|Annotation of text copyright ©2008 David Trumbull for Agathon Associates. All Rights Reserved.|
SCIENTIFIC WORKBy J. M. WORDIE, M.A. (Cantab.), Lieut. R.F.A.
By the time the actual southern voyage commenced, each individual had his own particular line of work which he was prepared to follow out. The biologist at first confined himself to collecting the plankton, and a start was made in securing water samples for temperature and salinity. In this, from the beginning, he had the help of the geologist, who also gave instructions for the taking of a line of soundings under the charge of the ship’s officers. This period of the southward voyage was a very busy time so far as the scientists were concerned, for, besides their own particular work, they took the full share of looking after the dogs and working the ship watch by watch. At the same time, moreover, the biologist had to try and avoid being too lavish with his preserving material at the expense of the shore station collections which were yet to make.
When it was finally known that the ship had no longer any chance of getting free of the ice in the 1914–1915 season, a radical change was made in the arrangements. The scientists were freed, as far as possible, from ship’s duties, and were thus able to devote themselves almost entirely to their own particular spheres. The meteorological investigations took on a more definite shape; the instruments intended for the land base were set up on board ship, including self-recording barographs, thermometers, and a Dines anemometer, with which very satisfactory results were got. The physicist set up his quadrant electrometer after a good deal of trouble, but throughout the winter had to struggle constantly with rime forming on the parts of his apparatus exposed to the outer air. Good runs were being thus continually spoilt. The determination of the magnetic constants also took up a good part of his time.
Besides collecting plankton the biologist was now able to put down one or other of his dredges at more frequent intervals, always taking care, however, not to exhaust his store of preserving material, which was limited. The taking of water samples was established on a better system, so that the series should be about equally spaced out over the ship’s course. The geologist suppressed all thought of rocks, though occasionally they were met with in bottom samples; his work became almost entirely oceanographical, and included a study of the sea-ice, of the physiography of the sea floor as shown by daily soundings, and of the bottom deposits; besides this he helped the biologist in the temperature and salinity observations.
The work undertaken and accomplished by each member was as wide as
possible; but it was only in keeping with the spirit of the times
that more attention should be paid to work from which practical and
economic results were likely to accrue. The meteorologist had
always in view the effect of Antarctic climate on the other
southern continents, the geologist looked on ice from a seaman’s
point of view, and the biologist not unwillingly put whales in the
forefront of his programme. The accounts which follow on these very
practical points show how closely scientific work in the
Antarctica is in touch with, and helps on the economic development
of, the inhabited lands to the north.
That the old terms of Scoresby did not all survive the period of indifference to Polar work, in spite of Markham and Mill, is an indication either that their usefulness has ceased or that the original usage has changed once and for all. A restatement of terms is therefore now necessary. Where possible the actual phrases of Scoresby and of his successors, Markham and Mill, are still used. The principle adopted, however, is to give preference to the words actually used by the Polar seamen themselves.
The following authorities have been followed as closely as possible:
W. Scoresby, Jun., “An Account of the Arctic Regions,” 1820, vol. i, pp. 225–233, 238–241.
C. R. Markham and H. R. Mill in “The Antarctic Manual,” 1901, pp. xiv–xvi.
J. Payer, “New Lands within the Arctic Circle,” 1876, vol. i, pp. 3–14.
W. S. Bruce, “Polar Exploration” in Home University Library, c. 1911, pp. 54–71.
Reference should also be made to the annual publication of the Danish Meteorological Institute showing the Arctic ice conditions of the previous summer. This is published in both Danish and English, so that the terms used there are bound to have a very wide acceptance; it is hoped, therefore, that they may be the means of preventing the Antarctic terminology following a different line of evolution; for but seldom is a seaman found nowadays who knows both Polar regions. On the Danish charts six different kinds of sea-ice are marked—namely, unbroken polar ice; land-floe; great ice-fields; tight pack-ice; open ice; bay-ice and brash. With the exception of bay-ice, which is more generally known as young ice, all these terms pass current in the Antarctic.
Slush or Sludge. The initial stages in the freezing of sea-water, when its consistency becomes gluey or soupy. The term is also used (but not commonly) for brash-ice still further broken down.
Pancake-ice. Small circular floes with raised rims; due to the break-up in a gently ruffled sea of the newly formed ice into pieces which strike against each other, and so form turned-up edges.
Young Ice. Applied to all unhummocked ice up to about a foot in thickness. Owing to the fibrous or platy structure, the floes crack easily, and where the ice is not over thick a ship under steam cuts a passage without much difficulty. Young ice may originate from the coalescence of “pancakes,” where the water is slightly ruffled or else be a sheet of “black ice,” covered maybe with “ice-flowers,” formed by the freezing of a smooth sheet of sea-water.
In the Arctic it has been the custom to call this form of ice “bay-ice”; in the Antarctic, however, the latter term is wrongly used for land-floes (fast-ice, etc.), and has been so misapplied consistently for fifteen years. The term bay-ice should possibly, therefore, be dropped altogether, especially since, even in the Arctic, its meaning is not altogether a rigid one, as it may denote firstly the gluey “slush,” which forms when sea-water freezes, and secondly the firm level sheet ultimately produced.
