antarctica

Winds had built to hurricane force and huge seas were by now sweeping right over the ship, her bulwarks trapping the water, weighing the already overloaded ship down to the point where there was less of her above the water than below. The crew set to chopping away the bulwarks, assisted by subsequent pounding seas, which conveniently removed the remaining bulwarks and anything else that wasn't securely lashed down, like drums of petrol, sending them careening across the deck, smashing everything in their path. Scott ordered them jettisoned, rather than risk life and limb in an attempt to re-stow them. Fortunately, they were able to save a few drums, for without petrol, Scott's precious motor tractors would be useless. (As it turned out they were about as useful in the Antarctic as riding lawnmowers.)

Besides the crew, the sledge dogs were having a terrible time of it, chained to the open decks, soaked and shivering. Osman, the toughest, orneriest dog of the pack was hit by a massive wave that snapped his chain and washed him overboard. He would have surely drowned but was grabbed by a sailor and hauled back aboard as he floated past on the next wave. (This chastening experience led to his miraculous conversion to friendliness towards the crew for the rest of the trip.) Conditions were far worse for the Siberian ponies, who were being flung about their cramped stables in the focsle. Oates and Atkinson attempted to calm them, as the ponies were vital to the success of the expedition and they needed to keep them alive at all costs. However, if the ponies had even the slightest idea of what was waiting for them at their destination, they would have chewed through their stalls and leapt overboard, joining various other animals at the bottom of the ocean that had the misfortune to sign on as crew aboard the Terra Nova. The ship's rabbit had been squashed under a pony hoof and the ship's guinea pig who had set up house in an empty cigar box, met an unfortunate end when a seaman on cleaning detail tossed the box overboard.


From Return to Antarctica ©Adrian Raeside, published by John Wiley & Sons Canada, Ltd. In bookstores September 2009.

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