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The White Darkness Henry Worsley was a devoted husband and father and a decorated British special forces officer who believed in honor and sacrifice He was also a man obsessed He spent his life idolizing Ernest Shackleton the nineteenth century polar explorer who tried to become the first person to reach the South Pole and later sought to cross Antarctica on foot Shackleton never completed his journeys but he repeatedly rescued his men from certain death and emerged as one of the greatest leaders in historyWorsley felt an overpowering connection to those expeditions He was related to one of Shackleton's men Frank Worsley and spent a fortune collecting artifacts from their epic treks across the continent He modeled his military command on Shackleton's legendary skills and was determined to measure his own powers of endurance against them He would succeed where Shackleton had failed in the most brutal landscape in the worldIn 2008 Worsley set out across Antarctica with two other descendants of Shackleton's crew battling the freezing desolate landscape life threatening physical exhaustion and hidden crevasses Yet when he returned home he felt compelled to go back On November 2015 at age 55 Worsley bid farewell to his family and embarked on his most perilous uest to walk across Antarctica alone My obsession with Antarctic explorers began when I was eleven and read The Great White South by Herbert Ponting the photographer on the 1911 Scott expedition As a girl I held a heroic idealization of Scott and his men freezing in their hut It seemed all so heroic then Later readings lowered Scott in my estimation Henry Worsley idolized Ernest Shackleton for his courage and leadership Although Shackleton was never able to complete his expeditions he did save his men's lives And Worsley's own grandfather had been with Shackleton on his failed expedition to the reach the South PoleHenry made a career in the army completing Special Forces training while pursuing his obsession by collecting Shackleton artifactsThe White Darkness by David Grann tells the story of how Henry Worsley after retirement from the army participated in a centennial expedition retracing Shackleton's trek along with two other descendants of the original team The goal was to reach the South Pole which Shackleton failed to do They made it Not content with this achievement Henry afterward endeavored to complete the other journey that Shackleton had to abandon crossing the Antarctic Henry though would do it soloOnce again I am amazed how men can be driven to endure the unimaginable physical stress of the Antarctic not just once but returning again to the dangerous beauty of ice A hundred years ago men wanted to bring honor to their country and the Antarctic and Arctic were the last unexplored places on earth But there has always been something a need for men to test themselves to the ultimate to conuer the most extreme conditions imaginableIn this short book about Henry Worsley Grann covers the history of Antarctic exploration and conveys a chilling exposure to the 'white darkness' of the freezing desert landscape that has lured so many men to their deathsI received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review 35 I have such a fascination with books set in places that are excessively cold and snow laden Not sure why that is especially since I don't really want to live in these places and due to health reasons will probably never even get to visit I also find intriguing people who do dangerous and near impossible things I try to figure out the mindset of people who feel compelled to take these risks I'm not very adventurous was so when I was younger but not to some extreme extentWorsley who idiolized Shackleton was a descendant of one of the men on his crew and was a British special Forces Officer With two other men also descendants of Shackletons crew set off to complete the journey in Antartica that Shackleton was unable to complete This mission would not be enough there would be another trip and then at the last when Worsley attempts to walk across Antartica on a solo tripThe writing is very detailed the pictures aid the reader along with the descriptions to feel as if they were at times along for the journey The book is rather short and moves uickly There are interesting touches of his personal life his wife son and daughter how they felt about his journeys uotes from Shackleton and a few brief mentions of Prince William presenting the men with a signed Union Jack flagA look at a brave man who felt compelled to accomplish the impossibleARC from Edelweiss The man felt like a speck in the frozen nothingness Every direction he turned he could see ice stretching to the edge of the Earth white ice and blue ice glacial ice tongues and ice wedges There were no living creatures in sight Not a bear or even a bird Nothing but himThe last book I reviewed was set in the lush and exotic landscape of Corfu Corfu and all of Greece are on my bucket list of places to visit once I have time I can call my own What is not on my bucket list Antarctica I hate being cold I truly despise frigid temperatures wearing boots and parkas and having my skin exposed to subzero temperatures However I was able to get a little taste of this stunning continent through the exploits of Henry Worsley and the excellent writing of David Grann This was accomplished either from the relative warmth of a nice spring walk or a ride in the car as I listened to this one on audio The taste for adventure must have been in Henry Worsley’s blood A distant relative of Frank Worsley one of Ernest Shackleton’s crew from the Endurance Henry had the craving to push himself to the limits and was determined to conuer what Shackleton and his men had failed to do – to cross Antarctica via the South Pole on foot Henry Worsley undertook not one but three expeditions to one of the most brutal environments in the world His last trek in 2015 2016 was entirely solo His wife and children stood by praying for his safe return Passion for something can easily tip into obsession which is a dangerous thing especially when those affected are the very people who so loyally stand and waitThe drama and danger of this venture was riveting