The South Pole, Volumes 1 and 2
Roald Amundsen

Part 6 out of 11


The Start for the Pole

At last we got away, on October 19. The weather for the past few
days had not been altogether reliable; now windy, now calm -- now
snowing, now clear: regular spring weather, in other words. That
day it continued unsettled; it was misty and thick in the morning,
and did not promise well for the day, but by 9.30 there was a light
breeze from the east, and at the same time it cleared.

There was no need for a prolonged inquiry into the sentiments of the
party. -- What do you think? Shall we start?" -- Yes, of course. Let's
be jogging on." There was only one opinion about it. Our coursers were
harnessed in a jiffy, and with a little nod -- as much as to say,
"See you to-morrow" -- we were off. I don't believe Lindström even
came out of doors to see us start. "Such an everyday affair: what's
the use of making a fuss about it?"

There were five of us -- Hanssen, Wisting, Hassel, Bjaaland, and
myself. We had four sledges, with thirteen dogs to each. At the start
our sledges were very light, as we were only taking supplies for the
trip to 80° S., where all our cases were waiting for us; we could
therefore sit on the sledges and flourish our whips with a jaunty
air. I sat astride on Wisting's sledge, and anyone who had seen us
would no doubt have thought a Polar journey looked very inviting.

Down on the sea-ice stood Prestrud with the cinematograph, turning
the crank as fast as he could go as we went past. When we came up
on to the Barrier on the other side, he was there again, turning
incessantly. The last thing I saw, as we went over the top of the
ridge and everything familiar disappeared, was a cinematograph; it was
coming inland at full speed. I had been engaged in looking out ahead,
and turned round suddenly to throw a last glance in the direction
of the spot that to us stood for all that was beautiful on earth,
when I caught sight of -- what do you think? A cinematograph. "He
can't be taking anything but air now, can he?" -- "Hardly that." The
cinematograph vanished below the horizon.

The going was excellent, but the atmosphere became thicker as we went
inland. For the first twelve miles from the edge of the Barrier I
had been sitting with Hassel, but, seeing that Wisting's dogs could
manage two on the sledge better than the others, I moved. Hanssen
drove first; he had to steer by compass alone, as the weather had
got thicker. After him came Bjaaland, then Hassel, and, finally,
Wisting and I. We had just gone up a little slope, when we saw that
it dropped rather steeply on the other side; the descent could not be
more than 20 yards long. I sat with my back to the dogs, looking aft,
and was enjoying the brisk drive. Then suddenly the surface by the
side of the sledge dropped perpendicularly, and showed a yawning black
abyss, large enough to have swallowed us all, and a little more. A few
inches more to one side, and we should have taken no part in the Polar
journey. We guessed from this broken surface that we had come too far
to the east, and altered our course more westerly. When we had reached
safer ground, I took the opportunity of putting on my ski and driving
so; in this way the weight was more distributed. Before very long it
cleared a little, and we saw one of our mark-flags straight ahead. We
went up to it; many memories clung to the spot -- cold and slaughter
of dogs. It was there we had killed the three puppies on the last trip.

We had then covered seventeen miles, and we camped, well pleased
with the first day of our long journey. My belief that, with all in
one tent, we should manage our camping and preparations much better
than before was fully justified. The tent went up as though it arose
out of the ground, and everything was done as though we had had long
practice. We found we had ample room in the tent, and our arrangements
worked splendidly the whole time. They were as follows: as soon as we
halted, all took a hand at the tent. The pegs in the valance of the
tent were driven in, and Wisting crept inside and planted the pole,
while the rest of us stretched the guy-ropes. When this was done,
I went in, and all the things that were to go inside were handed in
to me -- sleeping-bags, kit-bags, cookers, provisions. Everything
was put in its place, the Primus lighted, and the cooker filled with
snow. Meanwhile the others fed their dogs and let them loose. Instead
of the "guard," we shovelled loose snow round the tent; this proved to
be sufficient protection -- the dogs respected it. The bindings were
taken off all our ski, and either stowed with other loose articles
in a provision-case, or hung up together with the harness on the top
of the ski, which were lashed upright to the front of the sledge. The
tent proved excellent in every way; the dark colour subdued the light,
and made it agreeable.

Neptune, a fine dog, was let loose when we had come six miles over
the plain; he was so fat that he could not keep up. We felt certain
that he would follow us, but he did not appear. We then supposed
that he had turned back and made for the flesh-pots, but, strangely
enough, he did not do that either. He never arrived at the station;
it is quite a mystery what became of him. Rotta, another fine animal,
was also set free; she was not fit for the journey, and she afterwards
arrived at home. Ulrik began by having a ride on the sledge; he picked
up later. Björn went limping after the sledge. Peary was incapacitated;
he was let loose and followed for a time, but then disappeared. When
the eastern party afterwards visited the depot in 80° S., they found
him there in good condition. He was shy at first, but by degrees let
them come near him and put the harness on. He did very good service
after that. Uranus and Fuchs were out of condition. This was pretty bad
for the first day, but the others were all worth their weight in gold.

During the night it blew a gale from the east, but it moderated in the
morning, so that we got away at 10 a.m. The weather did not hold for
long; the wind came again with renewed force from the same quarter,
with thick driving snow. However, we went along well, and passed flag
after flag. After going nineteen and a quarter miles, we came to
a snow beacon that had been erected at the beginning of April, and
had stood for seven months; it was still quite good and solid. This
gave us a good deal to think about: so we could depend upon these
beacons; they would not fall down. From the experience thus gained,
we afterwards erected the whole of our extensive system of beacons on
the way south. The wind went to the south-east during the day; it blew,
but luckily it had stopped snowing. The temperature was -11.5° F.,
and bitter enough against the wind. When we stopped in the evening
and set our tent, we had just found our tracks from the last trip;
they were sharp and clear, though six weeks old. We were glad to find
them, as we had seen no flag for some time, and were beginning to
get near the ugly trap, forty-six and a half miles from the house,
that had been found on the last depot journey, so we had to be careful.

The next day, the 21st, brought very thick weather: a strong breeze
from the south-east, with thick driving snow. It would not have been
a day for crossing the trap if we had not found our old tracks. It
was true that we could not see them far, but we could still see the
direction they took. So as to be quite safe, I now set our course
north-east by east -- two points east was the original course. And
compared with our old tracks, this looked right, as the new course
was considerably more easterly than the direction of the tracks. One
last glance over the camping-ground to see whether anything was
forgotten, and then into the blizzard. It was really vile weather,
snowing from above and drifting from below, so that one was quite
blinded. We could not see far; very often we on the last sledge had
difficulty in seeing the first. Bjaaland was next in front of us. For
a long time we had been going markedly downhill, and this was not
in accordance with our reckoning; but in that weather one could not
make much of a reckoning. We had several times passed over crevasses,
but none of any size. Suddenly we saw Bjaaland's sledge sink over. He
jumped off and seized the trace. The sledge lay on its side for a few
seconds, then began to sink more and more, and finally disappeared
altogether. Bjaaland had got a good purchase in the snow, and the
dogs lay down and dug their claws in. The sledge sank more and more --
all this happened in a few moments.

"Now I can't hold it any longer." We -- Wisting and I -- had just come
up. He was holding on convulsively, and resisting with all his force,
but it was no use -- inch by inch the sledge sank deeper. The dogs,
too, seemed to understand the gravity of the situation; stretched out
in the snow, they dug their claws in, and resisted with all their
strength. But still, inch by inch, slowly and surely, it went down
into the abyss. Bjaaland was right enough when he said he couldn't
hold on any longer. A few seconds more, and his sledge and thirteen
dogs would never have seen the light of day again. Help came at the
last moment. Hanssen and Hassel, who were a little in advance when
it happened, had snatched an Alpine rope from a sledge and came to
his assistance. They made the rope fast to the trace, and two of
us -- Bjaaland and I -- were now able, by getting a good purchase,
to hold the sledge suspended. First the dogs were taken out; then
Hassel's sledge was drawn back and placed across the narrowest part
of the crevasse, where we could see that the edges were solid. Then
by our combined efforts the sledge, which was dangling far below, was
hoisted up as far as we could get it, and made fast to Hassel's sledge
by the dogs' traces. Now we could slack off and let go: one sledge hung
securely enough by the other. We could breathe a little more freely.

The next thing to be done was to get the sledge right, up, and before
we could manage that it had to be unloaded. A man would have to go
down on the rope, cast off the lashings of the cases, and attach them
again for drawing up. They all wanted this job, but Wisting had it;
he fastened the Alpine rope round his body and went down. Bjaaland
and I took up our former positions, and acted as anchors; meanwhile
Wisting reported what he saw down below. The case with the cooker was
hanging by its last thread; it was secured, and again saw the light
of day. Hassel and Hanssen attended to the hauling up of the cases,
as Wisting had them ready. These two fellows moved about on the brink
of the chasm with a coolness that I regarded at first with approving
eyes. I admire courage and contempt for danger. But the length to which
they carried it at last was too much of a good thing; they were simply
playing hide-and-seek with Fate. Wisting's information from below --
that the cornice they were standing on was only a few inches thick --
did not seem to have the slightest effect on them; on the contrary,
they seemed to stand all the more securely.

"We've been lucky," said Wisting; "this is the only place where the
crevasse is narrow enough to put a sledge across. If we had gone a
little more to the left" -- Hanssen looked eagerly in that direction
-- "none of us would have escaped. There is no surface there; only
a crust as thin as paper. It doesn't look very inviting down below,
either; immense spikes of ice sticking up everywhere, which would
spit you before you got very far down."

This description was not attractive; it was well we had found "such a
good place." Meanwhile Wisting had finished his work, and was hauled
up. When asked whether he was not glad to be on the surface again,
he answered with a smile that "it was nice and warm down there." We
then hauled the sledge up, and for the time being all was well. "But,"
said Hassel, "we must be careful going along here, because I was
just on the point of going in when Hanssen and I were bringing up the
sledge." He smiled as though at a happy memory. Hassel had seen that
it was best to be careful. There was no need to look for crevasses;
there was literally nothing else to be seen.

There could be no question of going farther into the trap, for we had
long ago come to the conclusion that, in spite of our precautions,
we had arrived at this ugly place. We should have to look about for
a place for the tent, but that was easier said than done. There was
no possibility of finding a place large enough for both the tent and
the guy-ropes; the tent was set up on a small, apparently solid spot,
and the guys stretched across crevasses in all directions. We were
beginning to be quite familiar with the place. That crevasse ran
there and there, and it had a side-fissure that went so and so --
just like schoolboys learning a lesson.

Meanwhile we had brought all our things as far as possible into a
place of safety; the dogs lay harnessed to reduce the risk of losing
them. Wisting was just going over to his sledge -- he had gone the
same way several times before -- when suddenly I saw nothing but his
head, shoulders and arms above the snow. He had fallen through, but
saved himself by stretching his arms out as he fell. The crevasse
was bottomless, like the rest. We went into the tent and cooked
lobscouse. Leaving the weather to take care of itself, we made
ourselves as comfortable as we could. It was then one o'clock in
the afternoon. The wind had fallen considerably since we came in,
and before we knew what was happening, it was perfectly calm. It
began to brighten a little about three, and we went out to look at it.

The weather was evidently improving, and on the northern horizon
there was a sign of blue sky. On the south it was thick. Far off,
in the densest part of the mist, we could vaguely see the outline of
a dome-like elevation, and Wisting and Hanssen went off to examine
it. The dome turned out to be one of the small haycock formations that
we had seen before in this district. They struck at it with their
poles, and just as they expected -- it was hollow, and revealed the
darkest abyss. Hanssen was positively chuckling with delight when he
told us about it; Hassel sent him an envious glance.

By 4 p.m. it cleared, and a small reconnoitring party, composed of
three, started to find a way out of this. I was one of the three,
so we had a long Alpine rope between us; I don't like tumbling in,
if I can avoid it by such simple means. We set out to the east -- the
direction that had brought us out of the same broken ground before --
and we had not gone more than a few paces when we were quite out of
it. It was now clear enough to look about us. Our tent stood at the
north-eastern corner of a tract that was full of hummocks; we could
decide beyond a doubt that this was the dreaded trap. We continued
a little way to the east until we saw our course clearly, and then
returned to camp. We did not waste much time in getting things ready
and leaving the place. It was a genuine relief to find ourselves
once more on good ground, and we resumed our journey southward at a
brisk pace.

