Life in the tents was miserable. Wilson related: “Our furs… are frozen stiff… One can do literally nothing but lie as one falls in the tent. One cannot turn… without upsetting both your companions… Your only chance of keeping warm is to lie still… Rime coating the inside of the tent…. drops on your face and melts there and runs where it chooses as you can’t possibly get a hand up or wipe it… Reinskin hairs tickle your nose… and you can’t do anything for it, except move your head which brings the ring of ice on the balaclava… into close contact with warmer skin, so that it melts and runs down your neck.”
From the chapter on Otto Nordenskjold, where the crew of the Antarctic camped for months on Paulet Island in 1902 after their ship was crushed in the ice:
For their hut, the men chose a site with natural weather protection up the sloping beach. They fashioned the building of flat basaltic stones from the volcanic surroundings and old non-odorous penguin guano. “Paulet Island architecture,” they called it proudly. The hut measured thirty-four by twenty-two feet. Two small windows allowed in some light. A man had to stoop to enter and could barely stand erect at the highest point. Two stone beds seven feet long and twenty feet wide accommodated ten men each. The common areas were the kitchen and a four-foot-wide corridor between the beds. Their diet was penguin with occasional seal and fish. Their water, unpleasant and yellow-green, came from a crater lake below the penguin colony. Their clothing was adequate, except for the foot gear, which frequently left them with cold feet. Walking on the beach and the sea ice in good weather was the only outdoor entertainment. “One grows stupid lying in bags all day.
Food and rescue dominated their conversations. Boredom was constant. The men had only a few books, and interest over taking the morning temperature readings and anticipating the morning coffee or tea took up only a small amount of time. The temperature in the hut usually stood a few degrees above freezing. The interior stank horribly of burning blubber and the putrefying penguin skins that some men used to soften their beds of stone. Ole Wennersgaard weakened and died of a heart condition on 7 June.
Makes one yearn for adventure and privation, don’t it? Excuse me while I jump in bed, pull the blankets up to my chin, and take a nap.