A First Rate Tragedy: Robert Falcon Scott and the Race to the South Pole.

A generally sympathetic though hardly uncritical account of Scott and his “bad luck.”

p. 36: The agnostic Scott, on the other hand [re Wilson], suffered grave crises of doubt both about himself and about life in general. Moods of ‘black dog’, when he doubted the very meaning and purpose of life, would suddenly overtake him. Wilson’s serenity and sense of purpose were like an anchor in the storm. Scott would later describe him as: ‘The life and soul of the party, the organizer of all amusements, the always good-tempered and cheerful one, the ingenious person who could get around all difficulties’. At the same time Wilson was drawn to Scott’s sincerity and love of justice.”

p. 37: The Welsh petty officer “Evans had a warm, lively personality and an inexhaustible fund of anecdotes. He enjoyed reading Dumas, or ‘Dum Ass’ as he called him, but definitely not Kipling or Dickens. He was far removed from the shadowy, flawed giant from the lower decks so often depicted….”

p. 52 aboard Discovery: “Books on Arctic travel were in demand on the mess-deck, so were such stirring tales as Fights for the Flag and Deeds that Won the Empire. One man was deeply immersed in the Origin of Species. However, both officers and men had something home-grown to read. One of the most delightful products of the long winter was the South Polar Times, edited by Shackleton. As Scott described: ‘…he is also printer, manager, type-setter, and office-boy.’ He plainly relished the task and produced five issues during that long dark winter of 1902, often sitting in conclave with Wilson, whose drawings captured the beauty and spirit of the Polar landscape.”

p. 71-2, sledging from Discovery in 1903: “Continuing to learn from hard experience, Scott was horrified to discover that the lid of the instrument box on the one good sledge, which they had depoted and left behind, had blown open in a gale. As a result Skelton’s goggles had gone whirling down the hillside together with Hints to Travellers, an invaluable little publication from the Royal Geographical Society containing logarithmic tables, which Scott needed to work out his sights and gauge his party’s position once on the Polar plateau and beyond the mountains….

“The party struggled up the Ferrar Glacier to an altitude of some thousand feet to pitch their tents in a place they aptly named Desolation Camp. Here they endured a week of blizzards where Scott’s frustration was not assuaged by reading soothing passages from Darwin’s Cruise of the Beagle….”

p. 77: “Scott, Lashly and Evans were tucking into some fine dishes created by Ford, who had taken over as cook and took his inspiration from a copy of Mrs Beeton, and were fast regaining their strength and lost weight.”