Trevor Lloyd (review date 26 February 1956)
SOURCE: "Polar Challenge and Assault," in The New York Times Book Review, February 26, 1956, pp. 7, 27.
[In the following review, Lloyd provides a brief summary of Berton's The Mysterious North.]
To many people there is a perplexing similarity between the Arctic and Antarctic. Both come to mind as a mélange of ice and snow, penguins, polar bears, sledge dogs, blizzards, Eskimos, igloos and pack-ice and as the goal of infrequent but invariably heroic polar expeditions. Giant ice-breakers leave Boston for one in April and for the other in October, so that by some freak of geography we are provided with frigid and harrowing reports on a year-round basis.
All such confusion should now cease, even for readers who get no farther than the wrappers of these two excellent books. The jacket of Pierre Berton's The Mysterious North shows a mine shaft, a grinning native dance mask, a reindeer and a compass needle pointing steadfastly to the north, all superimposed on a map of Canada. By contrast, The Antarctic Challenged is wrapped in a photograph of ice floes, with a few barely distinguishable seals drowsing in the foreground. The striking antithesis is a fair one. Today, the Far North is a constantly broadening economic frontier, fairly bursting with activity. The Far South is five million square miles of ice-encrusted land surrounded by ice-filled seas.
Lord Mountevans in The Antarctic Challenged sets out to relate the story of Antarctic exploration in nontechnical language, and in this he succeeds admirably. His sixteen chapters provide an introduction to the geography and wildlife of the Far South, and summarize the most important expeditions that have visited the region in the last 170 years. All the great names, from Capt. James Cook to Admiral Richard E. Byrd are met with, and the author often uses their own accounts to highlight his narrative. Speaking of Antarctica, which he had sailed around but barely seen, Cook, who was once a Yorkshire grocer's apprentice, said with his customary terseness: "To judge the bulk by the sample, it would not be worth the discovery"—and many later explorers have agreed with him.
Yet the author shows that this forlorn and blizzard-swept land has attracted more than its share of great men, commemorated in such names as...
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