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The Worst Journey in the World

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The Worst Journey in the World recounts Robert Falcon Scott's ill-fated expedition to the South Pole. Apsley Cherry-Garrard, the youngest member of Scott's team and one of three men to make and survive the notorious Winter Journey, draws on his firsthand experiences as well as the diaries of his compatriots to create a stirring and detailed account of Scott's legendary expedition. Cherry himself would be among the search party that discovered the corpses of Scott and his men, who had long since perished from starvation and brutal cold. It is through Cherry's insightful narrative and keen descriptions that Scott and the other members of the expedition are fully memorialized.

640 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1922

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About the author

Apsley Cherry-Garrard

16 books44 followers
Apsley George Benet Cherry-Garrard was an English explorer of Antarctica. He was a member of the British Antarctic Expedition to Antarctica (1910-1913) led by Robert Scott and is acclaimed for his account of this expedition, The Worst Journey in the World.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 632 reviews
Profile Image for Buck.
158 reviews866 followers
May 12, 2009
Never again. Never again will I complain. About anything. The sufferings heaped on the members of Scott’s second polar expedition make the ordinary misfortunes of modern life –- the fender-benders, hangovers and breakups –- seem like pleasant diversions. There are passages in this amazing memoir where the reader, appalled, begins to suspect that these men were collaborating on a metaphysically refined form of self-destruction.

Apsley Cherry-Gerrard –- and let me say now what a wonderfully plummy name that is, worthy of some mad squire in a Waugh novel -– was, at twenty-four, the baby of the expedition. Passed over for the doomed ‘Southern Journey’ to the pole, he survived and made it back to England. Years later, at the suggestion of his neighbour, George Bernard Shaw, he put together an account of his experiences, calling it, with good reason, The Worst Journey in the World.

Actually, the titular journey is not the famous ‘dash’ to the pole, but rather an earlier sub-expedition Cherry took part in: a hellish five-week slog through the permanent darkness of an Antarctic winter. This has got to be, without question, one of the most whacked, ape-shit schemes in the history of exploration. A few random details: temperatures so low that sweat would freeze the instant it emerged from the pores; frostbitten flesh that would break out in horrid, suppurating blisters, the very pus of which would itself freeze in turn; agonizing eight hour marches that would cover barely a mile, at the end of which Cherry and his two companions would spend an hour thawing out their sleeping bags so they could burrow into them, only to shake and thrash uncontrollably for the rest of the night. Oh, and here’s a nice touch: Cherry’s teeth spontaneously shattered in the -75 degree air. After a few days of this, it occurred to them that they were all going to die in that howling void. Cherry, at least, welcomed the idea:

I for one had come to that point of suffering at which I did not really care if only I could die without much pain. They talk of the heroism of the dying – they little know – it would be so easy to die, a dose of morphia, a friendly crevasse, and blissful sleep. The trouble is to go on…

But I haven’t even told you the truly ape-shit part yet. The ape-shit part is why they did it, the goal of the journey. What, then, could have prompted three otherwise sane men to VOLUNTEER for five weeks of continuous torture? Penguin eggs. That’s right – they were looking for penguin eggs.

The narrative of the ‘Winter Journey’ takes up only about 70 pages – or slightly more than a tenth of the book’s total length – but it’s clearly the emotional core of the story. Whereas much of the other material is slapdash and filled out with excerpts from other members’ letters and diaries, here Cherry is speaking in propria persona the whole time. Not a professional writer himself, and repeatedly cautioning that the horrors he endured are indescribable, he nevertheless gets across some of the – for lack of a better word - existential brutality of the journey:

We were very silent, it was not easy to talk: but sledging is always a silent business. I remember a long discussion which began just now about cold snaps…what constituted a cold snap? The discussion lasted about a week. Do things slowly, always slowly, was the burden of Wilson’s leadership: and every now and then the question, Shall we go on? and the answer Yes.

It almost sounds like Beckett, doesn’t it?

A funny thing about The Worst Journey… For the longest time as I read, I had the nagging sense that something was missing; some hovering absence dogged the text, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Then it hit me: irony. There’s no irony here. Cherry may have died only twenty years or so before I was born, but the world he represents is as different from my own as feudal Japan. He belonged to the last western generation capable of living unironically. Maybe that was his tragedy (his later life was rather sad and haunted) and the tragedy of the whole expedition.

Our tragedy is – irony won’t get you to the Pole.

Profile Image for Beverly.
774 reviews266 followers
February 1, 2018
Written by one of Scott's men on his last fatal expedition to the South Pole, Worst Journey was written by one of the youngest men on his team and one of the most stouthearted. Cherry-Garrard went on the Winter Journey trip during the expedition to collect bird eggs. His story would have been horrific enough without the tragic end of Scott and several of his best and true friends later on. Cherry-Garrard was one of the team members who eventually found his leader and the others dead.

Favorite quotes from the book, "It is really not desirable for men who do not believe that knowledge is of value for its own sake to take up this kind of life."
Also, "Yes! comfortable, warm reader. Men do not fear death, they fear the pain of dying."
It brought me to tears when he was talking about his friends who died, especially Wilson and Bowers. No wonder that National Geographic has it at the top, number one, of their 100 greatest adventure books of all time.
Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,162 reviews9,031 followers
July 19, 2017
An interim review on the subject of DOGS and PONIES, creatures absolutely vital to any polar expedition in 1910. (They called them ponies, they were actually small Manchurian horses.) This is what happened to working animals, sometimes.

The voyage from England to Antarctica via South Africa and New Zealand lasted five weeks. They took 19 ponies and 33 dogs.

The ponies and the dogs were the first consideration. Even in quite ordinary weather the dogs had a wretched time.

They are chained up in various places on the top deck where they get lashed by every wave which breaks over the ship…

The dogs sit with their tails to this invading water, their coats wet and dripping. It is a pathetic attitude deeply significant of cold and misery; occasionally some poor beast emits a long pathetic whine.

As for the ponies

Under the forecastle fifteen ponies side by side, heads together, swaying, swaying continually to the plunging, irregular motion… a row of heads with sad, patient eyes… it seems a terrible ordeal for these poor beasts to stand this day after day for weeks together

Then during a fierce storm

The unfortunate ponies – though under cover – were so jerked about that they could not keep their feet in the stalls… the morning saw the death of one. The dogs, made fast on deck, were washed to and fro, chained by the neck, and often submerged for a considerable time…

Occasionally a heavy sea would bear one of them away, and he was only saved by his chain. Meares with some helpers had constantly to be rescuing these wretched creatures from hanging… one was washed away with such force that his chain broke and he disappeared overboard; the next wave washed him back on board again … if Dante had seen our ship as she was at her worst, I fancy he would have got a good idea for another Circle of Hell

When finally they land on the continent of Antarctica

The ponies were the real problem. It was to be expected that they would be helpless and exhausted after their long and trying voyage. Not a bit of it! They were soon rolling about, biting one another, kicking one another, and anyone else, with the best will in the world. After two days’ rest on shore, twelve of them were thought fit to do one journey, on which they pulled loads from 700 to 1000 pounds with ease.

