The Worst Journey In The World

Friday, October 5, 2012

I’ve been reading The Worst Journey In The World, written by Apsley Cherry-Garrard, one of the men who accompanied Scott on his expedition to the South Pole. I have the print version, but it’s also available as an e-book on archive.org:

http://archive.org/details/theworstjourneyi14363gut

In a way I was surprised, because when he was talking about trudging through the snow at fifty below zero, I was thinking that it sounded like walking home from the bus stop here and had expected worse. But then I thought of doing that for six weeks without a chance to step into a warm house, in constant darkness, dragging supplies and having to force my way into a frozen sleeping bag every night. I think it probably does qualify for the title.

Certainly it qualifies far more than so much recent travel writing which spends much of the book trying to big up how awesome the trip was. If anything, Cherry-Garrard understates the awful situations they suffered through, including delights such as frostbitten fingers leading to blisters which froze into ice on his hands. I can just imagine a modern writer spending chapters on that experience alone.

I was also surprised at how rapidly I worked through it; the book looks huge, but after five or six hours I’ve almost finished.

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