The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard (2010-02-12) Info

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Reviews for The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard (2010-02-12):

5

January 22, 2008

Thrilling and tragic
Apsley Cherry-Garrard was only 24 when he set out on Scott's ill-fated Terra Nova expedition. He was the youngest member of the group and, for my money, the best qualified for the later task of writing the complete story. Why? The Worst Journey in the World is an awe-inspiring adventure, told in such a way that you feel the young man's wide-eyed wonder as your own.

Very few novels have gripped and excited me as this book has, and far fewer nonfiction works. Cherry--as his friends called him--writes with a vigor and attention to detail and drama usually reserved for thrillers. The blizzards, storms at sea, killer whale attacks, sub-zero temperatures, and exhausting struggles with sled dogs, ponies, and yawning crevasses are vividly depicted. By the end of the book, you almost feel as though you've been on the journey with him. The "you are there" phenomenon is something I encounter very seldom in a book. This book actually managed to make me cold.

The Worst Journey in the World is not solely devoted to the adventure and the final tragedy of finding Scott and his men frozen to death. Cherry takes time out to comment on the scientific significance of their work in Antarctica, of the need for exploration regardless of immediate results, and, in conclusion, of why Scott's return from the Pole ended so bitterly. These sections of the work put the adventure into perspective, so that not only do you experience the good and bad times with the expedition, you learn what ideals drove them and what was at stake with every piece of bad luck.

The book isn't perfect, of course. Some of the scientific information Cherry relates is, of course, now outdated. The book starts off rather slowly, and the reader must pick up and remember the names of the other expeditionary members on their own--Cherry does not list or describe the others in detail until somewhere near the middle of the book.

That said, The Worst Journey in the World is still an outstanding nonfiction adventure. Once I started this book I could read nothing else. Anyone with an interest in the Antarctic, history, or exploration in general will find this book fascinating.

Highly recommended.
5

June 8, 2015

Magnificent
Magnificent, and easily deserving of its frequent praise as the best of adventure and exploration stories.

Apsley Cherry-Garrard (known as "Cherry") was 24 when he was invited to join Robert Scott's Terra Nova Antarctic expedition (1910-1913). The expedition, comprised of scientists and support staff, was formed to do extensive research and, as a bonus, and a major reason given in fund-raising efforts, to try to reach the South Pole, which had never been done. The first third of the book tells of the voyage to Antarctica in a dangerously unfit ship and the first summer in Antarctica, building a hut and sledging farther and farther into the Antarctic interior to lay depots of supplies for the Pole effort the following year. During this time the men built up their endurance, practiced sledging techniques, became familiar with each other's strengths, and adjusted to life in close quarters, endless bitter cold and storms, and life in 24-hour darkness. They also proceeded with their various scientific enterprises. The middle section, the actual Worst Journey, describes the winter sledging trip Cherry took with Birdie Bowers and Edward Wilson to an emperor penguin breeding ground to bring back embryos for study. The trip was done almost entirely in darkness in temperatures of -30 to -40F, and it almost killed the three of them. Nights were spent in frozen sleeping bags, the men shivering so hard their teeth cracked. Waking hours meant trying to travel a few more miles in frozen clothes. They just managed to make it back to their hut, weak and sick, and there is a famous photograph of them on their return after weeks in such conditions: (http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/56/Return_of_Wilson_Bowers_Cherr...).

