Dec. 25, 1944
Merry Christmas! Ours is almost over but not so yours, if my figuring is correct; and to think that you won’t get this letter until next year!
I had a good laugh at myself early this morning, though not before enjoying a rather memorable experience. Having vaguely planned to rise shortly before dawn and have a look for the Southern Cross, I woke at what seemed like about the right time and after looking at my wristwatch, which I thought said a little after six, got up. Up above I was disappointed to see lots of clouds and just a few unidentifiable stars peeping around them or, more simply, through them. After a little, however, some of the clouds disappeared, and the constellations began to take shape. Yes, there was Orion and neighbors, which, incidentally, between them must contain nearly half of all the stars in the sky brighter than second magnitude. The question was, where was Corvus, since Crux, which had still not showed itself, should, as I remembered, be directly under the former. Well, Corvus was finally located, but in such a position that Crux could only be very low on the horizon. Sure enough stars began to appear one by one in the right places as they got above the horizon haze or out from behind the rapidly dispersing clouds, and finally there was the whole cross, though rather on its side, something like this:
It still made a good Christmas present. High in the sky, upright and with no moon it must indeed be fine, though it could still hardly rival Orion, which, incidentally again, is almost exactly divided by the celestial equator, thus making the dipper the cross’s “rival” up here (northern hemisphere). Well, I come at last to the laugh. Wondering at the slowness of dawn’s approach and at my own unrefreshed state, I looked again at my watch, and it read 2:45! 2:30 had looked like 6:10, though if it had actually been 6:10, dawn would very likely have already arrived, something I was in no mood, however, to stay up and check up on!
I agree wholeheartedly, Pa, that non-fiction has a great deal to offer. Autobiographical material seems to appeal to me most, and the three recent books of this sort recently read I’ve enjoyed very much. The first was Maugham’s “Strictly Personal,” about his doings and rather keen observations in France at the beginning of the war. The second, “Under a Lucky Star,” the autobiography of Roy Chapman Andrews, is one of the most entertaining and interesting books I’ve ever read. I vaguely remember his lecturing at G.S. many years ago. What was he like? He may have been a publicity seeker, but it was all for the cause of Science and the American Museum. His indeed was a remarkable life and enjoyed to the utmost. The book reads almost like an Allen Quartermain. The third book, which I’d class as enjoyable, was “Land Below the Wind,” an account of four years in Borneo of an American wife of a British “civil servant.” Read any of those?
Stupidly I packed all my Xmas presents where they are at present unavailable, but I’ll probably get to them before any of mine get to you. We had a little celebration here aboard ship, starting with a buffet supper last night (late) and winding up with a “talent” show and then dinner (turkey, etc.) to-day. Our squadron contributed more than its share, having several good voices (meaning better than mine—considerably) etc., but perhaps the most unusual performer was a sailor who could multiply up to a six digit number by a two digit number or carry a two digit number to the fourth power in his head in a matter of a few seconds.
Happy New Year. Hope to get a bunch of mail soon.