The Wicked Mate: the Antarctic Diary of Victor Campbell. An Account of the Northern Party….

Campbell’s chief Antarctic activity was as first officer to Robert Falcon Scott on the Terra Nova expedition. As leader of the Northern Party (earlier called the Eastern Party), he led his team of six men while stranded for a winter in an ice cave on Inexpressible Island. On returning finally to Cape Evans and learning of Scott’s death, Campbell took command of the Terra Nova expedition.

This book mainly consists of Campbell’s diaries, together with a pastiche of excerpts from complementary accounts such as Levick, Priestley, Amundsen, etc. with some connecting commentary. He is far from a lively diarist, but there are illuminating moments such as his meeting with Amundsen, the winter travails, etc. Hell with a capital H or Priestley’s Antarctic Adventure are livelier accounts of the Northern party. No index and poor maps, but a worthwhile part of this literature.

Pictures of interior reading and work space, p. 67, 69, 70, and 90.

p. 40: January 29th Saturday [1911] Overcast not much wind. Read Divine Service as there was only one prayer and hymn book. Drake typed out the hymns we selected….”

p. 46: February 5th Sunday Divine service. Having found the Prayer Books it was more successful than last Sunday.

p. 58, quote from Priestley on blizzards: It was on this night that I first realized the possibilities of my shelves, when I received a German dictionary on the side of my head, and this was followed by a deluge of ink-bottles, pencils, pens, and books. [This accident was ashore, not at sea]

p. 62: March 26th Sunday Levick and I had a terrible ordeal at Church today. I chose a hymn that only he and I knew hoping that the others would catch the tune, but as my ideas of tune are always vague and Levick’s worse, the congregation never arrived at what the real tune was. Consequently it ended in a duet sung or rather chanted by L. and myself….

p. 69—describes use of Caruso recording to wake men up for their night observations.

p. 104—December 10th [Sunday] compares their ice conditions to the descriptions in Borchgrevink’s book [First on the Antarctic Continent], which they obviously had on board.

p. 136-37: April 9th 1912, Campbell describing their igloo [ice cave] conditions: For lighting purposes the blubber lamps we made were very satisfactory. We had some little tins which had contained ‘Oxo’. These filled with melted blubber and a strand of rope for a wick, gave quite a good light. The wick was held up by a tin bridge with a hole in it laid across the top of the tin. We luckily had one or two books, David Copperfield and the Life of R. L. Stevenson being the favourites, and after hoosh Levick used to read a chapter of one of them. Saturday evening when we each had a stick of chocolate, we usually had a concert, and Sunday evening after supper, 12 lumps of sugar were served and we had Church, which consisted of my reading a chapter of the Bible followed by hymns. We had no hymn books, but Priestley remembered several, while Abbott, Browning and Dickason had all been at some time or other in a choir. When our library was exhausted we started lectures, Levick’s on anatomy being especially interesting.