An earnest, cheerful memoir by an intrepid adventurer, the first to walk to both the North and South Poles.
A restless youth in 1970s Britain, Swan began adventuring by bicycling alone across Africa. Once back home, he decided to fulfill his childhood obsession with Antarctic explorers by repeating Captain Robert Scott’s legendary 1912 walk across Antarctica to the South Pole. Scott and his men died on the way back, but Swan planned on only a one-way trip to the American South Pole base. He was not a mountaineer, scientist or celebrity; he had no money or polar experience; and in the ’80s no commercial presence existed in Antarctica, only national research stations. Official organizations refused to cooperate, but readers will enjoy Swan’s account of five years of relentless pestering, writing and public speaking necessary to acquire millions of dollars, supplies, a ship and a team that fulfilled his dream in 1985. The horrendous 900-mile walk was no anticlimax, as each of the three men set off dragging a 350-pound sled containing all their provisions but no radio. Having attained his goal, Swan recruited another team and walked to the North Pole in 1989, a task difficult then and impossible now because of melting icepack. By this time he had grown concerned with the deteriorating polar environment, and the book’s final 100 pages are focused on the author’s efforts to spread the word as he sails the world in his vessel 2041 (the year the international treaty protecting Antarctica expires), teaching, recruiting volunteers and performing tasks such as removing mountains of Antarctic garbage.
An admirable mixture of death-defying polar treks and environmental awareness.