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The Winter Journey: Part V

A Succession of Shivering Fits

After two full days on the McMurdo Ice Shelf, the men of the Crozier party are really starting to feel the effects of the intense cold and heavy surfaces. Their third night would turn out to be especially bad as the temperature nearly fell to -70°F (-56.7°C). Apsley Cherry-Garrard describes the difficulties he faced:

It was a very bad night: a succession of shivering fits which I was quite unable to stop, and which took possession of my body for many minutes at a time until I thought my back would break.

The Worst Journey in the World, pg. 233

Poor bastard. The coldest ambient temperature I felt during my time in the Antarctic was about -40°F (-40°C), but I had the distinct pleasure of experiencing a wind chill factor at -75°F (-59.4°C). At these temperatures, just walking between the buildings on station can be a chore; I cannot even imagine being stuck in them for several days with the only respite being the heat used to cook meals. To me, it speaks volumes about the hardihood and dedication of these men.

What did the men wake up to on July 1st? The first weather observation from Birdie Bowers follows below:

Position: Camp 4

Time: 09:00

Temperature: -65.6°F (-54.2°C)

Wind Direction: NE

Wind Force (Beaufort): 1 (1-3 knots)

Wind Chill: -82.8°F (-63.8°C)

Sky Condition: Clear

Overnight Minimum Temperature: -69°F (-56.1°F)

British Antarctic Expedition 1910-1913, Meteorology, Vol. III Table 69

The men struck camp and set off shortly before 11 a.m., and faced another day of very heavy pulling. The very low temperature and poor snow surface forced the men to do relay work once again, and it took all of their collective might just to pull one sledge forward. Dr. Wilson and Cherry-Garrard also started to experience optical illusions with respect to their outbound tracks, making their footsteps appear like small hummocks in the snow (The Worst Journey in the World, pg. 234).

In total, the men only managed to cover 2.25 miles on their fifth day out from Cape Evans. In addition to the extreme cold, ice accumulation in the men’s clothing was becoming problematic. The men’s sweat and breath froze to their cold weather gear almost instantly; the end result being a coat that was nearly impossible to get in and out of at camp. When the men turned in for the evening, the temperature was still hovering near -60°F (-50.8°C):

Position: Camp 5

Time: 22:00

Miles Made Good: 2.25

Temperature: -59.5°F (-50.8°C)

Wind Direction: E

Wind Force (Beaufort): 1 (1-3 knots)

Wind Chill: -75.8°F (-59.9°C)

Sky Condition: Clear

British Antarctic Expedition 1910-1913, Meteorology, Vol. III Table 69

Will the men of the Crozier party get a respite anytime soon? Check in again tomorrow to find out!

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