An Empire of Ice: Scott, Shackleton, and the Heroic Age of Antarctic Science

An Empire of Ice: Scott, Shackleton, and the Heroic Age of Antarctic Science

Edward J. Larson / Oct 18, 2019

An Empire of Ice Scott Shackleton and the Heroic Age of Antarctic Science Published to coincide with the centenary of the first expeditions to reach the South Pole An Empire of Ice presents a fascinating new take on Antarctic exploration Retold with added information it s

  • Title: An Empire of Ice: Scott, Shackleton, and the Heroic Age of Antarctic Science
  • Author: Edward J. Larson
  • ISBN: 9780300154085
  • Page: 186
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Published to coincide with the centenary of the first expeditions to reach the South Pole, An Empire of Ice presents a fascinating new take on Antarctic exploration Retold with added information, it s the first book to place the famed voyages of Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, his British rivals Robert Scott and Ernest Shackleton, and others in a larger scientific, socPublished to coincide with the centenary of the first expeditions to reach the South Pole, An Empire of Ice presents a fascinating new take on Antarctic exploration Retold with added information, it s the first book to place the famed voyages of Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, his British rivals Robert Scott and Ernest Shackleton, and others in a larger scientific, social, and geopolitical context.Efficient, well prepared, and focused solely on the goal of getting to his destination and back, Amundsen has earned his place in history as the first to reach the South Pole Scott, meanwhile, has been reduced in the public mind to a dashing incompetent who stands for little than relentless perseverance in the face of inevitable defeat An Empire of Ice offers a new perspective on the Antarctic expeditions of the early twentieth century by looking at the British efforts for what they actually were massive scientific enterprises in which reaching the South Pole was but a spectacular sideshow By focusing on the larger purpose, Edward Larson deepens our appreciation of the explorers achievements, shares little known stories, and shows what the Heroic Age of Antarctic discovery was really about.

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      Posted by:Edward J. Larson
      Published :2018-09-14T01:48:07+00:00

    About "Edward J. Larson"

      • Edward J. Larson

        Pulitzer Prize winning American historian and legal scholar He is university professor of history and holds the Hugh Hazel Darling Chair in Law at Pepperdine University He was formerly Herman E Talmadge Chair of Law and Richard B Russell Professor of American History at the University of Georgia.


    263 Comments

    1. This is a book that I really wanted to like. Perhaps it is because I listened to it as an audio book, but I think not. The author made a strategic decision to tell the story of the antarctic exploration in chronological silos spanning the late 1800 to early 1900s. A chapter dealing with magnetism, a chapter on glaciology, a chapter on geography, a chapter on geology, etc. Into each of these chapters he drops personal tidbits and gossip, and makes an attempt at tying together threads of Empire, d [...]


    2. I have read a number of books about polar exploration. Many focus on attempts to reach the geographic north or south pole. This book focuses on the scientific aspects of various expeditions to Antarctica in the 19th and early 20th centuries making it a worthy addition to the literature. What is almost more interesting is the examination of the national and personal motivations that affected the ways in which the expeditions were structured. If you are interested in the history of polar explorati [...]


    3. Non-Fiction. A history, not of Antarctic exploration as I'd hoped, but of the science that grew out of that exploration. Each chapter is dedicated to a different discipline: terrestrial magnetism, oceanography, meteorology, biology, geology, paleontology, and glaciology among them. The book primarily concerns itself with what's referred to as the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration—from the late-1800s to the turn of the century and a little beyond—and focuses mostly on the expeditions of Rob [...]


    4. When I started this book, it gave me the impression it was going to be nothing more than a desert dry reference title. However, after I got about a 1/4 of the way in, it reached from the depths of the Antarctic ocean floor and grabbed my attention like a sea monster hugging on the Nautilus. Overall, I wasn't a fan of the author's choice to have each chapter focus on a specific discipline rather than follow a chronological timeline, but it still wasn't a major detractor from the overall experienc [...]


    5. Extremely well-written account of the Discovery, Nimrod, and Terra Nova Expeditions to Antarctica in the early 20th century. The author fills a gap in the literature by concentrating on the scientific research these expeditions conducted. Quite interesting and if you are not familiar with the outcome of these expeditions, he strings you along quite well. And if you do know.his subtle comments pack a punch.


