Bernacchi on the Discovery
Louis (nicknamed "Bunny") was selected to accompany Scott's Discovery expedition of 1901-1904. He was the only scientist with Antarctic experience. Bert Armitage (the Pilot) was second in command of the expedition after his considerable Arctic experience on the Jackson-Harmsworth expedition some years previously. Colbeck had taken part in the Southern Cross expedition assisting with the magnetic observations. Colbeck captained the relief ship Morning that brought mail and additional supplies during the summer of 1902-03 and later accompanied the Dundee whaler Terra Nova in the recovery of the icebound Discovery from Hut Point . These three were the only members of Scott's expedition with any polar experience. Bernacchi also writes (in "Saga of the Discovery") that
although Discovery possessed a library of several thousand books, and among them a number on Arctic exploration, by some oversight those which would have been of most assistance had not been included. We could gain no advantage from the experience of the more recent explorers, Nordenskjold, Nansen and Peary.
Sledge Transport, Dog Teams vs Man-Hauling
He had suffered the privations of sledge hauling on short rations during the journey he made with Royds across the Great Ice Barrier in 1903. He had proposed to Scott that the scientific program of the Discovery expedition would be enhanced by taking a set of magnetic observations in a prolonged line away from the region of the Magnetic Pole. These observations assisted greatly in accurately locating the magnetic pole as they were taken on sea ice free from any local magnetic attraction. Scott approved as long as a naval officer was placed as leader but he allowed Bernacchi the freedom to determine the scientific program. A traverse was made in a south-east line from Ross Island taking magnetic observations every third day.
The team covered a total of 365 geographic miles in 31 days, setting a daily mileage record of the time for man-hauling. In "Saga" Bernacchi writes:
Even in 1902 man-hauling of sledges was an outmoded idea. The efficiency of dog transport had long been proved. Yet although the expedition had been planned for many years there was no reliable information available regarding dog transport. There was in the minds of all English explorers, perhaps, the unacknowledged thought that a dog was a pet.
Sir Clements Markham was inexorably opposed to using dogs as beasts of burden. He found nothing incongruous in letting man take on that role.
These comments about inept use
of dog transport must have been difficult for Louis to write. Louis had brought
his dog Joe who was a veteran sledge dog from Borchgrevink's Southern Cross
expedition. Scott worked Joe to death on the southern journey by overloading,
underfeeding and mishandling. Even though the preliminary sledging journeys
of 1901 had been a failure, a winter of contemplation did not equip Scott
with any answers. The explorers played soccer on the ice instead of learning
how to drive dog teams or use skis effectively. The English never developed
proficiency in handling dog teams.
Louis was entirely aware that navigation across featureless ice sheets using a sextant fitted Scott's mind-set that a sledge journey is really a maritime undertaking, except the water is frozen.