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Cross the Great Desert
Cross the Great Desert
by Michael Ross
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Biography of Rene Caillie, 14 July 2013
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This review is from: Cross the Great Desert (Hardcover)
Stumbled across this book and am really pleased that I did. The book tells the tale of the Frenchman Rene Caillie and his journey across Western Central Africa to become the first white man to reach Timbuktoo and return to tell the story. This really is an extraordinary story of self sacrifice and hardship on an epic scale. Ross has pieced together Caillie's life and journey through the narrative of his journal and in some small part from his own travels in the region. Caillie was clearly very self deprecating and doesn't seem to have placed sufficient emphasis on what he must have endured. Perhaps for this reason he has not be well known as one of the Great African explorers.

His journey was also at a time when the English Major Gordon Laing travelled to Timbuktoo, but via the northern route from Tripoli. Laing reached Timbuktoo before Caillie, but was murdered shortly after he left the city. His journals have never been found. On Cailiie's return to France, the English wanted to claim the kudos for reaching Timbuktoo first and there was much speculation whether Caillie had actually been there at all or simply fabricated his story. This is not a stroy that could be made up.

The greatest complaint about the book is the complete lack of any maps or diagrams whatsoever. These would have been most helpful to the reader to understand where Caillie was at any one time and perhaps his journey could be overlaid against other explorers - especially Laing, but also Clapperton amongst others.


The Hard Years: His Autobiography
The Hard Years: His Autobiography
by Joe Brown
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A climbing icon, 8 July 2013
I really did enjoy this book. It is well written and has a lot of humour in it. It's most impressive what these climbing pioneers got up to and how the development of equipment changed the way we climb today. I liked to hear how Joe Brown developed as a climber himself, threading climbing into his working life and how the nature of his climbing progressed from British crags to the Greater Ranges. I would like to see a follow up, as Joe Brown's life has continued for a further four or five decades since this book was written.


Alone on the Ice: The Greatest Survival Story in the History of Exploration
Alone on the Ice: The Greatest Survival Story in the History of Exploration
by David Roberts
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £20.00

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a man, 8 July 2013
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This boook tells the tale of the most extensive and successful, in terms of scientific achievement, polar expedition of that age. The expedition is most remembered for the tragic deaths of Ninnis and Mertz on the Eastern sledging party led by Mawson, who had to endure extraordinary feats of super-human endurance to survive the ordeal and make it back to the hut. This must sit alongside the survival of the 'Endurance' expedition led by Shackleton in terms of polar extremes. However, the tale is not as famous or renown as one might expect it should be. This is owing to the death of Scott and his south polar party as well as the outbreak of the first world war.

David Roberts has done a wonderful job of bringing to life an important story in polar history and placing Mawson into the pantheon of polar greats. The book is well constructed and an enjoyable read. I would thoroughly recommmend it.


Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Between a Rock and a Hard Place
by Aron Ralston
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars wow, 3 July 2013
Well, I've avoided reading this book for some time now, thinking it might be pretty awful. I couldn't be more wrong. I really enjoyed this book from end to end and am reallt pleased I decided to read it after all.

The book is well constructed and flows well. It's quite difficult to put down, because o the need to find out what happened next. The chapters are interspersed with snippets of Ralston's adventures. Although these do delay the telling of the incident, they also keep the suspense going and also build up a picture of the author, both in terms of personality, but also his experience. I daresay he did this so the readers wouldn't be so judgemental on him getting into such a predicament. However, I think they actually add to the book anyway, so well done him.

Recommended reading.


The Search for the Niger
The Search for the Niger
by Christopher Lloyd
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars an interesting overview, 1 July 2013
A short book and easy to read. This charts the story of those characters that were swept along with the British desire to engage in trade with Central Africa. The style of writing is surprisingl out of date, but that takes nothing away from the book. This joins up the dots of an array of other more detailed stories to provide an interesting summary of British Empires aspirations at that time, evolved around the development of inland trade, using the Niger and the navigable highway.

