Tom Crean’s Snow-blindness – Terra Nova Expedition – Southern Journey

Tom Crean’s Snow-blindness.

Terra Nova Expedition – Southern Journey.

On January 6th 1912, Bill Lashly recorded in his diary;


“Crean’s eyes are pretty bad tonight. Snow-blindness is an awful complaint, and no one I can assure you looks forward with pleasure when it begins to attack.”


Lashly, Crean and Lt. Edward Evans had parted company with Scott and the polar party, just 150 miles from the South Pole on January 4th. The three men faced into their 750 mile return trek to the base at Cape Evans.
Being a three man team, instead of the conventional four-man unit, they were accustomed to (as Scott had elected to bring an extra man to the pole) made their already arduous task, even more daunting. The last thing the trio needed was an early setback, but just one day into the journey, on January 5th, Lashly had noted;


“Crean has become snow-blind to-day through being leader, so I shall have the job to-morrow, as Mr. Evans seems to get blind rather quickly, so if I lead and he directs me from behind we ought to get along pretty well. I hope my eyes will keep alright. We made good 17 miles and camped.”


Despite Tom Crean’s snow-blindness, it seems he was no burden on the team, as 17 miles was an excellent distance to have covered in a day, in the harsh Antarctic climate. On January 7th, Lashly noted that Crean’s eyes had improved, but he was still far from better. On the 10th of January 1912, Lashly’s last entry for that day, simply stated;


“Crean’s eyes have got alright again now.”


They could now push on at full strength, and already concern was mounting, regarding reaching their depots on schedule. Lashly was deducting, and holding in reserve, small portions from each ration, just in case they failed to reach their supply caches in time. They were however making good ground, and Lashly’s cautiousness was borne, more from the explorers dread of being unable to locate their tiny mound of supplies, on the vast white landscape, than from any discernible shortfall in effort or progress.

Man Hauling towards the Polar Plateau 1911

Man-hauling on the Beardmore Glacier.

 

Snow-blindness, aka – Photokeratitis.

Photokeratitis or ultraviolet keratitis is a painful eye condition caused by exposure of insufficiently protected eyes to the ultraviolet (UV) rays from either natural (e.g. intense sunlight) or artificial (e.g. the electric arc during welding) sources. Photokeratitis is akin to a sunburn of the cornea and conjunctiva, and is not usually noticed until several hours after exposure. Symptoms include increased tears and a feeling of pain, likened to having sand in the eyes.

The injury may be prevented by wearing eye protection that blocks most of the ultraviolet radiation, such as welding goggles with the proper filters, a welder’s helmet, sunglasses rated for sufficient UV protection, or appropriate snow goggles. The condition is usually managed by removal from the source of ultraviolet radiation, covering the corneas, and administration of pain relief. Photokeratitis is known by a number of different terms including: snow blindness, arc eye, welder’s flash, bake eyes, corneal flash burns, flash burns, niphablepsia, or keratoconjunctivitis photoelectrica.

SourceWikipedia

Tom Crean On Antarctica’s Polar Plateau – Christmas Day 1911.

Tom Crean On The Polar Plateau.

December 25th 1911.

The Terra Nova Expedition 1910-13.

Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s, assault on the South Pole began on November 1st 1911. The southern journey was a mammoth undertaking – a 900 mile march, on foot, with provisions being hauled on sledges. Dog teams and ponies played supporting roles to the physical efforts of the men, but once the team had reached the foot of the Beardmore Glacier, manpower was the only mode of progression.
The dog teams turned back at this point, and the last of the surviving ponies, including Crean’s pony Bones, were shot. Their meat was cached.

The journey can be summarised in three main stages;
1. Across The Barrier (Ross Ice Shelf), from their base at Cape Evans, to the foot of the Beardmore Glacier. A journey of approximately 400 miles.
2. Traversing the Beardmore Glacier. A steady climb of 10,000 feet over a 120 mile crevasse riddled glacier.
3. The Polar Plateau – From the top of the Beardmore to the South Pole. Approximately 380 miles.

Shambles Camp was the name given to their last Barrier depot, before the group began the ascent of the fearsome glacier. Three sledge teams began the treacherous clamber on December 10th, 1911:

Sledge 1 – Scott, Wilson, Oates and P.O. Evans
Sledge 2 – E. Evans, Atkinson, Wright and Lashly.
Sledge 3 – Bowers, Cherry-Gerrard, Crean and Keohane.

On Friday , December 22nd the three teams had reached the top of the Beardmore, made their Upper Glacier depot, and Scott now had to decide which team would return to base, and who would forge ahead. There was no pre-planning by Scott, regarding returning teams, and decisions were made, it seems, only at the point when they needed to be made. This probably allowed Scott to monitor the physical and mental conditions of the men, and make his choices based on that diagnosis.