to say the least David Grann provides a lot of background on the original expeditions highlighting much of Shackleton’s journey as well as his exemplary leadership skills He shares snippets of dispatches and journal entries from Henry Worsley’s accounts which gave this nonfiction piece a feeling of immediacy My mind never once strayed from the narrative despite the fact I am often prone to doing so while listening to a book rather than reading it myself It’s actually a fairly short work and I was rather surprised when it came to an end – a good sign of a successful audio experience I guess Now an instant fan of David Grann I will gladly seek out of his writing in the future His prose is clear and concise and never once felt dry He’s also given me a big push to read those Shackleton books that have been languishing on my to read list for far too long I highly recommend this one to anyone that loves a great adventure tale as well as those that enjoy stimulating true stories My only regret with this was that I know I missed out on some remarkable photographs which I understand are included in the paper version I may seek this out in that format just to catch a glimpse of those pictures ”For scientific leadership give me Scott; for swift and efficient travel Amundsen; but when you are in a hopeless situation when there seems to be no way out get on your knees and pray for Shackleton” Every time I see this photograph of Shackleton’s ship the Endurance frozen in the ice I get a chillOne of the most selfless acts in the history of exploration happened in 1908 when Ernest Shackleton made the decision to turn back from his goal of reaching the South Pole a mere 97 nautical miles away The Holy Grail was only a few days travel It was all but within his graspThere was something important to Shackleton than his own personal aggrandizement; it was the safety of his men He calculated the status of the remaining supplies and determined that the risk to his men was too great to make it to the Pole and make it back safelyalive He did the unthinkable something few other leaders would have the courage to do; he turned back He did not worry about the aspersions that would be cast at him for cowardice or the ridicule that his jeering competition would hurl his direction He would much rather live with that than live with the deaths of his men I had to ask myself would I have been courageous enough to make that decision or would I have given an Antarctica version of the Henry the 5th speech at the Battle of Agincourt and pressed on? Being the first to reach the South Pole was what would insure immortality turning back meant in all probability that someone else would have that honor Roald Amundsen the great Norwegian explorer would reach it first in 1911Henry Worsley worshipped Shackleton Whenever he was in a tight spot he would think to himself ”What would Shacks do?” which went well with another of his favorite sayings ”Better a live donkey than a dead lion”So who was Worsley? ”Worsley was a retired British Army officer who had served in the Special Air Service a renowned commands unit He was also a sculptor a fierce boxer a photographer who meticulously documented his travels a horticulturalist a collector of rare books and maps and fossils and an amateur historian who had become a leading authority on Shackleton” And why did David Grann write a book about Worsley? ”In 2008 he led an expedition to pioneer a route through the Transantarctic Mountains reaching a point 98 miles 157 km from the South Pole The expedition commemorated the centenary of Shackleton's Nimrod Expedition He returned to the Antarctic in 2011 leading a team of six in retracing Roald Amundsen's successful 870 mile 1400 km journey in 1912 to the South Pole marking its centenary In completing the route he became the first person to have successfully undertaken the routes taken by Shackleton Robert Falcon Scott and Amundsen Wikipedia” I love this picture of Worsley He broke off a tooth on a frozen candy bar”All of this led up to Worsley’s dramatic final expedition to be the first person to make a solo crossing of Antarctica without any assistance He had been restless There was something about the polar regions that got in certain men’s blood and they just couldn’t stay away ”What is Antarctica other than a blank canvas on which you seek to impose yourself?”The beauty is not what we usually think of with oceans mountains and trees From a bird’s eye view there is nothing much there except ice and snow and cold”There is nothing to see but white darkness”Desolation is best expressed by deserts the hot ones and the cold ones I find photographs of deserts to be very peaceful the desolate the better I find expeditions that venture out into that desolation seeking what has never been seen before to be invigorating So I understand the obsession that gripped Worsley to keep going back again and again The landscape seduced his mind like a woman who must be chased to be had This is a lovely evocative book filled with amazing photographs David Grann knows how to tell a story and you will find yourself tearing up with joy and pain than a few times as you make these journeys with these brave men The book also reminded me of all the polar expedition books I still have left to read Fortunately there have been many explorers who were as obsessed with those regions as were Shackleton and Worsley and most of them the ones who lived wrote about their adventures This book is a uick afternoon read and hopefully you will all be as seduced by the landscape as Shackleton Worsley and yes even I If you wish to see of my most recent book and movie reviews visit also have a Facebook blogger page at

  • Hardcover
  • 160 pages
  • The White Darkness
  • David Grann
  • 23 May 2016
  • 9780385544573

About the Author: David Grann

David Grann has written about everything from New York City’s antiuated water tunnels to the hunt for the giant suid to the presidential campaign His stories have appeared in several anthologies including What We Saw The Events of September 11 2001; The Best American Crime Writing of both 2004 and 2005; and The Best American Sports Writing of 2003 and 2006 A 2004 finalist for the Michael

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