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Books of the Week — Antarktikos

1640 map of antarcticaOut of whose womb came the ice? And the hoary frost of Heaven, who hath gendered it? The waters are hid as with a stone. And the face of the deep is frozen
–Book of Job 38: 29-30

Carte de l’amérique corrigée, et augmentée
Petrus Bertius (1565-1629)
Paris?, 1640
G3290 1640 B47

The lower left inset on this map is the speculative southern continent or, “Terre Antarcti Que Incognave.” Long before the discovery of Antarctica, 16th and 17th European geographers speculated on a southern continent, perhaps capping the South Pole. Based on the writings of Aristotle, it was thought that the globe was a balanced place, so that the bulk of Eurasia was counterbalanced by a similar landmass in the Southern Hemisphere, just as the Americas counterbalanced Africa and Europe. Many early European explorers searched for this continent. The Antarctic Peninsula was first sighted in 1820 by Edward Bransfield and William Smith.

This map of the Americas is a rare second edition with corrections from the first edition, issued in 1624. No known copies of the first edition exist, and the second issue is considered to be the earliest acquirable edition – engraved and issued after Petrus Bertius’ death, by Michal van Lochem (1601 – 1647). The map covers all of North and South America, as well as Central America, the West Indies, and the surrounding areas, including adjacent parts of Spain, Portugal, and Africa. Cartographically, the map is derived from the 1618 map by Bertius’ brother-in-law, Jodocus Hondius.

There are several significant updates, including “ghosting” the entire west coast of North America north of Baja California, and the completion of Tierra del Fuego in insular form. Ghosting, an indication through dotted lines, is a technique used by cartographers to indicate questionable cartography. In the case of California, there was considerable debate about whether it was an island or a peninsula. The inset of “Terre Antarcti,” although a place not yet found, is not ghosted.

“At about a quarter past 11 o’clock we cross’d the Antarctic Circle, for at Noon we were by observation four miles and a half south of it and are undoubtedly the first and only ship that ever cross’d that line…

spread w/ text
[The ice] extended east and west far beyond the reach of our sight, while the southern half of the horizon was illuminated with rays of light which were reflected from the ice to a considerable height…It was indeed my opinion that this ice extends quite to the Pole, or perhaps joins to some land to which it has been fixed since creation.”

A Voyage Towards the South Pole and Round the World: Performed in His Majesty’s Ships the Resolution and Adventure, in the years 1772, 1773, 1774 and 1775…
James Cook (1728-1779)
London: Printed for W. Strahan and T. Cadell, MDCCLXXVII
First edition
G420 C65 C675 1777

The official accounts of Captain James Cook’s voyages are the foundation of modern knowledge of the Pacific. These reports contributed to diverse fields of knowledge and inspired many who followed. Cook, the only explorer in the 18th century to lead three circumnavigations of the globe, was a scientific navigator. The knowledge accumulated during his explorations expanded awareness of the world’s geography and aided in future navigations, making sea travel much more certain.

Cook’s second voyage took place between 1772 and 1775, with sealed orders instructing him to search for the hypothetical Terra Australis, “The Great Southern Continent” thought to be an undiscovered landmass lurking somewhere near the bottom of the globe. Cook crossed the Antarctic Circle for the first time in history. Cook reached a massive ice pack through which he failed to find an entrance. Facing heavy storms and dangerous seas, he turned back. Engravings show Cook’s men shooting at walrus, which they called “sea horses” in what appear to be very insufficient coats. In fact, Cook almost reached Antarctica on one occasion, but turned towards Tahiti for supplies.

Illustrated with portrait frontispiece, sixty-three plates and charts, several of which are folding or double-page.

“…the destruction of the vessel seemed almost inevitable, with the loss of every life on board. They had the melancholy alternative in prospect of being frozen to death one after the other, or perishing in a body by the dissolving of the iceberg on which they should take refuge, should the vessel sink…[The ship] was labouring in the swell, with ice grinding and thumping against her on all sides: every moment something either fore or aft was carried away – chains, bolts, bobstays, bowsprit, shrouds; even the anchors were lifted, coming down with a surge that carried away the eyebolts and lashings, and left them to hang by the stoppers. The cut-water also was injured, and every timber seemed to groan.” (p. 302)

“…all approach to the land on the east and west was entirely cut off by the close packing of the icebergs. I was, therefore, reluctantly compelled to return, not a little vexed that we were again foiled in our endeavor to reach the Antarctic Continent. This was a deep indentation in the coast, about twenty-five miles wide: we explored it to the depth of about fifteen miles, and did not reach its termination. This bay I have called Disappointment Bay…” (p. 310)

