Captain Robert Scott's final journey to the South Pole has been called one of history's greatest tales of adventure. And his journals are among the most dramatic and moving documents in the English language. Sensitively read by David Horovitch, this new audio adaptation starts in 1910 as Scott's ship, the Terra Nova, sets sail from New Zealand. Then in vivid, conversational style details the dangerous journey through the ice to Antarctica, the winter hibernation in 24-hour darkness, and the final journey to and from the Pole. A remarkable story of courage, it ends with Scott's last tragic diary entry on the 29th March 1912, when he, Wilson and Bowers, out of food, sheltering from the raging blizzard outside their tent, calmly await their deaths.
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I have recently visited the Antarctic so wanted a book that gave me not just historical background but a "feel" for the atmosphere. This tale is very sympathetically read by David Horovitch. From the very first the description of life on the ship and just the logistical problems of getting there with sufficient provisions, dogs and ponies is made poignant by the knowledge that nobody returns. The account of the first storm will always stay with me - it is a haunting, harrowing tale of heroism that no-one today would undertake because we have too many health and safety rules. It is a reminder of the true meaning of heroism.
I gave it 4 stars not 5 simply because it is abridged.
"Very brave men..."
I've listened to multiple books about Scott's last expedition. Notably, Cherry-Garrard's book combines many journals to tell the full story of the entire expedition. I was disappointed with CG's account. It's very long and barely discusses the death of Scott's summit/pole team. So I found myself going straight to the source.
Here is the actual journal of Robert Scott. It is so nonchalant about the deaths of the members that you can easily miss the extreme danger these men were in. But Scott was more honest in his journal, than other journals I've read about the expedition. When a man was slowing them down or becoming weak, he is quick to notice. He doesn't fake a pleasant demeanor; he is the leader of the huge team and is responsible for life and death decisions. Scott was very ambitious and competitive, as the leader of such an adventure would be. His writing may not demonstrate the ruthlessness of his mission, but it definitely brings my understanding full circle. Scott cut a team of men at the start of the summit/pole run for underperforming. (Perhaps he should have kept them longer.) His statements at the end of the failing mission while the men were dying, show that he expected his team to be healthy and self-reliant.
In trying to figure out "what went wrong", obviously the weather was beyond their endurance or control! And I believe the race to the pole was physically far more taxing than anyone anticipated. I will never understand why he didn't have a rescue mission ready just in case. I just don't know what could have spared their lives.
Speaking earlier of Scott's ambition and extreme competitiveness, I must point out that Scott writes, "The worst has happened!" when he sees evidence of that the Norway team beat him by nearly two months. He adjusts his statement, "well, almost the worst thing". Obviously, in his eyes at that moment, the only thing worse was death, or was it?
I believe that his will to survive the terrible march back to the ship was greatly impacted by losing his race to the pole. From the moment he saw that Norway had beaten him, I believe his inner fight was greatly diminished. His life's ambition and dream was gone. For me this explains the ease with which he gave in to death. Losing the lives of his team for a forlorn mission of his own making was too much to bear on his shoulders. So it's sort of like he went down with his ship... Like a good captain.
It is very sad, but told with utmost bravery.
The narrator was great, but a pace too slow. I listened to this on 1.25x speed and it sounded perfect. Thus making it a quick but important ending to the mystery of Scott's last expedition!
"Definitely worth the read."
This is no story, this is a reading of Scott's diary. As such, there is plenty of missing back story, but you can find that elsewhere. This is the very moving tale of a group of very brave (some might say unprepared) men.
They died the way that they lived.....
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