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1912: The Year the World Discovered Antarctica Hardcover – 6 Sep 2012

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Bodley Head (6 Sept. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847921744
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847921741
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 3.5 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 741,354 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Chris Turney is an Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow and Professor of Climate Change at the University of New South Wales. Working in both the Antarctic and Arctic, Chris is extending historic records of change in the polar regions back to 130,000 years ago to help better understand the future. Described by the UK Saturday Times as the 'new David Livingstone', he is passionate about communicating science from the field and laboratory.

Chris is the author of numerous books, scientific papers and magazine articles. His most recent book is called '1912: The Year The World Discovered Antarctica'. 1912 has received rave reviews and tells the largely unknown scientific endeavours of the five scientific expeditions in Antarctica one hundred years ago. He shows how the endeavours of 1912 marked the dawn of a new age in understanding of the natural world, and how lessons from a century ago might reawaken the public's passion for scientific discovery and exploration. Inspired by this remarkable period, Chris led the Australasian Antarctic Expedition 2013-2014 (

In 2007 Chris was awarded the Sir Nicholas Shackleton Medal for outstanding young Quaternary scientists, and in 2009 he received the Geological Society of London's Bigsby Medal for services to geology. To do something positive about climate change, he helped set up a carbon refining company called Carbonscape ( which has developed technology to fix carbon from the atmosphere and make a host of green bi-products, helping reduce greenhouse gas levels.

Chris is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Geological Society of London, and the Royal Geographical Society.

Product Description


"A gripping account of the race to the South Pole, 1912 is a celebration of pioneering explorers and their awe-inspiring achievements. Turney brings the Antarctic adventure to life" (Sir Ranulph Fiennes)

"1912 is a great achievement – an insightful, fascinating and rigorously researched page-turner. Even seasoned Antarctic enthusiasts will find something new here. Fluent throughout, the passages on Antarctic science are beautifully clear. It reveals much not only about the way our planet works, but the debt that scientists like Turney owe each of the six expeditions of a century ago" (Gavin Francis, author of Empire Antarctica)

"In this highly informative and fitting account Chris Turney reminds us of the legacy left by the polar giants of the Edwardian age – not tracks in the snow heading South, but a body of scientific discovery, analysis and reports that opened up the continent for the first time and continues to inform scientists today" (Henry Worsley)

"As well as casting the Scott–Amundsen rivalry in a completely new light...Turney also unearths documents that appear to show a cover-up in the way the demise of Scott's Polar party was reported... It is perhaps for this single historical discovery that [Turney] will be best remembered" (The Scotsman)

"Alongside the science, Turney weaves the human story of that year, and in a fascinating appendix he uncovers new evidence" (Literary Review)

Book Description

The enthralling tale of the epic race for the poles and its larger-than-life participants.

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Inside This Book

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By CMJ Cook on 2 Jan. 2013
Format: Hardcover
Having previously read several books on Antarctic exploration, especially those about Captain Scott, I thought Chris Turney did an excellent job in presenting information on the global interest in Antarctica 100 years ago. Much of the literature available about this subject focuses, perhaps understandably, on Scott, Amundsen and Shackleton, so it was refreshing to read about Mawson, Filchner, Shirase et al.
I didn't have any problem at all with the author's style of writing and thought he met in full the objectives of the book, namely to put into context the various expeditions to Antarctica during that period in history. I applaud too the author's closing comments extolling the ongoing need for the effective communication of scientific discovery to inspire present and future generations. That is surely the lasting legacy of all the Antarctic explorers of that time and one which I felt Chris Turney conveyed very effectively.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 31 Dec. 2012
Format: Hardcover
Though I wouldn't have gone out and bought such a book I happily read it when given it as a Christmas present. The fact that I finished it in a couple of days is testimony to its readability.

The author doesn't make too much of the Captain Scott story, which is fair enough since anyone interested in Antarctic exploration is going to know that anyway. What he does do is put that story into the context of previous Antarctic exploration attempts, and others at the same time, such as the Japanese and German expeditions. This is well done and contributes not just to a overview of polar exploration but serves to show aspects of the rivalry between various nations, and their colonies in the British case, in the run-up to the Great War.

