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Synopsis

Robert Falcon Scotts scientific expedition to the South Pole in 1911 was like that famous medical cliché: the operation was a success, but the patient died. The Polar Party did reach the South Pole, but were 34 days late from being the FIRST party at the pole. The entire Polar Party died in a blizzard returning to home camp. Invaluable scientific, geographic, and biologic data were obtained, but the hideous Winter Journey to collect Emperor penguin embryos at terrible risk turned out to be useless information. They hoped the embryos would show a connection between the evolution of dinosaurs into birds. (It did not.)

Cherry Gerrard is a highly likeable, very human teller of the tale. He was the youngest member of the expedition, very much the gentleman and an Englishman to his fingertips. He shows us his human side (he didnt have the usual Englishmans fondness for animals and thought the dogs and ponies were miserable, exasperating beasts). He has a knack of bringing his fellow explorers to life, yet never criticizes at all. He has the highest regard for everyone in the party. He recaps from some of the other members diaries to great effect. The enthusiastic Bowers writes his mother, There is so much to see and do here; I just wish I could be three places at once! Bowers was the best of them, to my way of thinking, and I was appalled when he volunteered for the Polar Party (already knowing the fate of same). Cherry Gerrard had enormous artistic appreciation for the austere beauties of Antarctica, but no matter how brilliantly he described them, my enthusiasm was nil for such a bleak landscape. He shows his depressive side in remarking on the beauty of sleep in the Antarctic---sleep where you never need awaken. He was tremendously brave and endured what no man should have to bear.

This is the best kind of book for me to read for it sparks my interest to find out more. Cherry Gerrard is so deferential to Captain Scott, some of whose decisions seemed downright odd to me; I am going to read Huntfords Last Expedition on Earth that does a critical comparison of Scott and Amundsen. To find out more about the elusive Cherry Gerrard, I shall read Sara Wheelers Cherry plus her Terra Firma just because it looks so good. One heroic seaman who should star in his own movie was Tom Crean: Unsung Hero of the Scott and Shackleton Antarctic Expeditions by Michael Smith.

Highly recommend this book for all the right reasons: adventure, information and life changing.

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