Scott of the Antarctic.

p. 14: It is perhaps significant that among the few possessions he was to pack for his first southern journey—possessions so carefully rationed for weight that he had to choose between a pair of socks and their equivalent weight in tobacco—Darwin’s Origin of Species was the book that went into his kit.

p. 22, June 1903: The disappearance of the sun coincided with the first appearance of the South Polar Times, edited by Shackleton. All were invited to contribute, and could slip their compositions into a box outside the editor’s sanctum, made by screening off part of a coal-bunker; noms-de-plume were the rule. The first copy was formally presented to the Captain at dinner and a bottle of cherry brandy opened to drink to its success. Contributions stuck pretty closely to daily experience, with informative articles about seals and penguins, the behaviour of ice, the best cloths for sledging and so on. There were neat silhouettes by Royds, and Wilson’s delicate sketches. Several of the men sent in poetry somewhat in the Newbolt vein (‘Deeds that Won the Empire’ was their favourite reading); Scott’s contributions, typically, took the form of acrostics, which his companions found hard to solve….

“Another debate concerned the respective merits of the poetry of Tennyson and Browning, with Bernacchi the champion of the former and Shackleton of the latter, with copious illustrations. The issue was decided by one vote, but the records differ as to which won.”

p. 53: “Unfortunately, as most of his messmates came to think, his fiancée had given him as a parting present a volume of Browning, and he soon became a compulsive quoter of that poet’s verse. Not everyone appreciated this….

p. 89: Lying in their three-man sleeping-bag, Scott, Shackleton and Wilson took it in turns to read chapters from the Origin of Species.

p. 115: A violent squall of wind swept away some of their impedimenta including a small volume called Hints to Travellers, compiled by the RGS, which contained logarithmic tables vital to navigation across such featureless wastes as they knew they would encounter. Without these tables, they would have to proceed more or less by guesswork; …

p. 116: It was the most miserable week of his life, Scott wrote. For twenty-two hours out of twenty-four they were in their sleeping-bags, crawling out twice a day to roll up the bags, get the cooker going and eat a hot meal. They had one book with them: Darwin again, this time The Voyage of the Beagle.

p. 227, Aug 1, 1911: Looking up records in the library, they found that Amundsen, while travelling to the North Magnetic Pole, had recorded a temperature of -79°F; but he had slept in igloos built by Sequim’s….

p. 234: re Oates: Even in his taste in reading matter, he admitted no frills. During the winter he worked his way steadily through the first volume of Napier’s History of the Peninsular War, but never reached the second. A copy of The Man-eaters of Stave by J. H. Patterson, was also among his few possessions.

p. 266: In such conditions the six men lived out the black winter…. They dreamt of food; sang old familiar songs and such hymns as they could remember; read aloud from David Copperfield, a life of R. L. Stevenson, the Decameron, and the New Testament; exchanged repartee and managed to keep cheerful, hopeful and sane.