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The Heart of the Great Alone: Scott, Shackleton, and Antarctic Photography Hardcover – October 27, 2009

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National Geographic Rarely Seen: Photographs of the Extraordinary by National Geographic
"National Geographic Rarely Seen"
Shot by some of the world's finest photographers, Rarely Seen features striking images of places, events, natural phenomena, and manmade heirlooms seldom seen by human eyes. Learn more | See related books

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Editorial Reviews Review

Book Description
A treasure trove of photographs--some never before reproduced in book form--from the two greatest Antarctic expeditions.

Among the greatest achievements in the history of photography, those of the early polar explorers surely stand out for the beauty of their images and the almost impossible conditions they encountered. None of these are more remarkable than the photographs recorded by the official chroniclers of two epic Antarctic expeditions--that of Robert Falcon Scott in 1910 which tragically resulted in his death and, four years later, and that of Ernest Shackleton, whose heroic sea journey from Elephant Island to South Georgia has become the stuff of legend.

Their photographers--Herbert George Ponting and Frank Hurley--transported bulky cameras and glass plate negatives across the forbidding polar landscape to record some of the earliest images of this dramatic environment. That the photographs survived to be presented on their return to King George V is miraculous, and they have remained ever since in the Royal Collection. The Heart of the Great Alone reproduces the best of these marvelous images, some of which have never appeared in book form before--ships encased in ice floes, ice cliffs and ravines, campsites and dog sleds, and the incomparable beauty of Antarctic flora and fauna. Together they form an invaluable record of an environment that global warming has forever changed. With a superb narrative drawing on Ponting's and Hurley's writings and other unique archival material from the Royal Collection, and with extended captions for each image, this book is a unique addition to the literature of polar exploration.

Photographs from the Polar Expeditions of 1910 and 1914
Click on each photo to see the full page.

Wind-sculptured hummocks, 1915

Herbert Ponting with cinematographic camera, 1911

Sir Ernest Shackleton arriving at Elephant Island to take off the marooned men, 30 August, 1916


“This book lovingly reproduces the best of [Herbert George Ponting and Frank Hurley's] photographs (and prints some that have not previously been seen in book form), and brings the reader tantalizingly close to the heroes of these expeditions and the suffering and sorrow they endured. The text throughout is excellent; the authors describe Ponting's famous photograph of a ship seen through a sloping ice grotto "as significant an image as Neil Armstrong standing on the moon for the first time.” ―New York Times

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; First Edition edition (October 27, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1608190072
  • ISBN-13: 978-1608190072
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 1.2 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #380,963 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Michael J. Muller on December 27, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This is not a big picture book meant to be casually placed on the coffee table in your living room to be merely enjoyed for its exceptional photographs. The authors have captured the very essence of two early 20th century explorations of the Antarctic regions and present here the very best of the collection of photographs from those expeditions. To those who are readers of polar exploration and British polar expeditions in the 1800's and 1900's this is by far the finest presentation of a very succinct history of those early efforts. The photographs by Ponting and Hurley are simply spectacular. Beyond the superb photographs there is a very well presented history of the expeditions, maps, commentaries and the finest biographical summary of all of the members of those expeditions that I have ever seen in print.
This book deserves more than five stars as it is an essential contribution to the printed history of such events during the Heroic Age that motivated mankind to meet the challeges of Antarctica in the earliest quests for the southern pole. Hopefully a book like this will be well received by many and perhaps create some interest in researching and publishing the largely untold stories of other polar explorers of that period.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By L. A. Walker on January 2, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In January 2012, I stumbled upon the most marvellous collection of photographs from the early era of Antarctic exploration online. These silver bromide photos were shown at their best glowing on screen and absolutely took my breath away with their beauty as photographs and also as a record of what it was like to be there. It took me a while to find this book, which contains many of these wonderful photos - a paperback version was sold at the exhibition - and I was rewarded with so much more. It is so well written and informative, even to those of us who think we know these stories by heart.

The title of this book is from the book written later by one of these photographers, Herbert Ponting and is so apt for introducing us to this frozen wilderness. It is well captured both in the photos and also by David Hempleman-Adams in his text.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in the Antarctic adventures of one hundred years ago, written by a man who has been there himself. With the generous help of the Royal Collection of photos and mementos, he has fleshed out a most interesting book. But also I recommend it for those wonderful photos at the heart of the book to anyone with a love of beauty.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Marc Ranger on May 8, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I coudn't recommend this book enough. It's full of beautifuls, never before seen photographs of the Antarctic and those heroics Englishmen who explored it.
Frank Hurley and Herbert Ponting's best work all in one suberb book.

Don't hesitate, get it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Vijay Crishna on September 12, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Wonderful book with the great Antarctic photos of Herbert Ponting and Frank Hurley. They don't make them like that anymore!
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By PG on May 17, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you are a follower of Scott and Shackleton's antarctic journeys and challenges, this is a great book to view the photographic realities of the stories you have read.
Once I saw these photos in an exhibit in Christchurch NZ I knew I had to have the book which captures those photos. I have not been disappointed and the pictures return me to my reading of the stories and to the Museum's exhibit.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Herman Melville on August 8, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a nice, large book with excellent reproductions of famous photos taken on the Scott and Shackleton Antarctic expeditions. Several of the photos are enlarged so that you can really see details, for instance, the crestfallen and doomed look on Scott's face in the famous photo of the Polar party after discovering that Amundsen has beaten them. There are numerous photos in this collection that I have never before seen, and I have read nearly 20 books on South Polar voyages. Moreover, there are photos of the Union Jacks that Scott and Shackleton carried with them, the telegram that Shackleton sent to the King of England after achieving the Furthest South, copies of the South Polar Times, and other interesting memorabilia. Most poignantly, perhaps, there are reproductions of two sketches done by Dr. Wilson of the black flags that Amundsen's party erected to encircle the pole and to show Scott they had beaten him.

The only drawback to this excellent book is the text, some of which is written by a modern explorer who cannot stop intruding himself into the story, and other articles that do not contribute much. Buy this book for the photos, not the text.
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Format: Hardcover
The information that chronicles the history of early polar exploration captured in this book is outstanding; with photographs that capture the beauty and harshness the late 1800 and early 1900 scientists & explorers got to experience. For the quality of information and photographs in this book, the price is a real value; definitely worth having on the bookshelf.
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