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The White Darkness My obsession with Antarctic explorers began when I was eleven and read The Great White South by Herbert Ponting the photographer on the 1911 Scott expedition As a girl I held a heroic idealization of Scott and his men freezing in their hut It seemed all so heroic then Later readings lowered Scott in my estimation Henry Worsley idolized Ernest Shackleton for his courage and leadership Although Shackleton was never able to complete his expeditions he did save his men's lives And Worsley's own grandfather had been with Shackleton on his failed expedition to the reach the South PoleHenry made a career in the army completing Special Forces training while pursuing his obsession by collecting Shackleton artifactsThe White Darkness by David Grann tells the story of how Henry Worsley after retirement from the army participated in a centennial expedition retracing Shackleton's trek along with two other descendants of the original team The goal was to reach the South Pole which Shackleton failed to do They made it Not content with this achievement Henry afterward endeavored to complete the other journey that Shackleton had to abandon crossing the Antarctic Henry though would do it soloOnce again I am amazed how men can be driven to endure the unimaginable physical stress of the Antarctic not just once but returning again to the dangerous beauty of ice A hundred years ago men wanted to bring honor to their country and the Antarctic and Arctic were the last unexplored places on earth But there has always been something a need for men to test themselves to the ultimate to conuer the most extreme conditions imaginableIn this short book about Henry Worsley Grann covers the history of Antarctic exploration and conveys a chilling exposure to the 'white darkness' of the freezing desert landscape that has lured so many men to their deathsI received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review THE WHITE DARKNESS is another absolute winner from author David Grann The photos in this book are fabulous and really add to the richness and history of Antarctica exploration British special forces soldier Henry Worsley was much like a modern day Ernest Shackleton who also happened to be his personal hero Once again David Grann educates entertains and inspires through his compelling factual story writing THE WHITE DARKNESS is a modern day adventure not to be missed ”For scientific leadership give me Scott; for swift and efficient travel Amundsen; but when you are in a hopeless situation when there seems to be no way out get on your knees and pray for Shackleton” Every time I see this photograph of Shackleton’s ship the Endurance frozen in the ice I get a chillOne of the most selfless acts in the history of exploration happened in 1908 when Ernest Shackleton made the decision to turn back from his goal of reaching the South Pole a mere 97 nautical miles away The Holy Grail was only a few days travel It was all but within his graspThere was something important to Shackleton than his own personal aggrandizement; it was the safety of his men He calculated the status of the remaining supplies and determined that the risk to his men was too great to make it to the Pole and make it back safelyalive He did the unthinkable something few other leaders would have the courage to do; he turned back He did not worry about the aspersions that would be cast at him for cowardice or the ridicule that his jeering competition would hurl his direction He would much rather live with that than live with the deaths of his men I had to ask myself would I have been courageous enough to make that decision or would I have given an Antarctica version of the Henry the 5th speech at the Battle of Agincourt and pressed on? Being the first to reach the South Pole was what would insure immortality turning back meant in all probability that someone else would have that honor Roald Amundsen the great Norwegian explorer would reach it first in 1911Henry Worsley worshipped Shackleton Whenever he was in a tight spot he would think to himself ”What would Shacks do?” which went well with another of his favorite sayings ”Better a live donkey than a dead lion”So who was Worsley? ”Worsley was a retired British Army officer who had served in the Special Air Service a renowned commands unit He was also a sculptor a fierce boxer a photographer who meticulously documented his travels a horticulturalist a collector of rare books and maps and fossils and an amateur historian who had become a leading authority on Shackleton” And why did David Grann write a book about Worsley? ”In 2008 he led an expedition to pioneer a route through the Transantarctic Mountains reaching a point 98 miles 157 km from the South Pole The expedition commemorated the centenary of Shackleton's Nimrod Expedition He returned to the Antarctic in 2011 leading a team of six in retracing Roald Amundsen's successful 870 mile 1400 km journey in 1912 to the South Pole marking its centenary In completing the route he became the first person to have successfully undertaken the routes taken by Shackleton Robert Falcon Scott and Amundsen Wikipedia” I love this picture of Worsley He broke off a tooth on a frozen candy bar”All of this led up to Worsley’s dramatic final expedition to be the first person to make a solo crossing of Antarctica without any assistance He had been restless There was something about the polar regions that got in certain men’s blood and they just couldn’t stay away ”What is Antarctica other than a blank canvas on which you seek to impose yourself?”The beauty is not what we usually think of with oceans mountains and trees From a bird’s eye view there is nothing much there except ice and snow and cold”There is nothing to see but white darkness”Desolation is best expressed by deserts the hot ones and the cold ones I find photographs of deserts to be very peaceful the desolate the better I find