating farther and farther into the unknown. Each footstep was a gain, and made the result of their labors more assured. And as they studied the slowly revolving sledge-meter or looked for the calculated results of their observations, it is not surprising that above all the desires for food was an irresistible eagerness to go on and on, and to extend the line which they were now drawing on the white space of the Antarctic chart.

Day by day, too, the magnificent panorama of the Western land was passing before their eyes. 'Rarely a march passed without the disclosure of some new feature, something on which the eye of man had never rested; we should have been poor souls indeed had we not been elated at the privilege of being the first to gaze on these splendid scenes.'

From the point of view of further exploration their position on December 26 was not very hopeful. On their right lay a high undulating snow-cap and the steep irregular coast-line, to the south lay a cape beyond which they could not hope to pass, and to all appearances these conditions were likely to remain to the end of their journey. But on that night they had christened a distant and lofty peak 'Mount Longstaff,' in honor of the man whose generosity had alone made the expedition possible, and although they thought that this was the most southerly land to which they would be able to give a name, they were in no mood to turn back because the outlook was unpromising. Arguing on the principle that it was impossible to tell what may turn up, they all decided to push on; and their decision was wise, for had they returned at that point one of the most important features of the whole coast-line would have been missed.

On the 26th and 27th Wilson had a very bad attack of snow-blindness, which caused him the most intense agony. Some days before Scott had remarked in his diary upon Wilson's extraordinary industry: 'When it is fine and clear, at the end of our fatiguing days he will spend two or three hours seated in the door of the tent sketching each detail of the splendid mountainous coast-scene to the west. His sketches are most astonishingly accurate; I have tested his proportions by actual angular measurements and found them correct.... But these long hours in the glare are very bad for the eyes; we have all suffered a good deal from snow-blindness of late, though we generally march with goggles, but Wilson gets the worst bouts, and I fear it is mainly due to his sketching.'

The attack, however, after Christmas was very much worse than anything that had gone before, and all day long during the 27th Wilson was pulling alongside the sledges with his eyes completely covered. To march blindfold with an empty stomach must touch the bottom of miserable monotony, but Wilson had not the smallest intention of giving in. With Scott walking opposite to him and telling him of the changes that were happening around them he plodded steadily on, and during the afternoon of the 27th it happened that a most glorious mountainous scene gradually revealed itself. With some excitement Scott noticed that new mountain ridges were appearing as high as anything they had seen to the north, and his excitement increased when these ridges grew higher and higher. Then, instead of a downward turn in the distant outline came a steep upward line, and as they pressed on apace to see what would happen next, Scott did his best to keep Wilson posted up in the latest details. The end came in a gloriously sharp double peak crowned with a few flecks of cirrus cloud, and all they could think of in camp that night was this splendid twin-peaked mountain, which even in such a lofty country looked like a giant among pigmies. 'At last we have found something which is fitting to bear the name of him whom we must always the most delight to honor, and "Mount Markham" it shall be called in memory of the father of the expedition.'

Wilson, in spite of his recent experiences, did not mean to miss this, and however much his eyes had to suffer the scene had to be sketched. Fortunately a glorious evening provided a perfect view of their surroundings, for very soon they knew that the limit of their journey would be reached, and that they would have but few more opportunities to increase their stock of information.

After a day that had brought with it both fine weather and most interesting discoveries, they settled down in their sleeping-bags, full of hope that the morrow would be equally kind. But instead of the proposed advance the whole day had to be spent in the tent while a strong southerly blizzard raged without, and when they got up on the following morning they found themselves enveloped in a thick fog.

Reluctantly the decision was made that this camp must be their last, and consequently their southerly limit had been reached. Observations gave it as between 82.16 S. and 82.17 S., and though this record may have compared poorly with what Scott had hoped for when leaving the ship, it was far more favorable than he anticipated when the dogs had begun to fail. 'Whilst,' he says, 'one cannot help a deep sense of disappointment in reflecting on the "might have been" had our team remained in good health, one cannot but remember that even as it is we have made a greater advance towards a pole of the earth than has ever yet been achieved by a sledge party.'

