The South Polar Trail.

A participant’s account of Shackleton’s Ross Sea Party, the party assigned to place depots between the Beardmore Glacier and Cape Evans, for Shackleton’s proposed transit from the South Pole to the Ross Sea. The depots were placed successfully but the transit never happened. Three men died on this part of Shackleton’s expedition, thus placing an asterisk on the frequent claim that Shackleton never lost a man.

This book is largely made up of materials from Joyce’s logs of the expedition, and there are only a few references to reading.

The daily journal of one of the leaders of Shackleton’s Ross Sea depot party, assigned to provide provisions for Shackleton’s proposed last leg from the South Pole to the Ross Sea. The mission was successful but needless since Shackleton never made it there. Three members of the party died amidst some difficult sledging journeys and two winters with no knowledge of Shackleton’s fate or their own rescue. A surprisingly dry account for what they suffered through. Joyce gives the concept of Providence the nickname Provi. At Cape Evans in June 1915 (p. 80) he says “We turned in that night, bothered, bewitched and bewildered, thanking Provi we were here again after 129 days of adventure and privation.” [Provi gets a very heavy workout in times of greatest stress (see references on p. 122, 123, 132, 139, 164, 167, etc.). On occasion he combines Provi with luck to see them through.]

p. 80, the greatest privation was tobacco of which they had none: One can forgive and forget many indiscretions over this soothing weed.

p. 83: Various substitutes for tobacco were tried with varying degrees of satisfaction to the consumer. We failed however to top the high-water mark. Tea was attempted, and so was coffee. I tried some dried mixed vegetables, but was speedily requested to cease. Then the inventive genius of Wild asserted itself. With exquisite care he blended tea, coffee, sawdust and a few species of herbs, and called his creation Hut Point Mixture. This survived the gamut of criticism and became the standard tobacco. When sledging started this famous mixture had to be shelved, all our lung power being required for our strenuous task.

p. 186, April 26th to May 3rd [1916]: In spite of being cooped up in our blubber hut, the time passes quickly; there is a small quantity of reading matter, which was left here by the Scott expedition [the Discovery hut]. Some books are read over and over again, especially Lorna Doone. Reading is not a joy with the flickering wick and smoke from a blubber lamp. Richy and Wild read out to me now and again. On account of snow-blindness I have been unable to read since December. Seals killed up to date, 39.

p. 189: June 14th to 21st. June 19 Wild was reading a book called The Term of his Natural Life. There was a passage in it about an escaped convict making salt out of sea water. We tried to make some by taking the snow from the top of the sea-ice. After boiling down in the cooker, extracted a pound and a half of salt. Our salt supply now is unlimited.

p. 193-94: August 20th [1916] at Hut at Cape Royds: Everything in this hut is spotlessly clean; the reason, coal took the place of blubber. On going into the hut a notice— “Joyce & Wild, Printers to Sir Joseph Causton,” caught the eye.

p. 200, December at Cape Royds: I became weary of my own company.