Scott's last expedition
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Everyone knows the tragic story of Robert Scott's last expedition (Terra Nova Expedition), the 1911 attempt to reach the South Pole. The penultimate entry in his journal, "It seems a pity but I do not think I can write any more", and the final scrawl, "For God's sake look after our people", have become the stuff of legend. However, few know of the journal kept by Scott's companion Bill Wilson. That is because it has never been published.
However, one Mrs. Figstickie of Leamington, great-granddaughter of Bill Wilson, found the journal in her basement and donated it to the Uncyclopedia Foundation.
What follows, then, are the first-ever published excerpts from Wilson's account of the Scott Expedition of 1911.
edit The Approach
Nov 13 1911.
- We are commencing in our journey to trek across the great Ross Ice Shelf, a vast plain of windswept snow. We have five ponies and two dog-teams hauling supplies. Captain Scott was in quite a fine mood today, as he had just had his hair permed and set by Andres. He had it done in little curls and waves, and I have to say it did look lovely. He skied up and down the line, tossing his head and calling out "Who wants a pretty sno-cone? Ha-ha!"
- He has been making the same joke for the last fortnight. We are all sick of it.
- As usual there was a long discussion about where to make camp. Everywhere is the same: flat snow broken only by the occasional mound of frozen penguin droppings. But every day there is a debate:
- "No, mustn't camp here," says Captain Scott, "the snow is all sort of lumpy. It will be much better over there. It looks crisper somehow. Fluffier."
- "But it's nice here," whines Evans. "I don't want to go all the way over there. Besides, I have to wee."
- "Just make up yer minds," says Benson the pony-driver. "It's no use standing around freezing like a pack of ninnies."
- "Oh feck," says Bowers, "I just stepped in a pile of penguin shit."
- "Wait, how about across the way there, just past that patch of snow?" says Captain Scott. "It looks smoother. Inviting."
- "Patch of snow?" mutters Evans. "It's all snow. Every stinking furlong of it."
- "I heard that!" shouts Captain Scott, stamping his foot. "Who is the commanding officer here? ME! Me, me, me. So I decide where we camp."
- "Alright, alright," says Oates, always the peacemaker. "We'll go over there. Where you said."
- "Hold on," says Captain Scott. "There's a nice bit just on the other side. Reminds me of feather-pillows. Let's go over there."
- "Dammit all," says Evans, "I've peed myself. I hope you're happy."
- So it goes.
Nov 24 1911.
- A fine morning, with bright sunshine and robins singing and the smell of new-mown grass drifting about. I was just about to tuck into a big breakfast of bangers and griddle cakes when I realized I was dreaming. Pinched myself, woke up, and poked my head out of the tent -- there was snow blowing across the ice and the temperature stood nigh the nipple-freezing point.
- I went back to bed.
- But of course Captain Scott got us all up again, stomping about between the tents playing Mother McCredie's Lament on his infernal bagpipes and shouting "Who wants a sno-cone? First one up gets a grape-flavoured sno-cone! Ha-ha!"
- His most inspired act of leadership was to cache all the firearms at Hut Point. Otherwise someone would have surely shot him by now. But no one has a pistol, and so shortly after 0700 hrs we were all under way, tramping along through the snow and pulling sledges and yelling at the dogs and ponies. It much resembled a gypsy procession, without caravans.
- Especially so since Oates insists on wearing a long satin dress with ribbons at the bodice.
- It is a grueling business, this Antarctic travel. We must be especially careful of the dogs. They are savage brutes, scarcely tamed, bred for the harness and red in tooth and claw. We never turn our backs on them, and keep well away from their feeding-area. The ponies too are on short rations. At lunch today Benson went to give them warm oat-mash. We heard a thump and a squeal, but thought nothing of it. Later we called to Benson to load up the animals for the afternoon trek and he did not reply. Oates went over and found just his boots, with a shank of gnawed shinbone sticking out of each one. The ponies had bloodstained muzzles and nasty smiles.
- Horrible beasts.
