Alone to the South Pole.

An unsupported sledging and ski trip from the Ronne Ice Shelf near the Ellsworth Mountains to the South Pole, ca. 1300 km, with use of GPS and maps. He provides one of the best synopses of expedition reading, at a time when books and reading are being replaced in Antarctica by videos, albeit with a small group of titles.

p. 24, Nov. 20, 1992, Day 3: Read a little before I sleep—about the religion, Taoism. My mood improves and I feel happy as I fall asleep.

p. 32, Nov. 22, Day 6: Takeout my Walkman and place it inmy left pants pocket so it gets warmed by the heat of my thigh. Listen to different kinds of music. Billie Holiday singing, “Pappa may have, Mamma may have, God bless the child that’s got his own.” Keep on travelling, thinking about that stanza as I go.

p. 34, Nov. 25, Day 7: Didn’t read at all last night, I was too tired. Still, I have something to think about—calculating my speed and when I should reach my goal….

I’ve started reading a book on Buddhism which is interesting. Down here, I have time to think about what I read, to pursue the thoughts as I go. Religion engages me. I got involved in Buddhism in connection with a visit to Nepal. Buddhism’s concept of desirelessness fascinates me. I myself have practiced the exact opposite: the desire to experience everything. My life so far has been spent satisfying my own curiosity, the only restriction being to keep from doing anything I’d feel ashamed of the next day.

Look forward to reading more. Despite the differences between our own culture and that of Buddhism, it’s easy to identify with many of their ideas.

Make camp and start reading even as I’m preparing my food.

p. 49, caption to picture of Kagge reading the Oxford World Classics paperback edition of Oscar Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Gray. Caption reads: Try to make time to read every evening. The midnight sun illuminates the tent. I selected books to bring along according to which held the maximum number of words and ideas per gram of book weight.

p. 52-3, Dec. 4, Day 17: Beautiful weather. Try to memorize the poem, “The Best,” by Nordahl Grieg, a Norwegian author we all studied in school. So far in my life, I’ve only managed to memorize poems the length of Ernst Orvil’s, “They Lived in a Row-House and Never Anything More.” This one is more demanding, but then, I have a lot of time. I’ve gotten to the fourth verse: “…the inadvertently clever—life’s second best men.” Repeat it to myself, the cheat-sheets in my breast pocket.

p. 56, Dec. 5, Day 18: Sit and read, write in my journal a nd doze off just after midnight….

p. 75, Dec.13, Day 26: I’ve brought along a little reading material, selecting books which pack the maximum number of ideas per gram of book weight. That’s how I ended up bringing Oscar Wilde, Hermann Hesse, Salinger and Buddhist and Taoist literature, as well as the New Testament. I’ve read most of these before; I didn’t want to risk bringing unknown works which, I worried, I might be too tired to enjoy.

p. 75-79, Dec. 14, Day 27, is a lengthy journal entry reflecting upon the fame and defects of the best-known explorers, including Scott: As it became clear to Scott that he’d be defeated by Amundsen, he focused mainly on creating literature. Instead of using the final days before his journey south to prepare, down to the last detail, he used them to write. And along the way, writing took on ever more meaning for him until, finally, the creation of literature was what mattered most. From being the Polar explorer with artistic ambitions, he became the great author. In death, he was granted more respect than he might have earned had he lived to reach his actual goal. Scott got most of the honor and Amundsen got the South Pole.

p. 84-86, Dec. 17, Day 30: Fine—a day off. I stay in my sleeping bag feeling relieved, and just a tiny bit guilty. Read “Catcher in the Rye.” It’ll be good to finish the book so I can have a little more toilet paper….

I spend the day reading and letting my thoughts wander where they will….

I dive back into “Catcher in the Rye” and finish the book.

p. 90, Dec. 22, Day 35: Almost without exception, I’m in a good mood in the evenings. I get great pleasure from the peace, the food, the reading. It’s fine knowing that a good night’s sleep awaits me.

p. 92, Dec. 24, Day 37, Christmas Eve: Can only remember fragments [of the Christmas story]. When I was younger, I didn’t like the text because all it meant to me was more delay in getting to the presents. These last years, I’ve learned to appreciate the gospel: the story is so beautifully told. The day goes by quickly. I have many thoughts to play with, one after the other. I’m having fun, and looking forward to my cake.

…Cocoa means a holiday; I only have enough with me for four evenings. Leaf through the New Testament and decide to learn John 3:16 by heart. Find the Christmas gospel.

p. 95, Dec. 25, Day 38, Christmas: Put on an opera. Try to get into it but can’t. Before I left, it seemed to me that opera would make perfect listening here—something to live and grow with. But I was wrong: opera seems long, and life short.

Change to Prince. That works. I have only eleven cassettes with me, everything from classical to rock and roll and blues, from Beethoven’s Third to Stevie Ray Vaughan’s concert version of “Mary had a Little Lamb.” Even though I have limited battery power, I’ve still managed to get sick of most of the music I’ve brought along. Still, it does me good to listen to it a couple of hours during the day.

Prince is great. I concentrate, listening to him for about an hour. Turn it off and then miss it. But enough is enough.