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Antarctic Journals
by Capt. Robert Falcon Scott
The original, squashed down to read in about 30 minutes


Scott's team and the last page from his journal


(Antarctica, 1910-13)



Scott wanted to be first to reach the South Pole, which fellow Briton Ernest Shackleton had come very close to a year before. With the 'right attitude' of boundless enthusiasm, the 'right chaps' of the officer class and more than a year's preparation at the edge of Antarctica, what could possibly go wrong?
Abridged: GH



Antarctic Journals


Sunday, September 10: My whole time has been occupied in making detailed plans for the Southern journey. It would be impossible to imagine a more vigorous community, and there does not seem to be a single weak spot in the twelve good men and true who are chosen for the Southern advance. All are now experienced sledge travellers, knit together with a bond of friendship that has never been equalled under such circumstances. It is good to have arrived at a point where one can run over facts and figures again and again without detecting a flaw or foreseeing a difficulty. We had two lectures last week - the first dealing with General Geology and the second was given by Ponting. This time we had pictures of the Great Wall and other stupendous monuments of North China. It is a really satisfactory state of affairs all round. If the Southern journey comes off, nothing, not even priority at the Pole, can prevent the Expedition ranking as one of the most important that ever entered the polar regions.

Thursday, September 14: I held forth on the 'Southern Plans' yesterday; everyone was enthusiastic. To-morrow Bowers, Simpson, Petty Officer Evans, and I are off to the west.

Wednesday, October 3: We have had a very bad weather spell. Time simply flies and the sun steadily climbs the heavens. Breakfast, lunch, and supper are now all enjoyed by sunlight, whilst the night is no longer dark.

'When they after their headstrong manner, conclude that it is their duty to rush on their journey all weathers' - 'Pilgrim's Progress'.

Sunday, October 8: A very beautiful day. Everyone out and about after Service, all ponies going well. Went to Pressure Ridge with Ponting and took a number of photographs. So far good.

Thursday, November 2: The plan of further advance has now been evolved. We shall start in three parties - the very slow ponies, the medium paced, and the fliers.

Saturday, December 2: The ponies went poorly on the first march, when there was little or no wind and a high temperature. It was so warm when we camped that the snow melted as it fell, and everything got sopping wet. The lists now: Self, Wilson, Oates, and Keohane. Bowers, P.O. Evans, Cherry and Crean. Man-haulers: E. R. Evans, Atkinson, Wright, and Lashly. We have all taken to horse meat and are so well fed that hunger isn't thought of.

Tuesday, December 5: Camp 30. Noon. There are pools of water on everything, the tents are wet through, also the wind clothes, night boots, &c.; water drips from the tent poles and door, lies on the floorcloth, soaks the sleeping-bags, and makes everything pretty wretched.

Friday, December 8: Camp 30. All tents had been reduced to the smallest volume by the gradual pressure of snow. Evans and his man-haulers tried to pull a load this afternoon. They managed to move a sledge with four people on it.

Saturday, December 9: At 8 P.M. the ponies were quite done, one and all. We camped, and the ponies have been shot. Poor beasts! The scenery is most impressive; three huge pillars of granite form the right buttress of the Gateway, and a sharp spur of Mount Hope the left. In spite of some doubt in our outlook, everyone is very cheerful to-night and jokes are flying freely around.

Wednesday, December 20: 6500 feet about. Just got off our last best half march - 10 miles. All day we have been admiring a wonderful banded structure of the rock; to-night it is beautifully clear on Mount Darwin. I have just told off the people to return to-morrow night: Atkinson, Wright, Cherry-Garrard, and Keohane. All are disappointed - poor Wright rather bitterly, I fear. I dread this necessity of choosing.

A FRESH MS. BOOK: On the Flyleaf: Ages: Self 43, Wilson 39, Evans (P.O.) 37, Oates 32, Bowers 28. Average 36.

Monday, December 25. CHRISTMAS: Night. Camp No. 47. Bar. 21.18. T: 7°. I am so replete that I can scarcely write. I must write a word of our supper last night. We had four courses. The first, pemmican, full whack, with slices of horse meat flavoured with onion and curry powder and thickened with biscuit; then an arrowroot, cocoa and biscuit hoosh sweetened; then a plum-pudding; then cocoa with raisins, and finally a dessert of caramels and ginger. Wilson and I couldn't finish our share of plum-pudding.

Thursday, December 28: The marches are terribly monotonous. One's thoughts wander occasionally to pleasanter scenes and places, but necessity to, or some hitch in the surface, quickly brings them back.

