If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you may (or may not) have noticed that I have a bit of a thing for reading about cold places, in particular Antarctica. Of special interest to me are the years in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, in which Antarctic exploration was at its peak, and the race to be the first to the South Pole had captured the imagination of the public. There was a fierce rivalry between two men in this race; Sir Ernest Shackleton, and Captain Robert Falcon Scott – although they would both be beaten to the prize of the Pole by the Norwegian explorer, Roald Amundsen. South Pole: 1910-1913 focuses on the ultimately tragic journey made by Captain Scott and his men, as they attempted to reach the heart of perhaps the most inhospitable place on the planet. The book is essentially the abridged version of the expedition, but by no means does it lack any of the adventure of the biographies of these heroic figures.
Perhaps best described as a coffee table book, this beautiful record of Scott’s expedition contains photographs taken on the expedition, as well as a smattering of Scott’s own journal entries. The photographs in particular are wonderful to look at, especially when considering they were taken over 100 years ago in one of the harshest climates on the planet, and with none of today’s technology; they capture perfectly the harshness of the environment and the courage of the men who ventured there.
I hope one day to travel to Antarctica myself and see the huts that still stand today on the frozen ground; the huts that housed some of these men for three years. The historical importance of these structures is beyond value: they are the only human structures standing on any continent that were the first to be built there, but they are also home to the instruments these men used on the expedition, almost as a shrine to these men and a time capsule of early scientific exploration. Recently the Antarctic Heritage Trust completed a restoration of the hut at Cape Evans, a project that took around six years and thousands of hours of manpower. An enormous undertaking in a friendly environment, let alone one which is permanently frozen and virtually isolated geographically – a very admirable feat in my opinion.
So, if you’re like me and passionate about the preservation of human history, you should go check out the Antarctic Heritage Trust website, see what they’re all about and if you’re feeling generous, make a small donation. Otherwise, pick up a copy of this book and (like me), dream about cold places, and times when feats of heroism were truly great.