Study Guide

The White Darkness Exploration

By Geraldine McCaughrean

Exploration

Somewhere near here—out on the Barrier or up on the Polar Plateau—lies a geographical soft spot, like that hole in a newborn baby's head. (8.19)

So Victor is searching for a place called Symmes's Hole. Will he find it? (Ha ha, just kidding—we all know the answer is no.)

In point of fact I was very glad for someone to talk to about the Great Quest. How would we get there? (10.56)

To Sym, exploration isn't about finding a leader; it's about companionship. This makes sense when we consider that part of her personal journey is coming to see herself as lovable.

We are going in search of a hole in the Earth's crust, and if we find it Uncle Victor says no one is going to care about our little truck. (11.2)

Uncle Victor steals a very expensive vehicle to aid him in his exploration. He downplays the crime and plays up the importance of his exploration, but since pretty much no one but him believes in Symmes's Hole, we're thinking no one's going to be stoked about his theft.

The twin cones of yellow electric light no longer lit the fog, but it was a small loss. What good is a torch to a blind man? (13.42)

Driving through Antarctica without headlights is probably a bad idea. Right? Then again, it doesn't seem like they were helping much to begin with.

Geographers can't map the chaos of the Shear Zone; it is always changing. (14.21)

Gosh, it's almost as though Antarctica is hard to explore or something. Shmoop doesn't even like driving without GPS, much less unmapped terrain.

As an afterthought, I went back to the cab and got out two of the ice axes. If we lost our footing on an ice slide or went over the edge of… something… we might need them. (14.37)

With good reason, Sym feels uneasy about exploring. Nevertheless she seems to be pretty good at it. In fact, she seems better at it than many of her companions.

"Don't you get it, Briggs? Those coordinates! I made them up! Invented them! Faked it! Listen, Briggs, there are no coordinates!" (14.96)

When Manfred reveals that he made up the coordinates for Symmes's Hole, we know for sure that Victor's quest has been a wild goose chase. The only person who doesn't realize it is Victor.

"This happened to Captain Scott, you know? He and Taff Evans. On the first trip, the 1904 trip. They got out fine! Just took a while, that's all!" (16.14)

Sym constantly makes comparisons between her own situation and her beloved explorers from the early 20th century. She seems to really identify with them; it's as if they're her kin.

By tonight we'll find Symmes's Hole! We will! We must! This is an adventure! That's what happens in adventures! (19.64)

Adventures tend to be goal-oriented, right? But there is no Symmes's Hole. So what's the point here, Sym? And why is she still telling herself Symmes's Hole exists? What does this reveal about where she is in her emotional exploration process?

"I hope he found something. Paradise. At the bottom of the hole. Some kind. Paradise." (21.17)

Victor never does find Symmes's Hole (you know, because it doesn't exist), but in a way, he still finds what he's looking for: a hole to go down into the earth.

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