Land floes. Heavy but not necessarily hummocked ice, with generally a deep snow covering, which has remained held up in the position of growth by the enclosing nature of some feature of the coast, or by grounded bergs throughout the summer season when most of the ice breaks out. Its thickness is, therefore, above the average. Has been called at various times “fast-ice,” “coast-ice,” “land-ice,” “bay-ice” by Shackleton and David and the Charcot Expedition; and possibly what Drygalski calls Schelfeis is not very different.
Floe. An area of ice, level or hummocked, whose limits are within sight. Includes all sizes between brash on the one hand and fields on the other. “Light-floes” are between one and two feet in thickness (anything thinner being “young-ice”). Those exceeding two feet in thickness are termed “heavy floes,” being generally hummocked, and in the Antarctic, at any rate, covered by fairly deep snow.
Field. A sheet of ice of such extent that its limits cannot be seen from the masthead.
Hummocking. Includes all the processes of pressure formation whereby level young ice becomes broken up and built up into
Hummocky Floes. The most suitable term for what has also been called “old pack” and “screwed pack” by David and Scholleneis by German writers. In contrast to young ice, the structure is no longer fibrous, but becomes spotted or bubbly, a certain percentage of salt drains away, and the ice becomes almost translucent.
The Pack is a term very often used in a wide sense to include any area of sea-ice, no matter what form it takes or how disposed. The French term is banquise de derive.
Pack-ice. A more restricted use than the above, to include hummocky floes or close areas of young ice and light floes. Pack-ice is “close” or “tight” if the floes constituting it are in contact; “open” if, for the most part, they do not touch. In both cases it hinders, but does not necessarily check, navigation; the contrary holds for
Drift-ice. Loose open ice, where the area of water exceeds that of ice. Generally drift-ice is within reach of the swell, and is a stage in the breaking down of pack-ice, the size of the floes being much smaller than in the latter. (Scoresby’s use of the term drift-ice for pieces of ice intermediate in size between floes and brash has, however, quite died out). The Antarctic or Arctic pack usually has a girdle or fringe of drift-ice.
Brash. Small fragments and roundish nodules; the wreck of other kinds of ice.
Bergy Bits. Pieces, about the size of a cottage, of glacier-ice or of hummocky pack washed clear of snow.
Growlers. Still smaller pieces of sea-ice than the above, greenish in colour, and barely showing above water-level.
Crack. Any sort of fracture or rift in the sea-ice covering.
Lead or Lane. Where a crack opens out to such a width as to be navigable. In the Antarctic it is customary to speak of these as leads, even when frozen over to constitute areas of young ice.
Pools. Any enclosed water areas in the pack, where length
and breadth are about equal.
South America is, perhaps, more intimately concerned than any other country, but Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa are all affected by the weather conditions of the Antarctic. Researches are now being carried on which tend to show that the meteorology of the two hemispheres is more interdependent than was hitherto believed, so that a meteorological disturbance in one part of the world makes its presence felt, more or less remotely perhaps, all over the world.
It is evident, therefore, that a complete knowledge of the weather conditions in any part of the world, which it is understood carries with it the ability to make correct forecasts, can never be obtained unless the weather conditions in every other part are known. This makes the need for purely scientific Polar Expeditions so imperative, since our present knowledge of Arctic and Antarctic meteorology is very meagre, and to a certain extent unsystematic. What is wanted is a chain of observing stations well equipped with instruments and trained observers stretching across the Antarctic Continent. A series of exploring ships could supplement these observations with others made by them while cruising in the Antarctic Seas. It would pay to do this, even for the benefit accruing to farmers, sailors, and others who are so dependent on the weather.
As an instance of the value of a knowledge of Antarctic weather conditions, it may be mentioned that, as the result of observations and researches carried out at the South Orkneys—a group of sub-Antarctic islands at the entrance to the Weddell Sea—it has been found that a cold winter in that sea is a sure precursor of a drought over the maize and cereal bearing area of Argentina three and a half years later. To the farmers, the value of this knowledge so far in advance is enormous, and since England has some three hundred million pounds sterling invested in Argentine interests, Antarctic Expeditions have proved, and will prove, their worth even from a purely commercial point of view.
I have given just this one instance to satisfy those who question the utility of Polar Expeditions, but many more could be cited.
As soon as it was apparent that no landing could be made, and that we should have to spend a winter in the ship drifting round with the pack, instruments were set up and observations taken just as if we had been ashore.
A meteorological screen or box was erected on a platform over the stern, right away from the living quarters, and in it were placed the maximum and minimum thermometers, the recording barograph, and thermograph—an instrument which writes every variation of the temperature and pressure on a sheet of paper on a revolving drum—and the standard thermometer, a very carefully manufactured thermometer, with all its errors determined and tabulated. The other thermometers were all checked from this one. On top of the screen a Robinson’s anemometer was screwed. This consisted of an upright rod, to the top of which were pivoted four arms free to revolve in a plane at right angles to it. At the end of these arms hemispherical cups were screwed. These were caught by the wind and the arms revolved at a speed varying with the force of the wind. The speed of the wind could be read off on a dial below the arms.
