Shackleton’s Boat Journey.

Another account by the navigator of the famous boat journey from Elephant Island to South Georgia, a new edition introduced by Ranulph Fiennes. There is nothing about reading and I suspect that navigation books and charts were the only printed matter aboard the James Caird. Worsley’s account of those materials, however, is compelling. [Somewhere towards the end of this short book Worsley gives a nickname to divine providence, “Old Provi,” with whom there seemed to be a close relationship in times of crisis.]

p. 50, on loading the Caird for the journey: The stores were ferried off and stowed. Our sleeping-bags, spare clothes, oars, my sextant and navigation books were next handed in, then the two breakers of water and the lumps of ice.

p. 61, on trying to calculate their position in the midst of high seas: Our fingers were so cold that he [Shackleton] had to interpret his wobbly figures—my own so illegible that I had to recognize them by feats of memory. Three months later I could read only half of them. My navigation books had to be half-opened, page by page, till the right one was reached, then opened carefully to prevent utter destruction. The epitome had had the cover, front and back pages washed away, while the Nautical Almanac shed its pages so rapidly before the onslaught of the seas that it was a race whether or not the month of May would last to South Georgia. It just did, but April had completely vanished.

p. 69: The eighth day the gale held steadily throughout from SSW, with a very heavy lumpy sea. It was impossible to write—even a few remarks. They would have been illegible—but anyway unprintable—owing too the violent jerky contortions of the Caird. She was heavily iced all over outside, and a quantity of ice had formed inside her.