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40 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Roberts Gives Mawson the Recognition He Deserves and the Reader a Great Adventure Story
After whipping through a couple great polar exploration books, I got a copy of Alone on the Ice. (Btw, I highly recommend both of these: Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage, which is the well known account of Shackleton's ill-fated, but miraculous survival in Antarctic and Arctic Adventure: My Life in the Frozen North, which though hugely popular in its day, is...
Published 23 months ago by Bill Gallagher

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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Frozen Quotefest
There's something about the cold which strikes us on a visceral level. Not only does cold have the power to drain our energy and blister our flesh, it can also make even the simplest tasks incredibly difficult. Nevertheless, during the first decades of the twentieth century, several cadres of heroic men surmounted their natural aversion to the cold and made valiant...
Published 14 months ago by Jack de L.A.


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40 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Roberts Gives Mawson the Recognition He Deserves and the Reader a Great Adventure Story, February 1, 2013
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This review is from: Alone on the Ice: The Greatest Survival Story in the History of Exploration (Hardcover)
After whipping through a couple great polar exploration books, I got a copy of Alone on the Ice. (Btw, I highly recommend both of these: Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage, which is the well known account of Shackleton's ill-fated, but miraculous survival in Antarctic and Arctic Adventure: My Life in the Frozen North, which though hugely popular in its day, is something of a lost classic that is a great read filled with lots of well told dramatic adventure while [unlike Endurance] giving insight into native Eskimo culture, which is fascinating.)

In "Alone on the Ice," David Roberts tells the true story of what Sir Edmund Hillary called "the greatest survival story in the history of exploration." Hillary was referring to the 1912 expedition of Australian explorer Douglas Mawson and his fellow members of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition (AAE). Mawson and cohorts set out to explore Antarctica with the intention of gathering specimens and to make scientific observations of the continent. What has left Mawson's considerable accomplishments and amazing survival story obscured by the layers of newsprint and time is--unlike Roald Amundsen and Robert Scott--he wasn't a pole bagger. Mawson, never grabbed headlines by "summiting" the south pole. Mawson and the AAE's expedition went virtually unnoticed by the public.

Now, at the 100th year anniversary of the expedition, Roberts tells the story of Mawson, alone after his companions had died during the expedition, an expedition that saw them trek over 600 miles round trip while being face with 100 miles per hour winds, and left with little of their original provisions. Left as a lone explorer, Mawson was forced to make a ninety-five mile trek across the Antarctic Ice while battling extreme hunger, madness, and the deadly terrain of the continent.

During his trek Mawson often had to crawl as a result of losing the flesh from the soles of his feet. And at one point, he fell into a deadly crevice that would have likely killed almost anyone else. However, Mawson, inspired by a poem by Robert. W. Service, was able to extricate himself out of the crevice with what could only be considered superhuman strength, determination, and extraordinary will. Roberts tells Mawson's story well and has seemingly done his research thorough, including some great, rarely-seen photos (one of an iced-over face is bizarre, as is the shot of an explorer's contortions to stay upright in a 100-mile an hour wind). The photos are by Frank Hurley, who is famous from his Endurance photos.

In sum, this is a very engaging read. Robert's detailed description of Mawson's determination, perseverance, and courage gives Mawson the heroic recognition while provided classic adventure story entertainment.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Frozen Quotefest, October 26, 2013
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Jack de L.A. (Los Angeles, CA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Alone on the Ice: The Greatest Survival Story in the History of Exploration (Hardcover)
There's something about the cold which strikes us on a visceral level. Not only does cold have the power to drain our energy and blister our flesh, it can also make even the simplest tasks incredibly difficult. Nevertheless, during the first decades of the twentieth century, several cadres of heroic men surmounted their natural aversion to the cold and made valiant attempts to explore the most foreboding continent on earth: Antarctica. One of these attempts was the Australasian Antarctic Expedition (AAE) of 1913, which is the subject of David Roberts' new book "Alone On The Ice."

