The Coldest March: Scott's Fatal Antarctic Expedition

The Coldest March: Scott's Fatal Antarctic Expedition

by Susan Solomon
     
 

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�Had we lived, I should have had a tale to tell of the hardihood, endurance, and courage of my companions which would have stirred the heart of every Englishman. These rough notes and our dead bodies must tell the tale.�—R. Scott, written after traveling for weeks of daily temperatures below minus 35 F. This riveting book tells the tragic story of Captain… See more details below

Overview

�Had we lived, I should have had a tale to tell of the hardihood, endurance, and courage of my companions which would have stirred the heart of every Englishman. These rough notes and our dead bodies must tell the tale.�—R. Scott, written after traveling for weeks of daily temperatures below minus 35 F. This riveting book tells the tragic story of Captain Robert Falcon Scott and his British team who in November 1911 began a trek across the snows of Antarctica, striving to be the first to reach the South Pole. After marching and skiing more than nine hundred miles, the men reached the Pole in January 1912, only to suffer the terrible realization that a group of five Norwegians had been there almost a month earlier. On their return journey, Scott and his four companions perished, and their legacy—as courageous heroes or tragic incompetents—has been debated ever since. Susan Solomon brings a scientific perspective to understanding the men of the expedition, their staggering struggle, and the reasons for their deaths. Drawing on extensive meteorological data and on her own personal knowledge of the Antarctic, she depicts in detail the sights, sounds, legends, and ferocious weather of this singular place. And she reaches the startling conclusion that Scott�s polar party was struck down by exceptionally frigid weather—a rare misfortune that thwarted the men�s meticulous predictions of what to expect. Solomon describes the many adventures and challenges faced by Scott and his men on their journey, and she also discusses each one�s life, contributions, and death. Her poignant and beautifully written book restores them to the place of honor they deserve.

Author Biography: Susan Solomon is senior scientist at the Aeronomy Laboratory, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Boulder, Colorado. An acknowledged world leader in ozone depletion research, she led the National Ozone Expedition and was honored with the U.S. National Medal of Science in 1999 for �key insights in explaining the cause of the Antarctic ozone hole.� Among her many other distinctions is an Antarctic glacier named in her honor.

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Editorial Reviews

(Bruce Babbitt
A great adventure story, made even more compelling by a modern scientific detective.
Cornelia Ludecke
Well researched and well written. . .should appeal to a broad readership, as well as to meteorologists and polar historians.
Nature
Dennis Drabelle
[Its] exact and graceful prose. . . will appeal to anyone with an interest in polar exploration.
Washington Post Book World
J.W. Zillman
An inspiring chronicle of Antarctic scientific exploration at its most heroic. Good science, good history, and gripping read.
Jonathan Weiner
A valuable and sympathetic contribution . . . written by the leader of an expedition that ended in triumph.
Paul Ehrlich
A fresh and captivating look at one of the most tragic sagas in the annals of exploration.
Robert Lee Hotz
. . . The Coldest March captures [Scott's] legacy in the full meridian of its glory.
Los Angeles Times
Roberta MacInnis
[A] convincing argument.
Chicago Tribune
Publishers Weekly
British explorer Robert Scott's legacy has been debated since his ill-fated 1911 expedition. Initially pegged a hero, he's subsequently been maligned as a bumbler who lost the race to the South Pole and died, with four companions, because of his mistakes. Solomon, a senior scientist at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, attempts to restore Scott's reputation, arguing that unnaturally cold weather (weeks of -35 F.), not poor judgment, caused the captain's demise. She traces the polar expedition (Scott's second) using modern scientific evidence and the explorers' diaries. In clear, well-paced prose, Solomon paints characters and landscape deftly and delivers well-conceived arguments. But the book is not without flaws. Each chapter has a forced, heavy-handed though sometimes amusing introduction featuring a fictional visitor to contemporary Antarctica. And while Solomon's arguments are plausible, they are not ironclad. To her contention that Scott's plans didn't work because of extreme weather, one might answer that he should have planned for any possible situation; his Norwegian rivals, for instance, took more than enough provisions. Still, whatever opinion readers have of Scott when they start the book, by the end he will have risen in their esteem. Solomon's exhaustive research provides readers with enough information to form their own opinion. B&w photos and illus. (Sept. 10) Forecast: This book should be popular among exploration buffs because of its new scientific information. The book could get lost among the many polar adventure tales, though Solomon's fluid, accessible writing, her five-city tour and events at the National Geographic Society and theSmithsonian may distinguish it from the crowd. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal - Library Journal
In November 1911, Capt. Robert Falcon Scott and his British team set out to be the first to reach the South Pole. Battling the brutal weather of Antarctica, they reached the pole in January 1912 only to discover that a Norwegian team had beat them there by nearly a month. On their return from the Pole, Scott and four of his companions died in harsh conditions. Ever since, history has not known whether to label them heroes or bunglers. Solomon, senior scientist at the Aeronomy Laboratory, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Boulder, CO) and recipient of the U.S. National Medal of Science in 2001 for her insights into explaining the cause of the Antarctic ozone layer, analyzes all the factors present during Scott's expedition in an attempt to explain that his failure was due not to incompetence but to a combination of unpredictable weather, erroneous choices, and bad luck. She retells the story of the expedition bit by bit, inserting scientific facts concerning the climatology of Antarctica today and in 1912. Meticulously covering the minutest details, she paints a different but accurate picture of Captain Scott and his ill-fated expedition. An interesting read for anyone interested in true explorers; recommended for all libraries. Sandy Knowles, Henderson Cty. P.L., NC Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A painstaking, no-frills recreation of Robert Falcon Scott's South Pole bid, with a new perspective on the expedition's cruel fate, from NOAA senior scientist Solomon. It didn't take long for the memory of Scott to turn from one of honor to derision, from hero to bumbler-a leader so inept that it's a wonder that he made it to the Pole at all. No matter that the source of this image was generated in the backstabbing and beard-pulling world of envious scientists and explorers anxious to put down the work of a rival, it nonetheless stuck to Scott like grease from a seal-oil lamp. Out to set the record as straight as she can, and provide a complete picture of the expedition-balanced by short lead-ups to each chapter in the form of a contemporary Antarctic visitor narrating his experiences on a visit to the wondrous polar landscape-Solomon debunks the more outlandish accusations heaped on Scott: to the contrary, Scott's team's logistics were smart (if closely cut), and his leadership qualities were apparent most everywhere. More importantly, she suggests that Scott and his associates ran into a particularly nasty patch of weather (even by Antarctic standards) on their return from the Pole. That, plus some rotten luck when his boat got stuck in the ice, resulting in the team's late start. Solomon also demonstrates that it is more likely that dehydration, rather than scurvy, plagued the explorers, that Scott was not crippled by Victorian inhibitions preventing him from eating seal meat, and that the thin, high-altitude air of Antarctica also contributed to their weakening. There are also important portraits of the expedition members, lending a sense of how the team interwove theirstrengths and weaknesses. A compelling case for rescuing Scott from the Land of Ridicule. (photos from the expedition archives) Author tour

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780300099218
Publisher:
Yale University Press
Publication date:
12/02/2010
Pages:
416
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.80(h) x 1.20(d)

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