“By measurement, we made the extent of coast of the Antarctic Continent, which was then in sight, seventy-five miles, and by approximate measurement, three thousand feet high. It was entirely covered with snow. (p. 325)

Narrative of the United States Exploring Expedition During the Years 1838, 1840, 1841, 1842
Charles Wilkes (1798-1877)
Philadelphia: Lea and Blanchard, 1845
First edition, unofficial issue of the United States government report
Q115 W66 1845a

By the 1830’s, the United States determined to assert itself in the economic and scientific exploration of the Pacific, including the western coast of North America. Lt. Charles Wilkes, U.S.  Navy, led the first official scientific expedition to the region between 1838 and 1842. The six-vessel expedition carried with it scientists, naturalists, and artists. The group explored areas from Alaska to Antarctica, the western coast of South America to the South Pacific islands. Along the way Wilkes encountered natives of various cultures.  The materials the expedition collected are preserved at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and are still invaluable for the study of the peoples, animals, plants, and geography of the eastern Pacific.

Wilkes surveyed three hundred islands and fifteen hundred miles of the Antarctic coastline. This was the first observation of the coastline of Antarctica, finally proving the existence of the continent. Heavy ice pack and icebergs prevented any landings, but the Wilkes’ ships charted what they could before being blocked by a tongue of ice stretching into the sea.

The Wilkes’ expedition maps were so accurate that the charts were used for U.S. Marine landings during World War II.

Illustrated with sixty-four steel-engraved plates.

“These ice-cliffs were striving to force the massive, immovable rock from its bed, and during the continual age-long struggle had piled up enormous heaps of ice against the walls of their invulnerable enemy.” (p. 52)

“On one occasion Skelton, together with Evans and Quarly, had descended the barrier clifss, although they had had to negotiate, roped together, some very difficult ice-ridges. They had descended on to sea-ice formed in a bay which lay between the barrier and the high cliffs of Cape Crozier. Here they had discovered an emperor penguin rookery – the first time that a breeding-place of these fine birds had been seen.” (p. 146)

Two Years in the Antarctic: Being a Narrative of the British National Antarctic expedition
Albert B. Armitage (1864-1943)
London: Edward Arnold, 1905
First edition
G850 1901 D62 1905

This is an account of Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s 1901-1904 British National Antarctic Expedition, written by his second-in-command.

Born in Perthshire, Scotland, Lieutenant Albert Bolase Armitage of the Royal Naval Reserve had spent years at sea before joining Scott on the Discovery, serving as navigator. Armitage led sledging parties exploring the Ferrar Glacier, reaching an altitude of about 9000 feet and finding the route that Scott later used to reach the Polar Plateau on his way to the South Pole. Armitage published this book before Scotts’ Discovery Expedition, causing a quarrel between their publishers and a rather cool end to an already cool relationship between the two.

Illustrated with photographs, line drawings, and cartoons from The Blizzard, a newsletter of items “rejected by the South Polar Times.” Rare Books copy re-covered in plain boards.

“Again I was struck with the majesty of these ranges. We saw one great mountain mass end and another one, unaccounted for on the maps, begin to the south…Great white glaciers flowed…and about a hundred miles off were some alpine snow-covered peaks towering high over the Barrier that glistened like fire from the sun’s reflections so that they looked like great volcanos in eruption.” — Richard E. Byrd

 The Work of the Byrd Antarctic Expedition (1928-1930)
W. L. G. Joerg (1885-1952)
New York: American Geographical Society, 1930
First edition
G850 1928 B95 J64 1930

An account derived mostly radio messages published in The New York Times of the Byrd Expedition, the first American expedition to explore Antarctica since the U. S. Exploring Expedition under Charles Wilkes in 1840.

Organized by Richard E. Byrd in 1928, this expedition was the first of its kind to use an airplane, an aerial camera, and snowmobiles. Although Byrd was not the first to fly an airplane in Antarctica (that was done by Sir Hubert Wilkins ten weeks earlier), his flights were made in higher latitudes. Byrd flew a Ford monoplane, a Fokker Universal, and a Fairchild monoplane. Captain Ashley McKinley used a Fairchild K-3, the finest camera available, for aerial mapping.

Byrd’s use of communications equipment eclipsed that of others as regular wireless communications were established with the outside world. Assistance was provided for selection of equipment by the U. S. Navy, The New York Times and several corporations. Five radio engineers were assigned to the communications team. A total of twenty-four transmitters and thirty-one receivers were supplied for the two expedition ships. The introduction to this booklet stated that “more than 300,000 words of press reports have been transmitted by radio from the Byrd Expedition in addition to the exchange of 15,000 messages which have kept the members of the expedition informed of events transpiring at home.”

