The tale of how Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen triumphed in the race to the South Pole, beating British contender Robert Scott by only two weeks, still grips our imagination 100 years later.
It is a heroic saga of human endurance stretched to the limit in a continent so harsh that no indigenous inhabitants lived there, made tragic by Scott's death on the ice. Hooper (The Ferocious Summer: Palmer's Penguin's and the Warming of Antarctica, 2007, etc.) focuses on six members of Scott's team who were given the task of exploring the glacial area to the east while Scott's team made a direct approach to the Pole. Their adventures and the hardships they endured is, writes the author, “one of the great tales of survival.” Although they landed with adequate supplies near a pre-existing hut, which served as their home base, the expectation was that they would be picked up by the expedition's ship the following summer. When the ship failed to return for them as planned, their supplies ran out and their situation begin to deteriorate. To survive, they had to find a way, on foot, through the ice, and reconnect with Scott's backup team. While writing the book, Hooper had access to the scientific notebooks, diaries and letters of members of the expedition, archived at Cambridge University, and she is familiar with her subject, having spent three summers living in Antarctica as a writer chosen to record the work of the Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions and the U.S. National Science Polar Program. She vividly describes the glacial terrain they traveled, the ravages of the weather and the flora and fauna of the region.
A grand story of six brave men who literally and figuratively pulled together in their race for survival.