Terra Nova part 2

Captain Scott had re-joined his ship at Cape Town for the voyage to Australia but, as the expedition was always short of money, public speaking and fund raising took priority. Second-in-Command, Lieutenant “Teddy” Evans continues….

Scott left us again at Melbourne and embarked on yet another begging campaign, whilst I took the ship on to Lyttelton, where the Terra Nova was dry-docked with a view to stopping the leak in her bows. The decks, which after her long voyage let water through sadly, were caulked, and barnacles six inches long were taken from her bottom and sides.

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Lyttelton dry dock with the mail steamer Aorangi** taking up much more room than Terra Nova would have. Photo by Burton Brothers of Dunedin from the Te Papa collection.

Whilst in New Zealand all the stores were landed, sorted out and restowed. On a piece of waste ground close to the wharves at Lyttelton the huts were erected in skeleton in order to make certain that no hitch would occur when they were put up at our Antarctic base.

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Instruments were adjusted, the ice-house re-insulated and prepared to receive the 150 frozen sheep and ten bullocks which were presented to us by New Zealand farmers. Stables were erected under the forecastle and on the upper deck of the Terra Nova, ready for the reception of our ponies, and a thousand and one alterations and improvements made.

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Lawrence “Titus” Oates taking care of the expedition’s ponies in the forecastle. Neither Oates nor his ponies would return from “The Ice”.

We spent four weeks in Port Lyttelton, four weeks of hard work and perfect happiness. Our prospects looked very rosey in those days, and as each new member joined the Expedition here he was cordially welcomed into the Terra Nova family.

Mr. J. J. Kinsey acted as agent to the Expedition, as he had done for the National Antarctic Expedition of 1901-4, and, indeed, for every Polar enterprise that has used New Zealand for a base.

New Zealanders showed us unbounded hospitality; many of us had visited their shores before and stronger ties than those of friendship bound us to this beautiful country.

We sailed from Lyttelton on November 25 for Port Chalmers, had a tremendous send-off and a great deal of cheering as the ship moved slowly away from the piers. Bands played us out of the harbour and most of the ships flew farewell messages, which we did our best to answer.

Some members went down by train to Dunedin and joined us at Port Chalmers. We filled up here with what coal we could squeeze into our already overloaded ship and left finally for the Great Unknown on November 29, 1910.

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Terra Nova about to leave Port Chalmers.

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Capt. R.F. Scott. 1868-1912.

Lady Scott, Mrs. Wilson, and my own wife came out with us to the Heads and then went on board the Plucky tug after saying good-bye. We were given a rousing send-off by the small craft that accompanied us a few miles on our way, but they turned homeward at last and at 3.30 p.m. we were clear with all good-byes said – personally I had a heart like lead, but, with every one else on board, bent on doing my duty and following Captain Scott to the end.

There was work to be done, however, and the crew were glad of the orders that sent them from one rope to another and gave them the chance to hide their feelings, for there is an aweful feeling of loneliness at this point in the lives of those who sign on the ships of the “South Pole trade” – how glad we were to hide those feelings and make sail – there were some dreadfully flat jokes made with the best of intentions when we watched dear New Zealand fading away as the spring night gently obscured her from our view.
‘South With Scott’, Edward R. G. R. Evans, 1921. (Abridged)

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Terra Nova in the Antarctic. Photo by Herbert Ponting.

** Just over two years later Scott’s wife, Kathleen, was a passenger on the Aorangi, (pictured at top in dry dock). She was on her way to New Zealand to be reunited with her husband. The ship was in mid-Pacific and out of radio range, so she hadn’t heard the news of his death.

From the New Zealand Times of 28th February 1913 – Lady Scott, widow of the late Captain Scott, arrived at Wellington from San Francisco by the Aorangi last evening. She was met by her brother, Lieutenant [Wilfred] Bruce, and came ashore in the Janie Seddon. The Aorangi left Papeete about 6 p.m. on February 18th, and at midnight a wireless message was received from the Talune, which was on her way from Auckland to the islands, and some 500 miles distant, that Captain Scott had perished in a blizzard after reaching the South Pole. Captain Stevens broke the news to Lady Scott next morning at breakfast time.

According to Lady Scott – ‘The poor old chap’s hands were trembling when he said, “I’ve got some news for you, but I don’t see how I can tell you.” I said; “The Expedition?” and he said, “Yes.” “Well,” I said, “let’s have it,” and he showed me the message.’
‘Scott of the Antarctic’, Reginald Pound, 1966.

