An extensive and comprehensive study of the archival and printed sources related to Shackleton’s depot-laying party which had been intended to provide for the final 400 miles of his Trans-Antarctic expedition. This Party succeeded in its depot mission, but Shackleton failed to get there when his ship was frozen and then sank in the Weddell Sea. Tyler-Lewis seems to have a good eye for the reading occasions of the Party.
p. 39, in general descriptions of the men of the Ross Sea Shore Party (RSSP), here describing Victor Hayward, a so-called General Assistant in which he got to “do anything”: Hayward was educated at an Essex boarding school. As a boy, he was an avid reader of Robert Ballantyne’s rollicking adventure tales of stalwart lads braving the wilderness and high seas. They were coveted prizes for diligent Sunday school pupils, which is how Hayward came to possess Ballantyne’s The World of Ice; Or, Adventures in the Polar Regions at an mpressionable age.
p. 75, on a sledge journey during a blizzard: There was little they could do but lie in the tents, reading and writing in their diaries. Most of the men dutifully recorded daily events in official leather-bound journal embossed “Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition” in gold. These were
not intended as personal memoirs, but as official records, to be collected by Shackleton for eventual use in his published accounts. The expedition members’ agreement specified that all diaries, notes, scientific data, photographs, and motion pictures were the “absolute property of the commander” and barred them from writing or lecturing about the expedition without his express permission. However, the men soon let down their guards and confided more of themselves to their journals. p. 76, concerning the “Padre,” the Rev. Lionel Spencer-Smith, the designated photographer: His diary was a voluble record of aches and pains, philosophical ruminations, and sledging mileage. The hallmarks of his classical education at Cambridge were imprinted on every page, smatterings of Greek, Latin, and French and snippets of verse. He read avidly—popular romances, historical novels, poetry, and the Bible—though polar narratives were conspicuously absent from his portable library. There were theological tomes as well as treatises on Darwin in his bag, his Anglican faith coexisting with his intellectual curiosity. He captioned each entry with quotations from scripture to frame the day’s meditations and reminders of birthdays and the anniversaries of his life in the church.
p. 85: Rising each morning at a progressively later hour, Cope began the day with a leisurely recitation from Dickens’s Pickwick Papers. Once under way, Cope floundered ahead into deep virgin snow rather than follow the trail broken by the other parties….
p. 87, on uncertainty on what to do about food shortages for some men: Hesitant, Spencer-Smith searched for solace in the Bible and found his doubts reflected in the pages: “By what authority does thou these things?” he quoted.
p. 91, quote from Robert Service, “The Kipling of Canada,” and much-admired by Ernest Joyce.
p. 102, after an arduous and almost fatal depoting journey: Wild’s condition seemed like the worst, his feet “raw like steak” and his right ear tinged green and oozing viscous fluid. The frostbite damage had almost certainly progressed to gangrene. Joyce’s hands, nose, and feet were beyond feeling, and his fingers were bloated and misshapen. Mackintosh’s face was disfigured into a swollen mass of mottled, livid flesh. The socket of his missing eye was badly stricken. Cope tended their injuries, although his clinical practice had thus far been limited to performing a postmortem on a dog with a copy of Modern Surgery at hand. He amputated one of Wild’s toes and part of his ear.
p. 108, at Hut Point after April 22, 1915, when the sun set for four months: They read voraciously to pass the time and soon exhausted their supply of books. Fortunately, Scott’s expedition had left heaps of magazines, newspapers, and novels in the hut. A popular romantic thriller, Soldiers of Fortune, made the rounds, and its merits were debated at length. The books original owner, Terra Nova scientist Frank Debenham, had inscribed an arch comment on the flyleaf: “Quite the nicest novel I have ever read, the hero and heroine are perfect pets,” slang for hotheads. Scrawled below, in another hand, was the line “like some people on the Expedition.”
p. 130, stranded with little equipment, cast-off clothing from Scott’s old Hut, the Aurora adrift with most of what they needed aboard: They had, however, unloaded a set of Encyclopedia Britannica, which proved to be the “only text-book on the Antarctic” on hand as a guide to survival.
p. 139-40, in a chapter called “Marooned,” when the men were stranded at Cape Evans, and their ship had disappeared: Hayward teamed up with Gaze for seal-hunting duties, but spent off hours walking with Mackintosh. Hayward’s opinion of the Skipper, as he called him, was undimmed by the recent crisis, his respect for authority deeply ingrained by his upbringing. As the only members of the party who were in love with women they left behind, they also shared a common yearning for home. The lovelorn Hayward read romance novels to remind him of his fiancée. “Down here, where everything breaths of the unknown and appears so vast and limitless, how nice it is to be reminded in such a nice way of other and more pleasant scenes,” he wrote to her after reading Lorna Doone, inserting carbon paper under each page of his diary so every entry became part of a continuing letter.
p. 145, at Cape Evans, working on a broken motor tractor: they rifled through volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica for some clue to the workings of the engine. [It was beyond repair and they had to rely on manhauling to lay the depots.]
p. 167, January 1916, below 80°S: During the “endless hours” of each day’s march, Richards withdrew, compulsively performing complex mathematical calculations in his head, “an automatic reaction to the monotony that was forced on us, and an anodyne to the weariness of the body.” Spencer-Smith recited poetry and scripture under his breath. He read voraciously when the party stopped for a spell or camped for the night, crowding his mind with ideas to blot out the drudgery. He seldom complained but his deterioration was evident to the others. [Alas, no indication of what he read, and he died shortly after.]
p. 221: The glass plate negatives Shackleton had stowed in the James Caird survived the ocean voyage.
p. 239: While Shackleton and Joyce headed out to search Little and Big Razorback islands [for traces of the lost Mackintosh and Hayward], the introspective Jack quietly sorted his feelings as he packed up the expedition property in the hut with Wild. The scientific notebooks, diaries, documents, and photographs, were all loaded into boxes for Shackleton. The personal effects of the dead were collected as well, including Spencer-Smith’s communion vessels.
p.240-41, in a memorial note for the three dead Ross Sea colleagues: Shackleton turned, as he did so often in turbulent times, to poetry, invoking Swinburne’s exhortation to a life well lived in the first two lines [“These done for gain are nought”]. The last six lines were from Browning, slightly paraphrased [“I ever was a fighter so one fight more”]. It was Browning who spoke to Shackleton most directly. Years before, he had come to terms with the immediacy of his own death as he went about the business of exploration, but he had never accepted the possibility of losing men under his command.
p. 242: As the Aurora plied her homeward course, the band of Robinson Crusoes avidly read every newspaper and magazine on board. All were dominated by the war.
p. 243: The Ross Sea party presented Davis with a gift one evening, it was the set of the Encyclopedia Britannica Davis had given to Mackintosh for the expedition. As Stevens explained, “There was not a man who did not make frequent and eager use of the volumes.” The grubbiest pages, blackened with blubber soot, betrayed the most popular topics. From engine repair to cooking, the eyclopedias had been the party’s survival guide and the last word in settling bets. The Ross Sea party and Shackleton signed a volume “as a remembrance of his kindness.” Davis recalled the words of Robert Service:
Do you recall that sweep of savage splendour,
That land that measures each man at his worth.
And feel again in memory half fierce, half tender,
That brotherhood of men who know the South?
p. 246, a German U-boat torpedoed a ship that Stevens was on, and although he survived: Gone were Stevens’s personal scientific notebooks and diaries, as well as most of Spencer-Smith’s personal effects.