Wednesday 29 Nov. [Actually November 28]
Fog, fog and fog again, and in addition fine crystals that make the going impossible. Poor beasts, they have struggled hard to get the sledges forward today.
But it has been a red-letter day. It was calm this morning. The weather was mild and pleasant. The sun shone and gave warmth. But at the same time this unbearable snowfall and the impenetrable weather. Indeed, the impenetrable weather is almost the worst of all. One can pass right under the biggest mountain without seeing it. Two nautical miles from our camp a huge mountain – in a SE’ly (true) direction – suddenly appeared – ca. 5 nautical miles distant. It proved to be – as we came closer, to be a mighty mountain range running N-S (true). This range has received the name of F range.
After having covered a distance of 6 nautical miles, we stopped and set to work building a depot. With land and difficulties ahead, it was necessary to lighten the sledges. Meanwhile the fog had settled thickly over all land. We built a solid, high depot, and placed a black packing case on top. The depot contains food for 5 men for 6 days and for 18 doggies for 5 days. This lightened each load by 25 kg.
When we had built the depot, the weather lifted just enough for us to have a view of land. I drew a sketch of it from the depot and took bearings. At this second lifting of the weather, we had another surprise. To the NE of F range an enormous mountain suddenly appeared – also running N-S true. Unfortunately the fog would not lift from the N’ly of this last range to come into view – G range. Huge glaciers tumbled down them and looked magnificent. Both ranges ran N-S, but NE-SW in relation to each other. Through the telescope I could indistinctly see the ranges continue towards the NE. Without doubt they are a continuation of the E range.
Between both ranges there was a monstrous glacier. Towards the F range, the ice seemed more confused than anything I had yet seen. It looked as if a huge mass of enormous blocks of ice had been lifted up and dropped down. But one could definitely see that this happened many, many years ago. Snow and warmth had rounded off and filled in a great deal.
The highest summit was rather peculiar. An approximately 10,000 ft. high cupola crowned with huge ice crystals – crystals of giant size. A grander and more beautiful headdress can scarcely be imagined. The biggest and most unpleasant surprise was however an enormous, mighty glacier running E-W (true) from F. range, as far as the eye could see. In other words, right in our course. We soon discovered that the best way of tackling it – by looking through the telescope – was to set our course for the glacier, despite the fog, which had once again settled over everything. A latitude that Hass. fixed at the depot was 86°21' S.Lat, about the same as dead reckoning of 86°23'.
We soon arrived at the glacier in the thickest fog, and advanced as best we could. On all sides, there were masses of greater and lesser crevasses, together with enormous chasms, and we had to inch our way through, going about from the one tack to the other. Hass. and I went ahead, roped together, and the three others followed behind. It went far better than expected, despite the complete darkness which we were working in – Only with one ‘narrow escape’ for W., who nearly fell off a snow bridge that was in the process of collapsing.
I don’t think that I am much mistaken when I believe that all these mountain ranges running NE-SW meet Sh.’s range running SE-NW at 87° S. Lat. Time will tell. Without doubt the mountain summit of which we took a bearing at 86°3' is a continuation towards the NE of F & G ranges.
Deep and sticky snow all day – horrible going. It is splendid in the tent. Everything good and dry. The sun shines through, drying everything. But what good does that do? – the fog remains persistent. It is calm outside this evening, but despite the ca. –23°, outside it feels like summer, here inside the tent. We have climbed 200 ft. We are now at 8,400 ft. above sea level. What will be the next surprise?
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.