What a guy! A guy s guy! Who do you want covering your Six? Stuart Paine, That s who!
Picture this: It s August 1933, the country is gripped in the worst depression in history, and you have a job as an ad copy writer, you hunker down and hang on to the job. Right? Wait the boss sez you have to wear a coat and tie, never mind how hot it is in your tiny office. You re 22 years old, single and restless hey, take this job and shove it!
Perhaps the departure was a little more genteel but Stuart Paine thought he had options. He had an opportunity for a quartermaster position aboard a merchant ship, Pacific Fir, but that cratered, and he soon found himself in Wonalancet, N.H., in the Dog Department, working for Captain Alan Innes-Taylor who was gathering dogs for the second Byrd Expedition. An offer to join the expedition was extended, and Stuart Paine now found himself slated to be a dog driver, navigator and radio operator. His qualifications? An ROTC college course in celestial navigation, the rest still to be attained on-the-job.
Fortunately for all, including the readers of this lucid account, Stuart Paine turned out to be a solid performer quick to learn, unafraid of hard work or physical challenge, and, above all, committed to fulfilling his duties and responsibilities. A happy camper throughout?
No, but then who was or is, in any of these wintering-over experiences, even to this day? You would have to search long and hard through the literature to find someone unfazed by the dark months and bitter cold of Antarctic winters. Stuart Paine endured, as so many have, and what makes his account especially unique is his concise and lucid writing, a skill no doubt inherited to some degree from his father, who was a professional writer.
He is easy to read and, as his diary entries draw you along, you re liable to forget that so many of the entries were written with a stub of a pencil in a gale-blown tent with temperatures almost continually dropping into the range of -20 to -70 degrees.
Stuart s account, expertly footnoted by his editing daughter begins with the confusing period of preparation in New York which, in his case, involved receiving the expedition s complement of dogs, all wild and wooly and spoiling to fight. The dogs had to be caged, fed, exercised, and treated for injuries and sickness, and in his diary, Paine leaves little to be imagined of the problems canine and human he encountered while caring for his new friends. The trip south through the Panama Canal and across the Pacific to New Zealand revealed a great deal about his shipmates, their skills and trustworthiness.
Leaving New Zealand southbound was the beginning of the real adventure, and while Paine describes the building and fitting out of Little America II, he also finds himself at odds with his contemporaries and at times fearful that he won t be selected for one of the expeditionary forays scheduled to be conducted when winter breaks in October of 1934. He also expresses his concern in his diary as to the leadership of the expedition and, specifically, Admiral Byrd s decision to winter over alone at Bolling Advance Base. Paine and others, then and subsequently, have questioned this decision was it simply a stunt, a publicity gimmick? How wise was it for the expedition leader to isolate himself and direct that no effort be made to initiate a rescue effort, should something go awry? As it was, Byrd nearly died from carbon monoxide poisoning and a rescue mission, thinly disguised as an early exploratory probe for the season, was conducted, retrieving the weak and disorient Byrd.
Tending to the dogs over the long, dark austral winter of 1934 was not an easy task, and often Paine found himself to be the only member of the dog department, feeding, cleaning cages and caring for the ill and injured animals. His work --Polar Times, July 2007, Vol.3, No. 11
In 1933 Antarctica was essentially unexplored. Admiral Richard Byrd launched his Second Expedition to chart the southernmost continent, primarily relying on the muscle power of dog teams and their drivers who skied or ran beside the loaded sledges as they traveled. Stuart Paine was a dog driver, radio operator, and navigator on the fifty-six-man expedition, and his diaries represent the only published contemporary account written from the inside of the Second Expedition. Featuring previously unpublished photographs and illustrations, Paine's tale is one of the most compelling stories in polar history, surpassing other accounts with its immediacy and adventure as it captures the majesty and mystery of the untouched Antarctic.
I think i'll read the book