A straightforward rehash of the Mawson story, at somewhat greater length than others, but competently done. He doesn’t neglect the books and reading which is fairly well documented for this expedition. He makes the mistake of taking Huntford as gospel truth, assuming for example Kathleen Scott’s affair with Nansen. He also disparages Bickel’s Mawson’s Will, though that book is a much more dramatic telling of Mawson’s story.
p. 31: [on the fatal sledge journey] There was, however, not much to read, as Mawson had strictly limited the number of books the men could carry to one apiece. As he wrote in The Home of the Blizzard, “Ninnis was not so badly off with a volume of Thackeray, but already, long ago, Mertz had come to the end of his particular literary diversion, a small edition of ‘Sherlock Holmes,’ and he contented himself with reciting passages from memory for our mutual benefit.”
p. 56: The greatest enemies of the cooped-up men were boredom and getting on each other’s nerves. Thus all kinds of entertainments were concocted to leaven the tedium….
p. 129: Nearly a century’s legacy of overwinterings, first in the Arctic, then in the Antarctic, had taught explorers the essential value of keeping men busy and entertained during their long confinement during the darker months. On the AAE, reading out loud became a regular evening diversion, with Mawson usually taking the rostrum. His favorite poet, Robert Service, filled many a stirring recital. After hearing Mawson declaim “The Cremation of Sam McGee,” McLean wrote in his diary, “The rest [of the poems] were realistic, virile, full of strong, manly life, like Mawson himself.” Another of Mawson’s favorite works was Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Virginibus Puerisque,” his tongue-in-cheek essays about the rewards and hazards of marriage.
The small library Mawson brought with him on the expedition included not only several volumes of Service, but Kipling’s Barrack-Room Ballads, and Departmental Ditties as well as The Oxford Book of Verse. Inspirational reading ranged from Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations to such now-forgotten tomes as Daily Light and Bible Talks. The collection also comprised a generous store of Arctic and Antarctic narratives, including those by Shackleton, Fridtjof Nansen, and Otto Nordenskjöld. As evidence of Mawson’s eagerness to connect with his men, the library contained a volume titled German Self Taught—perhaps a token of the leader’s effort to go halfway linguistically with Xavier Mertz.
p. 130, says John Close was a great reader of Nansen, and quoted him repeatedly.
p. 196, Morton Moyes was left alone at the Grottoes for an extended period: During the following weeks, he tried to fill his time cooking, recording meteorological data, and reading (appropriately perhaps) Dante’s Inferno.
p. 199: Five days later, during a Sunday snowstorm, Moyes read Macaulay and the Bible and tried not to worry about how “If this proportion of blizzards keeps up, the sledges will be overdue.”
p. 224: When Mertz died Mawson conducted a lonely burial service: Beside the grave, he read the burial service from the Book of Common Prayer. [Amazing to think he had one with him.]
p. 234, Mawson on Providence: Who has so many times already helped me.
p. 256: Boredom was the ever-present enemy. “Reading is a great solace,” McLean wrote on April 6, “and we fortunately have plenty of books.” Mawson elaborated: “There was a fine supply of illustrated journals and periodicals which had arrived by the Aurora and with these we tried to make up the arrears of a year in exile. The ‘Encyclopedia Britannica’ was a great boon, being always the last word in the settlement of a disputed point.”
p. 260 suggests trouble over the sanity of Sidney Jeffryes who at one point misconstrued a reference to the Hound of the Baskervilles as a reference to himself. See also p. 272 for more on this psychotic misunderstanding.
p. 281: On leaving Commonwealth Bay the previous February, Captain Davis had given Madigan a set of Thackeray’s novels. Since “the only recreation was reading,” Madigan was deeply grateful for the gift, but found himself unable to concentrate on the books. He picked up Xenophon’s Anabasis instead, hoping to prep himself for his upcoming year at Oxford, but Greek grammar flummoxed him. He turned next to geology textbooks, with which Mawson offered to help him but before long “Cecil was bored to extinction with it.”