A World of Men: Exploration in Antarctica.

Herbert was in Antarctica during the International Geophysical Year and other times, starting in Dec. 1955 with the Falkland Islands Dependency Survey (FIDS). This is an account of his romance with the ice, which seems to have been a strictly masculine affair as the title implies.

p. 33, hut at Hope Bay, at the northern tip of Graham Land: we were not permitted to build partitions, and so lacked even the modicum of privacy.

p. 37, one office at the hut: Hugh Simpson’s surgery which, with its roaring stove and shelves full of books and coloured bottles, was at the far end of that office….

p. 79, when someone at the Hope Bay hut said he hadn’t heard of Nordenskjöld, remonstrances followed: ‘Who was Nordenskjöld !’ a gasp of surprise came from the old hands. It seemed inconceivable to us that a Hope Bay man had not heard of Nordenskjöld. We had breathed the spirit of the heroic age in polar history through the fusty volumes that filled our library shelves. Adrien de Gerlache, Borchgrevink, Nordenskjöld, Scott, Charcot, Shackleton, Amundsen—these tough old explorers were our heroes. Their like would never be seen again in the Antarctic. We knew almost by heart every book they had written, and through months of traveling with them we had become familiar with their moods and every panting breath they uttered on their journeys.

p. 112, during one sledge journey near James Ross Island in October: For the next three days the cloud clung around and snow fell continually so that my twenty-third birthday was spent reading Woman’s Own during the day, and enjoying a social evening, of which the highlight for all of us was the opening of a tin of pineapple.

p. 134: Each man’s bunk-space had been his personal domain, and whatever was pinned to the wall of his bunk was studied with interest by all his companions as soon as he had gone out of the room. But in three months a significant change had occurred: pin-ups of bathing beauties went out of fashion, and not reappeared until the new boys had arrived. There had been no question of resurrecting our original pin-ups to supplement those of our new companions, for they had either been burned or used as dartboards when we had tired of their impersonality.

p. 188, at Scott’s Hut (1960s?): Bob Buckley had been working away in the corner which was known to be Scott’s bunk, while Les [Quartermain, who idolized Scott] was down the far end of the hut sorting out relics. After a few hours Buckley uncovered half of the bunk wall, exposing a few old bits of junk: a pipe, a small calendar, a flash, and delving through a pile of 1909 magazines he found the photograph he was after: it was a fine picture of a buxom bathing beauty with a saucy smile and a theatrical background. With rusty drawing pins the picture was secured to Scott’s bulkhead, then with a yelp of delight he should ‘come and see what I’ve found.’

I doubt if ever before in the history of that hut had men run so fast towards Scott’s bunk. They all gathered around jostling for position and gazed open-mouthed at the pin-up. A look of horror came over Les’s face, while everyone else shook with laughter. At last with tears rolling down his cheeks, Bob managed an enormous wink and said: ‘there you are Les—so Scott was human after all!’

p. 188: We had no reading material with us, but had noticed in the hut the 1909 magazines that had been brought over from Shackleton’s hut by the Scott men, so we drew lots to decide who would go and fetch them, and the unenviable mission fell to me.

p. 189: I gathered up an armful of magazines, disturbing an odour which rose off them, and around the hut beyond the weak pool of light groans came like whispers of reproach…. They were fascinating reading but the smell they gave off was repugnant, and on the third morning early we dutifully returned them and continued on our journey….

[In the end Herbert’s narrative is a romantic evocation of the heroic age now past. “Gone were the compulsive adventurers from the Antarctic scene; gone were the ascetics and self-provers and the ‘characters’ of old—men attracted by the challenge, by the beauty, by the rigours of the polar way of life. Most of the plums had been picked before the aeroplanes arrived.” (p. 231). Herbert goes on to half-heartedly praise man’s ingenuity, atomic power in polar regions, while “women on the threshold wait to colonize the continent….” But the taste of modern exploration did not appeal to me. It was not the world of men I knew.”]