Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Explorers of the new century - post I

Compared to something like the exhaustive and historical study that I once waded through by Roland Huntford that charted the story of Scott and Amundsen comparing their different approaches to finding the South Pole this book is much more consumable and done with a great deal more humour.

It starts with the feeling of being a tale of arctic explorers with two missions to find the point of farthest away. The British mission is headed by a public figure, the celebrated explorer Johns, in a race with what you assume is the Norwegian team staffed with professionals that are ahead because they landed first.

This is a study of characters under strain. The British and the Norwegians have their class systems going with stars and tent sleeping systems making sure people know exactly where they are. They have their tents and food being carried by mules with the pack given as much attention as the men.

There are moments of black humour as they both make mistakes and hit the river at roughly the same time causing excitement and errors. The race is finely poised but the real question is quite what is it they hope to find when they reach their destination.

More tomorrow…

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