That First Antarctic Winter: The Story of the Southern Cross Expedition of 1898-1900, as Told in the Diaries of Louis Charles Bernacchi

A rather heavily edited version of Bernacchi’s diaries together with passages from To the South Polar Regions, with connecting commentary of tedious nature, until the end. Most interesting are the feuds between Borchgrevink and Bernacchi, which are well-captured in the text. Not much reference to reading, books, etc., nor the supposedly decent library aboard ship. Here are a few references:

p. 61: Mr Shillinglaw, a fine old English gentleman who witnessed the departure of the Erebus and Terror on their last fatal journey to the north with Franklin, took the keenest interest in our expedition. He presented Mr Borchgrevink with a book written by himself many years back about the Arctic regions, a most valuable book on account of it being out of print. [Shillinglaw, John: Narrative of Arctic discovery. London, 1850.]

p. 78, on a feud between Borchgrevink and his English members over who owned their diaries: After breakfast he called us into the saloon and informed us that it had come to his knowledge that some on board kept private notes. Wrote books in fact! He would not take private diaries but all such books he would consider his property.

p. 109: [Here the editor discusses Bernacci’s depressions, and possible causes for them.]

p. 117—Bernacchi uses Tennyson in birthday toast to Queen, but Borchgrevink took offence—the Norwegian left out.

p. 119—discussion of Dante.

p. 124: 5-8/6/99 Sleep most of the time, go for short walk after meals and invariably get frostbites…. Members doing very little work, few hours at various things. Self generally enter up meteorological observations, play cards and chess and read many hours [footnote 17] and sleep more hours. Rarely up (ex self) before noon, when there is breakfast, at 6 dinner and between 7 and midnight supper. [p. 239, footnote 17: “read many hours. Titles included Les Miserables, Rob Roy, Robinson Crusoe and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Target shooting, walking, skiing and until it became rusty, listening to a musical box and sketching, were other forms of recreation.”]

p. 127: 15/6/99 I have been reading McClintock’s Fox in search of Franklin. Cannot help contrasting it with this expedition. It makes my blood boil as I read. What a grand narration it is and how pathetic and unselfish they [were]. None were actuated by ambition or desire for fame and there was no mercenary aspect to the expedition. Simply a handful of men, who faced death time after time and overcame great difficulties and privations for love of their fellow men.

p. 133: 2/7/99 Today a reconciliation between Borchgrevink and Colbeck took place in a most ludicrous manner. Both were lying in respective bunks one afternoon when Colbeck was handed a prayer book from Borchgrevink. Inside was a short note and two collects or some such thing marked for Colbeck’s edification. One commenced, ‘Dearly beloved brother, he loves not God who hates another.’ The note was short and was to the effect, ‘If you care to take my hand through this medium you may.’…

It is interesting to compare Borchgrevink to Frobisher in their joint conviction that they had found gold, Frobisher at the Countess of Warwick Island, B at the Duke of York Island. Overall the book makes a convincing case that Borchgrevink was a very bad manager, an incompetent naturalist or scientist, an egotist who put his unsuccessful pursuit of fame as well as his own safety and comfort before the true purposes of the mission, and someone who clearly suffered periods of mental instability during the expedition.