Eight Men in a Crate; the Ordeal of the Advance Party of the Trans-Antarctic Expedition 1955-1957. Based on the Diary of Rainer Goldsmith.

Because of goods unloaded too hastily at the beginning of the expedition, eight men had to spend an Antarctic winter in a large packing crate and a few tents while they gradually built their main hut during the winter. The italic passages below are from Goldsmith’s diary, the others from Arnold’s connective prose.

p. 39: Apart from looking after the dog, hunting seals and collecting ice there was very little to occupy them on the ship. Some played bridge; others spent time in the bar; Rainer did a lot of reading, including the whole of War and Peace, but longed for something constructive to do

p. 75: …occasionally anger surfaced. In fact the carbon monoxide problem should have been foreseen particularly if any of them had read and learnt from Byrd’s Alone (1938) which describes how he nearly died in a tent heated by a primus; but there seems to have been a general disinclination to learn from the experiences of others. Rainer discovered this during the journey down. He had brought with him a rare copy of Filchner’s book: a warning, if ever there was one, of the danger of hut-building (or leaving stores) on ice close to the sea. He was the only one who could read German but even so no one seemed interested in what the book had to say.

p. 81 May 18, 1956: Rainer was now sharing a tent with Ken rather than Tony. Much time was spent talking long into the night and also reading aloud to each other from books as diverse as James Joyce’s Ulysses and A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh.

p. 82 May 29: We had a good session last night in the tent reading aloud the poetry of Robert Service—his work fits very well down here.

p. 89 Tuesday June 26: Wrote air letters and read all day rather delightful…. Hannes was making his hundredth list and reading the Folies Bergères and Tony of course was digging out his bedroom.

p. 91: Ken, with Rainer recording for him, spent many cold hours taking readings. Later his lengthy calculations were stymied by the lack of a Nautical Almanac. Scott had experienced the same difficulty.

p. 116: In the evening, when they had managed to sweep as much of the water out as possible, they all sat down to a long session with the newly discovered gramophone. The selection of records was excellent, ranging from Eartha Kitt to Beethoven. Another thing they found was the stamps, a Falklands issue specially overprinted for the expedition, which they had fun sticking onto envelopes and franking with the unique Shackleton Base imprint, for the benefits of philatelists all over the world.