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A detailed biography of Antarctic explorer

I must be honest. When I first dove into David Cranes biography of Antarctic explorer Robert Falcon Scott, I wasnt sure how long I would stick with it. I initially felt like telling our book editor thanks but no thanks.I stuck with it, and Im glad I did. I have a much greater understanding of what Scott and his crews confronted and accomplished during their Antarctic explorations soon after the turn of the 20th century.The cold, snowy winter were having in the Roaring Fork Valley boosted my interest in the explorers sagas. You can imagine the pain of a three-man exploration crew who fail to properly secure their tent, then are forced to pounce on it and hold on desperately when a windstorm blows in. They are in such a dire position that they cannot even take time to put on gloves or mittens; if the tent blows away they face certain death. So they endure, with hands exposed to the bitter cold until the storm subsidies.Exploration crews trudge through the largely featureless landscape simply to push the bounds of human knowledge. At one point, Scott and his gang lose their navigational instruments, keep marching away from the safety of their iced-in ship and basically find their way back after several days through sheer luck. On a particularly bleak outing, their sled dogs die off one by one because of inadequate quality, not quantity, of food. Crane does an excellent job of laying out information with neither worshiping Scott for his achievements nor demonizing him for his failures. He presents evidence that he uncovered in his exhaustive research and lets the reader draw conclusions. Scott and his crew were capable sailors but woefully inexperienced for the challenges of the South Pole on their first journey. Crane leaves no doubt that Scott didnt lack for courage.He wrote that Scotts leadership was a mixture of flaws and strengths the risk-taking part and parcel of a daring that set the tone of every journey he took.But for all the suspense Crane creates about some of Scotts outings, he spends an equal amount of time mired in minutiae that will overwhelm most readers. I couldnt wade through the endless politics and logistical details of preparing for an expedition, so I skipped scores of pages at a time. About half of the book seemed to be geared for dedicated students of Antarctic exploration, or of Scott himself.The book is a worthwhile endeavor for readers willing to pick and choose their pages.scondon@aspentimes.com


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