Unlike many on the first Scott expedition, Armitage had previous polar experience as second in command of the Jackson-Harmsworth Expedition (Franz Josef Land) and in the rescue of Nansen in 1895. He was also second in command for Scott and served as the. Discovery navigator. His diaries show some ambiguities in his relationships with Scott, but this is a very respectful account, devoid of many of the pieties which blemish so many expedition narratives.
p. 17: Although a special Antarctic manual, edited by Mr. George Murray, F.R.S., had been compiled for the use of the expedition…, we thought ourselves peculiarly fortunate in securing the services of such an expert in oceanographical work as Dr. Hugh Robert Mill….
p. 20: We had Mr. E. F. Knight’s ‘Cruise of the Falcon’ on board, and most of us had read his interesting account of his landing on the island [South Trinidad, where Scott stopped enroute].
p. 72-73: Two of the members of our mess, Shackleton and Bernacchi, were very fond of poetry, and, of course, each had his favourite author. Many were the arguments raised as to the respective merits of Browning and Tennyson, so it was decided that Shackleton should read extracts from Browning, and Bernacchi from Tennyson, while the remainder of us listened and carefully judged between the two, voting after each pair of extracts had been read. They declaimed in their best style, endeavouring to point out the beauty of the passages chosen by them. Ferrar caused much amusement, after an extract from ‘The Pied Piper of Hamelin’ had been read, by saying: ‘Well, I’m not much on poetry, but I go on rats.’ Browning won by a single vote.
The Captain’s leg had been put in splints, so it was rather a trial for his patience. He occupied his time by reading, writing, and forming plans for the future during the mornings; and in the afternoons we generally played dominoes until some of us amassed quite a large amount of counter wealth.
p. 88-90, commencement of South Polar Times and one issue of the Blizzard: At a meeting held in the wardroom, it was decided to bring out a monthly paper something like a London magazine. Each of us wrote on a piece of paper what we thought the best title for this Southern publication. The South Polar Times was the one chosen. Shackleton was appointed editor, and Wilson principal artist. It was to be published on the 1st of each month; and every member of the ship’s company was
invited to contribute towards making it the most amusing, instructive, up-to-date journal, with the largest circulation of any periodical within the Antarctic Circle. It was to combine all the best qualities of all the penny and halfpenny London dailies, together with those of the superior comic papers, as well as of the fourpenny-halfpenny and half-crown monthly magazines. Notwithstanding this super-excellence, The South Polar Times was to be issued free to all the population of our small colony, the cost of production being more than covered by the grateful
feelings of the recipients, to say nothing of the advertisers. Needless to say that a rival magazine which was brought out, named The Blizzard, whose contents consisted of poetical effusions rejected by The South Polar Times, did not survive the first number. On most days during the first month of the winter the clicking of the typewriter could be heard in Shackleton’s cabin as he busily 1 set up ‘ the paper; and frequently a shy and conscious-looking blue-jacket would enter the editor’s sanctum to ask that worthy man’s advice. A carved box was placed outside the office for the receipt of contributions, but would-be authors much preferred a personal audience; so our editor, in self-defence, removed his office fittings to a storeroom in the bowels of the ship, where the wicked ceased from troubling, and his poetical nerves were at rest.[The first issue of SPT was April 23, illus. by Wilson.]
p. 109: Macfarlane, Lashby, and Scott were first-rate hands at hair-cutting, so that there was no necessity for the ship’s company to look
like a lot of poets let loose. Indeed, we rather flattered ourselves that we were a decidedly cleanly-looking crowd for a Polar expedition, especially after reading the accounts and seeing the photographs of
one or two other South Polar exploring-parties.
p. 116: On the mess-deck the men contrived to amuse themselves very well. Many of them kept exhaustive diaries; others made models of sledges, etc. All of them, of course, made free use of the large library which we had been provided, apart from the scientific library that had been paid for by the expedition authorities. Many of the publishers in London had generously given us a number of volumes. A ‘well-wisher’ had presented us with fifty novels, and some authors had given us copies of their works, Bullen, Whymper, and F. H. Butnett being amongst the number of those who had done so. Sir Clements Markham and Sir Alfred Harmsworth, too, had sent us several books on Polar exploration from their own libraries, and the proprietors of the large illustrated weeklies and of the monthly magazines had bestowed quantities of their publications on us, so that we were never at a loss for reading matter.
p. 159, inventory of articles taken on the November 1902 “Pioneer Sledge Journey Inland,” commanded by Armitage, includes Books and forms, 5 lbs., just for the ‘A’ team. [Nothing listed for other teams. What were they?]
p. 216, during second winter: All the observations were, of course, carried on as usual, and the South Polar Times, under the able
editorship of Bernacchi, continued to be a great success. Bridge was a source of amusement after dinner in the evenings—if there is any evening during a Polar night—during the first part of the winter; but the inclination for even that kind of amusement gradually died away, and the only kind of game that some of us were faithful to was chess.
Even the daily exercise became so monotonous that I, for one, neglected it far more than I ought to have done, but cannot say that I felt any bad effects through doing so—although there is no doubt one felt better after a sharp walk over the ice, especially if the weather was fine and there was no wind.
p. 219-30, an interesting digression of comparisons of “North and South Polar Regions”
p. 277: Having no books, I did not know our position, so decided to go on half-allowance of oil (we find breakfast, cold lunch, and cold cocoa much the same as last year South), and to increase marching hours to ten. A little later we sighted land, but having seen little or nothing of it on the way out, through the thick weather, I could recognise nothing with certainty, and it was constantly appearing and disappearing through
inequalities of surface. I decided to trust to my curve of declination (made after loss of books), and march east on it at the best speed we could muster.