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Shackleton's Dream: Fuchs, Hillary and the Crossing of Antarctica [Hardcover]

Stephen Haddesley
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Feb 2012
In November 1915, Sir Ernest Shackleton watched horrified as the grinding floes of the Weddell Sea squeezed the life from his ship, Endurance, before letting her slip silently down to her last resting place. Caught in the chaos of splintered wood, buckled metalwork and tangled rigging lay Shackleton’s dream of being the first man to complete the crossing of Antarctica. Shackleton would not live to make a second attempt – but his dream lived on. Shackleton’s Dream tells for the first time the story of the British Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition, led by Vivian Fuchs and Sir Edmund Hillary, the conqueror of Everest. Forty years after the loss of Endurance, they set out to succeed where Shackleton had so heroically failed. Using motor-sledges and converted farm tractors in place of Shackleton’s man-hauled sledges, they faced a colossal challenge: a perilous 2,000-mile journey across the most demanding landscape on the the planet, where temperatures can plunge to a staggering -129°F and bitter katabatic winds rush down from the high Polar Plateau carrying dense clouds of drift snow, which blind and disorientate. This epic adventure saw two giants of twentieth century exploration pitted not only against Nature at her most hostile, but also against each other. From their coastal bases on opposite sides of Antarctica, the two leaders pushed south relentlessly, dodging bottomless crevasses and traversing vast, unexplored tracts of wind-sculpted ice. Planned as an historic (and scientific) continental crossing, the expedition would eventually develop into a dramatic ‘Race to the South Pole’ – a contest as controversial as that of Scott and Amundsen more than four decades earlier.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: The History Press (1 Feb 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0752459260
  • ISBN-13: 978-0752459264
  • Product Dimensions: 3 x 15.5 x 23 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 506,843 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

If there is a common theme to my books, it is that all address a subject which has been 'overlooked' or consigned to oblivion - in my view unjustly.

In my first book, Charles Lever: The Lost Victorian (2000), I sought to bring back to public notice a highly gifted but much-maligned Anglo-Irish novelist who, in his early career, vied with Charles Dickens in terms of popularity and earning-power but who fell foul of Nationalist critics who effectively erased him from the canon of Irish literature.

My second book, Born Adventurer: The Life of Frank Bickerton (2005), dealt with another 'lost' figure - but one from an altogether different world. Frank Bickerton led an extraordinary life of adventure, playing a leading role in one of the key expeditions of the Heroic Age of polar exploration. He also hunted for pirate gold on R.L. Stevenson's Treasure Island; fought with one of the elite squadrons of the Royal Flying Corps during the First World War; travelled by train, plane and automobile the entire length of Africa during the golden age of the safari; and ultimately worked as a screenplay writer in the British film industry. His incredibly varied career was a delight to research and write about.

Ice Captain: The Life of J.R. Stenhouse (2008) tells the story of one of Frank Bickerton's closest friends: another adventurer - but one whose almost miraculous tale of hardship and survival aboard the Aurora on Ernest Shackleton's Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914-17 has been overshadowed by the much better-known story of the fate of the Endurance and Shackleton's boat journey from Elephant Island to South Georgia. Like Bickerton, Stenhouse went on to an astonishing array of adventures, ranging from fighting the Bolsheviks in North Russia in 1918-19, to command of Captain Scott's Discovery during the National Oceanographic Expedition of 1925-27, to heroic service with the Royal Navy in the Second World War.

Most recently, in Shackleton's Dream: Fuchs, Hillary & The Crossing of Antarctica (February 2012), I have written the biography not of an individual but of an entire Antarctic expedition - but one which, like Lever, Bickerton and Stenhouse, has slipped into an undeserved obscurity. As I hope the book proves, 'Modern Age' expeditions such as the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition (CTAE) of 1955-58, were as dangerous, demanding, heroic and, ultimately, as contentious as those of the 'Heroic Age'.

In choosing to champion subjects which might well be described as 'lost causes' it might seem that I am tilting at windmills - but in each case, it appears to me that an injustice has been committed, sometimes deliberately as in the case of Charles Lever, but more often by accident, as in the cases of Bickerton, Stenhouse and the CTAE. Each of these stories deserves to be heard by a much wider audience than has hitherto been the case. And, of equal importance, each story needed to be recorded and preserved before it was lost forever.

Stephen Haddelsey lives and works in Nottinghamshire. He is married with one son.