With less than a fortnight's provision to take them back to Depôt B, they turned their faces homewards on the last day of the year, and it was significant of the terrible condition of the surviving dogs that the turn did not cause the smallest excitement. Many of them were already dead, killed to keep the others alive, but those which remained seemed to guess how poor a chance they had of getting back to the ship. Again and again Scott refers to the suffering of the dogs on the homeward march, and how intensely he felt for them is proved beyond all manner of doubt. 'January 3. This afternoon, shortly after starting, "Gus" fell, quite played out, and just before our halt, to our greater grief, "Kid" caved in. One could almost weep over this last case; he has pulled like a Trojan throughout, and his stout little heart bore him up till his legs failed beneath him.' Only seven of the team now remained, and of them Jim seemed to be the strongest, but Nigger, though weak, was still capable of surprising efforts. But at the end of a week on the return journey, all of the remaining dogs were asked to do nothing except walk by the sledges.

For several hours on January 7 the men pulled steadily and covered ten good miles. But the distance they succeeded in traveling was as nothing compared with the relief they felt at no longer having to drive a worn-out team. In the future no more cheering and dragging in front would be needed, no more tangled traces would have to be put straight, and above all there would be no more whip. So far steady though rather slow progress had been made, but January 8 brought an unpleasant surprise. Try as they would the sledge could scarcely be made to move, and after three hours of the hardest work only a mile and a quarter had been gained. Sadly they were compelled to admit that the surface had so completely changed that the only thing to do was to remain in camp until it improved. But whether it would improve was an anxious matter, for they had less than a week's provisions and were at least fifty miles from Depôt B.

The next day, however, saw an improvement in the surface, and a fairly good march was done. By this time only four dogs were left, Nigger, Jim, Birdie and Lewis, and poor Nigger was so lost out of harness that he sometimes got close to the traces and marched along as if he was still doing his share of the pulling. But this more or less ordinary day was followed on the 10th by a march in a blizzard that exhausted Scott and Wilson, and had even a more serious effect upon Shackleton. With the wind behind them they had gained many miles, but the march had tired them out, because instead of the steady pulling to which they were accustomed they had been compelled sometimes to run, and sometimes to pull forwards, backwards, sideways, and always with their senses keenly alert and their muscles strung up for instant action.

On that night Scott in no very cheerful frame of mind wrote: 'We cannot now be far from our depôt, but then we do not exactly know where we are; there is not many days' food left, and if this thick weather continues we shall probably not be able to find it.' And after two more days of bad surface and thick weather he wrote again: 'There is no doubt we are approaching a very critical time. The depôt is a very small spot on a very big ocean of snow; with luck one might see it at a mile and a half or two miles, and fortune may direct our course within this radius of it; but, on the other hand, it is impossible not to contemplate the ease with which such a small spot can be missed.... The annoying thing is that one good clear sight of the land would solve all our difficulties.'

At noon on January 13 the outlook was more hopeless than ever. Three hours' incessant labor had gained only three-quarters of a mile, and consequently they had to halt though their food-bag was a mere trifle to lift, and they could have finished all that remained in it at one sitting and still have been hungry. But later on Scott caught a glimpse of the sun in the tent, and tumbled hastily out of his sleeping-bag in the hope of obtaining a meridional altitude; and after getting the very best result he could under the very difficult conditions prevailing, he casually lowered the telescope and swept it round the horizon. Suddenly a speck seemed to flash by, and a vehement hope as suddenly arose. Then he brought the telescope slowly back, and there it was again, and accompanied this time by two smaller specks on either side of it. Without a shadow of doubt it was the depôt which meant the means of life to them. 'I sprang up and shouted, "Boys, there's the depôt." We are not a demonstrative party, but I think we excused ourselves for the wild cheer that greeted this announcement.'

In five minutes everything was packed on the sledges, but though the work was as heavy as before the workers were in a very different mood to tackle it. To reach those distant specks as quickly as possible was their one desire and all minor troubles were forgotten as they marched, for before them was the knowledge that they were going to have the fat hoosh which would once more give them an internal sense of comfort. In two hours they were at the depôt, and there they found everything as they had left it.

On that same morning they had stripped off the German silver from the runners of one of their sledges, and now fortified by the fat hoosh of their dreams they completed the comparison between the two sledges, which respectively had metal and wood runners. Having equalized the weights as much as possible they towed the sledges round singly, and found that two of them could scarcely move the metalled sledge as fast as one could drag the other.

