Antarctic Books
Biographies from the Heroic Age


Captain Scott biography by Ranulph FiennesCaptain Scott
Ranulph Fiennes

Buy

A book that reassesses Captain Scott in the light of evidence that was revealed after the Huntford book "The Last Place on Earth" in particular, that painted Scott as something of an incompetent egotistical character against Amundsen's "Viking Hero". Fiennes is the man to cut through the sometimes over dramatic prose of writers who have no idea what it is really like to put themselves in extreme positions and achieve their goals.

Sir Ranulph Fiennes is often described as the "Greatest Living Explorer", having experienced the deprivations, stress and sheer physical pain that Scott endured, Fiennes is well qualified to write the biography of Captain Scott, his insights don't come from a comfy chair and other people's reminiscences.

Shackleton biography by Roland HuntfordShackleton
Roland Huntford

Buy

A substantial and comprehensive biography of Sir Ernest Shackleton, his strengths and weaknesses. Most famous for the Endurance expedition where his ship, the Endurance was crushed by ice leaving the crew marooned on shifting and eventually crumbling sea-ice leading to their self-rescue after a number of harrowing adventures. Anglo-Irish Shackleton also took part in three other expeditions to Antarctica in addition to this, two of which he organized and  led, the other was with Captain Scott.

While Huntford is a thorough and compelling story teller, he has a tendency to bring his own often biased view of his subjects to his works.


Frank Wild - The Quest for
Angie Butler

Buy from Amazon
Buy from the author

John Robert Francis Wild, better known as Frank Wild is the relatively unknown giant of the "Heroic Age" of Antarctic Exploration. He played a significant role in several of the most important expeditions, being on board with Scott when the Discovery  sailed for McMurdo Sound in 1901 so heralding the start of 20 years of epic exploration and adventure, he was also on board the Quest in 1922 when the death of Shackleton at South Georgia signified the end of the era and had taken part in the Endurance expedition. No one else was so involved and no other explorer spent so long in Antarctica. He is one of only two men to have been awarded four Polar Medals each with silver clasps.

Biographer Angie Butler spent seven years finding the real story of Wild's life. He spent the latter part in South Africa and little was known and had been maligned by hearsay and sensational journalism and most tragically of all, no-one knew where he was buried. An outstanding man lost in life and in death.

Eric Marshall - Shackleton's Critic
Angie Butler and Beau Riffenburgh

Buy

Eric Stewart Marshall was part of Shackleton's Nimrod expedition 1907-1909 and one of the 4 man team including Shackleton who came within 97 miles of the South Pole before turning back, a new farthest south at the time. A month and a half later on the way back, his individual heroics saved his three companions who would otherwise have perished. Two years later he was the first westerner to explore the interior of New Guinea. Marshall received neither fame nor fortune from these achievements and became ever more embittered. As time passed, much of Marshall's spleen was directed at Shackleton.

This only biography of Marshall was difficult to research though Antarctic authors and scholars Angie Butler and Beau Riffenburgh succeeded following the discovery of a diary written by Marshall not held by any institution and so not subject to copyright.


Roald Amundsen - The Last Viking
Stephen Brown

Buy

While he will forever be best known as the leader of the first expedition to reach the South Pole, Amundsen's achievements at both poles (though mainly the north) were far more wide ranging than are generally known. He also led the first expedition to successfully traverse the fabled northwest passage and later was a pioneer of aviation in the Arctic. A complex character who achieved undoubted huge successes as a polar explorer, he often polarizes opinions due to what are seen by some as significant character flaws. Nonetheless a fascinating life however one views the achievements and the man.

Amundsen is a difficult subject to determine, his own writings are generally quite functional and prosaic giving little insight. Stephen Brown has extensively used contemporary press materials to gain an understanding of Amundsen and how the world saw him at the time, he does however tend to fall into the camp of admirers rather than being notably balanced.

Tom Crean - An Unsung Hero
Michael Smith

Buy

Irishman Tom Crean was part of three of the most famous expeditions of the Heroic Age, he was with Scott twice and hoped to be chosen as one of the South Pole party though was disappointed, later he was one of the party who found the dead bodies of Scott and his companions burying them beneath their tent. He was with Shackleton on the Endurance, being one of three who made the whole journey by boat to South Georgia and then over the island to effect a rescue. He was awarded the Polar and Albert medals for his service. He retired back to Ireland to his home village of Annascaul where he opened a pub he called the "South Pole Inn", still in business today.

