F Spencer Chapman: Watkins’ Last Expedition

December 14, 2016

41-yccg7xsl-_ac_us160_I’ve blogged elsewhere about the cerise Penguin series from the 1930s which was labelled Travel & Adventure, and this is another one of them, about exploration in Greenland in the early 1930s. It does read like something from the Boys’ Own Paper, with the semi-casual approach of the four men to a lot of what they do, but also with their powers of endurance and stiff upper-lip. They put up with risks – and experience tragedy when the expedition leader is lost in a kayaking accident – and appalling conditions that no-one would countenance today, and they do seem, by and large, to enjoy their adventures.

They travel in small boats, with dog teams, across snow and ice, among icebergs, and live with the local inhabitants – labelled with the now politically incorrect term ‘Eskimos’ – learn to speak the language, and eat the local diet, which to me sounds utterly disgusting: seal meat, large amounts of blubber, seabirds of various kinds, dog biscuits when reduced to it – without batting an eyelid. I admired their intrepidity and endurance.

Not a wildly exciting set of adventures but a decent read, and accompanied by a couple of decent maps, from the days when travel books knew what they were about.

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