When explorers such as Ernest Shackleton, Roald Amundsen, and Robert Falcon Scott all set off to Antarctica in the early years of the 20th century, the polar regions were among the last truly unexplored areas of the world--and arguably the least hospitable. Scott lost his life, pinned down in a howling blizzard only 11 miles from his supply depot; Shackleton lost his ship, crushed in the ice. Even those who survived the icy wastes did so only with enormous effort. And yet, there is something about Antarctica that beckons people; eighty years after Shackleton''s voyage, Sara Wheeler answered the call, leaving her comfortable home for "the Great White." Terra Incognita is the result of her sojourn in that legendary land.
In addition to chronicling her own encounters with the people and the place, Wheeler brings the past alive as well, through vivid stories about the heroes of polar exploration: Shackleton, Scott, Amundsen, and others who practically become secondary characters in Wheeler''s account. But it is her interactions with the living people who make up the community--scientists, drifters, and dreamers who have settled this forbidding landscape--that make Terra Incognita a rare and worthy book.
It is the coldest, windiest, driest place on earth, an icy desert of unearthly beauty and stubborn impenetrability. For centuries, Antarctica has captured the imagination of our greatest scientists and explorers, lingering in the spirit long after their return. Shackleton called it "the last great journey"; for Apsley Cherry-Garrard it was the worst journey in the world.
This is a book about the call of the wild and the response of the spirit to a country that exists perhaps most vividly in the mind. Sara Wheeler spent seven months in Antarctica, living with its scientists and dreamers. No book is more true to the spirit of that continent--beguiling, enchanted and vast beyond the furthest reaches of our imagination. Chosen by Beryl Bainbridge and John Major as one of the best books of the year, recommended by the editors of Entertainment Weekly and the Chicago Tribune, one of the Seattle Times''s top ten travel books of the year, Terra Incognita is a classic of polar literature.
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