- So we loaded them up, watching every second for a false move, and resumed our journey sans the good Benson. He will be missed. And tonight we will knock one of the ponies in the head and have a good feed on horseflesh. Turn-about is fair play, as my Gran always said.
Nov 30 1911.
- We have left the ice shelf and are now ascending the mighty icefall of the Beardmore Glacier, which leads to the interior plateau of the Frozen Continent. We heave the sledges across crevasses, up seracs, and climb ever higher amongst toppling blocks of blue ice. Captain Scott calls out, "Who wants a nice popsicle? Ha-ha! Plenty to go around!"
- Nobody laughs.
- On these treacherous slopes the dogs fail, and one by one we leave their poor frozen carcasses behind. Now we pull the sledges by hand: man-hauling. The wind whines along the ice-ridges, and Evans whines louder than the wind. "Are we there yet?" he whines. "Can't we stop for a moment? I have to go wee!"
- "Just hold it," shouts Captain Scott. "We'll come to a comfort station soon enough, I'm sure. Have a popsicle -- it will take your mind off your bladder. Ha-ha!"
edit Race to the Pole
December 15, 1911.
- We are camped in the most desolate place I have seen since yesterday. Although this is the austral summer the wind is blowing a full gale and the mercury huddles shivering in the bulbs of the thermometers and refuses to rise far enough to indicate a temperature. Captain Scott is playing his infernal bagpipes in his tent, waiting for the storm to pass. Evans tries to nap, Oates is reading Madame Bovary for the seventh time (he still cries when she eats the rat-poison), and Bowers deals himself hand after hand of solitaire. He always loses, even though he cheats. I think he is mentally incompetent.
- As we penetrate the interior we leave caches of supplies behind for the return journey. All the cheesecakes were left at Depot 3, the top of the Icefall, and Captain Scott's porn magazines were left at Depot 2, a hundred miles past Mount Darwin. The condoms we are keeping until Depot 1; past that point we will be unprotected.
- May God keep us safe.
- Tomorrow if the storm breaks we hope for a good haul across the plateau toward the Pole.
December 25, 1911.
- Christmas. We have all carried small gifts along on the journey, and today we exchanged them. From Oates I got a season's trolley pass for the year 1909; from Bowers a set of Hello Kitty shoelaces; and Captain Scott gave me a nubbly ceramic sexual aid shaped like a pineapple. I was much moved.
- We ate a tinned Christmas pudding for supper. Captain Scott led us in singing "O Silent Night" and "Away In A Manger". He has a fine baritone voice, but his interjected shouts of "Get down!" and "Take it, Benny!" spoilt the atmosphere somewhat. And then he began singing "The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo".
- Sometimes I wonder if Captain Scott is completely right in the head.
January 5, 1912.
- TRAGEDY. Captain Scott's hairnet blew away as we struggled across a field of bare blue ice in howling winds. His final perm, which he much treasured, was all mussed and dishevelled. Without Andres, who turned back at the top of the Icefall, there was no way to repair the damage. Oates offered to give Captain Scott a comb and and trim, but Scott cried out "Are you a hairdresser? Have you training in the art of coiffure?"
- Of course Oates could only reply in the negative.
- Later in the evening we spoke privately. Captain Scott confided, "I never feel I am a real man without properly done-up hair. My father visited the hairdresser every Friday, although he was bald as an egg. Perhaps I am a fool. Perhaps it is over; perhaps we should turn back before it is too late."
- I urged him to persevere in the glorious quest. I urged him to continue, if only for the sake of his daughters. "How wonderful they will find it," I said, "to say to suitors that 'my father was the first man to reach the South Pole!'" Captain Scott then reminded me that he had no daughters. "Well, it's the concept," I said. "If you did have them, they would much benefit from your heroic struggle."
- "But I have no daughters," he repeated -- petulantly, I thought.
- "You may yet father girl-children," I said, "at least if your cock doesn't freeze off down here in Antarctica. And thus they may admire and honour your great and magnificent effort..."
