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Depots were very important to sledging parties in the field and used for many reasons.

  • Pre-departure depots were laid to extend the sledging parties’ range, such as those Scott used on his pole trip.
  • Temporary depots were used when a party wanted to lighten the sledge for a particular phase of the journey such as traversing bad surfaces or uphill sledging. They would deposit food and equipment not needed and pick it up on their return. 
  • When geological samples became too heavy to haul, these would be put in a depot to be recovered later.  Sometimes much later, as we will see in the case of Professor David, who left rock samples in a depot on top of a small island near Granite Harbour on the way to the South Magnetic Pole in 1908 . These were finally recovered in 1912 by Priestley and Campbell on the Northern Party’s journey back to Cape Evans. 
  • Often permanent depots were established when a party was leaving the area and heading home.  Here they would leave their remaining food and equipment for future field parties, as the Terra Nova did at Hell’s Gate on its final trip out of Antarctica.

 Now, by 10.30 a.m. with everything done, they were ready to start a new phase of their Antarctic adventure.  The focus was to be geology and mapping, Priestley and Campbell’s fields, while Levick’s zoological expertise would not be as important inland as his photography.  Campbell had organised the party into two three-man sledge teams: himself, Priestly and Dickason with the twelve-foot wooden runner sledge as the lead team responsible for exploratory and scientific efforts; Levick, Abbott and Browning the support and photography team using the ten-foot iron-runner sledge.

Lambert, in her book mentions that Levick was not happy being ‘palmed off’ with the 10-foot, iron-runner sledge, and complained in his diary that it was carrying more than their fair share of the load.[i] 

The iron runners themselves added 40 pounds to the sledge, and they were probably more useful on sea ice than soft snow. However, at the time the party had little experience of the use this type of runner on inland snow conditions. 

Two other sledges[ii] had been landed from the Terra Nova the previous day.  Either of these could have been used, although Campbell may have wanted the group to have access the iron runner sledge.  In Robertson Bay, they had found that two-decking with the iron runner sledge on the bottom to be useful.

[i] Katherine Lambert, Longest Winter, 2004, p. 111.

[ii] David Crane, Scott of the Antarctic: A Biography (Vintage, 2007), p. 112.

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