That we were not quite out of the dangerous zone was shown by a number
of small hummocks to the south of us. They extended across our course
at right angles. We could also see from some long but narrow crevasses
we crossed that we must keep a good look-out. When we came into the
vicinity of the line of hummocks that lay in our course, we stopped
and discussed our prospects. "We shall save a lot of time by going
straight on through here instead of going round," said Hanssen. I had
to admit this; but, on the other hand, the risk was much greater. "Oh,
let's try it," he went on; "if we can't do it, we can't." I was
weak, and allowed myself to be persuaded, and away we went among the
haycocks. I could see how Hanssen was enjoying himself; this was
just what he wanted. We went faster and faster. Curiously enough,
we passed several of these formations without noticing anything,
and began to hope that we should get through. Then suddenly Hanssen's
three leading dogs disappeared, and the others stopped abruptly. He
got them hauled up without much trouble and came over. We others,
who were following, crossed without accident, but our further progress
seemed doubtful, for after a few more paces the same three dogs fell
in again. We were now in exactly the same kind of place as before;
crevasses ran in every direction, like a broken pane of glass. I
had had enough, and would take no more part in this death-ride. I
announced decisively that we must turn back, follow our tracks, and
go round it all. Hanssen looked quite disappointed. "Well," he said,
"but we shall be over it directly." "I dare say we shall," I replied;
"but we must go back first." This was evidently hard on him; there
was one formation in particular that attracted him, and he wanted
to try his strength with it. It was a pressure-mass that, as far
as appearance went, might just as well have been formed out in the
drift-ice. It looked as if it was formed of four huge lumps of ice
raised on end against each other. We knew what it contained without
examination -- a yawning chasm. Hanssen cast a last regretful glance
upon it, and then turned back.

We could now see all our surroundings clearly. This place lay, as
we had remarked before, in a hollow; we followed it round, and came
up the rise on the south without accident. Here we caught sight of
one of our flags; it stood to the east of us, and thus confirmed our
suspicion that we had been going too far to the west. We had one more
contact with the broken ground, having to cross some crevasses and
pass a big hole; but then it was done, and we could once more rejoice
in having solid ice beneath us. Hanssen, however, was not satisfied
till he had been to look into the hole. In the evening we reached
the two snow-huts we had built on the last trip, and we camped there,
twenty-six miles from the depot. The huts were drifted up with snow,
so we left them in peace, and as the weather was now so mild and fine,
we preferred the tent.

It had been an eventful day, and we had reason to be satisfied that
we had come off so easily. The going had been good, and it had all
gone like a game. When we started the next morning it was overcast
and thick, and before we had gone very far we were in the midst
of a south-wester, with snow so thick that we could hardly see ten
sledge-lengths ahead of us. We had intended to reach the depot that
day, but if this continued, it was more than doubtful whether we
should find it. Meanwhile we put on the pace. It was a long way on,
so there was no danger of driving past it. During this while it had
remained clear in the zenith, and we had been hoping that the wind and
snow would cease; but we had no such luck -- it increased rather than
dropped. Our best sledge-meter -- one we knew we could depend on --
was on Wisting's sledge; therefore he had to check the distance. At
1.30 p.m. he turned round to me, and pointed out that we had gone the
exact distance; I called out to Hanssen to use his eyes well. Then, at
that very moment, the depot showed up a few sledge-lengths to the left
of us, looking like a regular palace of snow in the thick air. This
was a good test both for the sledge-meter and the compass. We drove
up to it and halted. There were three important points to be picked
up on our way south, and one of them was found; we were all glad and
in good spirits.

The ninety-nine miles from Framheim to this point had been covered
in four marches, and we could now rest our dogs, and give them as
much seal's flesh as they were capable of eating. Thus far the trip
had been a good one for the animals; with one exception, they were
all in the best condition. This exception was Uranus. We had never
been able to get any fat on his bones; he remained thin and scraggy,
and awaited his death at the depot, a little later, in 82° S. If
Uranus was lanky to look at, the same could not be said of Jaala,
poor beast! In spite of her condition, she struggled to keep up;
she did her utmost, but unless her dimensions were reduced before we
left 82° S., she would have to accompany Uranus to another world.

The cases of provisions and outfit that we had left here on the last
trip were almost entirely snowed under, but it did not take long to
dig them out. The first thing to be done was to cut up the seals for
the dogs. These grand pieces of meat, with the blubber attached, did
not have to be thrown at the dogs; they just helped themselves as long
as there was any meat cut up, and when that was finished, they did
not hesitate to attack the "joint." It was a pleasure to see them,
as they lay all over the place, enjoying their food; it was all so
delightfully calm and peaceful, to begin with. They were all hungry,
and thought of nothing but satisfying their immediate cravings;
but when this was done there was an end of the truce. Although Hai
had only half finished his share, he must needs go up to Rap and
take away the piece he was eating. Of course, this could not happen
without a great row, which resulted in the appearance of Hanssen; then
Hai made himself scarce. He was a fine dog, but fearfully obstinate;
if he had once taken a thing into his head, it was not easy to make
him give it up. On one of our depot journeys it happened that I was
feeding Hanssen's dogs. Hai had made short work of his pemmican, and
looked round for more. Ah! there was Rap enjoying his -- that would
just do for him. In a flash Hai was upon him, forced him to give up
his dinner, and was about to convert it to his own use. Meanwhile I had
witnessed the whole scene, and before Hai knew anything about it, I was
upon him in turn. I hit him over the nose with the whip-handle, and
tried to take the pemmican from him, but it was not so easy. Neither
of us would give in, and soon we were both rolling over and over in
the snow struggling for the mastery. I came off victorious after a
pretty hot fight, and Rap got his dinner again. Any other dog would
have dropped it at once on being hit over the nose, but not Hai.

It was a treat to get into the tent; the day had been a bitter
one. During the night the wind went round to the north, and all the
snow that had been blown northward by the wind of the previous day
had nothing to do but to come back again; the road was free. And
it made the utmost use of its opportunity; nothing could be seen
for driving snow when we turned out next morning. We could only
stay where we were, and console ourselves with the thought that it
made no difference, as it had been decided that we were to remain
here two days. But staying in a tent all day is never very amusing,
especially when one is compelled to keep to one's sleeping-bag the
whole time. You soon get tired of talking, and you can't write all
day long, either. Eating is a good way of passing the time, if you
can afford it, and so is reading, if you have anything to read; but
as the menu is limited, and the library as a rule somewhat deficient
on a sledging trip, these two expedients fall to the ground. There
is, however, one form of entertainment that may be indulged in under
these circumstances without scruple, and that is a good nap. Happy
the man who can sleep the clock round on days like these; but that is
a gift that is not vouchsafed to all, and those who have it will not
own up to it. I have heard men snore till I was really afraid they
would choke, but as for acknowledging that they had been asleep --
never! Some of them even have the coolness to assert that they suffer
from sleeplessness, but it was not so bad as that with any of us.

In the course of the day the wind dropped, and we went out to do some
work. We transferred the old depot to the new one. We now had here
three complete sledge-loads, for which there would be little use,
and which, therefore, were left behind. The eastern party availed
themselves of part of these supplies on their journey, but not
much. This depot is a fairly large one, and might come in useful if
anyone should think of exploring the region from King Edward Land
southward. As things were, we had no need of it. At the same time the
sledges were packed, and when evening came everything was ready for our
departure. There had really been no hurry about this, as we were going
to stay here on the following day as well; but one soon learns in these
regions that it is best to take advantage of good weather when you
have it -- you never know how long it will last. There was, however,
nothing to be said about the day that followed; we could doze and doze
as much as we liked. The work went on regularly, nevertheless. The dogs
gnawed and gnawed, storing up strength with every hour that went by.

We will now take a trip out to our loaded sledges, and see what they
contain. Hanssen's stands first, bow to the south; behind it come
Wisting's, Bjaaland's and Hassel's. They all look pretty much alike,
and as regards provisions their loads are precisely similar.

Case No. 1 contains about 5,300 biscuits, and weighs 111 pounds.

Case No. 2: 112 rations of dogs' pemmican; 11 bags of dried milk,
chocolate, and biscuits. Total gross weight, 177 pounds.

Case No. 3: 124 rations of dogs' pemmican; 10 bags of dried milk and
biscuits. Gross weight, 161 pounds.

Case No. 4: 39 rations of dogs' pemmican; 86 rations of men's pemmican;
9 bags of dried milk and biscuits. Gross weight, 165 pounds.

Case No. 5: 96 rations of dogs' pemmican. Weight, 122 pounds.

Total net weight of provisions per sledge, 668 pounds.

With the outfit and the weight of the sledge itself, the total came
to pretty nearly 880 pounds.

Hanssen's sledge differed from the others, in that it had aluminium
fittings instead of steel and no sledge-meter, as it had to be free
from iron on account of the steering-compass he carried. Each of
the other three sledges had a sledge-meter and compass. We were thus
equipped with three sledge-meters and four compasses. The instruments
we carried were two sextants and three artificial horizons -- two
glass and one mercury -- a hypsometer for measuring heights, and one
aneroid. For meteorological observations, four thermometers. Also two
pairs of binoculars. We took a little travelling case of medicines
from Burroughs Wellcome and Co. Our surgical instruments were not
many: a dental forceps and -- a beard-clipper. Our sewing outfit
was extensive. We carried a small, very light tent in reserve; it
would have to be used if any of us were obliged to turn back. We also
carried two Primus lamps. Of paraffin we had a good supply: twenty-two
and a half gallons divided among three sledges. We kept it in the
usual cans, but they proved too weak; not that we lost any paraffin,
but Bjaaland had to be constantly soldering to keep them tight. We
had a good soldering outfit. Every man carried his own personal bag,
in which he kept reserve clothing, diaries and observation books. We
took a quantity of loose straps for spare ski-bindings. We had double
sleeping-bags for the first part of the time; that is to say, an
inner and an outer one. There were five watches among us, of which
three were chronometer watches.

We had decided to cover the distance between 80° and 82° S. in daily
marches of seventeen miles. We could easily have done twice this,
but as it was more important to arrive than to show great speed,
we limited the distance; besides which, here between the depots we
had sufficient food to allow us to take our time. We were interested
in seeing how the dogs would manage the loaded sledges. We expected
them to do well, but not so well as they did.

On October 25 we left 80° S. with a light north-westerly breeze,
clear and mild. I was now to take up my position in advance of
the sledges, and placed myself a few paces in front of Hanssen's,
with my ski pointing in the right direction. A last look behind me:
"All ready?" and away I went. I thought -- no; I didn't have time
to think. Before I knew anything about it, I was sent flying by the
dogs. In the confusion that ensued they stopped, luckily, so that
I escaped without damage, as far as that went. To tell the truth,
I was angry, but as I had sense enough to see that the situation,
already sufficiently comic, would be doubly ridiculous if I allowed
my annoyance to show itself, I wisely kept quiet. And, after all,
whose fault was it? I was really the only one to blame; why in the
world had I not got away faster? I now changed my plan entirely --
there is nothing to be ashamed of in that, I hope -- and fell in with
the awkward squad; there I was more successful. "All ready? Go!" And
go they did. First Hanssen went off like a meteor; close behind him
came Wisting, and then Bjaaland and Hassel. They all had ski on, and
were driving with a line. I had made up my mind to follow in the rear,
as I thought the dogs would not keep this up for long, but I soon had
enough of it. We did the first six and a quarter miles in an hour. I
thought that would do for me, so I went up to Wisting, made a rope
fast to his sledge, and there I stood till we reached 85° 5' S. --
three hundred and forty miles. Yes; that was a pleasant surprise. We
had never dreamed of anything of the sort -- driving on ski to the
Pole! Thanks to Hanssen's brilliant talents as a dog-driver, we could
easily do this. He had his dogs well in hand, and they knew their
master. They knew that the moment they failed to do their duty they
would be pulled up, and a hiding all round would follow. Of course,
as always happens, Nature occasionally got the better of discipline;
but the "confirmation" that resulted checked any repetition of such
conduct for a long while. The day's march was soon completed in this
way, and we camped early.

On the following day we were already in sight of the large
pressure-ridges on the east, which we had seen for the first time
on the second depot journey between 81° and 82° S., and this showed
that the atmosphere must be very clear. We could not see any greater
number than the first time, however. From our experience of beacons
built of snow, we could see that if we built such beacons now, on
our way south, they would be splendid marks for our return journey;
we therefore decided to adopt this system of landmarks to the greatest
possible extent. We built in all 150 beacons, 6 feet high, and used in
their construction 9,000 blocks, cut out of the snow with specially
large snow-knives. In each of them was deposited a paper, giving the
number and position of the beacon, and indicating the distance and
the direction to be taken to reach the next beacon to the north. It
may appear that my prudence was exaggerated, but it always seemed
to me that one could not be too careful on this endless, uniform
surface. If we lost our way here, it would be difficult enough to
reach home. Besides which, the building of these beacons had other
advantages, which we could all see and appreciate. Every time we
stopped to build one, the dogs had a rest, and they wanted this,
if they were to keep up the pace.

