Amundsen had been worried about the same thing. Ironically, leaving the same place, during the same blizzard he also worries about damaging his tent and no doubt we damaged our tent in our haste to get going in the horrific conditions:
It was practically impossible to keep one’s eyes open; the fine drift-snow penetrated everywhere, and at times one had a feeling of being blind. The tent was not only drifted up but covered in ice, and taking it down we had to handle it with care, so as not to break it into pieces.
Amundsen comments as follows:
to trust to tracks in these regions is a dangerous thing. Before you know where you are the whole plain may be one mass of driving snow, obliterating all tracks as soon as they are made. With the rapid changes of weather we had so often, such a thing was not impossible.
The word ‘open’ conjures lines from Walt Whitman’s poem “Song of the Open Road”:
Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road
Healthy, free, the world before me.
The Shining is a 1980 film by Stanley Kubrick based on a book by Stephen King. The caretaker, Johnny, is played by Jack Nicholson. Employed during the winter to oversee a large, remote, isolated and empty hotel surrounded by ice, he takes the opportunity to write a book. However, when the page is torn from the typewriter, it is revealed that he has been writing the same words again and again and again, evidencing his descent into madness: “All work and no play, makes Johnny a dull boy....”
Captain Scott noticed the same phenomenon as he traversed the polar plateau:
We noticed a curious circumstance towards the end of the forenoon. The tracks were drifted over but the drifts formed a sort of causeway along which we pulled.
Amundsen and Scott both describe very similar conditions on the plateau. Amundsen describes such an experience:
That day we encountered new surface conditions – big, hard snow waves (sastrugi). These were anything but pleasant to work among, especially when one could not see them… it was impossible to keep on one’s feet. Three or four paces was often the most we managed to do before falling down. The sastrugi were very high, and often abrupt; if one came on them unexpectedly, one required to be more than an acrobat to keep one’s feet.
At times Scott had a similar problem keeping his feet:
On a very slippery surface I came an awful ‘purler’ on my shoulder. It is horribly sore tonight.
An allusion to Shakespeare’s play Macbeth, another text in which the protagonist descends into madness.
Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow rolls on its petty pace from day to day to the last syllable of recorded time and all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. Out, out brief candle, life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player who struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
It was something that Amundsen encountered on the plateau:
Our appetite had increased alarmingly during the last few days… These were days – only a few days, be it said – when I believe any of us… would have swallowed pebbles without winking.
Scott and Amundsen both complained of a similar phenomenon at approximately the same latitudes.
Scott, evidently frustrated, returns to the theme again and again in his diaries:
It’s been about the hardest pull we’ve had… Over the sastrugi it’s all up and down hill and the covering of ice crystals prevents the sled from gliding even on the down grade.
I found to my horror we could scarcely move the sled on ski; the first hour was awful owing to the wretched coating of loose sandy snow.” And; “But now the surface is beyond words and if it continues we shall have the greatest difficulty to keep our march long enough. The surface is quite terrible with sandy snow, and when the sun shines it is terrible.
Amundsen, as was his way, was a little more restrained but even his exasperation is patent:
A sledge journey through the Sahara could not have offered a worse surface to move over.