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The Worst Journey in the World Paperback – March 20, 1997

4.4 out of 5 stars 168 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

As Apsley Cherry-Garrard states in his introduction to the harrowing story of the Scott expedition to the South Pole, "Polar Exploration is at once the cleanest and most isolated way of having a bad time which has been devised." Cherry-Garrard's The Worst Journey in the World is a gripping account of an expedition gone disastrously wrong. The youngest member of Scott's team, the author was later part of the rescue party that eventually found the frozen bodies of Scott and three men who had accompanied Scott on the final push to the Pole. These deaths would haunt Cherry-Garrard for the rest of his life as he questioned the decisions he had made and the actions he had taken in the days leading up to the Polar Party's demise.

Prior to this sad denouement, Cherry-Garrard's account is filled with details of scientific discovery and anecdotes of human resilience in a harsh environment. Each participant in the Scott expedition is brought fully to life. Cherry-Garrard's recollections are supported by diary excerpts and accounts from other teammates. Despite the sad fate of Scott, the reader will grudgingly agree with the closing words of The Worst Journey in the World: "Exploration is the physical expression of the Intellectual Passion. And I tell you, if you have the desire for knowledge and the power to give it physical expression, go out and explore.... If you march your Winter Journeys you will have your reward, so long as all you want is a penguin's egg."

From Library Journal

Cherry-Gerrard was the only survivor of Scott's last journey to the South Pole, and was a member of the search party that later discovered the remains of Scott and his comrades. His story was originally published in a limited edition in the 1920s but has not been available in the United States since.-- MR
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 704 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; 2 edition (March 20, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786704373
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786704378
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.4 x 1.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (168 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #190,790 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jordan M. Poss VINE VOICE on January 22, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Apsley Cherry-Garrard was only 24 when he set out on Scott's ill-fated Terra Nova expedition. He was the youngest member of the group and, for my money, the best qualified for the later task of writing the complete story. Why? The Worst Journey in the World is an awe-inspiring adventure, told in such a way that you feel the young man's wide-eyed wonder as your own.

Very few novels have gripped and excited me as this book has, and far fewer nonfiction works. Cherry--as his friends called him--writes with a vigor and attention to detail and drama usually reserved for thrillers. The blizzards, storms at sea, killer whale attacks, sub-zero temperatures, and exhausting struggles with sled dogs, ponies, and yawning crevasses are vividly depicted. By the end of the book, you almost feel as though you've been on the journey with him. The "you are there" phenomenon is something I encounter very seldom in a book. This book actually managed to make me cold.

The Worst Journey in the World is not solely devoted to the adventure and the final tragedy of finding Scott and his men frozen to death. Cherry takes time out to comment on the scientific significance of their work in Antarctica, of the need for exploration regardless of immediate results, and, in conclusion, of why Scott's return from the Pole ended so bitterly. These sections of the work put the adventure into perspective, so that not only do you experience the good and bad times with the expedition, you learn what ideals drove them and what was at stake with every piece of bad luck.

The book isn't perfect, of course. Some of the scientific information Cherry relates is, of course, now outdated.
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It's been more than ten years since I read Cherry-Garrard's account of Scott's journey to Antarctica, but I can still feel the lung-searing cold and hear the hellish, monstrous wind coming out of the center of the continent into which the journey was headed. I have never read of anything more terrible than this expedition including Shackleton's truncated Antarctic nightmare and Lewis and Clark's astonishing and dangerous overland haul from St. Louis to the Pacific.

This particular expedition was one terrible misadventure after another almost from the very start when there is a storm at sea right out of the gate as the ship carrying everyone and everything from Tierra del Fuego is swamped and so much food, materiel, and livestock are lost overboard. From there the bad luck never seems to stop. The very fact that these men continued on under circumstances that would have discouraged and then defeated most human beings is almost past credibility. In particular I remember the constant breaking down of the diesel-engined snow cats, the terrible fate of the Asian ponies, the leopard seals, and the long dark impossible trip that Garrard and one other member of the expedition take in the dead of the Antarctic winter to the Emperor Penguin breeding grounds to retrieve a few precious eggs for science. In winter. In the dark. Wearing 1911 woolen clothes, eating preseved 1911 food, and using 1911 (non-)technology. It took 1911 men to do it. I cannot imagine anyone from our time doing this with that equipment. At times I simply had to stop reading and wonder just how much more hardship human beings could stand. I've never felt so physically uncomfortable, so drained and so worried (as a mere reader!) as I was ploughing through this book which was a feat (the writing of it) in itself.
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Robert Falcon Scott's scientific expedition to the South Pole in 1911 was like that famous medical cliché: "the operation was a success, but the patient died." The Polar Party did reach the South Pole, but were 34 days late from being the FIRST party at the pole. The entire Polar Party died in a blizzard returning to home camp. Invaluable scientific, geographic, and biologic data were obtained, but the hideous Winter Journey to collect Emperor penguin embryos at terrible risk turned out to be useless information. They hoped the embryos would show a connection between the evolution of dinosaurs into birds. (It did not.)
Cherry Gerrard is a highly likeable, very human teller of the tale. He was the youngest member of the expedition, very much the gentleman and an Englishman to his fingertips. He shows us his human side (he didn't have the usual Englishman's fondness for animals and thought the dogs and ponies were miserable, exasperating beasts). He has a knack of bringing his fellow explorers to life, yet never criticizes at all. He has the highest regard for everyone in the party. He recaps from some of the other members' diaries to great effect. The enthusiastic Bowers writes his mother, "There is so much to see and do here; I just wish I could be three places at once!" Bowers was the best of them, to my way of thinking, and I was appalled when he "volunteered" for the Polar Party (already knowing the fate of same). Cherry Gerrard had enormous artistic appreciation for the austere beauties of Antarctica, but no matter how brilliantly he described them, my enthusiasm was nil for such a bleak landscape. He shows his depressive side in remarking on the "beauty of sleep" in the Antarctic---"sleep where you never need awaken.
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