Man Hauling towards the Polar Plateau 1911
Man hauling on the Beardmore Glacier, December 13th 1911. Front from left – Cherry-Garrard and Bowers. Rear from left – Keohane and Crean, while Wilson pushes.
Source

Atkinson, Wright, Cherry-Gerrard and the Irishman, Keohane, were selected to return, and begin the weary descent of the Glacier they had just scaled. “Affecting farewell’s” were made and the two sledge teams continued their heavy hauling south.

Sledge 1 – Scott, Wilson, Oates and P.O. Evans.
Sledge 2 – E. Evans, Bowers, Crean and Lashly.

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Ponies And Dogs Of The Southern Sky.

Scott’s Ponies and Amundsen’s Dogs Immortalized.

Southern Aeronautical Waypoints named in their honour.

The names of the many great Antarctic explorers of the Heroic Age, are well known, widely documented and duly remembered. The feats of Amundsen, Scott, Shackleton, Worsley, Crean and Wild, to mention but a few, still evoke passion, admiration, pride and indeed much discussion and debate.
The map of Antarctica is very much comprised of landmarks and features named by, or in honour of these great pioneers. As was the wont of the great explorers who first tread unseen lands, they named every natural anomaly they discovered, as they so wished. The names chosen tended to stem from the royalty of the day, expedition sponsors, previous expeditions, explorers and crew, and of course those near and dear to them.
But nowhere, or no place on the vast white continent was named after the animals that played such a crucial role in each and every southern expedition.
Nowhere that is, until one man decided to address the issue, and have the contributions of the canine and equine contingents remembered. Because international rules prohibits the naming of Antarctic landmarks after animals, Col. Ronnie Smith of the US Air Force, turned to an area of Antarctica that he was very familiar with – the skies above.

Ron-with-Sled-dogs

Ronnie J. Smith was born of U.S. Air Force parents in Udine, Italy, and grew up in Baltimore, Maryland. He attended Loyola College (B.A.) and the University of Maryland. Ron entered the U.S. Air Force in 1983 to fly C-130 aircraft and has traveled the world as a professional aviator. After many years flying in the polar regions, he was selected to be the in-theater commander of Operation DEEP FREEZE, the DoD logistics support to the U.S. Antarctic Program from 2005-2008.

“I can tell you that these men were quite an inspiration to me and many others who lived and worked in both north and south polar climes. We walk on their shoulders.” That was Ronnie’s thought on the men of the heroic age, in a correspondence, earlier this year. Of the animals that toiled alongside these men, Ronnie said in an article for Equus Magazine, “The animals never got their due credit. There’s a statue around here and there. And as a poet, I saw this as not just a heroic/romantic period of history, but one of neglect for the animals who made it possible for the success of the brave men. They literally could not have done it without the animals. They did not have the technology.”   Continue Reading →

On This Day – February 4th In Antarctic History

February 4th 1902

Discovery Expedition

On 4 February 1902, Robert Falcon Scott’s Discovery Expedition, landed on the Barrier and unloaded an observation balloon which Scott had brought along for the purpose of achieving aerial surveys. Scott himself was first to climbed aboard the balloon and it rapidly ascended to a height of 180 m, but thankfully the balloon was firmly tethered. Ernest Shackleton piloted the second ascent, and as with Scott, the only thing observable, even at that height was the seemingly endless expanse of icy whiteness that constituted the Barrier. The expeditions junior doctor and zoologist, Edward Wilson privately thought the flights to be “perfect madness”.

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On This Day – November 19th 1911.

Terra Nova Expedition – Southern Journey.

Outward March – Camp 15, November 19th 1911.

It was day 19 of Robert Falcon Scott’s Southern Journey, and progress was slower than Scott had expected. The ponies were struggling in the harsh conditions and were constantly sinking in the deep snow. Scott’s team had developed pony shoes for the animals, and when trialed on the soft surfaces, they proved to be a significant success. However, Lawrence Oates who was in charge of the ponies, objected to their use, and most were left behind, despite their effectiveness.
This was a decision that Scott should have over-ruled. Of the 19 ponies brought along on the expedition, 9 had died prior to the departure of the South Pole journey, which greatly weakened their prospects of hauling the supplies to the Beardmore Glacier. The remaining 10 animals that set out with the team on November 1st, should have been afforded every possible advantage, for the gruelling task ahead.

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On This Day – November 16th 1911 – Photographs of One Ton Depot.

Scott’s Southern Party at One Ton Depot.

November 16th, 1911

The Terra Nova Expedition.

Extracts from Robert Falcon Scott’s Diary.

Wednesday, November 15. – Camp 12.
“Found our One Ton Camp without any difficulty [130 geographical miles from Cape Evans].”
Robert Falcon Scott, on reaching One Ton Depot.

“After a discussion we had decided to give the animals a day’s rest here, and then to push forward at the rate of 13 geographical miles a day.”

“A note from Evans dated the 9th, stating his party has gone on to 80° 30′, carrying four boxes of biscuit. He has done something over 30 miles (geo.) in 2½ days – exceedingly good going. I only hope he has built lots of good cairns.

