At four o’clock Alvarez comes to tell me everything is ready. I immediately arise and go to the door of the shed. The air is clear and tepid, the sun hangs motionless in the east. The wind is still blowing gently from the south. It is not as much wind as I had hoped, but perhaps it is enough. Turning my back to it, I pause for a reflective moment to look northward in the direction of our hopes. Before me a beach of brown gravel stretches away a few hundred metres to the sea, a flat and endless grey surface wrinkled only slightly by the wind. At the edge of the water, bound to earth with a complicated system of ropes, is the Prinzess on which all our schemes and efforts have concentrated for so many months. Beyond her, only a mile or so across the strait, the shape of Amsterdam Island is clearly outlined in this crystalline morning light, and along to the right is the larger mass of Vasa Peninsula. The temperature, I note, is five degrees centigrade.
Alvarez is standing at my elbow, and without turning to look at him I know he is watching me with an expression I have come to recognize not only in him but in the other members of the supporting party, from the doctor to the last cook and carpenter in these final days as our preparations have drawn to a climax. They look at us as though we were dead, or more precisely, in the way one might look at men who are to perish in some bizarre and complicated way previously unknown to human experience, men who are to be executed perhaps by some new and intricate apparatus whose effects are unknown and might involve some unexpected and unimaginable ecstasy before the final annihilation. It is not exactly a sympathy. The experience that lies before us is so unprecedented that they, the men who observe us, have no sense of participation in our fate, knowing it is one reserved exclusively for us and not, like death from an ordinary illness, something that they themselves may be eventually destined to experience. And so their glance is one of curiosity rather than sympathy or envy, and is quite distant and detached in its regard; it is a speculation as to what we might be experiencing in our thoughts and sensations in this thing that is already beginning to happen to us and will soon separate us inexorably form all the other men of the earth. It is the look one might give to men who were about to voyage to the moon, or be mated to goddesses or wraiths. perhaps we are, although I am not quite sure which I mean, or what I mean by that. I would do better to avoid fanciful metaphor and concentrate on the task at hand.