Glasgow Digital Library Voyage of the Scotia BRUCE PEOPLE SHIP ANTARCTIC INDEX
Scotland and the Antarctic

Section 8: Appendix

Log of the Scotia, 12 March 1904, Coats Land

74 01' S 22 00' W
When I got up this morning at 4am, the temperature was below zero, viz. 0F (-17.8C), with a cloudless sky and a very clear and dry atmosphere the wet bulb being -4.8F (-20.4C), and calm. At 6am the ground minimum recorded -6.5F (-21.4C). After 6am went up to the crow's-nest. Bay ice covered the open water to the outside of the bay, and everything looked as solid as could be. There seemed little doubt now that we would have to settle down for the winter here.
'After breakfast we heaved up the trap, securing a fine antedon, bryozoon, isopod, two of the same amphipods, and one of the same fish. Then I proceeded to get ready a sledge with the Lucas sounding-machine, to take soundings through the ice from the ship to the shore; and to get ready the reel and wire for the Nansen-Pettersen bottle, which I intended to work down the trap hole. Having set the latter going, the captain went up to the crow's-nest. A light south westerly air had now sprung up, and the temperature had risen rapidly, being 12.3F (-10.9C) at 8am, 15.5F (-9.2C) at 9am, and 16.8F (-8.4C) at 10am. The captain had not been up long when he saw a small crack opening between the rounded berg ahead, and the berg on the starboard bow. This soon widened sufficiently to allow a small boat to pull in it, and in a few minutes there was a lane broad and long enough to sail a ship in. Then all round, between the ship and the glacier especially, the ice broke up into a thousand pieces - gently, quietly, powerfully - and there was every prospect of an immediate liberation. I regretted very greatly that I had thus been prevented from taking this most important line of soundings, which I had till now failed to get on account of the treacherous condition of the ice. The heavy pieces of pack of which this tight ice was composed having an interstitial matrix of soft slush, which snow and heavy drift from the land had covered up, making it even more treacherous to travel over-as we knew from short excursions made in the vicinity of the ship. But now on account of the continued low temperatures since our besetment, and especially those of the last two days, a solid crust had formed so as to easily bare a man over the slushy parts. On the other hand, I was thankful that we had not started even an hour or two before, as our party would have been cut off not only from the land but also from the ship, and we should have been left drifting as helplessly as the ship on a floe without the possibility of reaching her, and without any of the barest necessities of life. Even if we had reached the land, so completely ice covered was it, and so absolutely barren, that it would have been a hard experience to be stranded there, possibly for a winter, without means of retreat. It was another lesson in the hard school of experience how, if one ever attempts such a journey, even of a few miles over pack in the open sea, it should not be undertaken without having some kind of boat, however light and fragile, and camp material, as well as a considerable quantity of extra clothing and food, as well as knives, gun and ammunition - which will provide all the food, shelter, and clothing that necessity demands. Soon after 11am We hoisted our flags - Royal Scottish Standard on the foremast, the burgee and blue ensign from the mizzen, the Union Jack and the silk Saint Andrew's cross made by my wife, ahead of the ship. Thus for the first time in 81 years, and only for the second time in the history of the South Polar exploration, the Union Jack flew south of 74S. in the western hemisphere, and on both occasions associated especially with the Saint Andrew's cross. I got all hands on the ice, and in spite of the dull, overcast weather, I took a photograph to record the event.
'At 2pm the ice cracked quite near to the ship, and we took all our gear, including the Monegasque trap, on board. A broad and long lane opened up astern of the ship, leading eastward, and thence north-east, large enough to sail a fleet through; and we drifted rapidly towards and past the north-west headland of the bay in which we had been lying beset since Monday. Then the ice cracked right in to the starboard quarter, and with great exertions we removed a small piece there, which liberated that side of the propeller and rudder. We were now embedded in a piece of ice not more than 200 yards across, with water right in to the starboard side of the rudder, and within half a ship's length of the starboard bow, where there was a crack through from the bow to the water; but the ship was still fast. Now we blasted with gunpowder and with tonite, but the ice was of such a consistency that only trifling holes were punched, and no cracks formed, there being no brittleness. Then we tried various methods, all hands jumping simultaneously on portions of the ice; all hands shoving with their backs against the ship's side and heels planted firmly in the floe: all hands running at given signals from one side of the ship to the other with no effect whatever! (Say the average weight of a man was 150lb (68 kilograms), the movement of all 33 persons at the same time would mean the shifting of a weight of over two tons.) Then we planted a huge ice anchor with a steel hawser made fast to it, and all hands heaved on the capstan: the cable was rent asunder! Nature smiled at our puny efforts, leaving us still embedded, with water all round us, chips breaking off everywhere, except where the ship was. Digging, hauling, shoving, jumping, running, blasting, were of no avail. The forces of Nature must do the work; so after many hours' toil, at 8 pm. the watch was set, all were sent below, and the watch warned to turn out at any time, night or day. We were all below discussing the situation, and I was suggesting that we should probably be liberated when we least expected it, when the captain heard a cracking and went on deck, and then the ship gave a lurch. "She's free!" he shouted, after being a minute on deck, and looking over the side; and rushing up we found the ice rent. Masses of ice and slush came churning up from under the ship, and once more she was afloat, after having been heaved up out of the water into a veritable dry dock of ice for six days. Resounding cheers rang out fore and aft, and never during the whole voyage had I seen everybody in such exuberant spirits.'

William Speirs Bruce
(published 1992)

image from Voyage of the Scotia

Previous  image thumbnail    Contents    image thumbnail  Next

Glasgow Digital Library Voyage of the Scotia BRUCE PEOPLE SHIP ANTARCTIC INDEX