I have recently had the good fortune to read this magical book by Kathleen Jamie. Jamie writes about her journeys to remote areas of Scotland, such as St. Kilda, and accompanies research parties to help and observe. She also travels to Northern Europe, in this book to Bergen, to visit the Whale Museum.
She is interested in Scottish archaeology, and also in the history of whaling, so often melancholy and abusive and so entrenched in our consciousness. She finds many monuments to the whale, frequently in the shape of huge jaw bones shaped into a massive arch, or even the odd eardrum or vertebra.
Jamie combines erudition with a profound appreciation of the everyday and the overlooked. Sometimes this combination is disconcerting. I think: is she an expert or a dilettante? how can she find time for all these journeys? She wears her learning lightly, however, and I have to take her as I find her, a delightful and entrancing writer who expands my mind and soul. A further reflection - Jamie is a philosophy graduate. I see her writing has philosophy made material.
A most interesting exhibition describing and showing in great detail the Antarctic exploration of 100 years ago, and the disaster that befell Captain Scott and four of the expedition members on their return from the Pole. Although I had been brought up with this story in my DNA, I really knew very little about what really happened. Here the background and the story was explained, with many artefacts and maps to help.
A full scale floor map of the famous hut was marked out on the floor, and a model of the equally famous mess table had been made and donated to the exhibition. All the members, officers and men, were described in some detail, and the expedition photographer took marvellous pictures of the whole event, from unloading supplies and building the hut to all the everyday life arrangements such as catering and washing.
Scott's last expedition has become part of polar mythology. Only this week I was reading about young Norwegian scientists whose dream it was to visit and to work there. The hut is looked after by New Zealand, and recently it has been dampproofed and protected so that it remains a perfect time capsule of life a century ago, complete with gloves and clothes and cooking ingredients.
The scientific research that was a major part of the expedition's raison d'etre has proved very valuable. Scott raised the finance and support for the expedition himself and passionately believed in it. The story was most inspiring with a strong sense of humanity.