To the Edges of the Earth: 1909, the Race for the Three Poles, and the Climax of the Age of Exploration

To the Edges of the Earth: 1909, the Race for the Three Poles, and the Climax of the Age of Exploration

In the spirit of bestselling adventure narratives In the Kingdom of Ice, In the Heart of the Sea, and The Lost City of Z, Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Edward J. Larson's To the Edges of the Earth brings to life the climax of the age of exploration: in the year 1909 expeditions to the Arctic, Antarctica, and Himalaya pushed human accomplishment to the extremes and set r...

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Title:To the Edges of the Earth: 1909, the Race for the Three Poles, and the Climax of the Age of Exploration
Author:Edward J. Larson
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To the Edges of the Earth: 1909, the Race for the Three Poles, and the Climax of the Age of Exploration Reviews

  • Nancy

    One hundred years ago the world was reeling from WWI. Every value and belief once the foundation of civilization was called into question by the war.

    But before the 'War to End All Wars' didn't end war, men were going on quests to conquer the unknown regions of ice. They faced gruesome suffering--loss of body parts that had frozen, physical exertion in extreme conditions, starvation, threats of crevasses that appeared out of nowhere and thin ice over frigid water.

    For what? For glory.

    The polar re

    One hundred years ago the world was reeling from WWI. Every value and belief once the foundation of civilization was called into question by the war.

    But before the 'War to End All Wars' didn't end war, men were going on quests to conquer the unknown regions of ice. They faced gruesome suffering--loss of body parts that had frozen, physical exertion in extreme conditions, starvation, threats of crevasses that appeared out of nowhere and thin ice over frigid water.

    For what? For glory.

    The polar regions offered no gold or marketable flora or fauna, no open land for civilization to claim, no sunny beaches for tourism.

    The men who raced to the poles or up the tallest mountains did it for fame and pride and for God and Country. They had something to prove and overwhelming ambition.

    To The Edges of the Earth 1909, The Race for the Three Poles, and the Climax of the Age of Exploration recounts the explorers of 1909: Peary's expedition to reach the North Pole, Shackleton's expedition to reach the South Magnetic Pole, and the Duke of Abruzzo's reach for the 'Third Pole' in the Himalayas-- the dangerous K2.

    I have loved exciting, thrilling, and horrifying adventure narratives since girlhood. One of my first heroes was Robert Falcon Scott after I read The Great White South about his failed expedition to the South Pole. I have also read books about mountain climbing and K2. I haven't a thread of adventure myself, preferring a comfy chair and a cup of tea while reading about someone else risking their life.

    Edward J. Larson's account strips away myths about these men. Peary especially, who may have falsely claimed to have reached the North Pole and whose treatment of Inuit, including his teenage concubine, was by our standards appalling and predatory. And the poor Inuit dogs that Peary 'borrowed,' worked to death, then fed to the other dogs (or his men, as needed.)

    Shackleton was better, but there was grumbling over his leadership skills, and he did decide to take ponies to the South Pole as well as an early gasoline engine car, both quite useless.

    The rich, handsome Italian Duke seems to come off the best, with few negative stories about him, and his later siding with the Allied forces during WWII.

    The explorers needed to raise money to fund the trips. Money was given by rich Gilded Age barons and in exchange, they could have landmarks named after them. Their stories were sold to newspapers and magazines and printed in books. They went on the Lyceum lecture circuit with magic lantern photographs.

    Peary brought back Inuit for scientific study; when they died their bones were put on display! And he stole three, huge meteorites which the natives used for iron making.

    Oh, the frozen toes! The shards of frozen snow that sliced through good English Gabardine! The suffering described is horrifying. (And to think, I don't read horror stories, or at least that is what I had thought. Turns out--I do!)

    Shackleton failed to reach the pole, but he was knighted anyway. Scott was already planning his expedition to the South Pole, as was Admunson, and in 1911 Scott perished while Amundsen reached the pole. Shackleton was old news but still returned in 1914-16 on the Endurance. By then WWI had consumed the world and no one had interest in men fooling around in icy realms. Shackleton died of a heart attack on his way to try one more time to reach the pole.

    No one really knows if it was Cook or Peary, or Peary's companion Henson, who reached the North Pole. Or if either reached it. With no solid land, the ice over open water offered huge challenges. There were ongoing battles over their claims and bad feelings which sullied Peary's reputation.

    "The time was when the search for the North Pole stood for the very acme of uncommercialized heroism," wrote Dean Shailer Mathews of the University of Chicago divinity school. Those were the days, indeed. Today, the opening of the Arctic waters brings dreams of drilling for oil and dollar signs.

