I’ve been fascinated with Shackleton’s story since third grade. It is the classic story of survival against the odds, an expedition where everyone lived to tell. I came across some illustrated kid’s book about it and later on read Shackleton’s Valiant Voyage by Alfred Lansing. I’ve seen a few documentaries on it. Shackleton even shows up in David Hambling’s Cthulhu Mythos novel The Elder Ice.
But, in the desultory manner things get done around here, it wasn’t until a few months ago that I actually read the primary source document for the voyage – Shackleton’s own book.
On January 22, 2014, I was at a flea market in Texas.
I was in a hurry, and I’d heard the title of this Verne novel, saw it was polar story, so I grabbed it off the shelf without a closer look. I thought I was getting Verne’s sequel to Edgar Allan Poe’s The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym.
For the record, that would be Verne’s An Antarctic Mystery.
Review: The Adventures of Captain Hatteras, Jules Verne, trans. William Butcher, 1864, 2005.
This was Jules Verne’s second novel and the first of his Extraordinary Journeys, a series that continued for 50 years and 63 more books.
It was popular in its day. Four English were done in the 1870s, but Butcher, as the back cover would have it, “the father of Verne Studies”, says none were subsequently done until his.
Real polar explorers found it one of the most accurate pictures ever written of life in the Arctic — or so a footnoted source says.
There’s no doubt Verne turned over a library for this book. He was a devotee of polar exploration though somewhat hampered by not reading English. However, many polar chronicles had been translated from English into French.
The plot of this two-decker novel has the ship the Forward departing Liverpool on April 6, 1860 with Richard Shandon, second-in-command, on board. The captain, whoever he is, will show up later. Shandon is known as a reliable and knowledgeable seaman with experience of Arctic waters. Dr. Clawbonny joins the ship later in the voyage. He’ll be an affable, steadfast character with an encyclopedic knowledge of polar exploration and the polar clime – though most of it is was learned through books. He’s looking for more actual experience. Continue reading “Adventures in Reviewer Parallax: The Adventures of Captain Hatteras”→
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 “A Wretched and Precarious Situation”→