Sunday, March 18, 2012

Mawson and the men of the Heroic Age: Scott, Shackleton and Amundsen

Peter Fitsimons has written of an age of heroes - a time when polar exploration, initially in the Arctic and then the Antarctic, captured the imagination of people around the world. To be the first to reach the South Pole was the aim of a number of explorers, particularly Scott, Shackleton and Amundsen and the intrigue behind the various expeditions to achieve this are interwoven in this book. Mawson was a member of Shackleton's Antarctic expedition in 1908 and the experience convinced him that he should return and explore the large sections of the continent believed once to have been part of Australia.

The first Australian Antarctic Expedition led by Mawson, commenced towards the end of 1911 returning to Australia in February 1914, is the main focus of the book, though all the drama of  Antarctic exploration, especially the race between Amundsen and Scott to be the first to reach the South Pole occurring at the same time, is also told. The sense of adventure, the rivalry between expedition parties and nations to be the first to reach a milestone, tensions between groups of people isolated for prolonged periods from the rest of the world, the problems in organising expeditions and raising the required funds, the experimentation with the best methods of transport in extreme conditions, exploration versus scientific discovery plus the constant danger are some of the themes of this epic work.

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