Safe Return Doubtful: The Heroic Age of Polar Exploration

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Until the early twentieth century, the north and south polar regions remained unknowns, shrouded in white wilderness; the mystery demanded resolution, and the feat of reaching the poles would guarantee immortality.

This book by renowned marine historian John Maxtone-Graham, tells the exciting story of the exploits of the polar explorers, who overcame fearsome odds and horrendous conditions. Neither radio nor aircraft had been invented; there was no nylon, no vitamins, and the ...

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Overview

Until the early twentieth century, the north and south polar regions remained unknowns, shrouded in white wilderness; the mystery demanded resolution, and the feat of reaching the poles would guarantee immortality.

This book by renowned marine historian John Maxtone-Graham, tells the exciting story of the exploits of the polar explorers, who overcame fearsome odds and horrendous conditions. Neither radio nor aircraft had been invented; there was no nylon, no vitamins, and the food was often so primitively preserved as to be poisonous. The men camped overnight in subzero agony, their sweat-soaked furs frozen the moment they stopped.

Safe Return Doubtful covers every aspect of the polar game: ships, sledges, primus stoves, animals, rations, frostbite, scurvy, and, always, these remarkable men and their dogged search for polar immortality

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
An expedition leader's death by arsenic poisoning; charges of cannibalism; over eight decades, 751 lives lost in quest of the North Pole; the heroics and tragedy of the race to the South Pole: in the literature of adventure, the story of polar exploration is second to none. It was the ultimate challenge of man against the elements with no technological support. Maxtone-Graham ( The Only Way to Cross ) reviews the early expeditions to the ArcticGeorge Nares, Charles Hall, John Franklin et al.then focuses at length on Fridtjot Nansen and his voyage in Fram . This, according to the author, was the start of the heroic age. Moving south, Maxtone-Graham recounts briefly other voyages, including de Gomery in Belgica (with Frederick Cook and Roald Amundsen aboard), the first group to winter over on Antarctica, and the first Robert Scott expedition, which was followed by Ernest Shackleton's attempt at the Pole. He takes us north again to the Peary-Cook imbroglio, and is inclined to believe that Robert Peary reached the North Pole. The heroic age of polar exploration ended with Amundsen and Scott, with triumph and disaster. This is a grand sto ry, vividly told. Photos. (Feb.)
Library Journal
A history of the efforts to reach the North and South Poles from Parry's Arctic expedition of 1827 to the achievement of the South Pole in 1911-12. The major heroes such as Nansen, Peary, and Amundsen are treated at some length, and numerous minor figures are covered as well. Maxtone-Graham, author of several books on ocean liners (e.g., Liners to the Sun ), has written a readable, generally accurate account which will be enjoyed by polar buffs who want both their poles in the same volume.-- J.F. Husband, Framingham State Coll. Lib., Mass.
Dore
Maxtone-Graham's prose is engaging and gripping.
Times Literary Supplement
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780684189871
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • Publication date: 2/10/1989
  • Pages: 384

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2002

    Polar Expeditions, Writ Large

    There is a history during the 1800's of a many repeated attempts to reach either the North or South Pole. Many ended in failure; more ended in failure and death. Only two Peary's conquest of the North and Amundson at the South near the beginning of the last century were complete successes. Yet, ALL these explorers, adventurers, and at least it seems, one con man - Cook, make this book highly readable. Nansen, Shackleton, Scott all the notable ones are here in their glory and there is much glory here. The tragedy too is here. And there are the less well known polar figures Parry, Kane and others; there is the mystery of Franklin. What one finds is that it is NOT the conquering of a given 90° at either end of our globe that gives these men a special place in history. It is the TRYING that all of them did. These men's efforts recorded here make this book flow and become a 'page turner'. Maxtone-Graham has done a very good job. One failing I noted on a few occasions was that his sentence structure seemed flawed, as if he was hurried to make a point, note a fact, and I found myself having to reread that portion two or three times to understand him. But anyone interested in, not just polar history, but in an era, about a time when men did astonishing deeds just to see if the goal could be achieved will enjoy this book.

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