In addition there was an instrument called a Dines anemometer which supplied interesting tracings of the force, duration, and direction of the wind. There was an added advantage in the fact that the drum on which these results were recorded was comfortably housed down below, so that one could sit in a comparatively warm room and follow all the varying phases of the blizzard which was raging without. The barometer used was of the Kew Standard pattern. When the ship was crushed, all the monthly records were saved, but the detailed tracings, which had been packed up in the hold, were lost. Though interesting they were not really essential. Continuous observations were made during the long drift on the floe and while on Elephant Island the temperature was taken at midday each day as long as the thermometers lasted. The mortality amongst these instruments, especially those which were tied to string and swung round, was very high.
A few extracts from the observations taken during 1915—the series for that year being practically complete—may be of interest. January was dull and overcast, only 7 per cent. of the observations recording a clear blue sky, 71 per cent. being completely overcast.
The percentage of clear sky increased steadily up till June and July, these months showing respectively 42 per cent. and 45.7 per cent. In August 40 per cent. of the observations were clear sky, while September showed a sudden drop to 27 per cent. October weather was much the same, and November was practically overcast the whole time, clear sky showing at only 8 per cent. of the observations. In December the sky was completely overcast for nearly 90 per cent. of the time.
Temperatures on the whole were fairly high, though a sudden unexpected drop in February, after a series of heavy north-easterly gales, caused the ship to be frozen in, and effectually put an end to any hopes of landing that year. The lowest temperature experienced was in July, when —35° Fahr., i.e. 67° below freezing, was reached. Fortunately, as the sea was one mass of consolidated pack, the air was dry, and many days of fine bright sunshine occurred. Later on, as the pack drifted northwards and broke up, wide lanes of water were formed, causing fogs and mist and dull overcast weather generally. In short, it may be said that in the Weddell Sea the best weather comes in winter. Unfortunately during that season the sun also disappears, so that one cannot enjoy it as much as one would like.
As a rule, too, southerly winds brought fine clear weather, with marked fall in the temperature, and those from the north were accompanied by mist, fog, and overcast skies, with comparatively high temperatures. In the Antarctic a temperature of 30°, i.e. 2° below freezing, is considered unbearably hot.
The greatest difficulty that was experienced was due to the accumulation of rime on the instruments. In low temperatures everything became covered with ice-crystals, deposited from the air, which eventually grew into huge blocks. Sometimes these blocks became dislodged and fell, making it dangerous to walk along the decks. The rime collected on the thermometers, the glass bowl of the sunshine recorder, and the bearings of the anemometer, necessitating the frequent use of a brush to remove it, and sometimes effectively preventing the instruments from recording at all.
One of our worst blizzards occurred on August 1, 1915, which was, for the ship, the beginning of the end. It lasted for four days, with cloudy and overcast weather for the three following days, and from that time onwards we enjoyed very little sun.
The weather that we experienced on Elephant Island can only be described as appalling. Situated as we were at the mouth of a gully, down which a huge glacier was slowly moving, with the open sea in front and to the left, and towering, snow-covered mountains on our right, the air was hardly ever free from snowdrift, and the winds increased to terrific violence through being forced over the glacier and through the narrow gully. Huge blocks of ice were hurled about like pebbles, and cases of clothing and cooking utensils were whisked out of our hands and carried away to sea. For the first fortnight after our landing there, the gale blew, at times, at over one hundred miles an hour. Fortunately it never again quite reached that intensity, but on several occasions violent squalls made us very fearful for the safety of our hut. The island was almost continuously covered with a pall of fog and snow, clear weather obtaining occasionally when pack-ice surrounded us. Fortunately a series of south-westerly gales had blown all the ice away to the north-east two days before the rescue ship arrived, leaving a comparatively clear sea for her to approach the island.
Being one solitary moving station in the vast expanse of the Weddell Sea, with no knowledge of what was happening anywhere around us, forecasting was very difficult and at times impossible.
Great assistance in this direction was afforded by copies of Mr. R. C. Mossmann’s researches and papers on Antarctic meteorology, which he kindly supplied to us.
I have tried to make this very brief account of the meteorological
side of the Expedition rather more “popular” than scientific,
since the publication and scientific discussion of the observations
will be carried out elsewhere; but if, while showing the
difficulties under which we had to work, it emphasizes the value
of Antarctic Expeditions from a purely utilitarian point of view,
and the need for further continuous research into the conditions
obtaining in the immediate neighbourhood of the Pole, it will have
achieved its object.
So far as possible, continuous records of the electric potential gradient in the atmosphere were taken, a form of quadrant electrometer with a boom and ink recorder, made by the Cambridge Scientific Instrument Company, being employed. Here again, the somewhat peculiar conditions made work difficult, as the instrument was very susceptible to small changes of level, such as occurred from time to time owing to the pressure of the ice on the ship. An ionium collector, for which the radioactive material was kindly supplied by Mr. F. H. Glew, was used. The chief difficulty to contend with was the constant formation of thick deposits of rime, which either grew over the insulation and spoiled it, or covered up the collector so that it could no longer act. Nevertheless, a considerable number of good records were obtained, which have not yet been properly worked out. Conditions during the Expedition were very favourable for observations on the physical properties and natural history of sea-ice, and a considerable number of results were obtained, which are, however, discussed elsewhere, mention of them being made here since they really come under the heading of physics.
