Thursday, April 18, 2013


Throughout the semester we’ve talked a lot about the effect that writing after the fact has on the reader’s interpretation of the text. Journal entries that were written a couple of days after the particular day caught my attention, especially the one in which he seems quite settled in a cabin, amidst a warm fire and contented with a substantial amount of food. Although now that I think about it, we know that they make it back before we even start reading because of the fact that the word “survival” is included in the subtitle. Keeping the journal format contributed to the sense of immediacy and necessity of continuing the journey. I was most interested in the relationship dynamics within the group, and how Albanov handled himself as a leader, especially when his group became unmotivated at the sight of land and sluggish. I think that I was especially eager to read about this aspect of their journey because the presentation of the book immediately creates an association between Albanov and Shackleton and Scott, two well-known Antarctic explorers. I was surprised that there was not as much insight into the thought process behind decisions as I thought that there would be. Instead, decisions and events were presented as facts, which makes sense for a journal entry. I found the diligence and regularity in which the journal entries were written to be quite impressive considering the circumstances that the group was under, and I have to wonder why Albanov was compelled to take such detailed notes and record the events of the journey in such detail.

I also think that certain commonalities, such as the consistently cold temperature, were not stressed in the writing because they became routine, but I found myself being reminded of the severity of the conditions throughout the text. I remember at some points specific temperatures were mentioned, but I remember reacting to these temperatures by feeling slightly surprised that it was so cold. I found it necessary to constantly remind myself of the severity of the setting because some times I was lost in the descriptions of the group dynamics, lowering rations, and continual monotony of their movement. The continual mention of hunting polar bears and eventually walruses served as a reminder of the setting in addition to their level of hunger.

Thinking back on the writing, I was somewhat surprised that there was very little, if any dialogue in the text. In fact, skimming through the text for a second time, I am not sure if I read any dialogue at all, which is an interesting change from what we’ve been reading. The lack of dialogue does not surprise me very much, as I can’t imagine writing out dialogue from the day in a journal. Nevertheless, I found myself trying to imagine what people would even say to one another when under such circumstances. When the two come across the rations in the crates at the abandoned ship they come across, I immediately thought of a video I saw previously that depicts a guy digging out a food stash that he had left behind when on his way back from his solo crossing to the South Pole. So much joy! The sound clip was later used in a podcast on NPR entitled Bliss. Here’s the link:


  1. I too found the journal structure of this narrative to be noteworthy. It is interesting to compare the first few chapters that were written after the events, to the later journal entries. In particular, I noted a change in Albanov's depiction of the group dynamic. In the non-journal portion he speaks little of his companions, and makes no mention of disagreement between them. Considering his blatant descriptions of the feud between himself and the ship's captain, I would of thought he'd be pretty blatant about his relation to the rest of the crew. Yet it is not until the journal that we see Albanov describe his companions as "no better than children" and claim that he "certainly will not rest until I've managed to save them in spite of themselves" (56). This sheds light on one advantage of publishing journals rather than accounts written after the fact: journals are honest, as Albanov likely didn't write his with the intent to see it published for all the world to read.

    1. I'm not surprised that Albanov's added narrative after the fact didn't mention his companions, especially in a negative light. He probably had respect for the dead, and their inadequacies, in the end, permanently affected only themselves, not Albanov. But during the trek, I would have been extremely frustrated with their lack of motivation as well, and without a co-leader, Albanov had no one to gripe about this with, except his journal. And since that covered his attitude towards his teammates, he probably didn't feel the need to address that in his later narrative.