Page 130. " Paul ripped his tent’s snow skirt with a shovel "
Digging out the tent
Permission Granted by Copyright Owner for Use on Book DrumDigging out the tent - Credit: Martin Hartley

Amundsen had been worried about the same thing. Ironically, leaving the same place, during the same blizzard he also worries about damaging his tent and no doubt we damaged our tent in our haste to get going in the horrific conditions: 

It was practically impossible to keep one’s eyes open; the fine drift-snow penetrated everywhere, and at times one had a feeling of being blind. The tent was not only drifted up but covered in ice, and taking it down we had to handle it with care, so as not to break it into pieces.

Page 130. " he would have lost us "

Amundsen comments as follows:

to trust to tracks in these regions is a dangerous thing. Before you know where you are the whole plain may be one mass of driving snow, obliterating all tracks as soon as they are made. With the rapid changes of weather we had so often, such a thing was not impossible.

Page 130. " Leading in a white out "

Skiing in a white out
Permission Granted by Copyright Owner for Use on Book DrumSkiing in a white out - Credit: Paul Landry

Page 131. " with this glorious open desert in front of us, things were looking up. I suddenly felt freer in spirit "

The word ‘open’ conjures lines from Walt Whitman’s poem “Song of the Open Road”:

Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road
Healthy, free, the world before me.



Page 135. " like Captain Oates had hidden his foot "

Lawrence Oates
Public DomainLawrence Oates - Credit: Wikipedia
Captain Lawrence Oates was known as Titus by his companions, after the 17th Century perjurer, Titus Oates, who fabricated the "Popish Plot", a supposed Catholic conspiracy to kill King Charles II. Captain Oates was a member of Scott’s summit party. Following the death of Evans, Scott and his companions were making a desperate lunge to get to their last depot of rations, amidst terrible weather. Oates had a badly frostbitten foot and, worried he was slowing down the team and might thereby cause their death, in a classic action of self-sacrifice and courage, he headed out into the blizzard to die, uttering the now immortal lines: “I am just going outside and may be some time”.


Scott Tent in a blizzard - I may be some time....
Permission Granted by Copyright Owner for Use on Book DrumScott Tent in a blizzard - I may be some time.... - Credit: Martin Hartley
Page 139. " the dysfunctional caretaker from the Shining "

The Shining is a 1980 film by Stanley Kubrick based on a book by Stephen King. The caretaker, Johnny, is played by Jack Nicholson. Employed during the winter to oversee a large, remote, isolated and empty hotel surrounded by ice, he takes the opportunity to write a book. However, when the page is torn from the typewriter, it is revealed that he has been writing the same words again and again and again, evidencing his descent into madness: “All work and no play, makes Johnny a dull boy....”



Page 140. " Sometimes the wind moulded the sastrugi into long ramps, like improbable catwalks which we would sashay down to an audience of wind and snow "

Captain Scott noticed the same phenomenon as he traversed the polar plateau:

We noticed a curious circumstance towards the end of the forenoon. The tracks were drifted over but the drifts formed a sort of causeway along which we pulled.


Page 144. " Scott himself badly damaged his shoulder "

Amundsen and Scott both describe very similar conditions on the plateau. Amundsen describes such an experience:

That day we encountered new surface conditions – big, hard snow waves (sastrugi). These were anything but pleasant to work among, especially when one could not see them… it was impossible to keep on one’s feet. Three or four paces was often the most we managed to do before falling down. The sastrugi were very high, and often abrupt; if one came on them unexpectedly, one required to be more than an acrobat to keep one’s feet.

At times Scott had a similar problem keeping his feet:

On a very slippery surface I came an awful ‘purler’ on my shoulder. It is horribly sore tonight.


Permission Granted by Copyright Owner for Use on Book DrumSastrugi - Credit: Paul Landry


Hauling over sastrugi
Permission Granted by Copyright Owner for Use on Book DrumHauling over sastrugi - Credit: Paul Landry
Page 148. " Laurens Van der Post "
Laurens Van der Post
Creative Commons AttributionLaurens Van der Post - Credit:
Sir Laurens Jan van der Post (1906 – 1996) was an author of many books, farmer, war hero, political adviser to British heads of government, close friend of Prince Charles, godfather of Prince William, educator, journalist, humanitarian, philosopher, explorer, and conservationist.



Page 148. " Thesiger "

Wilfred Thesiger
Public DomainWilfred Thesiger
Sir Wilfred Thesiger (1910 – 2003). A British explorer and travel writer, famous for his ascetic travelling style and sympathy for the Bedouin way of life.


Page 149. " Tomorrow rolled on its petty pace "

An allusion to Shakespeare’s play Macbeth, another text in which the protagonist descends into madness.

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow rolls on its petty pace from day to day to the last syllable of recorded time and all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. Out, out brief candle, life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player who struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Page 149. " It became an excruciating temptation not to start to chip into the following day’s ration while sitting in the tent, even after eating a full meal. "

It was something that Amundsen encountered on the plateau:

Our appetite had increased alarmingly during the last few days… These were days – only a few days, be it said – when I believe any of us… would have swallowed pebbles without winking.

Page 149. " into a hoar frost, like sandpaper "
Deceptively smooth surface is covered in hoar-frost like sandpaper,
Permission Granted by Copyright Owner for Use on Book DrumDeceptively smooth surface is covered in hoar-frost like sandpaper, - Credit: Paul Landry

Scott and Amundsen both complained of a similar phenomenon at approximately the same latitudes.

Scott, evidently frustrated, returns to the theme again and again in his diaries:

It’s been about the hardest pull we’ve had… Over the sastrugi it’s all up and down hill and the covering of ice crystals prevents the sled from gliding even on the down grade.


I found to my horror we could scarcely move the sled on ski; the first hour was awful owing to the wretched coating of loose sandy snow.” And; “But now the surface is beyond words and if it continues we shall have the greatest difficulty to keep our march long enough. The surface is quite terrible with sandy snow, and when the sun shines it is terrible.


Amundsen, as was his way, was a little more restrained but even his exasperation is patent:

A sledge journey through the Sahara could not have offered a worse surface to move over.