We erected the first beacon in 80° 23' S. To begin with, we contented
ourselves with putting them up at every thirteenth or fifteenth
kilometre. On the 29th we shot the first dog, Hanssen's Bone. He was
too old to keep up, and was only a hindrance. He was placed in depot
under a beacon, and was a great joy to us -- or rather to the dogs --
later on.

On the same day we reached the second important point -- the depot
in 81° S. Our course took us very slightly to the east of it. The
small pieces of packing-case that had been used as marks on each
side of the depot could be seen a long way off. On a subsequent
examination they showed no sign of snowfall; they stood just as
they had been put in. In the neighbourhood of the depot we crossed
two quite respectable crevasses; they were apparently filled up, and
caused us no trouble. We reached the depot at 2 p.m.; everything was
in the best of order. The flag was flying, and hardly looked as if it
had been up a day, although it had now been waving there for nearly
eight months. The drifts round the depot were about 1 1/2 feet high.

The next day was brilliant -- calm and clear. The sun really baked the
skin of one's face. We put all our skin clothing out to dry; a little
rime will always form at the bottom of a sleeping-bag. We also availed
ourselves of this good opportunity to determine our position and check
our compasses; they proved to be correct. We replaced the provisions
we had consumed on the way, and resumed our journey on October 31.

There was a thick fog next morning, and very disagreeable weather;
perhaps we felt it more after the previous fine day. When we passed
this way for the first time going south, Hanssen's dogs had fallen
into a crevasse, but it was nothing to speak of; otherwise we had
no trouble. Nor did we expect any this time; but in these regions
what one least expects frequently happens. The snow was loose and the
going heavy; from time to time we crossed a narrow crevasse. Once we
saw through the fog a large open hole; we could not have been very far
from it, or we should not have seen it, the weather was so thick. But
all went well till we had come thirteen and a half miles. Then Hanssen
had to cross a crevasse a yard wide, and in doing it he was unlucky
enough to catch the point of his ski in the traces of the hindmost
dogs, and fall right across the crevasse. This looked unpleasant. The
dogs were across, and a foot or two on the other side, but the sledge
was right over the crevasse, and had twisted as Hanssen fell, so that
a little more would bring it into line with the crevasse, and then,
of course, down it would go. The dogs had quickly scented the fact that
their lord and master was for the moment incapable of administering a
"confirmation," and they did not let slip the golden opportunity. Like
a lot of roaring tigers, the whole team set upon each other and fought
till the hair flew. This naturally produced short, sharp jerks at the
traces, so that the sledge worked round more and more, and at the same
time the dogs, in the heat of the combat, were coming nearer and nearer
to the brink. If this went on, all was irretrievably lost. One of us
jumped the crevasse, went into the middle of the struggling team, and,
fortunately, got them to stop. At the same time, Wisting threw a line
to Hanssen and hauled him out of his unpleasant position -- although,
I thought to myself, as we went on: I wonder whether Hanssen did not
enjoy the situation? Stretched across a giddy abyss, with the prospect
of slipping down it at any moment -- that was just what he would
like. We secured the sledge, completed our seventeen miles, and camped.

From 81° S. we began to erect beacons at every nine kilometres. The
next day we observed the lowest temperature of the whole of this
journey: -30.1° F The wind was south-south-east, but not very
strong. It did not feel like summer, all the same. We now adopted the
habit which we kept up all the way to the south -- of taking our lunch
while building the beacon that lay half-way in our day's march. It
was nothing very luxurious -- three or four dry oatmeal biscuits, that
was all. If one wanted a drink, one could mix snow with the biscuit --
"bread and water." It is a diet that is not much sought after in our
native latitudes, but latitude makes a very great difference in this
world. It anybody had offered us more "bread and water," we should
gladly have accepted it.

That day we crossed the last crevasse for a long time to come, and
it was only a few inches wide. The surface looked grand ahead of us;
it went in very long, almost imperceptible undulations. We could
only notice them by the way in which the beacons we put up often
disappeared rather rapidly.

On November 2 we had a gale from the south, with heavy snow. The
going was very stiff, but the dogs got the sledges along better than
we expected. The temperature rose, as usual, with a wind from this
quarter: +14° F. It was a pleasure to be out in such a temperature,
although it did blow a little. The day after we had a light breeze
from the north. The heavy going of the day before had completely
disappeared; instead of it we had the best surface one could desire,
and it made our dogs break into a brisk gallop. That was the day we
were to reach the depot in 82° S., but as it was extremely thick,
our chances of doing so were small. In the course of the afternoon
the distance was accomplished, but no depot was visible. However,
our range of vision was nothing to boast of -- ten sledge-lengths;
not more. The most sensible thing to do, under the circumstances,
was to camp and wait till it cleared.

At four o'clock next morning the sun broke through. We let it get
warm and disperse the fog, and then went out. What a morning it
was -- radiantly clear and mild. So still, so still lay the mighty
desert before us, level and white on every side. But, no; there
in the distance the level was broken: there was a touch of colour
on the white. The third important point was reached, the extreme
outpost of civilization. Our last depot lay before us; that was an
unspeakable relief. The victory now seemed half won. In the fog we
had come about three and a half miles too far to the west; but we now
saw that if we had continued our march the day before, we should have
come right into our line of flags. There they stood, flag after flag,
and the little strip of black cloth seemed to wave quite proudly,
as though it claimed credit for the way in which it had discharged
its duty. Here, as at the depot in 81° S., there was hardly a sign
of snowfall. The drift round the depot had reached the same height
as there -- 1 1/2 feet. Clearly the same conditions of weather had
prevailed all over this region. The depot stood as we had made it,
and the sledge as we had left it. Falling snow and drift had not been
sufficient to cover even this. The little drift that there was offered
an excellent place for the tent, being hard and firm. We at once set
about the work that had to be done. First, Uranus was sent into the
next world, and although he had always given us the impression of
being thin and bony, it was now seen that there were masses of fat
along his back; he would be much appreciated when we reached here on
the return. Jaala did not look as if she would fulfil the conditions,
but we gave her another night. The dogs' pemmican in the depot was just
enough to give the dogs a good feed and load up the sledges again. We
were so well supplied with all other provisions that we were able to
leave a considerable quantity behind for the return journey.

Next day we stayed here to give the dogs a thorough rest for the last
time. We took advantage of the fine weather to dry our outfit and
check our instruments. When evening came we were all ready, and now
we could look back with satisfaction to the good work of the autumn;
we had fully accomplished what we aimed at -- namely, transferring our
base from 78° 38' to 82° S. Jaala had to follow Uranus; they were both
laid on the top of the depot, beside eight little ones that never saw
the light of day. During our stay here we decided to build beacons
at every fifth kilometre, and to lay down depots at every degree of
latitude. Although the dogs were drawing the sledges easily at present,
we knew well enough that in the long-run they would find it hard work
if they were always to have heavy weights to pull. The more we could
get rid of, and the sooner we could begin to do so, the better.

On November 6, at 8 a.m., we left 82° S. Now the unknown lay before
us; now our work began in earnest. The appearance of the Barrier was
the same everywhere -- flat, with a splendid surface. At the first
beacon we put up we had to shoot Lucy. We were sorry to put an end to
this beautiful creature, but there was nothing else to be done. Her
friends -- Karenius, Sauen, and Schwartz -- scowled up at the beacon
where she lay as they passed, but duty called, and the whip sang
dangerously near them, though they did not seem to hear it. We had
now extended our daily march to twenty-three miles; in this way we
should do a degree in three days.

On the 7th we decided to stop for a day's rest. The dogs had been
picking up wonderfully every day, and were now at the top of their
condition, as far as health and training went. With the greatest ease
they covered the day's march at a pace of seven and a half kilometres
(four miles and two-thirds) an hour. As for ourselves, we never had to
move a foot; all we had to do was to let ourselves be towed. The same
evening we had to put an end to the last of our ladies -- Else. She
was Hassel's pride and the ornament of his team; but there was no
help for it. She was also placed at the top of a beacon.

When we halted that evening in 82° 20' S., we saw on the south-western
horizon several heavy masses of drab-coloured cloud, such as are
usually to be seen over land. We could make out no land that evening,
however; but when we came out next morning and directed our glasses
to that quarter, the land lay there, lofty and clear in the morning
sun. We were now able to distinguish several summits, and to determine
that this was the land extending south-eastward from Beardmore Glacier
in South Victoria Land. Our course had been true south all the time; at
this spot we were about 250 miles to the east of Beardmore Glacier. Our
course would continue to be true south.

The same evening -- November 8 -- we reached 83° S. by dead
reckoning. The noon altitude next day gave 83° 1' S. The depot we
built here contained provisions for five men and twelve dogs for
four days; it was made square -- 6 feet each way -- of hard, solid
blocks of snow. A large flag was placed on the top. That evening a
strange thing happened -- three dogs deserted, going northward on
our old tracks. They were Lucy's favourites, and had probably taken
it into their heads that they ought to go back and look after their
friend. It was a great loss to us all, but especially to Bjaaland;
they were all three first-rate animals, and among the best we had. He
had to borrow a dog from Hanssen's team, and if he did not go quite
so smoothly as before, he was still able to keep up.

On the 10th we got a bearing of the mountain chain right down in
south by west true. Each day we drew considerably nearer the land,
and could see more and more of its details: mighty peaks, each loftier
and wilder than the last, rose to heights of 15,000 feet. What struck
us all were the bare sides that many of these mountains showed; we had
expected to see them far more covered with snow. Mount Fridtjof Nansen,
for example, had quite a blue-black look. Only quite at the summit was
it crowned by a mighty hood of ice that raised its shining top to some
15,000 feet. Farther to the south rose Mount Don Pedro Christophersen;
it was more covered with snow, but the long, gabled summit was to a
great extent bare. Still farther south Mounts Alice Wedel Jarlsberg,
Alice Gade, and Ruth Gade, came in sight; all snow-clad from peak
to base. I do not think I have ever seen a more beautiful or wilder
landscape. Even from where we were, we seemed to be able to see a
way up from several places. There lay Liv's Glacier,[1] for instance,
which would undoubtedly afford a good and even ascent, but it lay too
far to the north. It is of enormous extent, and would prove interesting
to explore. Crown Prince Olav's Mountains looked less promising, but
they also lay too far to the north. A little to the west of south lay
an apparently good way up. The mountains nearest to the Barrier did not
seem to offer any great obstruction. What one might find later, between
Mounts Pedro Christophersen and Fridtjof Nansen, was not easy to say.

On the 12th we reached 84° S. On that day we made the interesting
discovery of a chain of mountains running to the east; this, as it
appeared from the spot where we were, formed a semicircle, where it
joined the mountains of South Victoria Land. This semicircle lay true
south, and our course was directed straight towards it.

In the depot in 84° S. we left, besides the usual quantity of
provisions for five men and twelve dogs for four days, a can of
paraffin, holding 17 litres (about 34 gallons). We had abundance of
matches, and could therefore distribute them over all the depots. The
Barrier continued as flat as before, and the going was as good as it
could possibly be. We had thought that a day's rest would be needed by
the dogs for every degree of latitude, but this proved superfluous;
it looked as if they could no longer be tired. One or two had shown
signs of bad feet, but were now perfectly well; instead of losing
strength, the dogs seemed to become stronger and more active every
day. Now they, too, had sighted the land, and the black mass of Mount
Fridtjof Nansen seemed specially to appeal to them; Hanssen often had
hard work to keep them in the right course. Without any longer stay,
then, we left 84° S. the next day, and steered for the bay ahead.

That day we went twenty-three miles in thick fog, and saw nothing
of the land. It was hard to have to travel thus blindly off an
unknown coast, but we could only hope for better weather. During the
previous night we had heard, for a change, a noise in the ice. It was
nothing very great, and sounded like scattered infantry fire -- a few
rifle-shots here and there underneath our tent; the artillery had not
come up yet. We took no notice of it, though I heard one man say in
the morning: "Blest if I didn't think I got a whack on the ear last
night." I could witness that it had not cost him his sleep, as that
night he had very nearly snored us all out of the tent. During the
forenoon we crossed a number of apparently newly-formed crevasses;
most of them only about an inch wide. There had thus been a small
local disturbance occasioned by one of the numerous small glaciers
on land. On the following night all was quiet again, and we never
afterwards heard the slightest sound.