- "Oh, shut up, you twit," said Captain Scott. And he went away to his tent and began to play Mother McCredie's Lament on his infernal bagpipes.
January 17, 1912.
- We have reached THE POLE. Alas, it appears that damned Scandihoovian, Amundsen, beat us to the punch. He left a Norwegian flag, and also concealed a "whoopee cushion" in the snow. Oates stepped on it and it made a very loud rude noise. Damn all Scandihoovians.
- Captain Scott went off by himself for awhile. When he returned he gathered us together. "Never mind, boys," he said. "We have been beaten to the Pole and our whole expedition has been a waste of time, but never mind that. Dougie Benson was eaten alive by ponies, and now it appears his life was spent for nothing. All our horrible struggles in the Icefall, and the tragic maiming of my hairdo, were likewise in vain. But never mind. Do you know what I say, boys? I say, FUCK IT ALL!" Then he fell to his knees and began to pound his fist in the snow. Tears streamed down his cheeks and froze in his beard.
- Oates patted Scott comfortingly on the head while Bowers looked off across the ice and whistled nonchalantly. "Well," said Evans sourly, "I'm going off to have a wee."
- What a leader Captain Scott is!
edit The Way Home
January 20, 1912.
- The weather has gone from bad to worse. We must truly struggle now, especially as Captain Scott has collected 50 lbs of rock samples which he has packed onto the sledge. He tried to make it into a joke, shouting merrily "Now watch how you go, boys...I don't want you to get my rocks off! Ha-ha!" But no-one laughed.
- Evans took me aside at the lunch stop and confided that the previous night he dreamt of sawing Captain Scott's face in two with a carpenter's saw. "What does it mean, Bill?" he said. "Am I going mad?"
- "No," I assured him, "you're as sane as any of us. You probably just had to wee and couldn't wake up." He agreed that that was probably the case. I didn't tell him that I had dreamt of a giant electric penguin stinging Scott to death with its tentacles.
- It appears we harbour some animosity toward our leader.
January 28, 1912.
- This evening we are camped in a horrible spot, the worst since yesterday. Spindrift howls around us, the cold would freeze a penguin's tits off, ice crystals fill the air...and the conditions are much worse outside the tents.
- For supper we had only a little frozen mutton kidney seasoned with lark's vomit. When we make it to the next cache we plan to gorge ourselves on cheesecake. In the meantime Bowers has taken to eating a few pages of Captain Scott's porn magazines at every meal; he claims it keeps him regular. "I don't like to eat the pictures of ginger girls," he told me. "They don't taste as good as brunettes, somehow."
- Captain Scott allows Bowers this little luxury as long as he doesn't complain about hauling half-a-hundredweight of sandstone across the ice.
January 30, 1912.
- We have been camped at the top of the Beardmore Icefall for three days in an unrelenting blizzard. It must be blowing hard all the way to the sea; every hour or so the wind flings a frozen penguin against one of the tents with a dull whap. Fortunately we found the cheesecake cache and so have rations enough for another week; unfortunately Oates wasted much of the kerosene in trying to prepare a cheesecake flambé. He also burnt off his moustache and blistered his nose.
- Captain Scott tried to make him feel better by playing Mother McCredie's Lament on his infernal bagpipes, and could only be persuaded to stop when Oates tried to strangle himself with my Hello Kitty shoelaces. He would have succeeded had the shoelaces not been frozen so stiff he could not wrap them around his neck.
- Evans had a nasty accident. He stepped out of the tents to take a wee and got frostbite on his unit. "Well," said Oates, "many men are circumcised -- it can't be that bad."
- "It's worse than that," Evans muttered. "It's not just the end. It's all popsicle."
- "Ugh," said Oates, and changed the subject.
edit The Final Struggle
February 13, 1912
- THE ICEFALL. We are once again in parlous straits. The remaining cheesecake was on the back of the sledge, and today it fell off when the sledge tipped through a crust of snow into a hidden crevasse. We tried for several hours to get at the bundle of cheesecakes, but it was wedged at least a hundred feet down and the walls of the crevasse were slick blue ice, overhanging and unclimbable.
