In a Crystal Land: Canadian Explorers in Antarctica

Despite the common publicity gimmick of the blurb about “the first to set their feet” or eyes on some piece of godforsaken territory, this is still a sound collection of stories about Canadian involvement in Antarctic exploration. Although Canada never mounted an expedition of its own, its citizens were leaders of important expeditions starting in the 1890s.

4th plate from end: photo of Captain Andrew Taylor, Port Lockroy Graham Land in July 1944, with shelves of books and surveying instruments, part of the Tabarin Expedition. See chapter 8 about this wartime expedition.

p. 53: Wright became ‘Silas.’ The navy men on board thought it a typically Yankee name, in part because the expedition’s small library included a volume by the American novelist Silas K. Hocking.

p. 60: Indeed, so dedicated a scientist was he [Charles Seymour Wright] that while the others chose Browning and Tennyson to fill their one pound quota of books, Wright brought two mathematics texts, both in German.

p. 70, in a chapter on Silas Wright as “The Man who Found the Bodies” of Scott’s party, Beeby claims that a line from Tennyson’s Ulysses “had been inscribed on the flyleaf of a book of Browning’s poems that had been taken to the pole by Scott and had been retrieved by the search party.”

p. 166, on Lincoln Ellsworth and Albert Hollick-Kenyon’s cross-Antarctic flight: Ellsworth sank into melancholy. He had forgotten his glasses at the plane and thus was denied all reading while Hollick-Kenyon gorged on detective novels left by the Little Amerian cewmen, ‘By New Year’s Day I would willingly have paid a thousand dollars for my reading glasses,’ he wrote.

p. 186, during Tabarin operation: Recreation in the hut consisted mainly of card-playing, listening to the gramophone and reading. The Port Lockroy Prattler, the limited circulation expedition paper, appeared occasionally, its unsigned articles usually spoofing some mundane aspect of the daily routine. The expedition also had an excellent polar library and Taylor used much of his spare time to bone up on Antarctica’s thin history. The men drank alcohol almost every evening, partly because the expedition was being run by naval veterans, but excess drinking never became a problem.

p. 193: Their winter sojourn was brightened a bit by the appearance on 21 June of the first issue of the Hope Bay Howler, ‘Guaranteed Circulation, 100 copies.’ This illustrated monthly newsletter was the immediate successor to the Port Lockroy Prattler. It never attained the sophistication of the grandfather of Antarctic expedition papers, Scott’s South Polar Times, though it offered the novelty of correspondents’ reports from other Tabarin bases, thanks to the magic of radio. Presentment towards the expedition organizers in London for keeping everybody in the dark about plans. Typical was the following:
Rumours have been circulating recently that we are likely to receive some news in the near future. The Government wish to make it quite clear that these rumours are entirely without foundation. There is no intention whatsoever of giving us any information.
Any person who knows the originator of these rumours must report at once to the nearest police station. It cannot be emphasized enough that security is one of the chief pillars of democracy.