Of course they decided to strip the second sledge, and with only about 130 miles to cover to their next depôt, a full three weeks' provisions, and the prospect of better traveling on wood runners, they went to bed feeling that a heavy load of anxiety had been lifted. The chief cause of worry left was the question of health, and the result of a thorough medical examination on the morning of the 14th did nothing to remove this. Shackleton was found to be very far indeed from well, but although Scott and Wilson both showed symptoms of scurvy they still felt that, as far as they were concerned, there was no danger of a breakdown.

On that day they made a fairly good march, but at the end of it Wilson had to warn Scott that Shackleton's condition was really alarming. Commenting on this Scott wrote: 'It's a bad case, but we must make the best of it and trust to its not getting worse; now that human life is at stake, all other objects must be sacrificed.... It went to my heart to give the order, but it had to be done, and the dogs are to be killed in the morning.

'One of the difficulties we foresee with Shackleton, with his restless, energetic spirit, is to keep him idle in camp, so to-night I have talked seriously to him. He is not to do any camping work, but to allow everything to be done for him.... Every effort must be devoted to keeping him on his legs, and we must trust to luck to bring him through.'

With the morning of the 15th came the last scene in the tragic story of the dogs, and poor Nigger and Jim, the only survivors of that team of nineteen, were taken a short distance from the camp and killed. 'I think we could all have wept.... Through our most troublous time we always looked forward to getting some of our animals home. At first it was to have been nine, then seven, then five, and at the last we thought that surely we should be able to bring back these two.'

During the part of the return journey which was now beginning, they had promised themselves an easier time, but instead of that it resolved itself into days of grim struggle to save a sick companion. The weather also added to their troubles, because it was so overcast that steering was extremely difficult. For nearly ten consecutive days this gloomy weather continued to harass them, but on the 20th it cleared as they were on their march, and on the following day with a brisk southerly breeze and their sail set they traveled along at a fine rate. The state of Shackleton's health was still a source of acutest anxiety, but each march brought safety nearer and nearer, and on the 23rd Scott was able to write in a much more hopeful spirit. Next day a glimpse of the Bluff to the north was seen, but this encouraging sight was accompanied by a new form of surface which made the pulling very wearisome. An inch or so beneath the soft snow surface was a thin crust, almost, but not quite, sufficient to bear their weight. The work of breaking such a surface as this would, Scott says, have finished Shackleton in no time, but luckily he was able to go on ski and avoid the jars. 'In spite of our present disbelief in ski, one is bound to confess that if we get back safely Shackleton will owe much to the pair he is now using.'

But in spite of bad surfaces and increasingly heavy work, Scott and Wilson were determined to leave as little as possible to chance, and to get their invalid along as quickly as his condition would allow. Directly breakfast was over Shackleton started off and got well ahead, while Scott and Wilson packed up camp; and after lunch the same procedure was adopted. By this means he was able to take things easily, and though eager to do his share of the work he was wise enough to see that every precaution taken was absolutely necessary.

Encouragements in this stern struggle were few and far between, but when the smoke of Erebus was seen on the 25th, it cheered them to think that they had seen something that was actually beyond the ship. Probably it was more than a hundred miles away, but they had become so accustomed to seeing things at a distance that they were not in the least astonished by this.

January 26, too, had its consolations, for while plodding on as usual the travelers suddenly saw a white line ahead, and soon afterwards discovered that it was a sledge track. There was no doubt that the track was Barne's on his way back from his survey work to the west, but it was wonderful what that track told them. They could see that there had been six men with two sledges, and that all of the former had been going strong and well on ski. From the state of the track this party had evidently passed about four days before on the homeward route, and from the zig-zagging of the course it was agreed that the weather must have been thick at the time. Every imprint in the soft snow added some small fact, and the whole made an excellent detective study. But the main point was that they knew for certain that Barne and his party were safe, and this after their own experiences was a great relief.

Another day and a half of labor brought them to the depôt, and the land of plenty. 'Directly,' Scott wrote on the 28th, 'our tent was up we started our search among the snow-heaps with childish glee. One after another our treasures were brought forth: oil enough for the most lavish expenditure, biscuit that might have lasted us for a month, and, finally, a large brown provision-bag which we knew would contain more than food alone. We have just opened this provision-bag and feasted our eyes on the contents. There are two tins of sardines, a large tin of marmalade, soup squares, pea soup, and many other delights that already make our mouths water. For each one of us there is some special trifle which the forethought of our kind people has provided, mine being an extra packet of tobacco; and last, but not least, there are a whole heap of folded letters and notes - billets-doux indeed. I wonder if a mail was ever more acceptable.'