There was a sad sequel to this episode two months later, with parallels to Kathleen Scott’s personal loss. On 30th April 1913, “poor old” Captain Stevens’ wife, Catherine, died aged 46, in Auckland – while he was on the Aorangi in San Francisco.
There were no headlines. We can only hope he met with a messenger as empathetic as he had been.

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Terra Nova

Captain Scott’s Discovery (previous post) wasn’t available for his second, fatal, Antarctic expedition in 1910, forcing him to find the best ship he could afford from a very short list of suitable vessels. He chose the Terra Nova. The expedition’s Second-in-Command, Lieutenant Edward “Teddy” Evans, recalled that – She was the largest and strongest of the old Scotch whalers, had proved herself in the Antarctic pack-ice and acquitted herself magnificently in the Northern ice-fields in whaling and sealing voyages extending over a period of twenty years.

Commander_Evans_5126121136_99388b2868_o-2I shall never forget the day I first visited the Terra Nova in the West India Docks : she looked so small and out of place surrounded by great liners and cargo-carrying ships, but I loved her from the day I saw her, because she was my first command. Poor little ship, she looked so dirty and uncared for and yet her name will be remembered for ever in the story of the sea, which one can hardly say in the case of the stately liners which dwarfed her in the docks.

I often blushed when admirals came down to see our ship, she was so very dirty. To begin with, her hold contained large blubber tanks, the stench of whale oil and seal blubber being overpowering, and the remarks of those who insisted on going all over the ship need not be here set down.

Months of hard work delivered Terra Nova – cleaned, disinfected and refitted – ready to depart from London on 1st June 1910.

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Photo, Canterbury Museum.

What a change from the smudgy little lamp-black craft of last November – so much for paint and polish. All the same it was the Terra Nova’s Indian summer. A close search by the technically expert would have revealed scars of age in the little lady, furrows worn in her sides by grinding ice flows, patches in the sails, strengthening pieces in the cross-trees and sad-looking deadeyes and lanyards which plainly told of a bygone age. But the merchant seamen who watched from the dock side were kind and said nothing.

Terra Nova progressed down the Channel coast to the Welsh port of Cardiff where the crew were “endowed with all good things” and welcomed…..with enthusiasm. Free docking, free coal, defects made good for nothing, an office and staff placed at our disposal, in fact everything was done with an open-hearted generosity.

Overloaded with supplies and coal – the little ship settled deeply in the water and the seams, which had up till now been well above the water-line, leaked in a way that augured a gloomy future for the crew in the nature of pumping. With steam up this did not mean anything much, but under sail alone, unless we could locate the leaky seams, it meant half an hour to an hour’s pumping every watch. We found a very leaky spot in the fore peak, which was mostly made good by cementing.

On 15th June we left the United Kingdom after a rattling good time in Cardiff. Many shore boats and small craft accompanied us down the Bristol Channel as far as Breaksea Light Vessel. We hoisted the Cardiff flag at the fore and the Welsh flag at the mizen – some wag pointed to the flag and asked why we had not a leek* under it, and I felt bound to reply that we had a leak in the fore peak! It was a wonderful send-off and we cheered ourselves hoarse.

Captain Scott remained behind to squeeze out more subscriptions and to complete arrangements with the Central News [agency]…. He also had finally to settle magazine and cinematograph contracts which were to help pay for the Expedition…
[Scott would join the ship later at Cape Town]…. we in the ship were much better off with no cares now beyond the handling of our toy ship and her safe conduct to Lyttelton [New Zealand].

In spite of her deeply-laden condition the Terra Nova breasted each wave in splendid form, lifting her toy bowsprit proudly in the air till she reminded me, with her deck cargo, of a little mother with her child upon her back.
‘South With Scott’, Edward R. G. R. Evans, 1921. (Abridged)

*The Welsh national emblem.

Next post – final preparations in New Zealand.

 

Captain Scott’s ‘Discovery’

Today’s post was prompted by an excellent set of images of R.R.S. Discovery by Mark Simms on his blog last Monday. The ship, which is now a museum in Dundee, Scotland, took Robert Falcon Scott‘s first Antarctic expedition to the Southern Continent in 1901.

