When Captain Scott died in 1912 on his way back from the South Pole, his story became a myth embedded in the English imagination. Despite wars and social change, despite recent debunking, it is still there. Conventional histories of polar exploration tend to trace the laborious expeditions across the map, dwelling on the proper techniques of ice ...
When Captain Scott died in 1912 on his way back from the South Pole, his story became a myth embedded in the English imagination. Despite wars and social change, despite recent debunking, it is still there. Conventional histories of polar exploration tend to trace the laborious expeditions across the map, dwelling on the proper techniques of ice navigation and sledge travel, rather than asking what the explorers thought they were doing, or why. This book, in contrast, is about the poles as they have been perceived, dreamed of, even desired, and offers a cultural history of a national obsession with polar explorers and mountaineers. It sets out to show how Scott's death in 1912 was the culmination of a long-running national enchantment with perilous journeys to the ends of the earth.
Publishers Weekly, 1997-11-03 In this ardent discourse, Spufford, a British freelancer, examines the myths and symbols of ice and freezing cold that played a role in the history of legendary British polar expeditions. In what he aptly calls a "different kind of history," he elaborates on the influence of myths and symbols on social, religious and moral values and their permeation of English literature. In trying to unravel the complex intersections of interior motives and external pressures, Spufford reexamines the lives of legendary explorers, particularly Captains Cook and Scott. Although working on a social tapestry interwoven with private dramas, always present is the brutal arctic landscape and the corrosive cold against which these men set out to test themselves. Especially interesting are the women in the lives of these adventurers, and the author's fresh account of Scott's life and tragic death in 1912 is engrossing. Most moving are Scott's last journal entries and the characteristically stiff-upper-lip remark (the title of this book) of Barrows, his teammate, who, starving and hopeless, left the inadequate shelter of their tent to go out to his icy death. Illustrations. (Dec.)
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