Michael Smith is an award winning journalist, this was his first published biography which became the best selling non-fiction book in Ireland shortly after release. The book raised the profile of Irishmen who were involved in the exploration of the polar regions on numerous expeditions.


Edgar Evans - Captain Scott's Invaluable Assistant
Isobel Williams

Buy

Welshman Edgar "Taff" Evans sailed with Scott on both the Discovery and Terra Nova expeditions proving himself to be a strong, willing and cheerful worker, invaluable on sledging journeys. He set off for the Pole with Scott on the 1st of November 1911 and was one of the five men chosen for the South Pole Party. As the "strongman" he was an obvious choice for the final group while others on the expedition were uncertain who would make it into the final selection. It was unfortunately to be his undoing as he was the first of the polar party to die on the way back.

Evans was a "lower deck" member of the expedition as opposed to the "upper deck" other members of the polar party, this book by Isobel Williams in part addresses the attention that has previously not been afforded to him.

Birdie Bowers - Captain Scott's Marvel
Anne Strathie

Buy

Scotsman Henry Robertson Bowers or "Birdie" (somewhat unkindly because of the shape of his nose) was adventurous and very hardy, astonishing his shipmates by bathing daily with buckets of snow and slush once in Antarctica to acclimatize himself to the cold. It worked as later on, Cherry-Garrard described seeing him sleeping soundly while he suffered from uncontrollable shivering fits and chattering teeth after their tent blew away.

 He was included as part of Scott's polar party at the last minute, an additional fifth man to the planned four as a reward for his loyalty and effectiveness, though it was to lead to his death on the way back from the pole, so his first trip to Antarctica was his only one.

One of three books Anne Strathie has authored about the men of Scott's Terra Nova expedition. This draws on Bowers' correspondence and journals, previously unpublished material, shedding new light on Bowers telling the full story of the hardy naval officer who could always lift his companions' spirits.


Apsley Cherry-Garrard - Cherry - A Life of:
Sara Wheeler

Buy

One of the youngest members of Scott's expedition at 24 and one of the "landed gentry". Cherry-Garrard's initial application to join Scott was rejected, he then made another application with the promise of a £1,000 payment towards costs, again he was rejected but decided to donate the money anyway. Scott after persuasion from Wilson took him on as assistant biologist despite his lack of a scientific background. He took part in his own adventure to retrieve an emperor penguins egg in the depths of the Antarctic night which he called the "Worst Journey in the World" in his book of the same name, widely regarded as the greatest travel book ever written. He suffered from mental and physical health issues for the rest of his life that arose at least partially from his experiences in Antarctica. He blamed himself for not venturing further south when he might have encountered Scott, Bowers and Wilson and been able to save them.

Sara Wheeler's Cherry is the first biography of this great hero of Antarctic exploration, written with unrestricted access to his papers and with the full cooperation of his family. It is a book about a great writer written by a great writer.

Herbert Ponting
Anne Strathie

Buy

A professional photographer and filmmaker appointed by Captain Scott to accompany his second expedition to Antarctica on the Terra Nova, Ponting was with the expedition for the first year before returning home as planned while Scott and his party were making their attempt to reach the South Pole. His are some of the most iconic photographs from the Heroic Age, some  being instantly recognisable even if you're not an Antarctic buff, for my money, he is the best of the photographers of that era. Ponting's photographic travels took him to Japan, to the Russo-Japanese war and India at a time when such travels were rare and unusual before he  went to Antarctica. After his return and the news of the deaths of Scott's party reached England, things changed for Ponting. He had hoped to use his pictures and film to earn enough money by celebrating a great success, instead the earnings potential was greatly reduced and his work was instead an epitaph and eulogy to Scott and his men.

One of three books Anne Strathie has authored about the men of Scott's Terra Nova expedition. Drawing on previously unpublished correspondence and photographs, it provides new insights into the making of the man Captain Robert Scott trusted to record Antarctica and its wildlife and inspire new generations of explorers and naturalists.

Captain Oates - I am Just Going Outside
Michael Smith

Buy

Lawrence Oates known as "Titus" or "The Soldier" was part of the group that Captain Scott chose to reach the South Pole with him, walking to his death on the way back and becoming a national hero in the process. Immortalised by his last known words "I am just going outside and may be some time" before walking into an Antarctic blizzard in an attempt to help his companions survive themselves by relieving them of the burden of care. He was born into a wealthy family and had been a cavalry officer noted for bravery in the Boer War

Author Michael Smith is an award winning journalist, this is one of three polar biographies he has written, it It is beautifully illustrated with maps and photographs, many previously unpublished.

