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Polar Wives: The Remarkable Women Behind the World's Most Daring Explorers [Paperback]

Jon Bowermaster , Kari Herbert
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

26 April 2012
Polar explorers were the superstars of the "heroic age" of exploration, a period spanning the Victorian and Edwardian eras. In this engaging book, author Kari Herbert explores the unpredictable, often heartbreaking lives of seven remarkable women who married world-famous polar explorers.
As the daughter of a pioneering polar explorer, Herbert brings a unique perspective to these stories of polar exploration. In her portraits of the gifted sculptor Kathleen Scott; eccentric traveller Jane Franklin; spirited poet Eleanor Anne Franklin; Jo Peary, the first white woman to travel and give birth in the High Arctic; talented and determined Emily Shackleton; Norwegian singer Eva Nansen; and her own mother, adventurer Marie Herbert, Karie Herbert blends deeply personal accounts of longing, betrayal, and hope with stories of peril and adventure.
Herbert illuminates the essential role the women played in supporting, publicizing, defending, and even financing their husbands' expeditions. She follows these "polar wives" not only to the polar wastelands but through war-torn Macedonia, the lawless outback of Australia, and the plague--riddled ancient cities of the Holy Land.
With extracts from previously unpublished historic journals and letters, "Polar Wives" brings together for the first time, the compelling stories of seven adventurous women

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Polar Wives: The Remarkable Women Behind the World's Most Daring Explorers + Heart of the Hero: The Remarkable Women Who Inspired the Great Polar Explorers
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Product details

  • Paperback: 349 pages
  • Publisher: Douglas & McIntyre Publishing Group (26 April 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 192681262X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1926812625
  • Product Dimensions: 22.6 x 15.2 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 466,352 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Kari Herbert first started travelling at the age of ten months when her father, pioneering explorer Sir Wally Herbert, took Kari and her mother to live among the Polar Inuit on a remote island off the coast of Greenland.

As an author and photographer, her work has been published in magazines and newspapers all over the world, including the Sunday Times, the Independent, and the Guardian. Her first book, 'The Explorer's Daughter' was chosen as Book of the Week by BBC Radio 4. It has since been translated into Danish, Dutch, Italian, and Polish.

Her most recent books include 'In Search of the South Pole' and 'Polar Wives'. Kari is the founding director of Polarworld, an indie publishing company. She lives in Cornwall, England.

Product Description


" Every story Herbert tells is fascinating for itself, and the book is compelling. ...With a nice selection of photos, an ample supply of larger-than-life characters, and settings like no other, this is a book that should easily stand the test of time and has earned its place on exploration history shelves everywhere."--"Bookslut"

"This gem of a book engages an audience as thoroughly as the expeditions did in their heyday, telling the stories of women like Emily Shackleton, Jane Franklin, Jo Perry, Eva Nansen, and Marie Herbert with a grace and style as captivating as the northern landscape itself."--"Portland Book Review"

"This highly enjoyable book is an important addition to polar and exploration history collections or for biography or women's studies shelves."—"Library Journal"

About the Author

Kari Herbert first started travelling at the age of ten months when her father, pioneering explorer Sir Wally Herbert, took Kari and her mother, Marie, to live among the Polar Inuit on a remote island off the northwest coast of Greenland. Today, Kari is an acclaimed author, photographer, and speaker. Her work has been published in magazines and newspapers all over the world, including the "Sunday Times," the "Telegraph," "Mail on Sunday," the "Independent" and the "Guardian." Her first book, "The Explorer's Daughter," received outstanding reviews and was chosen as Book of the Week by BBC Radio 4. It has since been translated into Danish, Dutch, Italian, and Polish.
Kari Herbert is the founding director of Polarworld, an independent publishing company that produces inspirational books and projects to bring an awareness of wilderness places to a diverse audience. She lives in Cornwall, England.
Jon Bowermaster is the author of eleven books and producer of a dozen documentary films, when not on the sea Bowermaster lives in the Hudson Valley of New York.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Gift for daughter in law 30 Mar 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Bought for daughter in law interested in polar exploration but I read it before I gave it to her. A really interesting read and good to hear about the woman's point of view, whether wives or family members of explorers. Each chapter focused on different women which made the reader's experience more focused.
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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars VERY interesting! 19 July 2012
By Roberta - Published on Amazon.com
Great book! It was written by a daughter of one of the explorers, and there are pics of her inside as a baby with her mom in the Arctic.

I never considered the wives of those intrepid explorers - they must have had very difficult lives. I'm almost at the end of the section about Jo Peary (Robert's wife), and when I read about his infidelity and how she found out about it - after years of enduring solitude, loneliness, and the death of their third child, I exclaimed out loud, "Oh no!" The book is very well-written and makes you wonder how the explorers stood the cold and isolation, plus how on earth the wives put up with everything.

