Cockrill applied for the job of veterinarian on the British whaling expedition aboard the Southern Venturer in 1950-51, to evaluate the Antarctic whaling population, its health and welfare and the likely survival of the whaling industry in its postwar rebound. Cockrill has a charming style displaying admirable equanimity amidst fanatic whalemen. His ship was part of a large fleet of vessels making annual expeditions which typically killed 34,000 whales.
p. 19: The officers’ lounge, forward, was deserted….The lounge was a small, neat mahogany box with three fixed tables, half a dozen chairs, and a leather-covered settee which ran round two sides of the box. There was a bookcase, locked, containing an assortment of books, most of which still retained their paper jackets and appeared to be new. The selection had been made with care and prejudice: there were some volume of poetry, several biographies, the collected letters of T. E. Lawrence, a complete set of Dickens, and another of Scott, and two rows of modern novels including a number in Norwegian. There were two copies of “Altid Amber.” At one side of the book-case was a gramophone and a pile of records, at the other was a radio.
p. 21: I got into bed, not without difficulty as the bunk seemed to be extremely narrow and an inordinately long way from the floor. I balanced “The Southern Stocks of Whalebone Whales” on my stomach and began to read. I was comfortable and rather tired…. I drew the bedclothes up to my ears, yawned, and drifted off to sleep.
p. 57: Cap’n Stewart read Dickens and back numbers of the Sunday papers and wrote laboriously, with the patience and neatness of an etcher on steel, on the log which he had maintained so meticulously for so many years, pince-nez perched askew below shaggy eyebrows, a tip of pink tongue protruding in concentration from a corner of his mouth.
p. 58: In the cabins aft, months-old Scandinavian magazines and newspapers circulated. Men lived, smoked, argued, and slept in close contact, boredom, and discomfort. Some wept in the weariness of sea-sickness, and sleeplessness, and home-sickness, and knew their vulnerability.
p. 222 has a good description of channel fever: We have a great desire to be home again. There is an urgent need for relaxation, for drink, for women, for a good book and a comfortable armchair, for clean linen and a hair-cut, for good talk, for cheerfulness, for all the simple, quiet things like the sound of the laughter of children, the bark of a dog, footprints on a gravel path, the sight of green grass, a house in a garden, trees, books, music, and physical ease.
He ends by giving the opening of Moby Dick.