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The Coldest March: Scott's Fatal Antarctic…

The Coldest March: Scott's Fatal Antarctic Expedition

by Susan Solomon

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1363131,047 (3.98)49
  1. 00
    The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard (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.

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I thoroughly enjoyed this book, which I read for the Reading Globally Polar Regions theme read. It combines the story of the expedition, largely told in the words of the men on it, from diaries of those who survived and those who didn't, with modern scientific data that throws light on the conditions the expedition encountered; it brings the characters of the military men, scientists, and seamen alive; and it does a great job at helping the reader experience the close, dark, dangerous, and above all COLD environment of Antarctica. Solomon addresses the reputation of Scott as a "bumbler" through the use of the men's diaries and modern meteorological and other information, and provides interesting insights into such topics as how well skis work under different temperature and snow conditions, how to get into a frozen sleeping bag, and how to choose ponies for polar conditions, among others.
1 vote rebeccanyc | Apr 14, 2010 |
A fascinating but not entirely convincing history of Scott's polar expeditions, and in particular his attempt at the South Pole in 1911-12 which led to the death of all five members of the Polar Party.

Scott has been viewed as everything from a tragic hero to a inexcusably ill-organised bungler. Using modern meteorological evidence, Dr Solomon makes a strong case that the deaths of at least four of these five men were due to factors beyond Scott's control, and in particular the unseasonably cold weather (even by Antarctic standards) that his party encountered during the final stages of their return in March 2009. Yet she raises enough examples of Scott's impulsiveness and his tendency to operate at or over the margin of safety to suggest that this gallant but inexperienced leader's flaws played a major part in his and his companions' fate.

Despite these reservations, this book is well worth reading if you are interested in polar science or exploration, or in the thin line that divides success from failure when operating in extreme conditions. ( )
  timjones | Nov 18, 2009 |
I guess I'm not finished with Captain Scott's famous expedition to the South Pole. When Susan Solomon, the discovered of the Antarctic ozone hole, came to speak at a climate change conference at a local high school, I learned she had written a book about the Scott expedition. This is an account of that expedition, pieced together from the journals and memoirs of the people who went on the journey, and interrupted occasionally by her own experiences (one presumes, although the “visitor” is always described in masculine pronouns, which annoys me no end) in the Antarctic. What is different about this book is the ability to look back on events from the perspective of a 20 year history of accurate temperature records and see just how unusual the cold temperatures were that Scott and his companions suffered on the return journey. Undoubtedly, it was these extremely low temperatures, and the frostbite they engendered, that caused the five polar explorers to lose their lives. And unusual conclusion from the book is that Wilson and Bowers might have been able to complete the journey, or at the very least get to the next food depot, just 11 miles away, where they could conceivably have found help, but that they refused to leave Scott, whose right foot was so damaged by frostbite that he could no longer walk. ( )
  co_coyote | Mar 23, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0300099215, Paperback)

The icy deaths of Robert Falcon Scott and his companions on their return from the South Pole in 1912 made them English icons of courage and sacrifice. Soon, however, Scott's judgments and decisions were questioned, and his reputation became one of inept bungler rather than heroic pioneer. Susan Solomon, senior scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Colorado, approaches Scott's story from a meteorologist's point of view. She shows that the three weeks from February 27 to March 19, during which the explorers fell further and further behind the daily distances they had to cover in order to survive, were far colder than normal. Unusual blizzards of wet snow had already slowed the party and depleted their provisions and strength. Without these once-in-a-decade phenomena, Solomon believes the party would have returned to its base on the Ross Sea--second after Roald Amundsen in the race to the Pole, but safely. She opens each chapter with comments from a hypothetical modern visitor to Antarctica, presumably to give a wider context to the human drama of the last century, though this reviewer finds them inappropriate. She enriches her narratives of Scott's two Antarctic expeditions with vintage photographs and tables of meteorological data that highlight the explorers' achievements. Their determination was pitted against the worst weather in the world. Scott's story has been told many times before, but its weather information makes The Coldest March a useful addition to the literature. --John Stevenson

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:01 -0400)

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"This book tells the story of Captain Robert Falcon Scott and his British team who in November 1911 began a trek across the snows of Antarctica, striving to be the first to reach the South Pole. After marching and skiing more than nine hundred miles, the men reached the Pole in January 1912, only to suffer the terrible realization that a group of five Norwegians had been there about a month earlier. On their return journey, Scott and his four companions perished, and their legacy - as courageous heroes or tragic incompetents - has been debated ever since.". "Susan Solomon brings a scientific perspective to understanding the men of the expedition, their staggering struggle, and the reasons for their deaths. Drawing on extensive meteorological data and on her own personal knowledge of the Antarctic, she depicts in detail the sights, sounds, legends, and ferocious weather of this singular place. And she reaches the startling conclusion that Scott's polar party was struck down by exceptionally frigid weather - a rare misfortune that thwarted the men's meticulous predictions of what to expect. Solomon describes the many adventures and challenges faced by Scott and his men on their journey, and she also discusses each one's life, contributions, and death. Her poignant and beautifully written book restores them to the place of honor they deserve."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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Yale University Press

2 editions of this book were published by Yale University Press.

Editions: 0300099215, 0300089678

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