zondag 12 april 2015

Thomas Orde-Lees -- 13 april 1916

Thomas Hans Orde-Lees (1877–1958) maakte deel uit van Ernest Shackletons Trans-Antarctic Expedition van 1914–1917, die strandde op de Zuidpool toen het expeditieschip Endurance werd kapotgedrukt door de ijsschotsen. Op een gegeven moment probeerde de expeditieleden in drie reddingssloepen een eiland te bereiken. Het fragment hieronder beschrijft een van de dagen uit de week dat die tocht duurde.

13 April 1916
The obligation of having to have the oars ready for immediate use greatly restricted the accommodation available for those not on the oars, and the frequent changing of watches was very trying.

It is only natural that the general discomfort engendered a certain amount of "snappiness" amongst us, some contending that if everyone would only agree to fit themselves in back to front there would just be room for all to lie down together, the opposition, asserting that this was not a feasible arrangement, sat hunched up and so precluded the "lie-down" adherents from putting their plan into execution, so that neither faction was as comfortable as they might have been by a little more amicable co-operation.

The increasing cold made sleep impossible. The temperature was not recorded, but judging from experience, it must have been as low, if not lower than, +10 degrees, for the spray was freezing on the oars all night until they were caked with ice making them double their weight and three times their normal thickness and as slippery as great icicles. It is not to be wondered at that during the night two oars were lost. This, later, proved a more serious loss than at first supposed.

When daylight came we found that not only were the boats sheathed in ice both outside and inside but that the surface of the sea, too, had frozen over sufficiently to greatly hamper the progress of rowing boats.

By 4 p.m. it was half a gale and although the sea was rough we made good way. As evening closed it got so rough that Sir Ernest deemed it unsafe to sail on through the night as he had, at first, intended to, and ordering the "Docker" and Wills to come up and make fast to the "Caird," a sea anchor was improvised out of a couple of oars and we all "lay to" for the night. The preparation of any beverage was out of the question, so we made do the best we could by again eating ice and also had some nut food and biscuit.

It was difficult enough to prevent the water from getting into the provision boxes whilst they were opened up to get the food out of for spray was washing right over the boats and frequent bailing out became necessary.

The "Caird" being partly decked over forward and aft was the least affected by it. On the other hand the "Wills" not having had her gunwale raised, as had the "Caird" and "Docker," had much the worst time throughout.

As the water splashed into the boats it froze instantly forming thick incrustations of ice on the inside of the boat and over all the gear freezing up the sail as stiff as a piece of corrugated iron. Fortunately the water which ran into the bottom of the boat did not freeze at once so that by frequent bailing we were able to keep pace with it and prevent the accumulation of ice along the keels, where, had it once formed, it would have been next to impossible to eradicate it on account of the cargo.

Much sleet covered us, and what with this and the sea spray we were all more or less wet through and our outer clothing was frozen stiff. Our time was largely occupied in picking the ice off each other's backs. It would be a lie to say that we were at all happy under these circumstances but now and again we made a feeble effort to assume a cheerful, hopeful air in spite of ourselves.

We were being sorely tried, indeed, though.

Morning came in at last. About 4 a.m., the storm abated and a glorious glow of crimson mauve flashed up on the eastern horizon and presently the sun itself peeped over the brink of the waters in all his golden splendour and so began the finest day we had had for weeks; but far more thrilling still, there lay Clarence Island rising high and snow-clad from out the sea not a great way off.

Certainly it seemed much nearer than it really was. It really was nearly 40 miles off, and yet it seemed no more than ten; but all the distances are very deceptive in the Antarctic owing both to the clearness of the atmosphere and to the absence of trees and the works of man whereby to form a comparison to gauge the distance by.

The brilliant morning then of the 14th amply compensated us for the misery of the night of the 13th to 14th April.

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