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Ninety Degrees North: The Quest for the…

Ninety Degrees North: The Quest for the North Pole (2001)

by Fergus Fleming

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This is a wonderfully readable and colourful account of the heroic era of Arctic exploration from the mid nineteenth century until the early years of the twentieth century. It peters out after the bitter Frederick Cook v Robert Peary argument about which of them, if either, had reached the North Pole first in either 1908 or 1909 respectively. It seems clear that Cook was a fraud. Peary may well have been mistaken in his belief that he had reached it, though he almost certainly came extremely close, and the position is much more ambiguous than that of Cook. Peary was not a pleasant character, as witnessed by some of his activities towards the Eskimo community (stealing their only source of metal) and individual members of it (luring some with false promises then selling them to the Smithsonian Institution as curiosities); though, to be fair, he also inspired great devotion in many of them as well. Peary's extreme self-belief and utter conviction that he alone had the right almost physically to possess the entire Polar region, may well have distorted his judgement - the almost unbelievable speed at which he arrived there, and even more so, that at which he left makes it very difficult to believe he actually achieved 90 degrees north exactly. Before this, there was a rich cast of intrepid explorers like Fridtjof Nansen, scientists with very few leadership qualifications such as Elisha Kent Kane, amateur dreamers like the Verne-esque balloonist Salomon Andree and unscrupulous backers of expeditions such as James Gordon Bennett. There are gripping atmospheric accounts of struggling through snowdrifts and icefields, through months of darkness and battles with depression caused by the lack of light and activity during the winter and the extreme sameness of the landscape, debilitating attacks of scurvy, and frostbite leading to the loss of toes. It's marvellous stuff and a really great read. 5/5 ( )
  john257hopper | May 18, 2013 |
A truly enthralling account of the whole era of Arctic exploration and human obsession with finding the North Pole. This book details not only the courage, hardships, endurance, vanity and stupidity of various key figures but also the political background: vacillating public interest, funding difficulties, nationalistic ambition - it's all there! ( )
  miketroll | Feb 22, 2007 |
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"What was the North Pole? Was it an open sea, a volcano or the Garden of Eden? Was it a portal to new worlds within the globe or an undiscovered continent containing a race of alien beings? Or was it simply a wilderness of ice? In the mid-nineteenth century, the world decided it was time to find out." "America led the field. Commanders such as Kane, Hayes and Hall, battled sickness, shipwreck and starvation to reach the top to the world. So terrible was one voyage that the crew poisoned their captain rather than continue north - only to become marooned on a drifting floe for nine months. Other nations followed: Germany, newly united and eager for its place in the ice; Austria-Hungary, decrepit but still capable of discovery; and Britain, whose sledgers reached a farthest north in 1876 before being driven back by scurvy." "Where governments failed, individuals took up the challenge. Norwegian skiers, Swedish balloonists, Italian aristocrats, tweedy British amateurs and global press barons, tried and failed in heroic succession. Finally came Robert Peary, a grim obsessive who claimed to have reached the Pole in 1909 - but who almost certainly did not. It was a joint Italian-Norwegian team, led by Roald Amundsen, who first saw the North Pole (from a zeppelin) in 1926 and, twenty-two years later, a party of Cold War Russians who first set foot on it." "Drawing on unpublished archives and long-forgotten journals, Fleming tells the story of the North Pole with consummate craftsmanship and wit. Ninety Degrees North is a riveting saga of humankind's search for the ultimate goal."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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