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Antarctica Reads

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We just ended a Skype call with our son in Punta Arenas Chile, the jumping off place for their flights to Rothera Antarctica.

Brad, is your son in the Coast Guard? I love the photos; they strangely take me back 30 years.

One of my early tripping and cross country traveling companions joined the Coast Guard in the 70’s and finished his career on a helicopter ship that made supply and personnel runs to the US bases. His photos were equally awesome.
 
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Old thread, but I'd like to mention Sir Ernest Shackleton's book, South, which covers his expedition's ordeal from 1914 to 1917 after their ship was crushed in Antarctica pack ice. Hard to believe they all survived.
 
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Brad, is your son in the Coast Guard? I love the photos; they strangely take me back 30 years.

One of my early tripping and cross country traveling companions joined the Coast Guard in the 70’s and finished his career on a helicopter ship that made supply and personnel runs to the US bases. His photos were equally awesome.

My apologies Mike, I missed your post.
No, my son works for an aircraft company in Canada which offers their fleet for charter services.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voyageur_Airways
He might be heading back south in the New Year. He gave me a book from the museum in Rothera. A collection of paintings of the Antarctic. It's stunning, stark and beautiful.
 
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I certainly didn't mind checking out this thread again for any new posts, etc. Looking at the pics this morning while enjoying my morning tea - fantastic, never get tired of those sort of views! Outstanding.
 
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Old thread, but I'd like to mention Sir Ernest Shackleton's book, South, which covers his expedition's ordeal from 1914 to 1917 after their ship was crushed in Antarctica pack ice. Hard to believe they all survived.


Or the book I am just about finished with on the same subject - Endurance, written by Alfred Lansing. Fascinating reading about that amazing bit of survival.

https://www.amazon.com/Endurance-Shackletons-Incredible-Alfred-Lansing/dp/0465062881

Odyssey - cool pix! My son was offered a 9 month tour in Antarctica when he finished school, and I encouraged him to take the gig - but he bowed out. I know he'll regret it someday.
 
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Hey Steve, who can tell what the future brings to all of us? My son is heading back south again early next year. In a strange and selfish kinda way I can't wait. But you know what they say, we (as parents) live vicariously through our children. I'm guilty as charged. I had (and wasted) the opportunity to accompany a daughter on a biology field trip to the subarctic. I can't believe I passed on that one. I regretted that the very day they all left.
 
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I recommend Beryl Bainbridge's novel, "The Birthday Boys", written about 25 years ago. It's a fictionalized account of the Scott expedition.
 
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Just finished "Endurance" last night. A+++ excellent read all the way through. If you have any sailing experience and/or any blue water experience, you will probably appreciate the book all the more.
 
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Antarctica concentrates meteorites... the space rocks fall onto a glacier year after year, are buried by snow, and hundreds of years later glacial flow brings them to the toe, where wind erosion exposes the meteorites again and there they sit accumulating in number until somebody might find them. The idea of finding a rock that's been orbiting around the solar system for billions of years before falling to earth might make one take a closer look... hmmm, what have we here, a moon rock?

There is a book on the search for Antarctic meteorites somewhere, here are a couple of vids... the first includes some verbal explanation.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aQiXf4LmFKA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_d9V41k67E4
 
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Outstanding pics, thanks for sharing. My first thought on that science support boat, is what a tub and all the slab sides, subsequent windage and high superstructure...it must roll and roll in those big seas that you experience coming and going to the continent.
 
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New (2017) arctic exploration book, David Welky’s A Wretched and Precarious Situation

https://www.amazon.com/Wretched-Pre...&keywords=A+Wretched+and+Precarious+Situation

Members of Peary’s 1906 attempt at the North Pole organize an expedition in search of “Crocker Land”, a mysterious landmass Peary “saw” in the distance, long surmised to exist because of tidal flow oddities between the Alaskan Coastal current and transpolar drift.

Spoiler Alert: There is no Crocker Land. Peary probably knew that from the get go, but couldn’t discard the claim because he was deep in the feud with Cook and needed Crocker Land as a fundraising tool. The tidal oddities are now known to be caused by the Beaufort Gyre.

The Crocker Landers endure everything you might expect from a questionably planned and poorly funded expedition to a land that does not exist. The expedition is dropped off south of their intended starting point, and on the West side Greenland instead of the Ellesmere Island coast, a planned two year trip turns into four, multiple rescue ship are caught in the ice and forced to overwinter before reaching the expedition (or the expedition them), infighting, insanity, a murder, scant supplies.

At one point members of the party are scattered to hell and gone in six locations, each making their own way and over-wintering along western Greenland. Just another effed up turn of the century polar exploration.

The actual sledging trip from Greenland onto the polar ice west of Ellesmere doesn’t happen until half way through the book and takes but a few pages.

