Po­lar ex­plorer’s great ad­ven­ture

Horowhenua Chronicle - - BOOKS - Rosie Sanderson

The White Dark­ness

By David Grann, Si­mon & Schus­ter $39.99

This in­cred­i­ble lit­tle book may only take a day to read but the im­ages, im­pres­sions and in­spi­ra­tional ac­counts of the po­lar ex­plor­ers will re­main with you. Henry Wors­ley was a re­tired Bri­tish army of­fi­cer who had served in the Spe­cial Air Ser­vice, he was a sculp­tor, boxer, pho­tog­ra­pher, hor­ti­cul­tur­ist, de­voted hus­band and fa­ther but above all a po­lar ex­plorer who had as a young boy be­come ob­sessed with Ernest Shack­le­ton. Al­though Shack­le­ton never com­pleted his jour­neys, he has be­come a leg­end, an ex­am­ple of courage and lead­er­ship that Henry, as a young army of­fi­cer used as his lead­er­ship style with his first com­mand.

You are drawn im­me­di­ately into the drama and extreme con­di­tions of travel in the Antarc­tic as David Grann de­scribes Henry’s solo journey in the open­ing chap­ter. He trav­elled alone pulling a sled with food and equip­ment 800 miles through the most bru­tal en­vi­ron­ment in the world. He climbed the Ti­tan Dome — 10,000ft high af­ter cross­ing ice fields with hid­den crevasses, shel­ter­ing for days dur­ing bliz­zards, white­out con­di­tions but still 200 miles to go. Just when his­tory was within his grasp, he un­der­stood that not ev­ery­thing, least of all the Antarc­tic, can be con­quered. Within de­feat there can be the tri­umph of sur­vival, so he chose his fam­ily over glory. Prior to his solo journey, in 2008 he set out across Antarc­tica with two other de­scen­dants of Shack­le­ton’s crew, bat­tling freez­ing des­o­late land­scape and phys­i­cal ex­haus­tion to try to reach Shack­le­ton’s fur­thest point on Jan­uary 2009 exactly 100 years later.

Il­lus­trated with more than 50 stun­ning pho­tos from Wors­ley and Shack­le­ton’s jour­neys, this is a book you will want to keep and share. The ear­lier ex­pe­di­tions by Scott, Amuns­den and Shack­le­ton are sum­marised bril­liantly and of­fer new in­sights into these ex­pe­di­tions.

David Grann is a staff writer at the New Yorker and has writ­ten for the New York Times, Wash­ing­ton Post and Wall Street Jour­nal. It is fas­ci­nat­ing to read these ac­counts of bat­tling the extreme con­di­tions, the al­most in­hu­man challenge of po­lar ex­plo­ration but I am left won­der­ing “why would you?”

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