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Antarctica: A Biography Hardcover – June 20, 2013


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Antarctica: A Biography + Antarctica: An Intimate Portrait of a Mysterious Continent + Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (June 20, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199861455
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199861453
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 1.9 x 6.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #600,856 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Beginning with Captain Cook’s voyages in the 1770s and concluding with late twentieth-century threats to international treaties and conventions, Antarctica: A Biography purports to be as comprehensive a title on the southern continent as possible. Day deserves praise for crafting an interesting historical survey of exploration and scientific research that follows a clear narrative and includes entries from lesser-known expeditions. But there are some surprising omissions. An overtly negative consideration of Robert Scott’s doomed South Pole journey includes reference only to Roland Huntford’s infamous 1979 biography while ignoring David Crane’s more recent and evenhanded title. Ernest Shackleton’s survival epic after the loss of his ship, the Endurance, a hallmark of southern heroic tales, receives only one scant paragraph. Strangest of all, in the section on aviation, Day does not include the man who first flew there or piloted an aircraft over more than 1,000 miles of the continent, Alaskan Ben Eielson, instead giving the expedition organizer, Australian explorer George Wilkins, all the credit. To be sure, Day has accomplished some interesting things here, but it is not as complete a volume as claimed. --Colleen Mondor

Review


"Solid as a block of Antarctic ice itself... [Day's] latest book draws on five years of meticulous research to tell the story of human endeavour in Antarctica, the last continent to be discovered. It paints a poignant biographical picture of the characters involved, the gruelling expeditions undertaken, and the rivalries between nations as they raced to chart the continent and claim possession of it ...excellent." --The Economist


"This is an intoxicating book by Australia's greatest historian." --Peter FitzSimons, Australian journalist and author


"A remarkable work of scholarship and sustained analysis." - Ross Fitzgerald, The Australian


"The fascinating narrative offers a compelling historical understanding of passion to control nature and the way national and economic interests drive scientific exploration... Day's work is epic and incorporates this important, unique unpopulated land into the consciousness of scholars." --Choice


"This scholarly but readable volume surveys the geopolitical history of Antarctica from the dawn of the Age of Reason to the present day. Day is a serious historian. His research has taken him around the world, into archives and libraries and into the minds and intentions of governments." --Greg Ray, Newcastle Herald (AU)


"An eye-opening history of the race amongst nations to be the first to plant their flag in the frozen land. It is a big book, covering Captain James Cook's attempts to find the 'Great South Land' in the 1770s to the present and all the explorers and adventurers in between."
--Courier Mail (Brisbane, Australia)


" For those who enjoy sweeping historical biographies, David Day's Antarctica is a polar reference piece par excellence. "--The Cairns Post (Australia)


"In his latest book, noted Australian historian David Day seeks to capture the spirit of Cook and Mawson and the deeds of subsequent explorers, which eventually turned into a race for Antarctic sovereignty. Unlike traditional histories of Antarctica, which focus almost exclusively upon exploration and individual explorers, Day blends that narrative with the increasing politicisation of Antarctica as European powers, then the Americans, and eventually Argentina and Chile jostled for territory." --Sydney Morning Herald


"2012 is the centenary of Scott and Amundsen's race to the South Pole, and publishers have jumped on the band sledge. The winner of the bid for territory goes to Antarctica: A Biography... by David Day, a historian and Australian national treasure. This enormous book approaches the subject head on. The colourful end papers are eloquent: the 'New Map of the World 1703' at the front shows a blank 'taint of ignorance' at the South Pole; at the back there is a more modern cartographer's Antarctica, with its surrounding islands. What Day aims to deliver is the bit in between. The result is a clear and intriguing history of flag-raising."--Literary Review (UK)


"Day has done a remarkable job of collating information from rich and varied international sources. He draws from original accounts, newspaper articles, the recently released papers of US naval officer and polar explorer Richard Byrd..." -- Nature


"Day weaves a masterly tale of expeditions and their leaders in this hugely detailed and well-researched tome. There are some absolute gems with new insights for even the most avid readers on the subject." -- Times Higher Education


