Byrd’s account of his first Antarctic Expedition (1928-30) and the development of the first Little America. Here and elsewhere Byrd seems obsessed with the possibility of failure, though it also seems that he uses that device to heighten the tension of his narrative. Seems a transparent piece of reader manipulation.
p. 157-58, discussing the psychological reasons for scattering Little America’s buildings: There was another reason recommending such distribution. The most persistent and insinuating foe to explorers who endure the winter night is monotony. It is a thing, of course, many of us know and for that matter endure even in the center of civilization; but nowhere else can it be experienced to such a degree as in the polar night. For there can be few ways in which to escape monotony. Bitter cold and incessant storms keep all but the hardiest men indoors a greater part of the time; and even they do not care to venture very far. Consequently, men are thrown into the utmost intimacy for months on end, within the narrow, restricting walls of their shacks; and the time inevitably comes when all the topics in the world have been sucked dry of interest; when one man’s voice becomes irritating to the ears of another; when the most trivial points of disagreement become fraught with impassioned meaning. When that point is reached, there comes trouble.
p. 168, Byrd’s diary, Friday March 8th, 1929: Owen is assembling a library in my office. He has been appointed librarian. As we have about 3,000 volumes in the collection, he has his hands full assorting them.
p. 195, re Amundsen’s earlier base of Framheim: But we still had the idea that we might stumble on it, and I refreshed my mind with Amundsen’s description of the place, and, in fact, carried with me maps and the chapter in his book describing its location.
p. 210: Like country cousins, argument clung to us always. They started innocently, gathered increasing strength and became so fraught with passion as to threaten to bring down the roof. They seemed to have no end…. Probably the wisest thing we did, when we went South, was to bring a set of the Encyclopædia Britannica, the World’s Almanac and Who’s Who. These repositories of essential information were a godsend. That these estimable works happen to have lacked some of the facts there were, for a time, like life and death in Little America is due less to neglect on the part of the editors, I imagine, than to discrimination and perhaps a sense of propriety.
p. 212: Save for the arrangement of things, the appearance of the administration building did not differ greatly from that of the mess hall. My quarters, the library and the room turned over to the scientific staff, took up one whole end of the building.
p. 220-21: On Sunday, which was officially a day of rest, we had a regular motion picture show…. Twice a week during the winter the dons and pundits of Antarctic University gave lectures on the various subjects associated with the research purposes of the expedition. Dr. Gould gave the course on geology which he taught at the University of Michigan and which nearly every one attended. Mason and Hanson lectured on radio science, June conducted a ground school on aviation…, and McKinley talked on aerial surveying. These studies were a welcome interlude…
“There was a victrola in the library in the Administation Building, which ground perpetually. The records were of jazz and classical music, and both, I think, were played to equally appreciative audiences.
p. 224-25: The watchman had certain privileges, however. His post was in the library. He was allowed a candle and a kerosene lantern…. This watch, however, was later taken over by Demas, who stood it most of the winter, because he believed he could make use of the quiet to pursue his studies. Demas is one of the most studious young men I have ever known….
The duty was not especially complicated, and the watch was popular with some men for the reason that it allowed them the solitude for reading and study.
The Administration building at LA was at the farthest remove from the mess hall and all other buildings and thus the library somewhat less accessible than it might have been. [Byrd says nothing here about his own reading, something he did do in Alone.]
p. 238-39: Boredom? Certainly we were bored at times. There were for all of us periods toward the end of winter when it seemed that time stood still, and the spring and the sun would never come. But those were rare occasions. We were so taken up by special tasks that had to be done that spring seemed to be rushing at us, and the night to short to allow us time for leisure, much less to be bored.
p. 241-42, preparing for sledge journeys: The hours and hours we spent in working out every detail of the planning that preceded every journey can be taken as evidence of the care with which we approached these particular problems…. We had with us one of the best polar libraries in the world, and this was used extensively, to supply information that we lacked in personal experience. By the end of winter the volumes on the Antarctic had been worn shabby and were discolored from uninterrupted use.
p. 242—Byrd had a number of committees on various projects, including one on the Polar Flight: Perhaps it would be interest ing to sit in, for a few moments, on one of the sessions of this committee. It convened after supper generally in the library, which served also as my office. Three sides of the library were taken up by shelves, on which Owen had neatly stacked the books. The only picture on the wall was that of Floyd Bennett, for whom we named the Polar plane. It was draped with an American flag. Near the center was a small caboose stove which threw off a ruddy glow. In one corner was Lofgren’s desk, and in another was Owen’s with his portable typewriter on it. There were three different types of collapsible chairs. We were jammed rather closely together, as the library was only twelve feet square
p. 251—returning to the subject of planning for sledge journeys and of the sledges themselves: Well, shall the height be six inches, seven or eight? What proportion of the surface shall come in contact with the snow? If too much, pulling may be terribly hard, especially in cold weather, for then the snow is like sandpaper. Very well, let us see what Nansen, Scott, Peary, Amundsen, Rasmussen, Shackleton and the others have to say on the subject? And what does Walden think? A good sledge is a beautiful and efficient thing.
There is a good picture of the library opposite p. 272.