Today, scientists regularly bivouac for months on end in the vast frozen wastes of Antarctica, and adventurous travelers can even find tours to take them to the bottom of the world. But it was not so long ago that a voyage to the South Pole was a perilous undertaking, one that required tremendous courage, stamina, and skill. Long before explorers actually saw this frozen continent, its existence was posited by geographers, though 18th-century seafarers ventured no further than the ring of cold air and icy water, the Antarctic Convergence, which surrounded it. The discovery and exploitation of Antarctica is the subject of Alan Gurney's book, Below the Convergence.
In addition to chronicling the voyages and adventures of some of history's most colorful explorers, including Captain James Cook, Gurney provides a wealth of information. He details the average sailor's life on-board, the rivalry between seal hunters, and the ingenious solutions that resourceful voyagers devised for knotty problems like shipwreck, scurvy, and even lovesickness. Fascinating, exciting, at times lyrical, Gurney's literary journey is a trip worth taking.
From Publishers Weekly
Long before Admiral Byrd's well-publicized expeditions and the race to the South Pole by Scott and Amundsen, other, now long-forgotten explorers, adventurers and ordinary seal hunters made or tried to make their way to Antarctica. Gurney, a Scots yacht designer and photographer, tells the story of some dozen of those men, beginning with the astronomer Halley (of comet fame) in 1699 and finishes with an 1839 whaling/sealing ship-the Eliza Scott-whose crew discovered boulders imbedded in Antarctic ice, a geological mystery that caught Darwin's interest. But to mention only the detailed accounts of these voyages-and they are very detailed-fails to give a sense of the treasure-trove quality of this unusual book. Along the way are interesting discussions of the history of astronomy, geography, navigation (especially the problems of working out correct longitude), cartography and ornithology (how the penguin got its name), diet (the problem of scurvy) and the economics of the whale-oil trade. And how many of us have seriously considered the question "Is there indeed a 'Southern Ocean' below the Pacific?"? Gurney's somewhat dogged interest in describing exactly which routes various ships took to get from here to there is more than made up for by his curiosity about what they encountered along the way. This book, written for serious sailors, should entertain anyone curious about history's backwater. Illustrations not seen by PW.
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Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.