in the UK
In the mid-19th century the North Pole was a mystery. Some believed that it was an island of basalt in a warm crystal sea. Explorers who tried to penetrate the real icy wastes failed or died. But after Sir John Franklin disappeared with all his men in 1845, serious efforts began to be made to find the true Northernmost point of the globe. Fergus Fleming's book is a vivid, witty history of the disasters that ensued. The new explorers included Elisha Kane, a sickly man and useless commander, who led his team close to death in 1854, and Charles Hall, a printer from Ohio. Hall made the mistake of taking an experienced crew, who refused to commit suicide for him. Their mutiny so enraged Hall that he died of a stroke, and some of his crew escaped south on an ice-floe. They were followed by the Germans, newly united and eager for their place in the ice, the Austro-Hungarians and the British, who in 1876 managed to get further than any other expedition, travelling over terrain later explorers considered impassable. They left the field to the Norwegians, to expeditions organized by the American tabloid press, Swedish baloonists, aristocratic Italians and finally to the obsessive Robert Peary, who on one trip took his pregnant wife with him in order to set a record for the most northerly birth in history. He finally made it in 1909.
Publisher and industry reviews
'Barrow's Boys, Fergus Fleming's history of British exploration in the first half of the 19th century was an excellent book. Ninety Degrees North...is an even better one' Sunday Telegraph 'This is the sort of book you want to read in front of a blazing fire. It is immensely enjoyable' Daily Telegraph 'Fleming gives us a wonderful story, and tells it exceptionally well' Guardian 'Fleming's is among the best of the [ice] books.... All the great stories are here!' Robert Macfarlane, The Observer 'Travel history at its brilliant best. Best-selling author Fergus Fleming has produced a masterly tale of the race to reach the northern most point of the globe' Irish Independent 'A vividly frostbitten account. The reading, in a warm room, is great fun' The Independent
UK Kirkus review
In his much acclaimed Barrow Boys, Fergus Fleming charted the course of British travels to the remotest regions of the globe during the pioneering days of the early 19th century, as commissioned by John Barrow, the exploration-obsessed Second Secretary to the Admiralty. In 1845 Barrow had sent Sir John Franklin off with enough food for seven years to search for the North Pole. Neither he nor his 136 officers and crew ever returned and the subsequent missions to find them ushered in a new era of Arctic exploration. At this time very little was known about the ice-capped summit of the world: an American called Symmes was famous in his day for the theory that it was the gateway to seven subterranean worlds in the earth's core. The stories of the adventurers who over the following century sought to find out the real truth provide the substance of Fleming's excellent new book. Much of it makes harrowing reading, such as the fortunes of Elisha Kent Kane who in 1853-5 endured mutiny and made it home by the skin of his teeth; and the dreadful scurvy which afflicted the great British assault of 1875-6. There are tales here of self-delusion, including the fraudulent boasts of Frederick Cook who claimed to have reached the Pole in 1909 and subsequently went to jail, as well as moments of great triumph, such as the airship flight led by Roald Amundsen in 1926 which was the first to see the North Pole. Finally, in 1969 the British explorer Wally Herbert became the first man to reach it on foot as well as to traverse the whole polar pack. In addition there are some less familiar accounts here of Austro-Hungarian, Italian and German expeditions during the 19th century and the little discussed Russian effort of 1913-14 which claimed the life of its leader Georgi Sedov. Fleming skilfully draws on the mass of secondary literature together with the diaries and memoirs of many explorers to provide a compelling narrative which carries the reader along with its brave and pioneering subjects. (Kirkus UK)
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