In addition to these main lines of work, many observations of a miscellaneous character were made, including those on the occurrence and nature of parhelia or “mock suns,” which were very common, and generally finely developed, and observations of the auroral displays, which were few and rather poor owing to the comparatively low magnetic latitude. Since most of the observations made are of little value without a knowledge of the place where they were made, and since a very complete set of soundings were also taken, the daily determination of the ship’s position was a matter of some importance. The drift of the ship throws considerable light on at least one geographical problem, that of the existence of Morrell Land. The remainder of this appendix will therefore be devoted to a discussion of the methods used to determine the positions of the ship from day to day.
The latitude and longitude were determined astronomically every
day when the sun or stars were visible, the position thus
determined serving as the fixed points between which the position
on days when the sky was overcast could be interpolated by the
process known as “dead reckoning,” that is to say, by estimating
the speed and course of the ship, taking into account the various
causes affecting it. The sky was often overcast for several days
at a stretch, and it was worth while to take a certain amount of
care in the matter. Captain Worsley constructed an apparatus
which gave a good idea of the direction of drift at any time.
This consisted of an iron rod, which passed through an iron
tube, frozen vertically into the ice, into the water below. At
the lower end of the rod, in the water, was a vane. The rod being
free to turn, the vane took up the direction of the current, the
direction being shown by an indicator attached to the top of the
rod. The direction shown depended, of course, on the drift of
the ice relative to the water, and did not take into account any
actual current which may have been carrying the ice with it, but
the true current seems never to have been large, and the direction
of the vane probably gave fairly accurately the direction of the
drift of the ice. No exact idea of the rate of drift could be
obtained from the apparatus, although one could get an estimate
of it by displacing the vane from its position of rest and
noticing how quickly it returned to it, the speed of return
being greater the more rapid the drift. Another means of
estimating the speed and direction of the drift was from
the trend of the wire when a sounding was being taken. The rate
and direction of drift appeared to depend almost entirely on the
wind-velocity and direction at the time. If any true current-effect
existed, it is not obvious from a rough comparison of the
drift with the prevailing wind, but a closer investigation
of the figures may show some outstanding effect due to current.*
* Cf. “Scientific results of Norwegian North Polar Expedition, 1893–96,” vol. iii, p. 357.
The drift was always to the left of the actual wind-direction. This effect is due to the rotation of the earth, a corresponding deviation to the right of the wind direction being noted by Nansen during the drift of the Fram. A change in the direction of the wind was often preceded by some hours by a change in the reading of the drift vane. This is no doubt due to the ice to windward being set in motion, the resulting disturbance travelling through the ice more rapidly than the approaching wind.
For the astronomical observations either the sextant or a theodolite was used. The theodolite employed was a light 3´´ Vernier instrument by Carey Porter, intended for sledging work. This instrument was fairly satisfactory, although possibly rigidity had been sacrificed to lightness to rather too great an extent. Another point which appears worth mentioning is the following: The foot-screws were of brass, the tribrach, into which they fitted, was made of aluminium for the sake of lightness. The two metals have a different coefficient of expansion, and while the feet fitted the tribrach at ordinary temperatures, they were quite loose at temperatures in the region of 20° Fahr. below zero. In any instrument designed for use at low temperatures, care should be taken that parts which have to fit together are made of the same material.
For determining the position in drifting pack-ice, the theodolite proved to be a more generally useful instrument than the sextant. The ice-floes are quite steady in really thick pack-ice, and the theodolite can be set up and levelled as well as on dry land. The observations, both for latitude and longitude, consist in measuring altitude of the sun or of a star. The chief uncertainty in this measurement is that introduced by the refraction of light by the air. At very low temperatures, the correction to be applied on this account is uncertain, and, if possible, observations should always be made in pairs with a north star and a south star for a latitude, and an east star and a west star for a longitude. The refraction error will then usually mean out. This error affects observations both with the theodolite and the sextant, but in the case of the sextant another cause of error occurs. In using the sextant, the angle between the heavenly body and the visible horizon is measured directly. Even in dense pack-ice, if the observations are taken from the deck of the ship or from a hummock or a low berg, the apparent horizon is usually sharp enough for the purpose. In very cold weather, however, and particularly if there are open leads and pools between the observer and the horizon, there is frequently a great deal of mirage, and the visible horizon may be miraged up several minutes. This will reduce the altitude observed, and corrections on this account are practically impossible to apply. This error may be counterbalanced to some extent by pairing observations as described above, but it by no means follows that the mirage effect will be the same in the two directions. Then again, during the summer months, no stars will be visible, and observations for latitude will have to depend on a single noon sight of the sun. If the sun is visible at midnight its altitude will be too low for accurate observations, and in any case atmospheric conditions will be quite different from those prevailing at noon. In the Antarctic, therefore, conditions are peculiarly difficult for getting really accurate observations, and it is necessary to reduce the probability of error in a single observation as much as possible. When possible, observations of the altitude of a star or of the sun should be taken with the theodolite, since the altitude is referred to the spirit-level of the instrument, and is independent of any apparent horizon. During the drift of the Endurance both means of observation were generally employed. A comparison of the results showed an agreement between sextant and theodolite, within the errors of the instrument if the temperature was above about 20° Fahr. At lower temperatures there were frequently discrepancies which could generally be attributed to the mirage effects described above.