On their inland trek towards the South Pole each pony has a specific carer, and Scott teaches his men to build a sheltering wall at night for each pony. The men seem to really love these beasts. They all have names, like Uncle Bill or Weary Willie, and they take a pride and joy in looking after them.

Every night on camping each pony leader built a wall behind his pony while his pemmican was cooking, and came out after supper to finish this wall before he turned in to his sleeping-bag – no small thing when you consider the warmth of your hours of rest depends largely upon your getting into your bag immediately after you have eaten your hoosh and cocoa. And not seldom you might hear a voice in your dreams : “Bill! Nobby’s kicked his wall down”; and out Bill would go to build it up again.

So how jarring – how bewildering, almost incomprehensible – is it then for a modern reader to read the very next sentence :

Oates wished to take certain of the ponies as far south as possible and then to kill them and leave the meat there as a depot of dog food for the Polar Journey.

The severe practicalities of survival in an extreme environment allowed sentimental attachment to be able to be jettisoned as soon as required. I think the whole tale of these dogs and ponies on this terrible journey leaves a modern reader fairly shaken.
Profile Image for Bettie.
9,988 reviews15 followers
September 2, 2017


Description: As Apsley Cherry-Garrard states in his introduction to the harrowing story of the Scott expedition to the South Pole, "Polar Exploration is at once the cleanest and most isolated way of having a bad time which has been devised." Cherry-Garrard's The Worst Journey in the World is a gripping account of an expedition gone disastrously wrong. The youngest member of Scott's team, the author was later part of the rescue party that eventually found the frozen bodies of Scott and three men who had accompanied Scott on the final push to the Pole. These deaths would haunt Cherry-Garrard for the rest of his life as he questioned the decisions he had made and the actions he had taken in the days leading up to the Polar Party's demise.

Prior to this sad denouement, Cherry-Garrard's account is filled with details of scientific discovery and anecdotes of human resilience in a harsh environment. Each participant in the Scott expedition is brought fully to life. Cherry-Garrard's recollections are supported by diary excerpts and accounts from other teammates. Despite the sad fate of Scott, the reader will grudgingly agree with the closing words of The Worst Journey in the World: "Exploration is the physical expression of the Intellectual Passion. And I tell you, if you have the desire for knowledge and the power to give it physical expression, go out and explore.... If you march your Winter Journeys you will have your reward, so long as all you want is a penguin's egg."

Apsley Cherry-Garrard's gripping account of his experiences as the youngest member of Captain Scott's polar expedition team, adapted by Stef Penney.

In the austerely beautiful icescapes of Antarctica, things go disastrously wrong.

Apsley Cherry-Garrard ...... Matt Green
Captain Robert Falcon Scott ...... John McAndrew
Dr Atkinson ...... Carl Prekopp
Captain Oates ...... Mark Meadows
Lieutenant Bowers ...... Peter Callaghan
Charles Wright ...... Simon Lee Phillips
Dr Edward Wilson ...... Richard Mitchley
PO Tom Crean ...... Jack Reynolds
Taff Evans ...... Huw Davies

Specially composed music by Will Gregory of Goldfrapp, orchestrated by Ian Gardiner and performed by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, conducted by Grant Llewellyn.
Profile Image for Fiona.
806 reviews421 followers
January 2, 2018
Apsley Cherry-Garrard’s ‘worst journey in the world’ is not Scott’s journey to the South Pole. I was surprised by that. It was the journey he made to Cape Crozier, with Bowers and Wilson of the ill fated polar team, in search of Emperor penguin embryos. It’s hard to believe that they were amongst the first men to see Emperor penguins and that they were prepared to risk their lives, and very nearly lost them, in the interests of furthering scientific knowledge of the penguins’ place in evolution.

Scott’s journey to the South Pole, in the hope of being first there and claiming it for his king and country, was simply bait to acquire funding for scientific exploration. Amongst the men in his party were highly respected scientists keen to further their and the world’s knowledge of the origins of the planet, a new continent’s natural life, meteorology and so on, and they succeeded in doing so. The race to the Pole was always of secondary importance but had to be done to justify the backing Scott had received. That they were beaten to the Pole by Amundsen and that all five men who completed the last leg of the journey to the Pole died on the return journey is the lasting memory, however.

I hadn’t considered what happened after Scott and his men died. Back at base, an impossible decision had to be made. Would they try to rescue Campbell and his men who had been marooned further west whilst conducting scientific research, or would they try to find the bodies of those who had perished, knowing that this must have been their fate? Should they try to rescue men who may still be alive or those who definitely were not? After a difficult debate, the vote was overwhelmingly for recovering the bodies as Campbell, if he and his team had survived, could try to make it back to base themselves. If they couldn’t, chances were the journey to rescue them would also be impossible.

C-G doesn’t dwell too much on the finding of Scott’s last camp. His account was written ten years afterwards but it’s clearly still too painful a memory for him and understandably so. The last chapter consists of his reflections and he is clearly angry with those who blamed Scott for making mistakes which led to the loss of life. Again and again, he returns to the defence of the planning process, saying that it could not have been planned any differently at the time and those judging in hindsight should not claim the moral high ground.

This is an exhausting book. At times, there is just too much detail about the minutiae of daily life, interesting though that is, and of the readings taken daily whether travelling or living in a camp. The fate of many of the animals, dogs, ponies, penguins and seals, is difficult to read about and the men themselves regretted the suffering they experienced, particularly the dogs and ponies with whom they had bonded and on which they had relied so heavily. Overall, however, it is a fantastic account of the whole journey from sailing to the Antarctic to the return home three years later. When the remaining men reached New Zealand, they were astounded by the public mourning for Scott and his men, and would be astounded still if they knew we are still fascinated by their journey. Perhaps they would also be disappointed in the overshadowing of their many achievements by the public fascination with Scott’s heroism and his terrible death.

Recommended to everyone with a fascination for the Antarctic and its exploration. Unquestionably 5 stars.
Profile Image for Lisa.
1,133 reviews62 followers
July 13, 2011
He wasn't lying with that title, but what's missed out is that it's perhaps the most incredible journey too, as well as one of the most incredible books I've ever read (if I could give this 10 stars it wouldn't be enough).

