‘Ennui’ is the French word for boredom. However, it had a special significance to a school of French writers such as Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre, known as the Existentialists, and was the particular defining characteristic of their heroes, epitomised by Meursault of The Outsider. ‘Ennui’ is an emotional state carrying both an angst and a rebellious desire to understand the protagonist’s place in an increasingly absurd world. The state also renders the subject prone to irrational action – like suddenly deciding to cross Antarctica.
Amundsen describes the valley:
Up here all was strangely peaceful; the mountain side and the glacier united in one great flat terrace – a plain one might call it without disturbance of any kind.
A small mountain in the middle of the Silence Valley, above the icefall named after Amundsen’s second-in-command on the Fram. Ironically, given the subject of this book, Olé Englestadt was struck by lightning and died while testing a "man-lifting kite”. (Source: Wikipedia)
Amundsen also reports that:
The going changed at once up here; the loose snow disappeared, and a few wind-waves began to show themselves. These were specially unpleasant to deal with on this last ridge; they lay from south-east to north-west, and were as hard as flints and as sharp as knives. A fall among them would have had very serious consequences.
Amundsen confesses a similar problem with feet:
most important is the covering of the feet, for the feet are the most exposed members and the most difficult to protect. One can look after the hands; if they are cold it is easy to beat them into warmth again. Not so with the feet; they are covered up in the morning, and this is sufficiently troublesome piece of work to make one disinclined to undo it again until one is turning in. They cannot be seen in the course of the day, and one has to depend entirely on feeling; but feeling in this case often plays curious tricks. How often has it happened that men have had their feet frozen without knowing it! For had they known it, they could not possibly have let it go so far. The fact is that in this case sensation is a somewhat doubtful guide, for the feet lose all sensation. It is true that there is a transitional stage, when one feels the cold smarting in one’s toes, and tries to get rid of it by stamping the feet. As a rule this is successful; the warmth returns, or the circulation is restored; but occasionally it happens that sensation is lost at the very moment when those precautions are taken. And then one must be an old hand to know what has happened. Many men conclude that, as they no longer feel the unpleasant smarting sensation, all is well; and at the evening inspection a frozen foot of tallow-like appearance presents itself. An event of this kind may ruin the most elaborately prepared enterprise, and it is therefore advisable in the matter of feet to carry ones’ caution to lengths which may seem ridiculous.
Amundsen lay in a tent in a blizzard for the same time, in the same place. He also experienced the altitude, although not to the degree of vomiting, as the author did:
We quickly found out that [this] was not a hospitable locality. During the night the temperature sank, and violent gusts of wind swept over the plain; they shook and tore at the tent… The effect of the sudden and great change in altitude made itself felt at once; when I wanted to turn in round in my bag, I had to do it a bit at a time, so as not to get out of breath. That my comrades were affected in the same way, I knew without asking them; my ears told me enough.