As the Endurance was carried by the ice-drift well to the west of the Weddell Sea, towards the position of the supposed Morrell Land, the accurate determination of longitude became a matter of moment in view of the controversy as to the existence of this land. During a long voyage latitude can always be determined with about the same accuracy, the accuracy merely depending on the closeness with which altitudes can be measured. In the case of longitude matters are rather different. The usual method employed consists in the determination of the local time by astronomical observations, and the comparison of this time with Greenwich time, as shown by the ship’s chronometer, an accurate knowledge of the errors and rate of the chronometer being required. During the voyage of the Endurance about fifteen months elapsed during which no check on the chronometers could be obtained by the observation of known land, and had no other check been applied there would have been the probability of large errors in the longitudes. For the purpose of checking the chronometers a number of observations of occultations were observed during the winter of 1915. An occultation is really the eclipse of a star by the moon. A number of such eclipses occur monthly, and are tabulated in the “Nautical Almanac.” From the data given there it is possible to compute the Greenwich time at which the phenomenon ought to occur for an observer situated at any place on the earth, provided his position is known within a few miles, which will always be the case. The time of disappearance of the star by the chronometer to be corrected is noted. The actual Greenwich time of the occurrence is calculated, and the error of the chronometer is thus determined. With ordinary care the chronometer error can be determined in this way to within a few seconds, which is accurate enough for purposes of navigation. The principal difficulties of this method lie in the fact that comparatively few occultations occur, and those which do occur are usually of stars of the fifth magnitude or lower. In the Antarctic, conditions for observing occultation are rather favourable during the winter, since, fifth-magnitude stars can be seen with a small telescope at any time during the twenty-four hours if the sky is clear, and the moon is also often above the horizon for a large fraction of the time. In the summer, however, the method is quite impossible, since, for some months, stars are not to be seen.
No chronometer check could be applied until June 1915. On June 24
a series of four occultations were observed; and the results of
the observations showed an error in longitude of a whole degree.
In July, August, and September further occultations were observed,
and a fairly reliable rate was worked out for the chronometers and
watches. After the crushing of the ship on October 27, 1915, no
further occultations were observed, but the calculated rates for
the watches were employed, and the longitude deduced, using these
rates on March 23, 1916, was only about 10´ of arc in error,
judging by the observations of Joinville Land made on that day.
It is thus fairly certain that no large error can have been made
in the determination of the position of the Endurance at any time
during the drift, and her course can be taken as known with
greater certainty than is usually the case in a voyage of such
The industry is prosperous, and the products always find a ready market. In this sub-Antarctic area alone, the resulting products more than doubled the world’s supply. The total value of the Falkland Island Dependencies in 1913 amounted to £1,252,432, in 1914 to £1,300,978, in 1915 to £1,333,401, and in 1916 to £1,774,570. This has resulted chiefly from the marketing of whale oil and the by-product, guano, and represents for each total a season’s capture of several thousand whales. In 1916, the number of whales captured in this area was 11,860, which included 6000 for South Georgia alone. Whale oil, which is now the product of most economic value in the whaling industry, is produced in four grades (some companies adding a fifth). These are Nos. 0, I, II, III, IV, which in 1913 sold at £24, £22, £20, and £18 respectively per ton, net weight, barrels included (there are six barrels to a ton). The 1919 prices have increased to
£72 10s. per ton (barrels included) less 2½ per cent.
Whale oil can be readily transformed into glycerine: it is used in the manufacture of soap, and quite recently, both in this country and in Norway, it has been refined by means of a simple hardening process into a highly palatable and nutritious margarine. Wartime conditions emphasized the importance of the whale oil, and fortunately the supply was fairly constant for the production of the enormous quantities of glycerine required by the country in the manufacture of explosives. In relation to the food supply, it was no less important in saving the country from a “fat” famine, when the country was confronted with the shortage of vegetable and other animal oils. The production of guano, bone-meal, and flesh-meal may pay off the running expenses of a whaling-station, but their value lies, perhaps, more in their individual properties. Flesh-meal makes up into cattle-cake, which forms an excellent fattening food for cattle, while bone-meal and guano are very effective fertilizers. Guano is the meat—generally the residue of distillation—which goes through a process of drying and disintegration, and is mixed with the crushed bone in the proportion of two parts flesh to one part bone. This is done chiefly at the shore stations, and, to a less extent on floating factories, though so far on the latter it has not proved very profitable. Whale flesh, though slightly greasy perhaps and of strong flavour, is quite palatable, and at South Georgia, it made a welcome addition to our bill of fare—the flesh of the hump back being used. A large supply of whale flesh was “shipped” as food for the dogs on the journey South, and this was eaten ravenously. It is interesting to note also the successful rearing of pigs at South Georgia—chiefly, if not entirely, on the whale products. The whalebone or baleen plates, which at one time formed the most valuable article of the Arctic fishery, may here be regarded as of secondary importance. The baleen plates of the southern right whale reach only a length of about 7 ft., and have been valued at £750 per ton, but the number of these whales captured is very small indeed. In the case of the other whalebone whales, the baleen plates are much smaller and of inferior quality—the baleen of the sei whale probably excepted, and this only makes about £85 per ton, Sperm whales have been taken at South Georgia and the South Shetlands, but never in any quantity, being more numerous in warmer areas. The products and their value are too well known to be repeated.
