South with the Sun: Roald Amundsen His Polar Explorations and the Quest for Discovery Europe Norway Lynne Cox Knopf First Edition editionMay 27
Lynne Cox has set records all over the world for open-water swimming. She is the author of Swimming to Antarctica and Grayson and lives in Los Alamitos, California.
Siberia and U-2
The nose of the Aeroflot TU-154 aircraft parted long feathery white strands of stratus clouds that whorled past the cockpit, the captain continued his descent, and suddenly, the whole world opened below. An ancient Siberian taiga, a forest dark and dense with fir, spruce, larch, and pine, rose on craggy hilltops and descended deep into shadowed valleys.
Strong shafts of sunlight focused by the clouds lit the groves of Berioskawhite birchand transformed them to yellow flames. The world below suddenly changed, and all the forest was gone; just stumps remained, and death, and naked brown earth, for miles. The earth was eroding quickly into rivers and streams, turning them from clear blue to muddy brown. But on the horizon another evergreen taiga appeared and a sliver of deep lapis blue: Lake Baikalthe deepest lake in the world, four hundred miles long, an average fifty miles wide, one- quarter of the worlds fresh water. This was the blue jewel of Siberia. It was 1988, a year after my Bering Strait swim, which had opened the border between the United States and the Soviet Union. I wanted to swim Lake Baikal. I had no idea how much the Soviets appreciated my Bering Strait crossing or the upcoming Lake Baikal swim until we landed in Moscow and later in Siberia. There were crowds and press everywhere, and people recognized us on the streets. We were told when we reached Irkutsk that the Siberians had been waiting for a group of famous Americans to visit them ever since the time of President Eisenhower. They had constructed new roads for his visit, and a new hotel, but when the U-2 incident occurred, when the U.S. spy plane piloted by Gary Powers was shot down over the Soviet Union in 1960, President Eisenhower was no longer welcome. The relations between the United States and the Soviet Union disintegrated, and the cold war grew colder and grimmer. But our Soviet hosts told us things had changed. We were the group of Americans that the Siberians had long been waiting for.
Our Siberian officials arranged tours of cities, took us to basketball games and other special events, and fêted us at dinners and church celebrations. After flying through thirteen time zones, and two days of constant motion, we were weary, and my focus needed to be on the upcoming swim: planning it out, figuring out the currents, and talking to the local pilot so we could work together. I would be swimming in three days. That wasnt much time to recover or figure out the course of a swim.
Early one morning, before anyone was awake, I slipped out a back door, and went for a long walk along Lake Baikals shores. I climbed down some boulders, to the Angara River. This was the only river that flowed out of the lake, and here the currents were strong, the water flowed fast, probably three or four knots. I studied the movement of the water as it flowed along the shore. It was like one massive drain out of a swimming pool. If we got caught in that, wed move out with the river. We would need to keep a distance of a mile or two, or Id never make it across the lake.
A Siberian woman with high Slavic cheekbones and tanned skin, probably in her seventies, wearing a bright scarf on her head, a blue jacket, and a skirt well below her knees, scrambled across a quarter mile of river rocks. She stood up excitedly and waved. Holding her hand was a young man who looked like her son. He was taller and leaner, but he had the same blue eyes, the same nose, and the same-shaped smile.
When they reached me, she was barely out of breath. She immediately said that she had been waiting for me. Her son translated my English for her. He had studied it in school as a child, and he had never used it before to speak to an American. He was very excited. The elderly woman said she had a dream the night before that we would meet on the Angara River. She was so excited. Her blue eyes were full of light. She told me that I was welcome there. And then she said something I didnt understand. She said that I was like George Washington De Long, an American hero to all of Siberia.
I had never heard of George Washington De Long before. I was perplexed. Maybe I misunderstood. Did she maybe mean to say George Washington? I asked.
No, Captain George Washington De Long. Hadnt I heard of him? The man translated. He seemed very disappointed. But his mother put on a smile and said that I was welcome there, and welcome to join them anytime at their home.
With all that happened during the next days, and all the political challenges, and the swim across Lake Baikal, which was moved up a day and was completely successful, I forgot this conversation. It faded deep into memory, but one day when I was reading about Roald Amundsen, drawing inspiration from his life, and from the lives of other polar explorers, I kept seeing references to a ship called Jeannette. Finally I decided I needed to know more about the ship and saw that the ships captain was George Washington De Long. He was Amundsens inspiration and was one of the very first polar explorers. I had to find out about Captain George Washington De Long to understand Amundsens path and to gain inspiration and direction for
On the soft foggy gray horizon of San Francisco Bay, a brown dot bounced on navy blue waters. The dot grew in size and became the form of a shipthe USS Jeannette. She plied through the rough, salty, white- capped waters on an epic journey.
