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Alone: The Classic Polar Adventure Paperback – August 8, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-1559634632 ISBN-10: 1559634634 Edition: Reprint

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 310 pages
  • Publisher: Island Press; Reprint edition (August 8, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1559634634
  • ISBN-13: 978-1559634632
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #205,093 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This reissue of Byrd's account of a grueling five-month stay at the South Pole in 1934 includes original illustrations by Richard Harrison.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

In this 1938 volume, the great explorer recounts four months he spent alone gathering scientific data in a shack in Antarctica. The result is a remarkable story of survival and adventure. This facsimile edition is published in a blue typeface.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Bought it for my Kindle and really could not put it down.
Old Pageturner
His struggle to survive is in part an effort of will to define himself against this awful grandeur; it is this element of the story that endures and fascinates today.
D.S.Thurlow
A really good true story about Admiral Richard Byrd ,his trials and tribulations of his 1931 expedition to Antarctica and the North Pole.
topspin

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

63 of 65 people found the following review helpful By D.S.Thurlow TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 19, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The polar explorer Richard E. Byrd's "Alone" is an absolutely gripping narrative of his winter-over at a remote weather station in the Antarctic in 1934. Byrd, the leader of a U.S. polar expedition based at "Little America" on the Ross Ice Shelf, had intended to place a three-man station in the interior of the Antarctic to gather valuable weather data. Circumstances drove him to limit the crew to just one person, and rather than subject anyone else to the accompanying dangers, Byrd elected to man the station by himself. Byrd's account of his stay, probably written with the assistance of his good friend Charles Murphy, captures the mundane details of survival in complete darkness and staggeringly cold temperatures. It also candidly relates his struggles to survive relentless solitude and an increasingly dangerous equipment failure that came near to taking his life.

Byrd writes from another era, when mechanization was just beginning to have a major impact on exploration in extreme environments and when the interior of the Antarctic was still very much a forbidding place, nearly as remote to the world of 1934 as the surface of the Moon is now. His narrative captures the vast primitive awesomeness of the polar regions, something largely unknown to those who live outside the high latitudes. His struggle to survive is in part an effort of will to define himself against this awful grandeur; it is this element of the story that endures and fascinates today.

Kieran Mulvaney's afterword provides necessary context for Byrd's narrative and should not be overlooked, although it includes what may well be an unjustified slur on the achievements of Robert Peary. This book is highly recommended to the reader who desires to know something of a world foreign to the relatively comfortable existance most Americans experience today.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Matt Taylor on December 1, 1998
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book has the capacity to fundamentally alter the way one perceives nature and life. However, the most striking aspect of the book was Byrd's view of religion. While religious discussion does not consume a large portion of the text, Byrd's insights into the matter are unique and very interesting, especially to to the freethinking agnostic. Without catering to a particular denomination, his take on religion is a self-reliant, logical, hearty one that somehow manages to be spiritual and graceful at the same time. This is due, in large part, to the fact that so much of this view is based on his admiration and astonishment at the complexities of nature. A truly inspiring piece of work, it can crack chinks into the souls of even hardened skeptics and remind us all that life is a panorama of personal emotional relationships with others that make our own continued survival worthwhile.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By ITS on January 20, 2006
Format: Paperback
"Cold does queer things. At 50° below zero a flashlight dies out in your hand. At -55° kerosene will freeze. At -60° rubber turns brittle." These are some of Byrd's observations from his surreal solo expedition to the heart of Antarctica's night.

The expedition took place from March - August of 1934. Byrd, a former Navy officer, rugged explorer, decides to push the envelope doing something no man had ever tried before. He was to monitor the weather while living in a shack buried in snow, by himself, for the entire night-time period that covered almost 6 months.

Although the literary value regarding this book could be argued, it is nevertheless a great story based on a unique social experiment. Byrd's trail of thoughts veers from rational, to ridiculous. His mood is altered by the extreme struggles that he has to endure to serve science. However, one can pick up the vibe that he wanted to do this for himself as much as for science. He was thrilled at first, but underestimated what he was really in for.

Byrd gets crushed while he is only halfway through. The cold and physical problems put him down. He struggles between life and death for what seems to be an eternity. And it all takes place in the absolute darkness of the polar night. Byrd goes on and on about how much he learns to appreciate the simple things of modern life, while he has lost possession of them. He makes incoherent philosophical theoriest, and struggles with faith.

Finally Byrd finds the strength to go on. I wouldn't be giving up the end of the book in here by the fact that he wrote it four years after the completion of this expedition. This book would be a perfect read in the middle of the winter. The colder the better! Get a warm cup of chocolate and relive the polar experience. You will find a new appreciation for that thermostat knob while reading it.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Daniel H. Bigelow VINE VOICE on January 31, 2005
Format: Paperback
The stories of people who went through terrible situations can become hagiography. The worse torture one went through and survived, the tougher one is, right?

I expected Admiral Richard Byrd's story of his struggle with illness and the elements in a weather outpost in Antarctica, over a hundred miles from the nearest other multicellular organism, to follow this pattern. Byrd could be forgiven for slapping himself on the back for having lived through such travails, not only because it really would take a remarkable man, but also because he had to carefully tend to his reputation, which was essential to securing funding for his exploratory expeditions. But Alone, written only four years after the events described and while Byrd's future career was still an issue, is a more remarkable document than I expected.

Besides describing the remarkable routine of his outpost and how one could live there, where temperatures routinely dipped under negative forty degrees Fahrenheit, and besides describing the agony Byrd suffered from an insidious carbon monoxide leak in the very stove that he depended on to stay warm enough to survive, Byrd also writes what puts his reputation at risk. He describes with a surprising lack of defensiveness his mental breakdown. Over sixty awful days, Byrd changed from the intrepid explorer who wanted to spend nine months alone in the Antarctic winter just for the experience to an emaciated, pain-wracked man who could not bear to stick to his original resolution to forbid a dangerous rescue attempt.

Like I said, merely telling how he endured pain could only make Byrd look more manly. Tough guys endure pain.
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