The Endurance reached South Georgia on November 5, 1914, and anchored in King Edward Cove, Cumberland Bay, off Grytviken, the shore station of the Argentina Pesca Company. During the month’s stay at the island a considerable amount of time was devoted to a study of the whales and the whaling industry, in the intervals of the general routine of expedition work, and simultaneously with other studies on the general life of this interesting sub-Antarctic island. Visits were made to six of the seven existing stations, observations were made on the whales landed, and useful insight was gathered as to the general working of the industry.
From South Georgia the track of the Endurance lay in a direct line to the South Sandwich Group, between Saunders and Candlemas Islands. Then south-easterly and southerly courses were steered to the Coats’ Land barrier, along which we steamed for a few hundred miles until forced westward, when we were unfortunately held up in about lat. 76° 34´ S. and long. 37° 30´ W. on January 19, 1915, by enormous masses of heavy pack-ice. The ship drifted to lat. 76° 59´ S., long. 37° 47´ W. on March 19, 1915, and then west and north until crushed in lat. 69° 5´ S. and long. 51° 30´ W. on October 26, 1915. We continued drifting gradually north, afloat on ice-floes, past Graham Land and Joinville Island, and finally took to the boats on April 9, 1916, and reached Elephant Island on April 15. The Falkland Island Dependencies were thus practically circumnavigated, and it may be interesting to compare the records of whales seen in the region outside and to the south of this area with the records and the percentage of each species captured in the intensive fishing area.
The most productive part of the South Atlantic lies south of latitude 50° S., where active operations extend to and even beyond the Antarctic circle. It appears to be the general rule in Antarctic waters that whales are more numerous the closer the association with ice conditions, and there seems to be reasonable grounds for supposing that this may explain the comparatively few whales sighted by Expeditions which have explored the more northerly and more open seas, while the whalers themselves have even asserted that their poor seasons have nearly always coincided with the absence of ice, or with poor ice conditions. At all events, those Expeditions which have penetrated far south and well into the pack-ice have, without exception, reported the presence of whales in large numbers, even in the farthest south latitudes, so that our knowledge of the occurrence of whales in the Antarctic has been largely derived from these Expeditions, whose main object was either the discovery of new land or the Pole itself. The largest number of Antarctic Expeditions has concentrated on the two areas of the South Atlantic and the Ross Sea, and the records of the occurrences of whales have, in consequence, been concentrated in these two localities. In the intervening areas, however, Expeditions, notably the Belgica on the western side and the Gauss on the eastern side of the Antarctic continent, have reported whales in moderately large numbers, so that the stock is by no means confined to the two areas above mentioned.
The effective fishing area may be assumed to lie within a radius of a hundred miles from each shore station and floating-factory anchorage, and a rough estimate of all the Falkland stations works out at 160,000 square miles. The total for the whole Falkland area is about 2,000,000 square miles, which is roughly less than a sixth of the total Antarctic sea area. The question then arises as to how far the “catch percentage” during the short fishing season affects the total stock, but so far one can only conjecture as to the actual results from a comparison of the numbers seen, chiefly by scientific and other Expeditions, in areas outside the intensive fishing area with the numbers and percentage of each species captured in the intensive fishing area. Sufficient evidence, however, seems to point quite definitely to one species—the humpback—being in danger of extermination, but the blue and fin whales—the other two species of rorquals which form the bulk of the captures—appear to be as frequent now as they have ever been.
The whales captured at the various whaling-stations of the Falkland area are confined largely to three species—blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus), fin whale (Balaenoptera physalis), and humpback (Megaptera nodosa); sperm whales (Physeter catodon) and right whales (Balaena glacialis) being only occasional and rare captures, while the sei whale (Balaenoptera borealis) appeared in the captures at South Georgia in 1913, and now forms a large percentage of the captures at the Falkland Islands. During the earlier years of whaling at South Georgia, and up to the fishing season 1910–11, humpbacks formed practically the total catch. In 1912–13 the following were the percentages for the three rorquals in the captures at South Georgia and South Shetlands:
Humpback 38 per cent., fin whale 36 per cent., blue whale 20 per cent. Of late years the percentages have altered considerably, blue whales and fin whales predominating, humpbacks decreasing rapidly. In 1915, the South Georgia Whaling Company (Messrs. Salvesen, Leith) captured 1085 whales, consisting of 15 per cent. humpback, 25 per cent. fin whales, 58 per cent. blue whales, and 2 right whales. In the same year the captures of three companies at the South Shetlands gave 1512 whales, and the percentages worked out at 12 per cent. humpbacks, 42 per cent. fin whales, and 45 per cent. blue whales. In 1919, the Southern Whaling and Sealing Company captured (at Stromness, South Georgia) 529 whales, of which 2 per cent. were humpbacks, 51 per cent. fin whales, and 45 per cent. blue whales. These captures do not represent the total catch, but are sufficiently reliable to show how the species are affected. The reduction in numbers of the humpback is very noticeable, and even allowing for the possible increase in size of gear for the capture of the larger and more lucrative blue and fin whales, there is sufficient evidence to warrant the fears that the humpback stock is threatened with extinction.
