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Alone: The Classic Polar Adventure

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  1,987 ratings  ·  141 reviews
When Admiral Richard E. Byrd set out on his second Antarctic expedition in 1934, he was already an international hero for having piloted the first flights over the North and South Poles. His plan for this latest adventure was to spend six months alone near the bottom of the world, gathering weather data and indulging his desire “to taste peace and quiet long enough to know ...more
Paperback, 310 pages
Published August 8th 2003 by Island Press (first published November 30th 1937)
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Dave Richard E. Byrd is the author. I have a signed original from 1938.

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Adrianne Mathiowetz
Dec 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The back of this memoir is going to try and sell itself to you with how much the Antarctic sucks, and how incredible it is that this guy spent 5 months there by himself in near constant darkness and 70-something below zero temperatures every day, and all of this in 1933 when they didn't have synthetic fabrics with moisture-wicking properties or internet or fancy sleeping bags or any fun REI doo-dads. And all of that IS shocking and impressive. You're often turning the pages in horror. Every few ...more
Oct 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book ranks right up there with "The Worst Journey in the World", and that is saying one heck of a lot. I thought I would hate it. Anyone who is an admiral, I figured would be self-aggrandizing. No. This book is full of deep insight. Maybe born of despair, but that's how it goes sometimes. If you have ever been laid up for a winter alone, you might have some tiny fraction of an idea of what he experienced. As he said, he was reborn there in Antarctica that winter. I am not a fan of descripti ...more
Even though I've been obsessed with cold places for as long as I can remember and have long wanted to visit Antarctica, this book added fuel to that fire, setting my imagination soaring with visions of white expanses and the dangerous era of exploration. This is a fantastic and exciting read. I like to re-read it on warm days in the summer when it's too hot and imagining being alone at South Pole cools me down, or even in blustery wintry days when it's nice to be reminded that, hey, it could be ...more
Oct 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Couldn't put this down. He does a great job of recreating his experience at the South Pole. Also was quite glad I read the "Afterword" only after finishing the book. ...more
Mar 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Alone: The Classic Polar Adventure is the story of famed explorer Richard Byrd's famous (or infamous) solitary sojourn at the bottom of the world - ably, if somewhat reluctantly, told by Byrd himself. It is not a tell of adventure so much as survival, as the peaceful and scientific adventure Byrd had anticipated all too quickly became a months-long fight for survival in the most inhospitable of places. Only a small shack with dangerously faulty ventilation stood between Byrd and the elements dur ...more
Oct 17, 2017 rated it liked it

As a kid, I loved all those books like "My Side of the Mountain" -- stories of people going off into the wilderness and hacking it.

The descriptions of Antarctica are beautiful and evocative (all the snow, and the aurora, and light), and I HATE the cold. This made me feel kind of cold, heh.

There's not much of a story -- it really just is his experience being down there and (spoiler) suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning, but a fast and enjoyable read.
Having just read another book in which Byrd features somewhat negatively, I sort of wasn't expecting to connect with him quite like I did in this one. I've read a lot of polar memoirs/expedition diaries, etc., and I guess I was expecting something along those lines--somewhat dry, somewhat self-congratulatory while also somewhat excessively modest. I was surprised by the relaxed, casual style at first, having mostly read accounts by stiff-upper-lip British naval officers and the like, and the beg ...more
Jim George
Admiral Richard E. Byrd single handedly manned a weather base in the Antarctic winter night of 1934. His scientific expedition came close to costing him his life, his men at Base Camp made a heroic trip to rescue him. The book is a composite from his own personal diary, and an account of the expedition from Base Camp records. This expedition was a very brave undertaking in weather which at times resembled a winter-hurricane, with temperatures which dipped to an all time low of minus 82 degrees! ...more
April Berry
Jul 31, 2019 rated it liked it
I don't know why it was difficult for me to get through this. A different kind of read for me, but I really enjoyed learning about Richard E Byrd's life for several months on the south pole. What a brave team he had at "Little America". ...more
In 1934, the author headed to Antarctica to spend a few months on his own inland (while people he was working with were a ways away, and they were in radio contact on specific days/times), while taking weather readings at various times throughout the days. They had built him an underground shelter to live in. In June, as it got colder outside, things started to get dicey for the author. This book includes his memories, as well as some excerpts from his diary while there.