"His thought-provoking and detailed work reminds us that the future of Antarctica remains even more fiercely disputed and uncertain than when Bellingshausen and Bransfield first saw the continent." -- Irish Times


"A well-researched, scholarly work that examines nearly 250 years of history with a deft pen and a dry wit."-- Country Life


"Day's Antarctica is an impressive piece of work, an impartial and deeply researched account of the politics of polar annexation."--Times Literary Supplement


"Well-researched history... An intriguing addition to a centuries-long geopolitical adventure story." --Kirkus Reviews



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Customer Reviews

Of all the books I have read in my lifetime on the subject of that icy continent, this is the BEST.
R. B. Cathcart
Mr. Day has done a considerable amount of research and provides a well mapped out history of the exploration of the Antartic Continent.
John A. Macurak
It is repetitive in its detail, very poorly organized, and takes an interesting subject and makes it incredibly boring.
Meredith B. Trunk

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Lost John on April 12, 2013
Format: Hardcover
The sub-title of this book, A Biography, is appropriate, even though the subject is not a person. David Day begins by painting-in a background that is relevant to the subject, but against which the subject is not yet visible; then the highpoints of the early years are noted, not over-burdened with detail; followed by a very full account of the subject's most active and best documented years, with all the political and/or business intrigue, successes, and periodic setbacks. The subject in this case is still living, so any story of decline and death is yet to come.

In Day's account, the antecedents of our subject include various 18th century explorers, most famously Captain James Cook. Cook searched exhaustively for the long-rumored continent of the southern seas, concluding finally that there was none in temperate waters not already discovered, and that whilst there may well be a land mass at the South Pole, its ice-choked seas meant that it was not worth the risk involved in discovering and claiming it for England. Within the context of his time, Cook's judgment was no doubt sound, though the history of the continent might have been very different if England or any other single country had at that time claimed it as its own.

The first person to actually see Antarctica, as distinct from its encircling ice sheets and ice barrier, may have been Captain Gottleib von Bellingshausen, a Baltic German in the service of Tsar Alexander I. He circumnavigated the continent in 1820. However, it may be that American and Norwegian seal hunters and whalers were by then aware of the land mass. Certainly, they were familiar with the peripheral islands, especially those closest to the southern tip of South America.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Lighthouseguy on July 3, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
From Captain Cook to the modern day tourist adventurers, David Day covers three plus centuries of exploration, exploitation and colonial claims of sovereignty over the last place on earth- the Antarctic Continent and its surrounding waters. I found the early chapters covering the efforts of Cook, Bellingshausen, Ross and others the most compelling and interesting. Having read many of the accounts of the heroic years in the Antarctic, I was a disappointed in the somewhat brief and dismissive chapters on Shackleton and Scott. David Day is squarely in the Roland Huntford camp in his opinion of Scott as his closing paragraph leads off "The bumbling incompetence of Scott and his expedition was not realised by some at the time." The later chapters on the post war years and the jockeying for priority of discovery amongst the contending countries, whilst in great detail, was less interesting and at times a struggle to get through. For readers new to the Antarctic and its story, this is a comprehensive overview. For those more widely read on the subject, it was perhaps less successful.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By R. B. Cathcart on June 15, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Unbiased historical reporting is a hallmark of this needed text--an entertainment, not a dry textbook. Fascinating tidbits of documented history abound along with a calm and decisive story-telling that informs the reader. Of all the books I have read in my lifetime on the subject of that icy continent, this is the BEST. Dr. Day handles the subject more expertly than anyone else I have ever encountered.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By R. Beise-Zee on March 9, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It is a comprehensive and thorough overview over the discovery of the Antarctica and the development of various national claims. Authoritatively researched and well written. Day writes very chronologically, which somewhat lacks the big picture. Necessarily some interesting adventures are described rather brief. There are of course more detailed accounts of Shackleton, Scott, etc., so Day attempts to put this all together into a "biography" of the human interaction with the continent. In this way it puts the focus on the continent itself. However, it is rather light on natural and geographic descriptions. It read the kindle version and there are no maps which are sadly missed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Joanne A. Currey on January 28, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Good as a history lesson but it got too boring to continue. I did not finish the book. I would rather read the books on the actual adventures of the explorers.
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