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The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley…

The Worst Journey in the World (1922)

by Apsley Cherry-Garrard

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1,322345,886 (4.27)143
  1. 00
    Expeditionen : min kärlekshistoria by Bea Uusma (Anonymous user)
  2. 00
    Island of the Lost: Shipwrecked at the Edge of the World by Joan Druett (rebeccanyc)
    rebeccanyc: Both of these books testify to the ability of people in hazardous and terrifying physical conditions to use both hard work and their mental and emotional strength to survive.
  3. 00
    The Coldest March: Scott's Fatal Antarctic Expedition by Susan Solomon (rebeccanyc)
    rebeccanyc: Solomon includes excerpts from the diaries of the men, as does Cherry-Garrard, but brings modern scientific data to explain some of the unusually extreme weather conditions faced on Scott's polar journey.
  4. 00
    The Birthday Boys by Beryl Bainbridge (rebeccanyc)
    rebeccanyc: Bainbridge weaves fiction out of Cherry-Garrard's narrative, focusing on each of the five men in the fatal Polar Journey.
  5. 00
    The Ice Master: The Doomed 1913 Voyage of the Karluk by Jennifer Niven (John_Vaughan)

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The “worst journey” began in July, 1911, in Antarctica. It was a different world then. So few people seem to be named Apsley anymore. Pity.

Apsley Cherry-Garrard’s experiences in Antarctica, recounted in The Worst Journey in the World, provide us with a keen sense of the difficulties faced when attempting the undone. The difficulties had costs, as Cherry’s confidence later in life came to lack enough of the kind of self-regard that protects one against the sabotages of self-doubt. He writes, “when I was a subaltern of 24, not incapable of judging my elders, but too young to have found out whether my judgment was worth anything…” That thought is admirably put but to think it is perhaps a handicap, for even a fool has some judgment worth something. The fallout for Cherry meant lifelong self-questioning on whether he could have made other choices, choices he’d speculate might have saved Robert Scott, Birdie Wilson, and Bill Bowers on their return from the South Pole.

The book is rich with excerpts from expedition members’ journals. These entries are valuable for how they document many details of the venture, give authentic voice to the men’s experiences, and are the crucial source for telling the story of the South Pole trip. Even so, I grew to feel a little impatient with them because in general the narrative is set at a slow pace anyway. Another drawback, in the edition I read, is the absence of maps showing all (or at least most) places mentioned. Without them, the reader not acquainted with Antarctica could as beneficially be told, with little sacrifice in precision, that one man went hither, another yonder, and a third to a place over there.

Nevertheless, there is much here I am glad to have read, especially the heartfelt account of Scott’s last journey, and of course the harrowing titular journey that Wilson, Bowers, and Cherry made in winter to acquire penguin embryos (of all things). The Worst Journey treats us to wonderful observations of the beauty and severity of the physical environment and of the animals the men saw. Robert Scott, after watching how killer whales break an ice floe in their attempt to prey on men and dogs, was moved to say, “It is clear they are endowed with singular intelligence, and in the future we shall treat that intelligence with every respect.” It may be impossible not to feel similarly about the men Cherry describes and about the author himself who captured their work and the tragedy. ( )
  dypaloh | Oct 4, 2017 |
I honestly do not know how to review this amazing piece of work and heartbreaking volume. I tend to wear what I read on my sleeve; particularly history. But this story, this story can be described in so many words, many of which are heart breaking. But the words heroes, and bravery smashes that into the dirt. This story has caused me to treat every step, every breath, every word, every sunrise, sunset and my whole life in general as a step in their shoes. When you are done with this you will be sad, heartbroken but most of all you will have respect for these brave men. If you don't then.....you are truly a soulless carbon based unit. Did Scott bungle things up...?? Most definitely. Did he do his best....I feel without a doubt. There is one part in this book among other fairly lesser ones that points out the chink in the armor of his plans. Feeding the ponies to the dogs instead of placing them in a depot. (which they were and it served the return crew not his own) His men were loyal to a fault. As I read this I researched every aspect of everything discussed, the geography, the weather, EVERYTHING. Walking away from it I feel a deep connection with them, particularly Birdie Bowers. What an amazing individual. For him and Wilson to go through the bull with the eggs then to turn around and go South to their doom. Bravery does not begin to describe them. I am in awe. Falling into crevices, killer whales in formation, hurricane force winds, crawling across the ice, boiling penguin fat popping in Wilson's eye, Cherry's teeth falling out. JEEZ. ( )
  Joe73 | Jun 15, 2017 |
Prosaic and epic at the same time. No exaggerations needed in conditions like that.Purpose of the book not quite clear since he concedes that Scott's may have been the last polar expedition of old, progress bound to allow for more modern forms of transport (he even throws in depots laid by planes (not considering the possibility of them being of greater importance still). His stress on Victorian manners and stiff upper lip is well marked as wanted, as is s need to find fault in Amundsen's smooth feat compared to their sufferings. Manners and morals till the end of an epic struggle mmust be valued more highly than easy success or pushing through after leaving men - or geological specimens, or penguins's eggs, for that matter - behind. What else was there for him to do?
Rich and spectacular account of an incredible expedition and even more incredible social study, overall. Read it on the porch in sub-zero temperatures to get closer to the experience, which is ridiculous.
  Kindlegohome | Nov 20, 2016 |
Magnificent, and easily deserving of its frequent praise as the best of adventure and exploration stories.

