South

Here’s a great excerpt from the book I’m cur­rent­ly read­ing.

This after­noon Sallie’s three youngest pups, Sue’s Sir­ius, and Mrs. Chip­py, the carpenter’s cat, have to be shot. We could not under­take the main­te­nance of weak­lings under the new con­di­tions. Mack­lin, Cre­an, and the car­pen­ter seemed to feel the loss of their friends rather bad­ly. We pro­pose mak­ing a short tri­al jour­ney to-mor­row, start­ing with two of the boats and the ten sledges. The num­ber of dog teams has been increased to sev­en, Green­street tak­ing charge of the new addi­tion­al team, con­sist­ing of Snap­per and Sallie’s four old­est pups. We have ten work­ing sledges to relay with five teams. Wild’s and Hurley’s teams will haul the cut­ter with the assis­tance of four men. The whaler and the oth­er boats will fol­low, and the men who are haul­ing them will be able to help with progress, but each mile counts. Cre­an this after­noon has a bad attack of snow-blind­ness.”

The weath­er on the morn­ing of Octo­ber 30 was over­cast and misty, with occa­sion­al falls of snow. A mod­er­ate north-east­er­ly breeze was blow­ing. We were still liv­ing on extra food brought from the ship when we aban­doned her, and the sledg­ing and boat­ing rations were intact. These rations would pro­vide for twen­ty-eight men for fifty-six days on full rations, but we could count on get­ting enough seal and pen­guin meat to at least dou­ble this time. We could even, if progress proved too dif­fi­cult and too inju­ri­ous to the boats, which we must guard as our ulti­mate means of sal­va­tion, camp on the near­est heavy flow, scour the neigh­bour­ing pack for pen­guins and seals, and await the out­ward drift of the pack to open and nav­i­ga­ble water.

This plan would avoid the grave dan­gers we are now incur­ring of get­ting entan­gled in impass­able pres­sure-ridges and pos­si­bly irre­triev­ably dam­ag­ing the boats, which are bound to suf­fer in rough ice; it would also min­i­mize the per­il of the ice split­ting under us, as it did twice dur­ing the night at our first camp. Yet I feel sure that it is the right thing to attempt a march, since if we can make five or sev­en miles a day to the north-west our chance of reach­ing safe­ty in the months to come will be increased great­ly. There is a psy­cho­log­i­cal aspect to the ques­tion also. It will be much bet­ter for the men in gen­er­al to feel that, even though progress is slow, they are on their way to land than it will be sim­ply to sit down and wait for the tardy north-west­er­ly drift to take us out of this cru­el waste of ice. We will make an attempt to move. The issue is beyond my pow­er either to pre­dict or to con­trol.”

That after­noon Wild and I went out in the mist and snow to find a road to the north-east. After many devi­ous turn­ings to avoid the heav­ier pres­sure ridges, we pio­neered a way for at least a mile and a half, and then returned by a rather bet­ter route to the camp. The pres­sure was now rapid in move­ment and our floe was suf­fer­ing from the shakes and the jerks of the ice. At 3 p.m., after lunch, we got under way, leav­ing Dump Camp a mass of debris. The order was that per­son­al gear must not exceed two pounds per man, and this meant that noth­ing but bare nec­es­saries was to be tak­en on the march. We could not afford to cum­ber our­selves with unnec­es­sary weight. Holes had been dug in the snow for the recep­tion of pri­vate let­ters and lit­tle per­son­al tri­fles, the Lares and Penates of the mem­bers of the Expe­di­tion, and into the pri­va­cy of these white graves were con­signed much of sen­ti­men­tal val­ue and not a lit­tle of intrin­sic worth. I rather grudged the two pounds of allowance per man, owing to my keen anx­i­ety to keep weights at a min­i­mum, but some per­son­al belong­ings could fair­ly be regard­ed as indis­pens­able. The jour­ney might be a long one, and there was a pos­si­bil­i­ty of a win­ter in impro­vised quar­ters on an inhos­pitable coast at the oth­er end. A man under such con­di­tions needs some­thing to occu­py his thoughts, some tan­gi­ble memen­to of his home and peo­ple beyond the seas. So sov­er­eigns were thrown away and pho­tographs were kept. I tore the fly-leaf out of the Bible that Queen Alexan­dra had giv­en to the ship, with her own writ­ing in it, and also the won­der­ful page of Job con­tain­ing the verse:

Out of whose womb came the ice?
And the hoary frost of Heav­en, who hath engen­dered it?
The waters are hid as with a stone,
And the face of the deep is frozen.

The oth­er Bible, which Queen Alexan­dra had giv­en for the use of the shore par­ty, was down below in the low­er hold in one of the cas­es when the ship received her death-blow. Suit­cas­es were thrown away; these were retrieved lat­er as mate­r­i­al for mak­ing boots, and some of them, marked “sol­id leather,” proved, to our dis­ap­point­ment, to con­tain a large per­cent­age of card­board. The man­u­fac­tur­er would have had dif­fi­cul­ty in con­vinc­ing us at the time that the decep­tion was any­thing short of crim­i­nal.

Sir Ernest Shack­le­ton — South: The Last Antarc­tic Expe­di­tion of Shack­le­ton and the Endurance

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