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Remember Mrs. Chippy
am 5. November 1999
As criticized by other reviewers, this book does not pretend any falsehoods. It is a fictionalized account, of course, but is based on the accounts and journals of ALL of the crew, not just the famous or the high ranking. The true hardships are recounted in the footnotes, most notably excerpts from the diary of Henry McNeish, Chippy,s owner, bunk mate and ships carpenter. In a way Mrs. Chippy's account, built from references of all the other journals, speaks for those also marginalized and also only known through footnotes. McNeich spent 28 hours toiling in waist deep frigid water to build a coffer dam in an attempt to hold back the water in the beginning of the end for the Endurance. Do we remember his name? Perce Blackborow, young and desperate for adventure, stowed away and worked hard as ships steward, assisted and filled in for the cook when he fell injured. Do we remember his name? Louis Rickinson and A.J. Kerr, ships engineers, worked at the boilers below decks, even as the ice is pressing the hull made all manner of horrible and terrifying noises. Do we remember their names? Through Mrs. Chippy's eyes we catch a glimpse of all the crew, in their bravery and their humanity. Lastly, any who would question the character or depth of relationship between even the hardened explorer and the ships cat, consider the following: Commander Frank Worsley, the Captain of the Endurance, chose the photo of Chippy and Blackborow that adorns the cover of this book as one of the few he published. ALL the diaries of the members of the expedition had descriptions of Chippy. Let me close with this quote from the poet Christopher Smart from his ode to his cat, Jeoffry:
For he keeps the Lord's watch in the night against the adversary. For he counteracts the powers of darkness by his electrical skin and glaring eyes. For he counteracts the Devil, who is death, by brisking about the life.
We are shielded from Chippys final fate, the journal ends on October 29th. Chippy perished that afternoon. Remember Chippy, and remember all those whose story is recorded in footnotes.