Concerning Scott's last expedition to the Antarctic of which I previously knew woefully little (even though he's a hometown boy), I no longer have to lament that fact thanks to this most comprehensive and compelling account by Apsley Cherry-Garrard who, at 24, was a member of the expedition (though not of the last dash to the pole) and made it back to tell the tale. Painstakingly compiled from not only Garrard's diaries and remembrances but also through those of the other men, from letters home and the many, meticulous records of the journey (it chiefly having a scientific object), Garrard fully presses home the ideal that these men strove to uphold even in the face of certain death - to shine a little light on the darkest, most inhospitable corners of the world and bring forth a little more knowledge, laying a foundation for those who came after to build upon.

Garrard does a truly fantastic job of immersing you in his material, not only giving you all of the detail surrounding the expedition down to temperatures, wind directions, logistics, etc but also painting a vivid picture of their lives there. Alongside the hardships there are moments of wonder and joy; in the beauty of their surroundings, of their discoveries and studies and in the way Garrard writes of the personalities of the animals and men (I adored the indomitable Bowers as, clearly, did Garrard). Sitting alongside is unhistrionic documentation of the most unimaginably inhospitable environments and acts of incredible endurance, bravery and generosity that I don't think I'll be ever able to forget (Crean's solitary journey of 35 miles, on foot and with no equipment, to raise help for a dying man, completely awes me). Waking afloat on a patch of floating sea ice, teeth splitting due to the cold, frostbite, hourly drops into crevasses and the terrible blindness of blizzards are just some of the other horrors within. I can't even begin to imagine what a temperature of -75 feels like, but if I ever whinge at a festival that my clothes are damp again, you have my permission to slap me.

We all know now became of Scott's last Polar Journey and it's very easy to look at it with the benefit of hindsight and point out mistakes. I spent quite a lot of time cursing the horrific distances between depots and Garrard, in his stated aim of passing on knowledge to future explorers, is forthcoming about the many shortcomings and miscalculations as well as the plain rotten luck experienced by the party. Having read this now, and feeling like I've come through the journey with them, I find it hard to condemn any of the actions within and am instead struck with a feeling of awe at what was accomplished and endured, and what a debt we owe to all of the people who have gone out and discovered all of the wonderful things we know about the world.
Profile Image for Laura.
6,827 reviews551 followers
November 27, 2015
Free download available at Project Gutenberg.

From BBC Radio 4 - Classical Serial:
Apsley Cherry-Garrard's gripping account of his experiences as the youngest member of Captain Scott's polar expedition team, adapted by Stef Penney.

1/2: In the austerely beautiful ices capes of Antarctica, things go disastrously wrong.

2/2: After two months of hard marching, Scott must tell four of the surviving twelve men that they must turn back.

Apsley Cherry-Garrard ...... Matt Green
Captain Robert Falcon Scott ...... John McAndrew
Dr Atkinson ...... Carl Prekopp
Captain Oates ...... Mark Meadows
Lieutenant Bowers ...... Peter Callaghan
Charles Wright ...... Simon Lee Phillips
Dr Edward Wilson ...... Richard Mitchley
PO Tom Crean ...... Jack Reynolds
Taff Evans ...... Huw Davies

Specially composed music by Will Gregory of Goldfrapp, orchestrated by Ian Gardiner and performed by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, conducted by Grant Llewellyn.

Directed by Kate McAll.

Profile Image for Krista.
1,333 reviews494 followers
February 20, 2022
Antarctic exploration is seldom as bad as you imagine, seldom as bad as it sounds. But this journey had beggared our language: no words could express its horror.

Originally released in 1922, The Worst Journey in the World is a contemporaneous account of Captain Robert Falcon Scott's ill-fated Antarctic Expedition of 1910-13, as written by Apsley Cherry-Garrard: Scott's second youngest team member (twenty-four at the time of sailing) who would go on to serve England admirably in the First World War and spend the rest of his life suffering trauma, depression, and PTSD. Because this book was written during the peak days of polar exploration, Cherry-Garrard includes both thrilling adventure tales (in wry, evocative prose) and scientific data points (latitudes reached over how many miles, wind speeds, minimum temps and maximum drift), and while I much preferred the former to the latter, I appreciate that the author was writing for both the armchair adventurer and they who might be planning polar treks of their own; he could have written this no other way. I loved every minute of this long, dense read. (I should also note: My edition has a hundred pages of introductory information about Cherry-Garrard's life, not counted in the volume's 600 pages, and while I thoroughly appreciated the context this gave to me, it felt a bit frustrating to read for hours and not feel like I had started the actual book.)

I have seen Fuji, the most dainty and graceful of all mountains; and also Kinchinjunga: only Michael Angelo among men could have conceived such grandeur. But give me Erebus for my friend. Whoever made Erebus knew all the charm of horizontal lines, and the lines of Erebus are for the most part nearer the horizontal then the vertical. And so he is the most restful mountain in the world, and I was glad when I knew that our hut would lie at his feet. And always there floated from his crater the lazy banner of his cloud of steam.

There's so much I could recount about the details of this expedition (even the last leg of the sailing out from New Zealand – with ponies and dogs tied up on deck in harsh, high seas; the dogs washed overboard to the end of their chains and then swept back on the next wave – seems incredible before they ever set foot on the Antarctic continent), but the details are too numerous for a summary to do this tale justice; it must be read in whole. I will note that one of Cherry-Garrard's primary objectives seems to have been to humanize the five expedition members who lost their lives on the Polar Journey itself, and especially to confront and correct any criticism that Captain Scott had publicly suffered in the decade since he had lost his life. Describing the daily labours in camp or on sledge runs, Cherry-Garrard describes each man around him as a “brick”; hard-working and cheerful; every man capable of good humour and selflessness in the darkest times, open to friendly debates and singsongs and bonhomie. Of Scott he writes:

He will go down to history as the Englishman who conquered the South Pole and who died as fine a death as any man has had the honour to die. His triumphs are many – but the Pole was not by any means the greatest of them. Surely the greatest was that by which he conquered his weaker self, and became the strong leader whom we went to follow and came to love.

And of the two men, Edward Wilson and Henry Bowers, who accompanied Cherry-Garrard on the Winter Journey (the actual “worst journey in the world” of the title), he writes:

In civilization men are taken at their own valuation because there are so many ways of concealment, and there is so little time, perhaps even so little understanding. Not so down South. These two men went through the Winter Journey and lived; later they went through the Polar Journey and died. They were gold, pure, shining, unalloyed. Words cannot express how good their companionship was.