It took a little bit to
Mar 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2018, history
A beautifully written scary-as-can-be real life experience in Anartica. In 1934, Admital Byrd was truly alone, with help a mind-numbing 80-mile trek across the nothingness of Antarctica in the -50 degree darkness of winter. Byrd writes with knowledge, honesty and humility as he tells of his experience. Refreshingly free from self-agrandizing egoticism. I was simultaneously reading Alone and The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel. And the Maine hermit is nothing more than a kid playing in a ...more
Carolyn Parker
May 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I read the condensed version of this book and may look for the original. It was pretty non-stop hold-your-breath. Byrd spent a winter alone at a weather station near the South Pole and had many harrowing adventures that he lived to tell. Amazing!
Mar 28, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This account of six months that the explorer, Richard Byrd, spent alone in minus 60 degree weather in Antarctica was gripping. Obviously, the man survived to tell his story, but he was lucky. Even though he thought he was well equipped and capable of dealing with every contingency, happenings occurred that demonstrated his frailty and even hubris in thinking, erroneously, that he had thought of everything He was lucky to have survived. Reading this account made me think of Jack London's great sh ...more
Cullen Kester
Mar 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
Dedication is the name of the game here. Byrd survives at a weather station in the Antarctic alone. Others have written more fleshed out reviews so I won't go too crazy with this one. Byrd's writing had me nodding at points in agreement as he describes thoughts I have had while working on projects I thought I could do alone. He sets out with a simple goal, to collect weather data in Antarctica, but an unexpected event causes him major setbacks. Byrd, being a man of his time and dedicated to the ...more
James Henderson
Although less well known than his famous flight over the North Pole, Admiral Richard E. Byrd’s adventures in Antarctica are just as remarkable. This account highlights the solitude, the cold, above all the personal thoughts of a man who desired to seek a quiet place away from the "hullabaloo". This is a fascinating account of man in nature with only his solitary self to sustain him. The journey he takes is both physical and spiritual and fascinating to this reader. His dreams sustained him in th ...more
Jim Talbott
Jan 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is an incredible page turner. Admiral Byrd spends from late March to early August (Antarctic winter) by himself in a hut about 150 miles from the Antarctic coast. He gets relatively carbon monoxide poisoning about 2 months before anyone can get in to help him, and he has to survive, using the stove that poisoned him as well as trying to hide his infirmity from "Little America," the base on the Antarctic coast. Not only is the work of survival gripping, his descriptions of the natural w ...more
Dec 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is the account of a man trapped in a cabin for months with little to do except take weather readings, organise his environment and, when things end up going very wrong for him, trying to stay alive. I dare say a lot of people won't enjoy it or find it as compelling as I did, but it was the insight into what life is like living in such extreme, inhospitable conditions as well as the human drama that kept me interested. The book is also helped significantly by the eloquence and insight with w ...more
Betsy the Quilter
This is a beautifully written discription of Admiral Byrd's five month stay by himself in a remote cabin in Antartica to study the weather. He is blunt about the decisions that almost resulted in his death and at the same time, his descriptions of the both the beauty and the harshness of the Antartic winter put you there. Even though you know that he ultimately survives (it is his own work, after all), you are still on tenter hooks (whatever they are) as you read. ...more
David Byrd
Sep 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Written in 1938, Alone: The Classic Polar Adventure is the self-told story of Admiral Richard E Byrd and his expedition to Antarctica. I have a special love for this book, as I am related to Richard Byrd. My great grandfather was his cousin. Now I know where I get my good looks (actually my mom’s dad is where I get my full head of hair). Full review on my blog. ...more
someparts army
Mar 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Byrd's tale of human determination in the Antarctic is timeless. After being nearly slain by the carbon monoxide fumes given by the stove that was meant to keep him alive, Byrd is a step away from death's doorstep. He only manages to stay alive through sheer determination to keep his men safe. Once you open up this inspirational true story, you won't be able to put it down.
Mark Goodwin
Apr 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It is incredible what Byrd put himself through. Faced death on many occasions while alone in the world`s most danger weather observation post - temperatures that sometimes went into the -70s . A definite worth-while read and shows what endurance man is capable of and that most of us don't even challenge ourselves to the limits that we are capable of. ...more
Clay Davis
Apr 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Some of the scenes reminded of the movie Interstellar.
Ethan Everett
Jul 23, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

I read an abridged version of this in readers digest about 40 years ago. This is a good story. I think I'll stick with the shorter/abridged version
Nov 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fantastic book about a man who spent six months in the meteorological base on Antarctica, alone. He had to fight the never ending darkness, the equipment, the cold, the solitude and later; his own sickness.
What fascinated me about this book is that in many ways reads like a SF novel. Byrd is almost like an astronaut stranded on a remote and inhospitable planet, waiting for his crew to come and rescue him. And even though I knew that he was gonna be okay, there were still some great moments of
Lora Shouse
Mar 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the story of Admiral Byrd’s second expedition to Antarctica in 1934. During this trip he spent several months alone at an advance outpost to study weather and observe the Aurora Australis. This was during the polar night.

Of course, the cold of the Antarctic winter was brutal. The temperature most of the time was around -50 degrees Fahrenheit, and on some occasions, it got below eighty below. The sleeping bag he was using must have been phenomenal to keep him warm in such conditions.

But t
Jan 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is really about half a man's physical experience; and half of his psychological experience. Each of these halves are equally intriguing, and feed off one another meshing into a complete picture of what he went through in his own words.
The book will at many times take a break from the overall narration to display a passage, or two, of his journal; illuminating his physical and mental state at the time. This provides a contrast from his thoughts and feelings during the situation, compare
Apr 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A relatively quick read and very interesting even though I was worried I wouldn't like the book's story (it was a gift). The afterword was a welcome addition which helps provide some historical context and insight after the tale had ended.

I think it was interesting timing that I read this given what is going on in the world right now with Covid-19. In particular, this account of the author being alone in the Antarctic had a few passages that seemed very relevant to today.

eg: being solo and trap
Jonathan Morrow
Aug 20, 2020 rated it liked it
This is an interesting book, but only if you place it into context. The writing is ok but not great. The story itself is a bit lackluster. What makes it worth reading to me is the fact that the author is the famous explorer Richard Byrd, the year is 1934, and the setting is the absolutely insane idea he had of essentially camping alone in Antarctica for the duration of the Antarctic winter. He has a very WASPy mindset that puts himself and pretty much everyone he says he cares about into mortal ...more
Apr 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Gwendolyn Miner
Mar 11, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First, I loved the midnight-blue typeface of this edition.

I enjoyed reading about Byrd's early sense that something was wrong. He was trying to figure out if it was a mental or a physical affliction. I also enjoyed his descriptions of the winter night sky. He doesn't examine it deeply, but it was also interesting to read about how he wouldn't tell the base that he had a problem, but they sensed it, and they wouldn't tell him they suspected he had a problem.
I understand both sides, but fascinatin
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