Shackleton’s Ross Sea Party, June 1915: “We are living the primitive life.. . .”

[Through a set of unavoidable circumstances, the Ross Sea Party had been divided into three separate parties, none of which had communication with either of the two others. The ship Aurora had been carried away into the Ross Sea, her fate unknown to those thus stranded ashore. The men remaining at Cape Evans—R. W. Richards, Alexander Stevens, Irvine Gaze, and the Reverend Arnold Spencer-Smith—could only hope that the other six men, Ernest Joyce, Ernest Wild, Aeneas Mackintosh (nominally in charge of the shore parties), John Cope (the medic), Andre Jack, and Victor Hayward—returning from laying depots as far as 80º South, were safe and secure at Hut Point. In time most would be reunited, but at the beginning of June 1915 each group could only hope their friends were safe.]

–from Ernest Joyce’s diary, published as ‘The South Polar Trail,’ writing today from Hut Point–

“The position in the Discovery Hut is, there are only three sleeping bags [for six men]. Watch and watch will have to be kept until the other sleeping bags are brought from Pram Point. When in our possession later, we weighed them, and found them to be 25 to 30 pounds. The average weight of a sleeping-bag is 10 pounds, the extra weight being the accumulation of ice that is caused by the heat of the body. . . .

“It is remarkable how difficulties are overcome. What with the dirt, blubber and grease, our frostbites give us a very unpleasant time, no sleep for days on account of the throbbing from the blisters. A part of Wild’s big toe had to be amputated, the top of an ear came off. A couple of weeks elapsed before our faces straightened out again. Very painful to laugh, in spite of odds, and the good management of Cope, who was working under extreme difficulties, we were soon about again. We are living the primitive life. No soap, no towel, no wash, no shave. The blubber stove throws out its reeking fumes when it is replenished.”

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