expeditions that venture out into that desolation seeking what has never been seen before to be invigorating So I understand the obsession that gripped Worsley to keep going back again and again The landscape seduced his mind like a woman who must be chased to be had This is a lovely evocative book filled with amazing photographs David Grann knows how to tell a story and you will find yourself tearing up with joy and pain than a few times as you make these journeys with these brave men The book also reminded me of all the polar expedition books I still have left to read Fortunately there have been many explorers who were as obsessed with those regions as were Shackleton and Worsley and most of them the ones who lived wrote about their adventures This book is a uick afternoon read and hopefully you will all be as seduced by the landscape as Shackleton Worsley and yes even I If you wish to see of my most recent book and movie reviews visit also have a Facebook blogger page at For the life of me I will never understand those people who are inclined to attempt what's never been done before even if it means putting their lives in danger Well I could understand if it was something fun But something like trekking 1000 miles across the brutal continent of Antarctica alone?? Hell no I'll stay home indoors sipping my tea or coffee and reading a good book thank you very much Not everyone is like me though and there are those intrepid explorers who are compelled to venture to places unknown putting themselves at great risk of injury or death in the process Henry Worsley was one of those people and The White Darkness is his story After a successful trek to the South Pole with others Henry decided to do what had never been done cross the vast and frigid expanse of Antarctica alone and without any assistance No one to talk to no food supplies dropped along the way no dogs to assist in pulling his sled No one to pull him out if he fell into a crevasse No one to share his experiences and offer mutual support The book details both of Worsley's trips to Antarctica and I was amazed especially by the solo trip The hardships Worsley endured the inner strength that propelled him on The book has breathtaking photographs interspersed throughout and these were jaw dropping and mesmerizing to see photographs of views most of us will never behold in personDid reading this inspire me to take on some hazardous goal? Nope unh unh no way But I do have a better understanding of those who are willing to put themselves at great risk in order to do something none has done before I am left in awe at what Worsley and those before him have done their remarkable feats of strength and their drive to do what most of us would never even dream about And now back to my coffee and a new book curled up on the couch in my nice warm cosy apartment 45 stars rounded up This would have been an excellent book to read on January 1 reminding myself to pull up my bootstraps bombard the castle jump into oblivion and just generally get on with something that reuires intense focus and dedication David Grann brings the reader a modern day hero Henry Worsley a man who has just that kind of focus Indeed he carries his focus on an expedition to Antarctica to the point of obsession as many great people doThis is a short book at 160 pages and much of that is superb photography of the alien like landscape of Antarctica Men as stick like figures are subsumed by Antarctica’s vast glaciers ice mountains and ice waves known as sastrugi formations sculpted by the wind The glimmering whites and blues in this formidable wind blustering climate where the lowest temperatures on earth have been recorded are startling even in the photographs Worsley’s goal along with team members Will Gow and Henry Adams is to exceed Ernest Shackleton’s 1907 1909 Nimrod expedition’s Farthest South point The South Pole was 97 nautical miles away when Shackleton made the decision to turn back Two years later in 1911 Roald Amundsen a Norwegian became the first man to reach the South Pole Worsley Gow and Adams begin their trek in October 2008 The skis Worsley used were painted with messages from his wife Joanna and their children Alicia and Max Joanna wrote “Come back to me safely my darling”Despite all the stunning landscape and historical photography of both Shackleton’s expedition and Worsley’s exploits my favorite photograph is one of a face the face of Henry Worsley He has on goggles that reflect the Antarctic landscape and his face is grizzled He’s missing a tooth His knitted headgear covers his scalp and drapes his neck leaving the circle of the polar explorer’s face with its almost grin exposed a cigar jutting from the right side of his mouth He looks jaunty and ready to take on anything; he is a man with the discipline and mental acuity to survive in one of Earth’s harshest environmentsSome of my favorite uotes from the book ones that I hope to take to heart for the New Year of 2020“Always a little further a little further” James Elroy Flecker“I hold that a man should strive to the uttermost for his life’s set prize” Robert Browning“A man must shape himself to a new mark directly the old one goes to ground” Ernest Shackleton“To strive to seek to find and not to yield” Alfred Lord Tennyson What is Antarctica other than a blank canvas on which you can seek to impose yourself?This is another incredible nonfiction work by David Grann I loved his previous book Killers of the Flower Moon so much that I will read anything by him So far every Grann book I've read has been well worth my timeThe White Darkness is the true story of Henry Worlsey a British officer who became obsessed with Antarctica This book covers two of Worsleys treks to the South Pole one in 2008 and another in 2015 Both times he was attempting to follow in the path of the legendary Ernest Shackleton the 19th century explorer who tried to be the first person to reach the South PoleBesides being an amazing adventure