This publication was presented to schools throughout the United States by the American Geographical Society of New York.

“I was just about to signal a halt when I suddenly noticed a black speck far in the distance and a little to the right of our course. I blinked, and I looked again and it was still there. Almost without thinking I swung the tractor over and headed towards it…I drove a few more hundred yards with growing excitement, and then stopped my tractor, jumped up on the seat and signaled furiously to the others. The I ran madly back to the caboose to get my binoculars. A flag it was, and soon we identified a whole line of them stretching out to the left and to the right. My primary feeling was one of enormous relief that I’d found the Pole and that all my worries about navigation and petrol consumption were over. I don’t think we were thinking very clearly…” (p. 214)

No Latitude for Error
Edmund Hillary (1919-2008)
London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1961
First edition
G850 1955 H52

More than two years after the publication of The Crossing of Antarctica, a joint report by Sir Vivian Fuchs and Sir Edmund Hillary, Hillary published his personal story of the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition. New Zealander Hillary had attained worldwide notoriety for becoming one of the first men, along with Tenzin Norgay, to reach the summit of Mount Everest, in 1953, the same year Hillary met Fuchs. Less than ten years later, he led the New Zealand support team for Fuchs.

Hillary and his team were assigned the task of setting up a supply depot for the use of Sir Vivian’s party, which was to cross Antarctica by way of the South Pole. But when Fuchs was delayed, Hillary and his companions fought their way along the treacherous route to the pole, surveying and mapping along the way. They were the first to drive tractors to the South Pole, these being three battered farm tractors. The perilous expedition was full of near escapes, delay, frustration and fear. Crevasses nearly engulfed men and vehicles, blinding whiteouts deprived the explorers of their sense of direction. They crossed more than 1250 miles of snowy, icy wasteland before reaching the pole.

Fuchs claimed the mantel for the first crossing of the Antarctic Continent.

Rare Books copy signed by Hillary.

“…the incredible whiteness was illuminated by the setting sun. Clear white snow and ice is magnificent when it tumbles down to a blue, ice-punctured ocean, but it is even more magnificent when the whiteness turns to sunset red.”

Bearing South: Antarctica at Sea
Stuart Klipper, Warren Brown and John Gore Grimes
Colorado Springs: Press at Colorado College, 1991
First edition

G850 1987 K57 K57 1991 oversize

Photographer Stuart Klipper traveled to the Antarctica, a four thousand mile sailing journey from Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands to below the Antarctic Convergence and on to Anvers Island aboard the Bermudian yacht “War Baby.” The trip was sponsored by the National Science Foundation.

Klipper wrote of the barren yet evocative landscape that it reflected the “placement of the human soul.”

Klipper was graduated with a degree in architecture and design from the University of Michigan. His work has appeared at the Museum of Modern Art and in the Washington Post. He is a professor at Colorado College. The text is composed of excerpts from the log of Warren Brown, skipper of the voyage, and quotations from Irish ice-sailor, John Gore Grimes.

Twenty-eight mounted photographs printed recto only on thick watercolor paper. Bound by Greg Campbell in blue/green linen cloth, issued in slipcase. Edition of fifty numbered copies. Rare Books copy is no. 19, signed by the photographer and book designer James Trissel.

“On my belly at its rim, I peer down the blue walls of a crevasse, unable to see bottom. The fresh blues in the ice are infinitely pure even by comparison with blues of sky and sea. One day soon this blue crevasse, 200 feet deep, may split its iceberg, destroying its own existence in one mighty CRACK. That a solid creation as immediate and hard as this crevasse beneath me could vanish in a single instant, like some ice-blue hallucination – wonderful!”

On the Ice Mountain
Peter Matheissen (1927-2014)
Sherman Oaks, CA: Ninja Press, 2004
QL696 S473 M375 2004 oversize

An excerpt from End of the Earth: Voyages To Antarctica (2003), the last published work by best-selling novelist and award-winning environmentalist writer Peter Matthiessen before his death.

Design, presswork and binding by Carolee Campbell. Printed in Meridien with Greco Bold for the display onto handmade and mouldmade papers in two colors. The text is sewn into covers printed in two colors onto dampened Velké Losiny paper handmade in the former Czechoslovakia. The ensō or empty circle is printed from a magnesium plate. The fly leaves are cut from a U. S. Geological Survey map of Cape Adare, Antarctica, the site described in the excerpted quote. The chapbook was created especially for the major donors of The Sun Valley Writers’ Conference held yearly in Sun Valley, Idaho. Edition of one hundred and twenty, copies, signed by the author. Remaining copies are offered as gifts to the standing order patrons of Ninja Press.

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