One of my pipe dreams is to get to travel to all of the continents. And not just the easy ones, either. Nope, I want to make it to Antarctica. I often get asked why. Why wouldn’t you want to go to Antarctica? Penguins! Icebergs! Whales! Unspoiled nature! Etc.!
Since it’s somewhat unlikely I’ll actually make it down there (it’s really, REALLY expensive), I read about it instead. My favorite is The Last Place on Earth (Amazon, Barnes and Noble) by Roland Huntford, though it is very hard to read in places (spoiler alert: people die). Next up on my to-be-read list is The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Gerrard, which I’ve heard is very good, and is a nice balance to The Last Place on Earth.
I just read Blue Latitudes (Amazon, Barnes and Noble) by Tony Horwitz. The tagline is boldly going where Captain Cook has gone before. Captain Cook never actually made it to Antarctica, but he was one of the first to cross the Arctic Circle, and his exploration and charting made possible much of what was to come later. The basic premise of the book is that Horwitz chronicles Captain Cook’s life and voyages, and then visits the same places he did to get an idea of Cook’s lasting legacy.
I had a hard time getting into the book, since the beginning jumps around a lot and was very difficult to follow where in time and place you are. Once he hits his stride though, it was very interesting. It’s almost impossible to imagine how vast the scope of Cook’s charting and discoveries are, especially when you consider the equipment and navigational tools of the day (mid 1700s). I thought Horwitz painted Cook in a very fair light, paying homage to the monumental tasks the man achieved, while also examining the legacy the Cook and the other European discoverers/colonialists/conquerors left for the native peoples (spoiler: it generally hasn’t worked out very well for them). I was less interested in hearing about the author smoking pot and drinking himself silly in every stop (including some implied drunk driving), but I guess that’s just me being an old stick in the mud.
Overall, I found it very readable, and loved learning more about Cook, who seems to be far less well known than Shackleton, Scott, Amundsen, and many others. I might have to tackle Shackleton next in my explorer’s reading.
What’s your pipe dream? Would you go to Antarctica?
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