Monday, March 31, 2014


I don’t know much about sailing but it seems, particularly from Captain Taylor’s attitude, that there is a clear and definitive hierarchy on a ship that is enforced at all costs. I was interested in this dynamic because I think it set the stage for Zeke being able to disregard the pleas from the crew and Erasmus on the basis that he was the expedition leader. The novels that we have read so far have, for the most part, fostered a greater sense of group mentality. The role of the leader is clearly defined, however, this role seems to entail an awareness of the needs of every team member. Whereas on the mountains group members seemed to be able to give input on the expedition, all decision making power was left to Zeke. Although the crew and Captain absolutely contested Zeke’s decisions, they consistently conceded to his outlandish demands in the interest of abiding by the hierarchy. It is not until the men are physically unable to comply with his desires to explore further that the men refuse to follow Zeke. Erasmus’ position in subordination to Zeke but clearly with more power than the Captain and crew was an extremely difficult one to navigate. He constantly battled with his sense of duty and allegiance to the expedition leader, while empathizing strongly with the condition and desires of the crew. I am interested to see how the dynamic of groups on maritime adventures differs from that of alpine adventures.


  1. I think that a major distinction between ocean and mountain expeditions is the ability, or lack there of, to communicate. The momentum of a climb can be paused and everyone involved can sit down and discuss a plan of attack. Aboard a ship there is often no time to communicate each logistical adjustment with all of the individuals who might desire input. The nature of sailing as a continuous, dynamic endeavor further hinders communication. I wonder if there is a parallel to be had, however, between the discord between crew on a ship and their superiors and that between sherpas and their employers.

  2. I also think that Erasmus was put in a difficult position as Zeke's second in command of the expedition, but separate from the sailing crew and clearly below Captain Tyler. I think the distinction between the sailing crew and the expedition crew can be a difficult communication gap to narrow. Captain Tyler is only worried about getting his ship safely out of the ice while Zeke wants to go exploring and get his name on something. It is only after the crew formally acknowledges that the ship is un-sailable that they cede power to Erasmus. I think the fact that they felt the need to clearly state the circumstances under which authority was transferred points directly to the strict hierarchy of arctic expeditions.

  3. I really appreciated your description of Erasmus' role in the novel as "difficult to navigate." I too struggled with fitting him into a single archetype, largely because of his conflicting loyalties. I believe that this tension was, if anything heightened by the “lack of communication” in oceanic adventures that Rachel referred to. I can understand the need for strong command in shipping crews comprised of many individuals with various motivations for joining. As Zeke expresses it, “A weak link in the chain imperils us all” (205). This attitude more closely resembles that of Rob Hall from Into Thin Air where he was unquestionably in command of an expedition composed of disjointed members. In both of these examples, it was a lack of communication from a leader that brought on danger and disaster, but from opposite sides of a spectrum. Zeke became domineering, enforcing his own personal agenda on the group, while Rob Hall failed to successfully control his group and enforce the turn-around time. There are very interesting differences in the militaresque style of leadership from Annapurna and Erasmus’ first expedition compared to leadership in a commercial enterprise that I look forward to seeing more of in our future readings.