Wilson and Bowers, two of Cherry's best friends, survived that journey only to die the following summer after they were chosen to join Scott for the final push to the Pole. Much of the last section of Cherry's book is heart-breaking, relating the preparations for and much of Scott's run for the Pole, in which he was joined by Bowers, Wilson, Titus Oates, and Seaman Evans. Accompanied on the trip out by three other sledging parties who laid supply depots along the way, the five left behind the last of the other parties about 180 miles from the Pole and did get there, only to find that the Norwegians had beaten them. It was still an extraordinary achievement, but one they would not live to enjoy. On the return trip, Evans died from scurvy and a head injury; Titus became gangrenous and famously left the tent during a blizzard with the words "I'm just going outside and may be some time", hoping his sacrifice would give the others a chance to survive until the next depot. But Scott, Wilson and Bowers became trapped in their tent by a blizzard which lasted for over a week, and they died in their sleeping bags, lying next to each other. They were only 11 miles from the next big depot and almost home. It's interesting and enlightening to read the descriptions of how the line of command was followed closely, with any other method of decision-making being untenable in such dangerous circumstances. Cherry made a last-ditch attempt to take supplies to One-Ton Depot (the depot which Scott's party died so close to), but with no idea of where they might be stuck in the 900-mile expanse between camp and the Pole, he was ordered to return, since winter was closing in. Cherry describes the anguish of the party waiting in camp and finally acknowledging that the Polar party had to be dead. This second winter found them depressed and guilt-ridden, wondering what they could have done to bring about a different ending. When they were finally able to set out on a sledging trip in the spring, planning to travel about 2/3 of the distance to the Pole (after which they would not be sure of the path Scott might have taken), they were appalled to be out for only a few days before finding the tent.

I spent months reading this because I kept being pulled away to read parts of Scott's diary, or Cherry's biography, or to watch documentaries or read up on various techniques used in the expedition. Reading the book on the Kindle was a major help for understanding both polar terms and old British phrases, although the free version had no maps or illustrations, so I kept my tablet and several other books handy. Many of the people described in the book were major players in their fields, and Cherry was able to use diaries, letters, photographs and artwork from both deceased and surviving members of the expedition. More than in any other book I've read about the Antarctic, this one gave me a profound appreciation for the experience of early Antarctic exploration and the suffering endured by these men for the sake of science. Cherry was devastated by the loss of his friends and damaged physically by his own trials. His deep emotional reaction to his experiences makes the people and landscape come alive for the reader. For anyone interested in human drama, exploration, high adventure, history, or the Antarctic, this is highly, highly recommended.

Although I read the Kindle version, I've since purchased the Folio Society edition to have in hard cover.
5

November 22, 2018

Compare this version to Roland Huntford's version of Robert Falcon Scott
After reading excellent writer Roland Huntford's books about the South Pole expeditions, I came away with a certain opinion of Robert F. Scott and looking back now that I've read this book, I think Huntford put a negative slant on Scott which is hard to see past, if that's the only book you've read about the expeditions to reach the South Pole. . The same applies to Huntford's rendition of E.A. Wilson. Let me just say that having read The Last Place on Earth, Cherry-Gerard gives a different and way more positive perspective of Wilson, who he worked and toiled with and also Scott, and now I appreciate both of those characters a lot more, as they both had their good sides as leaders. I also encourage readers to buy and read Ranulph Fiennes book Captain Scott to round out the full picture, because he rebuts many statements by Huntford, often given with no references, because they were fabricated.
This book puts you there and is a very good read, amazingly, printed on every single square inch available but my recent purchase has a font a little larger than 12 point, and it's a very readable font too. This would be a good book to read on a vacation, where you can read it in installments, as there is a lot of info here. Cherry-Gerard's ongoing descriptions of the landscape is terrific, and this book does not have a lot of illustrations, but there are a few of Wilson's sketches. I can't say enough good things about this book!! I couldn't put it down for a full week's reading His summary at the end of what caused Captain Scott's demise is a fair summary of the different ideas out there.
5

December 25, 2014

One of the best books you'll ever read
There is absolutely no book like this in the annals of exploration/survival literature--and few books that approach it in any other genre. Apsley Cherry-Garrard was part of Robert Falcon Scott's ill-fated quest for the South Pole, but his book is no catalogue of derring-do and manly exploits. It is instead a memoir of suffering, exhiliration, and disaster, told with lyrical depth and near-heartrending honesty. Never does Cherry-Garrard descend into self-pity; instead he writes with a vividness that brings his ordeal--and the beauty that he nonetheless bore witness to--alive almost between the lines. This is the work of a poet, a classical writer and thinker, as well as an explorer. It is a testament not only to the circumstances Cherry-Garrard survived, but to the framework of British culture that surrounded them. It is a literary masterpiece, one of my all-time favorite books, and deserving of a place on any shelf devoted to serious literature.
4