    The 19th c saw the rise of the romanticizing of the Arctic-- the barren, uncharted expanses of ice captivating the imagination. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein retreats to the North Pole, Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins wrote the play The Frozen Deep, Frederick Church painted icebergs and Albert Bierstadt glaciers.

    Could anyone then have imagined the aqua lung enabling men to view the ocean's bottom or an Endeavor that went into space? Or that the Arctic glaciers would be melting, the Arctic Ocean open and iceless?

    I received a free ebook from the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

  • Pamela

    It really is a fascinating read. Not perfect, but then again, my copy is a galley; I was blessed to received a complimentary copy from the publisher through an e-newsletter giveaway.

    I simply don't understand why this book has not received more widespread press. Unless, a plethora of readers/reviewer

    It really is a fascinating read. Not perfect, but then again, my copy is a galley; I was blessed to received a complimentary copy from the publisher through an e-newsletter giveaway.

    I simply don't understand why this book has not received more widespread press. Unless, a plethora of readers/reviewers have put off writing reviews and getting the word out. Like me: Belated Bessie!!! Guilty as charged! In fact, the past two months I've been struggling to keep up with reading and reviewing. Recent return to the workforce, health issues, caregiving lamentations..... I could bore everyone with details, but suffice it to say: the ROAD OF LIFE is not without its share of speed bumps, potholes, detours and scenic turnouts.

    But hey, LIFE IS AN ADVENTURE! Reading is many lifetimes of adventure. One might not be able to go on such an extreme voyage or mountainous trek as the many rugged, courageous, far-thinking, (sometimes ludicrous) explorers, sailors, dreamers, adventurers of the early twentieth century - but we can vicariously travel through the tomes of wordsmith historians.

    4 1/2 GALLEY STARS rounded up for my belatedness:

    FIVE ***** Historically Credible, Compellingly Readable, History Brought Alive with a Contemporary, Broad-Sweeping Pen ***** STARS

  • Joe Jones

    I am not sure if the men in this book were extraordinarily brave or just a bit crazy. It probably is a bit of both. The conditions they experienced on their quests to be the first to the poles was mind blowing. I don't know how they could go back again and again trying to achieve their goals. Especially as others paid the ultimate price of their lives in their failed attempts. A perfect read for this colder than normal winter we are experiencing. It comes out on March 13.

  • John

    I enjoy books that that make me wonder what drives people to do things like this. This experience had to be miserable and to want to do it again makes me wonder what drives that thought process. I do wish I would have had some prior knowledge to these events before hand as it would help me understand things a little better. I won this great book on GoodReads and like I do with most my wins I will be paying it forward by giving my win either to a friend or library to enjoy.

  • Carlos

    Nice narrative of these three bigwigs in exploration of the early 20th century, it was a good effort to put all these three narratives in perspective regarding the times their respective countries were going through. If you like exploration narratives and like polar exploration retelling then this is the book for you .

  • Jerrie (redwritinghood)

    This was a well-written, thoroughly researched book about polar exploration. The author focused on the successful trips to the north and south poles, as well as the “third pole” of the highest mountain, in 1909. I felt that the third pole story didn’t fit well with the other two and seemed added in to emphasize public fascination with these explorers and the extremes that they went to. Overall, this was a fascinating book.

  • Holly

    A fine cultural history by Larson (I also enjoyed his earlier book about the Scopes Trial,

    ). I liked the rotating triple foci - Arctic-North Pole, Antarctica-South Pole, and "top of the world"-Himalayan peaks. One aspect that made this different from some of the other histories of Shackleton, Peary, Cook, et al. was the extent of Larson's attention to the animals on these expeditions. He appears to make an effort to always describe, mention, or devote sentences to the plight

    A fine cultural history by Larson (I also enjoyed his earlier book about the Scopes Trial,

    ). I liked the rotating triple foci - Arctic-North Pole, Antarctica-South Pole, and "top of the world"-Himalayan peaks. One aspect that made this different from some of the other histories of Shackleton, Peary, Cook, et al. was the extent of Larson's attention to the animals on these expeditions. He appears to make an effort to always describe, mention, or devote sentences to the plight of the poor suffering dogs and terrified ponies that were used and abused (and consumed) on each trek. I could say it's my only complaint about the book (though not a true complaint, of course): I could never distance myself from these suffering creatures - Larson didn't allow me to compartmentalize their pain nor to conveniently forget the animals. Which made for painful reading.

  • Nathan

    I found myself more and more absorbed in the stories as I went along. Very well written and fascinating stories I knew next to nothing about.

    My sole quibble is that the mountain climbing aspects seem a tad out of place in comparison with the polar explorations.

  • KC

    Not as nearly as interesting or well written as Endurance: Shackelton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing. The narration of this audiobook was also quiet dry and I hated the details of animal deaths.

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