Spoiler Alert II: MacMillan and company finally see the mountains of Crocker Land in the distance. Their Inuit companions shake their heads and say “No, mists”. Crocker Land is still visible the next day. Inuit’s still say “No, mists”.

Crocker Land vanishes amid clear skies on day 3. What is Inuit for “Dammit, we tried to tell you. Mists”

Criticism: Despite the rollicking subject matter Welky’s sentence structure was at times oddly unappealing to me. The book is well researched, well detailed and footnoted, but there are large parts with no “flow”, almost like reading a bad translation of Dostoyevsky. It seems like a book I couldn’t put down. I did a dozen times, returning for another push.

Or maybe it was just that I knew Crocker Land didn’t exist from previous Peary readings. And now I’ve spoiled that for you too.

Still a worthwhile read.

Antarctica concentrates meteorites... the space rocks fall onto a glacier year after year, are buried by snow, and hundreds of years later glacial flow brings them to the toe, where wind erosion exposes the meteorites again and there they sit accumulating in number until somebody might find them. The idea of finding a rock that's been orbiting around the solar system for billions of years before falling to earth might make one take a closer look... hmmm, what have we here, a moon rock?

A chapter in Gabrielle Walker’s Antarctica, An Intimate Portrait of a Mysterious Continent details one research station’s methodical snow machine grid-search for meteorites. IIRC some of that search takes place in “desert” regions of Antarctica that receive just a trace of annual precipitation. Interesting stuff.

One of my favorite tidbits from the other end of the earth is the Cape York meteorite in Greenland, once the Inuit’s only source of iron. How do you move a 68,000 lb meteorite in the 1890’s? Build Greenland’s only railroad.

A half dozen other pieces of that meteorite have been discovered so far, including a 44,000 lb chunk in 1963 and a 500 lb fragment in 1984.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cape_York_meteorite

As Greenland melts I’m betting additional pieces continue to turn up.
 
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There are always tantalizing tidbits in Polar exploration books. The 7500 lb Savik I fragment was seen by MacMillan’s party, already laid claim to by Rasmussen and Freuchen of Thule Trading Station fame. Rasmussen to my mind was the most accomplished, capable and acclimated/adapted white guy in the arctic in his time.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knud_Rasmussen

One “Well, duh!” realization from A Wretched and Precarious Situation: I never gave it much thought, but the pre-fab huts and buildings erected by Admundsen, Scott, Shackleton and others were still standing years later, and some were restored in the 1960’s (Shackleton’s hut at Cape Royds, Scott’s Tera Nova Hut and his Discovery Hut on Ross Island among others).

Arctic explorers built similar pre-fab base camp huts, but not a trace remains.

Wanna hazard a guess why? The answer is pretty obvious.
 
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One interesting tidbit Watson mentioned was that the lead poisoning theory (from eating canned goods and being exposed to the solder) has been mainly debunked. Today it is believed that zinc deficiency caused by a lack of fresh meat in the diet caused the symptoms. They happened to be there during an especially cold period and game was just not there.
 
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One interesting tidbit Watson mentioned was that the lead poisoning theory (from eating canned goods and being exposed to the solder) has been mainly debunked. Today it is believed that zinc deficiency caused by a lack of fresh meat in the diet caused the symptoms. They happened to be there during an especially cold period and game was just not there.

Offhand, would you know if this sailor(s) remains who was tested, was he from the group that died in the first year (like Franklin) or was he one of the long suffering survivors?

The arrogance and ignorance of the officer corps of English navy was astonishing... one needs only to look at Hudsons Bay English explorers to see amazing feats of endurance and survival by those enlightened enough to adopt and adapt to their environment.

You fish, you hunt...you survive.

The ships were quite sophisticated for their time as far as environmental control of the intense arctic conditions. The planning, not so much.

Do you know if they have ever tested any of the food supplies found to see if there was spoilage evident as well as excesses of lead?
 
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Inuit "reduce, reuse, recycle"?

Exactly, there were no wood-deprived native peoples in the Antarctic. As soon as the Inuit were certain the white men had abandoned a wood frame shelter they would strip it for the boards, nails and other materials. The cairns early arctic explorers erected remained, with messages intact, for decades. “Umphaquua can find his own rocks”. The wood from the huts, not so much.

“Oh baby, straight planed boards wider than a 3 inch scrubby sapling or piece of driftwood. I can finally make a paddle with wider blades than the skinny twigs I’ve been using. Umphaquua now has a real paddle blade, will kill many seal”

(OK, I’m not a fan of Greenland style paddles, and that interpretation exists solely in my imagination, but a 6 inch wide board, or a handful of nails, was probably manna from heaven and worth many fox pelts in trade to fashion paddles and sledge parts)

My sons had a question about the Inuit use of meteor iron. How the hell did they smelt it for use? Were they firing igloo forges with seal blubber and a bear stomach bellows?

Good question. I have no idea.
 
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