The news, too, was good; Royds, after desperate labor, had succeeded in rescuing the boats; Blissett had discovered an Emperor penguin's egg, and his messmates expected him to be knighted. But the meal itself, though 'pure joy' at first, was not an unqualified success, for after being accustomed to starvation or semi-starvation rations, they were in no condition either to resist or to digest any unstinted meal, and both Scott and Wilson suffered acutely.

On the next morning they awoke to find a heavy blizzard, and the first thought of pushing on at all hazards was abandoned when Shackleton was found to be extremely ill. Everything now depended upon the weather, for should the blizzard continue Scott doubted if Shackleton would even be well enough to be carried on the sledge. 'It is a great disappointment; last night we thought ourselves out of the wood with all our troubles behind us, and to-night matters seem worse than ever. Luckily Wilson and I are pretty fit, and we have lots of food.' By great luck the weather cleared on the morning of the 30th, and as Shackleton after a very bad night revived a little it was felt that the only chance was to go on. 'At last he was got away, and we watched him almost tottering along with frequent painful halts. Re-sorting our provisions, in half an hour we had packed our camp, set our sail, and started with the sledges. It was not long before we caught our invalid, who was so exhausted that we thought it wiser he should sit on the sledges, where for the remainder of the forenoon, with the help of our sail, we carried him.'

In Wilson's opinion Shackleton's relapse was mainly due to the blizzard, but fortune favored them during the last stages of the struggle homewards, and the glorious weather had a wonderful effect upon the sick man. By the night of February 2 they were within ten or twelve miles of their goal, and saw a prospect of a successful end to their troubles. During the afternoon they had passed round the corner of White Island, and as they did so the old familiar outline of the friendly peninsula suddenly opened up before them. On every side were suggestions of home, and their joy at seeing the well-known landmarks was increased by the fact that they were as nearly 'spent as three persons can well be.'

Shackleton, it is true, had lately shown an improvement, but his companions placed but little confidence in that, for they knew how near he had been, and still was, to a total collapse. And both Scott and Wilson knew also that their scurvy had again been advancing rapidly, but they scarcely dared to admit either to themselves or each other how 'done' they were. For many a day Wilson had suffered from lameness, and each morning had vainly tried to disguise his limp, but from his set face Scott knew well enough how much he suffered before the first stiffness wore off. 'As for myself, for some time I have hurried through the task of changing my foot-gear in an attempt to forget that my ankles are considerably swollen. One and all we want rest and peace, and, all being well, tomorrow, thank Heaven, we shall get them.'

These are the final words written in Scott's sledge-diary during this remarkable journey, for on the next morning they packed up their camp for the last time and set their faces towards Observation Hill. Brilliant weather still continued, and after plodding on for some hours two specks appeared, which at first were thought to be penguins, but presently were seen to be men hurrying towards them. Early in the morning they had been reported by watchers on the hills, and Skelton and Bernacchi had hastened out to meet them.

Then the tent was put up, and while cocoa was made they listened to a ceaseless stream of news, for not only had all the other travelers returned safe and sound with many a tale to tell, but the relief ship, the Morning, had also arrived and brought a whole year's news.

So during their last lunch and during the easy march that followed, they, gradually heard of the events in the civilized world from December, 1901, to December, 1902, and these kept their thoughts busy until they rounded the cape and once more saw their beloved ship.

Though still held fast in her icy prison the Discovery looked trim and neat, and to mark the especial nature of the occasion a brave display of bunting floated gently in the breeze, while as they approached, the side and the rigging were thronged with their cheering comrades.

With every want forestalled, and every trouble lifted from their shoulders by companions vying with one another to attend to them, no welcome could have been more delightful, and yet at the time it appeared unreal to their dull senses. 'It seemed too good to be true that all our anxieties had so completely ended, and that rest for brain and limb was ours at last.' For ninety-three days they had plodded over a vast snow-field and slept beneath the fluttering canvas of a tent; during that time they had covered 960 statute miles; and if the great results hoped for in the beginning had not been completely achieved, they knew at any rate that they had striven and endured to the limit of their powers.