Friday, February 20, 2015

The real Winter Holiday

Golly those Swallows and Amazons knew their stuff!

Ok, ok, they are fictional, so I really mean Arthur Ransome, but even so, his books are packed with connections to real sailors and Arctic explorers.

Take a couple of examples from Winter Holiday:

  • The house boat is called the Fram after Nansen's ship that floated across the Arctic
  • There are references to both Greenland (above) and Spitzbergen
  • The crossing of Greenland could relate to the Watkins British Arctic Air Route Expedition that caused a media storm just before Ransome wrote Winter Holiday, as described in that excellent book, Dancing on Ice (review here)
  • The S. A. & Ds. skated across a frozen sea, just as the explorers did who were over-wintering in the ice as part of their hunt for the North-West passage (described in Arctic Labyrinth)
  • They went on expeditions using humans as dogs (above) not because they had no real dogs but because that's how the British Navy did it (unlike Nansen who learnt from the Inuit)
  • They called their food pemmican, which is the concentrated mixture of fat and protein used by Arctic explorers
  • They left messages in caches
  • Search parties were sent out for missing expeditions, just as for Franklin
  • They pass the time taking scientific measurements, in particular astronomy
  • They build an ice yacht and an igloo
  • They used furs for clothing including hats and mittens (better than gloves)
  • They explored in the dark and in a snow storm
  • The description of what happens when a boat meets ice is spot on (but then Ransome did spent a long time sailing the waters by the Baltic states. 

All in all pretty impressive, and maybe a warming thought to those on the Eastern US seaboard currently dodging ice bergs.

Or at least a good excuse to re-read Winter Holiday.


Alden Smith said...

Hi, I am a blogger from New Zealand.

I love the Arthur Ransome Books - I think they are great - read them all as a kid - I now have new Hard Covered set of these books and are working my way through them. I am up to 'Pigeon Post'.

As a yachtee and sailor / boat owner myself I think these books capture the ethos and flavour of my own childhood sailing days.

JP said...

Hi Alden!

I agree - my favourite for a re-read is "We didn't mean to go to sea"

Wish my childhood had been as boat related as these books!

Alden Smith said...

I had a pretty good boat related upbringing - but I know a lot of people who didn't BUT make up for it 10 fold as adults!! So there's always time !!!!

Interesting blog - Thanks - I will continue commenting if that's ok with you.

JP said...

Thanks - I think I'm still in the making up time mode, though work does get in the way.

And yes, absolutely, comments away!