Sunday, October 14, 2012
"The flowers were of snow, the rivers of ice, and if Stevenson had been to the Antarctic he would have made them so. (p 255)
Who would have guessed that a slight, young, recent Oxford graduate who paid for his passage with Robert Falcon Scott's Antarctic expedition would not only survive the ordeal but also write a classic narrative of his adventure? I might have been surprised had I not recently been reading the biography of young Teddy Roosevelt who overcame early physical weakness and dire diagnoses from his doctors to become a legendary explorer himself (and much more). Apsley Cherry-Garrard (known as "Cherry" on the expedition) narrates a story of the expedition that is both a moving account of their fateful Polar journey and a superb group portrait of Scott and his team. The physical ordeals that Scott's team endures, the fateful decisions, hardships beyond imagination and ultimately death are portrayed in a penetrating and suspenseful narrative. One thing that distinguishes Cherry-Garrard's tale are the literary references that inhabit the narrative; from the chapter epigraphs to his own literary writing style they more than embellish an already taut and exhilarating tale. I will set this beside another of my favorite Antarctic adventure narrative, Endurance, Alfred Lansing's narrative of Sir Ernest Shackleton's incredible voyage. I recommend the adventure narratives of both Cherry-Garrard and Lansing to all who love great tales of adventure.
The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard. The Adventure Library, 1997 (1922).