Courage and survival in the Antarctic.
In 1946, a crew of Navy men on a reconnaissance mission crashed a plane called the George 1 in Antarctica. Kearns, whose father Bill was one of the plane’s copilots, describes the aftermath of the crash. Three men died. The others suffered hunger, exhaustion and fear, but remained determined to stay alive. Only one of the crew had “survival training”—provided not by the Navy, but by the Eagle Scouts—and Bill Kearns knew a little something about frostbite. The men dined on apricot halves and dreamed of “scotch to go with all [the] ice” that surrounded them. By the tenth day, their spirits were, understandably, declining. But eventually the crew of the George 2 found their mates, and the first-time author concludes with a discussion of current-day attempts to recover the three corpses left in the ice. Character development here is patchy at best. The men of George 1 blend in with one another, and their fates eventually become uninteresting. The author only mentions that the mother of Maxwell Lopez, one of the men who died, wrote Bill Kearns angry letters blaming him for the death of her son, a powerful, emotionally engaging detail that’s merely glossed over. Nor, despite his gestures toward a “race” for “Earth’s last continental frontier,” does Kearns adequately explain the global politics of the Antarctic expedition. Just one or two more chapters about the mission’s broader context could have transformed this starry-eyed narrative into an exciting chapter of global history.
A remarkable story that would have made a remarkable book—if it had been written by Jon Krakauer.