Essentially the story of the establishment of the first base at the South Pole, now called the Amundsen-Scott Station, by the scientific leader of the expedition. As so often in the science/military relationship, Siple seems not to have gotten on too well with the military leader of Operation Deep Freeze, George Dufek, but is only mildly sarcastic in his criticism. The book contains a good deal more science than many of these accounts, and little on the recreational activities of the winter night. He attributes this to the lack of time for pastimes while getting and keeping the base operational. There are a few passages dealing with reading:
p. 69-70: I am certain those viewing polar expeditions from afar wonder how we poor shut-ins manage to while away our hours. The truth is that the winter nights [sic] pass so rapidly that I for one never seem to get all the things done I expected to accomplish. I always bring home some of the books I take along for winter-night reading, unread. The first half of the winter moves along leisurely in contrast to the exhausting pace maintained during the period of camp construction. Then by midwinter, the tempo picks up and becomes more frantic as sunrise approaches and everyone strives to be ready to make the most of the short summer season.
p. 146, in getting ready to supply the base: I remember that we were particularly elated when we acquired a set of the Encyclopedia Britannica, for I knew that during the winter night men would argue about various factual questions and it was important that they have source books to settle their disputes.
p. 93, on an unsuccessful hunting party with inept hunters: However, the trip served the useful purpose of easing their consciences, for now they knew that no game could be got and that there was no occasion for them to do anything but wait for the spring in the orthodox way of explorers, reading the Encyclopædia Britannica or penny novels, according to temperament, making long diary entries, listening to victrolas and having flashlight photographs taken now and then, showing the comforts and convivialities of an arctic home.
p. 170, this EB was air-dropped to the Pole and lost: Our precious set of Encyclopedias, which I had planned to use to settle minor factual disputes bound to come up during the coming winter, was one lost stream-in I could not replace. We dug in many spots but never found the volumes.
p. 269—laments lack of encyclopedia: I found ourselves hard put at times to settle arguments. They did have popular magazines, some sporting mags and some Western pulps; lectures two evenings a week.
p. 271: Bedtime was generally late. A few of the men, like Bob Benson and Arlo Landolt, averaged only five hours of sleep at night because after their work was done they stayed in their offices or lay in their beds and read—usually classics or technical books in their scientific fields. We suspected they slipped in a Western or pulp story now and then from the chuckles that came from them.
p. 274: The formal part of the [church] service consisted of a reading from the Bible and the singing of hymns. We had been led to expect an electric piano to be air-dropped to us, but when it failed to arrive we relied on records, though unfortunately the recorded hymns were not generally familiar to us and with the absence of hymnbooks we did not prove to be very articulate singers.
South Pole Station Daily Narrative. Commencing October 13, 1956, and ending January 20, 1957, as written by LTJG Richard A. Bowers, CEC, USN. See Antarctican Society website
Wednesday, November 7, 1956 POLE STATION preparation is at a standstill. All personnel have returned to their departments and are standing watches. The only thing accomplished was to gather library books for shipment to the Pole Station.
Thursday, November 29, 1956 A box of pocket books was placed on the shelves that WILLIAMSON built and SPIERS has some new shelves, benches and tables.