James Wordie - Polar Crusader
Michael Smith

Buy

Sir James Mann Wordie, born in Glasgow in 1889, accompanied Shackleton on his Endurance expedition which began his career as an adventurous field geologist, on his return he continued as an academic while also leading geological expeditions to the Arctic for many years. He was instrumental in safeguarding British strategic interests in the Antarctic territories during the wartime Operation Tabarin and immediately post-war with FID's, the Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey. He became President of the Royal Geographical Society and Master of St John's College, Cambridge.

Author Michael Smith is an award winning journalist, this is his third polar biography.


Edward Wilson - With Scott in the Antarctic
Isobel Williams

Buy

Edward Wilson known as "Uncle Bill" was one of the most prominent figures of early Antarctic exploration because of his easy manner and the great respect he received from the men he worked with, because of his paintings and drawings, and because he was one of the five men making up Scott's team that reached the South Pole, but died on the return journey. He had also accompanied Scott on his first Antarctic expedition in the Discovery. Born in Cheltenham, England, the son of a physician, he qualified in medicine at St. George's Hospital London. Shortly after he qualified as a doctor, Wilson became ill with tuberculosis, during the long convalescence he practiced and developed his skills as an artist.

Isobel Williams is a Consultant Physician in Respiratory Medicine who has been interested in Edward Wilson since she first saw his drawings while studying at St George's Hospital, London. This biography is the result of her passion for a truly great hero.

William Bruce - Forgotten Polar Hero
Isobel Williams and John Dudeney

Buy

William Spiers Bruce was a Scottish nationalist and naturalist who took part in many Arctic and Antarctic expeditions from 1892 to 1919. In 1902-04 he led the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition which wintered on Laurie Island in the South Orkneys group, two years later, the site was handed over to the Argentinians, still in use today, it is the longest continuously occupied Antarctic base. Bruce was a pioneer in cooperation amongst nations in scientific work in Antarctica.

Isobel P. Williams is a retired Medical Consultant Physician who has gone on to become a widely respected author, cruise speaker and lecturer on polar matters. John Dudeney spent 40 years as a research scientist and then as the Deputy Director of the British Antarctic Survey.


Edward Atkinson - Antarctic Explorer and War Hero
Michael C. Tarver

Buy

Edward Atkinson joined Scott on the Terra Nova expedition as a parasitologist and chief medical officer. He was involved with depot laying in January-March 1911 as preparation for the south pole attempt, starting in November 1911 he accompanied Scott's Polar Party as the upper Beardmore Glacier depot before returning to the expedition base. He was left in command of the Terra Nova Expedition's Cape Evans base as the remaining officer for most of 1912 after Scott and his party died on the way back from the Pole. Back home Atkinson served in the Great War, 1914-1918 and was severely wounded.

The Author's study of the polar regions has inspired research in the risks and consequences encountered by explorers of the "Heroic Age". He is a member of the Scott Polar Research Institute and a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

Frank Hurley - A Photographer's Life
Alasdair McGregor

Buy

Frank Hurley was the only member of Shackleton's Endurance expedition that Shackleton didn't meet or interview before the expedition set off, he was accepted on the the strength of his work with Mawson on the 1911-13 Expedition. Hurley joined the ship aat six weeks notice meeting the ship in Buenos Aires after travelling from Australia. After his Antarctic experiences he went to photograph and film extensively in his native Australia including being an official photographer in both world wars.

Australian Alasdair McGregor is an author several books. He was artist and photographer for three AAP Mawson's Huts Foundation expeditions to Antarctica, and in 2000 was curator for "A Century of Australians in Antarctica, a traveling exhibition featuring the photography of Frank Hurley.


Raymond Priestley - Priestley's Progress
Mike Bullock

Buy

Raymond Priestley's Antarctic career began with Shackleton on the Nimrod expedition, he returned to the Antarctic again with Scott when he was part of an allied expedition which was to become renowned for being probably the hardest winter ever served in Antarctica. He served in WW1 with distinction being awarded the Military Cross, remaining in the army until 1920 the same year that he co-founded the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge with fellow Terra Nova expedition member Frank Debenham. Priestley had a long administrative university career holding many academic and government posts in Australia and England and as an official observer and representative for his country in Antarctica.

Mike Bullock is a retired bank director  a member of the Centre for First World War Studies at the University of Birmingham, England, he lives in Warwickshire, England.