Apsley Cherry-Garrard (known as "Cherry") was 24 when he was invited to join Robert Scott's Terra Nova Antarctic expedition (1910-1913). The expedition, comprised of scientists and support staff, was formed to do extensive research and, as a bonus, and a major reason given in fund-raising efforts, to try to reach the South Pole, which had never been done. The first third of the book tells of the voyage to Antarctica in a dangerously unfit ship and the first summer in Antarctica, building a hut and sledging farther and farther into the Antarctic interior to lay depots of supplies for the Pole effort the following year. During this time the men built up their endurance, practiced sledging techniques, became familiar with each other's strengths, and adjusted to life in close quarters, endless bitter cold and storms, and life in 24-hour darkness. They also proceeded with their various scientific enterprises. The middle section, the actual Worst Journey, describes the winter sledging trip Cherry took with Birdie Bowers and Edward Wilson to an emperor penguin breeding ground to bring back embryos for study. The trip was done almost entirely in darkness in temperatures of -30 to -40F, and it almost killed the three of them. Nights were spent in frozen sleeping bags, the men shivering so hard their teeth cracked. Waking hours meant trying to travel a few more miles in frozen clothes. They just managed to make it back to their hut, weak and sick, and there is a famous photograph of them on their return after weeks in such conditions: (http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/56/Return_of_Wilson_Bowers_Cherr...).

Wilson and Bowers, two of Cherry's best friends, survived that journey only to die the following summer after they were chosen to join Scott for the final push to the Pole. Much of the last section of Cherry's book is heart-breaking, relating the preparations for and much of Scott's run for the Pole, in which he was joined by Bowers, Wilson, Titus Oates, and Seaman Evans. Accompanied on the trip out by three other sledging parties who laid supply depots along the way, the five left behind the last of the other parties about 180 miles from the Pole and did get there, only to find that the Norwegians had beaten them. It was still an extraordinary achievement, but one they would not live to enjoy. On the return trip, Evans died from scurvy and a head injury; Titus became gangrenous and famously left the tent during a blizzard with the words "I'm just going outside and may be some time", hoping his sacrifice would give the others a chance to survive until the next depot. But Scott, Wilson and Bowers became trapped in their tent by a blizzard which lasted for over a week, and they died in their sleeping bags, lying next to each other. They were only 11 miles from the next big depot and almost home. It's interesting and enlightening to read the descriptions of how the line of command was followed closely, with any other method of decision-making being untenable in such dangerous circumstances. Cherry made a last-ditch attempt to take supplies to One-Ton Depot (the depot which Scott's party died so close to), but with no idea of where they might be stuck in the 900-mile expanse between camp and the Pole, he was ordered to return, since winter was closing in. Cherry describes the anguish of the party waiting in camp and finally acknowledging that the Polar party had to be dead. This second winter found them depressed and guilt-ridden, wondering what they could have done to bring about a different ending. When they were finally able to set out on a sledging trip in the spring, planning to travel about 2/3 of the distance to the Pole (after which they would not be sure of the path Scott might have taken), they were appalled to be out for only a few days before finding the tent.

