Sardines on toast

nightwatch_many

“My turn to night watch. The duties of the night watch are to keep the Ritz bogie glowing, the Stables roasting, and the Boss’s, which is right aft, at an equable temperature. The latter is a difficult job, as the Boss’s room is but a small cabin. The temperature within is either 90° or well below freezing, according to the vicissitudes of the wind, which greatly influence the bogie draught. Sir Ernest’s temper reciprocates with the room temperature. The night watch also arouses his friends, and they sit in quorum around the bogie fire, discoursing in subdued whispers, and partaking of the night watchman’s homage, to wit, sardines on toast, (a great favourite) grilled biscuit and cocoa or tea. Frequently, a special ‘perk’, reserved for the occasion, is produced, and the visitors, termed ghosts, are appreciative…”

— Frank Hurley

Posted in Images, Other Voices | Leave a comment

Electric lamps

endurance_night2_500

“Hurley, our handy man, installed our small electric-lighting plant and placed lights for occasional use in the observatory, the meteorological station, and various other points. We could not afford to use the electric lamps freely. Hurley also rigged two powerful lights on poles projecting from the ship to port and starboard. These lamps would illuminate the “dogloos” brilliantly on the darkest winter’s day and would be invaluable in the event of the floe breaking during the dark days of winter. We could imagine what it would mean to get fifty dogs aboard without lights while the floe was breaking and rafting under our feet.”

— Ernest Shackleton, South

endurance_night_pressure

“How dreary the frozen captivity of our life, but for the dogs.”
— Frank Hurley

dogloos2
Posted in Images, Other Voices, Shackleton | Leave a comment

The Antarctic Derby

“There is not one that is not to some extent a mongrel.”
— Thomas Orde-Lees

dogs_grid

“On the 15th of the month a great race, the ‘Antarctic Derby,’ took place. It was a notable event. The betting had been heavy, and every man aboard the ship stood to win or lose on the result of the contest. Some money had been staked, but the wagers that thrilled were those involving stores of chocolate and cigarettes. The course had been laid off from Khyber Pass, at the eastern end of the old lead ahead of the ship, to a point clear of the jib-boom, a distance of about 700 yds. Five teams went out in the dim noon twilight, with a zero temperature and an aurora flickering faintly to the southward. The starting signal was to be given by the flashing of a light on the meteorological station. I was appointed starter, Worsley was judge, and James was timekeeper. The bos’n, with a straw hat added to his usual Antarctic attire, stood on a box near the winning-post, and was assisted by a couple of shady characters to shout the odds, which were displayed on a board hung around his neck — 6 to 4 on Wild, ‘evens’ on Crean, 2 to 1 against Hurley, 6 to 1 against Macklin, and 8 to 1 against McIlroy. Canvas handkerchiefs fluttered from an improvised grand stand, and the pups, which had never seen such strange happenings before, sat round and howled with excitement. The spectators could not see far in the dim light, but they heard the shouts of the drivers as the teams approached, and greeted the victory of the favourite with a roar of cheering that must have sounded strange indeed to any seals or penguins that happened to be in our neighbourhood. Wild’s time was 2 min. 16 sec., or at the rate of 10½ miles per hour for the course.”

— Ernest Shackleton, South

“Everyone wagers all available chocolates & cigarettes… the current coin… the betting fever rises high— finally… sovereigns take the place of chocolates and cigarettes. I get my modest ‘quid’ on Wild… but Sir Ernest goes on in his usual whole-hearted style & soon has a fiver on Wild, some at 2 to 1 and so on. [Shackleton acted] the ‘Rale Ould Irish sporting gentleman’.”