On November 14 we reached 84° 40' S. We were now rapidly
approaching land; the mountain range on the east appeared to turn
north-eastward. Our line of ascent, which we had chosen long ago
and now had our eyes fixed upon as we went, would take us a trifle
to the west of south, but so little that the digression was of no
account. The semicircle we saw to the south made a more disquieting
impression, and looked as if it would offer great irregularities. On
the following day the character of the surface began to change;
great wave-like formations seemed to roll higher and higher as they
approached the land, and in one of the troughs of these we found
the surface greatly disturbed. At some bygone time immense fissures
and chasms would have rendered its passage practically impossible,
but now they were all drifted up, and we had no difficulty in crossing.

That day -- November 15 -- we reached 85° S., and camped at the top of
one of these swelling waves. The valley we were to cross next day was
fairly broad, and rose considerably on the other side. On the west,
in the direction of the nearest land, the undulation rose to such
a height that it concealed a great part of the land from us. During
the afternoon we built the usual depot, and continued our journey on
the following day. As we had seen from our camping-ground, it was
an immense undulation that we had to traverse; the ascent on the
other side felt uncomfortably warm in the powerful sun, but it was
no higher than 300 feet by the aneroid. From the top of this wave
the Barrier stretched away before us, flat at first, but we could see
disturbances of the surface in the distance. Now we are going to have
some fun in getting to land, I thought, for it seemed very natural that
the Barrier, hemmed in as it was here, would be much broken up. The
disturbances we had seen consisted of some big, old crevasses, which
were partly filled up; we avoided them easily. Now there was another
deep depression before us; with a correspondingly high rise on the
other side. We went over it capitally; the surface was absolutely
smooth, without a sign of fissure or hole anywhere. Then we shall
get them when we are on the top, I thought. It was rather stiff work
uphill, unaccustomed as we were to slopes. I stretched my neck more
and more to get a view. At last we were up; and what a sight it was
that met us! Not an irregularity, not a sign of disturbance; quietly
and evenly the ascent continued. I believe that we were then already
above land; the large crevasses that we had avoided down below probably
formed the boundary. The hypsometer gave 930 feet above the sea.

We were now immediately below the ascent, and made the final decision
of trying it here. This being settled, we pitched our camp. It was
still early in the day, but we had a great deal to arrange before the
morrow. Here we should have to overhaul our whole supply of provisions,
take with us what was absolutely necessary for the remainder of the
trip, and leave the rest behind in depot. First, then, we camped,
worked out our position, fed the dogs and let them loose again, and
then went into our tent to have something to eat and go through the
provision books.

We had now reached one of the most critical points of our journey. Our
plan had now to be laid so that we might not only make the ascent as
easily as possible, but also get through to the end. Our calculations
had to be made carefully, and every possibility taken into account. As
with every decision of importance, we discussed the matter jointly. The
distance we had before us, from this spot to the Pole and back, was
683 miles. Reckoning with the ascent that we saw before us, with other
unforeseen obstructions, and finally with the certain factor that
the strength of our dogs would be gradually reduced to a fraction of
what it now was, we decided to take provisions and equipment for sixty
days on the sledges, and to leave the remaining supplies -- enough for
thirty days -- and outfit in depot. We calculated, from the experience
we had had, that we ought to be able to reach this point again with
twelve dogs left. We now had forty-two dogs. Our plan was to take
all the forty-two up to the plateau; there twenty-four of them were
to be slaughtered, and the journey continued with three sledges and
eighteen dogs. Of these last eighteen, it would be necessary, in our
opinion, to slaughter six in order to bring the other twelve back to
this point. As the number of dogs grew less, the sledges would become
lighter and lighter, and when the time came for reducing their number
to twelve, we should only have two sledges left. This time again our
calculations came out approximately right; it was only in reckoning
the number of days that we made a little mistake -- we took eight
days less than the time allowed. The number of dogs agreed exactly;
we reached this point again with twelve.

After the question had been well discussed and each had given his
opinion, we went out to get the repacking done. It was lucky the
weather was so fine, otherwise this taking stock of provisions might
have been a bitter piece of work. All our supplies were in such a
form that we could count them instead of weighing them. Our pemmican
was in rations of 2 kilogram (1 pound 12 ounces). The chocolate was
divided into small pieces, as chocolate always is, so that we knew what
each piece weighed. Our milk-powder was put up in bags of 102 ounces
just enough for a meal. Our biscuits possessed the same property --
they could be counted, but this was a tedious business, as they were
rather small. On this occasion we had to count 6,000 biscuits. Our
provisions consisted only of these four kinds, and the combination
turned out right enough. We did not suffer from a craving either for
fat or sugar, though the want of these substances is very commonly
felt on such journeys as ours. In our biscuits we had an excellent
product, consisting of oatmeal, sugar, and dried milk. Sweetmeats,
jam, fruit, cheese, etc., we had left behind at Framheim.

We took our reindeer-skin clothing, for which we had had no use as yet,
on the sledges. We were now coming on to the high ground, and it might
easily happen that it would be a good thing to have. We did not forget
the temperature of -40° F. that Shackleton had experienced in 88° S.,
and if we met with the same, we could hold out a long while if we had
the skin clothing. Otherwise, we had not very much in our bags. The
only change we had with us was put on here, and the old clothes hung
out to air. We reckoned that by the time we came back, in a couple
of months, they would be sufficiently aired, and we could put them
on again. As far as I remember, the calculation proved correct. We
took more foot-gear than anything else: if one's feet are well shod,
one can hold out a long time.

When all this was finished, three of us put on our ski and made
for the nearest visible land. This was a little peak, a mile and
three-quarters away -- Mount Betty. It did not look lofty or imposing,
but was, nevertheless, 1,000 feet above the sea. Small as it was,
it became important to us, as it was there we got all our geological
specimens. Running on ski felt quite strange, although I had now
covered 385 miles on them; but we had driven the whole way, and were
somewhat out of training. We could feel this, too, as we went up
the slope that afternoon. After Mount Betty the ascent became rather
steep, but the surface was even, and the going splendid, so we got on
fast. First we came up a smooth mountain-side, about 1,200 feet above
the sea, then over a little plateau; after that another smooth slope
like the first, and then down a rather long, flat stretch, which
after a time began to rise very gradually, until it finally passed
into small glacier formations. Our reconnaissance extended to these
small glaciers. We had ascertained that the way was practicable,
as far as we were able to see; we had gone about five and a half
miles from the tent, and ascended 2,000 feet. On the way back we went
gloriously; the last two slopes down to the Barrier gave us all the
speed we wanted. Bjaaland and I had decided to take a turn round by
Mount Betty for the sake of having real bare ground under our feet;
we had not felt it since Madeira in September, 1910, and now we were
in November, 1911. No sooner said than done. Bjaaland prepared for
an elegant "Telemark swing," and executed it in fine style. What I
prepared to do, I am still not quite sure. What I did was to roll over,
and I did it with great effect. I was very soon on my feet again,
and glanced at Bjaaland; whether he had seen my tumble, I am not
certain. However, I pulled myself together after this unfortunate
performance, and remarked casually that it is not so easy to forget
what one has once learnt. No doubt he thought that I had managed the
"Telemark swing"; at any rate, he was polite enough to let me think so.

Mount Betty offered no perpendicular crags or deep precipices to
stimulate our desire for climbing; we only had to take off our ski,
and then we arrived at the top. It consisted of loose screes, and
was not an ideal promenade for people who had to be careful of their
boots. It was a pleasure to set one's foot on bare ground again,
and we sat down on the rocks to enjoy the scene. The rocks very soon
made themselves felt, however, and brought us to our feet again. We
photographed each other in "picturesque attitudes," took a few stones
for those who had not yet set foot on bare earth, and strapped on our
ski. The dogs, after having been so eager to make for bare land when
they first saw it, were now not the least interested in it; they lay on
the snow, and did not go near the top. Between the bare ground and the
snow surface there was bright, blue-green ice, showing that at times
there was running water here. The dogs did what they could to keep
up with us on the way down, but they were soon left behind. On our
return, we surprised our comrades with presents from the country, but
I fear they were not greatly appreciated. I could hear such words as,
"Norway-stones -- heaps of them," and I was able to put them together
and understand what was meant. The "presents" were put in depot,
as not absolutely indispensable on the southern journey.

By this time the dogs had already begun to be very
voracious. Everything that came in their way disappeared; whips,
ski-bindings, lashings, etc., were regarded as delicacies. If one
put down anything for a moment, it vanished. With some of them this
voracity went so far that we had to chain them.


Through the Mountains

On the following day -- November 17 -- we began the ascent. To provide
for any contingency, I left in the depot a paper with information of
the way we intended to take through the mountains, together with our
plan for the future, our outfit, provisions, etc. The weather was fine,
as usual, and the going good. The dogs exceeded our expectations;
they negotiated the two fairly steep slopes at a jog-trot. We began
to think there was no difficulty they could not surmount; the five
miles or so that we had gone the day before, and imagined would be
more than enough for this day's journey, were now covered with full
loads in shorter time. The small glaciers higher up turned out fairly
steep, and in some places we had to take two sledges at a time with
double teams. These glaciers had an appearance of being very old,
and of having entirely ceased to move. There were no new crevasses to
be seen; those that there were, were large and wide, but their edges
were rounded off everywhere, and the crevasses themselves were almost
entirely filled with snow. So as not to fall into these on the return,
we erected our beacons in such a way that the line between any two
of them would take us clear of any danger. It was no use working in
Polar clothing among these hills; the sun, which stood high and clear,
was uncomfortably warm, and we were obliged to take off most of our
things. We passed several summits from 3,000 to 7,000 feet high;
the snow on one of them had quite a reddish-brown tint.

Our distance this first day was eleven and a half miles, with a rise of
2,000 feet. Our camp that evening lay on a little glacier among huge
crevasses; on three sides of us were towering summits. When we had
set our tent, two parties went out to explore the way in advance. One
party -- Wisting and Hanssen -- took the way that looked easiest from
the tent -- namely, the course of the glacier; it here rose rapidly
to 4,000 feet, and disappeared in a south-westerly direction between
two peaks. Bjaaland formed the other party. He evidently looked upon
this ascent as too tame, and started up the steepest part of the
mountain -- side. I saw him disappear up aloft like a fly. Hassel
and I attended to the necessary work round about and in the tent.

We were sitting inside chatting, when we suddenly heard someone come
swishing down towards the tent. We looked at each other; that fellow
had some pace on. We had no doubt as to who it was -- Bjaaland, of
course. He must have gone off to refresh old memories. He had a lot
to tell us; amongst other things, he had found "the finest descent"
on the other side. What he meant by "fine" I was not certain. If it
was as fine as the ascent he had made, then I asked to be excused. We
now heard the others coming, and these we could hear a long way
off. They had also seen a great deal, not to mention "the finest
descent." But both parties agreed in the mournful intelligence that
we should have to go down again. They had both observed the immense
glacier that stretched beneath us running east and west. A lengthy
discussion took place between the two parties, who mutually scorned
each other's "discoveries." "Yes; but look here, Bjaaland, we could
see that from where you were standing there's a sheer drop -- " --
"You couldn't see me at all. I tell you I was to the west of the peak
that lies to the south of the peak that" I gave up trying to follow
the discussion any longer. The way in which the different parties had
disappeared and come in sight again gave me every reason to decide
in favour of the route the last arrivals had taken. I thanked these
keen gentlemen for their strenuous ramble in the interests of the
expedition, and went straight off to sleep. I dreamed of mountains
and precipices all night, and woke up with Bjaaland whizzing down
from the sky. I announced once more that I had made up my mind for
the other course, and went to sleep again.

We debated next morning whether it would not be better to take the
sledges two by two to begin with; the glacier before us looked quite
steep enough to require double teams. It had a rise of 2,000 feet
in quite a short distance. But we would try first with the single
teams. The dogs had shown that their capabilities were far above
our expectation; perhaps they would be able to do even this. We
crept off: The ascent began at once -- good exercise after a quart
of chocolate. We did not get on fast, but we won our way. It often
looked as if the sledge would stop, but a shout from the driver and
a sharp crack of the whip kept the dogs on the move. It was a fine
beginning to the day, and we gave them a well-deserved rest when we
got up. We then drove in through the narrow pass and out on the other
side. It was a magnificent panorama that opened before us. From the
pass we had come out on to a very small flat terrace, which a few
yards farther on began to drop steeply to a long valley. Round about
us lay summit after summit on every side. We had now come behind the
scenes, and could get our bearings better. We now saw the southern
side of the immense Mount Nansen; Don Pedro Christophersen we could
see in his full length. Between these two mountains we could follow
the course of a glacier that rose in terraces along their sides. It
looked fearfully broken and disturbed, but we could follow a little
connected line among the many crevasses; we saw that we could go a
long way, but we also saw that the glacier forbade us to use it in
its full extent. Between the first and second terraces the ice was
evidently impassable. But we could see that there was an unbroken
ledge up on the side of the mountain; Don Pedro would help us out. On
the north along the Nansen Mountain there was nothing but chaos,
perfectly impossible to get through. We put up a big beacon where we
were standing, and took bearings from it all round the compass.