December 9, 2016

Cherry-Garrard is arguably the best writer among all of the twentieth century Antarctic explorers
The description of the 1911 journey to collect Emperor Penguin eggs from Cape Crozier in midwinter, is a truly incredible account of suffering, courage and survival. Cherry-Garrard is arguably the best writer among all of the twentieth century Antarctic explorers. To have his first person account of this journey is a gift to any reader of the literature of exploration.

It is a long book, and the writing style has dated a little. But perhaps this is more because the understated bravery and stoicism of Cherry-Garrard and his companions is so foreign to the society we live in now.

I think this is the toughest story of endurance by a group of men in Antarctica. The toughest story of individual endurance must be Douglas Mawson's return trek to Cape Denison in 1913. Lennard Bickel's account of that journey would reward anyone who enjoys this book, or finds the great age of polar exploration fascinating.
5

January 13, 2016

A Great Travel Memoir
This is the memorable recounting of Robert Falcon Scott's 1910 Journey to the South Pole, in an attempt, among other matters, to be the first men to reach it. Apsley Cherry-Garrard's journal is studious and long, and takes about 100 pages to get fully going and engaged, yet once this happens, it is gripping reading all the way to the final sentences. In it Cherry provides interesting portrayals of the people and events, occasional anecdotes, along with at times whimsical, and at other times philosophical, commentary. His observations and analysis are superb. This leads to his epilogue, and the conclusions he drew from the experience, which are very well placed and outstanding, and so much so that they offer suggestions and thought even for our own time. So then, this is fine adventure reading, as well as advancing to societal critique. Superb reading, not to be missed.
5

November 1, 2019

Inspiring travel book, great adventure.
One of my favorite books, certainly one of the greatest travel books ever written. This copy was a gift, perhaps the fifth time I have bestowed this book on deserving friends and relatives. What a story! Sub-zero temperatures, hurricane strength winds, their tent blown away, the nearsighted author can't wear his metal-rimmed glasses because they would freeze to his skin. I think of those things every winter when I am tempted to complain about being cold.
4

January 10, 2019

Fascinating Book about Antarctic Exploration in the early 1900's
The author of this book and his story was featured in an article in Smithsonian Magazine. It was so intriguing that I wanted to read his first person account of being a team member of Scott's second journey to the Antarctic . At times, there is too much detail (exact # of biscuits each man was allotted per day, the exact height of certain mountains, # of penguins in a particular rookery, etc) but all in all, a fascinating book to read. It is lengthy, 600 pages of the authors account plus his 45 page introduction and a 31 page forward but if you have the time and enjoy true stories of exploration, it is time well spent.
5

November 7, 2019

Spellbinding.
I'm a 72 year old couch potato grandma currently in my Antarctic and shipwreck mode. I loved this story and the courage of the men involved. The sufferings they went through were amazing. I live vicariously thru them as I sit in my cozy recliner. Cozy is important to me so I loved the descriptions of their hut. As temps dip for the winter here in southeastern Washington I can accept it with grace, knowing what these men suffered thru. I couldn't put this book down.
5

January 1, 2019

THE WORST JOURNEY IN THE WORLD May Be One of Your Best Reads!
Having been to Antarctica in 2017, I found immense pleasure in reading this book. I cannot possibly imagine the hardships endured, but I can certainly appreciate the excitement and adventure detailed by the author on practically every page. And as a retired meteorologist I was fascinated by the weather conditions so vividly described in such an inhospitable environment (note that the setting occurs more than one hundred years ago!).

I recommend this remarkable story to anyone who loves adventure and travel to amazing places on this planet.

Finally, I give a five-star rating to the book, since it kept my interest throughout. And whenever I hate for a book to end, I know that it has become a member on my list of favorite books over my lifetime!

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