And so to the Winter Journey: Wilson – the chief scientific officer of the expedition, who had accompanied Scott on his earlier quest for the South Pole (1901-04) – had discovered the Emperor Penguins' remote breeding grounds on that earlier expedition and believed that if they could secure some unhatched eggs (which are laid in the dead of winter), much could be learned about the evolution of early birds from reptiles. And so these three men, in the total darkness of a polar winter, in the unprecedentedly cold temperatures of −40 to −77.5 °F, pulled their sledge over unlevel ground and unseen crevasses, for a hundred kilometres in each direction. The cold, the wet, the frozen solid fur sleeping bags that would take an hour to squirm into each night (and which were so cold that one's back felt like it would break from night-long convulsive shivering), the exhausting march, the winds, the dangers – the entire tale is harrowing. In the end, they were able to make one brief trip to the rookery and brought back three unbroken eggs.

The horror of the nineteen days it took us to travel from Cape Evans to Cape Crozier would have to be re-experienced to be appreciated; and any one would be a fool who went again: it is not possible to describe it. The weeks which followed them were comparative bliss, not because later our conditions were better – they were far worse – but because we were callous. I for one had come to that point of suffering at which I did not really care if only I could die without much pain. They talk of the heroism of dying – they little know – it would be so easy to die, a dose of morphia, a friendly crevasse, and blissful sleep. The trouble is to go on...

There is then a brief humourous interlude (made more pitiable and ironic by the knowledge that Wilson and Bowers eventually die on the Polar Journey) in which Cherry-Garrard describes the indifference with which the Chief Custodian of the Natural History Museum in South Kensington will accept his offering of Emperor Penguin eggs. (Indeed, Cherry-Garrard would return some time later with Captain Scott's sister to see these eggs and they were told that there was no record of their existence!) The eggs would eventually be recovered and studied, and according to Professor Cossar Ewart of Edinburgh University's report:

If the conclusions arrived at with the help of the Emperor Penguin embryos about the origin of feathers are justified, the worst journey in the world in the interest of science was not made in vain.

So, there's that. Near the end, Cherry-Garrard has some comments about the fact that Roald Amundsen's team beat Scott to the South Pole by five weeks. There's a hint of criticism about Amundsen's show of poor sportsmanship (apparently Amundsen had announced he was embarking on a trip to the North Pole but turned his ship at sea and sneakily reached Antarctica just ahead of Scott), and Cherry-Garrard stresses repeatedly that making a journey to the Pole was secondary to the scientific survey Scott's team was doing for the advancement of global knowledge, but still, it must have been galling for Scott to fight his way, man-hauling sledges, to reach the Pole and find Amundsen's and Norway's flags planted there. (There was also found there a letter written to the King of Norway with a note from Amundsen asking Scott to mail it for him: was this an ungentlemanly way of demanding that Scott prove he made it to the Pole while also publicly proving that Amundsen made it there first?) On the other hand, Cherry-Garrard writes that if one's sole objective is to make it to the Pole, all credit should be given to the new route that Amundsen discovered, and he also backhandedly praises Amundsen's use of some 250 dogs – surplus dogs brought along to feed the working dog teams – that meant Amundsen could swiftly and comfortably ride on a sled in each direction, never once doing the back-breaking sledge-hauling that Scott et al. engaged in (hard labour which, coupled with an inadequate diet, eventually killed them).

I was fascinated by this narrative and Cherry-Garrard's writing was consistently evocative and well-phrased. The tone was also often wry and gently humourous:

Dog-driving is the devil! Before I started, my language would not have shamed a Sunday School, and now – if it was not Sunday I would tell you more about it!

I loved the whole of it.
Profile Image for Quo.
276 reviews
July 24, 2020
The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley George Benet Cherry-Garrard is his account of the 1910-13 Terra Nova British Antarctic Expedition, made when the author was 24. Initially rejected as being unqualified because he lacked a needed background in science, Cherry-Garrard, who had read classics, studying Latin & Greek at Oxford, was eventually chosen as an "assistant zoologist" when he guaranteed a substantial amount (£100, the equivalent of $130,000 in U.S. currency today) to help fund the expedition. He had also been recommended by Edward Wilson, M.D., a close associate of the expedition's leader, Robert Falcon Scott.

The tale begins:
Polar exploration is at once the cleanest & most isolated way of having a bad time which has been devised. It is the only form of adventure in which you put on your clothes at Michaelmas (Sept. 29th) & keep them on until Christmas, & save for a layer of natural body grease, find them as clean as when they were new. It is more lonely than London, more secluded than a monastery & the post office comes but once a year.

Compared to Antarctica, the hardships of France, Palestine, Mesopotamia or WWI trenches were a comparative picnic. Until someone can evolve a better standard of endurance, I am unable to see how anything can be done to compare with it. All in all, I do not believe anyone on earth has a worse time than an Emperor Penguin.
Cherry-Garrard goes on to point out the many rigors of life on such an expedition, among them the interpersonal squabbles (called "cags") inherent with keeping vigorous men of different temperaments in close quarters for an extended period of time, working in the midst of blinding blizzards, the long days without sun, the boring nature of the food when mealtime stands as the highlight of the day, rashes & infections that seemed to routinely occur and a lingering sense of boredom, with only sleep offering "a certain numbed pleasure."

Occasionally, a dessert involving tinned peaches with accompanying juice seemed a hint of paradise and an on-board gramophone with classical & other records brought an extreme sense of comforting nostalgia for "civilization". Many of the men did read books by Dickens, Thackeray, Browning, Hardy & Charlotte Brontë, while one of Cherry-Garrard's favorite books was Rudyard Kipling's novel, Kim. A few read the King James Bible or updated a journal, while others played chess or backgammon but card games were not in vogue even though there were decks of cards available.

The author spends considerable time discussing the character of the expedition leader, Robert Falcon Scott. His commentary on Scott seems at times curiously descriptive, painting him as often subject to deep depression, hardly the stuff of a legendary British hero:
England knows Scott as a hero; she has little idea of him as a man. He was certainly the most dominating character in our not uninteresting community. But few who knew him realized how shy & reserved the man was; it was partly for this reason that he so often laid himself open to misunderstanding.

Add to this that he was femininely sensitive to a degree that might be considered a fault & it will be clear that leadership to such a man may almost be considered martyrdom & the confidence so necessary between leader & followers, becomes itself more difficult. Scott was not a very strong man physically & temperamentally he was a weak man who might very easily have become an autocrat. He had moods & depression which might last for weeks.

However, what pulled Scott through was character, sheer good grain, which ran over & under & through his weaker self and clamped it together. And not withstanding the immense fits of depression which attacked him, Scott was the strongest combination of a strong mind in a strong body I have ever known! Practically speaking, he was a conquest of himself. And, he will go down in history as the Englishman who conquered the South Pole & who died as fine a death as any man has the honour to die.
As most readers are aware, the expedition did not achieve all that it had set out to do, being bested in reaching the South Pole by Amundsen's Norwegian expedition by a matter of weeks, though considerable research was performed. Beyond that, Scott, Dr. Edward Wilson & Henry Bowers, encountering overwhelming blizzards, eventually ran out of fuel & food en route back to base camp from the South Pole & died in their tents.

