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The Longest Winter: Scott's Other Heroes Paperback – 9 Jun 2011
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A cracking story (Mail on Sunday)
This book relives their fears and squalid surroundings from day to day. Even as you lie in the sun on holiday, you will be chilled, gripped and amazed by the human resilience displayed in such awesome conditions (Daily Mail)
Authoritative and insightful . . . [an] enjoyable, vivid study of the English in extremis (Sunday Times)
The untold story of Scott's Northern Party and their incredible survival of an Antarctic winterSee all Product description
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The struggle of six men surviving was laid beautiful against the backdrop of a life surrounded by ice, and the fact that their compatriots in other camps assumed everything was fine. It is a book entirely suited to cuddling up on the couch and feeling lucky not to be surviving in an ice-cave!
Meredith Hooper's book, in my option, is a more 'warts and all' tale than Lambert's and paints the very real)picture of six men - two RN officers, a scientist and three sailors - who were thrown together in the harshest way, didn't always see eye to eye but when the chips were down, worked together to survive in the most difficult of conditions and lived to tell the tale. In saying this, I don't want to take anything away from Lambert's book which I have read at least twice and was initially responsible for firing my interest in Campbell's party.
One reason why I might have enjoyed this account more is that I have recently been to Cape Adare, Cape Evans and Inexpressible Island and on the latter, stood on the spot where the ice cave was dug. I can say that the smell at Cape Adare as described by the Northern Party is still as rank 100 years later and that Inexpressible itself is perhaps the bleakest and most God forsaken spot on this planet. I was lucky enough to travel with Raymond Priestley's grandson who gave a talk about his grandfather - a privilege indeed!
I'm sure we were all impressed by the 'Chilean miners' but this tale of endurance ranks way above what they had to go through. Well done to Meredith Hooper for keeping it alive and for producing a very readable account.
There are no such fears here. Hooper has produced a beautifully written and eminently readable account of the adventures of the 'eastern'/'northern' party that should satisfy the most critical (not least me!). Hooper brings the central characters very much to life and, notably, also treats us to illuminating insights into the progress of the 'Terra Nova' as it crisscrossed the Ross Sea and McMurdo Sound depositing and collecting personnel over two Antarctic summers. As a result, Harry Pennell also emerges from these pages as a character of some note for perhaps the first time in modern literature.
There is a careful and balanced approach in cross referencing to other contemporaneous activities in Antarctica and to the concurrent preparations of other expeditions, including those of both Mawson and the Japanese, in addition to selected and commenably brief references to the 'main events' associated with Scott and Amundsen, without labouring on details that are already well known and widely available in other accounts. Likewise, there is appropriate level of reflection upon Borchgrevink's earlier residence at Cape Adare. In this way, Hooper successfully places the experiences of the 'eastern/'northern' party in context and enables the reader to see the bigger picture without losing focus on the core subject.
Commendably, Hooper doesn't appear to be attempting to render superfluous a previous, nominally similar account, i.e. Katherine Lambert's "Hell with a Capital H" (2002), itself based largely on Levick's diaries; instead, Hooper draws on a wider range of primary sources and, in so doing, adds new colour and depth to our understanding of some lesser known individuals and activities. There appears to be a lot of 'new' material here, and fresh insights abound.
There are a couple of minor 'blips' early on that induced mild disquiet in this reader, including placing South Trinidad in the Indian Ocean (page 33) and some apparent confusion over latitude and longitude (page 104), whilst I believe that the caption to the upper plate opposite page 231 has transposed the identities of Abbott and Dickason. It is to be hoped that these errors can be corrected in a well deserved second print run!
Hooper is refreshingly non-judgmental and commendably objective throughout, and refrains from imposing present day standards onto characters and events of 100 years ago, a lesson that other authors often fail to heed. She succeeds in simply 'telling it like it was', and allows the reader to form their own opinions and draw their own conclusions about the individuals concerned and the events they experienced. As a result, I feel I now know the 'eastern party' very much better than hitherto, and they have begun to 'fill out' as characters to stand alongside more familiar participants in "Scott's Last Expedition".
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Then when they finally get into the part of the book that the title is about, its very very boring...Read more
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