Like the old whalers before her, the Discovery was built for her purpose down to the last plank. Her designer was W.E. Smith, one of the Chief Constructors at the Admiralty. Nearly all his working life had been spent in building wooden ships. He was one of the last two men in the Service of whom that could be said. The Discovery’s frame of solid English oak, twenty-six inches thick, was made to resist tremendous side stresses. Her bows were fortified to a degree beyond anything known in wooden ship construction. Some of her bolts were eight feet long, running entirely through wood. She was considered a masterpiece of specialized shipbuilding, a verdict that time was to modify.

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Image from a postcard in the Te Papa collection.

Her overhung stem ensured that when she charged into pack ice it was lifted two or three feet until the ship’s weight acted with a downward force that cracked the floe and made a passage for her to move forward to the next obstacle. There was less enthusiasm among the shipyard critics at Dundee for her peculiar stern, intended to buffer the rudder in heavy ice. Some were prepared to bet that it would collapse under stress; in fact, it served the vessel well in several seaward crises.

Early in June 1901, the Discovery was towed to London to be berthed in the East India Dock.

Visitors to the ship who asked Scott to face their box Kodaks observed that he liked his pet terrier Scamp to be in the picture. Scamp was sailing with him. No such favour was shown to the East End cats that had taken up quarters in the ship. A last-hour count revealed the number to be thirty-two. It was reduced to one by a ruthless concerted drive organised by the stewards.
‘Scott of the Antarctic’, Reginald Pound, 1966.

When the expedition returned to England in 1904, Discovery was sold to the Hudson’s Bay Company to cover expenses. She carried munitions to Russia during World War I and, with peace restored, spent several years on charter work. A refit in the 1920s revived her career and she was lent to the BANZARE expedition at the end of the decade, which took her back to Antarctic waters.

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Discovery in Cape Town in 1929 for the start of BANZARE’s two seasons of Antarctic research. (Te Papa collection)

Discovery-3She was laid up in London as a training ship for Sea Scouts by 1936. Taken over by the Admiralty in the ’50s, she became a familiar sight berthed in the Thames at Victoria Embankment (at left in 1970) but her condition declined over the next 20 years. The Maritime Trust saved her from the scrap yard, restored the old ship, and added her to their vintage collection at St Katherine’s Dock. Unfortunately that venture was a finacial failure and the fleet was dispersed around the country in 1986. Discovery, quite rightly, went back to Dundee where it all began.

The dignity of honest work

“NO TIPS ALLOWED”
SUGGESTION OF THE STEWARDS
FOR EMBODIMENT IN AWARD.

During his submission of the case of the Cooks and Stewards’ Federation in their dispute with the Union Shipping Company, Mr. E. J. Carey stated to the Arbitration Court to-day that the men desired that the practice of tipping should cease. The claims of the men were 32 shillings [£1.12.0] per week for second-class stewards and 37 shillings [£1.17.0] for first-class stewards and the abolition of tips. If the Court would make this award the stewards would do their utmost to arrange for the abolition of tips.

They did not want to beg for payment for the work they did. They would agree to have the boats placarded “No tips allowed,” and they would agree to instant dismissal in the case of a steward taking tips; the company could endorse its ticket “steward included.” The men were even prepared to have it made a breach of the award for a steward to take a tip. The federation would do all possible to cooperate with the Court, the Union Company, and the public, to save their dignity as workers, and to ensure their being placed on the same footing as firemen, sailors, and other workers.

WAHINE  1913 - 1951  https://www.nzshipmarine.com/nodes/view/160#idx42

New Zealand Ship and Marine Society (12th Jul 2018). WAHINE 1913 – 1951. In Website New Zealand Ship and Marine Society. Retrieved 8th Aug 2019 16:48, from https://www.nzshipmarine.com/nodes/view/160

The tipping system, said Mr. Carey, had been forced upon them by the Court, because they could not pay house rent on their present wages. It was idle to say the tipping system could not be stopped; there was the example of the railways. If the Court, in its award, said that tips were still to be taken into consideration when framing the minimum wage for stewards, it practically ordered and instructed that the general public should pay part of the wages of the men. On the intercolonial boats the labour union had stopped the practice, and they had endeavoured to stop it on the coast.
Evening Post, [Wellington, N.Z.] 29 April 1915.

NAVUA 1904-1926  https://www.nzshipmarine.com/nodes/view/823#idx676

New Zealand Ship and Marine Society (23rd Jun 2018). NAVUA 1904-1926. In Website New Zealand Ship and Marine Society. Retrieved 8th Aug 2019 16:57, from https://www.nzshipmarine.com/nodes/view/823

 

The Mystery of the Three Chimneys

From ‘Otago Daily Times’, 7 October 1869.