In the immediate northern areas—in the region from latitude 50° S. northward to the equator, which is regarded as next in importance quantitatively to the sub-Antarctic, though nothing like being so productive, the captures are useful for a comparative study in distribution. At Saldanha Bay, Cape Colony, in 1912, 131 whales were captured and the percentages were as follows: 35 per cent. humpback, 13 per cent. fin whale, 4 per cent. blue whale, 46 per cent. sei whale, while nearer the equator, at Port Alexander, the total capture was 322 whales, and the percentages gave 98 per cent. humpback, and only 2 captures each of fin and sei whales. In 1914, at South Africa (chiefly Saldanha Bay and Durban), out of a total of 839 whales 60 per cent. were humpback, 25 per cent. fin whales, and 13 per cent. blue whales. In 1916, out of a total of 853 whales 10 per cent. were humpback, 13 per cent. fin whales, 6 per cent. blue whales, 68 per cent. sperm whales, and 1 per cent. sei whales. In Chilian waters, in 1916, a total of 327 whales gave 31 per cent. humpbacks, 24 per cent. fin whales, 26 per cent. blue whales, 12 per cent. sperm whales, and 5 right whales. There seems then to be a definite interrelation between the two areas. The same species of whales are captured, and the periods of capture alternate with perfect regularity, the fishing season occurring from the end of November to April in the sub-Antarctic and from May to November in the sub-tropics. A few of the companies, however, carry on operations to a limited extent at South Georgia and at the Falkland islands during the southern winter, but the fishing is by no means a profitable undertaking, though proving the presence of whales in this area during the winter months.
The migrations of whales are influenced by two causes:
(1) The distribution of their food-supply;
In the Antarctic, during the summer months, there is present in the sea an abundance of plant and animal life, and whales which feed on the small plankton organisms are correspondingly numerous, but in winter this state of things is reversed, and whales are poorly represented or absent, at least in the higher latitudes. During the drift of the Endurance samples of plankton were taken almost daily during an Antarctic summer and winter. From December to March, a few minutes haul of a tow-net at the surface was sufficient to choke up the meshes with the plant and animal life, but this abundance of surface life broke off abruptly in April, and subsequent hauls contained very small organisms until the return of daylight and the opening up of the pack-ice. The lower water strata, down to about 100 fathoms, were only a little more productive, and Euphausiae were taken in the hauls—though sparingly. During the winter spent at Elephant Island, our total catch of gentoo penguins amounted to 1436 for the period April 15 to August 30, 1916. All these birds were cut up, the livers and hearts were extracted for food, and the skins were used as fuel. At the same time the stomachs were invariably examined, and a record kept of the contents. The largest proportion of these contained the small crustacean Euphausia, and this generally to the exclusion of other forms. Occasionally, however, small fish were recorded. The quantity of Euphausiae present in most of the stomachs was enormous for the size of the birds. These penguins were migrating, and came ashore only when the bays were clear of ice, as there were several periods of fourteen consecutive days when the bays and the surrounding sea were covered over with a thick compact mass of ice-floes, and then penguins were entirely absent. Euphausiae, then, seem to be present in sufficient quantity in certain, if not in all, sub-Antarctic waters during the southern winter. We may assume then that the migration to the south, during the Antarctic summer, is definitely in search of food. Observations have proved the existence of a northern migration, and it seems highly improbable that this should also be in search of food, but rather for breeding purposes, and it seems that the whales select the more temperate regions for the bringing forth of their young. This view is strengthened by the statistical foetal records, which show the pairing takes place in the northern areas, that the foetus is carried by the mother during the southern migration to the Antarctic, and that the calves are born in the more congenial waters north of the sub-Antarctic area. We have still to prove, however, the possibility of a circumpolar migration, and we are quite in the dark as to the number of whales that remain in sub-Antarctic areas during the Southern winter.
The following is a rough classification of whales, with special reference to those known to occur in the South Atlantic:
1. WHALEBONE WHALES (Mystacoceti) | ____________________|__________________ | | Right whales (Balaenidae) Rorquals (Balaenopteridae) | ________________|_________ Southern right whale | | (Balaena glacialis) Finner whales Humpback (Balaenoptera) (Megaptera nodosa) | | Blue whale (B. musculus) Fin whale (B. physalis) Sei whale (B. borealis) Piked whale (B. acutorostrata) Bryde’s whale (B. brydei) 2. TOOTHED WHALES (Odontoceti) | _________________________|________________________ | | | Sperm whale Beaked whales Dolphins (Physeter catodon) (including bottlenose whales) (1) Killer (Hyperoodon rostratus) (Orcinus orca) (2) Black Fish (Globicephalus melas) (3) Porpoises (Lagenorhynchus sp.)