Another member of their small South Pole team by the name of Capt. Lawrence Oates, in the midst of dwindling supplies, felt it necessary to help the remaining trio by sacrificing himself for the good of his mates, wandering off into a blizzard, his last words being: "I am just going outside & may be some time". His remains were never found but those of the other three were eventually located in their tent, collapsed under the weight of snow, found along with their journals, very touching letters to loved ones & personal effects, with Cherry-Garrard part of the team that went in search of them, as amply detailed in The Worst Journey in the World.

I very much enjoyed the quality of Cherry-Garrard's prose, including a comment encapsulating the expedition:
Other things being equal, the men with the greatest store of nervous energy came through best. Having more imagination, they have a worse time than their more phlegmatic companions but they get things done. And when worst comes to worst, their strength of mind triumphed over their weakness of body. If you want a good polar traveler, get a man without too much muscle & with a good physical tone and let his mind be on wires--of steel. And if you can't get both, sacrifice physique and bank on will!
Without question, The Worst Journey in the World is one of the more memorable adventure tales I've encountered, though I much preferred reading Alfred Lansing's account of the Shackleton-led Antarctic expedition, Endurance. Meanwhile, the stature of expedition leader Scott has diminished somewhat over time, particularly when reckoned with that of Ernest Shackleton.

But let's permit R.F. Scott a few last words: Had we lived, I should have had a tale to tell of the hardihood, endurance & courage of my companions which would have stirred the heart of every Englishman. Instead, these rough notes & our bodies must tell the tale.

*Photo images within my review: #1-the author, Apsley Cherry-Garrard; #2-Robert Falcon Scott; #3-Scott & those who perished with him after reaching the South Pole.
Profile Image for Tom Stallard.
40 reviews1 follower
January 16, 2011
This is, quite simply, my desert island book. No other book encapsulates the message of hope in amoungst utter futility quite as perfectly as this. Describing the adventures of the Scott expedition, for all its joy and folly, based on the jaded observations of a man who went filled with hope and expectation and looks back at an older, more cynical age. As a travel diary, it has no comparison: this truly was a journey into the heart of darkness. While the famous Scott expedition to the pole is covered in detail, this is not the eponymous worst journey. That journey, taken by Cherry-Gerrard and two other who were later to die on the pole attempt, was months of crawling in utter darkness, all in the name of science. That one chapter is my favourite piece of writing of all time. It covers all emotions from the depths of despair to the awakenings of lost hope. It is, quite simply, utterly stunning to read.
Profile Image for Leftbanker.
770 reviews280 followers
February 11, 2009
Read this book and you'll never bitch about stuff like not having enough towels in your hotel room or an over-cooked steak you were served at a restaurant in Paris. Yet another story that makes the modern man relize that there are no more worlds to discover. Polar exploration was just about the last of the travels into the unknown. I don't count space exploration because for that you need an entire country's economy behind you. Now any knob can circle the world with only a credit card. Sic transit gloria mundi.
Profile Image for Kay.
1,004 reviews172 followers
January 10, 2018
I think I would have quite enjoyed a condensed version of this book, minus the two very long (and fairly useless) introductions, the slog of endless details ( multiple daily temperature readings, accounts of meals, miles logged, weather and sledging surface notes, other record-keeping minutia), and, most importantly the repeated paeans to Cherry's fellow explorers, who, we are repeatedly told, were endowed with marvelous temperaments and almost never complained and were eternally cheerful under even the worst conditions.

A skillful editor could cut to the chase in around 200-300 pages and even add in some useful maps , footnotes, and photos to make matters clearer. (Try as I might, I never could quite understand some of the details regarding sledging routes, various snow/ice surfaces, and so on.)

As it was, I felt somewhat an ingrate for not having gotten more out of what was clearly a labor of love and duty, not to mention perhaps a kind of cathartic process for Cherry. One does tend to over praise overly long books, such is the sense of relief upon completing them, but upon finishing this 600-page behemoth, really all I could think was, "I wish Reader's Digest had had a whack at it."
Profile Image for Betawolf.
372 reviews1,472 followers
January 26, 2022
The early, 'easy' part of this narrative, the voyage south from Cardiff to New Zealand, which had been accomplished many times before, and which Cherry-Garrard discussed in thoroughly upbeat terms, would be considered by any modern standard to be a hellish trial of suffocating heat, sleep deprivation, bodily danger and raging storms. It is quickly made quite evident that these explorers are no ordinary men, and while they are certainly curious and obsessive in their data collection, to view them as scientists in terms of the modern archetype is to vastly underestimate how physically fit and totally bonkers they all were.

Perhaps nothing better exemplifies events than the Winter Journey. To explain: the expedition involved a number of distinct journeys for logistical and scientific purposes, on top of (and in preparation for) the famed attempt to reach the South Pole. The motive for the Winter Journey was that it was thought it might possibly be useful to have some embryos of Emperor penguins for study. For this purpose, the author and two other expedition members set out on a five week-long journey through the Antarctic winter. Recall that in the polar winter, the sun does not rise, so the three men walked alone through perpetual night, pulling two 9-foot sledges with all their supplies.

The temperatures on the Winter Journey dipped as low as -60 degrees C. In practical terms this meant that if they breathed near a piece of paper it became impossible to write upon it due to the film of ice that appeared. The author could not wear his spectacles because to touch skin to metal was to get frostbite. Two members of the team got frostbite on their feet nearly every day. The author got frostbite on his fingers and then the pus in his blisters froze solid. It was often too cold to pull both sledges together (being impossible to unstick them both from the ground), so they had to relay, walking three miles for every 1 1/2 mile of progress. The inside of their tent was coated with ice. The insides of their sleeping bags were coated in ice, and climbing into them at night meant seven hours of torture ahead as their body-heat slowly thawed the ice and drenched them in cold water, so they emerged shivering and wet in the dark 'morning'. Their clothes became frozen boards that required all three members of the expedition to batter closed around a man, and they could scarce bend or turn at all. It was so cold that their teeth split in their mouths. Cherry-Garrard heaps scorn upon men who after sleeping in warm, dry beds and putting on dry clothes go for a walk for some minutes in -50 degrees and declare it no hard thing, but agrees: they were often glad when it got as a warm as the negative fifties.