“Most of us are using goggles with glass of light green tint. We find this colour very grateful to the eyes, and as a rule it is possible to see everything through them even more clearly than with naked vision.”

Thursday. November 16. – Camp 12.
“Resting. A stiff little southerly breeze all day, dropping towards evening. The temperature -15°. Ponies pretty comfortable in rugs and behind good walls.   Continue Reading →

Scott’s Diary – November 4th 1911.

Extract From Scott’s Diary

Saturday November 4th 1911.

“Just after starting picked up cheerful note and saw cheerful notices saying all well with motors, both going excellently. Day wrote ‘Hope to meet in 80° 30′ (Lat.).’ Poor chap, within 2 miles he must have had to sing a different tale. It appears they had a bad ground on the morning of the 29th. I suppose the surface was bad and everything seemed to be going wrong. They ‘dumped’ a good deal of petrol and lubricant. Worse was to follow.
Some 4 miles out we met a tin pathetically inscribed, ‘Big end Day’s motor No. 2 cylinder broken.’ Half a mile beyond, as I expected, we found the motor, its tracking sledges and all. Notes from E. Evans and Day told the tale. The only spare had been used for Lashly’s machine, and it would have taken a long time to strip Day’s engine so that it could run on three cylinders. They had decided to abandon it and push on with the other alone. They had taken the six bags of forage and some odds and ends, besides their petrol and lubricant. So the dream of great help from the machines is at an end! The track of the remaining motor goes steadily forward, but now, of course, I shall expect to see it every hour of the march.”

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The Southern Journey Remembered.

Scott’s Southern Journey.

A Quotation by Thomas Griffith Taylor.

NOVEMBER 1st 1911

“Cherry had Michael, a steady goer, and Wilson led Nobby — the pony rescued from the killer whales in March…. Christopher, as usual, behaved like a demon. First they had to trice his front leg up tight under his shoulder, then it took five minutes to throw him. The sledge was brought up and he was harnessed in while his head was held down on the floe. Finally he rose up, still on three legs, and started off galloping as well as he was able. After several violent kicks his foreleg was released, and after more watch-spring flicks with his hind legs he set off fairly steadily. Titus can’t stop him when once he has started, and will have to do the fifteen miles in one lap probably!

Dear old Titus — that was my last memory of him. Imperturbable as ever; never hasty, never angry, but soothing that vicious animal, and determined to get the best out of most unpromising material in his endeavour to do his simple duty.      Continue Reading →

Scott’s Southern Journey, Day 1 – Photo Gallery

Scott’s Southern Journey.

On This Day – November 1st 1911.

A collection of photographs taken on November 1st 1911, as Captain Robert Falcon Scott embarked upon his quest to be first to reach the South Pole. Prior to his departure, Scott had been tutored in the techniques of photography by the expedition’s photographer Herbert Ponting, as Ponting himself would not be part of the group that would venture southwards.
This enabled Scott to keep a visual record of the journey, and all of the images below, were captured on the very first day of the outward journey, and show the establishment of the first pony camp, along the route.

All images courtesy of Getty Images.   Continue Reading →

Scott Leaves Cape Evans – Destination The South Pole.

On This Day – November 1st 1911 – The Push For The Pole

The Terra Nova Expedition

On November 1st 1911, Captain Robert Falcon Scott departed the base camp hut at Cape Evans, for the last time. The Pony Party consisted of Scott and nine other men, each tasked with leading a pony along the route. It was the second phase of the disjointed exodus south, the men and ponies following in the wake of the Motor Party, which had forged ahead on October 24th. Cecil Meares and Demitri Gerov would complete the number of the sixteen man team, by following Scott’s group with a dog team.
Those remaining behind at Cape Evans, gave the departing group a cheering send off, and watched on, as they gradually disappeared south into the vast Antarctic whiteness, some never to return. Even by the time they had vanished from the view of those at the hut, the problems facing Scott’s group were patently evident, as each man battled with the particular temperament of the ponies they were handling.
Some of the beasts galloped uncontrollably while others had to be coaxed and almost dragged forward. Tom Crean led one of the calmer ponies named Bones, as did Cherry Garrard, who guided Michael, a pony Taylor had noted as “a steady goer”.

“Bones ambled off gently with Crean and I led Snippers in his wake.”
Robert Scott Diary – 1st November 1911

Crean & Bones

Tom Crean with the pony Bones.

Many of Scott’s men had deep rooted misgivings about their Captain’s decision to use ponies to haul supplies across the ice, and none more so than the chief pony handler, Lawrence Oates. Nicknamed ‘The Soldier’ by his Terra Nova fellows, the popular Oates was an English cavalry officer, who had served with honour in the Boer War. He had applied to join the expedition, having become somewhat disillusioned with life in the army, and Scott had taken him on board, mainly because of his vast knowledge and experience with horses.

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