Monday, January 1, 1912: NEW YEAR'S DAY. We are very comfortable in our double tent. Stick of chocolate to celebrate the New Year. Prospects seem to get brighter - only 170 miles to go and plenty of food left.

Wednesday, January 3: Minimum -18.5°. Within 150 miles of our goal. Last night I decided to reorganise, and this morning told off Teddy Evans, Lashly, and Crean to return. They are disappointed, but take it well. Bowers is to come into our tent, and we proceed as a five man unit to-morrow. We have 5½ units of food - practically over a month's allowance for five people - it ought to see us through. I think it's going to be all right. We have a fine party going forward and arrangements are all going well.

Friday, January 5: A dreadfully trying day. The sastrugi seemed to increase as we advanced and they have changed direction from S.W. to S. by W. What lots of things we think of on these monotonous marches! What castles one builds now hopefully that the Pole is ours.

Monday, January 8: Min. for night -25°. It is quite impossible to speak too highly of my companions. Wilson, first as doctor, ever on the lookout to alleviate the small pains and troubles incidental to the work. Evans, a giant worker with a really remarkable headpiece. Little Bowers remains a marvel. Oates had his invaluable period with the ponies; now he is a foot slogger. So our five people are perhaps as happily selected as it is possible to imagine.

Tuesday, January 9: We made a very steady afternoon march, covering 6½, miles. This should place us in Lat. 88° 25', beyond the record of Shackleton's walk. All is new ahead.

Night, January 15: It is wonderful to think that two long marches would land us at the Pole. We left our depot to-day with nine days' provisions, so that it ought to be a certain thing now, and the only appalling possibility the sight of the Norwegian flag forestalling ours. Only 27 miles from the Pole. We ought to do it now.

Tuesday, January 16: The worst has happened, or nearly the worst. We marched well in the morning and covered 7½ miles. Noon sight showed us in Lat. 89° 42' S., and we started off in high spirits, feeling that to-morrow would see us at our destination. About the second hour of the March Bowers' sharp eyes detected what he thought was a cairn. We marched on, found that it was a black flag tied to a sledge bearer; near by the remains of a camp. This told us the whole story. The Norwegians have forestalled us and are first at the Pole. It is a terrible disappointment, and I am very sorry for my loyal companions. It will be a wearisome return.

Wednesday, January 17: The Pole. Yes, but under very different circumstances from those expected. To-night little Bowers is laying himself out to get sights in terrible difficult circumstances; the wind is blowing hard, T: 21°, and there is that curious damp, cold feeling in the air which chills one to the bone in no time. Great God! this is an awful place and terrible enough for us to have laboured to it without the reward of priority. Well, it is something to have got here, and the wind may be our friend to-morrow. We have had a fat Polar hoosh in spite of our chagrin, and feel comfortable inside - added a small stick of chocolate and the queer taste of a cigarette brought by Wilson.

Thursday morning, January 18: We have just arrived at this tent, 2 miles from our camp, therefore about 1½ miles from the Pole. In the tent we find a record of five Norwegians having been here: Roald Amundsen, Olav Olavson Bjaaland, Hilmer Hanssen, Sverre H. Hassel, Oscar Wisting. 16 Dec. 1911. A note from Amundsen asks me to forward a letter to King Haakon! The following articles have been left in the tent: 3 half bags of reindeer containing a miscellaneous assortment of mits and sleeping socks, very various in description, a sextant, a Norwegian artificial horizon and a hypsometer. We built a cairn, put up our poor slighted Union Jack, and photographed ourselves - mighty cold work all of it - less than ½ a mile south we saw stuck up an old underrunner of a sledge. This we commandeered as a yard for a floorcloth sail. I imagine it was intended to mark the exact spot of the Pole as near as the Norwegians could fix it. Well, good-bye to most of the daydreams!

Monday, January 22: We got away sharp at 8 and marched a solid 9 hours, and thus we have covered 14.5 miles but, by Jove! it has been a grind.

Wednesday, January 24: Things beginning to look a little serious. This is the second full gale since we left the Pole. I don't like the look of it. I don't like the easy way in which Oates and Evans get frostbitten.

Thursday, January 25: Thank God we found our Half Degree Depôt. We are not without ailments: Oates suffers from a very cold foot; Evans' fingers and nose are in a bad state, and to-night Wilson is suffering tortures from his eyes.

Monday, January 29: Excellent march of 19½ miles, 10.5 before lunch. Wind helping greatly, considerable drift; tracks for the most part very plain. We are only 24 miles from our depôt - an easy day and a half.