Occasionally the sentences are a bit convoluted. A good editor would have queried what the author was trying to say and got him to rewrite passages. It is also rather disgraceful that the editor did not pick up on the use of the word flounder instead of what was meant, founder in at least two places in the book - page 84, second last sentence, "The British ship was seriously overloaded and there was a real risk it would flounder." And on page 45 he talks of the danger of a ship's "floundering". To flounder means to struggle in mud or when wading. To founder means for a ship to fill with water and sink.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By R Jones on 3 Jan. 2013
Format: Hardcover
A very entertaining gift for Christmas! Perfect book to ease you back into the post festive period when your capacity for a weighty academic tome may be severely diminished. You would think there would be very little left to say on the subject of Antarctica but this is full of new facts and anecdotes that should keep you entertained from start to finish.
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Julian Evans on 26 Nov. 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Poorly researched and full of mistakes. Even confuses Petty Officer Evans with Lt. Evans. Just cashing in on the centenary. A very cynical and shameful endeavour.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 10 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
The stroy you know plus several you don't 3 Dec. 2012
By DragonRock LTD - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Pretty much everyone knows Amundsen ate his dogs and Scott died on the way back but did you know there were three Other expeditions in Antarctica in 1912? This book follows the Norwegian, English, Australian, German, and Japanese (yes Japanese) expeditions to Antarctica. I found it a very interesting read without the sense of drudgery that you usually find in adventure/expedition books. There's enough about the weather and the conditions for you to get the idea but not so much you feel like you are sledging through pages and pages of horrible weather. Being so used to modern maps, I found it surprising how little was known about Antarctica before these expeditions. There's a map early on in the book that is mostly blank. I enjoyed the part about Mawson's Australasian expedition the most with their focus on science instead of the race to the pole. This book is definitely worth reading. It fills in those blank spots on your history map.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1912 and All That 6 Nov. 2013
By Erin Britton - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
In 1897 an exasperated John Campbell declared that a "very large area of the surface of our small planet is still almost unknown to us. That it should be so seems almost a reproach to our civilisation." The problem seemed to stem from lack of knowledge about what lurked at the bottom of the world; as Chris Turney notes, "almost everything south of 50 degrees was described [on atlases] as an Unexplored Region and the vast space left embarrassingly blank." While famous names such as David Livingstone, Alexander von Humboldt and John Hanning Speke had brought reports of Africa and South America to a Europe hungry for tales of adventure and exploration, very little progress had been made into exploring Antarctica since land was sighted for the first time in 1820.

However, 1912 was the year in which this all changed and, as such, Chris Turney convincingly suggests that it should be seen as marking the height of the Heroic Age of Exploration. Curiosity about Antarctica reached its apogee between 1910 and 1914 when five teams of intrepid explorers set out on the greatest race of the age, a competition to see who would be the first to travel beyond the edges of the known world and conquer the treacherous, frozen wastes of Antarctica.

As well as a thirst for scientific knowledge and a desire to better understand our planet, the race to conquer Antarctica was also fuelled in no small part by a desire for national glory as each of the five teams heading south represented a different country. Pitted against each other [and with more than a little help from their teams] in the quest for immortal exploration glory were Captain Robert Falcon Scott from Britain, Roald Amundsen from Norway, Douglas Mawson from Australia, Wilhelm Filchner from Germany and Nobu Shirase from Japan. Although it was Roald Amundsen who ultimately triumphed, 1912: The Year the World Discovered Antarctica reveals that there was far more to the story of the race for the South Pole than that.

The adventures involved on the exploration of Antarctica proved just as exciting to the general public in 1912 as they do today. Each of the five teams who headed south went to great lengths [although not always with great success] to publicise their journeys through books, lecture tours, newspaper articles and interviews, records, and photographs so as to enthral the people back home. Turney uses the first person accounts of these larger-than-life explorers to bring his narrative to life in a powerful and informative fashion. While the tragedy that befell Scott's expedition and the success of Amundsen's are still well known today, the other three expeditions have rather faded into obscurity and so to hear of their journeys, hardships and triumphs in their own words is an excellent way to recapture the public's interest. Turney also discusses the cynical manipulation of the news about Scott's expedition and the way that certain of the nation's scientific giants thought it best to keep some of the truth of Antarctica away from the general public.

