p. xii, Introduction: Time may pass, but the memory will never fade of that little tent we shared, the thoughts we shared, the fears we shared; how, during those dark fierce days of blizzard, when travel was impossible, he [Chapman] used to read in a clear tenor from one of our few small books, while the tent shook to the bass of the storm’s accompaniment.
p. 84, Chapman and Riley visiting the old Base where they had been two years before, a period which they all felt was the happiest of their lives. Watkins was now dead and Chapman quotes some lines from Gordon Bottomley
But many deaths have place in men
Before they come to die;
Joys must be used and spent, and then
Abandoned and passed by.
Chapman also refers to Martin Lindsay, author of Sledge.
p. 104-05: It is extraordinary how useless ordinary cookery books are to an expedition cook: nearly every recipe starts off: “Take six eggs and a cupful of cream…”, or “Carefully weigh out half a pound of fresh mushrooms…”: but one learns a lot by experiment and anyhow on an expedition one must not be too fussy.
p. 106, from Chapman’s diary, October 5th: I started reading The Right Place [A Book of Pleasures, by Charles Montague] aloud, but we soon began a great argument about the beginning of the world and the origin of life. I am a confirmed optimist, and in spite of frequent disappointments would find life dull and unbearable otherwise. Quintin is a supreme pessimist and revels in it….
p. 108: Being an isolated community, like a school, we gradually developed a special language of our own, derived from the foreigners we had recently met, the Eskimo language, and phrases picked out of books we had all read.
After mid-November it was dark by about I.30 p.m. and after that hour there was little else to do except read.
p. 117-18, quotes Keats’s Eve of St Agnes: “Ah, bitter chill it was, the owl for all his feathers was a-cold.”
p. 126, on Watkins’ memorial and a quote from Cymbeline:
Golden lads and girls all must,
Like chimney sweepers come to dust.
p. 129: I am always being asked, “What do you do with yourself in the long dark winter? Don’t you get terribly bored? Are you on speaking terms with each other when the sun at last returns?” and so on. Perhaps in the old days, when the men of a wintering party were usually older than we were, and therefore more set in their ideas, quarrels, or at any rate a strained atmosphere, may have been usual: one gathers so reading between the lines of the accounts of the early Polar explorers.
p. 149: In spite of Christianity the drum-dancing means much more to the Eskimos than one would at first imagine. Some of the younger hunters take little interest in these songs and tales, but many of the older men can go on beating the drum and singing hour after hour without ever repeating themselves…they would go on drum-dancing for a day and a night, with pauses only for meals.
p.154, on winter routines: One could read happily eight or nine hours a day with a clear conscience; there was absolutely nothing else to be done.
p. 164, Feb. 10 : The deep snow is hell. Hope we get good ice to Sermiligak. Blew and snowed all night. Very warm and comfortable. I read aloud to John about Prince Florizel and the Suicide Club [R. L. Stevenson]. You want a well written, exciting story for a sledge trip; Stevenson is ideal, then Conan Doyle and Dumas. You also want something more solid for lying up days—Scott, Thackeray or the Brontës.
p. 167: God, what a night! The blizzard got worse and worse. I read the whole of The Pavilion on the Links [short Stevenson novel from New Arabian Nights] to John; often I had to stop because the noise of the gale was so terrific. Just like old times, with the tent flapping like mad and swaying about. I had just finished the story of Francois Villon when suddenly we heard strange, fearful noises above the groaning of the storm. There was a dull concussion (the whole tent shook) followed by a series of ominous noises like snow settling. The pack was breaking up.
p. 172-73: Thank God we aren’t still camping out in the fjord. Drum dancing till late at night. They are all very good at it here. All the Eskimos say that if you whistle loudly the northern lights will start to rush about—as they do now and then. It certainly seemed to have that effect when they demonstrated it. We must tell the Royal Society about this, in case it has escaped their notice. Another humorist said that if you throw up dog dung the aurora stops. This did not work when we tried.
p. 191: Reading Palgrave’s Golden Treasury, but very sleepy. Sledging over the pack is the hardest work I know.
p. 195: Started Green’s History of the English People. I am still sleeping in a single eiderdown bag. The tent is nice and roomy in warm weather.
p. 205: [April 27] Read The Vicar of Wakefield [Goldsmith] aloud to John: what a different atmosphere from expedition life!
p. 205, April 28th: Reading The Friendly Arctic [Stefansson] again—an encyclopedia of hunting and sledging lore.
p. 208: May 20th.Lay up. Blowing all night and still raining like hell. Reading Stephen Leacock, which cheered me up enough to spend some time making plans for future expeditions: but it’s about as futile as trying to map this country—plans never seem to come off.
p. 209, May 24th: Didn’t feed dogs to-day to save food. Reading Tolstoy’s Resurrection. Marvelous book; he has a wonderful understanding of people, but his outlook seems warped somehow. This tent smells vilely and is dripping wet throughout.
p. 238, when Chapman is spending a month alone after their skiff left for an east coast settlement: After the evening observation I used to read and write till it was time to go to bed: oddly enough the book that gave me most pleasure was Sir William Rothenstein’s Men and Memories; perhaps in very contrast to my primitive way of life, where my chief occupation was hunting to get enough food for myself, I found it doubly attractive to share the intimate thoughts and opinions of such men as Conrad, James Stephens and Hudson.
Chap XII is on Eskimo tales and songs.
p. 254: Rymill…handed me a large parcel which I found to contain not only about thirty letters from England but a copy of my book Northern Lights, [re the British Arctic Air-route Expedition, 1930-31] which had been published in my absence from England the previous autumn. It seemed strange and exciting to see it now for the first time, so many months after it had come out, like a soldier returning from the wars to see a child born in his absence.