Product Description


Haddelsey's Shackleton's Dream is a timely and compelling study of the Trans-Antarctic Expedition. It should go a very long way to redress the balance. Unless new material comes to light in future years, this fine book will surely remain a definitive work. Without question, the Bunny Fuchs s astonishing expedition deserves such a book as this. --Stephen Scott-Fawcett, Journal of James Caird Society (the premier Shackleton society) in March 2012

The heroic story of a Cambridge explore's death-defying trek across Antarctica has been retold nearly sixty years on. In the 1950s, Sir Vivian Fuchs, accompanied by the conqueror of Everest, Sir Edmund Hillary, led a remarkable mission to cross the frozen wastes of Antrctica. Today fuchs is all but forgotten - a travesty given his enormous achievements in Antarctica which, in the eyes of some, far exceed those of Scott, Shackleton and others. The story of the expedition is extraordinary, not least for the clash of personalities between Fuchs and his second in command, Hillary.....the explorer, who went on to become the director of the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge, and who died in 1999, spoke about his brushes with death, including the Snocat escape. He said 'I was lucky - I managed to get out on to the roof. But to be honest, I was more concerned about how to get the vehicle across to the other side'. --Cambridge News

A thoroughly researched, well-referenced look at 'the lasy great journey on earth'. Despite having no direct correlation to the Scott centenary, Haddelsey's account of the battle of wills between Vivian Fuchs and Everest-hero Edmund Hillary is so lovingly crafted as to deserve its place on the heaving Antarctic bookshelf. Rather than relying on previously published literature on the 1955-58 expedition, the author conducted interviews with survivors Ken Blaiklock, Richard Brooke, John Claydon, Rainer Goldsmith and Roy Homard. He also references the personal diaries of Fuchs, Hal Lister and George Lowe. This is a gem, which should not have remained unpublished until today. Just don't read it if you hold a candle to Hillary - there is no love lost in this storytelling. --Wanderlust

About the Author

Stephen Haddelsey is the author of two books for The History Press, Ice Captain: The Life of Joseph Russell Stenhouse, and Born Adventurer: The Life of Frank Bickerton, Antarctic Pioneer. He has also contributed to six titles in the Penguin Historical Atlas series. He lives in Nottinghamshire.

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

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The dream brought alive! 16 May 2012
Congratulations to Mr. Haddelsey on a wonderfully researched and fantastically detailed account of the TAE 1955 to 1958. His style is very readable and engaging and it certainly filled in a lot of gaps in our knowledge. This book provided an insight into all the characters, the good points, trials and dangers that, as far we know, have never been revealed in such depth before.

Anyone who enjoys a real life adventure would enjoy reading this. Just to add, that the index is excellent - and love the atmospheric photo on the book cover!
Paul and Colin Rogers (sons of Dr. Allan Rogers, Medical Officer, Fuchs' Party)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Spirit of adventure 3 April 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
In this history of a polar expedition little remembered and but poorly documented prior to Mr Haddelsey's book, the courage, enterprise and endurance of those involved are recognised and ably recorded. The writer's enthusiasm for the undertaking and his admiration of the spirit of adventure which actuated the enterprise are apparent.
Once the expedition is underway, the pace of the narrative is impressively brisk.
The use of period detail is insightful and aptly conducive to an understanding of the hardships experienced, and to the wider context within which men and machinery operated during the expedition.
The book serves as an appreciative tribute to the audacity and stubbornness of the members of the expedition, particularly in relation to the predictably inadequate organisational skills of its leaders.
One quibble only - the font is ridiculously undersized.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Gerard
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is an absolutely superb account of a forgotten expedition, the 1957-58 Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition led by Dr. Vivian Fuchs. Fuchs and his team should be remembered for their achievement but this has not been the case until now - this book is the definitive account, filling in a gap in the written record. Fuchs' book has been reprinted but Mr Haddelsey's book adds to this with the accounts of those who took part and so many other details not available elsewhere. It is extremely well written and researched, and thoroughly enjoyable to read. It is very hard to put down, and I can't recommend it highly enough.

As a former Antarctic research scientist, I have read lots of polar literature and this is a book I will read again and again. I read Fuchs' book first, and this book adds so much more value to Fuchs' account of the expedition. Some expedition members are still alive and I hope their achievements will be recognised with this book.

Main achievements:
First surface crossing of Antarctica
First air crossing of Antarctica
First successful return trip to South Pole from McMurdo Sound
The second of only three teams of dogs ever to have travelled to the South Pole (led by Ken Blaiklock)
Development of efficient deep field exploration techniques: small dog teams for surveying, replenished by aircraft as well as the use of aircraft for route planning, depot laying and remote base construction
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