On November 5th we reached the depot at the eighty-second parallel and found everything in order. . For the last time our dogs were able to have a good rest and eat their fill; and they did so thoroughly during their two days’ rest.
Continuing Discovery of the South Pole,
our selection from The South Pole: An Account of the Norwegian Antarctic Expedition in the “Fram,” 1910–1912 by Roald Amundsen published in 1912. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages. The selection is presented in seven easy 5 minute installments.
Previously in Discovery of the South Pole.
On August 24th the sun reappeared. The winter had ended. Several days earlier we had put everything in the best of order, and when the sun rose over the Barrier we were ready to start. The dogs were in fine condition.
From now on we observed the temperature daily with great interest, for as long as the mercury remained below -50° a start was not to be thought of. In the first days of September all signs indicated that the mercury would rise. We therefore resolved to start as soon as possible. On September 8th the temperature was -30°. We started immediately, but this march was to be short. On the next day the temperature began to sink rapidly, and several days later the thermometer registered -55° Centigrade. We human beings could probably have kept on the march for some time under such a temperature, for we were protected against the cold by our clothing; but the dogs could not have long withstood this degree of cold. We were therefore glad when we reached the eightieth parallel. We deposited there our provisions and equipment in the depot which we had previously erected and returned to “Framheim.”
The weather now became very changeable for a time — the transitional period from winter to summer; we never knew what weather the next day would bring. Frostbites from our last march forced us to wait until we definitely knew that spring had really come. On September 24th we saw at last positive evidence that spring had arrived: the seals began to clamber up on the ice. This sign was hailed with rejoicing — not a whit less the seal meat which Bjaaland brought on the same day. The dogs, too, enjoyed the arrival of spring. They were ravenous for fresh seal meat. On September 29th another unrefutable sign of spring appeared in the arrival of a flock of Antarctic petrels. They flew around our house inquisitively to the joy of all, not only of ourselves, but also of the dogs. The latter were wild with joy and excitement, and ran after the birds in hopes of getting a delicate morsel. Foolish dogs! Their chase ended with a wild fight among themselves.
On October 20th the weather had at last become so stable that we could start. We had, meanwhile, changed our original plan, which was that we should all advance southward together. We realized that we could travel with perfect safety in two groups, and thus accomplish much more. We arranged that three men should go to the east to explore King Edward VII. Land; the remaining five men were to carry out the main plan, the advance on the South Pole.
October 20th was a beautiful day. Clear, mild weather prevailed. The temperature was 1° Centigrade above zero. Our sleds were light, and we could advance rapidly. We did not need to hurry our dogs, for they were eager enough themselves. We numbered five men and fifty-two dogs with four sleds. Together with the provisions which we had left in the three depots at the eightieth, the eighty-first, and the eighty-second parallels we had sufficient sustenance for 120 days.
Two days after our departure we nearly met with a serious accident. Bjaaland’s sled fell into one of the numerous crevasses. At the critical moment we were fortunately able to come to Bjaaland’s aid; had we been a moment later the sled with its thirteen dogs would have disappeared in the seemingly bottomless pit.
On the fourth day we reached our depot at 80° S. We remained there two days and gave our dogs as much seal meat as they would eat.
Between the eightieth and the eighty-first parallel the Barrier ice along our route was even, with the exception of a few low undulations; dangerous hidden places were not to be found. The region between the eighty-first and the eighty-second parallel was of a totally different character. During the first nineteen miles we were in a veritable labyrinth of crevasses, very dangerous to cross. At many places yawning abysses were visible because large pieces of the surface had broken off; the surface, therefore, presented a very unsafe appearance. We crossed this region four times in all. On the first three times such a dense fog prevailed that we could only recognize objects a few feet away. Only on the fourth occasion did we have clear weather. Then we were able to see the great difficulties to which we had been exposed.
On November 5th we reached the depot at the eighty-second parallel and found everything in order. For the last time our dogs were able to have a good rest and eat their fill; and they did so thoroughly during their two days’ rest.
Beginning at the eightieth parallel we constructed snow cairns which should serve as sign-posts on our return. In all we erected 150 such sign-posts, each of which required sixty snow blocks. About 9,000 snow blocks had therefore to be cut out for this purpose. These cairns did not disappoint us, for they enabled us to return by exactly the same route we had previously followed.
South of the eighty-second parallel the Barrier was, if possible, still more even than farther north; we therefore advanced quite rapidly. At every unit parallel which we crossed on our advance toward the south we established a depot. We thereby doubtlessly exposed ourselves to a certain risk, for there was no time to set up sign-posts around the depots. We therefore had to rely on snow cairns. On the other hand, our sleds became lighter, so that it was never hard for the dogs to pull them.
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