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February 3, 1911

amundsen02.jpg

With Camp Set Up, The Norwegians Soon Have Company

February 3, 1911: A Visit From Scott's Men Allows Each To Size Up The Other

Since anchoring in the Bay of Whales in mid-January, Amundsen and his men had been hard at work readying their winter quarters, named Framheim. Besides constructing the hut, they unloaded tons of stores from the ship and sledged them 2 miles up and over the ice front to the construction site. By early February they had completed the bulk of the work, and were looking forward to laying depots as soon as they could.

On the morning of February 3, 1911, the ship's watch saw something completely unexpected -- another ship passing into the Bay of Whales. All became clear when the watch was hailed in English-accented Norwegian. This new ship was the Terra Nova -- Scott's ship. "Curses loud and deep were heard everywhere," one officer aboard Terra Nova noted.

The Terra Nova had been sent to set up a second base of operations, from which a team could be sent to explore King Edward VII Land on the eastern edge of the ice shelf. Of course the British knew by this time that Amundsen was aiming for the South Pole, but they had no idea where he intended to land in Antarctica. They were certainly surprised to find him only 400 miles away from their base in McMurdo Sound. Despite initial tension, good relations prevailed and each team invited the other aboard their ship for a meal. The British were also invited to come out to the site of Framheim for a look around.

A Little Friendly Surveillance; Envy And Boasting

Both sides took advantage of these forays to determine how well prepared their competitors were. Amundsen, who had no radio gear, was glad to see that the British likewise lacked a wireless.

That meant the team that got back to civilization first with news of a successful pole assault would reap the rewards of priority. For their part, the British were both dismayed and impressed by the number of dogs (more than 100) and the expertise of the dog drivers that Amundsen had brought along for the polar journey. But they did not show it, and instead boasted about their motorized sledges--an innovation in polar travel that Amundsen did not have. Why not let Amundsen and his men consider the implications of petrol-powered sledges speeding off toward the pole, even if it was a fantasy?

After further pleasantries, they wished each other good luck and the Terra Nova steamed off. Rather than stick to the original intention to explore King Edward VII Land, however, the ship headed straight back to McMurdo. Scott would want to hear their news as quickly as possible.

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