Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Book Review: Race to the Bottom of the Earth: Surviving Antarctica by Rebecca E. F. Barone

In 1910, Robert Scott and Roald Amundsen raced to see who could get to the South Pole first. Both were intrepid explorers. Both lamented they were at the end of the age of discovery, when there was little left unexplored. So Antarctica became their last stand, the last place on earth still unseen by human eyes. Their equipment was rudimentary--although I was impressed that Scott had three transports of a sort made, which used tracks like a tank instead of tires for traversing the ice, even if they broke down frequently (and permanently, after not a very long run.)

In 2018, Colin O'Brady and Louis Rudd competed to see who could be the first to travel to the South Pole completely unaided by other humans, at least after their initial preparations. They had a lot of technology--from satellite phones to ultra-light tents and sledges. Since we can no longer discover new lands, the adventurous sorts have to come up with new ways to test their own limits and the boundaries of the possible.

Neither competition was intentional--they were both coincidental. The first one ended tragically. The second one began with a tragedy. And both show that no matter how well you prepare, sometimes Mother Earth has other ideas for you. A fantastic pair of tales of struggle, science, and a lot of ice.

This book is published by Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

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