When walking, progress was achieved by continually falling into crevasses in the ice and levering themselves back up. When you step into a crevasse you might sink a foot or you might fall into a chasm that goes down deeper than you can see, dangling at the end of your sledge harness until your companions can lower a rope to help you pull yourself up. You do this several times a day. Once the party reached their objective and built an igloo to camp in, an earth-rending gale blew the roof off, not by pulling it loose but by shearing the frozen material itself. Only the most amazing luck saw them later recover the tent that they needed to return. The author reports not only being convinced that he would die, but fairly wishing for it, and you quite understand that this is no idle sentiment. It is incredible that all three of them survived the trip and returned back to the main party with the three penguin eggs they had gone for; you would not believe that the human body can survive such an ordeal, and especially not that these men would soon set out again on another sledging journey. The author, the only one of those three on the Winter Journey who would survive the whole expedition and return to Britain, describes surreally the scene when he attempted to deliver these hard-won eggs for study at the Natural History Museum, couldn't get anyone's attention, and then finally the eggs were accepted with a shrug of dismissal.

It's not all about the story. Cherry-Garrard writes some amazing, engrossing images. The Terra Nova cresting one great wave, seeing another just as high approaching, the valley between a mile wide. The comic Adelie penguins rushing excitedly to inspect the strange ship moving through their pack-ice, hopping from floe to floe like children. The crew baling out the ship with three buckets after the pumps clog, working stripped to the skin as they are constantly doused in south polar sea. The harsh beauty of the polar scenes, bathed in fantastic colour from the sky. Mount Erebus erupting a tongue of flame into the Antarctic winter night.

There's a lot in this book, from the real sense that comes through of the mission as a primarily scientific endeavour to the heartache the men suffered over the animals in their care, the physical heroism of the man-hauled marches, the tight atmosphere as hope for the polar party's return vanished. It will suffer rereading well, I think.
Profile Image for Jakub.
40 reviews8 followers
March 19, 2017
This book has a number of problems. From minor to major:

- It has an insane amount of introductory text
- It is self-consciously written as an epitaph to all the dead expedition members
- It's overly detailed and full of information that is almost completely irrelevant and uninteresting to the modern reader

This book has two introductions and a foreward, totalling almost 100 pages. I didn't feel that these pages were necessary or added much to my enjoyment of the text. At best they should be skimmed, but in a pinch they can be skipped entirely. So there go 100 pages of this 700 page book...

Another huge chunk of this book is given to hagiographies of every single expedition member. The book goes on and on about how amazing everyone was, how well they got along, how swimmingly it all went. They were just amazing men in a terrible environment who were beset with bad luck and weather. It seems that, for an expedition that failed in almost every respect, you would expect more mention of the mistakes that were made. However, Apsley's survivor's guilt is compounded by his Britishness, and so everyone is just a fantastic gentleman and a great friend and they all got along swimmingly and a good portion of them died terribly and oh by the way so did all of the animals they dragged down there. So not only do you have to slog through all of the glowing praise of every single expedition member, again struggling to care, but you do it with the knowledge that these men made enormous mistakes at multiple points in the journey, and yet you can find little to no mention of these mistakes!

Back on the subject of length, this book originally started as a bureaucratic report (more or less), and it shows. Apsley is obviously trying to be as detailed as possible, in the hope that their (mostly disastrous) experiences might help future expeditions. He also goes into a lot of detail about the scientific observations that the group made. Here's the problem: almost none of this is relevant any more. Wool vs animal hide outerwear for dog sledding? The (now debunked) recapitulation theory of embryology? The exact temperature observed of every damn day and where they were? The lessons learned from bringing Mongolian ponies to Antarctica?I found that my eyes would keep going down the page, but my mind would wander, and when I realized I wasn't actually reading any more I couldn't even make the case for going back and re-reading what I'd missed. The only thing I can imagine that is more boring and tedious than man-hauling sledges through hip-deep snow at a rate of 1 mile per day is reading about someone else doing it!

Also, because the book strives to be so comprehensive, it pulls a lot from accounts written by other expedition members, which doesn't help. When Apsley is writing about his own experiences, you can see that he's a great writer. He manages to be poetic and literary while also driving home the human experience of what he went through. I wish more of this book were made up of his own personal account, and less of the minutiae of the expedition and words of other, lesser, writers.

My advice for you if you do decide to read this book: at the very least, skip the 95 pages (!) of introductory text. Better yet, read only Chapter 7: The Winter Journey. That is "The Worst Journey in the World", written entirely from Apsley's own experiences, and it was fantastic reading. It's responsible for an entire star of the 2 stars I gave this book.
Profile Image for Dillwynia Peter.
330 reviews63 followers
June 12, 2016
This is a slow read, but not dull, just packed full of information. Cherry-Garrard (Cherry) was asked to provide some information on how to pack & train for future expeditions, based on his experience (he might not have been the most experienced of the group, but he had worked a lot with Wilson & Scott, so was one of the most knowledgeable survivors). He fulfilled that chore, but he wanted so much more to be said & this was the outcome. Bernard Shaw was a neighbour & so helped in encouragement & I suspect as an editor.
The title is a little misleading: for us, the Worst journey is the one that would kill Scott & his party, but this isn’t the one Cherry is referring; rather Cherry was one of the men to trek across the northern coast of Ross Island to collect Emperor Penguin eggs in the depths of winter. The conditions were appalling and it is only good management by Wilson, the tenacity of the three men, and belief in themselves that they survived. Oh & they brought back 3 eggs which now reside in the British Museum. They survived 2 months of below -40c (the colder the weather the better they could travel – which sounds bizarre - which worked till a certain temp when nothing worked) & so they devoted their body warmth every night to unfreezing their sleeping bags & sleeping in a pool of water (I believe the better Hilton’s around the world are offering this luxury). They built a hut, but in a zone that was regularly hammered by cyclonic conditions (there was a good reason why it was so smooth), and only by erratic wind pressure, did they ever relocate their tent during such a storm (it landed less than a mile down the slope).
One learns a bit too much detail in this book. I’m not complaining, but you can see the portions that started as a “manual” of dos & don’ts. Those tables and lists are dull, but the detail of how they spent the endless dark winters are interesting. I particularly loved the list of necessary books to take for entertainment: a Latin dictionary, a Times Atlas & the Bible. Times have definitely changed & sadly, probably for the worst in erudition. The men were resourceful and created entertaining pieces for the in house newspaper. There was also the endless quest for knowledge – here they were the typical boffins, which hasn’t changed. Their inventiveness to see a question & research it kept me amused & one that I could see myself repeating in a similar situation.