A good book and interesting reading, but if you want a more detailed analysis of the different attempts and the changing times and thoughts, as well as the learning and understanding of African culture, you will need to go elsewhere


A Labyrinth of Kingdoms: 10,000 Miles Through Islamic Africa
A Labyrinth of Kingdoms: 10,000 Miles Through Islamic Africa
by Steve Kemper
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.99

5.0 out of 5 stars the greatest African explorer..., 1 July 2013
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I'd read several books relating to those pioneering explorers, many on the quest for Timbuktu and many losing their lives in the process, and Heinrich Barth is a name that appeared from time to time, but with little expansion of information. It was therefore with great delight that I came across this tour de force by Steve Kemper. An entire book dedicated to the sole biography of Barth, rather than an incidental mention. The book details the life of this complex person and the reader gets a flavour of barth's personality and drive.

Clearly the five year expedition in central Africa is every bit as pioneering as those of Livingstone, Stanley, Burton, Speke and co. However, it wasn't just the ability to survive so long in these parts without death though murder or malaria, it was also the places visited, the discoveries made and for the scientists, the diligence with which Barth kept his records and the range of different areas of study he included within his studies is quite breathtaking. He deserves a more prominent place in the hall of fame for African explorers.


Spying for the Raj: The Pundits and the Mapping of the Himalaya
Spying for the Raj: The Pundits and the Mapping of the Himalaya
by Dr Jules Stewart
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £17.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars when geography becomes spying, 1 July 2013
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A lovely little book, with delightful tales of some ill-rewarded people acting in subjugation to the British Empire. I've read snippets about many of the individuals mentioned in the book in other Great Game books, but this is the only book I've reaq which puts them all together.

It's interesting how Great Game paranoia led to these individuals having to suffer such hardships for their surveying trips to otherwise unmapped parts of the world. I suppose it was all in a good cause. The book is short and easy to read. I was disappointed by the maps which were not entirely complete or easy to differentiate between the different expolorers.


Selkirk's Island
Selkirk's Island
by Diana Souhami
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.99

4.0 out of 5 stars savage survival, 29 Jun. 2013
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This review is from: Selkirk's Island (Hardcover)
Stumbled on this book via a reference from Stephen Taylor's Caliban Shore. I am fascinated by the savage nature of maritime life three hundred years ago, this book certainly gives a flavour of life both on and off shore in that period.

You can see how the idea of Robinson Crusoe might have come about. Isn't there always someone thwere to make money from another man's misfortune. Lucky Daniel Defoe and indeed lucky us having such a novel. Thank you Mr Selkirk for providing the story.


A Voyage For Madmen: Nine men set out to race each other around the world. Only one made it back ...
A Voyage For Madmen: Nine men set out to race each other around the world. Only one made it back ...
by Peter Nichols
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the psychology of ocean sailing, 1 Jun. 2013
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Many would know of Robin Knox-Johnson, the ultimate winnner of the Golden Globe race in 1969, and some may have heard about Donald Crowhurst. These were just two of the competitors who set out to become the first and fastest to sail solo non-stop around the world.

The author does well to describe how the race came about in the first instance and then how each of the various competitors then decided to take part. The book develops each character and their stories well and take the reader through the race of each individual. Well written and easy to follow, Nicholls seems to have taken a balanced view on each of the competitors, their various, and in some case not insignificant, quirks; the performance of their yachts; their progress during the race; and, of course, the final outcome.

Great book, easy reading and very well written.


Roth Eiger - Wall of Death
Roth Eiger - Wall of Death
by A ROTH
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars once thought of as suicide, 27 May 2013
Quite fantastic. I previously knew many of the stories of the ascents and attempted ascents of the north face of the Eiger, but Roth has put the events together in chronological order and kept it flowing smoothly. He has also provided additional stories beyond those known widely.

The reader is taken from the early attempts and deaths on the most feared face in the Alps, if not the world, right up to the late nineteen seventies (just before the book was published). This seems a good place to stop as the number of ascensionists has increased exponentially since then. This is by no means intended as a record of all ascents, but certainly captures all the principal ascents up to the time of publication. It is easy to understand what advances have been made in mountaineering since the early first attempts ion the nineteen thirties. The hardship that those first pioneers must have gone through seem far greater than today. This is not only as a result of improved equipment, it is also to a large extend due to the possibility of evacuating climbers in trouble by airlifting them off the face.

A well written book that keep the interest flowing until the end. I would recommend this to anyone, mountaineers; armchair mountaineers and other interested bystanders.


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