    6. A very interesting account of Antarctic exploration. Details a lot of the politics surrounding approval of the expeditions along with a lot of in depth coverage of their focus on the sciences of the Antarctic continent. I found the daily logs of Scott and Edward Wilson of interest, also, the few drawing showing Wilson's artistic side as he documented his interest of science. I found myself looking up the maps that are provided, as they are to small to view in the book itself, showing the treks o [...]


    7. I consider myself well-read in the Antarctic explorers, especially Shackleton's dumfounding survival in the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition (1914–17), but this book tackled the larger scientific work that happened with these expeditions which I found quite intriguing. The author also opened my eyes to Huntford's slant against Scott and for Shackleton, which has formed much of my bias against Scott. I was especially amazed that Wilson and Scott collected geology specimens even when they kne [...]


    8. This book contained fascinating information about the explorers focusing on the science they did and how science drove their expeditions. It felt a little disjointed in that it was arranged by scientific topic and so kept skipping form expedition to expedition on each topic.



    9. This was a fascinating, and quite surprising in some ways, look at the British explorers who braved the hardships of Antarctic exploration in the late-1800s and early-1900s. It was fascinating because of the in-depth discussions of the scientific aims of these explorations. More than mere "races to the pole," these expeditions had extremely important scientific goals in areas such as geography, geology, biology and botany, and more. Larson is one of the few authors who could make the study of th [...]


    10. I love "cold" books and this is an interesting twist on the race to the pole. Or rather, I had always thought of it as the race to the pole. According to this book, polar exploration was about science as well as about empire. Scott was beaten to the pole because he took too much time for science whereas Amundsen was racing for the pole? Heck, I don't know but it certainly is an interesting twist and a different way to tell the stories of polar exploration. I love the story of the chilly (ha!) re [...]


    11. I wanted to review the contents of AN EMPIRE OF ICE, but will have to settle for a critique of the book production. I first heard about this new take on Amundsen, Scott and Shackleton on NPR, Ira Flatow interviewing author Edward Larson--which got me excited about tracking down a copy. Ever thrifty, I put in a reserve request at the public library and received a brand-new copy at my neighborhood branch within a few days. Imagine my disappointment (on the heels of confusion) to discover that the [...]


    12. This book is very interesting. Because I read it electronically, and I'm aging, the maps were impossible to read. However, I got out my huge National Geographic maps and you still couldn't make out much. It needed more 'local' maps.I was enthralled during the first part, but the book slowed down over the remainder as it basically time-warped back through the same voyages focusing on different areas of science. The other thing I would fault it for is that it assumes you, you modern you, know the [...]


    13. I'm afraid I found this book to be more dry than I expected. And I don't mean in comparison to a novel, but in comparison to other non-fiction history books that I've read. Author Edward J. Larson describes the late 19th Century/early 20th Century explorations of Antarctica. It's a mix of personality, science, and adventure, but the mixture doesn't quite gel. I like reading about science, but I just couldn't get into descriptions of wind, ocean currents, and ice crystals. (The stuff about fossil [...]



    14. Larson writes about the several British expeditions to Antarctica and the South Pole in the period before World War I. He demonstrates that the expeditions were fairly science-based and were expressions of national pride and British empire building. Books bogs down a bit in the review of scientific achievements but the effort these guys expended is remarkable. First book I've read on these expeditions that actually discussed how they went to the bathroom - sounds terrible. Interesting to read th [...]


    15. Amazing details of the Shackleton voyage. I enjoyed how many granular details and backstory was included. Recommended if you're a fan of the Shackleton tale.


    16. If you're looking for a story about Scott's and Shackleton's race for the South Pole, this is not it. Although An Empire of Ice includes information about the expeditions and their sledge trips, it is really a story about the scientific goals and results of the expeditions. For that reason, chapters are grouped by scientific discipline rather than chronologically through the book.It's a fascinating book, and well-written, but I found myself wishing that I knew more about the current state of kno [...]


    17. I absolutely loved the topic of Antarctica, polar exploration, English Empire building, and the turn of the Century. But overall I would have to say I was a little disappointed with this book. It certainly was well researched and had a lot of information but the way it was organized made it extremely hard to follow. It read like a research paper with strings of quotes working as whole points instead of support. I realize Larson is considered an excellent author, but I just wasn't sold. His other [...]