It was July 8, 1879, and Lieutenant Commander George Washington De Long and his crew were attempting a historic voyage to become the first expedition to reach the North Pole via the Bering Strait.
De Long stood at the helm dressed in full navy uniform with Emma, his wife, beside him on the bridge. His sky blue eyes behind round eyeglasses scanned the water; the colorful escort boats ablaze with signal flags and masthead flags accompanied him as he sailed past Alcatraz Island and toward the distant headlands of San Francisco Bay. The hum of the Jeannettes engines vibrated through the De Longs as they steamed west together.
George and Emma had met in France, and he had fallen in love with her immediately. But she had another commitment, to a young man who was dying. George wrote to her and waited for her and, when her friend passed, convinced her that he loved her. Emmas father set up conditions. He insisted that they stay apart and out of communication for two years, and if after that time they still felt the same, he would permit them to be together. They had endured and married and now had a young daughter, Sylvie.
More than anything, Emma wanted to sail with George. She had worked alongside him lobbying the U.S. Navy and James Gordon Bennett, a New York newspaper publisherand owner of the Jeannetteand President Rutherford Hayes to provide the support to refit the Jeannette and fund this expedition.
Lieutenant Commander De Long, and the thirty-two-man crew of the USS Jeannette, a 420-ton bark-rigged wooden steamship, were attempting to become the first American ship to reach the North Pole through the rough waters of the Bering Strait. This journey was meant to be one of exploration, of scientific research, and of discovery, for in 1879 sailing north into Arctic waters toward the North Pole was like flying to another galaxy.
Thousands of people from all over the Bay Area came to see the Jeannette off. It was a day to celebrate the possibility of solving one of the worlds great puzzles, of reaching the North Pole, and of making great discoveries. The jubilant San Franciscans lined the waterfront. They stood on wide wooden piers, along the curve of Market Street, on top of Telegraph Hill. They lifted children on their shoulders so they could see above the heads in the crowd. They stretched their necks to catch sight of the Jeannette. As she sailed past, they cheered wildly, dogs barked excitedly, and roar upon roar rose from the crowd that followed the Jeannette along with a great wave of humanity on foot, bikes, and in horse-drawn carriages, as she headed west.
The Jeannette passed what would one day become major San Francisco landmarks: Aliotos and Capurros restaurants and the Argonaut Hotel. She powered by what would become the South End Rowing Club and the Dolphin Club, and the Buena Vista Caf and Ghirardelli Square. She sailed past what would become the beautiful St. Francis Yacht Club, and the exquisite Palace of Fine Arts Theater and the Exploratorium. She slipped toward what would become the majestic spans of the Golden Gate Bridge and the entrance to San Francisco Bay.
Cool moist gusts of wind funneled through brown bone-dry hills above San Francisco and pushed the bay into two-foot-high waves. Boats of all sizestugs, launches, fishing boats still smelling like fish from the morning catch, and yachts all decked out with brightly colored flags and banners from the San Francisco Yacht Clubsteered toward the Jeannette. People on the boats sounded the ships horns and blasted the whistles. They clapped, waved, cheered, and shouted Good luck as the Jeannette sailed near the Presidio and Fort Mason, where the U.S. Army honored the captain and crew of the Jeannette by firing off a farewell salute.
Bound for the north, into unexplored waters and lands that were mostly uncharted, with almost complete uncertainty about what lay ahead, the Jeannette was loaded to the gunwales with provisions, coal, and supplies in case the worst happened and the ship was lost, and the crew had to take to shore and somehow survive.
The Jeannette sailed with her hull low in the water. She lumbered almost painfully toward the entrance to the Pacific. Her own construction made her heavy. She had been reinforced with thick oak timbers and strong iron transverse beams that were meant to protect her from the deadly pressure of the sea ice in the Arcti…
Roald Amundsen, the last of the Vikings, left his mark on the Heroic Era as one of the most successful polar explorers ever.
A powerfully built man more than six feet tall, Amundsens career of adventure began at the age of fifteen (he was born in Norway in 1872 to a family of merchant sea captains and rich ship owners); twenty-five years later he was the first man to reach both the North and South Poles.
