Christmas Day 1911: on the South Polar Plateau

–from Lt. Edward “Teddy” Evans’ account, “South With Scott”

“Christmas Day, 1911, found our two tiny green tens pitched on the King Edward VII Plateau–the only objects that broke the monotony of the great white glittering waste that stretches from the Beardmore Glacier Head to the south Pole.  A light wind was blowing from the South, and little whirls of fine show, as fine as dust would occasionally sweep round the tents and along the sides of the sledge runners, streaming away almost like smoke to the Northward. . . .

“By the time we had changed our footgear the savoury smell of the pemmican proclaimed that breakfast was ready.  The meal was eaten with the same haste that had already made itself apparent.  A very short smoke sufficed, and Captain Scott gave the signal to strike camp.

“The two teams, in spite of the Christmas spirit and the ‘Happy Christmas’ greetings they exchanged to begin with, soon lost their springy step, the sledges dragged more slowly, and we gazed ahead almost wistfully.”

“Lunch camp, what a change.  The Primus stove fiercely roaring, the men light up their pipes and talk Christmas–dear, cheery souls, how proud Scott must have been of them; no reference to the discomforts of the forenoon march, just brightness and the nicest thoughts for one another. . . .After a mug of warming tea and two biscuits, we strike camp, and are soon slogging on.

“The two teams sturggled on until after 8 p.m., when at last Scott signalled to camp. . . .Once again the cooker boiled, and for that night we had a really good square meal–more than enough of everything–pemmican with pieces of pony meat in it, a chocolate biscuit ‘ragout,’ raisins, caramels, ginger, cocoa, butter and a double ration of thick pemmican.

“After the meal we gasped, we felt so comfortable.  But we had such yarns of home, such plans were made for next Christmas, and after all we got down into our fur sleeping-bags, and for a change we were quite warm owing to the full amount of food which we all so sorely needed.

“After the others in my tent were asleep, little Birdie Bowers, bidding me ‘good-night,; said, ‘Teddy, if all is well next Christmas we will get hold of all the poor children we can and just stuff them full of nice things, won’t we?”


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