Two Years in the Antarctic.

A personal account of two years spent in British Antarctica; in the second year they were joined by an American expedition [Finn Ronne; see 1946-48] and later combined to complete an extensive survey of the East Coast of the Graham Land peninsula. Includes details on how the expedition actually lived in Antarctica, how they organized their base, trained their dog teams, and carried out their work.

p. 30-31: The door to the workshop opened into a small lobby which housed our library, and the Commander had a small office leading off it to the left [shown in sketch on p. 30]

p. 34: Arguing, or discussing, was a pastime in which it was always considered cheating to look up the answer in an encyclopaedia.

p. 36: By 10 o’clock at night the battery lights would be turned off and we would resort to candles, and it wouldn’t be long before each of us would retire to bed to read for an hour before going to sleep.

p. 37: I am not sure who it was that first produced the remark ‘Has anyone read any good books recently?’ which said in so many words, ‘Stop this argument. It is becoming too heated.’ It was probably John, for no one else could say the magic words so innocently. If this phrase bore no result he would smile sweetly and produce his ultimatum. “Let’s change the subject, let’s talk about women.”

p. 50-51: We were able to put up shelves and set out the expedition library. There were two sets of books, one a typical ship’s library of novels and light reading, and the other an astonishingly complete set of scientific books which ranged from a complete encyclopaedia to all the polar literature and expedition reports which might possibly concern us: there was even the old faithful Whitaker’s Almanack which in the years to come solved so many arguments.

Few discussions on the polar technique did not call at some time upon this wealth of experience so carefully recorded by our predecessors.

As I look at it a large part of the success of an expedition must depend upon the speed with which individual members learn their job and a good library hastens this process enormously. I don’t know who assembled our scientific library, for it was probably the best that had ever sailed south with a polar expedition; in any case our indebtedness was incalculable.

p. 87-89, reading on sledge trips during lie-in blizzard days: We read between meals and wrote letters and diaries, but couldn’t afford to use the primus too much to keep the tent really warm. We had foreseen the lie) up and brought two long books each. Between us we had Anthony Adverse, English Social History, Pride and Prejudice, and Alice in Wonderland.

p. 117, March 12 [1947], again in tent on sledge trip: After supper it was very quiet and peaceful and we have been reading Alice in Wonderland aloud to each other.

[Finn Ronne’s American expedition moved into a camp nearby for the second year and the book is explicit about many of the problems he caused, though in the end the two groups did work together.]

p. 188-89: concluding passage on motivation.