Includes solo trip to South Pole, yacht trip to South Magnetic Pole, and various North Pole attempts. Mills calls him a “pole-grabber” and his great disappointment is failure to achieve the North Pole.
p. 17: I also took advantage of New York’s facilities by carrying out extensive research on the Arctic and the North Pole at the city’s central library.
p.125: That night I faced the fact that I might not be able to complete the walk [unsupported to North Pole]. At my current speed I would need a hundred, not fifty, days to reach the [South] Pole. Then I looked at more ways of cutting down the weight on the sledge. It sounds stupid now, but I was reading Margaret Thatcher’s autobiography The Downing Street Years each night before I turned in, and I decided that I would bury whatever pages I had read each day to lessen the load. It was important to stimulate my brain in the conditions, so I made a point of reading at least ten pages before ripping them out. The difference it made to the weight was negligible, but every little effort made a psychological difference. As a result, there are little buried caches of the thoughts of Baroness Thatcher, a day’s journey apart, all the way to the South Pole.
p. 130-32: his Thatcher inspiration: I experienced quite a few moments during the trip when I felt like packing it all in, but the night of day six [of a blizzard] undoubtedly proved tobe the major turning point. It was a complete accident that I had brought Mrs Thatcher’s autobiography along in the first place. It was the thickest and most value-for-money book on sale at Heathrow airport, and I admired the woman enormously and required a large book to provide reading material for as long as possible during my trip. I bought it. Idly flicking through the pages that night, prolonging the moment when I was going to push the button on the Argos [i.e., to quit] I came to a phrase her father often said to her, something that stuck in Mrs Thatcher’s mind ever since:
“It is easy to be a starter,” she wrote, “but are you a finisher?” I looked at this sentence, and then read it over and over again, before putting the book down behind me….
I picked up the book gain, found the place and ripped out the page with the quotation on it. Instead of burying it in the snow with the rest of the pages I had read, I placed it in my top pocket. From then on, I would look at those words each day to remind myself that I had started, so I was bloody well going to finish.
p. 168ff: 4th color plate is picture of author reading in his bunk aboard The Spirit of Sydney, a yacht which he sailed to the South Geomagnetic Pole.