- So tonight we dined on boiled canvas and candle wax. We must find the next cache or we are done for.
February 28, 1912.
- Our strength is fading fast. Once again a blizzard has us pinned down. We search fitfully amongst our baggage for any scraps of food. Evans moaned all night, and this morning he went out into the storm -- he has not returned and I feel sure he is gone. Bowers spread Evans' sleeping-bag over himself and Oates. "What's this?" he said as a small object fell from the bedding. "It looks like a little blackened sausage. I didn't know we brought any sausages." And before I could stop him he popped it in his mouth. "Hmph," he said. "It tastes like wee."
- I shall miss Evans, but perhaps he would be pleased to know that at the end he gave some meagre sustenance to one of his fellows.
- Meanwhile the wind howls and the tents rattle, but above it all we can hear the sound of Captain Scott playing his infernal bagpipes.
March 8, 1912.
- In the past week we have covered only 20 miles as the penguin flies. Oates is very weak, and although he makes no complaint I believe his old war wound is hurting him. That's tragically unfair, seeing as he was never in a war. But even Captain Scott feels the strain -- last night he tried to give himself a haircut and a perm, and it came out badly with tufts sticking up and a shaved bit just at the back of his head. We said nothing but it was hard not to snigger when he tossed his head in that coquettish way he has. He sensed something was wrong but as we have no mirror he did not suspect just how bad he looked.
- For supper tonight we ate our underwear, boiled in a sauce with paprika and dried chives. The elastic caught in our teeth and the broth was not at all haute cuisine. Still, things could be worse.
- I just can't imagine how.
March 20, 1912.
- The end cannot be far off. Yesterday we ate Oates. In the diary we wrote "his" last words, "I am just going outside, and I may be some time."
- Bowers was never the most sensitive chap. When Oates had gone he played several hands of solitaire, although he has no chance of winning since there are only 47 cards left in the pack. After awhile he looked up and said, "When's Oatsie coming back?"
- "The next time you're visiting the head," I said.
- "Oh," said Bowers. Then he went back to playing solitaire. The sound of Mother McCredie's Lament issuing from Captain Scott's tent blended with the shrieking wind in a sort of wild funeral dirge. I watched Bowers flip the cards, and I knew we would all soon follow Oates into oblivion.
- "Red five on the black six," I said.
- "What?" said Bowers. Then he played the four of clubs on the five of spades.
- I am sure he is mentally incompetent.
March 25, 1912.
- We are having a run of bad luck. For the last week the wind has blasted straight against us, and the chill is so great that on yesterday's march Bowers' left eyeball froze solid. He popped it out and put it in his mouth to thaw it...but then had a dicey bit keeping his tongue from getting frostbitten as well. Now we are stuck again, a blizzard whirling with such ferocity that we dare not step outside. To avoid leaving the tent I have been stealthily peeing in Bowers' water-bottle. Just now I felt thirsty and had a drink, and found that he has been peeing in mine.
- There is no doubt that shared hardship brings men closer.
- Captain Scott is in a terrible mood, yelling and throwing things about inside his tent. "Where is my backup hairnet?" he shouts. "Who has my curling-iron? DAMMIT! This disorganization will be the death of me!"
March 29, 1912.
- We have barely enough fuel to make a cup of tea. The supply depot cannot be more than 11 miles away, but there is no chance to reach it. We huddle miserably inside our sleeping-bags, too weak to play with ourselves. Even Captain Scott's porn magazines do not arouse us.
- It seems a pity, but I do not think I can wank any more.
- Last entry: For God's sake burn Scott's bagpipes.
A rescue party set out from Hut Point six months later, when the Antarctic winter was over. They found Bowers and Wilson frozen solid inside their sleeping-bags. Captain Scott had died a little later; he had thrown off his sleeping gear and was wearing a red velvet bustier and a rhinestone tiara.
His hair was perfect.