Frank Worsley - Shackleton's Captain
John Thomson

Buy

In 1914 at the age of 42, Frank Worsley joined Shackleton's 1914-17 "Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition" as the master of the Endurance, the expedition ship. Worsley would move than prove his worth in the expedition as one of the men who was beside Shackleton the whole way including the boat journey to South Georgia and the high level trek across the island to be followed by four rescue attempts to reach the stranded crew. This biography charts his whole life.


Short Online Biographies From the Heroic Age of Antarctica Exploration

Abbott, George, Percy
    Scott - Terra Nova 1910-13

Amundsen, Roald - South Pole

Argles, Harold, Arthur
    Shackleton - Quest 1921-22

Armitage, Albert, Borlace
    Scott - Discovery 1901-04

Atkinson, Edward
    Scott - Terra Nova 1910-13

Bage, Robert
    Mawson - Aurora 1911-13

Bakewell, William
    Shackleton - Endurance 1914-17

Balson, Albert
    Scott - Terra Nova 1910-13

Barne, Michael
    Scott - Discovery 1901-04

Bernacchi, Louis
    Scott - Discovery 1901-04

Berry, Victor
    Shackleton - Nimrod 1907-09

Bickerton, Francis H
    Mawson - Aurora 1911-13

Blackborow, Percy
    Shackleton - Endurance 1914-17

Blake, Leslie
    Mawson - Aurora 1911-13

Bowers, Henry Robertson
    Scott - Terra Nova 1910-13

Browning, Frank Vernon
    Scott - Terra Nova 1910-13

Buckridge, Horace Edgar
    Scott - Discovery 1901-04

Campbell, Victor Lindsay Arbuthnot
    Scott - Terra Nova 1910-13

Charcot, Jean Baptiste
    Charcot - Francais 1903 - 1905
    Charcot - Pourquoi-Pas? 1908 - 1910

Cheetham, Alfred
    Shackleton - Nimrod 1907-09
    Scott -
Terra Nova 1910-13
    Shackleton - Endurance 1914-17

Cherry-Garrard, Apsley
    Scott - Terra Nova 1910-13

Clark, Robert
    Shackleton - Endurance 1914-17

Close, John
    Mawson - Aurora 1911-13

Correll, Percy
    Mawson - Aurora 1911-13

Crean, Thomas
    Scott - Discovery 1901-04
    Scott -
Terra Nova 1910-13
    Shackleton - Endurance 1914-17

Dailey, Frederick
    Scott - Discovery 1901-04

Debenham, Frank
    Scott - Terra Nova 1910-13

Dickason, Harry
    Scott - Terra Nova 1910-13

Dovers, George
    Mawson - Aurora 1911-13

Duus, Ole Peder

Evans, Edgar
    Scott - Discovery 1901-04
    Scott -
Terra Nova 1910-13

Evans, Edward Ratcliffe Garth Russell
    Scott - Terra Nova 1910-13

Ferrar, Hartley Travers
    Scott - Discovery 1901-04

Florence, Edwin
    Bruce - Scotia 1902-04

Girev / Geroff,Dmitrii
    Scott - Terra Nova 1910-13

Gran, Tryggve
    Scott - Terra Nova 1910-13

Gravill, Henry
    Bruce - Scotia 1902-04

Green, Charles
    Shackleton - Endurance 1914-17
    Shackleton - Quest 1921-22

Greenstreet, Lionel
    Shackleton - Endurance 1914-17

Hamilton, Harold
    Mawson - Aurora 1911-13

Hannam, Walter
    Mawson - Aurora 1911-13

Harrisson, Charles
    Mawson - Aurora 1911-13

Hoadley, Charles
    Mawson - Aurora 1911-13

Hodgeman, Alfred James
    Mawson - Aurora 1911-13

Holness, Ernest
    Shackleton - Endurance 1914-17

How, Walter
    Shackleton - Endurance 1914-17

Hudson, Hubert
    Shackleton - Endurance 1914-17

Hunter, John George
    Mawson - Aurora 1911-13

Hurley, Frank
    Mawson - Aurora 1911-13
    Shackleton - Endurance 1914-17

Hussey, Leonard
    Shackleton - Endurance 1914-17
    Shackleton - Quest 1921-22

James, Reginald
    Shackleton - Endurance 1914-17

Jeffrey, Douglas, George
    Shackleton - Quest 1921-22

Johansen, Fredrick Hjalmar

Jones, Sydney
    Mawson - Aurora 1911-13

Kennedy, Alexander
    Mawson - Aurora 1911-13

Kerr, Alexander
    Shackleton - Endurance 1914-17
    Shackleton - Quest 1921-22

