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ANTARCTICA., Issue 15702, 16 January 1915
To ajl who have personal or national interests in the great battle of Armageddon that is now raging it must come as a relief to turn their attention from the appalling dance of death to the victories of peace that are no less renowned than war. Recent cable messages enable us to do this appropriately and opportunely. On December 16, 1911, Captain Amundsen reached the Smith Pole with his four intrepid companions 56 days after leaving his base camp. On January 18, 1912 (two years ago on Monday next). Captain Scott reached the same spot, confirming the correctness of the Norwegian’s work, and died a, disappointed man on his return journey, suffering death from privation within 11 miles of One Ton Camp, where food and fuel in abundance awaited him and the remnant of his party. The pathetic story of ‘ Scott’s Last Expedition ’ has been graphically unfolded, under the editorship of Mr Leonard Huxley, and the whole civilised world has done honor to the successful explorer, who is bent on conquering other worlds in arctic regions, and also to the dead hero whose bones lie in the cold embrace of eternal antarctic ice. It was a very graceful act on the part of the Norwegian Geographical Society, at the dose of last year, to erect at Christiania a monument to the memory of Captain Scott, in a form that is intended to symbolise 'the nobility and the high ideals of heroes. The vice-president of the society (Dr Skattum), in unveiling the monument, described Captain Scott’s death march as “the highest display of physical and mental energy.” This eulogy is all the more generous' because coming from the countrymen of Captain Amundsen, and from a people who know from personal experience what the rigors of winter in high latitudes really mean. '' Battles that are worth fighting are “ bequeathed by bleeding sire to son,” and so, in the present case, the conquest of the Poles is not near its end, although Franklin, Scott, Dr Mertz, Lieutenant Ninnis, and many another explorer are numbered amongst the tombless dead. Sir Ernest Shackleton, as we know, started on his southward venture recently, full of. zeal for scientific conquests, and departed in the Endurance praying for victory to the Allies* lie was leaving behind 'fighting on the bloody _ fields of Europe. Cabled news received this week shows that he has reached so far south as to bo delayed by ice, that may prevent him crossing the polar continent until next season. This check to his progress, seeing that he has no dash to make lor a given objective, as Amundsen had, may give this new British exploration party more time for thorough scientificinvestigation of many climatic and geo, fraphical problems yet unsolved. It will e remembered that Sir Ernest Shackleton was commander of the Nimrod farthest south expedition of 1907-09 (which succeeded in getting within 100 miles of the South Pole), and previously was a member of the Discovery expedition led by Captain Scott in 1902-04. He therefore starts upon his new venture full of experience, some of which has been very bitter, and is equipped with, all the, appliances that have been found, helpful by those who have travelled in ice-bound regions. His ambition is to break new ground by crossing the south polar continent from the Weddell Sea to the Ross Sea (a distance of approximately 1,700 miles), from whence Amundsen anti Scott both started on their journeys to the Pole. Weddell Sea is a bight in the great antarctic continent nearest to the extreme south of South America, and was explored to some extent by Lieutenant Eilchner, who, on board the Deutschland, commanded the German antarctic expedition which left Buenos Ayres in. January, 1911- He penetrated Weddell Sea to latitude 78deg S.. a point 250 miles in advance of all previous records in that direction. • This work was to be taken up subsequently by an Austrian expedition under Dr Ftlix Konig. On reaching the South Pole Sic Ernest Shackleton proposes to make his way to Rosa Sea between his own and Scott's former routes and Amundsen’s, so as to avoid the blizzards that were so disastrous to some former explorers. If this anticipation is not realised, it will iu some measure test the theory put forward by Dr .Simpson in ‘Scott’s Last Expedition ’; that the blizzards which have been so fateful to British antarctic exploration are. local winds confined to the western half of the Boss Barrier. On the important question of transport it appears that full advantage is to be taken of Captain Amundsen’s experience as to the invaluable aid that dogs cari give, and warning taken from Scott's pitiful tale of hardship and disaster brought' about by man-haulage. By the latter method, Scott tells us, his men, pulling easily without, a halt, covered about two miles an hour. Amundsen rays that with the greatest case the dogs " covered the day's march at a pace of 4? miles an hour. A« for ourselves, we never had to move a foot; all wo had. to do was to let ourselves be towed." Scott's average rate from the Barrier to the Pole and back was half that of Amundsen’s party; and while Scott was making long marches each day, Amundson often completed tho distance mapped out in six or seven hours. Nor it this all. The clangor of becoming overheated in cold lempferainros :& very great for man and beast. A healed man inns the risk of differing from chills and frostbites, and ponies, as Shackleton knows from personal experk ice, may have frozen perspiration on ihe sheltered side of their coats, while the sun keeps the- other side hot and dry. Dogs, as wc all know, do not perspire in the coat like the horse, but at the tongue. Furthermore, dogs can travel over surfaces where a pony would sink through; the former requires no shelter, but makes a bole in the snow, curls himself up, and sleeps. Pomes must be protected with rugs or sheltered against a. rock or wall of ice. A pony’s ration is about 321b per day, while a dog, according to Peary, is satisfied with lib of pcmmican per day. end can work for a long time on very little food. Finally, the” great value of tlio companionship of dogs "to relieve the terrible monotony of life in arctic regions can hardly be appraised too highly. This sidelight in arctic travel can be traced in the joviality of Amundsen’s party, and the despondent notes in Scott’s narrative. The transport question at the .Poles may therefore be regarded as settled, with the ski thrown in.
But there is one aspect connected with the new Shackleton expedition that- is somewhat disquieting. It is raised by Mr Alfred H. Harrison, F.R.G.S.. a wellknown writer on polar exploration in a recent number of ‘The Nineteenth Century.’ While recognising the absolute necessity of providing dog-traction, this writer points out that Shackleton’s proposal is to take six men and 120 dogs across the continent. The usual dog team is six to a sledge, allowing 101b per dog. Amundsen started from tho Bay of Whale.? with four sledges, each drawn by 13 dogs ; but all his party were expert dog-drivers, and this number is /beyond the driving power of anyone who is not an expert. Shackleton’s party include only two expert dog-drivers, and some of tho party have probably never seen a dog team harnessed. “ Consequently,” writes Mr Harrison, “to set these men to drive a sledge with 20 dogs is sheer insanity. . ." . It takes five years for a man to become an experienced dog-driver, and in a country where dogs are the principal means of traction an inexperienced man would never bo allowed to drive a good team of dogs. If he were, he would ruin them in a' short journey, and kill them on a, long one.” In justification of his criticism Mr Harrison urges that on the lines laid down the Shackleton expedition is not feasible. Ho even goes, further, and says tho transcontinental journey is premature. The better course, he thinks, would bo to survey the coast line rather than carry out the more spectacular proposal. Our own Australasian Antarctic expedition has encountered more than enough hardship, ns Dr Mawson has told us recently rn a very graphic maimer, and for that reason we must all sincerely hope that the Shackleton party may be saved from disasters arising out of miscalculations.
ANTARCTICA., Issue 15702, 16 January 1915
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