Help identify this book about traveling on a ship in the antarctic
December 26, 2009 10:50 PM   Subscribe

I want to read the part about the antarctic ocean so full of life

I remember reading a book that was written in the mid 1900's perhaps. It's a memoir by someone--probably some male author who wrote 'classics' of literature.

He has a friendly mein, and I love remembering a section where he talks about the ocean down there so teaming with life. It's almost like the boat is driving through a soup of krill. I want to read that scene again. It's like a song or word I can't quiet remember.

Who is it? arg. I hate tip of the tongue.
posted by bleary to Writing & Language (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Sounds like is could be Home of the blizzard, by Douglas Mawson.

Mind you, I believe Scott, Amundsen, and Shackleton all wrote books, too. But the krill stuff reminds me of Mawson for some reason.
posted by smoke at 12:43 AM on December 27, 2009

From Home of the Blizzard (Gutenberg edition) :
The sea-ice was by then thick and safe. About half a mile off shore a very successful dredging was made in fifty fathoms; the bottom at this depth simply teemed with life. At first, the dredge, rope-coils, tub, picks and other necessary implements were dragged about on a sledge, but the sledge was hauled only with great difficulty and much exertion over the sticky, new sea-ice. As a substitute a portable, steel handcart was advantageously employed, although, owing to its weight, tide-cracks and rotten areas had to be crossed at a run. On one occasion a flimsy surface collapsed under it, and Hunter had a wetting before it was hauled on to firmer ice.

The book seems to be like that - about 99 percent about the practicalities of exploration and survival, and not much description of "teeming life". I don't see the "krill" part (the word's not in the book).

Later on:
One successful dredging in eighteen hundred fathoms brought up some large erratics and coaly matter, besides a great variety of animal life. It was instructive to find that the erratics were coated with a film of manganese oxide derived from the sea-water. Several tow-nettings were taken with large nets automatically closing at any desired depth through the medium of a "messenger." Small crustaceans were plentiful on the surface, but they were if anything more numerous at depths of fifty to one hundred fathoms. Amongst the latter were some strongly phosphorescent forms. The flying birds were "logged" daily by the biologists. Emperor and Adelie penguins were occasionally seen, among the floes as well as sea-leopards, crab-eater and Weddell seals.

Friday January 16 deserves mention as being a day full of incident. In the morning a thin, cold fog hung along the pack whose edge determined our course. Many petrels flew around, and on the brash-ice there were dark swarms of terns—small birds with black-capped heads, dove-grey backs and silvery-white breasts. They were very nervous of the ship, rising in great numbers when it had approached within a few hundred yards. One startled bird would fly up, followed by several more; then a whole covey would disturb the rest of the flock. Hamilton managed to shoot two of them from the fo'c'sle, and, after much manoeuvring, we secured one with a long hand-net.

Soon after, there was a cry of "killer whales!" from the stern. Schools of them were travelling from the west to the east along the edge of the pack. The water was calm and leaden, and every few seconds a big black triangular fin would project from the surface, there would be a momentary glimpse of a dark yellow-blotched back and then all would disappear.

We pushed into the pack to "ice ship," as the water-supply was running low. Just as the 'Aurora' was leaving the open water, a school of finner whales went by, blowing high jets of spray in sudden blasts, wallowing for a few seconds on the surface, and diving in swirls of foam. These finners or rorquals are enormous mammals, and on one occasion we were followed by one for several hours. It swam along with the ship, diving regularly underneath from one side to another, and we wondered what would happen if it had chosen to charge the vessel or to investigate the propeller.

Close to a big floe to which the ship was secured, two crab-eater seals were shot and hauled aboard to be skinned and investigated by the biologists and bacteriologist. When the scientists had finished their work, the meat and blubber were cut up for the dogs, while the choicer steaks were taken to the cook's galley.

After lunch every one started to "ice ship" in earnest. The sky had cleared and the sun was warm and brilliant by the time a party had landed on the snow-covered floe with baskets, picks and shovels. When the baskets had been filled, they were hoisted by hand-power on to a derrick which had been fixed to the mizen mast, swung inboard and then shovelled into a melting tank alongside the engine-room. The melter was a small tank through which ran a coil of steam pipes. The ice came up in such quantity that it was not melted in time to keep up with the demand, so a large heap was made on the deck.

Later in the afternoon it was found that holes chipped in the sea-ice to a depth of six or eight inches filled quickly with fresh water, and soon a gang of men had started a service with buckets and dippers between these pools and the main hatch where the water was poured through funnels into the ship's tanks. The bulwarks on the port side of the main hatch had been taken down, and a long plank stretched across to the floe. At nine o'clock work was stopped and we once more resumed our western cruise.

posted by beagle at 7:08 AM on December 27, 2009

I think that might have been from one of Shackleton's books. It sounds familiar.
posted by fshgrl at 11:17 AM on December 27, 2009

Response by poster: I know it's not Shackleton or Cherry-Garard, though I definitely enjoyed reading those guys. It was more casual, and the author was on a cruise maybe. I don't think it was Paul Theroux.
posted by bleary at 9:14 AM on December 29, 2009

Response by poster: Not Mawson, but thanks for the reference. I love reading about antarctic exploration.
posted by bleary at 9:15 AM on December 29, 2009

Response by poster: Holy crap I found the title.

Voyage Through the Antarctic
Richard Adams, Ronald Lockley

I had given it up for lost.

(was backing up lj entries and I have an entry about it. huh. well, it was from 2006, so I forgive myself for forgetting it)
posted by bleary at 8:42 PM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

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