The special correspondent of the [London] Times who accompanied the Great Eastern during the laying of the French Atlantic Cable, after describing the course which it was intended the cable should take, says :— “This course would have brought the Great Eastern close to the northward of the supposed gaunt spires of rocks called the ‘Three Chimneys,’ and which, as laid down in the Admiralty chart, were confidently believed to exist. When this was mentioned some months ago in the Times, a controversy at once arose in these columns, some naval men utterly denying the existence of these extraordinary rocks; while the other side tendered the evidence of eye-witnesses, who averred that they had actually seen them.

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 I.K. Brunel’s Great Eastern laid the French Atlantic telegraph cable in 1869.

The matter is now set at rest, and if ever the ‘Three Chimneys’ had an existence they have none now. The Atlantic cannot afford to lose the small amount of interest which attached to the supposed presence of those solitary peaks, but facts are stubborn things, and it has now been placed beyond a doubt, that they are not to be found, at least in the latitude and longitude in which they appear on the charts. Lieut. Johnstone in the course of his soundings went over the exact spot where they are indicated in the chart, and found more than 2000 fathoms water [12,000 feet], with deep water all around, and not the slightest trace of rock or shoal in any direction. The sooner, therefore, they come out of the Admiralty Map the better, and it would be curious to know how they ever got there at all.”


This mysterious rock formation was first reported by a Captain de Clas Fernel who claimed to have “approached within two leagues of it” on 10th July 1729 and “remained two hours in sight of it.” The position varied on charts and its existence was considered “very doubtful” by the turn of the century.

Then, in 1824, a Mr Heron of Greenock, Scotland, chipped in with – “I am informed by the master of a merchant-vessel that the Chimneys actually exist, for a whole watch as well as himself saw them. They were seen about twilight, and three heads were distinguished. From an observation taken at the preceding noon, it was inferred that their latitude, as laid down on the chart, is very near the truth.”

Captain Roallens of the brig Eagle was quoted in the ‘Nautical Magazine’ for 1843, claiming he saw it in July 1842 from a distance of four miles. “It formed in three distinct points, the highest 80 feet.”

The following year, Captain William Skiddy, in command of the Packet Ship Garrick, “determined, first opportunity, to run for and, if possible, see this danger.” The opportunity came twice, running 10 miles north and 10 south of the supposed position, “having on both occasions clear, beautiful weather” but “nothing could be seen from the royal yard*.”

So the question remains – assuming Fernel, Roallens and the other witnesses hadn’t been raiding the rum locker – what did they see, and where did they see it?

Background information from ‘Memoir of the Dangers and Ice of the North Atlantic Ocean’, George William Blunt, Third Edition, 1848.

*royal yard – the highest yardarm on the main mast.

 

Mulberry ‘B’

Continuing from my last post, D Minus One ….

Captain (later Vice-Admiral) Harold Hickling was involved with the enormous Mulberry artificial harbours, so vital to the D-Day invasion of Normandy, from the planning stages until his appointment as Naval Officer In Charge, Mulberry ‘B’, in June 1944. A fascinating insider’s account of the whole operation was included in his book ‘Sailor at Sea’ (1965). Here are some excerpts, beginning with his specifications written in 1943. Images from the Imperial War Museum.

“Each harbour is to be approximately two miles long and a mile wide and must be capable of berthing the largest Liberty ships and discharging stores at the rate of 11,000 tons a day. The breakwaters must give protection in winds up to Force 6 (half a gale). Inside the harbour floating pier-heads connected to the shore must enable ships to discharge at all states of the tide…… Each harbour is to be completed by D+14 and is to last for ninety days.”

The various units comprising the harbours….. were to be prefabricated in the United Kingdom, assembled on the South Coast of England, towed seventy miles across the Channel and put down on an enemy coast, possibly under fire, in a couple of weeks. …nothing of the sort on so gigantic a scale had ever been done before….. new and untried devices would have to go straight from the drawing board into mass production. There would be no time for tests and trials.

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Concrete caissons to be used as breakwaters, under construction at George V graving dock, Southampton. © IWM (A 25793)

There were to be five craft shelters known as Gooseberries, consisting of sunken blockships (code name Corncob), to be finished by D-day +4 and were a British Naval commitment. Out of two of them was to grow a Mulberry, the American Mulberry ‘A’ at St. Laurent, the British Mulberry ‘B’ at Arromanches. Each harbour was to consist of:
(1) A floating outer breakwater – code name Bombardon.
(2) A concrete breakwater – code name Phoenix.
(3) An assortment of piers – code name Whale.

