Although the term ‘heroic era’ is taken to refer to Antarctic exploration 1901-1917, there were during those same years similar expeditions into the Arctic as well. 

The cold in the north can be just as intense as in the south, the blizzards as long, the isolation as deep.  Donald B. MacMillan headed into the Arctic in July of 1913—while Mawson was hunkered down for the winter at Commonwealth Bay in Antarctica.  MacMillan was at the start of his expedition in search of the mythical Crocker Land in the Arctic Ocean, and a long sojourn amid the glaciers of Greenland chronicled in his book Four Years in the White North.

For him, as for his compatriots exploring in the Antarctic, the travails to be faced and overcome could only be anticipated.

Everything must be thought of long before, packed up, loaded into the ship, and landed on the hostile shore.  “The real work of an expedition is borne by the leader for months prior to its departure,” he wrote.  “When going far beyond the confines of civilization, nothing must be forgotten which would tend to expedite and facilitate the work planned; not a single item of the many thousands which help to spell success, from pins, and bands for birds, to sheet lead for broken boats and crutches for broken limbs!”

Even the smallest, most insignificant-seeming item will sooner or later make its absence felt.  “One [Arctic] expedition sailed away some years ago without brooms.  For two years the house was swept with birds’ wings.”

At least in the Arctic there were birds with feathered wings to make up for the loss.

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