I spent months reading this because I kept being pulled away to read parts of Scott's diary, or Cherry's biography, or to watch documentaries or read up on various techniques used in the expedition. Reading the book on the Kindle was a major help for understanding both polar terms and old British phrases, although the free version had no maps or illustrations, so I kept my tablet and several other books handy. Many of the people described in the book were major players in their fields, and Cherry was able to use diaries, letters, photographs and artwork from both deceased and surviving members of the expedition. More than in any other book I've read about the Antarctic, this one gave me a profound appreciation for the experience of early Antarctic exploration and the suffering endured by these men for the sake of science. Cherry was devastated by the loss of his friends and damaged physically by his own trials. His deep emotional reaction to his experiences makes the people and landscape come alive for the reader. For anyone interested in human drama, exploration, high adventure, history, or the Antarctic, this is highly, highly recommended. ( )
2 vote auntmarge64 | Apr 16, 2015 |
"Polar exploration is at once the cleanest and most isolated way of having a bad time that has ever been devised." Thus begins this remarkable book by a remarkable man about a remarkable multiyear group of journeys made just over 100 years ago. As is well known, Robert Scott lost both the "race" to the South Pole and his life in the trip to Antarctica that began in 1910 and ended in 1913. Cherry-Garrard was the youngest member of the team, a kind of utility player selected for general aptitude (and his ability to contribute to the expedition) rather than the specific skills of the other participants, whether they were prior experience with polar exploration, scientific expertise, medical knowledge, dog- or pony-handling experience, logistical skills, or whatever. Soon after his return, he was thrust into the carnage of World War I, so it wasn't until almost 10 years later that he completed this wonderful book.

A war is like the Antarctic in one respect. There is no getting out of it with honour as long as you can put one foot in front of the other. p. lxv

In the book, he combines his own general reportage with excerpts from his diary as well as the diaries of Scott and Wilson, and excerpts from Bowers' letters to his mother. Wilson and Bowers were his companions on "the worst journey in the world," an expedition in the middle of the winter (i.e., total darkness, temperatures routinely in the range of -50°F) to observe and obtain eggs from the Emperor Penguin (but more on that later). His writing includes vivid descriptions of the beauties and harshness of the Antarctic environment, penetrating analysis of the factors contributing to success and failure, and deep insight into human (and dog/pony/mule) behavior.

The expedition consisted of several phases. Arriving in Antarctica after traveling by ship first to South Africa and then to New Zealand, the explorers began a series of journeys to set up depots with food and fuel before winter came, so they would be there the following spring when they undertook their 800-mile journey to the Pole (and 800 miles back). They brought ponies and dogs to pull sledges, but there were drawbacks to both, and very often the men had to pull the sledges laden with goods themselves. During the first winter, the journey to the penguins took place. Then in the spring the polar journey itself began; three teams set out, but two returned at various points along the route, so only Scott and four others continued to the Pole. Cherry-Garrard was in the second group to return. When Scott didn't return, they realized he and his team must have died, but winter came and they couldn't search for the bodies until the following spring. After they find the bodies, Cherry-Garrard fills in the narrative of the polar team from their diaries, and the continues to their return by ship to New Zealand.

The expedition was not only designed to reach the South Pole, although it was that goal that attracted the funding necessary to undertake it; it was also, very importantly, a scientific expedition, with people exploring geology, meteorology, snow and ice movement, and marine life, as well as the seals and penguins that inhabit the Antarctic. The winter journey to find the eggs of the Emperor Penguin was based on two scientific misconceptions: first, that the penguin was a very primitive bird, and second that ontogeny (or embryonic/fetal development) recapitulates phylogeny (or evolutionary changes that led to the specific animal). Nonetheless, the three men set off in the pitch dark, facing crevasses they couldn't see, hauling the sledges themselves, sleeping in frozen sleeping bags, experiencing blizzards and their tent being carried off by the wind, and so much more. The descriptions of what they went through are astounding, and horrifying.

"The horror of the nineteen days it took us to travel from Cape Evans to Cape Crozier would have to be re-experienced to be appreciate it; and anyone would be a fool who went again; it is not possible to describe it. The weeks which followed were comparative bliss, not because later our conditions were better -- they were far worse -- but because we were callous. I for one had come to that point of suffering at which I did not care if only I could die without much pain. The talk of the heroism of the dying -- they little know -- it would be so easy to die, a dose of morphia, a friendly crevasse, and blissful sleep. The trouble is to go on . . ." pp. 229-230

"Antarctic exploration is seldom as bad as you imagine, seldom as bad as it sounds. But this journey had beggared our language: no words could express its horror." p. 288

He speaks of his companions, Wilson and Bowers.

"In civilization men are taken at their own valuation because there are so many ways of concealment, and there is so little time, perhaps even so little understanding. Not so down South. These two men went through the Winter Journey and lived; later they went through the Polar Journey and died. There were gold, pure, shining, unalloyed. Words cannot express how good their companionship was." p. 239

Part of the book is devoted to what life is like in their camp over the winter, how the men entertain each other with lectures on various topics, and part is devoted to discussions of how to deal with ponies and dogs in the Antarctic (Cherry-Garrard and, indeed, the other men, have what I consider a very English fondness for their animals, although I suppose this is a much more widespread feeling), the effect of different kinds of snow and ice on the runners of the sledges and on sledging itself, the fierceness of the winds and the bitterness of the cold, the signs and "progress" of frostbite and scurvy, the moral qualities of the men with their emphasis on always appearing cheery no matter how terrible the conditions (that "stiff upper lip"), and almost anything else you can think of that plays a role in polar exploration. Yet Cherry-Garrard has the ability to fold all these topics into a compelling narrative, a narrative that benefits greatly from the excerpts from diaries and letters. At the end, in a chapter entitled "Never Again," he reflects on what has been learned from the expedition, what could be done better in the future (vitamins, significantly larger food rations, and the potential for air exploration, to name a few).

