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Customer Review

5.0 out of 5 stars Coldest and boldest March, 13 Oct 2012
This review is from: The Coldest March: Scott's Fatal Antarctic Expedition (Paperback)
I found this to be a superb book, written by a gifted scientist, yet in a style which was absorbing and eminently readable by those of us with few scientific pretensions.

In her book, which focuses on Robert Falcon Scott's fatal expedition to the South Pole, Sue Solomon analyses in great detail the contemporaneous records of Scott, Bowers, Wilson, Cherry-Garrard, and especially Simpson the meteorologist, and on the basis of their writings, strongly suggests that a number of possible key reasons commonly proposed for the demise of the polar party are likely to be erroneous. She convincingly demonstrates that, amongst other things, lack of planning, lack of food and scurvy were NOT in themselves the primary cause for the loss of the party. Instead, she concludes that the historic weather data, combined with that collected by modern weather stations, shows there was in March 1911 an unpredictable bout of severe cold weather, which not only rendered Scott immobile with frostbite, but which had a profound effect on the nature of the surface the party were pulling their sledges over. And that such weather did NOT beset Scott's contemporary, Amundsen. She also demonstrates that Scott was likely mistaken for believing that the blizzard which kept him at his final camp, lasted for 11 days, and, based on the evidence, suggests other convincing reasons why Wilson and Bowers decided not to set off to One Ton Camp to fetch essential supplies.

There were a number of features which I particulary liked about the book. Firstly, though her conclusions contradict those of Roland Huntford, she does not attack him. Instead, she quietly allows the evidence to speak for itself, and indeed includes his books in her bibliography. Secondly, each chapter is headed by a fictional account of the experience of a modern visitor to Antarctica. This she uses to very effectively demonstrate what those pioneers of a century ago were really up against. And thirdly, she chooses a very clever title for the book, with its play on the word 'March' - a play which in 3 words sums up her argument.

Yes - in my view - a very good piece of writing.
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