Tuesday, January 30: Thank the Lord, another fine march - 19 miles. Evans has dislodged two finger-nails to-night; his hands are really bad, and to my surprise he shows signs of losing heart over it.

Thursday, February 1: It ought to be easy to get in with a margin, having 8 days' food in hand (full feeding). Wilson's leg much better. Evans' fingers now very bad, two nails coming off, blisters burst.

Friday, February 2: -19°. We started well on a strong southerly wind. Soon got to a steep grade, when the sledge overran and upset us one after another. We got off our ski, and pulling on foot reeled off 9 miles by lunch at 1.30. Started in the afternoon on foot, going very strong. Pray God another four days will see us pretty well clear of it. Our bags are getting very wet and we ought to have more sleep.

Monday, February 5: A good forenoon, few crevasses; we covered 10.2 miles. We may be anything from 25 to 30 miles from our depot, but I wish to goodness we could see a way through the disturbances ahead. Our faces are much cut up by all the winds we have had, mine least of all; the others tell me they feel their noses more going with than against the wind. Evans' nose is almost as bad as his fingers. He is a good deal crocked up.

Wednesday, February 7: Mount Darwin Depot. Soon after 6.30 we saw our depot easily and camped next it at 7.30.

Thursday, February 8: Started from the depot rather late owing to weighing biscuit, &c., and rearranging matters. Had a beastly morning. Wind very strong and cold. Steered in for Mt. Darwin to visit rock. Bowers obtained several specimens, a close-grained granite rock which weathers red. Wilson, with his sharp eyes, has picked several plant impressions, the last a piece of coal with beautifully traced leaves in layers. There is a good deal of pure white quartz. Altogether we have had a most interesting afternoon. A lot could be written on the delight of setting foot on rock after 14 weeks of snow and ice and nearly 7 out of sight of aught else. It is like going ashore after a sea voyage. We hope to get a chance to dry our sleeping-bags and generally make our gear more comfortable.

Saturday, February 10: The fallen snow crystals are quite feathery like thistledown. We have two full days' food left, and though our position is uncertain, we are certainly within two outward marches from the middle glacier depot.

Sunday, February 11: Supper -3.5°. The worst day we have had during the trip and greatly owing to our own fault. I think we are on or about the right track now, but we are still a good number of miles from the depôt, so we reduced rations to-night. We had three pemmican meals left and decided to make them into four.

Monday, February 12: Two hours before lunch we were cheered by the sight of our night camp of the 18th December, the day after we made our depôt - this showed we were on the right track. In the afternoon, refreshed by tea, we struck uphill and, tired and despondent, arrived in a horrid maze of crevasses and fissures.

Tuesday, February 13: Temp: 10°. Last night we all slept well in spite of our grave anxieties. Evans raised our hopes with a shout of depot ahead, but it proved to be a shadow on the ice. Then suddenly Wilson saw the actual depot flag. It was an immense relief, and we were soon in possession of our 3½ days' food. The relief to all is inexpressible; needless to say.

Wednesday, February 14: There is no getting away from the fact that we are not going strong. Probably none of us: Wilson's leg still troubles him and he doesn't like to trust himself on ski; but the worst case is Evans, who is giving us serious anxiety. This morning he suddenly disclosed a huge blister on his foot. Sometimes I fear he is going from bad to worse, but I trust he will pick up again when we come to steady work on ski like this afternoon. He is hungry and so is Wilson. We can't risk opening out our food again, and as cook at present I am serving something under full allowance. The next depot some 30 miles away and nearly 3 days' food in hand.

Thursday, February 15: We don't know our distance from the depot, but imagine about 20 miles. Heavy march - did 13¾. In the afternoon it was overcast; land blotted out for a considerable interval. We have reduced food, also sleep; feeling rather done. Trust 1½ days or 2 at most will see us at depot.

Friday, February 16: A rather trying position. Evans has nearly broken down in brain, we think. This morning and this afternoon he stopped the march on some trivial excuse. Perhaps all will be well if we can get to our depot.

