Antarctic Odyssey.

A history of the early years of ANARE, the Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition, by its original Director, and starting with its two island stations at Macquarrie Island and Heard Island and later the Mawson station at Horseshoe Harbour. It’s not a particularly inspired account, and it exhibits a certain solemn narcissism. But it does have some dramatic moments (e.g. the Hurricane) and some useful chapters on issues of administration, the psychological aspects of personnel selection, and questions regarding design of materials to be used at ANARE bases, from prefabricated huts to clothing.

p. 87, one of several references to the Hansen Atlas, the main cartographic guide to the early expeditions of ANARE, often dwelling on its inaccuracies.

p. 101, in February [1953?] the Kista Dam was beset in the ice near Mawson Station: “The day’s events were unforgettable. Most of us had read Shackleton’s account of his 1914-16 expedition and the destruction of the Endurance by the pressure ice of the Weddell. We had seen the Hurley photographs of the beset ship and had shared vicariously the apprehension and excitement of his experiences. And here we were, safe after weathering similar pressure, but stuck fast thousands of miles from any possible source of assistance, the only ice-going ship in Antarctic waters outside the environs of the Antarctic Peninsula south of Cape Horn.

p. 199-200, on the organization of the Antarctic Division and its library provisions under Phillip Law, the author of this book: The leaders of four sections of the Antarctic Division reported directly to me—the Librarian, the Photographic Officer, the Publications Officer and the Geographical Officer. This arrangement was a reflection of my own personal interests to some extent and underlined the importance I attached to these activities.

Quite early in my Antarctic career I had resolved not to collect books, photographs or souvenirs on my own account. I reasoned that, if I collected such things for the Antarctic Division, they would have a safer and more permanent home. Also, my flat was rather inadequate for such hoarding. Accordingly, when I started the Division’s Library and appointed a librarian, we haunted book shops and book sales in order to buy up Antarctic literature. At one stage we purchased from New Zealand a valuable collection of narratives of classical Antarctic voyages and, later, I prevailed upon the famous Australian Antarctic navigator of the Mawson era, Captain John King Davis, to bequeath his valuable personal library to the Division. I arranged for my librarian to subscribe to the most important scientific and Antarctic journals, and, when our own publications were produced, we gained further library material through exchanges. By the time I left in 1966 the Division’s Library was quite an impressive one.

Establishing good libraries at the stations was a more difficult exercise, and keeping them in order was harder still. My librarian and I solicited gifts of books and magazines from a variety of sources and, whenever we found an Antarctic book that duplicated what was held in the Division’s library, we bought it for one of the stations.

In each station party I appointed an interested man to be librarian. He and the Officer-in-Charge had a difficult job ensuring that the books were properly kept, that stocktaking and cataloguing were done and that duplicate records were returned annually to Head Office. The task became easier when proper amenities huts were built and adequate library accommodation became available.

…The organization of a storage and retrieval system for Antarctic information is a complex matter because the range of topics involved is immense. Almost every scientific discipline is concerned, while logistic requirements involve ships, aircraft, vehicles, huts, clothing, field equipment, radio, victualling, dog-sledging. Then there are medical subject psychological topics, Antarctic geography, Antarctic claims and politics, surveying and mapping, navigation, and many other topics.

p. 213ff. is a chapter on “Selection of Antarctic personnel,” perhaps the most interesting chapter in the book dealing with the psychological elements of Antarctic service, including depression, sexual deprivation (including a rather inconclusive passage on homosexuality), and the best characteristics of successful personnel. He includes a subtle reference to the problems of leadership at Ellsworth Station during IGY.

p. 236: At one station the film Pride and Prejudice was a particular favourite. It was shown time after time and frequently, for variety, it was shown with the sound turned off, and the men chanted in unison the dialogue which, by this time, they knew by heart. When I arrived to relieve the party, I was at a loss to account for the quaint mid-Victorian quality of the men’s everyday dialogue and the old-world courtesy of their behavior, until I was told of the influence of this film throughout the station.