I went back to the pass to look out over the Barrier for the
last time. The new mountain chain lay there sharp and clear; we
could see how it turned from the east up to east-north-east, and
finally disappeared in the north-east -- as we judged, about 84°
S. From the look of the sky, it appeared that the chain was continued
farther. According to the aneroid, the height of the terrace on which
we stood was 4,000 feet above the sea. From here there was only one
way down, and we began to go. In making these descents with loaded
sledges, one has to use the greatest care, lest the speed increase
to such a degree that one loses command over the sledge. If this
happens, there is a danger, not only of running over the dogs, but of
colliding with the sledge in front and smashing it. This was all the
more important in our case, as the sledges carried sledge-meters. We
therefore put brakes of rope under our runners when we were to go
downhill. This was done very simply by taking a few turns with a thin
piece of rope round each runner; the more of these turns one took,
the more powerful, of course, was the brake. The art consisted in
choosing the right number of turns, or the right brake; this was not
always attained, and the consequence was that, before we had come
to the end of these descents, there were several collisions. One
of the drivers, in particular, seemed to have a supreme contempt
for a proper brake; he would rush down like a flash of lightning,
and carry the man in front with him. With practice we avoided this,
but several times things had an ugly look.

The first drop took us down 800 feet; then we had to cross a wide,
stiff piece of valley before the ascent began again. The snow between
the mountains was loose and deep, and gave the dogs hard work. The next
ascent was up very steep glaciers, the last of which was the steepest
bit of climbing we had on the whole journey -- stiff work even for
double teams. Going in front of the dogs up these slopes was, I could
see, a business that Bjaaland would accomplish far more satisfactorily
than I, and I gave up the place to him. The first glacier was steep,
but the second was like the side of a house. It was a pleasure to watch
Bjaaland use his ski up there; one could see that he had been up a hill
before. Nor was it less interesting to see the dogs and the drivers go
up. Hanssen drove one sledge alone; Wisting and Hassel the other. They
went by jerks, foot by foot, and ended by reaching the top. The second
relay went somewhat more easily in the tracks made by the first.

Our height here was 4,550 feet, the last ascent having brought us
up 1,250 feet; we had arrived on a plateau, and after the dogs had
rested we continued our march. Now, as we advanced, we had a better
view of the way we were going; before this the nearest mountains had
shut us in. The mighty glacier opened out before us, stretching, as we
could now see, right up from the Barrier between the lofty mountains
running east and west. It was by this glacier that we should have to
gain the plateau; we could see that. We had one more descent to make
before reaching it, and from above we could distinguish the edges
of some big gaps in this descent, and found it prudent to examine it
first. As we thought, there was a side-glacier coming down into it,
with large, ugly crevasses in many places; but it was not so bad as
to prevent our finally reaching, with caution and using good brakes,
the great main ice-field -- Axel Heiberg Glacier. The plan we had
proposed to ourselves was to work our way up to the place where the
glacier rose in abrupt masses between the two mountains. The task
we had undertaken was greater than we thought. In the first place,
the distance was three times as great as any of us had believed;
and, in the second place, the snow was so loose and deep that it was
hard work for the dogs after all their previous efforts. We set our
course along the white line that we had been able to follow among
the numerous crevasses right up to the first terrace. Here tributary
glaciers came down on all sides from the mountains and joined the main
one; it was one of these many small arms that we reached that evening,
directly under Don Pedro Christophersen.

The mountain below which we had our camp was covered with a chaos of
immense blocks of ice. The glacier on which we were was much broken
up, but, as with all the others, the fissures were of old date, and,
to a large extent, drifted up. The snow was so loose that we had to
trample a place for the tent, and we could push the tent-pole right
down without meeting resistance; probably it would be better higher
up. In the evening Hanssen and Bjaaland went out to reconnoitre, and
found the conditions as we had seen them from a distance. The way up
to the first terrace was easily accessible; what the conditions would
be like between this and the second terrace we had still to discover.

It was stiff work next day getting up to the first terrace. The arm
of the glacier that led up was not very long, but extremely steep
and full of big crevasses; it had to be taken in relays, two sledges
at a time. The state of the going was, fortunately, better than on
the previous day, and the surface of the glacier was fine and hard,
so that the dogs got a splendid hold. Bjaaland went in advance up
through this steep glacier, and had his work cut out to keep ahead of
the eager animals. One would never have thought we were between 85°
and 86° S.; the heat was positively disagreeable, and, although lightly
clad, we sweated as if we were running races in the tropics. We were
ascending rapidly, but, in spite of the sudden change of pressure,
we did not yet experience any difficulty of breathing, headache,
or other unpleasant results. That these sensations would make their
appearance in due course was, however, a matter of which we could
be certain. Shackleton's description of his march on the plateau,
when headache of the most violent and unpleasant kind was the order
of the day, was fresh in the memory of all of us.

In a comparatively short time we reached the ledge in the glacier
that we had noticed a long way off; it was not quite flat, but sloped
slightly towards the edge. When we came to the place to which Hanssen
and Bjaaland had carried their reconnaissance on the previous evening,
we had a very fine prospect of the further course of the glacier. To
continue along it was an impossibility; it consisted here -- between
the two vast mountains -- of nothing but crevasse after crevasse,
so huge and ugly that we were forced to conclude that our further
advance that way was barred. Over by Fridtjof Nansen we could not
go; this mountain here rose perpendicularly, in parts quite bare,
and formed with the glacier a surface so wild and cut up that
all thoughts of crossing the ice-field in that direction had to be
instantly abandoned. Our only chance lay in the direction of Don Pedro
Christophersen; here, so far as we could see, the connection of the
glacier and the land offered possibilities of further progress. Without
interruption the glacier was merged in the snow-clad mountain-side,
which rose rapidly towards the partially bare summit. Our view,
however, did not extend very far. The first part of the mountain-side
was soon bounded by a lofty ridge running east and west, in which
we could see huge gaps here and there. From the place where we were
standing, we had the impression that we should be able to continue our
course up there under the ridge between these gaps, and thus come out
beyond the disturbed tract of glacier. We might possibly succeed in
this, but we could not be certain until we were up on the ridge itself.

We took a little rest -- it was not a long one -- and then started. We
were impatient to see whether we could get forward up above. There
could be no question of reaching the height without double teams;
first we had to get Hanssen's and Wisting's sledges up, and then
the two others. We were not particularly keen on thus covering the
ground twice, but the conditions made it imperative. We should have
been pleased just then if we had known that this was to be the last
ascent that would require double teams; but we did not know this,
and it was more than any of us dared to hope. The same hard work, and
the same trouble to keep the dogs at an even pace, and then we were
up under the ridge amongst the open chasms. To go farther without a
careful examination of the ground was not to be thought of. Doubtless,
our day's march had not been a particularly long one, but the piece
we had covered had indeed been fatiguing enough. We therefore camped,
and set our tent at an altitude of 5,650 feet above the sea.

We at once proceeded to reconnoitre, and the first thing to be
examined was the way we had seen from below. This led in the right
direction -- that is, in the direction of the glacier, east and west
-- and was thus the shortest. But it is not always the shortest way
that is the best; here, in any case, it was to be hoped that another
and longer one would offer better conditions. The shortest way was
awful -- possibly not altogether impracticable, if no better was to
be found. First we had to work our way across a hard, smooth slope,
which formed an angle of 45 degrees, and ended in a huge, bottomless
chasm. It was no great pleasure to cross over here on ski, but with
heavily-laden sledges the enjoyment would be still less. The prospect
of seeing sledge, driver, and dogs slide down sideways and disappear
into the abyss was a great one. We got across with whole skins on
ski, and continued our exploration. The mountain-side along which
we were advancing gradually narrowed between vast fissures above and
vaster fissures below, and finally passed by a very narrow bridge --
hardly broader than the sledges -- into the glacier. On each side of
the bridge, one looked down into a deep blue chasm. To cross here did
not look very inviting; no doubt we could take the dogs out and haul
the sledges over, and thus manage it -- presuming the bridge held --
but our further progress, which would have to be made on the glacier,
would apparently offer many surprises of an unpleasant kind. It was
quite possible that, with time and patience, one would be able to
tack through the apparently endless succession of deep crevasses;
but we should first have to see whether something better than this
could not be found in another direction. We therefore returned to camp.

Here in the meantime everything had been put in order, the tent set
up, and the dogs fed. Now came the great question: What was there on
the other side of the ridge? Was it the same desperate confusion,
or would the ground offer better facilities? Three of us went off
to see. Excitement rose as we neared the saddle; so much depended on
finding a reasonable way. One more pull and we were up; it was worth
the trouble. The first glance showed us that this was the way we had to
go. The mountain-side ran smooth and even under the lofty summit-like a
gabled church tower -- of Mount Don Pedro Christophersen, and followed
the direction of the glacier. We could see the place where this long,
even surface united with the glacier; to all appearance it was free
from disturbance. We saw some crevasses, of course, but they were far
apart, and did not give us the idea that they would be a hindrance. But
we were still too far from the spot to be able to draw any certain
conclusions as to the character of the ground; we therefore set off
towards the bottom to examine the conditions more closely. The surface
was loose up here, and the snow fairly deep; our ski slipped over it
well, but it would be heavy for dogs. We advanced rapidly, and soon
came to the huge crevasses. They were big enough and deep enough, but
so scattered that, without much trouble, we could find a way between
them. The hollow between the two mountains, which was filled by the
Heiberg Glacier, grew narrower and narrower towards the end, and,
although appearances were still very pleasant, I expected to find some
disturbance when we arrived at the point where the mountain-side passed
into the glacier. But my fears proved groundless; by keeping right
under Don Pedro we went clear of all trouble, and in a short time,
to our great joy, we found ourselves above and beyond that chaotic
part of the Heiberg Glacier which had completely barred our progress.

Up here all was strangely peaceful; the mountain-side and the glacier
united in a great flat terrace -- a plain, one might call it --
without disturbance of any kind. We could see depressions in the
surface where the huge crevasses had formerly existed, but now they
were entirely filled up, and formed one with the surrounding level. We
could now see right to the end of this mighty glacier, and form some
idea of its proportions. Mount Wilhelm Christophersen and Mount Ole
Engelstad formed the end of it; these two beehive-shaped summits,
entirely covered with snow, towered high into the sky. We understood
now that the last of the ascent was before us, and that what we saw
in the distance between these two mountains was the great plateau
itself. The question, then, was to find a way up, and to conquer
this last obstruction in the easiest manner. In the radiantly clear
air we could see the smallest details with our excellent prismatic
glasses, and make our calculations with great confidence. It would
be possible to clamber up Don Pedro himself; we had done things as
difficult before. But here the side of the mountain was fairly steep,
and full of big crevasses and a fearful quantity of gigantic blocks
of ice. Between Don Pedro and Wilhelm Christophersen an arm of the
glacier went up on to the plateau, but it was so disturbed and broken
up that it could not be used. Between Wilhelm Christophersen and Ole
Engelstad there was no means of getting through. Between Ole Engelstad
and Fridtjof Nansen, on the other hand, it looked more promising,
but as yet the first of these mountains obstructed our view so much
that we could not decide with certainty. We were all three rather
tired, but agreed to continue our excursion, and find out what was
here concealed. Our work to-day would make our progress to-morrow so
much the easier. We therefore went on, and laid our course straight
over the topmost flat terrace of the Heiberg Glacier. As we advanced,
the ground between Nansen and Engelstad opened out more and more, and
without going any farther we were able to decide from the formations
that here we should undoubtedly find the best way up. If the final
ascent at the end of the glacier, which was only partly visible,
should present difficulties, we could make out from where we stood
that it would be possible, without any great trouble, to work our way
over the upper end of the Nansen Mountain itself, which here passed
into the plateau by a not too difficult glacier. Yes, now we were
certain that it was indeed the great plateau and nothing else that we
saw before us. In the pass between the two mountains, and some little
distance within the plateau, Helland Hansen showed up, a very curious
peak to look at. It seemed to stick its nose up through the plateau,
and no more; its shape was long, and it reminded one of nothing so
much as the ridge of a roof. Although this peak was thus only just
visible, it stood 11,000 feet above the sea.

