Thin Edge of the World.

A double expedition for something of a French loner with an Antarctic obsession. After a varied exploratory career, primarily in Tibet, Migot began this journey with a French expedition spending one year on the Kerguélen Islands as doctor to a 50-man contingent, as well as a biological researcher. As he was preparing to return he learned of a subsequent Australian expedition to Antarctica itself, intended to set up the Mawson base in the Australian sector of Antarctica. He applied, was accepted, and a month after the French left the Australians picked him up to go directly to the Australian bases on the continent where he again served as doctor and naturalist, although the trip only lasted three months.

p. 6, as he contemplated the beginning of his trip: I still had good reason to hope that I should still have enough leisure to work on the mass of Tibetan books, manuscripts and notes which I had brought home from the East but had not begun to edit. I had not even opened the cases…. There were fifteen packing cases altogether, none of which I could spare if I were not to waste a year’s work by going to Kerguélen ….

p. 34—Migot says he had “fifteen boxes full of notes, books and Tibetan manuscripts” packed for the trip and they arrived in Kerguélen safe and sound. He doesn’t mention them again in the book and it seems doubtful that he did any work on them, or he might have said so.

p. 39—the base at Kerguélen was called Port-aux-Français where in Building A was a library for books and phonograph records near to a large dining hall.

p. 70-71 [re boredom]: The problem of solitude and the inner life occurs in ordinary present-day life. Man is hardly ever alone; his life is more and more invaded by the madding crowd from which it is becoming impossible to escape. But what is more serious is that men are becoming less anxious to escape. I found that my companions at Kerguélen were bored when they were alone, because in their past social existence their inner life had withered away. In France a man can find a hundred ways to avoid being alone by himself: his family, friends, the movies and many others. When his work is over he can find complete change of atmosphere in entirely different surroundings. There was nothing of the kind in Kerguélen: no movies, no family, no chance of changing his environment. His only resources to retire into his room; but there he will find the other, the one in whose company he does not wish to be, the self from he longs to escape without knowing out to do so.

Many of the men had to work together, but even those of us—the scientists, the doctor and some of the technicians—who worked alone, were forced to meet at mealtimes. We met for breakfast, lunch and dinner in the great dining hall, sitting in dozens at separate tables, according to our jobs. There was a special table for the senior staff, where the head of the mission, the administrators and the principal service chiefs sat together. These artificial groups were agreeable enough to begin with. We did not know each other well, and everyone had a chance of making an impression. But soon they became irksome, and sometimes unbearable, so that some members of the mission did not come to meals at all. It would have been better to have changed places at table frequently, for however interesting a man may be, it does not take long before one knows all his stories, and one soon finds that even the most gifted man’s conversational assets are very poor if one has to listen to him three times a day for a whole year. This is why no man is a hero to his family or his valet.

p. 109, when packing to leave Kerguélen for Antarctica: I obviously could not go off to Antarctica with six cases of books, Tibetan manuscripts, notes and records…so I took enough clothes and books to keep me going through a possible winter in the Antarctic.