Friday 8 Dec. [Actually December 07]
One of our big days. It did not seem exactly favourable in the morning – thick and with no visibility as usual. But the wind had dropped during the night. What little remained, came from NE.
Terrain and going were of the best kind. Flat – quite flat without the slightest hint of sastrugi. The awkward patches of loose drift snow that had been so obstructive the previous day had completely disappeared, and the skiing was absolutely A1. We had not travelled long, before it began to clear round the whole horizon. But the vault of heaven itself remained veiled. A thick layer of stratus made everything impenetrable and the sun showed not the least sign of itself. At 11.15 a.m., we had one of our usual halts – we had then covered 7 nautical miles, and by dead reckoning were at 88°16' S. Lat. Precisely at that moment the sun appeared, but not more than a pat of butter. We had not had an obs. since 86°16' S. Lat, and it meant a great deal for us to fix our position precisely. It took some time before ‘Her Grace’ was prepared to reveal herself. But eventually she appeared – not in all her glory, but modest and pretty – excellent for a good view. We shot her – we made no mistake – and the result – Well, it was almost exactly 88°16'. A brilliant victory after 1½° march in thick fog and snow drift. In other words, observation and dead reckoning agreed to a minute. Later in the afternoon we took two separate observations for compass variation, at very different times – 5 o’clock and 8 o’clock – with the same result.
So we are ready to take the Pole in any kind of weather on offer. It was only 7 nautical miles from our observation site to the Englishmen’s (Sh’s) world record (88°23'). I had given HH our Pole flag, which he would hoist on his sledge – the leading sledge – as soon as that latitude had been crossed. I was myself the forerunner at that time. The weather had improved more and more, and the sun was in the process of breaking through in dead earnest. My snow goggles bothered me from time to time. Light airs from the S. made them cloud over, making it difficult to see. Then suddenly I heard a stout, hearty cheer behind me. I turned round. In the light breeze from the S., the brave, well-known colours were flying from the first sledge, we have passed and put behind us the Englishmen’s record. It was a splendid sight. The sun had just burst through in all its glory and illuminated in a lovely manner the beautiful little flag – a present from Helland-Hansen and Nordahl Olsen. My goggles clouded over again, but this time it was not the south wind’s fault.
We halted at 88°23'2 and congratulated each other. We were all happy and content. Took a photo – No.10 film no.3 – of the sledges as the moved on and stopped. Then we continued our journey again and stopped at 88°25' S. lat. We had the best weather for a long time. Sunshine and almost calm. –18°. It was pure sum- mer inside the tent. Everything of ours that is damp, dries in the course of a few hours. We stay here tomorrow in order to rest ourselves and our dogs. – The snow conditions on the plateau – for the hypsometer shows that we are on the plateau, the result this evening being exactly the same as on the previous two. The snow here is deep and loose, so that it was difficult enough to find a place to pitch the tent. It seems that any wind – at least a strong one – is a rarity here on the plateau. The dogs are quite ravenous – eat anything they can get hold of – especially the lashings on the sledges. Therefore we must strip the sledges bare at night.
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.