Saturday, February 17: A very terrible day. Evans looked a little better after a good sleep, and declared, as he always did, that he was quite well. The surface was awful, the sky overcast, and the land hazy. We stopped after about one hour, and Evans came up again, but very slowly. Half an hour later he dropped out again on the same plea. He asked Bowers to lend him a piece of string. I cautioned him to come on as quickly as he could, and he answered cheerfully as I thought. We had to push on, and the remainder of us were forced to pull very hard, sweating heavily. Abreast the Monument Rock we stopped, and seeing Evans a long way astern, I camped for lunch. There was no alarm at first, and we prepared tea and our own meal, consuming the latter. After lunch, and Evans still not appearing, we looked out, to see him still afar off. By this time we were alarmed, and all four started back on ski. I was first to reach the poor man and shocked at his appearance; he was on his knees with clothing disarranged, hands uncovered and frostbitten, and a wild look in his eyes. Asked what was the matter, he replied with a slow speech that he didn't know, but thought he must have fainted. He showed every sign of complete collapse. We returned him into the tent quite comatose. He died quietly at 12.30 A.M. Wilson thinks it certain he must have injured his brain by a fall. It is a terrible thing to lose a companion in this way, but calm reflection shows that there could not have been a better ending to the terrible anxieties of the past week. Discussion of the situation at lunch yesterday shows us what a desperate pass we were in with a sick man on our hands at such a distance from home. At 1 A.M. we packed up and came down over the pressure ridges, finding our depôt easily.

Sunday, February 18: R. 32. Temp: 5.5°. At Shambles Camp. We gave ourselves 5 hours sleep at the lower glacier depot after the horrible night, and came on at about 3 to-day to this camp, coming fairly easily over the divide. Here with plenty of horsemeat we have had a fine supper, to be followed by others such, and so continue a more plentiful era if we can keep good marches up. New life seems to come with greater food almost immediately, but I am anxious about the Barrier surfaces.

Monday, February 19: Lunch T: 16°. We have struggled out 4.6 miles in a short day over a really terrible surface - it has been like pulling over desert sand, not the least glide in the world. If this goes on we shall have a bad time. To-night we had a sort of stew fry of pemmican and horseflesh, and voted it the best hoosh we had ever had on a sledge journey. The absence of poor Evans is a help to the commissariat, but if he had been here in a fit state we might have got along faster.

Monday, February 20: 13°. Same terrible surface; four hours' hard plodding in morning brought us to our Desolation Camp, where we had the four-day blizzard. We looked for more pony meat, but found none.

Wednesday, February 22: To-night we had a pony hoosh so excellent and filling that one feels really strong and vigorous again.

Thursday, February 23: This afternoon we marched on and picked up another cairn; then on and camped only 2½ miles from the depot. We cannot see it, but, given fine weather, we cannot miss it.

Friday, February 24: Lunch. Beautiful day - too beautiful - an hour after starting loose ice crystals spoiling surface. Saw depot and reached it middle forenoon. Found store in order except shortage oil - shall have to be very saving with fuel - otherwise ten full days' provision from to-night and less than 70 miles to go.

Sunday, February 26: Lunch Temp: 17°. Sky overcast. Nine hours' solid marching has given us 11½ miles. Only 43 miles from the next depôt. Wonderfully fine weather but cold, very cold. Nothing dries and we get our feet cold too often. We want more food yet and especially more fat. Fuel is woefully short.

Monday, February 27: Desperately cold last night: -33° when we got up, with -37° minimum. We talk of little but food, except after meals. Land disappearing in satisfactory manner. Pray God we have no further set-backs. We are naturally always discussing possibility of meeting dogs, where and when, &c. It is a critical position. 31 miles to depot, 3 days' fuel at a pinch, and 6 days' food. Things begin to look a little better; we can open out a little on food from to-morrow night, I think. Very curious surface - soft recent sastrugi which sink underfoot, and between, a sort of flaky crust with large crystals beneath.

Tuesday, February 28: Lunch. Thermometer went below -40° last night; it was desperately cold for us, but we had a fair night. Only 24½ miles from the depot. The sun shines brightly, but there is little warmth in it. There is no doubt the middle of the Barrier is a pretty awful locality.

Wednesday, February 29: Frightfully cold. Next camp is our depot and it is exactly 13 miles. It ought not to take more than 1½ days; we pray for another fine one. The oil will just about spin out in that event, and we arrive 3 clear days' food in hand. The increase of ration has had an enormously beneficial result. Wind still very light from west - cannot understand this wind.

Thursday, March 1: There is a bright and comparatively warm sun. All our gear is out drying.

Friday, March 2: Lunch. Misfortunes rarely come singly. We marched to the (Middle Barrier) depot fairly easily yesterday afternoon, and since that have suffered three distinct blows which have placed us in a bad position. First we found a shortage of oil; with most rigid economy it can scarce carry us to the next depot on this surface (71 miles away). Second, Titus Oates disclosed his feet, the toes showing very bad indeed, evidently bitten by the late temperatures. Worse was to come - the surface is simply awful. In spite of strong wind and full sail we have only done 5½ miles.

