Dehydration. It seems strange to think that with all that snow and ice the men may actually suffer from dehydration. Scott mentions water consumption in today’s journal and it is interesting to note that thirst would become a problem for the party. Eating snow is not sufficient as humans cannot digest enough to meet their daily needs. As they went higher up the glacier and the air became thinner their metabolic and respiration rate would rise and their water requirements would increase further. The only way they could get enough water was to melt snow which meant that fuel for their stove would be needed to generate water not just hot food.
Scotts Journal December 17th 1911. It became difficult quite quickly during this march. There were long waves in the surface with blue ice on the crest and soft snow in the hollows. Scott records ‘we had to cross the waves in places 30 feet from crest to hollow and we did it by sitting on the sledge and letting her go’. So they slide down one side and their speed carried them up a large portion of the next wave but with a tough last drag of the sledge to the crest. The surface varied and they returned a soft snow surface which was harder progress than the ice of the last few marches. The men frequently put their legs through gaps in the surface. After lunch they moved to the centre of the glacier and made good progress. Temperatures of -12 in the evening. Scott comments that if they keep up the pace they will gain on Shackleton, ‘our luck may be on the turn – I think we deserve it’. ‘In spite of the hard work everyone is fit and very cheerful, feeling well fed and eager for more toil’. The snow blindness is improving for everyone except ‘poor Wilson’. Scott recalls the trouble Wilson had on the Discovery trip with his eyes and suspects he could be in for a ‘very bad time’. They became very hot with the hard work and so marched in singlet’s as their clothes became very wet. With their skin uncovered they now risked sunburn and then the pain of the cold chill on sunburnt skin. Their lips are also very sore and they cover them with ‘soft silk plaster’. The heat generated by effort and the warmth of the sun do not stop the immense cold getting to the men the minute they stop their work. They are thirsty and eat ice as they progress as well as drinking ‘a great deal of water on halting’. The fuel they carry only just does enough in terms of heat food and melt snow for water. The crampons invented by PO Evans were worn today and have been very useful. The weather is starting to look gloomy again and Scott fears the worst for tomorrow.
Commentary. An omission from the published journal was Scotts continued assessment of the accuracy of Shackleton’s recordings. ‘As we advance we see that there is great and increasing errors in the checking of the various points. Shackleton’s watch must have greatly altered it’s rate which has thrown everything out’. These omissions feed the notion that Shackleton and Scott are rivals. It was sensible of Scott to compare his progress with Shackleton and his Navy background meant that such navigation accuracy would be important to him. We have also seen that Scott is competitive and so the relationship between Scott and Shackleton may not have been quite as nasty as made out. However, the omissions and then the Scott spin machine does not help the situations.