Lynne Cox, adventurer and swimmer, author of Swimming to Antarctica (gripping Sports Illustrated) and Grayson (wondrous, and unforgettable Carl Hiaasen), gives us in South with the Sun a full-scale account of the explorers life and expeditions.
We see Amundsen, in 1903-06, the first to travel the Northwest Passage between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, in his small ship Gja, a seventy-foot refitted former herring boat powered by sails and a thirteen-horsepower engine, making his way through the entire length of the treacherous ice bound route, between the northern Canadian mainland and Canadas Arctic islands, from Greenland across Baffin Bay, between the Canadian islands, across the top of Alaska into the Bering Strait. The dangerous journey took three years to complete, as Amundsen, his crew, and six sled dogs waited while the frozen sea around them thawed sufficiently to allow for navigation.
We see him journey toward the North Pole in Fridtjof Nansens famous Fram, until word reached his expedition party of Robert Pearys successful arrival at the North Pole. Amundsen then set out on a secret expedition to the Antarctic, and we follow him through his heroic capture of the South Pole.
Cox makes clear why Amundsen succeeded in his quests where other adventurer-explorers failed, and how his methodical preparation and willingness to take calculated risks revealed both the spirit of the man and the way to complete one triumphant journey after another.
Crucial to Amundsens success in reaching the South Pole was his use of carefully selected sled dogs. Amundsens canine crew membershe called them our childrenhad been superbly equipped by centuries of natural selection for survival in the Arctic. The dogs, he wrote, are the most important thing for us. The whole outcome of the expedition depends on them. On December 14, 1911, Roald Amundsen and four others, 102 days and more than 1,880 miles later, stood at the South Pole, a full month before Robert Scott.
Lynne Cox describes reading about Amundsen as a young girl and how because of his exploits was inspired to follow her dreams. We see how she unwittingly set out in Amundsens path, swimming in open waters off Antarctica, then Greenland (always without a wetsuit), first as a challenge to her own abilities and then later as a way to understand Amundsens life and the lessons learned from his vision, imagination, and daring.
South with the Suninspiring, wondrous, and trueis a bold adventure story of bold ambitious dreams.
The Longest Winter: Scott’s Other Heroes
Praise for The Longest Winter
“[A] gripping scientific adventure story [that] also includes fascinating details about glacial ecology.” Publisher’s Weekly (Starred Review)
“A grand story of six brave men who literally and figuratively pulled together in their race for survival.” Kirkus
Best book I ever read on Antarctica.” George Denton, author of The Fate of Greenland
“This is Antarctic nonfiction at its best. A real page turner that I read in two sittings. Having spent a dozen austral summers on the Antarctic ice, I can tell the true McCoy description of Polar life and teamwork when I read it. This little known tale of Scott’s early South Polar explorers gets into the realities of living and working in the isolated days a century ago before telecoms and e mail. While the well known dramas of the South Polar race are in movies and books, Meredith Hooper tells the almost unknown tale of these extraordinary men of Scotts team who didnt go to the Pole but explored and survived for over a year on a diet of only Weddell seal and penguin. Such a tale of extraordinary endurance. Hooper tells this tale intelligently, enchantingly and perceptively, often in the explorer’s own words, since she has spent years studying the men’s diaries at SPRI. Whats more, she has visited the isolated Ross Sea spots where they lived or sailed past. It doesn’t get any better than reading this Antarctic tale to help one imagine what real exploration was like on this extraordinarily inhospitable continent. Warren Zapol, author of Anesthesiology
Through the eyes of the men involved, Meredith Hooper recounts one of the greatest tales of adventure and endurance, which has often been overshadowed by the tragedy that befell Scott.
Their tents were torn, their food was nearly finished, and the ship had failed to pick them up as planned. Gale-force winds blew, bitter with the cold of approaching winter. Stranded and desperate, Lieutenant Victor Campbell and his five companions faced disaster. They burrowed inside a snowdrift, digging an ice-cave with no room to stand upright, but space for six sleeping bags on the floorthe three officers on one side, the tree seamen on the other. Circumstances forced them closer together, their roles blurred, and a shared sense of reality emerged. This mutual suffering made them indivisible and somehow they made it through the longest winter.
To the south, the men waiting at headquarters knew that Scott and his Polar party must be dead and hoped that another six lives would not be added to the death toll. Working from diaries, journals, and letters written by expedition members, Meredith Hooper tells the intensely human story of Scotts other expedition.