Sunday 22 October [Actually October 21]
Thick fog. Stiff breeze from SE. Snowing and snowdrift. It was not a good day for travelling.
But since we had just found our old tracks yesterday evening, I felt that we were absolutely justified when we set a course thence of NE by E. We raced ahead at a gallop. The dogs were simply mad to get through.
Everything went well for a couple of hours. And then suddenly we reached classical crevassed terrain. We could not see many metres around us. I was ski-joring with W. and we were the last. Suddenly we saw that Bj.’s sledge – he was running just ahead of us – had tilted. We stopped our sledge. In the meantime, Bj.’s sledge had completely disappeared into the crevasse. With great presence of mind he himself had flung himself off, and now sat a couple of feet from the edge, and held the sledge by the trace. It took some time – 5 minutes I think – before we fetched the alpine rope, which was in the leading sledge – HH’s – made it ready, and attached it to the trace. It was high time. Every moment it became heavier and heavier for Bj. A minute more, and he would have had to let the sledge disappear into the depths.
Where the sledge had fallen into the crevasse, it was about 1 m wide, and deep – well in fact, we couldn’t see the bottom. When we had attached the alpine rope, Bj. W. and I succeeded in holding the sledge. HH. and Has. then fetched another sledge, which we placed across the crevasse, and to which we anchored the hanging sledge. Thereafter W. was lowered on the alpine rope, and down there he managed to fix straps to the various boxes, and from that position we managed to haul them right up to the top.
It took us a good 1½ hours to get the sledge up again. W., who had been down in the crevasse, could report that a short distance from where the sledge had fallen in, there was a huge widening under the surface which could have swallowed all sledges with full complement, if they had strayed broadside on.
On closer investigation, it turned out that the terrain around us consisted entirely of crevasse after crevasse and enormous chasms. To continue in such terrain in thick fog, we decided was best avoided.
It was difficult to find space for the tent, but with the aid of the tent pole, we were finally able to arrange a reasonably secure site. The tiny place on which we now have the tent standing is surrounded by crevasses and chasms on all sides, and our tent is certainly on the worst of them.
The time is now 1 p.m. We are cooking lobscouse, and waiting for the fog to lift. At 4 o’clock it lifted. Then we could see seracs surrounding us – quite small, but enough to signal the «filthy terrain». Bj. W. and I went ahead on the alpine rope to find a way out. By going eastwards, we were soon out of it. At 5 o’clock we started off again at full tilt. The doggies ran like lightning. Too hastily however we resumed a course of E. by N. and once more it brought us among the crevasses. Four of HH’s dogs fell into a hideous crevasse, which would easily have swallowed them and their cargo also, if he had not managed to stop. We were forced to retrace our steps out again and then make a wide detour to avoid the little seracs.
This place had been crumpled with such violence, that huge slabs were piled up against each other like rafting in the pack ice. When we had worked our way round the «filth», we caught sight of one of our flags to the E. In spite of everything we had strayed too far to the west – right into the «filth». It is quite extraordinary. Although even on the previous day we had struggled to keep N. of our course, and although we crossed the tracks we had followed the previous time, and although we even steered a point more northerly – NE by E, despite all this we bloody well came too far over to the W.
We have had several opportunities of checking the compass on this journey, and it has proved to be absolutely in order. What could the reason be? I know only one answer – local disturbance. It must be this – cannot be anything else. That the compass is reliable was shown this evening when we found the two little igloos we built on our previous trip. – The going has been consistently good. A little loose snow the first 10 nautical miles from the edge of the Barrier but mostly hard.
This transcript comes from “Race for the South Pole - The Expedition Diaries of Scott and Amundsen” by Roland Huntford. It appears by courtesy of the author and The Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd.