Page 176. " the Great Game "

The moniker given to the 19th century geo-politicking in Central Asia, during the build-up of the British Empire. It carries that particular flavour of nonchalance, stiff upper-lip, good sportsmanship and patronising jingoism with which the British meddled so intensely in divisive nation-building, frontier-setting and colonial over-lording.

See Kim on Book Drum

Page 176. " striped white and red, like a Venetian mooring post and topped with a dented mirrored ball "


Patrick looking into the South Pole
Permission Granted by Copyright Owner for Use on Book DrumPatrick looking into the South Pole - Credit: Paul Landry



Page 176. " The new base, made of steel and coated in plywood, was boxy, cheap looking and ugly "


New South Pole base
Permission Granted by Copyright Owner for Use on Book DrumNew South Pole base - Credit: Paul Landry


Page 177. " an Easter Island Moai "
Easter Island Moai
Creative Commons AttributionEaster Island Moai - Credit:

The Moai are enormous stone statues of disembodied heads with flat noses and a noble bearing which line the shores of Easter Island, a remote and isolated island in the southern Pacific.

The indigenous islanders were wiped out, anthropologists believe, because the population grew too large for the limited resources, and the once great culture - evidenced by the sculptures - imploded. Some see the fate of the Easter Islanders as a model for our growing world, with proud inhabitants who won’t learn from their mistakes and who, while capable of great art, are ultimately doomed. The Moai are seen as sentinels to the folly of man and, looking out on an empty land and a still emptier sea, are poetically at home in the lonely wilderness of Antarctica, a desert devoid of man and resonant of a future without him and without resources of any kind.

Page 177. " a melted clock and other surreal scenes that could have been plucked from the imagination of Dali "
Dali's melted clock
Public DomainDali's melting clocks
In 1931, Salvador Dali (1904 – 1989), the famous Spanish Surrealist painter, painted a masterpiece featuring melting clocks. The Persistence of Memory is considered surreal all the world over and yet is strangely in keeping with the South Pole where all time-zones coalesce. 


Page 177. " still centre of the carousel "

Allusion to Thomas Pynchon’s phrase “I wanted to stand at the dead center of the carousel” in his 1963 book, V.


Page 179. " like an iced-up Mr.Tickle "

A character from the Mr. Men by Roger Hargreaves.


Page 180. " the way and the wayfarer "

An allusion both to an Anglo-saxon poem, The Wayfarer about a traveller bound across forbidding seas and a line from The Prophet by Khalil Gibran about the journey of the self: “Like a procession you walk together towards your godself. You are the way and the wayfarer.

Page 181. " Adam’s surviving son, Cain, is the ultimate literary symbol of that wandering exclusion, the first real nomad "

As noted in the bookmark to page 18, the exile of Cain – the murderer from whom all men are descended – is the cause of man’s restless search to regain paradise, internally or in a physical place, and perhaps the cause of the plethora of unfulfilled longings that make man uniquely man. To leave the sought-after South Pole is imaginatively figured like an expulsion. Milton describes leaving Paradise in Paradise Lost:

The World was all before them, where to chose
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide:
They hand in hand with wand’ring steps and slow,
Through Eden took their solitary way.

Page 181. " Some would argue that man has never shaken off his curse and that we are all born to roam – perhaps forever searching for a lost Eden. It is an Eden, however, that we are unlikely to locate anywhere but within ourselves "

The ‘some’ would include Bruce Chatwin, but his is a tradition that goes back to the most stunning poet of this theme of them all, John Milton, and it is the following line that is implied in the sentence above:

Then wilt thou not be loath
To leave this Paradise, but shalt possess
A Paradise within thee, happier far.

Page 182. " our high-fat salami had gone rancid "

Amundsen had encountered the same thing when he reached his first Barrier depot:

We reached the depot, and found everything in order. The heat here must have been very powerful; our lofty, solid depot was melted by the sun into a rather low mound of snow. The pemmican rations that had been exposed to the direct action of the sun’s rays had assumed the strangest forms, and of course, they had become rancid.

Page 183. " old Amundsen–Scott Base, a silver dome straight out of a seventies science fiction thriller "


Old Amundsen-Scott Base, South Pole
Permission Granted by Copyright Owner for Use on Book DrumOld Amundsen-Scott Base, South Pole - Credit: Paul Landry
Page 183. " Sabres "


Fighting with a Sabre
Permission Granted by Copyright Owner for Use on Book DrumFighting with a Sabre - Credit: Paul Landry


Page 185. " Scott himself withdrew from the South Pole under sail "

Scott writes as follows:

This we commandeered as a yard for a floorcloth sail. I imagine it was intended to mark the exact spot of the Pole as near as the Norwegians could fix it.

Later on he remarks (among many references to drawing sail on his return journey):

At first with full sail we went along at a great rate; then we got on to an extraordinary surface, the drifting snow lying in heaps; it clung to the ski which could only be pushed along with an effort.

Amundsen also writes (multiple times) about using the wind:

Wisting now used a sail on his sledge, and was thus able to keep up with Hanssen