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Racing with Death: Douglas Mawson - Antarctic Explorer Hardcover – August 18, 2008

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

PRAISE FOR 'NIMROD' 'A masterful balance of true drama and first-rate scholarship. The narrative moves with the speed of a novel, while the author's unerring eye for historical detail captures the essence of polar exploration and explorers and locates Shackleton and his men in the grand scheme of empire.' Sir Ranulph Fiennes 'Beau Riffenburgh brilliantly brings this earlier one into focus in an account so vivid that we can almost feel the freezing temperatures ourselves.' Sunday Telegraph 'Gripping and superbly researched.' Max Jones, author of 'The Last Great Quest'

About the Author

Beau Riffenburgh is an historian specialising in exploration, particularly that of the Antarctic, Arctic, and Africa. Born in California, he earned his doctorate at Cambridge University, following which he joined the staff at the Scott Polar Research Institute, where he served for 14 years as the editor of Polar Record. He is the author of the highly regarded Nimrod: Ernest Shackleton and the Extraordinary Story of the 1907-09 British Antarctic Expedition and The Myth of the Explorer. He also served as Editor of the Encyclopedia of the Antarctic.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (August 18, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747580936
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747580935
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 9.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,196,539 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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One thing a book like this makes you ponder is how your own inner strength would bare up under the pressure of such a survival situation: one party member dead down a crevasse, another died after becoming delirious beside you in the tent you are sharing on an Antarctic glacier after the two of you have had to one by one shoot your own dogs to feed yourselves, finally leaving you alone with days of marching through the white wasteland. Could you do it? Could you make yourself get up and trudge another day pulling a sledge you’d cut down with a pocket tool, walking on crampons you’d fashioned yourself out of nails and screws from whatever you could find? Or would you just curl up in a ball and let nature take its course?
Another thing it makes you ponder is just how many skills the men on these expeditions had as opposed to most modern men. I’ve no desire to eat puppies or learn how to pull a sledge across a glacier, nor how to build a hut (even if it was pre-fabricated prior to the expedition) nor am I fussed on the discerning the finer points of survival biscuits but the general ‘handiness’ of the men on this expedition, the way they had to be able to do so many physical things such as basic carpentry, how to butcher animals and the like does make one realise how few people nowadays could come close to the level of survival skills displayed by almost all the chaps on these expeditions.

And while I’m pondering the (im)ponderables another thing that struck a chord with me in relation to this book was the way there were still so many parts of the worlds surface remaining to be explored up until only a century ago. There were still places of such size and untouched wildness that men such as this could still find a way of making a name for themselves.
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I am Australian so I have a greater appreciation that his explorations laid rights to a territorial claim of land and water as extensive as the Australian continent itself. Hillary states that his exploration was the most dramatic and harrowing in history.
A fine read. Like many heroes, his later years deteriorated into squabbles about money and bragging rights, but even that was fascinating!
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