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Chapter 4 - Food Depots

T he two ships, Terra Nova and Fram, arrived in Antarctica, in January 1911, at the end of summer. The Englishmen and the Norwegians wanted to stay on the ice all winter. They wanted to be ready to go to the South Pole at the beginning of the next Antarctic summer.

The dogs pulled the Norwegians’ sledges. They ran quickly over the snow and pulled the big sledges from the ship onto the ice. The men ran beside them on skis.

They put a big wooden house on the ice. The house was full of food, and skis, and sledges. They called it Framheim.

Outside the house, the dogs lived in holes under the snow.

When the house was ready, the men made their first journey south.

Before the winter, they wanted to take a lot of food south, and leave it in depots. For the long journey to the Pole, they needed a lot of food, and they couldn’t carry it all with them.

On February loth, five men, three sledges, eighteen dogs, and half a tonne of food left Framheim and went south.

It was easy. The weather was warm for the Antarctic, between -7’ Centigrade and -17’ Centigrade. The snow was good, and the dogs and skis went fast. They went fifty or sixty kilometres every day. After four days they reached 80’ South, and made the first depot.

Amundsen made his depot very carefully. It was very important to find it again, next summer. So he put a big black flag on top. Then he put ten flags to the east of the depot - each flag half a kilometre from the next - and ten flags to the west.

So there were flags for five kilometres to the left of the depot, and five kilometres to the right.

Then they went back to Framheim, and took some more food south, this time to 82’ South.

This time it was harder. The temperature was sometimes 40’ Centigrade, and there were strong winds with a lot of snow. The dogs and men were very tired, and the tents and boots were bad. At the second depot, they put out sixty flags, to help them find it again.

They came back to Framheim on March 23rd. It was nearly winter in the Antarctic. Their ship Fram was far away now, near South America. They were alone on the ice.

Oates went with Scott to make the first British depot. They left Cape Evans on January 25th. There were thirteen men, eight ponies, and twenty-six dogs. The dogs were faster than the ponies - they ran quickly over the top of the snow, but the ponies’ feet went through it. Every morning the ponies started first, and the dogs started two hours later, because they ran faster. At night, the dogs made warm holes under the snow, but the ponies stood on top of the snow. It was -20° Centigrade.

After fifteen days Oates talked to Scott. There was a strong wind, and the two men’s faces were white with snow.

‘Three of these ponies are ill, Captain,’ Oates said. ‘They can’t go on.’

‘Don’t be stupid, Oates,’ Scott answered. ‘They’re good strong animals - the best ponies on earth.’

‘Not these three,’ Oates said. ‘They’re ill, and unhappy, and now they can’t walk. Let’s kill them, and leave the meat here, in the snow. We can eat it, or the dogs can.’

‘Of course not!’ Scott said angrily. ‘These ponies are our friends, they work hard for us. I don’t kill my friends!’

Three days later, two of the ponies were dead.

Scott’s men were slower than Amundsen’s; it took them twenty-four days to get to 80’ South. They made a big depot there, and put one large black flag on top of it. Then they went back to Cape Evans.

Their camp was on an island in the ice, and the sea ice moved sometimes. There were holes in the ice, and black sea water under it. One day seven ponies went through the ice into the sea, and died. One motor sledge also went into the sea.

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