A thoroughly fascinating account of a participant in Mawson’s Australasian Antarctic Expedition of 1911 which thoroughly debunks Mawson, only slightly more gently than Huntford did Scott.
p. 195-96: [Murphy] and Dr. Mawson were the only ones who slept without another bunk above or beneath them. Mawson had his own little cubicle, a bunk on one side, a table on another, his library opposite; Murphy merely airspace above his head….
…Dressed and hungry, Murphy looked about for the copy of Pepys’s Diary he had been reading when he fell asleep the night before. Finding the leather-bound volume beneath his bunk, he turned the page and soon was sauntering through London with the insouciant doctor. The noise inside the hut, the jostling, joking expeditioners, even the roar of the gale outside, fell from his consciousness; his detachment from his prison was complete.
p. 206: The leader’s [Mawson] lack of acuity did not come from lack of knowledge of the psychological consequences of polar night. Dr Cook’s account of the effects of solar deprivation on the men of the Belgica was in their library….
Dr Cook’s description of polar darkness and its consequences caused some speculation among the denizens of Hyde Park Corner, a nook in the south-east corner of the Hut. Isolated from the central table area and defined by the bunks of Ninnis and Mertz, Bickerton and McLean, it was cut off from the Doctor’s [Mawson] room by a wall.
p. 207: Ninnis had been the last of them to read Through the First Antarctic Night. Lying on his bunk, he hooted with laughter at Dr Cook’s comparison between his experience in the frozen sea and a winter in the Arctic. [Ninnis then read some of Cook aloud and gives the passages on men going mad from solar deprivation.]
p. 224: To escape, Murphy read hungrily through the Mackellar library—a gift of books from Campbell Mackellar, a rich benefactor to several polar expeditions. If the Doctor [Mawson] sighted a man reading, immediately he had a hundred trivial, pointless activities to demand. There were holes to be dug in the ice to make the amazing discovery of a few moulted penguin feathers, there were stores to be rearranged, or, usually at the height of the blizzard, some cans to be moved from one place to another outside the Hut.
p. 243: In the Aurora’s chartroom was a copy of the Antarctic Manual, a handsome volume put out by George Murray in 1901. It contained extracts from the records of earlier voyages: Balleny, Dumont d’Urville, Wilkes, Biscoe and other British, French and American navigators. Much on those maps was myth. While Captain Davis was sounding and recording the waters south to the Antarctic coast, then defining them as far as Commonwealth Bay, he constantly erased the fantasies of those earlier explorers.
p. 264, on a sledging expedition: Holed up in the cave, they took turns reading aloud from Thackeray’s The Virginians.
p. 269: After hoosh and cocoa he unrolled his sleeping bag and slipped inside. Shouting above the wind, the three tent-partners took turns reading The Virginians. When they finished it they slept awhile, then began Pickwick Papers. The day passed, and a rowdy night too.
p. 340: In England Ninnis’s family had taken a letter and a newspaper to the little post office in Streatham every Friday. This mail was now on board the Aurora together with a great case of cigars and food. [By that time Ninnis was dead.]