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

  • Kristi Richardson

    “The meaning of heroism changes with time and conditions.”

    I received this book as part of the Goodreads Giveaway program. It was an excellent overview of the three explorations accomplished in 1909. Admiral Peary’s race to the North Pole, Ernest Shackleton’s race to the South Pole and lastly, Luigi Amedeo, the Duke of Abruzzi’s climb to the highest peak of K2 for that time.

    I enjoyed reading about the challenges these brave men endured to accomplish their feats. Starvation, freezing temperatures

    “The meaning of heroism changes with time and conditions.”

    I received this book as part of the Goodreads Giveaway program. It was an excellent overview of the three explorations accomplished in 1909. Admiral Peary’s race to the North Pole, Ernest Shackleton’s race to the South Pole and lastly, Luigi Amedeo, the Duke of Abruzzi’s climb to the highest peak of K2 for that time.

    I enjoyed reading about the challenges these brave men endured to accomplish their feats. Starvation, freezing temperatures and in Amedeo’s climb, terrifying heights were only some of these challenges. Some of their accomplishments are now disputed, but they were headline-making feats at the time. This became the last years of true exploration for our above ground world.

    We still have other things to explore, other worlds, and our own seas in which we find new species every day. I liked reading about these men, this was a time when the wealthy paid or did the exploring, and the government did not get involved.

    If you enjoy why men explored the unknown and how it happened, you will like this book. I highly recommend it.

  • 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.

  • Lori L (She Treads Softly)

    To the Edges of the Earth: 1909, the Race for the Three Poles, and the Climax of the Age of Exploration by Edward J. Larson is an examination of the most adventurous year of all time.

    1909 can be said to be the climactic year in the modern age of adventure-based exploration. The three poles to be conquered in 1909 were the North Pole, the South Pole, and the so-called Pole of Altitude in the Himalayas. (The South pole was sometimes divided into the geographic south and magnetic south poles.) The

    To the Edges of the Earth: 1909, the Race for the Three Poles, and the Climax of the Age of Exploration by Edward J. Larson is an examination of the most adventurous year of all time.

    1909 can be said to be the climactic year in the modern age of adventure-based exploration. The three poles to be conquered in 1909 were the North Pole, the South Pole, and the so-called Pole of Altitude in the Himalayas. (The South pole was sometimes divided into the geographic south and magnetic south poles.) The expeditions would face extraordinary difficulties, extremely harsh conditions, tremendous hardship, and death to claim the fame of being the first to plant their flags on these poles.

    At the end of the year the explorers were celebrities. Americans Robert Peary and Matthew Henson were hailed as the discovers of the North Pole. Britain’s Ernest Shackleton set a new geographic "Furthest South" record. Shackleton's teammate, Australian Douglas Mawson, reached the Magnetic South Pole. "Italy’s Duke of the Abruzzi set an altitude record that would stand for a generation during his mountaineering expedition to the Himalaya's eastern Karakoram. The Duke attempted K2 and established the standard route up the most notorious mountain on the planet.

    Larson points out in the preface: "This book especially benefited from my participation in the National Science Foundation’s Antarctic Artists and Writers Program, which allowed me to go where the Antarctic explorers went, camp where they camped, and climb where they climbed. Always traveling with others, and frequently in the company of experts, through this program I saw much of what Shackleton, Mawson, and the other early visitors to the Ross Sea region saw, from the East Antarctic Ice Sheet and Ross Ice Shelf to the South Pole and summit of Mount Erebus. Extended stays at Shackleton’s Cape Royds and near Scott’s Hut Point and Cape Evans, where the explorers’ primitive winter quarters remain intact down to their unused crates of hardtack biscuits and long-frozen meat in the larder, gave insight into how the parties lived beyond what I could hope to glean from archival research."

    The finished book contains notes, an index, photos, and maps. While I thought Larson did an admirable job following the three expeditions over the course of the book, my reading experience would have been greatly enhanced by the inclusion of photos and maps, which those who get the pleasure of reading the published editions will no doubt appreciate immensely.

    Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins Publishers.

  • 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.

  • Rachel

    I liked it. At least in an interesting and horrifying way. I can safely say that this book completely convinced me to never even consider Polar explorations. Too cold and brutal by far.

    As for the book itself, I thought it focused way more on the North Pole than the South, and overall way more on the poles than on the mountain climbing. I think there were only two chapters on climbing K2 vs the other 9 for the poles? And the chapters switching focus from one pole to the next did make it hard for

    I liked it. At least in an interesting and horrifying way. I can safely say that this book completely convinced me to never even consider Polar explorations. Too cold and brutal by far.

    As for the book itself, I thought it focused way more on the North Pole than the South, and overall way more on the poles than on the mountain climbing. I think there were only two chapters on climbing K2 vs the other 9 for the poles? And the chapters switching focus from one pole to the next did make it hard for me to keep names and timelines straight. Though this could be entirely my fault, as I only had time to read about a chapter a day, and then only after a long day of work, so I was pretty tired when reading this one.

    Overall, though, a very eye-opening and chilling (pun intended!) read. The first chapters were by far my favorite.

  • toomanybooks

    This book was good, but not great. I enjoyed the premise of telling the story of one year, a year when three "poles" were conquered, and a year just before the world changed in World War I. But I think this could have been handled better, as it seemed there was an odd combo of assuming the reader had prior knowledge of, especially, Arctic and Antarctic exploration and not really delving into the material. By that, I mean that I think the book could have been set up with a good introduction to po

    This book was good, but not great. I enjoyed the premise of telling the story of one year, a year when three "poles" were conquered, and a year just before the world changed in World War I. But I think this could have been handled better, as it seemed there was an odd combo of assuming the reader had prior knowledge of, especially, Arctic and Antarctic exploration and not really delving into the material. By that, I mean that I think the book could have been set up with a good introduction to polar exploration, and I would have enjoyed the book much more if it didn't feel like a whirlwind tour of the events. I would have enjoyed the details, and really getting into the story. The history could have been enriched with details about, for example, the mechanics of frostbite, boats designed for the Arctic, Inuit life, or any number of other things.

    Finally, there are no maps! I don't know how there are no maps, but there aren't. If you want to see the locations of camps and travel routes, you have to leave the book and look it up yourself.

    Ultimately, this feels like a book that, despite the interesting idea, could have been embellished and enriched and would have been more satisfying for the enrichment.

    I received this book via the Goodreads Giveaway program.

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