Sunday, March 4: Things looking very black indeed. As usual we forgot our trouble last night, got into our bags, slept splendidly on good hoosh, woke and had another, and started marching. We are about 42 miles from the next depot and have a week's food, but only about 3 to 4 days' fuel - we are as economical of the latter as one can possibly be, and we cannot afford to save food and pull as we are pulling. We are in a very tight place indeed, but none of us despondent yet. I fear that Oates at least will weather such an event very poorly.

Monday, March 5: Lunch. Regret to say going from bad to worse. We went to bed on a cup of cocoa and pemmican solid with the chill off. We talk of all sorts of subjects in the tent, not much of food now, since we decided to take the risk of running a full ration.

Wednesday, March 7: A little worse I fear. One of Oates' feet very bad this morning; he is wonderfully brave. We only made 6½ miles yesterday. We are 16 from our depot. If we only find the correct proportion of food there and this surface continues, we may get to the next depot.

Saturday, March 10: Things steadily downhill. Oates' foot worse. I practically ordered Wilson to hand over the means of ending our troubles to us, so that anyone of us may know how to do so. We have 30 opium tabloids apiece and he is left with a tube of morphine.

Wednesday, March 14: It is only with greatest pains rest of us keep off frostbites. Truly awful outside the tent. Must fight it out to the last biscuit, but can't reduce rations.

Friday, March 16 or Saturday 17: Lost track of dates, but think the last correct. Tragedy all along the line. At lunch, the day before yesterday, poor Titus Oates said he couldn't go on; he proposed we should leave him in his sleeping-bag. That we could not do, and induced him to come on, on the afternoon march, and we made a few miles. At night he was worse and we knew the end had come. Should this be found I want these facts recorded. Oates' last thoughts were of his Mother, but immediately before he took pride in thinking that his regiment would be pleased with the bold way in which he met his death. He was a brave soul. He slept through the night before last, hoping not to wake; but he woke in the morning. It was blowing a blizzard. He said, "I am just going outside and may be some time." He went out into the blizzard and we have not seen him since. We knew that poor Oates was walking to his death, but though we tried to dissuade him, we knew it was the act of a brave man and an English gentleman. We all hope to meet the end with a similar spirit, and assuredly the end is not far. I can only write at lunch and then only occasionally. The cold is intense, -40° at midday. My companions are unendingly cheerful, but we are all on the verge of serious frostbites, and though we constantly talk of fetching through I don't think anyone of us believes it in his heart.

Sunday, March 18: To-day, lunch, we are 21 miles from the depot. We have had more wind and drift from ahead yesterday; had to stop marching; wind N.W., force 4, temp: 35°. My right foot has gone, nearly all the toes - two days ago I was proud possessor of best feet.

Monday, March 19: We camped with difficulty last night, and were dreadfully cold till after our supper of cold pemmican and biscuit and a half a pannikin of cocoa cooked over the spirit. Sledge dreadfully heavy. We are 15½ miles from the depot and ought to get there in three days. We have two days' food but barely a day's fuel.

Wednesday, March 11: Got within 11 miles of depôt Monday night; had to lay up all yesterday in severe blizzard. To-day forlorn hope, Wilson and Bowers going to depot for fuel.

Thursday, March 22 and 23: Blizzard bad as ever - Wilson and Bowers unable to start - to-morrow last chance - no fuel and only one or two of food left - must be near the end. Have decided it shall be natural - we shall march for the depot with or without our effects and die in our tracks.

Thursday, March 29: Since the 21st we have had a continuous gale. We had fuel to make two cups of tea apiece and bare food for two days on the 20th. Every day we have been ready to start for our depot 11 miles away, but outside the door of the tent it remains a scene of whirling drift. We shall stick it out to the end, but we are getting weaker, of course, and the end cannot be far. It seems a pity, but I do not think I can write more.
R. SCOTT.
For God's sake look after our people.

[Note found with the diary:]
MESSAGE TO THE PUBLIC
The causes of the disaster are not due to faulty organisation, but to misfortune in all risks which had to be undertaken. As I have said elsewhere we got into frightfully rough ice and Edgar Evans received a concussion of the brain - he died a natural death, but left us a shaken party with the season unduly advanced.

Had we lived, I should have had a tale to tell of the hardihood, endurance, and courage of my companions which would have stirred the heart of every Englishman. These rough notes and our dead bodies must tell the tale, but surely, surely, a great rich country like ours will see that those who are dependent on us are properly provided for.

R. SCOTT.





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