Quite an engaging autobiography by the wealthy playboy who took his exploration of unknown places very seriously.
p. 10-11, recollections of his childhood in Chicago from Mme Mabel Dunlop Grouitch: My upper room, with its plain iron bed, was almost austere, she says, but my shelves were full of adventure books. There were maps on the wall, a globe or two. If so I have no remembrance of it.
In the library there were some other books about which I have deferred mention. They were on a low shelf, easily reached by a boy of twelve, and with their drawings and charts I could entertain myself for hours. Too heavy to hold up; like an ordinary volume, I opened them on the floor and lay on my stomach to pore over them.
In those colored maps were white patches marked Unknown or Unexplored—many more white areas than there are today.
“Why don’t people go there? I wondered. “What can be in those white places?”
It hardly occurred to me then that I should be one to find out.
p. 157, with Amundsen and the flight to Spitzbergen: All my life, it seemed, I had been reading about Arctic pack ice, and for years I had dreamed of reaching it. Now at last I was beholding it with my own eyes.
p. 173, Ellsworth quotes Swinburne.
p. 263, aboard Wyatt Earp enroute from NZ to the Bay of Whales, December 10, 1933: We had a small library—a few volumes we picked up in New Zealand, and a set of paper-bound classics from Everyman’s Library presented to us by the publisher. Wilkins brought a little library of his own—doctoring books and old books of philosophy mostly. He also brought a small phonograph and a batch of records with him and played them at night as he read Nietzsche or fussed with some contraption he was working on.
p. 264: The members of the crew when off duty lay in their forecastle bunks and read or slept, or sat on the floor playing some Norwegian game with a pack of greasy cards. The assistant engineer had a fiddle on which he played lugubrious music. Each bunk was curtained so that its occupant could shut out the light if he wanted to sleep.
p. 307, on the flight of the Polar Star from Dundee Island to Little America: The only book on the plane was a small Bible, which I had in my rucksack. [But on the next page he speaks of their nautical almanacs, charts, and notebooks.]
p. 345ff., at the abandoned Little America just before Christmas 1935, after their trans-Antarctic flight ended 16 miles from the Bay of Whales:
In almost every cabin Hollick-Kenyon dug up books—mostly detective stories. He had stacks of them in his upper berth….
… As a result we left several things behind [at the plane] that we could have used in Little America. There was one serious omission for me—my glasses. I left them in the cockpit of the Polar Star, and as a result I could read nothing and could write only with uncertainty. This at least doubled the boredom of the wait for me. Hour after hour in his upper berth Hollick-Kenyon lost himself in detective stories, while I had only my thoughts for company.
p. 348: But it grew dreadfully monotonous for me in the isolation into which I had been thrown by the loss of my glasses and by Hollick-Kenyon’s absorption in his stack of mystery stories.
p. 350: There was plenty to call us back to the Polar Star. By New Year’s Day I would willingly have paid a thousand dollars for my reading glasses.
p. 351, Ellsworth speaking: Will the Wyatt Earp never come for us? Wilkins said five or six weeks to come the 3,000 miles from Dundee Island, and here it is almost seven. One can’t sleep all the time, and it’s awful not to be able to read. My glasses are in the plane along with all my flags and souvenirs.
p. 361. The Australians sent a rescue ship, Discovery II, when they thought that Ellsworth and Hollick-Kenyon were lost. Hubert Wilkins could have made the pickup at Little America, but he “allowed the British ship to get ahead” and it was on the Discovery that Ellsworth returned to Australia and civilization: The chief scientist’s cabin which I occupied was luxurious. It contained a splendid library of books, nearly all relating to the Antarctic. The ship’s surgeon soon discovered my lack of glasses, canvassed everybody on board, and found a pair of spectacles that fit me well enough for reading. We took a month coming up from the Bay of Whales.