'Found footage' I'd love: 'Dangerous Work'

'Found footage' I'd love: 'Dangerous Work'
. Source: Reusableart.com

Our theme for the week is the historical event(s) we wish had been filmed. That got me thinking again about a great winter book, "Dangerous Work: Diary of an Arctic Adventure" by Arthur Conan Doyle (University of Chicago Press, 2012 -- yes, 2012).

I loved reading the book, as documented in this earlier post about it. It's the diary kept by the young medical student Arthur Conan Doyle when he served as ship's doctor on the Arctic whaler S.S. Hope from Feb. 28-Aug. 11, 1880. I know it's impossible, but I'd love to find film of the voyage. Even though it wouldn't sing with Doyle's voice, the way even this early written effort does, the film would show the adventure and the hard work -- or the lack of it.

Two of my favorite entries are mysterious, and I would love to know what really happened on:

"Wednesday, April 21st

"Absolutely nothing to do except grumble, so we did that. A most disagreeable day with a nasty cross sea and swell. No seals and nothing but misery. Felt seedy all day. Was knocked out of bed at 1 AM to see a man forwards with palpitations of the heart. That didn't improve my temper."

-- or, even more concisely:

"Monday, July 19

"Blowing a gale all day. Nothing to do and we did it."

But how do you do "nothing" at close quarters aboard ship? And what was life like for the people that young Dr. Doyle (really only a med student) didn't need to see as patients?

It's a puzzle worthy of one of his own stories. I wish a camera could have been on board!

For more fun with words, stop by the Margaret Serious page on Facebook.

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  • This strikes me as similar to the rationale for radio in its golden age: The imagination is better stimulated if you don't see what is being described. In this case, don't hear either. This probably gets you to your window to the world post.

  • In reply to jack:

    Thanks, Jack. The idea of "classical style" writing as a window on the world is exactly what got me thinking of this book again.

  • Wonderful post! This voyage would make an interesting documentary. I do wonder about the funeral for John Thomas...

  • In reply to Weather Girl:

    Thank you. I wonder about it, too -- but while the obituary for John Thomas (Doyle's pet sea snail) is part of the book, no funeral service is mentioned.

  • I'm putting this on my to-read list. Hilarious posts from him despite the hardship. Some of those descriptions of his resonate with my daily life, landlocked though it is. Thank you!

  • In reply to Teme Ring:

    You're welcome, Teme! I'm glad it's on your list. One tip may startle you: When I found it at Barnes & Noble, it was in the travel section, since (despite the author!) it's not a "mystery." Another impression that may need fixing is that it's far from hilarious at times -- while there are plenty of adventures of "the Great Northern Diver" (Doyle himself!), there's also amazing natural observation and tougher adventure. Still, the writing is consistently fine, and to "hear" Sir Arthur finding his voice is great fun. May you enjoy it as much as I did -- and let me know!

  • I can remember growing up, and late evening WBBM News radio used to run vintage radio drama's. I should have been asleep for school the next day, but the stories spun on the station were just too delicious to pass up. I think that the true joy of the written word is the images that each of us create for ourselves. What would be really cool to explore would be for a group of people to draw or find photographs that represent a specific passage to them, and if everyone was working on the same passage, to see how similar or dissimilar the renderings would be.

  • In reply to Sue Fitzpatrick:

    I thought they were, at least fairly recently, running them or some type of old time radio after midnight. However, like most cbslocal sites, it seems extremely difficult to find a schedule.

  • In reply to Sue Fitzpatrick:

    Well put, Sue. Thank you. The joy in my mind's eye (and ear) from this book is part of why I'd love to be able to see a real film of it -- even though one highlight of the book is Sir Arthur's own drawings.
    In the part of the book which is a facsimile of the actual log, sometimes a drawing is folded over on one spread of pages, then open on the next spread. It's fun to get that mental picture going, then turn the page and see what was drawn at the time.

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