The Race to the White Continent.

Describes and compares three major Antarctic expeditions of the late 1830s, one French (d’Urville), one British (Ross), and one American (Wilkes).

p. 23-24 re sickness on whaling ships: The doctoring was done by numbers. Every vessel carried a small medicine chest filled with numbered bottles containing common drugs and potions. It also contained a small booklet. A seaman reporting sick would describe his symptoms, and the captain would thumb through the booklet until he came across something that corresponded. The booklet gave him a number. The dosage came from the numbered bottle.

p. 31: sermon about the schooner Antarctic which sailed from New York in 1829: “Even though virtue hovered over the Antarctic, for the schooner had carried ‘bibles and tracts…that the means of religious instruction might not be wanting when they should be far from the doors of a Christian sanctuary’…, six of the crew had died of fever and thirteen had been killed by Solomon Islanders.”

p. 33: “During the 1820s the Admiralty sent out twenty-six vessels on surveying and exploratory voyages and published its first chart catalog. The hydrographer, Captain Thomas Hurd, answered his bureaucratic masters on a question of candles. An excessive amount of money, they claimed, was being spent on candles by Hurd’s survey vessels. Hurd wearily pointed out that the daylight hours were spent surveying. The day’s work was then put down on paper during the evening and night hours, and for this, a fact not apparently clear to the chairbound, ‘a strong light is necessary.’”

p. 63-4: Re Captain Bligh’s second voyage to transplant breadfruit from Tahiti to the West Indies: “The Providence carried a serviceable library. Included in this, at the request of Bligh, were the two volumes of the East India Pilot with their 108 charts of the oceans and seas between Europe and the East; George Robertson’s Charts of the China Navigation; Bougainville’s Voyage round the World; Cook’s Journals of his three voyages. Bligh’s personal copy of Cook’s last voyage is now held by the Admiralty Library. On the flyleaf, signed by John Croker, the Admiralty secretary from 1809 to 1830, is a terse inscription: “This copy of Cook’s last voyage belonged to William Bligh Master of the Resolution who had made some marginal notes, which must be read with grains of allowance for his temper and prejudices. He afterwards became a flag officer.’”

p. 65: On the Providence was Matthew Flinders who said of himself: “Induced to go to sea against wishes of friends from reading Robinson Crusoe.

p. 79: The Investigator sailed with Flinders aboard in 1801: “Also aboard were a library for the scientific staff and a copy of the Encyclopædia Britannica provided by Banks.”

p. 103: re Wilkes and early South Sea expedition, quotes New York Enquirer about its flagship: “We visited the Annawan on Thursday. She is a fine vessel and a very fast sailer. She is furnished with an excellent library, and all the instruments necessary for such an expedition.”

p. 126-7: re Wilkes’s flagship USS Vincennes: “In the flagship’s library sat rows of books on Pacific exploration covering three centuries, among them Louis de Freycinet’s narrative of the Uranie’s voyage, Dumont d’Urville’s voyage in the Astrolabe with its atlas of charts, Vancouver’s A Voyage of Discovery with its atlas and ten foldout charts, a memorandum from Admiral Krusenstern on the Pacific Ocean and South Seas with its listing of doubtful island sightings and positions, and, most important, the large collection of Russian, English, and French charts.”

p. 207: Sabine’s interest was geomagnetism: “Such was his evangelical approach, akin to the antislavery, temperance, and missionary movements, that his campaigning, along with other magnetic apostles, was termed the Magnetic Crusade and known to the irreverent as the Magnetic Fever.”

Sabine had served with Parry and Ross and “during the overwintering of the Hecla and the Griper in the high Canadian Arctic, had edited the weekly journal entitled the North Georgia Gazette and Winter Chronicle, which ran to twenty-one issues and was the forerunner of many such polar publications. One of the midshipmen on both voyages had been a handsome, rosy-cheeked youth by the name of James Clark Ross, a nephew of John Ross’s and a man destined to be a comrade-in-arms with Sabine in the Magnetic Crusade but during the 1819-20 overwintering, because of those winter cheeks, more in demand for the female roles in the expedition’s fortnightly theatrical productions.”

p. 242: theatrical production in Hobart, Tasmania: “An entirely new Nautical Drama entitled the SOUTH POLAR EXPEDITION.”