Arctic Manual. Two paper-backed volumes prepared under direction of the Chief of the Air Forces, United States Army. 536 pages. No illustrations. Washington: U. S. Government Printing Office, 1940. Price 70 cents per set.
While reading the Arctic Manual, the Army Air Forces, compendium on conditions and life in the far North, remember the reason for which it was written, and the source of information. If these facts are not considered, the mountaineering reader is likely to be annoyed by the entire approach to the subject.
The source material for the Arctic Manual came mainly from Vilhjalmur Stefansson, the noted polar explorer, and from his world famous Arctic library. Information from Sir Hubert Wilkins and other explorers, including members of recent Russian expeditions, has also been used. The pamphlets deal particularly with Arctic conditions as they may influence Air Forces’ operations, and give summaries of geography, climate, history, and civilization, before going to the problems of clothing and personal equipment, transportation, and general protection against cold. As might be expected, the first summaries, though hastily put together, are full of excellent information. The latter parts, too, stress clearly the fundamental problems of life in the North, such as the continual battle with invisible perspiration. What the mountaineer notices at once, however, is that the authors had no knowledge of lightweight mountain equipment, so well adapted for use in many so- called Arctic areas. The equipment chapters are weaker than the rest, for they rely mainly on the fallacies that skin or fur clothing is the only means for protecting men in the far North and that Eskimo habits are always right. Far be it to deny that the Eskimo has done marvels with what he has, and that his use of fundamental principles of cold weather existence, is generally far more sound than the white man’s, but at the same time one should remember that the white man has many things not available to natives of the Arctic. The Eskimo’s principles of clothing ventilation are soundest, but the white man’s materials are often best.
The Arctic Manual is a valuable acquisition for any library and a first-rate storehouse of information. However, as its title implies, it deals with the Arctic and not with mountains or cold weather equipment designed by skiers and mountaineers as protection against cold.