The Winter Journey: Part VI

An Experience to be Remembered

After covering 17 miles on the first two days of the journey, the men of the Crozier party have only managed to cover a total of 10 miles over the last 3 marches due to blistering cold and poor snow surfaces. Their fourth night on the ice shelf wasn’t any better, with temperatures below -60°F (-51.1°C) and a stiff easterly breeze stirring up some drift. The wind subsided by late morning, but the bitter cold remained on the morning of July 2nd, 1911:

Position: Camp 5

Time: 10:30

Temperature: -59.4°F (-50.8°C)

Wind Direction/Force: Calm

Sky Condition: Partly cloudy w/cirrostratus

Overnight minimum temperature: -64.2°F

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

After struggling through their morning routine of wedging themselves into their gear and striking camp, the men faced another day of relay work in the sandy snow of the Windless Bight. On the bright side, the men were able to discard their candles in favor of the light of the moon to guide their way. Unfortunately for the men, the temperature fell throughout the day and the surface continued to impose a slow, heavy trudge. In the words of Cherry-Garrard:

It was a really terrible march, and parts of both my feet were frozen at lunch. After supper I pricked six or seven of the worst blisters, and the relief was considerable.

The Worst Journey in the World, pg. 236

Dr. Wilson also reported that light easterly airs would freeze exposed skin almost instantly, and that the men had to make extensive use of their nose nips (Diary of the Terra Nova Expedition to the Antarctic 1910~1912).

Balaclava helmet won by Apsley Cherry-Garrard during the Terra Nova Expedition. Those metal snaps had to be hell in those temperatures. Photo from my visit to the Antarctic Dinosaurs exhibit in Charlotte (Feb. 2020).

Even though the sledging on this day was brutal, there were still a few moments of wonder as the men were captivated by the beautiful auroral activity to the east:

For there was one halt when we just lay on our backs and gazed up into the sky, where, so the others said, there was blazing the most beautiful aurora they had ever seen. I did not see it, being so near-sighted and unable to wear spectacles owing to the cold.

Apsley Cherry-Garrard, The Worst Journey in the World, pg. 237

I’m convinced that Cherry-Garrard was the Charlie Brown of this expedition…he really did have the worst luck. However, I think there is something to be said about the interesting juxtapositions that Antarctica creates. I always found it fascinating that a place of such harsh, unforgiving conditions could also possess such an ethereal beauty.

As for the men of the Crozier party, their arduous efforts only gained them another 2 miles of progress for the day. On camping for the evening, the weather conditions were as follows:

Position: Camp 6

Time: 21:15

Miles Made Good: 2

Temperature: -64°F (-53.3°C)

Wind Direction/Force: Calm

Sky Condition: Partly cloudy w/cirrostratus

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

It almost seems pointless to ask this question now, but will the luck of the Crozier party ever improve? Check in tomorrow!


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