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A 'Discovery' mystery.

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Was watching a documentary about Scott's Antarctic expedition (1901 - 1904) and was a bit puzzled by one of the still shots.


Maybe I'm missing something, or maybe there's something obvious I'm not seeing. 

It's a photo of the ship when it was 'docked' in the ice. (It was there for a  l-o-n-g  time.)  In the photo several of the men are out on the ice and Discovery is shown, with the exception of the lower sails being brailed, almost under full sail.

What would be the reason for all that canvas while being "in dock"?


Here's the photo >>>


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I would imagine that the dark hull and the internal heat, that the grip of the ice was not as strong at the contact area of the hull, as a cold dead hull would be. Setting sail would introduce movement in the hull, interfering with a hard trap with the ice and perhaps, that movement might lift the ship a bit higher, reducing the crushing force. Those Old boys were observant and used that characteristic to harvest from their observations any advantage sent their way, in ways we are not even capable of noteing or taking steps to utilize the little things those Old Timers observed. Also looks like they are near open water.Just an observation, based on a life of looking at cause and effect, learned as a survival act because growing up on a Wheat and Cattle Ranch and never taught anything, just told to go do something, needed to figure it out for myself how to do it, might get asked after getting it done, why I had done it that way, because it would have been easier doing it another way which was then explained. So my theory is just that, don't remember reading any reasons for setting sail while trapped in ice.



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This shot was probably taken when trying to break out of the ice, it looks like water in the foreground and they worked ahead and behind the ship to break ice and clear room to take a run in an attempt to break through.  As you can see the sails are full so they are probably trying to apply pressure to the stem to break through to the water ahead.  Scott used this process as did Shackleton a decade later (he learned from Scott) to try and reach open water.



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With the sails furled, two problems arise. Number one... the sails would become semi-frozen, brittle and quite difficult to safely 'unfurle' without potentially causing damage to the fabric, should conditions improve enough for stowed sails to be needed. Number two... with the sails remaining full... the ship would be in constant motion, provided there were winds/breezes blowing. Those winds/breezes, and the full sails would keep the hull in motion, 'rocking' in the ice/water, and thus preventing its hull from becoming 'still' enough to become frozen solid into the ice cap thus becoming 'impossible' to break free, for movement, once conditions improved enough for forward travel to become possible, again. 

 Notice how the ship is listing to the starboard side. "Thar be a breeze coming from the port side!" Also note the water in the foreground of this photo. Note the attitude/deflection of the sails shown in that photo. Looks to me as though that the ship is intentionally being steered towards the foreground, where the water is... rocking port to starboard, via the winds... and slowly cracking the ice, to get there, a few inches at a time.

As for what those folks are doing outside of the ship... "who knows?" Perhaps they just got a touch of 'cabin-fever' and needed to go for a walk about! 😏 

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