Started at 8 A.M., all four of us hauling one sledge, and Socks following behind with the other. He soon got into our regular pace, and did very well indeed. The surface during the morning was extremely bad and it was heavy work for us. The sun beat down on our heads and we perspired freely, though we were working only in shirts and pajama trousers, whilst our feet were cold in the snow. We halted for lunch at 1 P.M., and had some of Quan cooked, but he was very tough meat, poor old beast. Socks, the only pony left now, is lonely. He whinnied all night for his lost companion.
At 1 P.M. today we had got close enough to the disturbance ahead of us to see that it consisted of enormous pressure ridges, heavily crevassed and running a long way east, with not the slightest chance of our being able to get southing that way any longer on the Barrier. So after lunch we struck due south in toward the land, which is now running in a southeast direction, and at 6 P.M. we were close to the ridges off the coast. There is a red hill about 3000 ft. in height, which we hope to ascend tomorrow, so as to gain view of the surrounding country. Then we will make our way if possible, with the pony up a glacier ahead of us on to the huge ice, and on to the Pole if all goes well. It is an anxious time for us, for time is precious and food more so; we will be greatly relieved if we find a good route through the mountains.
Now that we are close to the land we can see more clearly the nature of the mountains. From Mount Longstaff in a southeast direction, the land appears to be far more glaciated than further north, and since the valleys are very steep, the glaciers that they contain are heavily crevassed. These glaciers bear out in a northeast direction into the Barrier. Immediately opposite our camp the snow seems to have been blown off the steep mountain sides. The mountain ahead of us, which we are going to climb tomorrow, is undoubtedly granite, but very mildly weathered. In the distance it looked like volcanic rock, but now there can be no doubt that it consists of granite. Evidently the great ice sheet has passed over this part of the land, for the rounded forms could not have been caused by ordinary weathering. Enormous pressure ridges that run out from the south of the mountain ahead must be due to a glacier far greater in extent than any we have yet met. The glacier that comes out of Shackleton Inlet makes a disturbance in the Barrier ice, but not nearly as great as the disturbance in our immediate neighborhood at the present time. The glacier at Shackleton Inlet is quite a short one.
We have now closed in to the land, but before we did so we could see the rounded tops of great mountains extending in a southeasterly direction. If we are fortunate enough to reach the summit of the mountain tomorrow, we should be able to see more clearly the line of these mountains to the southeast. It would be very interesting to follow along the Barrier to the southeast, and see the trend of the mountains but that does not enter into our program. Our way lies to the south. How one wishes for time and unlimited provisions. Then indeed we could penetrate the secrets of this great lonely continent. Regrets are vain, however, and we wonder what is in store for us beyond the mountains if we are able to get there. The closer observation of these mountains ought to give geological results of importance. We may have the good fortune to discover fossils, or at any rate to bring back specimens that will determine the geological history of the country and prove a connection between the granite boulders lying on the slopes of Erebus and Terror and the land lying to the far south.
Our position tonight is latitude 83° 28' South, longitude 171° 30' East. If we can get on the mountain tomorrow, it will be the pioneer landing in the far south. We traveled 11 miles 1450 yards (statute) today, which was not bad, seeing that we were pulling 180 lb. per man on a bad surface. We got a photograph of the wonderful red granite peaks close to us, for now we are only eight miles or so off the land. The temperature is plus 20°, with a high barometer. The same fine weather continues, but the wind is cold in the early morning, when we turn out at 5:30 A.M. for breakfast.
This is the story of the “Farthest South” expedition, told by its leader. After enduring biting winds, short rations and crevasse-ridden glaciers for over a year, Shackleton’s party faced a desperate forced march to return to their ship, The Nimrod, or face being marooned on the ice.
Taken from Sir Ernest Shackleton’s own compelling chronicle of his first Antarctic expedition, written on his return in 1909.
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