— Frank Worsley

“Another race took place a few days after the ‘Derby.’ The two crack teams, driven by Hurley and Wild, met in a race from Khyber Pass. Wild’s team, pulling 910 lbs., or 130 lbs. per dog, covered the 700 yds. in 2 min. 9 sec., or at the rate of 11.1 miles per hour. Hurley’s team, with the same load, did the run in 2 min. 16 sec. The race was awarded by the judge to Hurley owing to Wild failing to ‘weigh in’ correctly. I happened to be a part of the load on his sledge, and a skid over some new drift within fifty yards of the winning post resulted in my being left on the snow. It should be said in justice to the dogs that this accident, while justifying the disqualification, could not have made any material difference in the time.”

— Ernest Shackleton, South

dogs_exercise
Posted in Images, Other Voices, Shackleton

What is to become of it all…?

endurance_icefield

“From within the cosiness of the Ritz, it is hard to imagine we are drifting, frozen and solid, in a sea of pack ice in the very heart of the Weddell Sea. I often wonder, and I do not suppose I am the only one, what is to become of it all…”

— Frank Hurley

Posted in Images, Other Voices

Mutual impersonations

theatricals

“After lights out we generally have some sort of a romp. Generally it is singing of songs, delicate or otherwise, sometimes it is ‘dressing up’. Members appear as ballet girls, decidedly abbreviated, or as ghosts of previous polar explorers and so on, but a very favourite form of amusement is mutual impersonations. I am inclined to be a little over anxious to please Sir Ernest at times and last night McIlroy took me off cleverly as follows:

“(Dancing about in a most effuse way.) ‘Yes sir, oh yes sir, certainly sir, sardines sir, yes sir, here they are (dashes to pantry and back) and bread sir, oh yes sir, bread sir, you shall have the night watchman’s bread sir (another dash to pantry and much grovelling, effusion and so on) and may I black your boots sir?’ and so on.

“I am in disfavour just now for stopping the supply of bread for the general run of the members at night, and given biscuits instead. Still all said and done, there is no smoke without fire and perhaps the broad hint will do me good. Better to be called a toad than a toady.”

— Thomas Orde-Lees

Posted in Images, Other Voices

Irresistible forces of Nature

endurance_icefield

“[The noise of the ice was] like an enormous train with squeaky axles being shunted with much bumping & clattering. Mingled with this were the sound of steamer whistles starting to blow… & underfoot moans & groans of damned souls in torment. A constant undertone as of a heavy distant surf is heard when the louder noises… cease.

“It is impressive to stand on the blocks of heavy rafting ice & feel the irresistible forces of Nature working under your very feet… The ice… tents & domes upwards, breaks rafts in huge blocks… that travel forward at a steady rate of 3 feet a minute. Occasionally a thud is heard as a block topples over. Suddenly sound & motion cease, renew for a moment, then all is still again — the current has deflected or the floe has yielded to pressure.

“The ship was quite invisible, and one had to ‘steer home’ by the stars…”

— Frank Worsley, out for a walk on the floes

Posted in Images, Other Voices

Antarctic Insomnia

nightwatch_many

“One looks quite forward to one’s night watch and always contemplates doing a far greater number of odd jobs than one actually has time to accomplish. Tonight I had intended to wash myself and my clothes, sort out a box of bolts and nuts, and write up numerous blank spaces in this diary! It has been as much as I have been able to achieve to have a bath and wash my clothes.

“One or two self-diagnosed cases of insomnia (a complaint often brought on by post-prandial naps) generally turn up quite unashamedly at the night watchman’s supper time and cheerfully share with him, or in other words deprove him of part of his much-needed sustenance, slinking off to their respective lairs as soon as their gastronomic desires have been satisfied. No wonder then that desultory depredations occasionally occur, but they are never of so serious a nature that we cannot afford to wink at them.

“The prospective night watchman has the privilege of turning in during the afternoon immediately preceding his night watch, and the day following he is at liberty to sleep all day if he so desires. Of the former privilege he generally avails himself, though the noisiness that goes on all day precludes any real slumber. Nearly all of us suffer in varying degrees from Antarctic insomnia. To sit up all night is the finest cure for insomnia there is.”

— Thomas Orde-Lees

Posted in Images, Other Voices