The AAE was led by a young scholar and university professor named Douglas Mawson. Roberts does a brilliant job of chronicling Mawson's life story and describing Mawson's affinity for adventure. As Roberts portrays him, Mawson was an all-around Renaissance Man, whose adroitness at surviving in the Antarctic was equaled by his brilliance as a scientist. In addition to providing a detailed narrative of Mawson's life, Roberts also succeeds in humanizing the men with whom Mawson traveled on his expeditions. All and all, the biographic sections of "Alone On The Ice" are outstanding.

While the backstories of Mawson and his fellow adventurers are intriguing, "Alone On The Ice" is a tedious read in many ways. The biggest problem with the book is its pacing. Instead of telling the story of the AAE as a crisp, streamlined narrative (as Alfred Lansing did in his similarly themed work "Endurance"), Roberts allows the minutiae of his research to slow the story down. For example, throughout the book, Roberts uses an excessive number of quotes from the diaries of Mawson and his fellow adventurers to bolster his points. A few well-placed diary quotes would've enhanced the story of the AAE. However, Roberts' approach to using diary quotes killed the book's momentum. Just as the reader becomes interested in a sequence of events, Roberts will throw in several large blocks of diary quotes which do little more than rehash what has already been written. After a while, working one's way through these pointless diary quotes starts to feel like working one's way across the frozen Antarctic landscape against a fierce, unrelenting wind.

The bottom line: "Alone On The Ice" is not a terrible book. It's clear that Roberts spent a significant amount of time researching the backstory of the AAE and the lives of those involved with it. The tragedy, however, is that Roberts' excellent research is bogged down by his inclusion of excessive and superfluous diary quotes. A more laconic account would've driven home the harrowing circumstances of the AAE much more effectively, and made for a much more interesting read.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "THRILLING, COMPELLING, HEROIC!", January 28, 2013
This review is from: Alone on the Ice: The Greatest Survival Story in the History of Exploration (Hardcover)
Author of The Mountain Of Fear, David Roberts delivers one of the most remarkable survival stories ever told. This heart-racing adventure of courage, strength, and the will to live is indeed a book that will keep you awake all night, impossible to put down! Within the first few chapters, the reader will begin to feel almost as if caffeine is pumping through their blood as we read about near-death situations. Douglas Mawson, a great explorer and expedition leader of the Australasian Antarctic finds himself starving, crawling, and escaping dangerous situations in extreme cold weather situations. His team of men were against all odds in surviving the almost impossible horrifying events that were thrown upon them with no food, no first-aid, and no supplies to help them in their amazing journey. As those who managed to survive had to battle with fear in near-misses, and the only thing that kept them alive was their incredible spirit. This adventure is chilling from beginning to end with colorful characters, stunning photos, and an eye-opener story of courage. Entertaining, riveting, heart-pounding, and impressive. Highly recommended!
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Solid Antarctic Adventure, February 6, 2013
I'm a sucker for good books about true adventure and polar exploration, Antarctica in particular, and my decision to buy Alone On The Ice was an impulse. I'd never heard of David Roberts before, and only had a limited knowledge of Sir Douglas Mawson and the AAE, but I took a chance because the subject matter appealed to me. As a bit of a warning, I have to admit I was initially a little baffled when the story was picked up in media res. Having finished the book, it does seem like a good idea to entice the reader with immediate action before providing the context (albeit a little jarring). Luckily, it's pretty smooth sailing from there...for the flow of the narrative that is, certainly not for the players!

The story of the AAE is a big and complex one indeed, but I feel that Roberts told the tale with something as close to elegance as possible. For the sake of the narrative Roberts is forced to omit some of the details of the expedition, but the focus here (especially in the second half of the book) is on Mawson and his incredible solo journey for survival. Without giving anything away, it really is one of the most heroic and exciting stories of survival I've ever read, and Roberts brings it to life with vivid, but never florid, writing. One of the most interesting points of the book for me was the depiction of the psychological effects of polar exploration and isolation, right down to its most devastating.