I could go on and on, but I will close with a quote about the majesty of the Antarctic.

"Of course for the most part the land is covered to such a depth by glaciers and snow that no wind will do more than pack the snow or expose the ice beneath. At the same time, to visualize the Antarctic as a white land is a mistake, for, not only is there much rock projecting wherever mountains or rocky capes and islands rise, but the snow seldom looks white, and if carefully looked at will be found to be shaded with many colors, but chiefly with cobalt blue or rose-madder, and all the graduations of lilac and mauve which the mixture of these colors will produce. A White Day is so rare that I have recollections of going out from the hut or the tent and being impressed by the fact that the snow really looked white. When to the beautiful tints of the sky and the delicate shading of the snow are added perhaps the deep colours of the open sea, with reflections from the ice foot and ice-cliffs in it, all brilliant blues and emerald greens, then indeed a man may realize how beautiful this world can be, and how clean.

Though I may struggle with inadequate expression to show the reader that this pure Land of the South has many gifts to squander on those who woo her, chiefest of these gifts is that of her beauty. Next, perhaps, is that of grandeur and immensity, of giant mountains and limitless spaces, which must awe the most casual, and may well terrify the least imaginative of mortals.
p. 181

ETA I became interested in reading this book after I read, several years ago, The Coldest March by Susan Solomon, in which she interweaves excerpts from the diaries of men on the trip with modern scientific data on the unusually extreme conditions the expedition encountered.
9 vote rebeccanyc | May 11, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Apsley Cherry-Garrardprimary authorall editionscalculated
Alexander, CarolineIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Seaver, GeorgeForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Spufford, FrancisIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Whitfield, RobertNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Polar exploration is at once the cleanest and most isolated way of having a bad time which has been devised. (Introduction)
This post-war business is inartistic, for it is seldom that any one does anything well for the sake of doing it well; and it is un-Christian, if you value Christianity, for men are out to hurt and not to help—can you wonder, when the Ten Commandments were hurled straight from the pulpit through good stained glass. (Preface)
Everything else is vague. Hour after hour he staggered about: he got his hand badly frost-bitten: he found pressure: he fell over it: he was crawling in it, on his hands and knees. Stumbling, tumbling, tripping, buffeted by the endless lash of the wind, sprawling through miles of punishing snow, he still seems to have kept his brain working. He found an island, thought it was Inaccessible, spent ages in coasting along it, lost it, found more pressure, and crawled along it. He found another island, and the same horrible, almost senseless, search went on. Under the lee of some rocks he waited for a time. His clothing was thin though he had his wind-clothes, and, a horrible thought if this was to go on, he had boots on his feet instead of warm finnesko. Here also he kicked out a hole in a drift where he might have more chance if he were forced to lie down. For sleep is the end of men who get lost in blizzards. Though he did not know it he must now have been out more than four hours.
Exploration is the physical expression of the intellectual passion. And I tell you, if you have the desire for knowledge and the power to give it physical expression, go out and explore.
Just enough to eat and keep us warm, no more - no frills nor trimmings; there is many a worse and more elaborate life. The necessaries of civilization were luxuries to us;... the luxuries of civilization satisfy only those wants which they themselves create.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0143039385, Paperback)

The Worst Journey in the World recounts Robert Falcon Scott’s ill-fated expedition to the South Pole. Apsley Cherry-Garrard—the youngest member of Scott’s team and one of three men to make and survive the notorious Winter Journey—draws on his firsthand experiences as well as the diaries of his compatriots to create a stirring and detailed account of Scott’s legendary expedition. Cherry himself would be among the search party that discovered the corpses of Scott and his men, who had long since perished from starvation and brutal cold. It is through Cherry’s insightful narrative and keen descriptions that Scott and the other members of the expedition are fully memorialized.

First time in Penguin Classics

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:15 -0400)

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"Cherry-Garrard, who accompanied Robert Falcon Scott to the Antarctic on the explorer's doomed quest for the South Pole, recounts the unforgettable journey across forbidding, inhospitable terrain. He was also a member of the search party that ultimately discovered Scott's frozen body along with his last notebook entries." "With an introduction by the author, this tale of adventure stands out as a literary accomplishment as well as a classic of exploration."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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