Sunday, January 19, 2014

CHAPTER 3: WINTER MONTHS

         SOUTH! THE STORY OF SHACKLETON’S LAST                                            EXPEDITION 1914–1917

"The conditioning and training of the dogs seemed essential, whatever fate might be in store for us, and the teams were taken out by their drivers whenever the weather permitted. Rivalries arose, as might have been expected, and on the 15th of the month a great race, the “Antarctic Derby,” took place. It was a notable event. The betting had been heavy, and every man aboard the ship stood to win or lose on the result of the contest. Some money had been staked, but the wagers that thrilled were those involving stores of chocolate and cigarettes. The course had been laid off from Khyber Pass, at the eastern end of the old lead ahead of the ship, to a point clear of the jib-boom, a distance of about 700 yds. Five teams went out in the dim noon twilight, with a zero temperature and an aurora flickering faintly to the southward. The starting signal was to be given by the flashing of a light on the meteorological station. I was appointed starter, Worsley was judge, and James was timekeeper. The bos’n, with a straw hat added to his usual Antarctic attire, stood on a box near the winning-post, and was assisted by a couple of shady characters to shout the odds, which were displayed on a board hung around his neck—6 to 4 on Wild, “evens” on Crean, 2 to 1 against Hurley, 6 to 1 against Macklin, and 8 to 1 against McIlroy. Canvas handkerchiefs fluttered from an improvised grand stand, and the pups, which had never seen such strange happenings before, sat round and howled with excitement. The spectators could not see far in the dim light, but they heard the shouts of the drivers as the teams approached and greeted the victory of the favourite with a roar of cheering that must have sounded strange indeed to any seals or penguins that happened to be in our neighbourhood. Wild’s time was 2 min. 16 sec., or at the rate of 10½ miles per hour for the course."


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