It was a strange procession that moved southwards from Selsey and the Solent…. The Phoenix looked like blocks of flats being towed by a taxi, while the Pier heads with their ninety foot high spuds might have been Battersea Power Station taking a sea trip from Ryde; then came sinister shapes, low in the water, making the most awful grinding noises in the choppy sea; these were the 500-foot-lengths of pier roadway though they might have been the Loch Ness Monster.

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Phoenix caissons for Mulberry Harbour off Selsey Bill. © IWM (A 24115)

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A Spud pierhead unit parked awaiting D Day. These were fitted with legs to enable adjustments to be made according to the state of the tide. © IWM (H 39297)

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A section of the roadway being towed into position. © IWM (A 24160)

As each unit arrived off its Mulberry it was pounced upon by small harbour tugs and manoeuvred into its pre-arranged position…. [Lieutenant Commander] Lampen [a.k.a.] the ‘Planter’ took over the blockships and one by one sank them, the bows of one just overlapping the next.

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Block ships for a ‘Gooseberry’. © IWM (A 24683)

By D + 4 the Gooseberry at Arromanches was planted….. Lampen then started extending the Corncob breakwater with the Phoenix. It was no easy matter to hold these 6,000-ton rectangular concrete ships in a tideway with a cross-wind on their high sides, during the twenty-two minutes which, with all flooding valves open, they took to sink….. Yet with skilful handling of tugs and cool judgment our ‘Planter’ placed them not to an accuracy of feet but of inches, while experienced civil engineers looked on at this young sailor, an amateur, with mingled feelings of admiration and professional jealousy…… you couldn’t see daylight between one caisson and the next.

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A line of concrete caissons [Phoenix] forming the inner breakwater. © IWM (A 24168)

On 1st August 1944, we were working twenty-nine ships, nine of which were large Liberty ships; 11,000 tons were discharged on that day….. In addition 5,000 personnel and 600 vehicles were landed. We had reached our target.

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Ships unloading onto a Spud pierhead at the British prefabricated harbour, Mulberry B at Arromanches. © IWM (B 7236)

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 Group of Officers responsible for planning and execution of Mulberry; left to right: Lieut Cdr A M D Lampen, RN [the ‘Planter’]; Capt Hickling, DSO, RN, NOIC Arromanches; Rear Admiral W G [‘Bill’] Tennant, CB, MVO; Capt J H Jellett, RNVR; and Commander R K Silcock, RN. © IWM (A 24857)

General Eisenhower in his official report wrote…..
Through the summer of 1944 the Mulberry and beach installations represented an essential factor in the success of our operation. Without them our armies could not have been adequately supplied in the field. The men who worked them with so much gallantry and devotion deserve the gratitude of liberated Europe for their share in the Victory.

D Minus One

It was June 5th 1944. In twenty-four hours the biggest invasion in history was due to start, an invasion that had taken two years to prepare and which, if successful, would mark the beginning of the end of the war; if it failed hostilities might drag on for years.

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© IWM (A 24096)

Early next morning, the 6th June, I said to Bill*: ‘They’ll just be touching down, let’s go up on to Portsdown Hill and see if we can hear the gunfire.’

We stood near Fort Southwick on that lovely summer’s morning, looking down on Portsmouth, on the harbour and the ebbing tide with Whale Island in the foreground and the Isle of Wight sleeping in the ground mist across the Solent.
‘Do you hear anything?’ I asked.

Bill strained his ears. ‘Yes, I can hear a woodlark singing.’
Bill was a great bird watcher. And there in the blue sky was a tiny speck happily indifferent to the sound and the fury of two powerful forces coming to grips less than a hundred miles away.

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© IWM (EA 26941)

That evening of D-day, as the armies fought their way into the bridgehead, the first units of the two prefabricated artificial harbours started on their slow and hazardous journey across the English Channel.
‘Sailor at Sea’, Vice-Admiral Harold Hickling C.B., C.B.E., D.S.O.
A.H. & A.W. Reed, 1965.

*Bill – Rear Admiral W.G. Tennant.
Hickling was put in charge of the Mulberry B artificial harbour.
More about that later…