Ecologist David Ainley’s makes his field books ‘unlosable’. Also, notes on frozen penguin guano

Quickly I had learned that in the high Antarctic where I worked, besides the books, a knife to sharpen my pencil was indispensable, any ink in a pen usually freezing. And any sort of electronic device just would not work, and would be unreliable. I also learned, from some anxious experiences, that a field book had to become ‘un-losable’. Starting out, I once mislaid a book when trying to capture a skua with a net; it was often an athletic endeavor, with a bird diving one way, and my book flying out of my parka pocket in the other. Only after painstakingly retracing my steps was I able to recover it, its brown cover camouflaged among the endless boulders and frozen guano of the penguin colony. It was a huge relief – you can’t imagine how happy I was. Thereafter I would plaster the journals with bright yellow tape in fat stripes. Eventually I found field books bound in vivid orange covers. In the polar snows, these were just perfect.

David Ainley, Explorers’ Sketchbooks: The Art of Discovery & Adventure, pg 243

Even in this digital age, a pencil, a knife, and a field book plastered in fat striped, bright yellow tape are exploring essentials.

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