Barrow's Boys Paperback – 22 Aug 2001
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There's something about the overwhelming emptiness and terrifying beauty of the polar regions that never fails to attract. They are the most powerful symbols we have left of a world where human-made laws and values count for nothing; no one conquers the frozen wastelands-- they merely learn to live by the rules nature dictates. It is easy to see how for a long time the lives of the polar explorers were shrouded in quasi-mystical and heroic terms. This all changed in the 1970s with the publication of Roland Huntford's magnificent biography, Scott and Amundsen, in which he systematically and methodically revealed the levels of incompetence and arrogance with which Scott's expedition was riddled.
In Barrow's Boys Fergus Fleming takes us on an incisive and witty journey through the landmark years of British exploration from 1816-1850, marvelling at both the bravery and the stupidity involved. Fleming is a historian first and foremost, so he begins by placing exploration in its context. It wasn't some high-minded idealism or wacky sense of adventure, as is often suggested, that placed Britain at the forefront of discovery, but economics and self-interest. At the end of the Napoleonic wars, the British Navy was too large for its peacetime needs. Officers were laid off and advancement was slow, so the Navy needed to find itself a role. Charting the unmapped areas of the world seemed as good an idea as any.
Step forward John Barrow. Barrow was only the Second Secretary at the Admiralty--not normally a position of great influence--yet he was a skilled politician, and he managed to carve out a niche for himself by organising expedition after expedition. He started inauspiciously by sending Captain James Tuckey off on an ill-fated jaunt up the Congo in search of Timbucktoo, which was then imagined as some African El Dorado, and he ended in failure with the loss of Franklin's expedition to find the North West Passage. In between he courted triumph and tragedy; Ross discovered Antarctica, Parry opened up the Arctic with his attempt on the Pole, and Captain Bremer failed to establish northern Australia as the new Singapore.
Fleming has a great feel for the telling detail. He doesn't get lost in endless minutiae that distract from the narrative, but he never fails to remind us of the surrealism of British 19th-century exploration--cocked hats and reindeer-drawn sledges in the Arctic, frock coats in the Sahara. When put like this, it makes it all too easy to see how Scott could have been allowed to have botch his journey to the South Pole quite so catastrophically. --John Crace --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
A remarkable story, engagingly and knowledgeably told -- Good Book GuideSee all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Along the way you will be astounded at the extent of human endurance and suffering and by the insight into the leader's characters, as well as the quantity and quality of detail for each and every trip. You will learn more about human nature in this one volume expounding Barrow's questing, than from a whole barrow-load of Bibles and Korans.
Buy it, read it and be enthralled and awed by the experiences of these intrepid men and their tireless searching.
There are some great adventure stories here, of brave men, blundering fools and gentle heroes. Travel the Sahara on a camel or with a slave convoy, drag boats and sleds across ice flows in the Arctic whilst on half rations or travel across the Canadian wilderness whilst near death from starvation. Experience the affects of scurvy and hunger whilst trapped in a wooden ship with massive icebergs slowly crushing the frame.
Read about the majestic sights seen by these intrepid travelers, pink ice, the aurora borealis and the aurora australis, Eskimo's and polar bears. Read about the tragic end to a number of these expeditions and the fate of many of the ship's crews, most notably John Franklin's 1845 expedition in the 'Erebus' and 'Terror' to find the North-West Passage.
This is a great book, the narrative flows along like a well-written novel. At times I found it hard to put the book down, reading late into the morning trying to finish a chapter. I must admit that I have no previous expertise in this field other than having read "Ice Blink" but I found the story well presented and believe that the author has done his research. This is an easy and enjoyable book to read and I think anyone who loves a good adventure story will certainly enjoy this account.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A really well written account of some incredibly brave men who put their lives in danger discovering the extreme North and South.Published 1 month ago by Mrs. M. L. Clark
An excellent book, which can be described as a series of "Ripping Yarns", telling the extraordinary stories of what was achieved by a number of very brave men, principally... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Muttmaster
The format was a little larger than the one I recall reading some years ago albeit by a different publisher but given my deteriorating eyesight this might not be a bad thing! Read morePublished 5 months ago by Amazon Customer
Exactly as described and delivered in the earlier part of the advertised delivery windowPublished 9 months ago by IP
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