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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Remarkable hero. Remarkable book., 29 Nov 2010
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This review is from: An Unsung Hero: Tom Crean - Antarctic Survivor (Paperback)
In their review, the Journal of the Shackleton School assert "Should it be that one buys or reads only one polar book in one's lifetime, let that book be Michael Smith's 'An Unsung Hero'". I can only echo those sentiments. This is a brilliantly written book about a man who was both heroic and self-effacing. A brief browse of the other Amazon reviews of this biography of Tom Crean will reveal how appreciative all who have read the book are of Smith's masterful research and engaging writing style.

Thomas Crean, a quiet Irishman, accompanied Robert Falcon Scott on both his expeditions to the Antarctic, as well as Shackleton on his abortive mission to cross the Antarctic. Enduring unimaginable hardships, Crean, not an officer but an ordinary seaman, was supremely competent, totally loyal and brave beyond words. His service to them, drew the admiration of both Scott and Shackleton and won the lifelong gratitude of 'Teddy' Evans, Scott's second-in-command, following Crean singlehandedly saved his life in 1912.

Unlike many of his more literate contemporaries, Crean did not keep a diary or write anything other than short letters or occasional notes. So his biographer was unable to draw on much material emanating from the man himself. But such was the esteem that Crean was held in, that others Scott - Shackleton - Teddy Evans - Apsley-Gerrard - Worsley - Lashley etc. in their writings, all gave powerful testimony to Crean's qualities. So Smith has drawn together their evidence, and supplemented it with interviews with those who either knew Crean, or knew those who knew him, to paint a picture of the man. And what a man!

Two minor points. In relating the events of Crean's 3 expeditions, Smith repeats much of what has been written by those who were there and those who have subsequently written about them. So the account, for those who have read the other accounts, can seem repetitive. But I found that Smith was able to draw ones attention to knew perspectives which made re-visiting events eminently worthwhile. Secondly, Smith (see Chapter 12), like Roland Huntford before him, is particularly critical of Scott's approach to Antarctic exploration, comparing him unfavourably with Roald Amundsen. Sir Ranulph Fiennes, in his book 'Captain Scott' challenges such estimations - to some effect. Given Fiennes conclusions, I wonder if Michael Smith might present a more balanced view of Scott, in any subsequent revision.

Those points notwithstanding, please read this book - it's a cracker.
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