interesting historically but a bit hard to wade through
This lengthy tome details Robert Falcon Scotts final expedition to the South Pole. Though many other stories and analyses have already been offered (including Scotts own accounts from his diaries), Cherry-Garrards is a first-hand rendering of his and other lesser-known members experiences.
It is truly incredible that anyone survives in the arctic. This book gives an intimate account of the daily life and habits of those who spend consecutive years in this inhabitable place half of every year in darkness.
The most compelling aspect of this book to me was the titular journey attempted by Cherry-Garrard and two other members of the expedition in the middle of winter to retrieve Emperor penguin embryos. With -75 degree temperatures, complete darkness, yawning crevasses, and shelter-destroying storms, it is truly miraculous that these men survived their multi-week journey at all. This, not the Expedition to the Pole itself, was truly The Worst Journey in the World. The tale is made even more poignant by the knowledge that two of the party (Bowers and Wilson) will perish with Scott on the return journey from the Pole a journey whose difficulties pale next to those of this particular winter expedition.
The book is comprehensive often giving blow-by-blow accounts of certain journeys (such as those to set up supply depots for the Polar Expedition). Cherry-Garrard writes as if his readers have working knowledge both of Scotts previous and final journey to the Pole. It would be helpful to have a firm grasp of the basic history of the expedition and geography of the South Pole region since names, and places are tossed about continually and casually as if the reader knows them as intimately as the author.
Though Cherry-Garrard writes from an older time and different era, and though his account often drags with the monotony that must have accompanied everyday life in the Arctic, he as often delights with rapturous accounts of landscapes, with self-deprecating humor, and even with satisfying barbs. Writing of the difficulties with the ponies, for example, he offers, He [the pony] rivals our politicians in that he has little real intellect. More gems abound.
In the end as he dissects Scotts disastrous final journey, he also passionately defends the whole notion of polar exploration, which must have come under some scrutiny after Scotts tragedy. For all who seek adventure, he writes:
Exploration is the physical expression of the Intellectual Passion. And I tell you, if you have the desire for knowledge and the power to give it physical expression, go out and explore, If you are a brave man you will do nothing: if you are fearful you may do much, for none but cowards have the need to prove their bravery.
This is one of the best adventure stories of all time, ever, period. This book will be much more entertaining if you read Scott's journal's first. Then you will get a formal boss perspective in Scott's journals, and then a more swashbuckling style crew perspective in this book. You simply cannot kick the bucket without having read this book. St. Peter will hand you this book, send you back and tell you, read this book and we'll talk in a few days.