A History of Polar Exploration.

Kirwin’s History is widely considered the classic history of polar exploration.

p. 31-34, on early Dutch expeditions such as the 1596 expedition with William Barents, whose camp was discovered in the 1870s. The Dutchman had such books as The Chronicle of Holland, Zeeland and Friezeland, by Albert Hendricus, or The History or Description of the Great Empire of China….: When the bear-fat ran out and they could no longer read, when the smoke from the fire became too suffocating, they lay in their bunks with covered roof and the cracking of the ice-floes out at sea (p. 31).

When Barents’ winter house at Ice Haven was later discovered, near Novaya Zamlya the contents were scattered by bears…: Among the charts and books still recognizable was a copy of the Dutch translation of Pet and Jackman’s log which Barents had obtained from Richard Hakluyt…and an old sea-chest. In this, frozen together in the ice, were print sand copper engravings depicting in elaborate Renaissance style classical scenes such as Pallas, June, and Venus in the presence of Paris, and biblical events such as the meeting of Esau with Jacob, all intended for the edification of the people of Cathay (p.32-3).

Henry Hudson in 1607: carried with him not only Barent’s charts but—as Barents himself had done—a translation of the sailing directions for a voyage from Norway to Greenland compiled by a Norse colonist living in Greenland towards the end of the fourteenth century…. (p. 33-34).

p. 62, re Captain James Cook’s 1768 expedition: No people ever went to sea better fitted out for the purpose of Natural History; they have got a fine Library of Natural History…. [This Mainly refers to the library of Sir Joseph Banks.]

p.79-80, of British expeditions under Barrow in early 19th century, and Parry’s first Northwest expedition: On board, rollicking performances by the ships’ company of the latest London farce, magic lantern shows, and a heavily humorous weekly magazine, like Parry’sNorth Georgia Gazette and Winter Chronicle, kept up morale during the months of winter darkness. But discipline was stern, and the moral tone set by officers drawn from the new middle class was strictly Evangelical and Sabbatarian. Religious education featured largely in the ship’s routine on these expeditions and large additional stocks of bibles were hopefully carried for distribution to the Eskimoes. (See also p. 88 for theGazette at Cape Sabine.)

p.161, reErebus and Terror and Franklin expedition in 1845: each ship had a library of twelve hundred volumes ranging from treatises on steam engines to the works of Dickens and Lever and volumes of Punch. Franklin was particularly concerned for the education and spiritual welfare of his men while isolated in the Arctic wastes. Slates and arithmetic books, pens, ink, and paper were provided for classes during the winter; testaments and prayer-books were available for all; and a hand-organ, playing fifty tunes, ten of which were psalms or hymns, was purchased for each ship.

p. 241, re Shackleton’s voyage on Scott’s Discovery expedition: On 23rd April 1902 the sun sank at noon, to disappear for four months. There was plenty, apart from work, to keep the men from moping during the winter darkness. Shackleton, a voracious reader, recited poetry, preferably the poems of his favourite Robert Browning, in an engaging Irish brogue, and having something of a flair for journalism, edited the South Polar Times, the lineal descendant of Sabine’s Winter Chronicle and North Georgia Gazette [sic] on Parry’s first North-West Passage Expedition. This was illustrated by the delicate drawings and water-colour sketches of Wilson…Another more boisterous publication was The Blizzard, now a collector’s piece among Antarctic bibliophiles. [Discovery also had its Royal Terror Theatre, featuring “Ticket of Leave,” and a “Nigger Minstrel Show”, recalling Parry’s performances of “Miss in her Teens.”