story The White Darkness is also gorgeous to read filled with photographs showing the desolate beauty of the Antarctic Highly recommended to anyone who loves true adventure storiesOpening PassageThe man felt like a speck in the frozen nothingness Every direction he turned he could see ice stretching to the edge of the Earth white ice and blue ice glacial ice tongues and ice wedges There were no living creatures in sight Not a seal or even a bird Nothing but him I saw this book at my library and picked it up because I had read Grann's amazing Killers of the Flower Moon and so I knew I wanted to read it It’s short adapted from a New Yorker article he had published in February 2018 I don’t read much non fiction but I occasionally do read stories like this about extraordinary feats of physical prowess that most people just think of as insane risk taking behavior Into the Wild Touching the Void Into Thin Air This is one of these books where a tough guy Henry Worsley who sees the Antarctic explorer Shackleton as his life mentor in courage in the face of impossible physical and mental challenges and forges himself into a kind of throwback to a generation of explorers Worsley who was a relative of someone who made an expedition to Antarctica with Shackleton in 2009 makes the trek with two others who were relatives of Shackleton’s crew They make it Then he decides to try it solo several years later at the age of 55This is a fine short book featuring Grann’s superb writing so if you might want to read about this but don’t want to read a 500 page account this is the one for you With lots of pics of Shackleton’s trip and connections to Worsley’s trips This is a link to the original New Yorker article is Worsley’s final broadcast from Antarctica on his solo trip SPOILER ALERT 35 stars The man felt like a speck in the frozen nothingness Every direction he turned he could see ice stretching to the edge of the Earth white ice and blue ice glacial ice tongues and ice wedges There were no living creatures in sight Not a bear or even a bird Nothing but himThe last book I reviewed was set in the lush and exotic landscape of Corfu Corfu and all of Greece are on my bucket list of places to visit once I have time I can call my own What is not on my bucket list Antarctica I hate being cold I truly despise frigid temperatures wearing boots and parkas and having my skin exposed to subzero temperatures However I was able to get a little taste of this stunning continent through the exploits of Henry Worsley and the excellent writing of David Grann This was accomplished either from the relative warmth of a nice spring walk or a ride in the car as I listened to this one on audio The taste for adventure must have been in Henry Worsley’s blood A distant relative of Frank Worsley one of Ernest Shackleton’s crew from the Endurance Henry had the craving to push himself to the limits and was determined to conuer what Shackleton and his men had failed to do – to cross Antarctica via the South Pole on foot Henry Worsley undertook not one but three expeditions to one of the most brutal environments in the world His last trek in 2015 2016 was entirely solo His wife and children stood by praying for his safe return Passion for something can easily tip into obsession which is a dangerous thing especially when those affected are the very people who so loyally stand and waitThe drama and danger of this venture was riveting to say the least David Grann provides a lot of background on the original expeditions highlighting much of Shackleton’s journey as well as his exemplary leadership skills He shares snippets of dispatches and journal entries from Henry Worsley’s accounts which gave this nonfiction piece a feeling of immediacy My mind never once strayed from the narrative despite the fact I am often prone to doing so while listening to a book rather than reading it myself It’s actually a fairly short work and I was rather surprised when it came to an end – a good sign of a successful audio experience I guess Now an instant fan of David Grann I will gladly seek out of his writing in the future His prose is clear and concise and never once felt dry He’s also given me a big push to read those Shackleton books that have been languishing on my to read list for far too long I highly recommend this one to anyone that loves a great adventure tale as well as those that enjoy stimulating true stories My only regret with this was that I know I missed out on some remarkable photographs which I understand are included in the paper version I may seek this out in that format just to catch a glimpse of those pictures Henry Worsley was a devoted husband and father and a decorated British special forces officer who believed in honor and sacrifice He was also a man obsessed He spent his life idolizing Ernest Shackleton the nineteenth century polar explorer who tried to become the first person to reach the South Pole and later sought to cross Antarctica on foot Shackleton never completed his journeys but he repeatedly rescued his men from certain death and emerged as one of the greatest leaders in historyWorsley felt an overpowering connection to those expeditions He was related to one of Shackleton's men Frank Worsley and spent a fortune collecting artifacts from their epic treks across the continent He modeled his military command on Shackleton's legendary skills and was determined to measure his own powers of endurance against them He would succeed where Shackleton had failed in the most brutal landscape in the worldIn 2008 Worsley set out across Antarctica with two other descendants of Shackleton's crew battling the freezing desolate landscape life threatening physical exhaustion and hidden crevasses Yet when he returned home he felt compelled to go back On November 2015 at age 55 Worsley bid farewell to his family and embarked on his most perilous uest to walk across Antarctica alone

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