Whilst hauling up the boats, which took a good hour to do, the cook
had got our blubber stove going on blubber
that we had brought with us and produced a fine beverage of hot milk (36 ozs.
Trumilk powder for 28 persons) which we stood in much need of. As we had had a
quarter of a pound of dog-pemmican and two biscuits each, in the boats for tea,
it was not considered necessary to supplement this, so we made do with the
milk, and having erected the tents turned in.
One or two of us whose turn it was to do night watchman from 11 p.m. to
midnight lay down in the bottom of one of the boats.
The night was fairly mild so that they did not get particularly cold before all
hands were awakened, just before 11 p.m., by the now familiar cry of "crack."
We jumped up just in time to see, as much as it was possible to do so in the
dark, the floe separate into two halves and to hear the cry and commotion of a
man in the water. The latter was the sailor Holness and his position was one
of extreme danger, for apart from the usual restrictions of clothing, boots,
etc., and the fact that his sleeping bag had fallen in on top of him, he was in
imminent peril of being crushed between the two halves of the floe, for as a
general rule when a floe splits and there is a swell running the two portions
of the floe surge to and fro, the crack opening and closing rythmically [sic]
with the swell, the edges thereof coming together with a crash and grinding
against each other. Providentially, on this occasion, the two fragments merely
parted company, separated about six feet from each other and thereafter did not
approach with a yard of one another. This was well enough for the rescue of the
drowning man but greatly impeded subsequent events.
It appeared that the crack had occurred immediately underneath the sailors'
tent—the large 8 man hoop tent—right through the spot where Holness was
sleeping. How he extricated himself from his sleeping bag is a marvel as he got
clear of it before he actually fell into the water for his bag did not go
entirely in but remained hanging over the ice edge.
Vincent, another of the sailors, also had a narrow shave, he did not fall in
but his bag did.
"Curiously enough it was Sir Ernest himself who
Strange to say the tent sustained no damage whatever.
This was not all by any means, for the crack had cut off Sir Ernest's tent
and the "J. Caird" from the rest of our little floating camp and it was a
question whether we could contrive to "bridge" the boat over the now widening
crack, the first care, the rescue of Holness, having been satisfactorily
Curiously enough it was Sir Ernest himself who rescued Holness. No doubt he was
spending one of his usual wakeful nights and so was up and out in an instant.
First he saved Holness's sleeping bag and then the man himself, whose chief
lament was that he had thus lost all the "baccy" out of his bag. We have since
learned from the victim of this accident that he attributes his escape to the
precaution he had taken to sleep with only the lowest one of the three buttons
on the flap of the bag fastened, owing to the scare that previous crackings of
the floe had given him. Lt. Hudson very generously divested himself of some
of his own clothing and also a spare suit of combinations in order to provide
Holness with a dry change, for, as the temperature was only 18°, he would
soon have been frozen in his wet things.