After we had examined the conditions here, and found out that on
the following day -- if the weather permitted -- we should reach the
plateau, we turned back, well satisfied with the result of our trip. We
all agreed that we were tired, and longing to reach camp and get some
food. The place where we turned was, according to the aneroid, 8,000
feet above the sea; we were therefore 2,500 feet higher than our tent
down on the hill-side. Going down in our old tracks was easier work,
though the return journey was somewhat monotonous. In many places the
slope was rapid, and not a few fine runs were made. On approaching
our camping-ground we had the sharpest descent, and here, reluctant
as we might be, we found it wiser to put both our poles together and
form a strong brake. We came down smartly enough, all the same. It
was a grand and imposing sight we had when we came out on the ridge
under which -- far below -- our tent stood. Surrounded on all sides by
huge crevasses and gaping chasms, it could not be said that the site
of our camp looked very inviting. The wildness of the landscape seen
from this point is not to be described; chasm after chasm, crevasse
after crevasse, with great blocks of ice scattered promiscuously about,
gave one the impression that here Nature was too powerful for us. Here
no progress was to be thought of.

It was not without a certain satisfaction that we stood there and
contemplated the scene. The little dark speck down there -- our
tent -- in the midst of this chaos, gave us a feeling of strength
and power. We knew in our hearts that the ground would have to be
ugly indeed if we were not to manoeuvre our way across it and find a
place for that little home of ours. Crash upon crash, roar upon roar,
met our ears. Now it was a shot from Mount Nansen, now from one of the
others; we could see the clouds of snow rise high into the air. It was
evident that these mountains were throwing off their winter mantles
and putting on a more spring-like garb.

We came at a tearing pace down to the tent, where our companions had
everything in most perfect order. The dogs lay snoring in the heat
of the sun, and hardly condescended to move when we came scudding
in among them. Inside the tent a regular tropical heat prevailed;
the sun was shining directly on to the red cloth and warming it. The
Primus hummed and hissed, and the pemmican-pot bubbled and spurted. We
desired nothing better in the world than to get in, fling ourselves
down, eat, and drink. The news we brought was no trifling matter --
the plateau to-morrow. It sounded almost too good to be true; we
had reckoned that it would take us ten days to get up, and now we
should do it in four. In this way we saved a great deal of dog food,
as we should be able to slaughter the superfluous animals six days
earlier than we had calculated. It was quite a little feast that
evening in the tent; not that we had any more to eat than usual --
we could not allow ourselves that -- but the thought of the fresh
dog cutlets that awaited us when we got to the top made our mouths
water. In course of time we had so habituated ourselves to the idea
of the approaching slaughter that this event did not appear to us
so horrible as it would otherwise have done. Judgment had already
been pronounced, and the selection made of those who were worthy of
prolonged life and those who were to be sacrificed. This had been,
I may add, a difficult problem to solve, so efficient were they all.

The rumblings continued all night, and one avalanche after another
exposed parts of the mountain-sides that had been concealed from
time immemorial. The following day, November 20, we were up and away
at the usual time, about 8 a.m. The weather was splendid, calm and
clear. Getting up over the saddle was a rough beginning of the day
for our dogs, and they gave a good account of themselves, pulling
the sledges up with single teams this time. The going was heavy,
as on the preceding day, and our advance through the loose snow was
not rapid. We did not follow our tracks of the day before, but laid
our course directly for the place where we had decided to attempt the
ascent. As we approached Mount Ole Engelstad, under which we had to
pass in order to come into the arm of the glacier between it and Mount
Nansen, our excitement began to rise. What does the end look like? Does
the glacier go smoothly on into the plateau, or is it broken up and
impassable? We rounded Mount Engelstad more and more; wider and wider
grew the opening. The surface looked extremely good as it gradually
came into view, and it did not seem as though our assumption of the
previous day would be put to shame. At last the whole landscape opened
out, and without obstruction of any kind whatever the last part of the
ascent lay before us. It was both long and steep from the look of it,
and we agreed to take a little rest before beginning the final attack.

We stopped right under Mount Engelstad in a warm and sunny place,
and allowed ourselves on this occasion a little lunch, an indulgence
that had not hitherto been permitted. The cooking-case was taken out,
and soon the Primus was humming in a way that told us it would not
be long before the chocolate was ready. It was a heavenly treat, that
drink. We had all walked ourselves warm, and our throats were as dry
as tinder. The contents of the pot were served round by the cook --
Hanssen. It was no use asking him to share alike; he could not be
persuaded to take more than half of what was due to him -- the rest he
had to divide among his comrades. The drink he had prepared this time
was what he called chocolate, but I had some difficulty in believing
him. He was economical, was Hanssen, and permitted no extravagance;
that could be seen very well by his chocolate. Well, after all, to
people who were accustomed to regard "bread and water" as a luxury,
it tasted, as I have said, heavenly. It was the liquid part of the
lunch that was served extra; if anyone wanted something to eat, he
had to provide it himself -- nothing was offered him. Happy was he
who had saved some biscuits from his breakfast! Our halt was not a
very long one. It is a queer thing that, when one only has on light
underclothing and windproof overalls, one cannot stand still for long
without feeling cold. Although the temperature was no lower than -4°
F., we were glad to be on the move again. The last ascent was fairly
hard work, especially the first half of it. We never expected to
do it with single teams, but tried it all the same. For this last
pull up I must give the highest praise both to the dogs and their
drivers; it was a brilliant performance on both sides. I can still
see the situation clearly before me. The dogs seemed positively
to understand that this was the last big effort that was asked of
them; they lay flat down and hauled, dug their claws in and dragged
themselves forward. But they had to stop and get breath pretty often,
and then the driver's strength was put to the test. It is no child's
play to set a heavily-laden sledge in motion time after time. How they
toiled, men and beasts, up that slope! But they got on, inch by inch,
until the steepest part was behind them. Before them lay the rest
of the ascent in a gentle rise, up which they could drive without a
stop. It was stiff, nevertheless, and it took a long time before we
were all up on the plateau on the southern side of Mount Engelstad.

We were very curious and anxious to see what the plateau
looked. like. We had expected a great, level plain,
extending boundlessly towards the south; but in this we were
disappointed. Towards the south-west it looked very level and fine,
but that was not the way we had to go. Towards the south the ground
continued to rise in long ridges running east and west, probably a
continuation of the mountain chain running to the south-east, or a
connection between it and the plateau. We stubbornly continued our
march; we would not give in until we had the plain itself before
us. Our hope was that the ridge projecting from Mount Don Pedro
Christophersen would be the last; we now had it before us. The
going changed at once up here; the loose snow disappeared, and a few
wind-waves (sastrugi) began to show themselves. These were specially
unpleasant to deal with on this last ridge; they lay from south-east
to north-west, and were as hard as flints and as sharp as knives. A
fall among them might have had very serious consequences. One would
have thought the dogs had had enough work that day to tire them,
but this last ridge, with its unpleasant snow-waves, did not seem
to trouble them in the least. We all drove up gaily, towed by the
sledges, on to what looked to us like the final plateau, and halted
at 8 p.m. The weather had held fine, and we could apparently see
a very long way. In the far distance, extending to the north-west,
rose peak after peak; this was the chain of mountains running to the
south-east, which we now saw from the other side. In our own vicinity,
on the other band, we saw nothing but the backs of the mountains so
frequently mentioned. We afterwards learned how deceptive the light
can be. I consulted the aneroid immediately on our arrival at the
camping-ground, and it showed 10,920 feet above the sea, which the
hypsometer afterwards confirmed. All the sledge-meters gave seventeen
geographical miles, or thirty-one kilometres (nineteen and a quarter
statute miles). This day's work -- nineteen and a quarter miles,
with an ascent of 5,750 feet -- gives us some idea of what can be
performed by dogs in good training. Our sledges still had what might
be considered heavy loads; it seems superfluous to give the animals
any other testimonial than the bare fact.

It was difficult to find a place for the tent, so hard was the snow
up here. We found one, however, and set the tent. Sleeping-bags
and kit-bags were handed in to me, as usual, through the tent-door,
and I arranged everything inside. The cooking-case and the necessary
provisions for that evening and the next morning were also passed in;
but the part of my work that went more quickly than usual that night
was getting the Primus started, and pumping it up to high-pressure. I
was hoping thereby to produce enough noise to deaden the shots that I
knew would soon be heard -- twenty-four of our brave companions and
faithful helpers were marked out for death. It was hard -- but it
had to be so. We had agreed to shrink from nothing in order to reach
our goal. Each man was to kill his own dogs to the number that had
been fixed.

The pemmican was cooked remarkably quickly that evening, and I believe
I was unusually industrious in stirring it. There went the first shot
-- I am not a nervous man, but I must admit that I gave a start. Shot
now followed upon shot -- they had an uncanny sound over the great
plain. A trusty servant lost his life each time. It was long before
the first man reported that he had finished; they were all to open
their dogs, and take out the entrails to prevent the meat being
contaminated. The entrails were for the most part devoured warm on
the spot by the victims' comrades, so voracious were they all. Suggen,
one of Wisting's dogs, was especially eager for warm entrails; after
enjoying this luxury, he could be seen staggering about in a quite
misshapen condition. Many of the dogs would not touch them at first,
but their appetite came after a while.

The holiday humour that ought to have prevailed in the tent that
evening -- our first on the plateau -- did not make its appearance;
there was depression and sadness in the air -- we had grown so fond
of our dogs. The place was named the "Butcher's Shop." It had been
arranged that we should stop here two days to rest and eat dog. There
was more than one among us who at first would not hear of taking any
part in this feast; but as time went by, and appetites became sharper,
this view underwent a change, until, during the last few days before
reaching the Butcher's Shop, we all thought and talked of nothing
but dog cutlets, dog steaks, and the like. But on this first evening
we put a restraint on ourselves; we thought we could not fall upon
our four-footed friends and devour them before they had had time to
grow cold.

We quickly found out that the Butcher's Shop was not a hospitable
locality. During the night the temperature sank, and violent gusts
of wind swept over the plain; they shook and tore at the tent, but
it would take more than that to get a hold of it. The dogs spent the
night in eating; we could hear the crunching and grinding of their
teeth whenever we were awake for a moment. The effect of the great and
sudden change of altitude made itself felt at once; when I wanted to
turn round in my bag, I had to do it a bit at a time, so as not to
get out of breath. That my comrades were affected in the same way,
I knew without asking them; my ears told me enough.

It was calm when we turned out, but the weather did not look
altogether promising; it was overcast and threatening. We occupied
the forenoon in flaying a number of dogs. As I have said, all the
survivors were not yet in a mood for dog's flesh, and it therefore
had to be served in the most enticing form. When flayed and cut up,
it went down readily all along the line; even the most fastidious
then overcame their scruples. But with the skin on we should not
have been able to persuade them all to eat that morning; probably
this distaste was due to the smell clinging to the skins, and I must
admit that it was not appetizing. The meat itself, as it lay there
cut up, looked well enough, in all conscience; no butcher's shop
could have exhibited a finer sight than we showed after flaying and
cutting up ten dogs. Great masses of beautiful fresh, red meat, with
quantities of the most tempting fat, lay spread over the snow. The
dogs went round and sniffed at it. Some helped themselves to a piece;
others were digesting. We men had picked out what we thought was
the youngest and tenderest one for ourselves. The whole arrangement
was left to Wisting, both the selection and the preparation of the
cutlets. His choice fell upon Rex, a beautiful little animal -- one
of his own dogs, by the way. With the skill of an expert, he hacked
and cut away what he considered would be sufficient for a meal. I
could not take my eyes off his work; the delicate little cutlets
had an absolutely hypnotizing effect as they were spread out one by
one over the snow. They recalled memories of old days, when no doubt
a dog cutlet would have been less tempting than now -- memories of
dishes on which the cutlets were elegantly arranged side by side,
with paper frills on the bones, and a neat pile of petits pois in
the middle. Ah, my thoughts wandered still farther afield -- but that
does not concern us now, nor has it anything to do with the South Pole.