With the exception of several schools of porpoises very few whales were seen during the outward voyage. Not till we approached the Falkland area did they appear in any numbers. Four small schools of fin whales and a few humpbacks were sighted on October 28 and 29, 1914, in lat. 38° 01´ S., long. 55° 03´ W. and in lat. 40° 35´ S., long. 53° 11´ W., while Globicephalus melas was seen only once, in lat. 45° 17´ S., long. 48° 58´ W., on October 31, 1914. At South Georgia, the whales captured at the various stations in December 1914, were blue whales, fin whales, and humpbacks (arranged respectively according to numbers captured). During the fishing season 1914–15 (from December to March) in the area covered—South Georgia to the South Sandwich Islands and along Coats’ Land to the head of the Weddell Sea—the records of whales were by no means numerous. Two records only could with certainty be assigned to the humpback, and these were in the neighbourhood of the South Sandwich Islands. Pack-ice was entered in lat. 59° 55´ S., long. 18° 28´ W., and blue whales were recorded daily until about 65° S. Between lat. 65° 43´ S., long. 17° 30´ W., on December 27, 1914, and lat. 69° 59´ S., long. 17° 31´ W., on January 3, 1915, no whales were seen. On January 4, however, in lat. 69° 59´ S., long. 17° 36´ W., two large sperm whales appeared close ahead of the ship in fairly open water, and were making westward. They remained sufficiently long on the surface to render their identification easy. Farther south, blue whales were only seen occasionally, and fin whales could only be identified in one or two cases. Killers, however, were numerous, and the lesser piked whale was quite frequent. There was no doubt about the identity of this latter species as it often came close alongside the ship. From April to September (inclusive) the sea was frozen over (with the exception of local “leads”), and whales were found to be absent. In October whales again made their appearance, and from then onwards they were a daily occurrence. Identification of the species, however, was a difficult matter, for the Endurance was crushed and had sunk, and observations were only possible from the ice-floe, or later on from the boats. The high vertical “spout” opening out into a dense spray was often visible, and denoted the presence of blue and fin whales. The lesser piked whale again appeared in the “leads” close to our “camp” floe, and was easily identified. An exceptional opportunity was presented to us on December 6, 1915, when a school of eight bottlenose whales (Hyperoodon rostratus) appeared in small “pool” alongside “Ocean” Camp in lat. 67° 47´ S., long. 52° 18´ W. These ranged from about 20 ft. to a little over 30 ft. in length, and were of a uniform dark dun colour—the large specimens having a dull yellow appearance. There were no white spots. At the edge of the pack-ice during the first half of April 1916, about lat. 62° S. and long. 54° W. (entrance to Bransfield Strait), whales were exceedingly numerous, and these were chiefly fin whales, though a few seemed to be sei whales. It is interesting to note that the fishing season 1915–1916 was exceptionally productive—no less than 11,860 whales having been captured in the Falkland area alone.
The South Atlantic whaling industry, then, has reached a critical
stage in development. It is now dependent on the captures of the
large fin and blue whales, humpbacks having been rapidly reduced
in numbers, so that the total stock appears to have been affected.
With regard to the other species, the southern right whale has
never been abundant in the captures, the sperm whale and the
sei whale have shown a good deal of seasonal variation, though
never numerous, and the bottlenose and lesser piked whale have so
far not been hunted, except in the case of the latter for human
food. The vigorous slaughter of whales both in the sub-Antarctic
and in the sub-tropics, for the one area reacts on the other, calls
for universal legislation to protect the whales from early
commercial extinction, and the industry, which is of world-wide
economic importance, from having to be abandoned. The British
Government, with the control of the world’s best fisheries, is
thoroughly alive to the situation, and an Inter-departmental
Committee, under the direction of the Colonial Office, is at
present devising a workable scheme for suitable legislation for
the protection of the whales and for the welfare of the industry.
THE EXPEDITION HUTS AT McMURDO SOUNDBy SIR E. H. SHACKLETON
When the Discovery finally left McMurdo Sound, the hut was stripped of all gear, including the stove, but there was left behind a large depot of the stores mentioned above. I was not aware of this until I returned to McMurdo Sound in February 1908, when I sent Adams, Joyce, and Wild across to the hut whilst the Nimrod was lying off the ice.
On the return of the party they reported that the door had been burst open, evidently by a southerly blizzard, and was jammed by snow outside and in, so they made an entrance through one of the lee windows. They found the hut practically clear of snow, and the structure quite intact. I used the hut in the spring, i.e. September and October 1908, as a storehouse for the large amount of equipment, food, and oil that we were to take on the Southern journey. We built a sort of living-room out of the cases of provisions, and swept out the debris. The Southern Party elected to sleep there before the start, but the supporting party slept outside in the tents, as they considered it warmer.
We still continued to use the lee window as means of ingress and egress to avoid continual shovelling away of the snow, which would be necessary as every southerly blizzard blocked up the main entrance. The various depot parties made use of the hut for replenishing their stores, which had been sledged from my own hut to Hut Point. On the night of March 3, 1909, I arrived with the Southern Party, with a sick man, having been absent on the march 128 days. Our position was bad, as the ship was north of us. We tried to burn the Magnetic Hut in the hope of attracting attention from the ship, but were not able to get it to light. We finally managed to light a flare of carbide, and the ship came down to us in a blizzard, and all were safely aboard at 1 a.m. on March 4, 1909. Before leaving the hut we jammed the window up with baulks of timber, to the best of our ability, in the storm and darkness. The hut was used again by the Ross Sea Section of this last Expedition. The snow was cleared out and extra stores were placed in it. From reports I have received the Discovery Hut was in as good condition in 1917 as it was in 1902.
The stores placed there in 1902 are intact. There are a few cases of extra provisions and oil in the hut, but no sleeping gear, or accommodation, nor stoves, and it must not be looked upon as anything else than a shelter and a most useful pied-à-terre for the start of any Southern journey. No stores nor any equipment have been taken from it during either of my two Expeditions.
To sum up, there are three available huts in McMurdo Sound.
(a) The Discovery Hut with a certain amount of rough stores, and only of use as a point of departure for the South.
(b) Cape Royds Hut with a large amount of general stores, but no clothing or equipment now.
(c) Cape Evans Hut with a large amount of stores, but no clothing or equipment and only a few sledges.