Two Against the Ice Critical Context - Essay

Theodore K. Mason

Critical Context

Mason began his career as a Navy journalist in Pensacola, Florida, and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, before joining the Antarctic Support Force and making five jour-neys to Antarctica, which included time at McMurdo Station and one full austral summer. His credentials as a writer on life in the polar regions are unquestionable. Before Two Against the Ice, he published On the Ice in Antarctica (1978) and The South Pole Ponies (1979).

When the biography of Amundsen and Ellsworth appeared in 1982, reviewers and critics praised its evocative power. Both Booklist and Horn Book complimented Mason’s evocation of the dangers and beauties of polar life and of the men who challenged it and the period in which they lived. Nancy Hammond, in the latter publication, criticized the opening chapter and the lack of a chronological overview. Dorcas Hand, while finding the style dry and lifeless, wrote that the natural intrigue of Mason’s subjects overcame stylistic faults. He considered Two Against the Ice to be a fine complement to Byrd’s popular autobiography, Alone (1938).

The strongest praise came from Rosalie Emm, writing in Best Sellers. She found the writing to be skillful and captivating, and noted the strength of Mason’s research and knowledge of his subjects. Noting the portrayal of Amundsen’s and Ellsworth’s mentor-disciple relationship, she said that the young reader is indirectly shown characteristics that lead to success and that the book offers only positive values. She gave the book an unqualified “A” rating.