It was once believed that the North Pole was surrounded by an open polar sea. Some of the attempts to prove this theory and to reach the pole itself once the theory was abandoned are the subject of this book. Fleming, author of the critically acclaimed Barrow's Boys, provides an entertaining history of the many failed attempts to reach the North Pole, from the hardship of the Kane expedition of 1853 through the Amundsen-Ellsworth North Pole sighting via airship in 1926. Though not all polar attempts in this time period are covered, many of the major attempts are recounted and analyzed, providing a story that is both awe-inspiring and humorous. Drawing on research from published and unpublished accounts, Fleming tells the stories of the failed land/sea attempts by such polar adventurers as Edward Nares, Fridtjof Nanson, Charles Francis Hall, August Petermann, and George Washington de Long, as well as the fatal attempt by Sweden's Salomon August Andr e by balloon. The controversial topic of who first stood at 90-degrees North is not answered here; only through the investigation of Frederick Cook's and Robert Peary's expeditions does the reader learn that neither can conclusively claim this achievement. Suitable for both public and academic library collections. Sheila Kasperek, Mansfield Univ., PA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
The author of Killing Dragons: The Conquest of the Alps (2001) returns with another rousing real-life adventure: a chronicle of the determination, madness, mendacity, suffering, and incredible endurance of the men who sought to be the first to stand at the North Pole. Picking up where Barrow’s Boys (1998) ended, with the ill-fated Franklin Expedition of 1847, the author shows Sir John Franklin’s successors one after another learning the bitter lessons of life and death north of the Arctic Circle. He closes with the passing, in 1940, of the widow of Lieutenant George Washington De Long, who starved and froze to death in 1881 while searching for the mythical "thermal gateway" to the Pole. De Long’s sufferings, horrible as they were, are common fare on Fleming’s menu, along with foolishness, foolhardiness, and fecklessness. For decades, explorers sought the "Open Polar Sea," a warm lake of water at the Pole that putatively pushed the icecap and its baby burgs southward. Another popular theory held that both poles featured gateways to the inner earth, where civilizations waited to be discovered. Once again, Fleming displays razor-edged wit and an unerring sense of what we want to read. He tells of a polar bear dragging a doctor around by the head. Of temperatures so cold that human exhalations freeze and hit the ground with a tinkle. Of a dog’s tail freezing to the ground. Of desperate men reduced to eating their own dogs—and eyeing one another hungrily. We learn, too, about continent-sized egos, especially that of Robert Edwin Peary, whose controversial claim to have reached the Pole Fleming disputes. All the polar lunatics and heroes are here: Kane, Hayes, Hall, Hegemann, Weyprecht, Osborn,Nansen, Cook (liar extraordinaire, says the author), and Amundsen, each one reanimated by fluid, vivid prose. A superb, well-researched saga, crackling with intelligence and wit. (4 maps, 24 pp. b&w photographs, not seen)