I was aroused from my musings by Wisting digging his axe into the
snow as a sign that his work was done, after which he picked up the
cutlets, and went into the tent. The clouds had dispersed somewhat,
and from time to time the sun appeared, though not in its most genial
aspect. We succeeded in catching it just in time to get our latitude
determined -- 85° 36' S. We were lucky, as not long after the wind got
up from the east-south-east, and, before we knew what was happening,
everything was in a cloud of snow. But now we snapped our fingers
at the weather; what difference did it make to us if the wind howled
in the guy-ropes and the snow drifted? We had, in any case, made up
our minds to stay here for a while, and we had food in abundance. We
knew the dogs thought much the same so long as we have enough to eat,
let the weather go hang. Inside the tent Wisting was getting on well
when we came in after making these observations. The pot was on,
and, to judge by the savoury smell, the preparations were already far
advanced. The cutlets were not fried; we had neither frying-pan nor
butter. We could, no doubt, have got some lard out of the pemmican,
and we might have contrived some sort of a pan, so that we could
have fried them if it had been necessary; but we found it far easier
and quicker to boil them, and in this way we got excellent soup into
the bargain. Wisting knew his business surprisingly well; he had put
into the soup all those parts of the pemmican that contained most
vegetables, and now he served us the finest fresh meat soup with
vegetables in it. The clou of the repast was the dish of cutlets. If
we had entertained the slightest doubt of the quality of the meat,
this vanished instantly on the first trial. The meat was excellent,
quite excellent, and one cutlet after another disappeared with
lightning-like rapidity. I must admit that they would have lost
nothing by being a little more tender, but one must not expect too
much of a dog. At this first meal I finished five cutlets myself,
and looked in vain in the pot for more. Wisting appeared not to have
reckoned on such a brisk demand.

We employed the afternoon in going through our stock of provisions, and
dividing the whole of it among three sledges; the fourth -- Hassel's --
was to be left behind. The provisions were thus divided. Sledge No.1
(Wisting's) contained

Biscuits, 3,700 (daily ration, 40 biscuits per man).

Dogs' pemmican, 277 3/4 pounds (1/2 kilogram, or 1 pound 1 1/2 ounces
per dog per day).

Men's pemmican, 59 1/2 pounds (350 grams, or 12.34 ounces per man
per day).

Chocolate, 12 3/4 pounds (40 grams, or 1.4 ounces per man per day).

Milk-powder, 13 1/4 pounds (60 grams, or 2.1 ounces per man per day).

The other two sledges had approximately the same supplies, and thus
permitted us on leaving this place to extend our march over a period
of sixty days with full rations. Our eighteen surviving dogs were
divided into three teams, six in each. According to our calculation,
we ought to be able to reach the Pole from here with these eighteen,
and to leave it again with sixteen. Hassel, who was to leave his
sledge at this point, thus concluded his provision account, and the
divided provisions were entered in the books of the three others.

All this, then, was done that day on paper. It remained to make the
actual transfer of provisions later, when the weather permitted. To
go out and do it that afternoon was not advisable. Next day, November
23, the wind had gone round to the north-east, with comparatively
manageable weather, so at seven in the morning we began to repack
the sledges. This was not an altogether pleasant task; although the
weather was what I have called "comparatively manageable," it was
very far from being suitable for packing provisions. The chocolate,
which by this time consisted chiefly of very small pieces, had to
be taken out, counted, and then divided among the three sledges. The
same with the biscuits; every single biscuit had to be taken out and
counted, and as we had some thousands of them to deal with, it will
readily be understood what it was to stand there in about -4° F. and
a gale of wind, most of the time with bare hands, fumbling over this
troublesome occupation. The wind increased while we were at work,
and when at last we had finished, the snow was so thick that we could
scarcely see the tent.

Our original intention of starting again as soon as the sledges
were ready was abandoned. We did not lose very much by this; on the
contrary, we gained on the whole. The dogs -- the most important
factor of all -- had a thorough rest, and were well fed. They had
undergone a remarkable change since our arrival at the Butcher's Shop;
they now wandered about, fat, sleek, and contented, and their former
voracity had completely disappeared. As regards ourselves, a day or
two longer made no difference; our most important article of diet,
the pemmican, was practically left untouched, as for the time being
dog had completely taken its place. There was thus no great sign
of depression to be noticed when we came back into the tent after
finishing our work, and had to while away the time. As I went in,
I could descry Wisting a little way off kneeling on the ground,
and engaged in the manufacture of cutlets. The dogs stood in a ring
round him, and looked on with interest. The north-east wind whistled
and howled, the air was thick with driving snow, and Wisting was not
to be envied. But he managed his work well, and we got our dinner as
usual. During the evening the wind moderated a little, and went more to
the east; we went to sleep with the best hopes for the following day.

Saturday, November 25, came; it was a grand day in many respects. I had
already seen proofs on several occasions of the kind of men my comrades
were, but their conduct that day was such that I shall never forget
it, to whatever age I may live. In the course of the night the wind
had gone back to the north, and increased to a gale. It was blowing
and snowing so that when we came out in the morning we could not
see the sledges; they were half snowed under. The dogs had all crept
together, and protected themselves as well as they could against the
blizzard. The temperature was not so very low (-16.6° F.), but low
enough to be disagreeably felt in a storm. We had all taken a turn
outside to look at the weather, and were sitting on our sleeping-bags
discussing the poor prospect. "It's the devil's own weather here at
the Butcher's," said one; "it looks to me as if it would never get any
better. This is the fifth day, and it's blowing worse than ever." We
all agreed. "There's nothing so bad as lying weather-bound like this,"
continued another; "it takes more out of you than going from morning to
night." Personally, I was of the same opinion. One day may be pleasant
enough, but two, three, four, and, as it now seemed, five days -- no,
it was awful. "Shall we try it?" No sooner was the proposal submitted
than it was accepted unanimously and with acclamation. When I think
of my four friends of the southern journey, it is the memory of that
morning that comes first to my mind. All the qualities that I most
admire in a man were clearly shown at that juncture: courage and
dauntlessness, without boasting or big words. Amid joking and chaff,
everything was packed, and then -- out into the blizzard.

It was practically impossible to keep one's eyes open; the fine
drift-snow penetrated everywhere, and at times one had a feeling of
being blind. The tent was not only drifted up, but covered with ice,
and in taking it down we had to handle it with care. so as not to break
it in pieces. The dogs were not much inclined to start, and it took
time to get them into their harness, but at last we were ready. One
more glance over the camping-ground to see that nothing we ought to
have with us had been forgotten. The fourteen dogs' carcasses that
were left were piled up in a heap, and Hassel's sledge was set up
against it as a mark. The spare sets of dog-harness, some Alpine ropes,
and all our crampons for ice-work, which we now thought would not be
required, were left behind. The last thing to be done was planting a
broken ski upright by the side of the depot. It was Wisting who did
this, thinking, presumably, that an extra mark would do no harm. That
it was a happy thought the future will show.

And then we were off: It was a hard pull to begin with, both for
men and beasts, as the high sastrugi continued towards the south,
and made it extremely difficult to advance. Those who had sledges
to drive had to be very attentive, and support them so that they did
not capsize on the big waves, and we who had no sledges found great
difficulty in keeping our feet, as we had nothing to lean against. We
went on like this, slowly enough, but the main thing was that we
made progress. The ground at first gave one the impression of rising,
though not much. The going was extremely heavy; it was like dragging
oneself through sand. Meanwhile the sastrugi grew smaller and smaller,
and finally they disappeared altogether, and the surface became
quite flat. The going also improved by degrees, for what reason it
is difficult to say, as the storm continued unabated, and the drift
-- now combined with falling snow -- was thicker than ever. It was
all the driver could do to see his own dogs. The surface, which had
become perfectly level, had the appearance at times of sinking; in
any case, one would have thought so from the pace of the sledges. Now
and again the dogs would set off suddenly at a gallop. The wind aft,
no doubt, helped the pace somewhat, but it alone could not account
for the change.

I did not like this tendency of the ground to fall away. In my opinion,
we ought to have done with anything of that sort after reaching the
height at which we were; a slight slope upward, possibly, but down --
no, that did not agree with my reckoning. So far the incline had not
been so great as to cause uneasiness, but if it seriously began to go
downhill, we should have to stop and camp. To run down at full gallop,
blindly and in complete ignorance of the ground, would be madness. We
might risk falling into some chasm before we had time to pull up.

Hanssen, as usual, was driving first. Strictly speaking, I should now
have been going in advance, but the uneven surface at the start and the
rapid pace afterwards had made it impossible to walk as fast the dogs
could pull. I was therefore following by the side of Wisting's sledge,
and chatting with him. Suddenly I saw Hanssen's dogs shoot ahead,
and downhill they went at the wildest pace, Wisting after them. I
shouted to Hanssen to stop, and he succeeded in doing so by twisting
his sledge. The others, who were following, stopped when they came up
to him. We were in the middle of a fairly steep descent; what there
might be below was not easy to decide, nor would we try to find out
in that weather. Was it possible that we were on our way down through
the mountains again? It seemed more probable that we lay on one of the
numerous ridges; but we could be sure of nothing before the weather
cleared. We trampled down a place for the tent in the loose snow,
and soon got it up. It was not a long day's march that we had done --
eleven and three-quarter miles -- but we had put an end to our stay at
the Butcher's Shop, and that was a great thing. The boiling-point test
that evening showed that we were 10,300 feet above the sea, and that
we had thus gone down 620 feet from the Butcher's. We turned in and
went to sleep. As soon as it brightened, we should have to be ready to
jump out and look at the weather; one has to seize every opportunity
in these regions. If one neglects to do so, it may mean a long wait
and much may be lost. We therefore all slept with one eye open,
and we knew well that nothing could happen without our noticing it.

At three in the morning the sun cut through the clouds and we
through the tent-door. To take in the situation was more than the
work of a moment. The sun showed as yet like a pat of butter, and
had not succeeded in dispersing the thick mists; the wind had dropped
somewhat, but was still fairly strong. This is, after all, the worst
part of one's job -- turning out of one's good, warm sleeping-bag,
and standing outside for some time in thin clothes, watching the
weather. We knew by experience that a gleam like this, a clearing
in the weather, might come suddenly, and then one had to be on the
spot. The gleam came; it did not last long, but long enough. We lay
on the side of a ridge that fell away pretty steeply. The descent on
the south was too abrupt, but on the south-east it was better and more
gradual, and ended in a wide, level tract. We could see no crevasses
or unpleasantness of any kind. It was not very far that we could
see, though; only our nearest surroundings. Of the mountains we saw
nothing, neither Fridtjof Nansen nor Don Pedro Christophersen. Well
content with our morning's work, we turned in again and slept till
6 a.m., when we began our morning preparations. The weather, which
had somewhat improved during the night, had now broken loose again,
and the north-easter was doing all it could. However, it would take
more than storm and snow to stop us now, since we had discovered the
nature of our immediate surroundings; if we once got down to the plain,
we knew that we could always feel our way on.

After putting ample brakes on the sledge-runners, we started off
downhill in a south-easterly direction. The slight idea of the position
that we had been able to get in the morning proved correct. The
descent was easy and smooth, and we reached the plain without any
adventure. We could now once more set our faces to the south, and in
thick driving snow we continued our way into the unknown, with good
assistance from the howling north-easterly gale. We now recommenced the
erection of beacons, which had not been necessary during the ascent. In
the course of the forenoon we again passed over a little ridge, the
last of them that we encountered. The surface was now fine enough,
smooth as a floor and without a sign of sastrugi. If our progress was
nevertheless slow and difficult, this was due to the wretched going,
which was real torture to all of us. A sledge journey through the
Sahara could not have offered a worse surface to move over. Now the
forerunners came into their own, and from here to the Pole Hassel. and
I took it in turns to occupy the position.

The weather improved in the course of the day, and when we camped in
the afternoon it looked quite smiling. The sun came through and gave
a delightful warmth after the last few bitter days. It was not yet
clear, so that we could see nothing of our surroundings. The distance
according to our three sledge-meters was eighteen and a half miles;
taking the bad going into consideration, we had reason to be well
satisfied with it. Our altitude came out at 9,475 feet above the sea,
or a drop of 825 feet in the course of the day. This surprised me
greatly. What did it mean? Instead of rising gradually, we were going
slowly down. Something extraordinary must await us farther on, but,
what? According to dead reckoning our latitude that evening was 86° S.

November 27 did not bring us the desired weather; the night was filled
with sharp gusts from the north; the morning came with a slack wind,
but accompanied by mist and snowfall. This was abominable; here
we were, advancing over absolutely virgin ground, and able to see
nothing. The surface remained about the same -- possibly rather more
undulating. That it had been blowing here at some time, and violently
too, was shown by the under-surface, which was composed of sastrugi
as hard as iron. Luckily for us, the snowfall of the last few days
had filled these up, so as to present a level surface. It was heavy
going, though better than on the previous day.

