On clear days I could extend my path in any direction. Then I’d tuck a bundle of split bamboo sticks under my arms; and every thirty yards or so, as I went along, I’d prick one of these sticks into the surface. When the bundle was used up, I’d retrace my steps, picking up the sticks on the way, the last stick fetching me hard by my path. The sticks weighed very little, and I could easily carry enough to mark a path a quarter mile long. Although I varied the route often, the change really made no difference. No matter which quarter I faced, an identical sameness met the view. I could have walked 175 miles northeast to the Rockefeller Mountains, or 300 miles south to the Queen Mauds, or 400 miles west to the mountains of South Victoria Land, and not seen anything different.
Yet, I could, with a little imagination, make every walk seem different. One day I would imagine that my path was the Esplanade, on the water side of Beacon Hill in Boston, where, in my mind’s eye, I often walked with my wife. I would meet people I knew along the bank, and drink in the perfection of a Boston spring. There was no need for the path’s ever becoming a rut. Like a rubber band, it could be stretched to suit my mood; and I could move it forward and backward in time and space, as when, in the midst of reading Yule’s Travels of Marco Polo, I divided the path into stages of that miraculous journey, and in six days and eighteen miles wandered from Venice to China, seeing everything that Marco Polo saw. And on occasion the path led back down the eons, while I watched the slow pulsations of the Ice Age, which today grips the once semi-tropical Antarctic Continent even as it once gripped North America.
Richard Byrd, on walking in Antarctica, from Alone