Koettlitz, Reginald
    Scott - Discovery 1901-04

Koren, Johan
    de Gerlache - Belgica 1897-99

Laseron, Charles
    Mawson - Aurora 1911-13

Lashly, William
    Scott - Discovery 1901-04
    Scott - Terra Nova 1910-13

Levick, George Murray
    Scott - Terra Nova 1910-13

Lincoln, Bert
    Mawson - Aurora 1911-13

Lindstrom, Adolf
    Amundsen - Fram 1910-11

 

Macklin, Alexander
    Shackleton - Endurance 1914-17
    Shackleton - Quest 1921-22

Madigan, Cecil Thomas
    Mawson - Aurora 1911-13

Marston, George
    Shackleton - Nimrod 1907-09
    Shackleton - Endurance 1914-17

Mawson, Douglas
    Shackleton - Nimrod 1907-09
    Mawson - Aurora 1911-13

McCarthy, Timothy
    Shackleton - Endurance 1914-17

McIlroy, James
    Shackleton - Endurance 1914-17
    Shackleton - Quest 1921-22

McLean, Archibald
    Mawson - Aurora 1911-13

McLeod, Thomas
    Scott - Terra Nova 1910-13
    Shackleton - Endurance 1914-17
    Shackleton - Quest 1921-22

McNeish, Henry
    Shackleton - Endurance 1914-17

Meares, Cecil Henry
    Scott - Terra Nova 1910-13

Mertz, Xavier
    Mawson - Aurora 1911-13

Moyes, Morton
    Mawson - Aurora 1911-13

Mulock, George Francis Arthur
    Scott - Discovery 1901-04

Murphy, Herbert
    Mawson - Aurora 1911-13

Ninnis, BES
    Mawson - Aurora 1911-13

Nodder, Richard Henry
    Shackleton - Nimrod 1907-09

Oates, Lawrence
    Scott - Terra Nova 1910-13

Omelchenko, Anton
    Scott - Terra Nova 1910-13

Orde, Lees Thomas
    Shackleton - Endurance 1914-17

Ponting, Herbert
    Scott - Terra Nova 1910-13

Prestrud, Kristian
    Amundsen - Fram 1910-11

Priestley, Raymond
    Shackleton - Nimrod 1907-09
    Scott -
Terra Nova 1910-13

Rickinson, Lewis
    Shackleton - Endurance 1914-17

Royds, Charles
    Scott - Discovery 1901-04

Sandell, Charles
    Mawson - Aurora 1911-13

Sawyer, A. J
    Mawson - Aurora 1911-13

Scott, Robert Falcon
    Scott - Discovery 1901-04
    Scott -
Terra Nova 1910-13

Shackleton, Ernest
    Scott - Discovery 1901-04
    Shackleton - Nimrod 1907-09
    Shackleton - Endurance 1914-17
    Shackleton - Quest 1921-22

Simpson, George Clarke
    Scott - Terra Nova 1910-13

Skelton, Reginald
    Scott - Discovery 1901-04

Spice, Walter
    Shackleton - Nimrod 1907-09

Stephenson, William
    Shackleton - Endurance 1914-17

Stillwell, Frank
    Mawson - Aurora 1911-13

Taylor, Thomas Griffith
    Scott - Terra Nova 1910-13

Vince, George
    Scott - Discovery 1901-04

Vincent, John
    Shackleton - Endurance 1914-17

Watson, Andrew
    Mawson - Aurora 1911-13

Webb, Eric
    Mawson - Aurora 1911-13

Whetter, Leslie
    Mawson - Aurora 1911-13

Wild, Frank
    Scott - Discovery 1901-04
    Shackleton - Nimrod 1907-09
    Mawson - Aurora 1911-13
    Shackleton - Endurance 1914-17
    Shackleton - Quest 1921-22

Wilson, Edward Adrian
    Scott - Discovery 1901-04
    Scott -
Terra Nova 1910-13

Wordie, James
    Shackleton - Endurance 1914-17

Worsley, Frank
    Shackleton - Endurance 1914-17
    Shackleton - Quest 1921-22

Wright, Charles Seymour
    Scott - Terra Nova 1910-13

Biographical information - I am concentrating on the Polar experiences of the men involved. Any further information or pictures visitors may have is gratefully received. Please email  - Paul Ward, webmaster.

What are the chances that my ancestor was an unsung part of the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration?