Nordenskjöld was a Swedish geologist with a genetic link to polar research through his uncle Adolph. The account in this book covers one of the epic narratives of polar survival on an expedition that produced some important geological findings.
p. 36—speaks of Dr Cook’s description of Gerlache Channel.
p. 67-68, a passage that sounds completely contemporary, with portrait of Sir James Ross: The great interest which, during the last few years, has in so many quarters attached itself to South Polar regions, has also called forth many more or less popular accounts of the history of its discovery. Although in this history we meet with none of the great tragedies we read of in descriptions of Arctic voyages of discovery, and although it offers none of those great problems the solving of which has, for hundreds of years, enticed the one expedition after another to the ice-bound north, still it presents many points of great interest, some of which I should like to touch upon a little more nearly. There can be no doubt whatever but that a detailed study of the accounts of early whaling and sealing expeditions would show that there still exists a large ﬁeld of labour in the domain of historical research in this matter. [Nordenskjöld follows with a disquisition on historical elements needed in the naming of places.]
p. 82: When not on deck we sat at the gun-room table working, or we lay in our berths reading, or were busied by whatever there was to do. Thanks to the goodwill of the Swedish publishers we had an excellent library on board. Our berths were narrow and, what was worse, almost dark, for the little skylights did not admit much light through the thick glass, but they were pleasant and comfortable in any case, and each of
us was glad to have his own little room where he could do as he pleased.
p. 145, first winter: Our life indoors was not at all dull. During the day I lay in my berth and read; we lived very harmoniously together, and conversation could be heard going on in every corner of the house….
p. 147: picture by Nordenskjöld of Bodman writing at the dinning table.
p. 154, on drinking and books: Some may, perhaps, think that too much mention is made of punch-drinking, but those who criticize us should first try to really understand what it means to live such a life as we did. The one who stays at home, surrounded by the sometimes all too various diversions of cultured life—newspapers and books, new faces, theatres, travels and a thousand other things which are so common that no attention is paid to them—can hardly imagine how important to us were these small occasions of unconstrained intercourse at the close of a day’s work. If at other times one could sit silent by oneself, or be busied with reading or some other occupation, then conversation became general; stories and reminiscences of the outside world were recounted, plans and questions were made respecting our life here and our labours. It is not my meaning when I say this to express the opinion that the use of spirits, and especially of those of the stronger sort, cannot be dispensed with during a Polar expedition…. In any case, it is better to have too small a supply of such goods on board than too large a one….
p. 186: For ourselves, we never neglected any high-days or holidays, and when there was none in the calendar, we very often made occasion for one. Such times were always cosy and agreeable, and in between these
feasts each one did, as a rule, his own work, and what with all this work that rested upon us and what with our rich supply of reading, we were never obliged this winter to take refuge in card-playing, or other such ways of passing the time.
It is strange that under such circumstances, one thinks so little of what can be taking place in the outer world, and does not miss the news of daily changes. We had brought with us a number of old newspapers, which, it is true, were read and re-read until their contents were known almost by heart; but in spite of this it appeared to us almost as if these chronicles were something outside and foreign to us, not did we often speak to each other about such subjects.
p. 187—picture of Nordenskjöld at his writing table, with books in background.
p. 287, while waiting for rescue: My books and my papers which I keep in a box on the floor are wet and mouldy and would be destroyed in a few weeks if they weren’t taken out now and then to be dried.
p. 289: And there were a great many other things we missed. ‘Cigars, music and books’ were what someone said he most longed for.
Chapter VII by Dr. J. Gunnar Andersson:
p. 420: In the ship’s library there were only two descriptions of travels containing plans of equipment which could serve as a guide for us in the calculation of our provision-supply. These were A. E. Nordenskiöld’s account of his journey over the ice of Greenland in 1883, and Nansen’s “Across Greenland on Skis.” We made up our plan of provisioning with the help of these books….
Chapter XI by Dr. J. Gunnar Andersson:
p. 464-666: We have no books. When we wish to delight the eye with the printed word, we take out our tins of “Le lait condensé, preparé par Henri Nestlé”, or of “Boiled Beef” and read the labels. We endeavour to make up for this want of light reading, by recalling what we have learned under happier circumstances and relating stories—Duse and I for example recounting for Grunden all we could remember of “Monte Christo” and “The Three Musketeers.” [Gunderson, marooned at Hope Bay in 1902.]
Perhaps this account of our intellectual amusements has given the reader the impression that, in this respect, at least, our existence was pretty tolerable. But, unfortunately, such was not the case. Chat jokes, and tales were rare oases in a desert of intellectual nothingness, and we ourselves marked with astonishment how our thoughts produced nothing but a strange and wretched assortment of the most common place reminiscences.
Chapter XXI by C. J. Skottsburg:
p. 562: A moment’s reading livens one up considerably. But we have to be saving of that, too, although it is often hard to close a book. And so we lie and think a little while longer, and by-and-by it is time for bed.
p. 592, at the end of the expedition in Buenos Aires: The reader must remember that the latest news we had received from our native country was now nearly one year and a half old, and what might not have happened during that long interval of time? And, moreover, what could we expect that the world would to say of us and our enterprise? We knew that we had obtained results, better, perhaps, than those we had dared to hope for when we began the voyage, and our consciences told us that we had done our duty as far as the circumstances would allow us. But we had encountered exceptional difﬁculties and even actual misfortunes, and that one little word “ reverse ”has so often caused the world to forget results, and to judge unmildlyof those who have not succeeded in everything.