Chris Turney is able to use his own polar experience to discuss the circumstances that the explorers found themselves in and the kind of privations that they has to endure in the quest for scientific understanding. Although modern visitors to Antarctica have far better supplies and equipment, they too have to face temperatures cold enough to shatter teeth, winds that can easily knock a man down and avoid crevasses in the ice from which there would be no escape. To travel across Antarctica is to encounter as much danger as wonder; as well as fighting the elements, the explorers had to combat starvation, frostbite, snow blindness and the occasional bout of polar madness. It's frankly amazing that anyone made it to the Pole and lived to tell the [coherent] tale.

1912 is a gripping account of the race to the South Pole. Chris Turney masterfully succeeds in bringing out the different personalities and motivations of the principle explorers and recreating their experiences. For a well-researched, detailed historical account, it still manages to be an exciting page-turner that keeps readers hooked as the differing expeditions head south with varying degrees of success.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1912: The Year the World Discovered Antarctica 14 July 2013
By Kate - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
A big Thanks to Chris Turney for retelling the stories of the first explorations of Antarctica. This was thoroughly engaging, and utterly amazing given the vessels and equipment of the time.
I especially enjoyed getting to know about the Mausen Expedition which had not been given much coverage in texts I had read.
When I think old the struggles of The Scott party and their eventual death which beside the conditions and missing supplies was brought about in part because they did not abandon their specimens and continued to drag the pledges in spite of their deteriorating condition, I am in awe of what they accomplished. The author states, " the world was electrified by the scientific exploration in 1912...": I am doubly saddened by the state and interest in science in our country. The fossil material Scott had labored so hard to preserve brought about research that revolutionized the way we thought about our plant and the creation of continents. Thousands and thousands of the world's citizens followed these explorers through the world press, and went to their lectures and tours. Science was exciting. And now I live in a country where over a third of its citizens think of this planet as being not to very old, our high school drop out rate is astronomical, creationism is thought a "science", and this is just as we are beginning to compete in a Global market where science and technology will determine the difference between the third world and the leaders of advanced societies.
This book should especially be on the book gift list for any 12-17 year old. It is written in a way that might light up their interest in science. They are not the target audience of the author, but this is exciting enough to capture the imagination of a reader of any age.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A pleasant surprise 1 Dec. 2013
By Marc Ranger - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I wasn't expecting much about "1912, The year the world discovered Antarctica", mainly because I've already read extensively about everything that was previously published on the matter and that a 302 pages book about so interesting and large a subject coudn't add anything new.

I was wrong. First, the Shirase Japanese Expedition and Wilhelm Filchner's drift around the Weddel Sea are well covered and added to my knowledge of the Heroic Age of Antarctic Expeditions. Secondly, the author draws material from previously underused diaries such as Griffith Taylor's Terra Nova team who, to my surprise, had to nerve to tell Robert Falcon Scott that "the Discovery mapping was a disgrace".

Another interesting use of past overlooked diaries is Hassel's testimony about how ruthless Roal Amundsen could be, I'll let you read that one for yourself it's really great. Other first time use of diaries included Xavier Mertz eye witness impression of Ninnis's death and Uncle Bill Wilson testimony of how it was like to deal with the fact that Scott's Southern Party arrived second at the Pole.

However, 2 things stands out form the whole of the book, one is the tremendous impact that Edgeworth David had on virtually all of the 1912 Expeditions, without actually being part of any of them, and the enormous impact his studies of the observations those Expeditions brought back had on general science. David for me was the 51 years-old Prof who
made the heroic 1908 trek to the Magnetic Pole with Alister Mackay and Douglas Mawson. Now he is so much more than that! Finally, two aspect of those Great Expeditions are frankly discuss for the first time. Did Sir Douglas Mawson resort to cannibalism when Xavier Mertz died? And was the "inexplicable" shortage of fuel and food on the Southern Party trek back due to poor management or...did a discarded return party took more than his fair share?

So, I'd say this book will surely spark a flame of interest in the 1912 Expedition even if you're a first timer, and it will give something new to ponder about if you know the subject very well.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Superb 18 Jun. 2013
By Wombat Ten Hoopen - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Chris Turney successfully conveys the heroism and flaws of the early explorers as they challenged the preternatural dangers of Antarctica and is a superb book for anyone.
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