    18. This book really annoyed be for the first 50 pages or so, because it just seemed like all these different personalities and I didn't find anything to be particularly likable. That early bit is necessary to set the stage for the rest of the book, which is about the history of scientific exploration in Antarctica. There is some early mention of the Race to the Pole, which I am sure we are all familiar with, but the focus of the book is on the scientific aspects of the early Antarctic expeditions. [...]


    19. If you grew up when I did the stories of the races to the North and South poles were part of your history. Larson tackles the story in a very different way by looking at the various sciences that were advanced by going to especially the Antarctic. He weaves in the jealousy among the explorers and some threads which were current in science in the early 1900s but thankfully are no longer there (for example Eugenics). He also paints a picture of just how tough the experience of these early explorer [...]


    20. I don't think that the audiobook format did An Empire of Ice justice. For example, this listener could have used some maps and photographs. (For example, where is Victoria Land?) I did spend some of my non-commute time checking out .The book is intended to discuss the scientific focus (or scientific non-focus, in the case of Amundsen's polar trek) of early (mostly) British Antarctic expeditions. The author seems to feel that the quest for science is what made the "Heroic Age of Antarctic Explora [...]


    21. The British Antarctic explorers always claimed that their main goal was scientific, even when it wasn't. The good adventure yarns are told elsewhere, and you should start with them if you're looking for adventure. This book is organized by scientific category (e,g magnetism, penguins, ice) and then each chapter's topic is treated chronologically. At times, this organization breaks the momentum, but it also offers a fascinating record of the advances in technology and scientific thought focused o [...]


    22. I struggled with Larson's descriptions of Scott and Shackleton at the very beginning of the book, and thought I might end up not liking this one much. But once he actually got into the history of science in the Antarctic it became much more interesting, and I really appreciated the way he told that story, connecting these expeditions and the science they were doing to what was going on in the world at that time. I've read many books about these expeditions, but this is the only one I've run acro [...]


    23. I am not a scientist. My eyes glaze over when watching Nova, yet I read Larson's book eagerly and with enjoyment. I learned a lot about the early scientific discoveries of Antarctica as well as about the race to the Pole. The way he wove the various expeditions together under a variety of scientific topics was only occasionally confusing. The beginning with Amundsen's successful reaching of the South Pole first to closing the book with Scott's fatal mission was masterful. I look forward to meeti [...]


    24. I'll admit -- I listened to this on audio, read by John Allen Nelson. It was August in Texas -- 100 degrees plus, and during some long car trips I cooled off just listening to discussions of Antarctic summer temperatures with highs of -20's and -30's F. The political wrangling in Great Britain over the pre-World War I expeditions of Scott and Shackleton was disturbing as was the insulting behavior toward Norwegian Amundsen for reaching the South Pole ahead of the unwieldy British teams. Overall, [...]


    25. An interesting book, but also an example of how to ruin a good story. Larson is interested not in the heroic age of Antartic exploration but of Anarctic science. As a result, he tells the same story seven times over—from the perspective of geology, geography, ethongoraphy, etc. Not only does the story get duller, it gets more confusing, as you try to remember who was doing what at a similar moment in the previous chapter. But, still, what a story! The exploits of adventurers make the toils of [...]


    26. An Empire of Ice is a fascinating look at the science done on the Antarctic expeditions of the heroic age. It focuses on the Scott and Shackleton expeditions. If you're interested in a straightforward narrative of these expeditions, this book is not the best place to start, because it organizes the narrative by the type of science done, not chronologically. But if you're familiar with the basic history and want to learn more about the science, this book is an excellent place to start.


    27. I really wanted to like this book, but I just found it boring. It was like warm milk, not unpleasant, but not exciting. I tried three different chapters, since they didn't seem to be in chronological order, and just couldn't figure out what point the author was making. It didn't help that I wanted to read about Amundsen, not the British explorers that this book focused on.


    28. An excellent book topic spoiled by disjointed writing. Very little is actually spent on Scott/Shackleton but rather unique chapters on progress on different scientific spheres each time retold in chronological order, i.e. First terrestrial magnetism so players are rehashed. A book I wanted to like, but poorly executed, interesting adecdoctes at least abound.


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