There are pics in the book of the explorers and their wives.

Highly recommended!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heroines, no longer hidden behind the Heroes 22 April 2012
By Russell A. Potter - Published on Amazon.com
It's a common rhetorical device to praise the women who've stood by, beside, and sometimes behind men of great achievement, particularly explorers. Yet all too often this is merely a form of dismissal through praise, and has the effect of obscuring the distinctive talents and achievements of women who have weathered storms of their own as severe as any encountered in the polar regions. Ever since the rise of newspapers and a mass reading public, the need for an explorer to establish, manage, and defend his image in the public eye has been as crucial a part of making exploration possible as the expedition itself -- perhaps more so. Add to this difficulty, for the wives of polar explorers, the insidious sexism of a society which tended to reduce the spouses of powerful men either to passive ornaments on their husbands' arms, or scheming Lady Macbeths out to raise their men's status at any cost, and you can see the considerable peril into which Jane Franklin, Josephine Peary, Eva Nansen, Emily Shackleton, Kathleen Scott, and Marie Herbert stepped when they plighted their troth with their adventurous husbands.

Kari Herbert, previously the author of The Explorer's Daughter, knows these perils at close hand, as she's the daughter of Sir Wally and Lady Marie, and grew up knowing the family history, and all the benefits and costs of her father's achievements. In Polar Wives, she adopts the strategy of interweaving her subjects' lives, first giving us accounts of each of them as they grew up and first met their future partners, then moving forward to the time of the expeditions themselves, and finally to their aftermaths. It's a apt approach, and has the effect of emphasizing the commonalities between these women of different eras, nationalities, and dispositions. Some, like Josephine Peary and Marie Herbert, spent some time in the polar regions themselves, taking at times a very active role. Others, though they remained at home, found themselves still more active in the defense of their husbands' characters against rumor, invective, and outright lies, and were sometimes obliged to raise public concern and monies for their spouse's resupply or rescue. And -- for those fortunate enough to enjoy time together after the return of their long-traveling loves, there was often a difficult period of readjustment.

Ms. Herbert handles all these issues with great empathy and skill, and in each case ferrets out the key elements of the partnerships into which these women entered. Polar explorers, inevitably, were prone to veering between megalomania and depression; they could be enormously charming and ridiculously demanding, issuing imperatives instead of treating their wives as true partners. In response, the women whose fierce devotion shines through this volume dodged the mania, soothed the depression, and got very good at making demands of their own. Each case is different, and Ms. Herbert is immensely sensitive to their varied dispositions. Not all, alas, have left equally rich letters or journals, and all carefully measured their public statements. Josephine Peary, with whom the author declares a special sense of connection, comes across most clearly of all. In a section which casts a rare light on a dark moment, Ms. Herbert has unearthed a twenty-six page letter from Jo, in which she struggles to come to terms with having suddenly encountered her husband's Inuit mistress Aleqasina, her baby with Peary still in her amauti. It's a powerful passage, and contains words of reproach that, for any other woman, might well have also been words of farewell. You can feel Jo working through her every fiber of anger, love, and determination. And, in the end, she took Peary back, leaping out of her shipboard berth at the sound of his steps on deck, and rushing into his arms.

But it would spoil the delight of this book to give too many anecdotes; every story here is part of an intricate weave and weft, their impact softened, strengthened, or amplified by juxtaposition. Not all the words and deeds of the book's subjects are without blame; they are all human, all reconciled in different ways to the singular position in which their husbands' fates have cast them. It seems strange to say, but whether their partners' lives ended in a far-distant icy realm, or at safely home beside the fire, these women all drew great strength from the relationship, and continued to do so for the remainder of their days.

A must-read for anyone who wants to understand the true heart of these polar heroes.
3.0 out of 5 stars Polar Wives 8 May 2014
By Greg Hepner - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
I enjoyed reading this book. It was interesting to get the view of the wives who were left. This reiterates the saying, behind every good man is a good woman. These women went through a lot to support their husbands.
5.0 out of 5 stars Polar Wives is an interesting read about a little known subject. 23 Jun 2013
By Darlene B. Casey - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Polar Wives by Kari Herbert was an interesting read about the wives of some of history's famous and lesser known polar explorers. I found the book enjoyable because of the well written and documented background stories and histories of the wives and families who worked so hard before, during and after the polar explorations to support their family member. Each one of the ladies' had their own experiences and adventures during their life separate from the explorer which offered an interesting side story to the polar explorer's story.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants a fresh, interesting story about polar explorers and the wives who loved them and loved the adventerous life.
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book 6 Mar 2013
By Joan Davis - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
There are extremely few bios of the women of the polar explorers, who they were and what attracted them. To these extraodinady men showing how extraordinary the women were. Well written and well worth the time to read it
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