The Frigid Mistress: Life and Exploration in Antarctica.

A personal account of five trips to the Antarctic, mainly to Byrd Station. Probably the worst book of Antarctic exploration I’ve encountered. To quote one review of this account of five visits to Antarctica: “He is no writer.” There is one paragraph about the library room at Byrd Station: if the publisher had remembered to provide pagination I would provide a citation—it’s near the beginning of the book.

p. 11-12, on arrival at Byrd Station, Nov. 16, 1958: I went around looking for an empty bunk somewhere and found one in a niche called the library, a little shelf-walled semicubicle which apparently nobody had seen or attempted to inhabit. I soon found out why: it was the leakiest spot in the building, water drip drip dripping through the ceiling panels from the snow on the roof…The third wall of the library was not shelved but was completely covered with life-size busts and pinups of anybody’s pinup girl. I lay back and my eyes panned slowly from Anita Ekberg to Kim Novak to Brigitte Bardot as I drifted into sleep.

p. 60—winter life at Byrd station: Education became even more critical in the darkness months. The scientist managed to keep busy somehow, if not with his own work at least helping another scientist. The military personnel had a few odds and ends in the hobby shop, a few books they could read, and some records, which eventually wore out. The final refuge was resorting to the beer can.

p. 64, section on movies etc.: These films were also a source of laughter and nasty comments, but they were more revealing in their ineffectiveness during the latter days of our confinement. Pinup girls, nude photographs, and other sex exhibits were very common in every station, and in every room. In the early stages of isolation they were a source of curiosity, and every different pose presented an attractive sight. Eventually, however, these pictures became reduced to just paper on the wall.

p. 189, second winter in a small hut: One such shelf contained a communal library where we pooled whatever books each of us brought with him.

p. 191-92, in discussion of drinking: I think he suspected Long of having deliberately left our share behind. And the more he saw Long reading his New Testament before going to sleep, the more convinced he became that he was pretending to be a teetotaler. This would have passed unnoticed, had it not been for an occasion when we were blizzard bound and were reading aloud back and forth, each some excerpt of what he was reading.

Two of the books I had brought with me were particularly interesting reading; Julian Huxley’s Religion Without Revelation and William Sargant’s Battle for the Mind. As it developed, excerpts from these books were very thought-provoking and, to someone religious, rather controversial. One passage in particular I read aloud, knowing that Long was Methodist, which had to do with the utilization of mass psychology by John Wesley. Long, of course had a counter argument, or felt that he would produce one. Mercer immediately plunged into the conversation wanting to fathom exactly how religious Long truly was, or was it just an air he was putting on. Etc

p. 193: There were times when the blizzard would drag slowly and we would get tired of reading.

p. 250, at top of Mt. Weaver: At an elevation of about 9,000 feet near the peak there was a rock cairn with a can hidden in it. I removed the rocks and read the label on the can. It said “Byrd Antarctic Expedition II,” Van Houston Cocoa. Inside the can was a paper from an ordinary lined writing pad that looked so fresh as if it were deposited the day before. The paper was dated December 10, 1934, exactly twenty-eight years before, declaring that the mountain was climbed on that date and was being named after Dr. Charles E. Weaver.

p. 263: Among the many demands scientists asked of the National Science Foundation, I had been asking for some sort of information control system on Antarctic research in order to know who was doing what where in Antarctica before submitting our next proposal. The National Science Foundation decided to produce an Antarctic Bibliography, and was seeking an Antarctic scientist to manage the project. Dr. Richard Cameron declined, and I accepted the position to head the Cold Regions Bibliography Section at the Library of Congress, and moved the family to Washington, DC. [Appears to have finished volume I and II in 1966.]