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Close, But No Cigar!

January 18th marks the day that, in 1912, Robert Falcon Scott arrived at the South Pole, only to find that Roald Amundson, the Norwegian explorer, had beat him to it by just over a month.  Ironically it’s Scott’s expedition that is remembered and has become legend, but not for his journey to the South Pole, but rather the tragic return trip.  Where on Scott and his four colleagues all perished from a combination of exhaustion, starvation, and extreme cold.

Lt Henry (Birdie) Bowers, Capt Robert Falcon Scott, Dr Edward Adrian Wilson. Petty Officer (PO) Edgar Evans, Capt Lawrence (Titus) Oates.


A great way to commemorate this doomed, but heroic expedtion would be to pick-up a book and learn just exactly what it took to trek towards the South Pole, in an era before modern technology.


indexwerRace to the Pole: tragedy, heroism, and Scott’s Antartic quest by Sir Ranulph Fiennes (Yes, this is the brother of Lord Voldermort, Ray Fiennes).

During the Golden Era of Exploration, Captain Robert Scott and his competitor Roald Amundsen conquered the unconquerable: Antarctica. This perilous race to the South Pole claimed the life of Scott and became the stuff of legend, as well as endless scrutiny. In this compelling, meticulously researched biography of Captain Scott and his fatal journey, renowned modern-day explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes, holder of 10 expeditionary records, has written what is sure to become the definitive book on this hotly debated subject.


Another great book chronicling Scott’s expedition is Apsley Cherry-Garrard’s The Worst Journey in the World.  indextrewThis account comes straight from the horse’s mouth, written by one of only three men to survive this ill-fated adventure.

“The Worst Journey in the World” recounts Robert Falcon Scotts ill-fated expedition to the South Pole. Apsley Cherry-Garrard the youngest member of Scotts team and one of three men to make and survive the notorious winter journey draws on his firsthand experiences as well as the diaries of his compatriots to create a stirring and detailed account of Scotts legendary expedition. Cherry himself would be among the search party that discovered the corpses of Scott and his men, who had long since perished from starvation and brutal cold. It is through Cherrys insightful narrative and keen descriptions that Scott and the other members of the expedition are fully memorialized.


If all this reality is  just a little too real for you, then why not check out these other polar themed fiction novels.


indexidceIce by Sarah Beth Durst.

In a twist on the fairy tale East of the Sun, West of the Moon, this enchanting tale tells of Cassie, a young woman who grew up studying polar bears in the Arctic. Cassie, raised by her widowed father and her Gram, was told the fanciful tale of her mother’s promise to the Polar Bear King and banishment to the Troll castle. On her eighteenth birthday, Cassie realizes her mom’s story was actually true and makes a promise of her own to the Polar Bear King: if he rescues her mother, Cassie will be his bride. But who is the mysterious Bear and what is his role in saving souls and maintaining the circle of life?


The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman.

indexCAA0NSFDA novel set in London and in the Arctic regions of a world that is somewhat like our own. Lyra, apparently an orphan, lives among the scholars at Jordan College, Oxford. She becomes aware of a nefarious plot to steal children and transport them to the far north. As Lyra is drawn deeper and deeper into this mystery, she finds that the children are being made to suffer terribly. What she does not, and must not know, is that she is the keystone in an ancient prophecy. Her destiny is to save her world and to move on into a parallel universe. She dives headlong into harrowing adventures, totally unaware of her importance.


And lastly, a classic.  A book of short stories that explore man’s struggle to conquer nature, and the often brutal and unforgiving world they find.


build-fire-other-stories-jack-london-paperback-cover-artJack London’s To Build a Fire and Other Stories.

Jack London’s tales of adventure were unsurpassed because London was there. From Alaska to the Yukon, from the Klondike to the Arctic tundra, London knew the outlaws and the wolves, the prospectors and the grizzlies. In these collected stories of man against the wilderness, London lays claim to the title of greatest outdoor adventure writer of all time.


Don’t forget all these books are available at your local St. Louis Public Library.

Well time to bid you adieu.  So, I’ll leave you with the last words of Lawrence Oates, one of Scott’s teammates, who in a heroic last effort to save his fellow compatriots, walked out of their tent to certain death – “I am just going outside and may be some time”.

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