Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Alone on the Ice: The Greatest Survival Story in the History of Exploration by David Roberts

I love a good adventure story and this one ranks right up there with some of the best. Alone on the Ice describes the truly amazing tale of the 1911-1913 Australasian Antarctic Expedition led by Douglas Mawson, a lesser known polar explorer but certainly one of the greatest. Adventure writer David Roberts skillfully brings the heroic age of Arctic exploration to life by supplementing his exceptional research of the era with original diary entries from Mawson and other crew members. The end result is a fast-paced book that is hard to put down and which provides a simply fascinating account of endurance and survival amidst the volatile environment of Antarctica.

After the expedition party arrived and the Antarctic summer began, the crew was divided into several teams, each setting out in a different direction of this unexplored region of the continent. Their mission was multifold, whether it be locating the South Magnetic Pole, mapping the coastline, or simply going where no one else had ever been. As they ventured forth these courageous men faced an incredibly harsh and unpredictable climate, traversed snow bridges that at any moment could collapse into a menacing crevasse below, and also battled physical and mental decline.

Of all the individual team explorations, Mawson’s was the most harrowing. He and two companions set out on an ambitious 300 mile trek. As their formidable journey progressed, tragedy struck not once but twice. With the base camp still 100 miles away, Mawson finds himself alone, dangerously short on supplies and food, and struggling through insufferable weather conditions with little hope of making it back alive. His expedition is a true test of determination, fortitude, and sole survival.

If reading Alone on the Ice has you wanting more on Antarctica, the library has plenty that should satisfy your craving. Douglas Mawson wrote his own account in 1914 with The Home of the Blizzard. Race to the End is the story of the search for the South Pole by polar explorers Roald Amundsen and Robert Scott while South with Endurance is the extraordinary photographic journey of Ernest Shackleton’s 1914-1917 expedition. For scientific exploration of Antarctica today try South of Sixty: Life on an Antarctic Base. And then there’s the excellent BBC documentary on DVD, Life in the Freezer.

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