I appreciate that Roberts did his best to refrain from making personal inferences about what was going on in the minds of the men on the expedition. Too often writers of history will inject their own opinions into their subjects, but Roberts tells the story fairly and accurately using a wealth of sources (including many first-person sources from the expedition - journals, letters, etc). When a point of contention does emerge, such as the supposed conflict between Mawson and Madigan, Roberts provides both sides of the issue. When he does weigh in with his own thoughts, the author never presents them as absolute fact. I always appreciate when a writer allows the reader to draw his or her own conclusions, and Roberts does a pretty good job of this in Alone On The Ice. The book isn't completely free of bias (Roberts doesn't exactly shower Shackleton with praise), but the author never strays too far towards denigrating other explorers for the sake of building up Mawson. A fair historian is a hard thing to find, and if Roberts is as successful at remaining objective in his other books as he is here, I'd certainly be interested in checking them out.

After reading nonfiction, I usually judge the work by three criteria: how objectively was the story told; how well did the author create atmosphere; and how much did I learn. I have to give Roberts high marks in all three categories. I came away from Alone On The Ice having learned a great deal about a fascinating subject from a relatively unbiased author, and feeling almost like I'd been part of the team myself. While the book is a little light on the science of the AAE, it works very well as a character study of the men involved, and as high adventure. I look forward to picking up a copy of The Home Of The Blizzard next, so I can hear the story straight from Mawson himself.

A last note: I felt spoiled by THREE fantastic sections of photo plates!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but disappointing, January 27, 2014
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This book is interesting, but only about 70 or so pages are dedicated to the story of the writer being the sole survivor of his team and his journey back to the safety of the main camp. Granted, it is too much to expect the author to keep his journey each day has his struggles mount, but I felt by the time I reached this point of the book, it felt like the author hurried the story to the end. Great pictures at the end, but they would have been better inserted within the specific chapters to give readers a better sense of what was happening.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Bit Monotonous, May 28, 2013
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I have read a majority of Roberts' books and delight in most. However, this one, along with the Geronimo book, have left me reading only 10 to 20 pages a night instead of the sometimes endless with his truly memorable ones - In Search of the Old Ones and Mount Deborah. I do not argue that this was indeed the most daring of the Antarctic explorations but, as Roberts portrays it, the most boring to read about.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars OK Account of Daring Deed, April 17, 2014
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I liked the book, but did not love it. The account of this Antartic adventure is a bit disjointed for me. But parts of the story unfold very interestingly, and the determination of the main character certainly comes through in the book. It is not a great book, but it is worth reading.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Boring, May 22, 2013
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Title sounded interesting but the pace often drags. I expected more exciting fare than just snow and crevasses and the disagreements over and over
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Title very misleading, October 24, 2014
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Not to diminish the achievement and sacrifice of Mawson and his crew, the title of this book vastly oversells its content. I realize it was a quote by sir edmund hillary and not the author's (or editor's or publisher's) words. But choosing to use it as the title was very much a stretch. The actual "good story" is about the length of a magazine article and isn't till over halfway through. It could have been a good book if it was written better. But it's not.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well research and complete but lacks the personal spark., October 4, 2013
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This review is from: Alone on the Ice: The Greatest Survival Story in the History of Exploration (Hardcover)
This is a complete if somewhat dry account of Mawson ambitious Antarctic Expedition. The writing is good but a bit formal and almost archaic at times. The personalities of these amazing men, Mawson, Davis, Wild and Hurley did not come out of the pages for me. However on the whole I enjoyed it and it is nice to see Mawson getting some more attention rather than more on Shackelton, Scott and Ammuddson. Maps could have been better and more complete.
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Alone on the Ice: The Greatest Survival Story in the History of Exploration
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