Ten weeks alone


Ros Bowden: When was it that you were lost for 10 weeks I think?

Moyes: You see, when Douglas Mawson had arranged that party he’d arranged for eight men, three to go east, three to go west, and that the two that would stay at the hut would be the meteorologist and the biologist … we were in the middle of an ice shelf, and the sea was frozen over for a hundred miles away. There were no seals or penguins, no birds, no anything. There wasn’t one thing the biologist could do … He said well, ‘I’ve got nothing to do here. Why shouldn’t I take that team of dogs and help this party out to their depot in the east and help them on their big trip?’, and so Frank Wild said ‘It’s a good idea’, but he said to me ‘I’d like you not to go outside the confines of this little hut area when you’re by yourself’.

But the point was this, that when the other team went out west, day after day went by, there was no sign of Harrisson, and when it’d been for a fortnight, I couldn’t make out what had happened. I could think of no reason why he hadn’t come back. There were only two places of danger on that way to the depot … that way I went along the tracks to cross over the bad area then I went cautiously up and down on the other side. There was no sign of tracks anywhere, which means that Harrisson hadn’t got back that far.

Well my eyes then began to get very bloodshot. I got so blind I had to come home, and so there I was, I had no idea, I thought that Harrisson either must have perished somehow or the whole of the four men had perished, but er nothing happened until the tenth week when I was sitting down there writing up my meteorological notes when I thought to myself ‘well you’re going dippy at last’ when I heard some music in the air. Suddenly I realised it was singing, so I dashed round the hut and when I got round the hut there was four men coming in and singing away hauling a sledge a couple of hundred yards away, and as Frank Wild says, in the, his stories he toted reported [in] The Home of The Blizzard, that when I saw four men there I stood on my head. A thing I’ve never been able to do since.

Bowden: Ten weeks is a long time to be thinking you’re the only person in an area as isolated as that. How did you keep yourself sane?
Moyes: Well, of course I had plenty of work to do. I had my meteorological work, and also it was necessary that we should keep a lot of meat ready, in case we were left there for another year, and in December the sea, the frozen sea had broken away except a bit of a … a mile or two of sea flow down there, so I could go down on those planks that led down to the flow and kill a couple of seals and bring up that meat and put the trash behind the hut ready for the next winter, so I kept myself pretty busy doing that ...… Because the … the trouble there in the Antarctic, the reason so many men have gone mental down there, is not just the doing nothing but the dreadful silence, the silence is really heavy, it’s oppressive, there’s nothing to make the slightest noise, there’s no, no humans, no trees, no grass, no anything. The only noise you make is the noise you make yourself, and so you feel inclined to walk around on tiptoes so you won’t make a noise … that is the whole trouble, yes.