As we were advancing, still blindly, and fretting at the
persistently thick weather, one of us suddenly called out: "Hullo,
look there!" A wild, dark summit rose high out of the mass of fog to
the east-south-east. It was not far away -- on the contrary, it seemed
threateningly near and right over us. We stopped and looked at the
imposing sight, but Nature did not expose her objects of interest for
long. The fog rolled over again, thick, heavy and dark, and blotted out
the view. We knew now that we had to be prepared for surprises. After
we had gone about ten miles the fog again lifted for a moment, and
we saw quite near -- a mile or so away -- two long, narrow mountain
ridges to the west of us, running north and south, and completely
covered with snow. These -- Helland Hansen's Mountains -- were the
only ones we saw on our right hand during the march on the plateau;
they were between 9,000 and 10,000 feet high, and would probably serve
as excellent landmarks on the return journey. There was no connection
to be traced between these mountains and those lying to the east of
them; they gave us the impression of being entirely isolated summits,
as we could not make out any lofty ridge running east and west. We
continued our course in the constant expectation of finding some
surprise or other in our line of route. The air ahead of us was as
black as pitch, as though it concealed something. It could not be a
storm, or it would have been already upon us. But we went on and on,
and nothing came. Our day's march was eighteen and a half miles.

I see that my diary for November 28 does not begin very promisingly:
"Fog, fog -- and again fog. Also fine falling snow, which makes the
going impossible. Poor beasts, they have toiled hard to get the sledges
forward to-day." But the day did not turn out so badly after all,
as we worked our way out of this uncertainty and found out what was
behind the pitch-dark clouds. During the forenoon the sun came through
and thrust aside the fog for a while; and there, to the south-east,
not many miles away, lay an immense mountain mass. From this mass,
right across our course, ran a great, ancient glacier; the sun shone
down upon it and showed us a surface full of huge irregularities. On
the side nearest to the mountain these disturbances were such that a
hasty glance was enough to show us the impossibility of advancing that
way. But right in our line of route -- straight on to the glacier --
it looked, as far as we could see, as though we could get along. The
fog came and went, and we had to take advantage of the clear intervals
to get our bearings. It would, no doubt, have been better if we could
have halted, set up our tent, and waited for decently clear weather,
so that we might survey the ground at our ease and choose the best
way. Going forward without an idea of what the ground was like,
was not very pleasant. But how long should we have to wait for clear
weather? That question was unanswerable; possibly a week, or even a
fortnight, and we had no time for that. Better go straight on, then,
and take what might come.

What we could see of the glacier appeared to be pretty steep; but
it was only between the south and south-east, under the new land,
that the fog now and again lifted sufficiently to enable us to see
anything. From the south round to the west the fog lay as thick as
gruel. We could see that the big crevasses lost themselves in it,
and the question of what the glacier looked like on the west had
to be put aside for the moment. It was to the south we had to go,
and there it was possible to go forward a little way. We continued
our march until the ground began to show signs of the glacier in the
form of small crevasses, and then we halted. It was our intention to
lighten our sledges before tackling the glacier; from the little we
could see of it, it was plain enough that we should have stiff work. It
was therefore important to have as little as possible on the sledges.

We set to work at once to build the depot; the snow here was excellent
for this purpose -- as hard as glass. In a short time an immense
erection of adamantine blocks of snow rose into the air, containing
provisions for five men for six days and for eighteen dogs for five
days. A number of small articles were also left behind.

While we were thus occupied, the fog had been coming and going; some
of the intervals had been quite clear, and had given me a good view of
the nearest part of the range. It appeared to be quite isolated, and
to consist of four mountains; one of these -- Mount Helmer Hanssen --
lay separated from the rest. The other three -- Mounts Oscar Wisting,
Sverre Hassel, and Olav Bjaaland -- lay closer together. Behind this
group the air had been heavy and black the whole time, showing that
more land must be concealed there. Suddenly, in one of the brightest
intervals, there came a rift in this curtain, and the summits of
a colossal mountain mass appeared. Our first impression was that
this mountain -- Mount Thorvald Nilsen -- must be something over
20,000 feet high; it positively took our breath away, so formidable
did it appear. But it was only a glimpse that we had, and then the
fog enclosed it once more. We had succeeded in taking a few meagre
bearings of the different summits of the nearest group; they were not
very grand, but better ones were not to be obtained. For that matter,
the site of the depot was so well marked by its position under the
foot of the glacier that we agreed it would be impossible to miss it.

Having finished the edifice, which rose at least 6 feet into the air,
we put one of our black provision cases on the top of it, so as to be
able to see it still more easily on the way back. An observation we had
contrived to take while the work was in progress gave us our latitude
as 86° 21' S. This did not agree very well with the latitude of our
dead reckoning -- 86° 23' S. Meanwhile the fog had again enveloped
everything, and a fine, light snow was falling. We had taken a
bearing of the line of glacier that was most free of crevasses,
and so we moved on again. It was some time before we felt our way
up to the glacier. The crevasses at its foot were not large, but we
had no sooner entered upon the ascent than the fun began. There was
something uncanny about this perfectly blind advance among crevasses
and chasms on all sides. We examined the compass from time to time,
and went forward cautiously.

Hassel and I went in front on a rope; but that, after all, was not much
of a help to our drivers. We naturally glided lightly on our ski over
places where the dogs would easily fall through. This lowest part of
the glacier was not entirely free from danger, as the crevasses were
often rendered quite invisible by a thin overlying layer of snow. In
clear weather it is not so bad to have to cross such a surface,
as the effect of light and shade is usually to show up the edges of
these insidious pitfalls, but on a day like this, when everything
looked alike, one's advance is doubtful. We kept it going, however,
by using the utmost caution. Wisting came near to sounding the depth
of one of these dangerous crevasses with sledge, dogs and all, as
the bridge he was about to cross gave way. Thanks to his presence
of mind and a lightning-like movement -- some would call it luck --
he managed to save himself. In this way we worked up about 200 feet,
but then we came upon such a labyrinth of yawning chasms and open
abysses that we could not move. There was nothing to be done but to
find the least disturbed spot, and set the tent there.

As soon as this was done Hanssen and I set out to explore. We were
roped, and therefore safe enough. It required some study to find a
way out of the trap we had run ourselves into. Towards the group of
mountains last described -- which now lay to the east of us -- it had
cleared sufficiently to give us a fairly good view of the appearance of
the glacier in that direction. What we had before seen at a distance,
was now confirmed. The part extending to the mountains was so ground
up and broken that there was positively not a spot where one could
set one's foot. It looked as if a battle had been fought here, and
the ammunition had been great blocks of ice. They lay pell-mell,
one on the top of another, in all directions, and evoked a picture of
violent confusion. Thank God we were not here while this was going on,
I thought to myself, as I stood looking out over this battlefield;
it must have been a spectacle like doomsday, and not on a small scale
either. To advance in that direction, then, was hopeless, but that
was no great matter, since our way was to the south. On the south we
could see nothing; the fog lay thick and heavy there. All we could
do was to try to make our way on, and we therefore crept southward.

On leaving our tent we had first to cross a comparatively narrow
snow-bridge, and then go along a ridge or saddle, raised by pressure,
with wide open crevasses on both sides. This ridge led us on to
an icewave about 25 feet high -- a formation which was due to the
pressure having ceased before the wave had been forced to break and
form hummocks. We saw well enough that this would be a difficult place
to pass with sledges and dogs, but in default of anything better it
would have to be done. From the top of this wave-formation we could see
down on the other side, which had hitherto been hidden from us. The
fog prevented our seeing far, but the immediate surroundings were
enough to convince us that with caution we could beat up farther. From
the height on which we stood, every precaution would be required to
avoid going down on the other side; for there the wave ended in an
open crevasse, specially adapted to receive any drivers, sledges or
dogs that might make a slip.

This trip that Hanssen and I took to the south was made entirely at
random, as we saw absolutely nothing; our object was to make tracks for
the following day's journey. The language we used about the glacier
as we went was not altogether complimentary; we had endless tacking
and turning to get on. To go one yard forward, I am sure we had to
go at least ten to one side. Can anyone be surprised that we called
it the Devil's Glacier? At any rate, our companions acknowledged the
justness of the name with ringing acclamations when we told them of it.

At Hell's Gate Hanssen and I halted. This was a very remarkable
formation; the glacier had here formed a long ridge about 20 feet
high; then, in the middle of this ridge, a fissure had opened,
making a gateway about 6 feet wide. This formation -- like every --
thing else on the glacier-was obviously very old, and for the most
part filled with snow. From this point the glacier, as far as our
view extended to the south, looked better and better; we therefore
turned round and followed our tracks in the comforting conviction
that we should manage to get on.

Our companions were no less pleased with the news we brought of our
prospects. Our altitude that evening was 8,650 feet above the sea --
that is to say, at the foot of the glacier we had reached an altitude
of 8,450 feet, or a drop from the Butcher's of 2,570 feet. We now knew
very well that we should have this ascent to make again, perhaps even
more; and this idea did not arouse any particular enthusiasm. In my
diary I see that I conclude the day with the following words "What
will the next surprise be, I wonder?"

It was, in fact, an extraordinary journey that we were undertaking,
through new regions, new mountains, glaciers, and so on, without being
able to see. That we were prepared for surprises was perhaps quite
natural. What I liked least about this feeling one's way forward in
the dark was that it would be difficult -- very difficult indeed --
to recognize the ground again on the way back. But with this glacier
lying straight across our line of route, and with the numerous beacons
we had erected, we reassured ourselves on this score. It would take
a good deal to make us miss them on the return. The point for us,
of course, was to find our descent on to the Barrier again -- a
mistake there might be serious enough. And it will appear later in
this narrative that my fear of our not being able to recognize the
way was not entirely groundless. The beacons we had put up came to
our aid, and for our final success we owe a deep debt of gratitude
to our prudence and thoughtfulness in adopting this expedient.

Next morning, November 29, brought considerably clearer weather,
and allowed us a very good survey of our position. We could now see
that the two mountain ranges uniting in 86° S. were continued in a
mighty chain running to the south-east, with summits from 10,000 to
15,000 feet. Mount Thorvald Nilsen was the most southerly we could
see from this point. Mounts Hanssen, Wisting, Bjaaland, and Hassel
formed, as we had thought the day before, a group by themselves,
and lay separated from the main range.

The drivers had a warm morning's work. They had to drive with great
circumspection and patience to grapple with the kind of ground we
had before us; a slight mistake might be enough to send both sledge
and dogs with lightning rapidity into the next world. It took,
nevertheless, a remarkably short time to cover the distance we had
explored on the previous evening; before we knew it, we were at
Hell's Gate.

Bjaaland took an excellent photograph here, which gives a very good
idea of the difficulties this part of the journey presented. In the
foreground, below the high snow-ridge that forms one side of a very
wide but partly filled-up crevasse, the marks of ski can be seen in the
snow. This was the photographer, who, in passing over this snow-bridge,
struck his ski into it to try the strength of the support. Close to
the tracks can be seen an open piece of the crevasse; it is a pale
blue at the top, but ends in the deepest black -- in a bottomless
abyss. The photographer got over the bridge and back with a whole skin,
but there could be no question of risking sledges and dogs on it, and
it can be seen in the photograph that the sledges have been turned
right round to try another way. The two small black figures in the
distance, on the right, are Hassel and I, who are reconnoitring ahead.

It was no very great distance that we put behind us that day-nine
and a quarter miles in a straight line. But, taking into account all
the turns and circuits we had been compelled to make, it was not so
short after all. We set our tent on a good, solid foundation, and were
well pleased with the day's work. The altitude was 8,960 feet above
the sea. The sun was now in the west, and shining directly upon the
huge mountain masses. It was a fairy landscape in blue and white, red
and black, a play of colours that defies description. Clear as it now
appeared to be, one could understand that the weather was not all that
could be wished, for the south-eastern end of Mount Thorvald Nilsen
lost itself in a dark, impenetrable cloud, which led one to suspect
a continuation in that direction, though one could not be certain.

Mount Nilsen -- ah! anything more beautiful, taking it altogether,
I have never seen. Peaks of the most varied forms rose high into the
air, partly covered with driving clouds. Some were sharp, but most
were long and rounded. Here and there one saw bright, shining glaciers
plunging wildly down the steep sides, and merging into the underlying
ground in fearful confusion. But the most remarkable of them all was
Mount Helmer Hanssen; its top was as round as the bottom of a bowl,
and covered by an extraordinary ice-sheet, which was so broken up and
disturbed that the blocks of ice bristled in every direction like the
quills of a porcupine. It glittered and burned in the sunlight -- a
glorious spectacle. There could only be one such mountain in the world,
and as a landmark it was priceless. We knew that we could not mistake
that, however the surroundings might appear on the return journey,
when possibly the conditions of lighting might be altogether different.


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