overhead, underfoot

In the first few days [of his winter alone in western antarctica in 1934, admiral richard byrd's] only complaint was that he had forgotten to bring a cookbook. Never having had to cook anything for himself before, he was hamstrung. He wrote in his diary about the 'Corn Meal Incident' in which he overdid the amount of corn meal in a pan and induced a volcanic reaction. 'It oozed over the stove. It spattered the ceiling. It covered me from head to foot. If I hadn't acted resolutely, I might have been drowned in corn meal.' He grabbd the pan, rushed it to one of the storage tunnels and slammed it down, where it continued to spew until it froze.

Byrd recounted these incidents insouciantly to the men back in Little America on his thrice-weekly radio calls. He could hear their actual voices but he had to reply laboriously, spelling out his messages with the dots and dashes of Morse code. His men teased him about his incompetence with the code, especially when he was asked to broadcast a message live to the Chicago World's Fair, to be relayed via Little America and then somehow translated into a firework display. 'If the fireworks are supposed to spell out what you send,' his friend Charlie Murphy told him over the radio, 'then Chicago is in for the wildest display since the fire.'

(gabrielle walker, from antarctica: an intimate portrait of a mysterious continent)

No comments: