The surroundings could hypnotize a man, enough to make one believe that at times, they weren’t moving at all. Other times, high pressure ridges blocked their path, forcing them to strain every muscle in their bodies to get their sleds and dogs over them. Christ, thought Hollister, even marching with the British army in Africa wasn’t this fucking difficult! They had had a steady three hours of relatively smooth travel and finally Mason in the lead sled called a halt so the men and the dogs could rest, a period that Hollister always looked forward to. Sitting on his overturned sled with a small lantern lit, he pulled out his collection of notes taken thus far. How often can you describe white miserable snow, constant darkness and cold air? What else could he interest his readers in? Taking a piss at the top of the world? Wouldn’t that make for polite parlor conversation? “Excuse me, Mrs. Smith, might you be interested as to why my prick didn’t fall off when I was at the North Pole?” Great pick up line for the opposite sex. No, as it was, his notes for the time being concerned the men in the Polar Party and the newspaperman’s observations of them. JON MASON—–Ship’s Master, late thirties, medium height and build. Quiet, commanding presence, inspires confidence. Speaks little of his early life which makes one wonder what skeletons are hidden in his closet. Word is, he has a Chinese mistress, though gentlemen do not speak of such things. Still, I believe him to be an interesting man, perhaps because he so guarded about himself and his past. ISAAC DUNN—-Second Mate/ Ice Master. Mid-forties, short. Is confident on the ice, knows his business. Former Sailing Master in the Federal Navy and fur trapper who lived with the Eskimos for a period of time. One of two known survivors from the whaling ship SPIDER, stranded in the ice in the 1870’s. Rebellious son of a Lutheran pastor, I’m led to understand that the members of his family consider him a disappointment, an older sister being an exception to such thinking. He is a capable leader and has confidence that we will achieve our goal in this undertaking. RICHARD GOODMAN—-Landsman, late twenties, carried mail some years before. Appears to be capable enough, though a bit opinionated and doesn’t get along well with the Eskimos. I can see Mason and Dunn watching him over the past two weeks. He has made a point of questioning a majority of Mason’s decisions, regardless if they turn out correct (most of which do). I believe his presence is causing Mason and Dunn to regret their choice as far as bringing him. He doesn’t talk much to me. I believe he thinks I’m more trouble than I’m worth. He and my editor should talk. JOSEPH “MIKE” MICHAELS—-Landsman, midtwenties, learned to drive dogs when he was younger. He is a pleasant young man with an infectious smile (forgive me, it’s the writer talking!!!), which helps to cope with this “adventure” we find ourselves in. He has proved to be a great help to me with the dogs and the sled for which I am grateful. PETER—-One of the two natives accompanying us to the Pole. Chief of his tribe or as we might say his band, he is quite resourceful and of course, capable. He is a tough half-breed (not unusual in these latitudes), his father, reputed to be a Canadian whaleman, which I suppose might be the reason for his obvious intelligence and leadership capabilities. He is an easy man to get along and travel with and has an earthy sense of humor so to speak which is often well met and often relives the tension in our current undertaking. WACHA—-The other native with us, older (though I don’t know how old, nor apparently does he!) and quiet. He does as he is told and does not shy away from anyone needing assistance, though I have seen Goodman ignore his offer of a helping hand on a number of occasions, making it very clear he wants nothing to do with the man. I fear that if Goodman does not change his ways, there may be trouble. Wacha may be old but I have seen that he is very capable with a knife. Last but not least, HA! HA! Myself. JACK HOLLISTER—-Age? (never you mind!) but perhaps a bit long in the tooth for this undertaking. Newspaperman, what sounded good in Chicago and New York has ceased in any charm I might have thought this trip might have had then. I suppose I feel like most in the party, that this is the big one, the “brass ring” so to speak. No troubles after this, if one can believe that. No, experience is a fine teacher as I have found. Problems never go away they are just exchanged for new ones. Hollister stretched and moved his head back and forth and after cracking his knuckles and blowing into his hands, began to scribble again. Being here, makes one long for the comfort of the SHY LADY, its iced decks, confined spaces and creaking timbers, its warm food and associated smells. I’m sure I’m not alone with my thoughts of her and the crew, especially five people who come to mind, those with whom I had much contact with while I was aboard AESOP MACDONALD—-First Mate aboard the SHY LADY, Negro, mid-thirties, strong, capable, one of the few men Mason trusts without question. He dislikes the far north and with good reason, he’s the only other survivor of the SPIDER incident. I don’t know who wants to leave this place more, him or me. DANIAL HIGGINS—-Third Mate, mid-twenties a very cheerful young man, more than capable for the responsibility that he holds. This is his first trip north. I doubt this icy place will affect him as it does others because of his manner. EDWARD DANA—-Older man, known simply as Ed. Serves as ship’s cook and father confessor to all aboard, a man that anyone can confide in and receive simple advice over a barrel of apples. A good cook on the whole, there is one culinary art that the old man has yet to master, that of making a simple pot of coffee. It is said that Ed’s coffee can heal the lame, make a saint from a sinner and grow hair on those that need it. After tasting his brew, I can attest to that fact. It is by far the worst coffee I have ever tasted. AHNAH—-Is the next person on my list of characters, she is in her late twenties, the sister of Peter. She apparently has the ability to see things in dreams and from what I’ve been able to gather, she knew we were coming before we did. She has a scarred face from another Eskimo called Keelut, with whom Peter and Ahnah have had some sort of feud, the details of which, I am not privy to. I have met this Keelut and though I do my best to not judge my fellow man too harshly, I can honestly say I could see no good in the man. I don’t think I can end this particular set of notes without mentioning the cookboy, Tim Reiner. He is 14 years old and appreciative of the adventure he is partaking in. Such youthful exuberance makes me recognize that the years are catching up with me and I can damn well think of better places to be then where I am right now. I do know one thing for certain, I will never complain about another Illinois winter again. The dark trees covered with snow, rolling hills and people, such a contrast to this barren place. In the… There was a call from Mason for them to start again. Hollister quickly put away his pencil and papers. The men pushed the sleds back on their runners and with eyes ahead, continued their journey.