Top critical review
4 people found this helpful
A pleasant read, but some shortcomings
on 2 April 2012
I can see where other reviews are coming from on this book - when it's good, it's very good, bringing together elements of science, history and culture to help people look afresh at the character and elements of the landscapes around them, reminding us of a time when exploration was as more about pushing the boundaries of understanding and experience, than pushing the boundaries of physical achievement. Rightly, Gooley laments that exporation has become little more than a synonym for adventure.
My criticisms of the book are partly that for those with a moderate grounding in natural history, there aren't quite enough "aha" or "I never knew that" moments in the book, perhaps partly due to the restricted range of historical explorers referenced (going into detail on Humboldt, Darwin and Leichhard, wetting the appetite for more detail on others). Also, there are a number of inaccuracies in the text which detract from the authority of the work, for example suggesting that the reason that mountain climbers start summit days early is primarily to avoid cloud which forms later in the day (rather than minimising time spent at peak altitude, or climbing before the surface of the snow gets softened by sunlight), or another point where the mass of a cloud is described as 1 billion kg (only true if you include the mass of the air that was already there before the cloud appeared - the mass of water is about 1/200 of that, or 5,000 metric tons). But for the errors, I'd probably have given this four stars though, so later editions will probably be well worth a look.