Normally, I like to read tales of polar exploration when the thermometer drops below 0 Fahrenheit. However, Amazon has its own schedule.
Review: A Wretched and Precarious Situation: In Search of the Last Arctic Frontier, David Welky, 2016.
The history of polar exploration is full of disappointment and failure. However, there aren’t a lot of tales of polar exploration that descend into not only outright dissension but murder too. And none of those are documented so personally by the principals involved from not only their published writings but personal journals and diaries.
In 1913, the Crocker Island Expedition set off to explore an island, neigh a continent, sighted by Captain Robert Peary in 1908 on his penultimate expedition to attain the North Pole.
Weather, logistical problems caused by World War One, and public indifference stretched the expedition out to four years. The brutal polar clime, the long nights and social isolation, the deprivations of sledding and short provisions, changed the men. Some discovered inner reserves and talents, some realized the importance of loved ones they left, and some psychologically disintegrated.
Welky pulls the reader through the story in a high state of suspense partly because of its obscurity and the parallax view of all those personal and largely unpublished writings. The frontpiece is of a map – but only of the Arctic as theorized in 1912. Further the suspense, Welky narrates his story chronologically. Characters drop out of the story unexpectedly and a nice coda is provided for the principals’ post-expedition lives. Continue reading