Cold Comfort: My Love Affair with the Arctic.

This is a rather dry account of a mid-1930s expedition to map the coastline of Baffin Island and the Foxe Basin and also some archaeological work on Thule and Dorset cultures. There are scattered reading references:

p. 39, August 22 1936: The rain was heavy early next morning, so I wrote a letter and read Tristram Shandy. The Arctic is an excellent place for reading books one feels one should read but never does if there are any distractions.

p. 42: We awoke to find we were firmly shut in, and we remained imprisoned by ice, and sometimes fog as well, for two more days.

We had not expected to be held up for so long and we soon read everything we had with us. Pat introduced me to the game of battleships which we played now and again from then on.

p. 91, an Inuit Sabbath service: It began with five hymns, one after another. These were followed by a reading from the Bible. Some passages the congregation would agree with, smiling and nodding their heads in approval. Other passages were obscure, as might be expected in a context changed from the Near East to the Far North, and there were many interruptions with everyone free to ask for an explanation. A discussion would then follow until a consensus had been reached on the meaning. In this way the reading became also a cooperative sermon…. Though I could understand only a little of what was going on, I found these services to be a real religious experience, which left me with no doubt that Christianity was a most important influence in the life of that camp. [Elsewhere Rowley does note that they had distinct splits between Anglican and Catholic.]

p. 96: After supper I noticed that Kutjek was reading the service for the solemnization of matrimony in his prayer book. He must have read it many times before, but the prayer book and parts of the Bible were then the only books in his language.

p. 120-21, at Pond Inlet: There was plenty to do at Pond Inlet. My time was fully occupied in arranging to travel to Arctic Bay, making social calls, writing, and reading. Having nothing to read is in some ways like having nothing to eat or drink. I had been deprived of reading for a longtime, and at first it did not matter much what I read, just as any food is good when one is hungry enough. During the winter I had spent a night in an igloo where the walls were lined with advertisements from the Saturday Evening Post of several years back, and I read all of them. I can still remember one that offered a new Packard for $1000. At Pond Inlet there was no shortage of books, and there was a radio with news from ‘the outside’.

p. 123: Although none of the Baffin Island Inuit had ever been to any school, most of them were literate in syllabics and used them to keep in touch with their relatives and friends, as well as for reading the Bible and prayer books.

p. 141, on Admiralty Inlet excavations: My memories of the next few days are of worry about Aiula [a sick Inuk child], of reading Shakespeare from the complete edition I had found at the post [Pond Inlet?], and of eating a lot of muktuk.

p. 171-72: The time before Kutjek was due to return passed quickly. I had one or two archaeological books to read and the post [Repulse Bay] had a substantial though very mixed library.

p. 180, on Christmas in Lyon Inlet: I was of particular interest because I was new and different. I had a few books with me which the children and often their parents enjoyed, particularly Birds of Canada and Jenness’s The Copper Eskimos….

p. 197, on a long komatik sledge trip at Jens Munk Island: Sometimes I would recite poetry to myself and I found I could recall long passages, mainly Shakespeare and Keats, learned years before at school. Occasionally, and unexpectedly, I would suddenly feel intensely happy. I have no idea what caused such irrational and yet unbounded euphoria. I remembered part of one of Siegfried Sassoon’s war poems, ‘Everyone suddenly burst out singing, And I was filled with such delight as prisoned birds must find in freedom. Winging wildly across the white orchards and dark green fields.’ The context was completely different, but the emotion was the same.

p. 218: The next day it was drifting so badly that all we could do was sit in the igloo waiting for better weather. I had picked up a few books, mostly Jane Austen and Dickens, at Arctic Bat, intending to read them during the summer. They helped to fill up such periods of enforced idleness since I did not want to spend all the time asking what must seem to my companions to be silly questions, and I had already learned all the string figures that Panikpakuttuk knew.

p. 219, end of trip at Igloolik: It was 16 May [1939]; the journey from Arctic Bay, which I had hoped would last little more than a week, had taken twenty-five days, and I had only War and Peace left for summer reading.