Then there are the diary entries for dealing with Manchurian ponies and the motorised sledges; both contributed to the disasters. Dogs had been used experimentally previously, so deemed not reliable – of course, Amundsen would successfully ascent to the South Pole using dogs & sledges. (Did you know the South Pole is some thousands of feet above sea level? Neither did I)
The sheer bloody-mindedness and belief on one’s self and the endurance of all the men is staggering. What is not commonly known is that there were TWO parties lost in 1911. Not only had Scott not returned but due to poor conditions the geologists spent an entire winter stuck in an igloo they improvised and relied on the local seal colony to sustain them with meat & fuel. The decision was to find out which party were still alive and it was decided Scott must have perished, so finding & rescuing the geologists was the 1st priority. It is scenes like this that I found compelling and what drove me to complete this mammoth book. Cherry was part of the party that located Scott's tent containing the bodies and being one that 1st read the correspondence left by Scott in his dying hours.
Cherry was never to recover from this journey. Almost immediately on his return to England he was sent to France as a commissioned officer. By 1916 he was invalided out and he would spend the rest of his days fighting severe mental illness. The writing of this book allayed some of his symptoms. He never had children fearing of passing on his mental illness to his children.
Cherry was the youngest of the Terra Nova expedition and in retrospect probably not really suited for the rigours. He was lucky however, in becoming the protégé of Bill Wilson, the lead zoologist. The world lost an aspiring scientist when Wilson died with Scott and more probably should be recognised for his writings and thoughts made during this expedition. I suspect he would have become one of the greats of the early 20th century. Cherry’s youth shines through in this book – particularly as he hero worships and has an obvious schoolboy crush on Wilson.
Much has been lionised about this expedition, but Cherry is simple in his assessment of the failure of the expedition. The motorised sledges were useless, the ponies chosen were of an average quality, but most importantly the food quality was lacking. The extreme cold caused them to expel more calories than they consumed and it ultimately caused their deaths through exhaustion.
I did enjoy this book and the frankness of it all. It might have been extended high summer where I was reading it, but during every passage I felt cold - bitterly cold, exhilarated with every discovery and adventure, and admired the stark beauty of the landscape. That is an excellent writer if ever you will encounter.
Get the Dover addition if you can. It has the original photographs, but also some of Wilson’s line drawings. Those drawings entitled Fallen into a Crevasse and Travelling in a Blizzard are plain bloody scary.
Profile Image for Tom.
2 reviews
February 3, 2008
This is a first rate adventure story told by a man who is sensitive, thoughtful, courageous, and kindhearted. The part of the book from which the title is taken is maybe the most harrowing saga I've ever encountered, involving minus 70+ degree temperatures, howling winds, deadly crevasses, starvation, hopelessness, and endless darkness, all to collect Emperor Penguin eggs in the middle of an Antarctic winter.
I am not so big on non-fiction generally, but this is a book I could read again and again, and would recommend to anyone with any sense of adventure.
Profile Image for Pete daPixie.
1,505 reviews3 followers
July 18, 2011
Apsley Cherry-Garrard's 'The Worst Journey in the World' is quite simply a 20th century classic. Published in 1922, the author recounts, in almost six hundred pages, Scott's polar expedition of 1910-1913.
I find reviewing this book extremely difficult. I'm probably still in a state of reverential and dumfounded awe after reading such an eloquent masterpiece. In the field of polar exploration or travel writing, this book is utterly astounding.

It is now a century past since the exploits of this 'worst journey' were accomplished. The critics of these heroic achievements of exploration still persist in written publications and reviews show their ignorance, whose only experience of a pole is something they lean against while waiting for a bus. As someone who has travelled within the arctic circle and experienced arctic winter, blizzards and frost bite, I know these men were giants.
Profile Image for Jonathan Hutchins.
102 reviews5 followers
March 4, 2012
At a time when traditional heroism has been deconstructed and psycho-analysed out of existence, it becomes more necessary to understand the nature and purpose of the desire which drove a crew of men, most no longer young, to explore Antarctica and reach the South Pole. Note the order of those objectives: the comparison of Scott's 'failure' with Amundsen's 'success' is outrageously wrong: the latter was in a race to the Pole, the British party had a wide variety of scientific observations and interests as well as that other goal. Cherry-Garrard's testimony (not being widely read in the literature of polar exploration I don't know to what extent its account and conclusions have been revised or contradicted in the years since) describes a life of barely comprehensible arduousness and snails'-pace progress in weather conditions which were often alarmingly unpredictable and which in the end probably defeated the Polar Party. What makes Scott's well-known final testimony excruciatingly poignant is that he knew they were only eleven miles from One Ton Depot but because of continuous heavy blizzards none of the party were able to set out. Edgar Evans had died some miles before. It made me think how primitive in some ways was 1912: allegedly the ignorance of the crucial role of vitamins in diet contributed to their hunger and debility. The motor sledges were a novelty but all failed. Cherry-Garrard's writing is articulate and always interesting, whether describing the corporate comfortable fug in the Hut at Hut Point over the 1911-12 winter, the crazy winter journey to obtain Emperor Penguin eggs, or the tragedy of the Polar Party. And it's evident that he was haunted for the rest of his life by the 'what-if's of the expedition, to the extent of bouts of depression and compiling a privately published postscript to this book. The head-doctors term this 'post-traumatic stress'; on a higher level it can be understood as the difficulty of adjusting to a more undemanding existence after a sustained period of heightened awareness, exertion, perception, and experience.
Profile Image for Karin.
1,311 reviews5 followers
May 21, 2021
This deserves to be a classic, even though I didn't love it. This is quite a thorough account of Scott's failed attempt to be the first to the South Pole--not because Scott didn't make it, but because Amundsen and the Norwegians lied, said they were going north, headed north and later snuck around to a different part of the continent and beat him by a month.

Now, if you enjoy reading detailed information about men living in inhumanly cold temperatures risking their lives in severe cold for science and exploration, this book will be right up your alley, even if you have read about different expeditions to Antarictica. In addition to writing, there are many good excerpts from various diaries. One point Cherry-Garrard made that I thought was appropriate, was that they didn't fail and Scott plus a few others die for lack of education, but perhaps from too much of it. They were also there to do a lot of scientific research, which slowed them down, and none of them would compromise on it.

Now that I've read one about trying to get to the north pole and this one, though, I am done. I hate really cold temperatures and can't enjoy reading about frostbite, and all that sort of thing.
Profile Image for Sapetron.
9 reviews
December 2, 2008
Pemmican, apparently, tastes quite delicious when stirred into hot water and eaten as a "hoosh." Also, the Antarctic is cold & horrible & I really want to go there because falling in a crevasse would look amazing on a tombstone.
Profile Image for Maj.
294 reviews16 followers
July 29, 2019
Well, this sure was a long, exhausting read.

As an account of a very unique human experience it's absolutely priceless, as a book one feels kind of drowned in details.
Still, considering ACG wasn't a professional author, I'd say he was rather a natural. Though I did enjoy whenever he'd quote the diaries of the other members of the expedition (not so much Scott, in turns dry and melodramatic, but someone like Lashly, for instance).

