Antarctic Destinies

Barczewski, Stephanie. Antarctic Destinies: Scott, Shackleton and the Changing Face of Heroism. London: Hambledon Continuum, 2007.

Reason read: February is exploration month.

Stephanie Barczewski’s Antarctic Destinies is organized into thirteen different topics. She is careful to set the groundwork for Destinies with an overview of Antarctic exploration from its humble beginnings with the 1901 Discoveries expedition. She goes on to make comparisons between the 1940 Terra Nova expedition of Robert Scott and the 1914 Endurance expedition of Ernest Shackleton. The ever-present question is of heroism. Scott had a heroic death while Shackleton had a heroic survival. So what exactly is a hero? Of the two, who is more the hero? How does the public respond to failure as opposed to the perception of success? Barczewski analyzes the reputations of both before wrapping up Destinies with how each member of the different expeditions has been commemorated. She finishes with Where Are Our Heroes Now?

As an aside – someone wrote in the margins, “how does sheer luck get transmuted into survival?” They wrote a whole bunch of other gobbledygook, but I liked that question best.

On a personal note: my father was busy in the Antarctic when I was born. There is some debate as to what he was actually doing. As a member of the Coast Guard I recall he was on a Coast Guard cutter clearing ice for research vessels. Mom remembers he was actually on board the research vessel itself. But, doing what?

Author fact: a Google query brought me to a Clemson University faculty web page where a smiley Barczewski poses with Mickey Mouse.

Book trivia: Antarctic Destinies includes only nine black and white photographs.

Nancy said: nothing interesting.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “To the Ends of the Earth: North and South (Antarctic)” (p 235).

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