Shackleton’s Ross Sea Party, January 3, 1916: “Whilst cooking their dinner the Primus gave out. .”

–from the diary of Ernest Joyce–

“. . . We are now going through the same few miles where the dogs collapsed in February last; passed several of our old cairns; on one, 2 sets of dog harness. . . . The other tent called out for me. I went over. Whilst cooking their dinner the Primus gave out. On examination found the ring where the cap fits on completely burnt out. This stops the Primus from giving out the flame which is necessary for heating.

“Gaze cut some tin from the top of a tea tin and fixed around; this answered the purpose, but it takes double the time to melt the ice and boil the cooker. This accident has caused me to think! I proposed to take all hands to 81º South. The most essential part of a sledging equipment is the Primus. Lives depend on that. The question is, whether to send back one part at 80 with the defective Primus, or to play chances and take them on to 81º.

“I do not want to risk men’s lives, without thoroughly thinking out the position. We must trek our sledge loads, what we have here, to 81º in any case. We are about 2 days’ march from 80º. Will see how things progress by then. There does not seem to be any happy medium in this beautiful country, one thing or another crops up, but I think with the aid of good old ‘Provi’ we will pull through. Turned in 9 o’clock with food for thought.”

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