John King Davis participated in three epochal Antarctic expeditions as 1) Chief Officer of Shackleton’s Nimrod expedition in 1907, 2) as Mawson’s Second in Command and Master of the Aurora in 1911, and 3) he commanded the Ross Sea Relief Expedition in search of Shackleton’s transcontinental party stranded on Ross Island in 1916. Covering his many other assignments before and after, Davis gives a comprehensive autobiography of his career. He is a fine but not dramatic story teller who handles the crises of his expeditions with a certain detachment. He speaks of loneliness but not with how it was relieved, and therefore little about reading. His descriptions of preliminary planning for voyages is particularly good.
p. 68: ship’s paper aboard Nimrod was the Antarctic Petrel, run by James Murray and Forbes Mackay.
p. 174: I shall always remember gratefully the assistance received from a study of the Narrative of the U.S. Exploring Expedition, 1838-1842, by Lieutenant Charles Wilkes U.S.N. [Hints for Travellers. London: RGS, 1901, included excerpts from the Narrative.] As I became familiar with the voyage of Wilkes’ flagship, the Vincennes, my admiration for the great American seaman and navigator increased. Today, in the age of the great ice-breakers, high-powered vessels, aeroplanes and helicopters, one cannot but marvel at the voyages of those fine seamen Biscoe, Balleny, Dumont d’Urville and Wilkes who, in small wooden sailing vessels with nothing but their own fortitude and skill to sustain them, ploughed a lonely furrow across this unknown sector of the Southern Ocean.
p. 192-93: Many of those who served on Antarctic expeditions during the last half century learned the real meaning of their work from [Hugh Robert] Mill’s stirring narrative of Antarctic exploration, The Siege of the South Pole…. When serving as Chief Officer of the Nimrod when on leave in Auckland, New Zealand, I purchased a copy of this green-covered volume. I read it with deep interest and I hope profit, for here was the story of those who had led the way, the information we had often sought, the justification for and purpose of our struggle southward in the little Nimrod.
[Other than those examples there is very little reading, and none that I noticed while he was at sea. Perhaps he was too serious to be bored.]