Record-breaking long-distance swimmer Cox (Grayson, 2008, etc.) retraces Norwegian explorer’s Roald Amundsen's groundbreaking polar explorations.
Part personal memoir and part a recounting of earlier voyages of discovery, the book's release is timed to coincide with the centenary of the famous 1911 race to the South Pole when Amundsen beat the British standard-bearer Robert Scott's ill-fated party by less than a month. The author, who tested her endurance by swimming in subzero temperatures, reports her fascination with the pioneering efforts of Amundsen and his Norwegian predecessors. She sees a parallel between her own preparations to swim in extremely cold waters and their similar efforts to prepare to endure glacial conditions. The Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen, a mentor to Amundsen, hoped to find the Northwest passage. He and his crew trained in Greenland, where they studied the survival skills of the local Inuit population. Though he failed, Amundsen followed in his footsteps and succeeded, and he intended to return to the Arctic but was thwarted by the beginning of World War I. After the war, he became involved with exploratory air flights to the North and South Poles. Cox writes about how she attempted to follow in their footsteps—swimming in Greenland's freezing waters—in order to explore “the inner and outer worlds of what a human being could achieve.” She weaves together her own experiences, including a flight to the South Pole, with those of the earlier explorers, and relates interesting anecdotes about the people who helped her on her quest.
Entertaining, but readers may wish for more Amundsen and less Cox.