Shackleton’s Ross Sea Party, March 15, 1915: “. . .our first laugh since the dogs died”

–from Ernest Joyce’s account “The South Polar Trail”–

“March 15th. Another heart-breaking night, the temperature down below 50º—82 degrees of frost. Heard Mack [Alexander Mackintosh] groaning during the night. I emerged from my sleeping-bag to find him in agony with a tooth-ache. In the medical case there was naught to ease him. My thoughts could only think of methylated spirit, a bottle of which we kept for starting the primus.

“This I passed to him, together with the cotton wool. During the short space of time necessary to pour the spirit on the wool—his fingers were badly frostbitten—he placed the cotton wool on his tooth, a second elapse, and then a yell, the sound of which must have penetrated to Cape Crozier, giving the Emperor penguins a shock, the toothache was cured, the inside of the mouth raw, but Mack’s Billingsgate language was supreme. [Ernest] Wild and I indulged in our first laugh since the dogs died, although when we laugh it hurts, as our faces are one mass of blisters.

“The temperature of the spirit was the same temperature as the air—82 degrees of frost. It had the same effect as boiling liquid.”

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