Those Greenland Days: The British Arctic Air-Route Expedition, 1930-31.

A rather less engaging book than his later Sledge, but informative on an expedition to scope out air-routes across Greenland by meteorological observations on the icecap. Several reading references:

p. 49: overheard conversation:

A. Bother! I’ve forgotten my prayer-book.

B. But dammit, you don’t want to say prayers on the icecap, do you?

A. Of course I do.

B. And can’t you say prayers without a prayer-book.

A. Yes. Only I like to remember the saints’ days; it makes it so much more interesting.

p. 58: Each man has a small linen bag in which he keeps his sewing outfit, a diary and perhaps a pocket edition of verse; and little scraps of biscuit find a place among these treasures.

p. 73, He reports these book holdings at the Ice-Cap Station: We had a few stock jokes, and these somehow never seemed to pall….A more acute form of mental stagnation was avoided by a small supply of carefully chosen books. We had between us “Vanity Fair,” “Confessions of an Opium Eater,” “Guy Mannering,” “Fowler’s English Usage,” “Wuthering Heights,” “Jane Eyre,” “Mansfield Park” and “Socrates Discourses.” One of our most precious possessions was a chess-board, and gave us unlimited pleasure. It made us forget the number of weeks we had slept in our cloths and our few other little trials.

p. 79: Meanwhile, I being of greater length, used to sprawl on my sleeping-bag doing the more trivial tasks such as replenishing the pot with snow or opening a tin, while from time to time I would read aloud from our vade mecum, the Oxford Book of English Verse.

p. 107-08: There was also at one time a violent craze for poker: but this was short-lived, and after that the unemployed returned to their usual pastimes of reading Wordsworth or Wallace, according to taste, and waiting for the next meal.

p. 113—on Eskimo cannibalism.

p. 116: There is also a Lutheran Mission at Angmagssalik, where several of these people have learnt to read and write. They have a few picture-books, including the A B C, or rather, there is no C in their calligraphy, A B D, and they have got the Bible. These books are copiously illustrated with common or garden objects, such as a cow or tree, but objects that the Eskimo is never likely to see as long as he lives…. Their Bible is the same as our own, except that several words are a line long, and there are no paragraphs or verses in it. The reader just has to go flat out at each chapter.

p. 160, re Courtauld’s five-month solo stint at the Ice-Cap Base; he used “Hints for Travellers” to look up scurvy and found he had the symptoms: He found that his frostbitten toes still prevented him from staying outside long enough to do much digging, so most of his time was spend reading; and as he had been on sledging rations since October 25th, the descriptions of food were what interested him most. Sir Walter Scott’s potage à la Meg Merrilies sounded more delicious than any dish he had ever tasted.

p. 163: To occupy his [Courtauld] mind he designed certain things such as “the perfect meal” and “the perfect boat,” and a plot for a book; and soon after he got back to the Base he committed these ideas to paper before he could forget them. He was thankful that his light had lasted as long as his reading material. Sometime he used to recite verse and sing to himself; but I do not suppose that he often whistled. There is something very hollow in the whistle of a lonely man in a lonely place.