Chauncey Loomis

Most of Tryggve Gran’s Antarctic diary is dull reading, but the fault is not altogether Gran’s. An airline pilot once said that flying is months of sheer boredom, moments of sheer terror, and the same can be said of expeditions. Much time on expeditions is spent waiting: waiting for the weather to change, for the expedition leader to make up his mind, for the other party to arrive, for supplies, for the ship, the airplane or the helicopter; when it isn’t waiting, it’s plodding, climbing, sailing or paddling in great discomfort, often with all sense of purpose gone. At one point in his diary Gran remarks: ‘It is difficult to keep a diary. This life is of little interest; one day is just as monotonous as the next.’ He did have moments of terror, however, and after falling through ice into the waters of McMurdo Sound, he exclaims almost with relief: ‘There is something to write about for once!’ Indeed he does write effectively about crises, but he had neither the verbal craftsmanship nor the quick sensibility necessary to transform the stuff of tedium into something interesting.

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