NINETY DEGREES NORTH: The Quest for the North Pole

Fergus Fleming, Author . Grove $26 (496p) ISBN 978-0-8021-1725-0

Whether it was believed to be surrounded by a vast, temperate sea that would facilitate speedy trade between the West and the Orient or, by one fanciful account, the gateway to a subterranean universe of wonder, there is no doubt that the North Pole exercised a powerful pull on the 19th-century imagination. Fleming (Barrow's Boys; Killing Dragons), whose first book outlined the ambitious program of British exploration set in motion by John Barrow, begins this exceptional account roughly where that one left off, recounting the major expeditions sent in search of the top of the world from 1845 to 1969. The book is fascinating for how Fleming renders the haughty, post-Enlightenment brio of the principal adventurers and the extreme, often fatal ends toward which it pushed them. Fleming beautifully weaves together intriguing journal excerpts and exhaustive expedition details to form an unforgettable impression of both the characters involved and the hardships they faced. And the hardships here are gruesome. Scarcely one of the many glory seekers from Britain, the U.S., Germany, Russia, Italy and elsewhere return from their quests wholly intact, either physically or mentally. They ate their dogs, they ate moss and, sometimes, they ate each other, but even when it became clear that nothing but a wasteland awaited them at the pole, they pressed on. Stoires like this make for a captivating look at the best and worst possibilities of the human spirit, told by an author who has established himself as one of the best adventure writers today. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 08/26/2002
Release date: 10/01/2002
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 496 pages - 978-0-8021-4036-4
Hardcover - 470 pages - 978-1-86207-449-1
Paperback - 508 pages - 978-84-8310-394-4
Open Ebook - 978-1-322-35858-1
Show other formats
Discover what to read next