An account of a disastrous winter in the Barrens of the Northwest, of three patrician adventurers, led by a rather irresponsible John Hornby. All three died of starvation in 1927.
p. 22, discussing the death of Evans on the Scott debacle: Such words were poetry to the ears of boys brought up on juvenile weekly papers such as The Boy’s Own Paper, The MagnetandPluck, as well as adventure stories by R. M. Ballantyne, G. A. Henty and Gordon W. Stable. In the way that they illustrated the same British grit, the real-life way tragedies of Scott and Mallory [Everest] overlapped with those fictional worlds in the public’s perception to create a composite account of what made a man. These boys’ imaginations had been trained to respond especially to images of the frozen lands as ideal theatres for trial and courage, because their severe beauty brought one close to the sublime truth of creation and the mind of God. In such places, conflict with the elements provided the greatest fulfillment. Even apparent failure could transform itself into a higher form of success and spiritual renewal.
Virtually all boyhood reading underlined this message: the truly heroic thing is often to endure and yet to fail; to face disaster and not be found wanting; to Play the Game.
p. 67, Edgar Christian was a teen-ager on this trip, who in Edmonton brought the notebooks which became the account of this adventure: … each with two hundred pages and the title Records impressed in gold letters on its cover. He also bought two printed books. The first was a volume of verse by Robert Service, Songs of Sourdough, which purported to be ‘a portrait written by an Indian girl of life in the North’. This he sent to his mother. The second was for himself, P. A. Taverner’s Birds of Eastern Canada, published by the Canadian Department of Mines (Geological Survey) just four years earlier. Finally he picked out a small grey-covered Canadian pocket diary for 1926.
p. 75: In an attempt to cut down on weight and bulk, Jack [Hornby] had insisted that Edgar leave behind much of his superfluous luggage, amongst which he included the Prayer Book and Bible which Marguerite Christian had given him…. [Edgar later wished he had them for the burials of Hornby and Harold, before he himself died.]
opp. p. 170, a picture showing Hornby reading the Hudson’s Bay Company catalogue.
p. 174: 29th [November]. Harold made a pack of cards which will now help to pass the evening by, although I wish to goodness there was no time for cards. [Their total preoccupation was the search for good.]
p. 242, from Edgar’s last letter to his parents: Adamson Corona Hotel Edmonton finds 2 trucks of mine & in one that Bible & Prayer Book which Jack refused to let me bring do not be annoyed but I know why now & Jack alone was one man in this world who can Let a young boy know what this world & the next are. I Loved him he Loved me. Very seldom is there true Love between 2 men!