I do realise the book had sort of a manifold purpose at the time of the release, but I suppose an edited version, keeping the original sources but cutting some of the technical detail would be an easier read.

But at the end of the day the book is a unique account of something extraordinary, and therefore I add one star to my rating.
Profile Image for Fraser.
324 reviews10 followers
December 7, 2014
One of the finest books I have ever read in terms of defining the spirit of the adventurer going genuinely into the unknown.

Everyone knows the tragedy of the Scott Polar expedition, with its supposed 'race' with Amundsen to get to the South Pole, but here is one of the key members of that expedition some 10 years on, reflecting on it all, from start to finish.

To say heroic, is just simply an understatement. Cherry-Garrard's very own 'worst journey' with Wilson and Bowers off to Cape Crozier to collect emperor penguin eggs is an epic in its own merit. Placed within the context of the herculean efforts of the overall expedition it assumes the status of just another chapter. The key to Cherry-Garrard is in his descriptions not just of the hardships and travel, but the psychology, the team spirit, and an uncanny ability to do the right thing no mind the cost. To be honest, if you were ever in a difficult place, a dangerous situation, I would with no word of a doubt would want to be around men like this. It is hard to encapsulate that spirit, often it is quoted with Titus Oates famous last words as he stepped off out into the polar night, but there is just so much more to it than this.

Scott has his critics, and I read Ranulph Fiennes excellent defence of him some time ago. Having read this, I believe Fiennes to be correct. Scott instilled something incredible - not blind hero worship, but a sense of togetherness that held despite his own downfall on the return journey. That it was Cherry-Garrard who found his tent with him Wilson and Bowers, seems very apt.

Three years at the pole, no sat phones, no GPS, no fancy tech laden clothing. Lots of wool, bamboo for tent poles and a reliance on animals (ponies and dogs). No chance of air-lift rescue etc, this was similar to me to as say someone trekking the surface of the Moon.

It almost seems to me absurd that anyone survived the expedition, such were the hardships and privations. Not just the physical elements which were incredible. But as Cherry-Garrard himself noted, it wasn't about being the strongest and fittest in terms of pulling sledges or putting up with the cold, it was in the mind.

The beauty in the Chapter "The First Winter" is awe inspiring and one can feel exactly why this expedition took place when it is completed. It is not a rose tinted piece of reminiscing, which makes it all the more inspiring.

There are some incredible travel and expedition books out there. I have read a few of them. But I can honestly say, nothing touches this, and likely never will.

Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Jonna..
51 reviews3 followers
July 23, 2017
I read this book of 600 pages in less than a week and believe me, its not on the TOP 100 list for travel and adventure books for nothing!

If you know the story of Scott and his companions and the drama at the south pole already you will probably find this book easier to read but the author makes many footnotes so that also "beginners" in polar exploration can understand it well!

What I loved about this book is that we get the view of an ordinary expedition member, neither sailor nor scientist, but a young man tells us the story of the tragedy and how he himself thought about it.

Sometimes Cherry´s accounts sound a bit nostalgic and you can basically sense how he looks back on those days with melancholy.
His own stories and diary entries are supported by several other diary extracts of expedition members and we see many letters that for example Bowers or Wilson sent home.
This book is diffrent from all the other books about this expedition. It is a must, if you are interested in polar exploration or simply Antarctica.

I personally recommend you to get to know the members of the crew before reading this because it simply adds to the fun since you will understand the "insiders" better.

The writing style is simple but still emotional and interesting, so that the lenght of the book is no problem at all!

All in all I totally recommend this book to all the travel and adventure loving readers and I´m 100% sure you wont regret this read.
Profile Image for Joan.
2,193 reviews
June 5, 2014
(Free on the Gutenberg Project, complete with illustrations.)

But I also bought this hardback copy. A wonderfully thick book, beautiful to hold and read. So much more 'satisfying' than reading on a Kindle

A fabulous book, written in a comfortably 'personal' manner without any heroics ,just a factual account of real life. Utterly readable, amusing, sad, terrifying and brought me to tears in places. Quiet, understated English pluck at its best, and very different in style to Scott's somewhat dry and concise journal.

This will be a book to read and read again.
1,541 reviews80 followers
November 9, 2019
This exhaustive account of the ill-fated Scott party’s exploration of the Antarctic was too long and too detailed for my taste.
Profile Image for Jill Bowman.
1,611 reviews11 followers
September 27, 2022
Fascinating and interesting. I love polar exploration books and this one, long and detailed, is one of the best.
Profile Image for M(^-__-^)M_ken_M(^-__-^)M.
341 reviews75 followers
February 5, 2023
The very worst, first part deals with Apsley own winter journey in Antartica, second part based from letters journals of Scotts ill fated pole expedition. Aspley does a good job to describe the extreme conditions where nowhere else really can compare. Who knew Ponies freeze, dogs are best but using both turned out to be the worst.
Profile Image for Simon Hollway.
154 reviews9 followers
July 29, 2016
Christened with such an exotic moniker, our flamboyantly named author could only have pursued one of three careers: an Edwardian rector, the reluctant bait in an Oscar Wilde honeytrap operation or else an intrepid yet feckless explorer. Fortunately for the literary world, Apsley Cherry-Garrard became the latter… though more fettered than feckless.

Perhaps not a natural writer, C-G cribs from various other expedition members’ anecdotes, personal notes and posthumous diaries. Antarctic companion Bowers’ evocative diary excerpts are certainly the most lyrical and enchanting of all. Nevertheless, Cherry cobbles together something remarkable and mesmerising.

The saga does become a little scrappy, wanders about a bit and occasionally plays chronological hopscotch which can be disorientating. Frequent conflations of geography, dog teams, food dumps and sleds make the ‘plot’ frequently tough to unpick and work out who is where, with whom and why at any one time. BUT, but, but, this temporary snow-blindness aside, the narrative remains hypnotically compelling; morbidly engaging with an incrementally intense, centrifugal magnetism.

Every time the polar party’s frozen body sweat began to melt, their clothes dripping with moisture at MINUS 20 degrees, my toes, gut and brain clenched into a foetal position. God knows why they just didn’t put an ice pick through their skulls. My heart would have simply stopped as soon as there was the first gust of wind or I felt an icicle inside my panties.

Ironically, the various domesticated and wild animals, described with such care and tenderness, are the real stars of this book. – particularly the valiant ponies but also the half-wild wolf-dogs, the mischievous and adorable Adelie penguins and the innocent, overly trusting seals. Such gallant, delightful temperaments and sometimes demonic dispositions set in stark, detailed relief against the icy, blank canvass. One by one, each animal’s unique character bursts into song in Mr Cherry-Garrard’s efficient prose.

A humbling read for those who require humbling and a comparative pick-me-up for those who have been humbled too much.
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