FEAR death?—to feel the fog in my throat,
The mist in my face,
When the snows begin, and the blasts denote
I am nearing the place,
The power of the night, the press of the storm,
The post of the foe;
Where he stands, the Arch Fear in a visible form,
Yet the strong man must go:
For the journey is done and the summit attain’d,
And the barriers fall,
Though a battle’s to fight ere the guerdon be gain’d,
The reward of it all.
I was ever a fighter, so—one fight more,
The best and the last!
I would hate that death bandaged my eyes, and forbore,
And bade me creep past.
No! let me taste the whole of it, fare like my peers
The heroes of old,
Bear the brunt, in a minute pay glad life’s arrears
Of pain, darkness and cold.
For sudden the worst turns the best to the brave,
The black minute’s at end,
And the elements’ rage, the fiend-voices that rave,
Shall dwindle, shall blend,
Shall change, shall become first a peace out of pain.
Then a light, then thy breast,
O thou soul of my soul! I shall clasp thee again,
And with God be the rest!
— Robert Browning, 1861; publ. 1864
3rd Sept 1916
I have done it. Damn the Admiralty. I wonder who is responsible for their attitude to me.
Not a life lost and we have been through Hell. Soon will I be home and then I will rest. This is just a line as I have only arrived today and the Steamer sails at once.
Give my love and kisses to the children
Your tired Micky
Scan of original letter at Scott Polar Research Institute website: [view]
Photo taken by Mr. Vega, Punta Arenas’ leading photographer; 1916
“Shortly after 7 a.m. Sir E. rowed ashore & telephoned our arrival on to Punta Arenas, so that the populace might roll up and greet us after church, we being due to arrive at 12 noon. The Yelcho was bedecked with flags… On nearing the jetty we were deafened by the tooting of whistles & cheering motor craft, which was taken up by the cast gathering on the piers & water-fronts.”
— Frank Hurley
“I am not very susceptible to emotion, but this happy reunion with our comrades, whom we had almost given up as lost & out unhappy release, with the lonely peaks like mute sentinels witnessing our departure has left an indelible impression… Oh! the bliss of once more feeling the motion of the sea, the music of fresh though foreign voices and to sense at last that our anxieties & privations are ended.” —Hurley
“I lay on the floor wrapped in a blanket meditating & thinking how ineffably more pleasing to be kept awake by the throb of the engines that are hurrying us back to life, than like smoldering logs on Elephant Isle, hearking to the stentorious snores that ebbed away our existence.”
— Frank Hurley
“Soon we were tumbling into the boat, and the Chilean sailors, laughing up at us, seemed as pleased at our rescue as we were. Twice more the boat returned, and within an hour of our first having sighted the boat we were heading northwards to the outer world from which we had had no news since October 1914, over twenty-two months before. We are like men awakened from a long sleep. We are trying to acquire suddenly the perspective which the rest of the world has acquired gradually through two years of war. There are many events which have happened of which we shall never know.”
“Our first meal, owing to our weakness and the atrophied state of our stomachs, proved disastrous to a good many. They soon recovered though. Our beds were just shakedowns on cushions and settees, though the officer on watch very generously gave up his bunk to two of us. I think we got very little sleep that night. It was just heavenly to lie and listen to the throb of the engines, instead of to the crack of the breaking floe, the beat of the surf on the ice-strewn shore, or the howling of the blizzard.”
“At last someone shouted out to Sir Ernest “are you all well…” to which he laughingly replied “Don’t we look all right now that we’ve washed” for evidently our filthy condition had not failed to attract his notice and then we burst into a hearty laugh which was followed… by the rowers as soon as they saw what he was laughing at, then like silly school-girls, we all started giggling and looking at each other’s black faces.”
— Thomas Orde-Lees