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At the Mercy of the Winds Paperback – 4 Nov 2002


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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam Books (Transworld Publishers a division of the Random House Group); First Edition, First Printing edition (4 Nov 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553813633
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553813630
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 1.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,205,839 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From the Back Cover

On 28 May 2000, explorer David Hempleman-Adams took off from Spitzbergen in Norway on what would be a record-breaking flight to the North Pole. The contents of his balloon's fragile wicker basket included enough liquid oxygen to allow him to endure the high altitudes, an inflatable raft plus forty days worth of emergency rations. He knew that if he survived the week ahead he would be the first man ever to have reached the North Pole by balloon, but not the first to have tried.

Indeed, Hempleman-Adams's journey was of great emotional significance. That he chose to fly in a wicker basket, rather than in the hi-tech sealed capsule favoured by round-the-world balloonists today, was in homage to an earlier - and tragic -expedition. In 1897, three Swedes - Salomon Andr‚e, Nils Strindberg and Knut Frænkel - tried for the Pole but only days into their attempt freezing fog brought them down on the pack ice. Fighting off polar bears, loneliness, despair and the bitter cold, they managed to survive for three months. It would be thirty-three years before their bodies were found.

At the Mercy of the Winds tells the extraordinary, compelling stories of both journeys. Alone in the skies above the frozen and harshly beautiful landscape, David Hempleman-Adams battled against the elements to fulfil the dream of those pioneers a century earlier - to become the first man to balloon to the North Pole.

About the Author

David Hempleman-Adams was born in Swindon, Wiltshire, in 1956. His interest in adventuring was inspired by the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, of which he is a gold medalist. In 1998 he became the first person to complete the explorers' Grand Slam, a challenge that has seen him conquer the North and South Geographical and Magnetic Poles and scale the highest mountain in each of the seven continents, including Everest. A businessman by profession but an adventurer by preference, he lives near Bath with his wife and three daughters. Robert Uhlig, who wrote At the Mercy of the Winds with David Hempleman-Adams, is the Technology Correspondent of the Daily Telegraph in London. In 1998 he accompanied David Hempleman-Adams and Rune Gjeldnes to the Canadian High Arctic to document their trek to the North Pole in Walking on Thin Ice. He is also the author of The Daily Telegraph James Dyson's History of Inventions. He lives in Cornwall with his partner and young son.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Michael Perryman on 20 Feb 2012
Format: Paperback
David Hempleman-Adams describes himself as an adventurer, rather than a genuine 'explorer'. But what an adventurer: the first person, in 1998, to achieve the 'Explorers Grand Slam', reaching the seven highest continental summits, and the two poles - both geographic and magnetic. At a public talk last month, I heard of his Grand Slam first hand. And it was excellent: a remarkable tale, objectively, modestly, and wittily told. I picked up a signed copy of his "At the Mercy of the Winds" afterwards, and got stuck in.

This book is the account of his solo flight in a helium balloon (and wicker basket) from Spitzbergen to the north pole. He followed in the 'footsteps' of the 1897 Swedish expedition led by Salomon Andrée, which failed to reach the pole, and sadly resulted in a desperate and ultimately tragically unsuccessful three-month survival battle on the polar ice for the three Swedes. Their bodies, along with the expedition's diaries and photographs on which part of the tale is based, were only recovered from the ice 33 years later.

"At the Mercy of the Winds" interweaves the accounts of these two polar flights: on the one hand, the unsuccessful 1897 expedition, truly flying at the mercy of the winds, which is told with insight, respect, and compassion. Although Hempleman-Adams solo flight in 2000 was founded on only a rather limited experience of ballooning, it was compensated by his considerable experience of the desperate conditions and shocking loneliness of the Arctic waste, huge self-reliance, and an intense determination to succeed. In so doing, he became the first person to fly to the north pole by balloon.
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