Polar Exploration

A mini-obsession of mine right now is polar exploration. (Not actual polar exploration, just reading about it.) When we were in New Zealand last February, sk and I went to the Canterbury Museum in Christchurch where they have a permanent exhibit about Antarctic exploration. The most fascinating part was seeing artifacts from early expeditions by Ernest Shackleton and Robert Scott. (Seeing their gear in person makes their survival stories even more compelling.) When I got back, I picked up Caroline Alexander's excellent account of Shackleton's failed Endurance expedition (aptly titled The Endurance), which includes hundreds of photos by Frank Hurley—the meticulous and talented expedition photographer. I've been reading the book very slowly, taking time to study the incredible photographs. The book text uses diary entries from several members of the crew, and often reads like weblogs. The crew complain about each other, praise each other, and paint a very personal picture of what they were going through.

And speaking of polar blogs, I recently tuned into Ben Saunders' blog. He's currently training in Greenland for an expedition in October to retrace Robert Scott's 1912 South Pole attempt. He's literally following in the footsteps of the early polar explorers, and posting photos and diary entries along the way thanks to a digital camera and satellite phone. Saunders recently posted about how he's able to blog from the middle of nowhere: Arctic Geeks.

Comments

Polar exploration is awesome -- especially by ship -- but naval adventure in general is amazing. The early Patrick O'Brian novels about Aubrey and Maturin are amazing, but I like his The Golden Ocean and The Unknown Shore, too. Also, The Mutiny on the Bounty trilogy is a classic in the genre. It's amazing. There are a couple of keen documentary films out there, too, including one about Kon-Tiki and one about Shackleton (which I think is called Endurance). Nautical fiction and nautical fact are awesome.
Thanks for the recommendations. I think what appeals to me about the polar stories is hearing about people adapting and surviving in impossible situations. There's something about that human instinct for survival and moving forward even when things are bleak that's inspiring. The same is probably true of naval adventure in general, because the ocean isn't our natural environment.
You should read http://www.tonyhaile.com/ Tony's blog too, Ben's partner. We met both of them for coffee recently in NY and they're just totally cool and inspiring. After talking with them for about ten minutes I was like, "I want to come on your next expedition!" I don't think they'll let me though. :(

I'm looking foward to following SOUTH as they do it. It's really incredible what they're attempting.
Thanks, Meg! I didn't know about Tony's blog.

More polar goodness: A couple days ago I watched a great Nova special called http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/arctic/ Arctic Passage about attempts to find a Northwest Passage. A section about Roald Amundsen learning to survive in polar conditions from the Inuit was fantastic.
I enjoyed "Alone" http://www.amazon.com/o/ASIN/1559634634/ by Richard Byrd, about his attempt to spend three months by himself in Antarctica.
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