Across the Top of Russia

On the 1965 Coast Guard icebreaker, CGS Northwind, trip to the Kara Sea for scientific and spying purposes.

p. 18-19—oceanographic laboratory had a bookcase containing a score of volumes. Oceanographers also had books on bunks.

p. 20, describing his bunk: To my immediate right was another bunk—so far unoccupied. To my left, near the head of my bed, was the metal side of a sea locker cabinet, the top locker in the tier of three. On the stanchion behind my right shoulder was a small reading lamp.

p. 21, the Captain’s cabin had a well-stocked bookcase with a complete set of the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

p. 116, Oceanographer Jim Hauser: Added two books to my library, The Pistol Shooter’s Handbook and Boswell’s Life of Johnson.

p. 139, concerning one of the ensign’s libraries after liberty in Copenhagen: None that I had met except Stanres had returned to the ship with an armful of books. He had prepared for the anticipated long slow days of our trip by buying eight books, all on a single theme: sailing. Around the World Single Handed, Cruising Yachts, On Sailing the Sea, Sailing Alone Around the World, Sailing all Seas—these were some of the titles in his library.

p. 151-52: on Willem Barents Ice Haven, the hut where Barents survived for a time 278 years before, rediscovered in 1871 by a Norwegian captain, Elling Carlsen: Carlsen also discovered what Barents had been reading: The Chronicles of Holland, Zealand and Friesland to the year 1517, a translation of the work of Medina on seamanship (the 1580 edition), and a translation in Dutch of Mendoza’s China.

And in one man’s bunk they found a flute which still gave out a few notes when tried.

Five years later Carlsen revisited Ice Haven for a more systematic view: They found the quill pen with which Barents had written his letters and they found the scroll he had left behind, still hanging in the chimney….

Other relics found included a small writing book with some navigational notes, a hymn book, a Dutch-French dictionary and a religious book in French. Notes on p. 153 that all the relics were returned to Holland where “a model of the hut at Ice Haven in the Naval Department of The Hague and placed the relics inside, mute witnesses to the bravery and ingenuity of a small band of Dutchmen who survived an Arctic winter within 600 miles of the North Pole.”

p. 186: In the chief’s mess, the men lounge on long leather benches under giant Playboy pinups that are mounted, neatly framed, on the bulkheads. The pinups are changed at regular intervals, confirmation, as it were, that man does not accept monogamy with relish.

p. 215, comments by oceanographer Hauser: I got up somewhat earlier than usual today and started reading Raise High the Roofbeam Carpenter, by J. D. Salinger. It had the same effect as his books and short stories usually do. I have been trying to figure it out. I think aboard ship is probably a bad place for that type for book and me. Think I’ll read a Zane Grey tomorrow.

p. 217-21, August 4, a holiday as Coast Guard Day, celebrating the founding of the CG. Petrow used the occasion to ask what people had done, providing what he calls a “good profile of how a group of young Americans entertain themselves on ship….” Lt (jg) Hutchins read American Skyline—Growth and Form of Our cities and Towns by Christopher Tunnard and Henry Hope Read Ice observer Romzek read Taras Bulba by Robert W. Krepps. Lt. Tom Finnegan: attended lecture on earth magnetics by Dr. Ostenso. Bos’n Mate 2 Speltz: listened to Ostenso’s lecture—“didn’t understand a damn word.”

Chief Harig—worked at the boilers Quartermaster 3 Hayden—part of lecture and then cribbage. Capt. –watched prints from TV as well as writing night orders. Ned Ostrenso gave lecture on magnetic ??

Oceanographer Don Milligan did some work and lost game of chess by losing all his pawns first. Ensign Starnes designed hull of sailing cruiser (presumably using his books) and watched Sun Valley Oceanographer Jim Hauser: also watched Sun Valley and “finished reading Lawrence of Arabia and started Faulkner’s The Wild Palms.

Ensign Onstad read Ship of Fools and played bridge.

Ensign Staton read James Bond’s Thunderball.

A good proportion did some reading, but Petrow didn’t include very many enlisted men in this survey.

p. 310: I had finally got around to reading Boswell’s Life of Johnson—a good long book for a long voyage.