The Winter Journey: Part XI

The Vaguest Idea

When we left the men of the Crozier party yesterday they had just wrapped up their coldest day of the journey yet. Temperatures nearly dropped as low as -80°F (-62.2°C) and the crew only managed to make 1.5 miles of progress across bad pulling surfaces. At this point in the journey, Cherry-Garrard noted that routine camp work was taking upwards of nine hours per day due to the extreme cold (The Worst Journey in the World, pg. 242). The artificial lines between night and day are blurred during the polar winter, and the men’s sense of routine based on time seemed to fade with it. The Crozier party did not get started until after noon on July 7th, 1911, and the first weather observation of the day indicated that conditions had not improved much:

Position: Camp 9

Time: 14:00

Temperature: -67.3°F (-55.2°C)

Wind Direction/Force: Calm

Sky Condition: Clear

Weather: Light fog

Overnight Minimum Temperature: -74.8°F (-59.3°C)

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

After stepping off in a light fog the men were reduced to relay work yet again, the cold still too intense for the sledge runners to glide along the snow surface. As the day dragged on the temperature began to rise a bit, and the fog began to thicken.

Bowers reading the meteorological screen at Cape Evans. Watercolor by Dr. Edward A. Wilson

By late evening, the men had to call a halt to the march as the fog had thickened to the point that they could no longer see where they were going. When the men pitched camp for the night they had made about 1.66 miles of progress.

Crozier party progress after 11 days

Cherry-Garrard documents just how tough the prolonged cold and sledging had been on the men’s bodies at this juncture:

Our hearts were doing very gallant work. Towards the end of the march they were getting beaten and were finding it difficult to pump the blood to our extremities. There were few days where Wilson and I did not get some part of our feet frostbitten. As we camped, I suspect our hearts were beating comparatively weakly and slowly.

The Worst Journey in the World, pg. 242

One of the more interesting and somewhat surreal things from the day’s march was to read what the men had to say about the great sense of relief they got when the temperature rose into the -50°F (-45.6°C) range, as opposed to -70°F (-56.7°C) and below. I guess it’s all relative, right? At the end of the day, here is where things stood with the weather:

Position: Camp 10

Time: 01:15 (June 8th)

Miles Made Good: 1.66

Temperature: -56.7°F (-49.3°C)

Wind Direction: N

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

Wind Chill: -72.6°F (-58.1°C)

Sky Condition: Mostly cloudy w/ stratus

Weather: Fog

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

Will conditions improve tomorrow for the Crozier party? Check back to find out!