A beautifully written book on whaling in the Weddell Sea, where R.R.S. Discovery II was trapped (like Endurance) but escaped.
p. 10—traveling to Antarctica aboard the Norwegian Antarctic, a floating whaling factory which he describes as a happy ship, less rigid in discipline than many British ships: In the saloon was the ship’s library in charge of the secretary—a cabinet full of well worn editions, many of them translations of the English classics and many by Norwegian authors, Knut Hamsen prominent among them. Every Sunday the men trooped into the saloon and drew books out or returned them. They came into the saloon in their singlets or even stripped to the waist, enormous and hairy, and went out again silently.
p. 116, describes the wardroom of Discovery II: Around the walls between the windows are prints of earlier Discoveries and in one corner stands a piano—one of those brave and immortal pianos which, in places where men forgather on festive occasions, do such long and arduous service for so little reward. It is made to fold up, a feat which it not infrequently performs on its own account at inopportune moments. In another corner are volumes of the Encyclopædia Britannica which have settled, with the authority of a High Court judge, many fierce arguments at dinner-time, and here too are those volumes on polar exploration in which you may learne what the calorie value should be of a man’s rations when sledging across the Antarctic Continent and all those other technical details which are of interest only to those who propose to sledge to the South Pole.
p. 136, when trapped the scientists had nothing different to do but work in their laboratories: I found that this hardly fitted my mood so I went below to my cabin. Here there were rows of books, old newspapers and letters, three months old, from home. I read a letter from home telling me that my mother’s cocker spaniel bitch had produced a litter of puppies. It was humanizing and made the sinister silent whiteness outside seem less real.
p. 152, about one seaman who helps on scientific experiments: This curiously earnest young man read avidly. Through the door in the cabin-flat bulkhead, which communicated with the focs’le, I often glimpsed him, when on my way to the bathroom, reading calmly amid the screech of a gramophone grinding out stale jazz, the guffaws of a group playing cards and the general babel of those cramped and narrow quarters. Everything he read he kept, like Sarah, in his heart to disgorge into my frequently indifferent ear upon the fosc’le head…. On these nights [of bad weather] he would say ‘Fear no more the heat o’ the sun, nor the furious winter’s rages. Shakespeare. Nothing like education’.
p. 205, at one point Lincoln Ellsworth left his spectacles on a plane: There were copies of old American magazines, The New Yorker, The Saturday Evening Post. All that was amusing and chic and of importance in 1933 lay between their torn and faded covers. Several years old though these were they would have been better than nothing for Ellsworth, but he could not read because his spectacles were twenty miles away in the Polar Star, which lay out there upon the barrier face, tamped down and secured against storms.
p. 220, but later he found Ellsworth a restless reader: He never sat still for long and if he settled himself with a newspaper or a book he would be up again in a minute or two to begin his wanderings anew.